Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Persepolis, #1)Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This graphic nonfiction novel- my first graphic novel- is amazing. It was so entertaining to read that couldn't put it down until I was finished. It's incredibly moving, and I learned so much about Iran from the perspective of young Iranian girl from the Shah, to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, to the Iran-Iraq war. Part I of story covers her life from 1979-1984, from about when she was 9 to 14 years old.

I'm really annoyed at myself for not getting The Complete Persepolis because now I have to wait to check out Part II.

(Gate of all nations in the city of Persepolis:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persepolis#/media/File:Persepolis_24.11.2009_11-12-14.jpg)

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Hunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book mostly for fans of Sleater-Kinney. I wasn't familiar with Sleater Kinney before, but I just downloaded some of the albums Brownstein likes best to listen to them. She's a good writer, she's easy to love, and there's a lot of interesting discussion of the West Coast music scene. But as I said, I'd recommend this mostly to fans of Sleater-Kinney because there's not a lot in the narrative to appeal otherwise. I heard about this book in the Our Shared Shelf feminist book club, but I don't think it's a very feminist book beyond a brief conversation about how female musicians are treated differently in the press than male musicians.

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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship ExpertThe Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert by John M. Gottman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually read this some years ago and then forgot I read and took it out of the library again. Kevin asked, "Didn't you already read that?" Yes. Yes, I did. So that I don't forget again, these are the 7 principles:

1- Know each other well. Dreams, etc.
2- Like and respect each other.
3- Talk about daily stuff
4- Let your partner influence you/ change your mind about things. Have an influence give-and-take.
5- Solve your small problems
6- Deal with your fundamental differences with small compromises
7- Create your home culture, create and celebrate traditions, etc.

Avoid 4 big problems:
1- Criticism about the person (as opposed to complaining about a specific problem)
2- Being contemptuous of the person
3- Being defensive in an argument
4- Stonewalling/ shutting the other person out, not responding, etc.



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Friday, July 22, 2016

The Case for God by Karen Armstrong

The Case for GodThe Case for God by Karen Armstrong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, that explains everything.

I've read other Karen Armstrong books, but this goes in a different direction. She reviews the history of God and the relationship between philosophy, science, and religion in different cultures and times. She uses all this history to make a very compelling case for God generally, but also for the merits of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. She also makes a compelling case against positivism, "the belief that science is the only reliable means to truth." She doesn't do this lightly, she understands the importance of science today, and she discuss scientific progress from Copernicus to the modern debate in physics about string theory.

She also discusses what she believes are the origins and causes of our modern religious conflicts. She recommends solutions that make a lot of sense.

Karen Armstrong is a powerhouse of religious knowledge and practice. And she clearly also did a lot of research about science. This book is long, sometimes repetitive, and sometimes difficult to understand. I feel like I came to this book at a good time: after having learned about the practice of meditation and the debates about string theory. However, there's a lot more background I wish I brought to the book in the realm of philosophy, history, and religion.

Despite the challenge, or because of the challenge, I think it's well worth it for the religious and non-religious alike. It did for me what I hope every book I open to will do for me- change the way I see the world.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful, #1)Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh my God. First, this is my first real romance book of my adult life... I had no idea. (Amish romance up next! Haha.) Super fun.

Second, I think I just betrayed Gloria Steinem by reading this book. This is one messed up caveman/ cave woman fantasy. Now I have to give money to Emily's List to cleanse my feminist soul.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd heard good things about this book and didn't recognize the author's name until she explained who she was. Then I was dubious about the book. The beginning wasn't very good or useful, but since it was a short book I pushed through anyway. My fear of missing out was rewarded again! The book got better and more interesting but most of all worth it for the story of the costume party which I gather is a true story the author heard from someone else.

All this would be enough for only 3 stars, except that despite how much I resisted the book and it's message, it is actually inspiring.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

My Life on the RoadMy Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I really want everyone to read. Gloria Steinem talks about her experiences with people she met during her travels from the time of the women's liberation movement in the 1960s to current day. She ties the history of the past to the realities of current day politics. Most importantly, she explains the tie between racism and sexism in the United States, and how abolition, suffrage, the civil rights movement, and women's liberation have been and continue to be linked.

You don't have to agree with everything that Steinem says in order to be greatly enriched by this book.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Emma by Jane Austen

Emma Emma by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A little bit more exciting than the other Austen books I've read so far. Though not as totally awesome as Pride and Prejudice or as moving as Sense and Sensibility, it might be my current third favorite of hers. The snootiness in the book is not as throughly punished and eradicated as it should be, but it is somewhat condemned. It was very enjoyable. My idea of a cheerful summer book.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me?Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one much better than the first. It was sweet and touching, and some parts were hilarious. But the recap of her speech to Harvard Law was really frustrating. It felt like she threw it in there to expand the length of the book, and didn't translate to a non-Harvard-Law audience.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was cute. She makes a joke at the beginning about people buying this book for their niece, and it's strangely appropriate. Her sense of humor can be a little raunchy sometimes, but the values she expresses are very niece-friendly.

Three stars for funniness, and one more because because I love Mindy.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Man's Search for MeaningMan's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the best nonfiction books I've read. A huge part of why this book is so good is the because the source of the book is an author who has gone through and seen so much suffering. The same message wouldn't seem as valid coming from someone else. It's full of observations that anyone who has suffered can relate to- but that many who have not yet suffered have no familiarity with. And yet, the suffering Frankl experienced and witnessed is so extreme, that it's difficult to pity yourself-- or even doubt yourself-- in the face of it.

The first half of the book describes Frankl's experience in four concentration camps during WWII and the second part of the describes his particular brand of psychotherapy called "logotherapy." This therapy seeks to help people find meaning in their lives and even in their suffering.

Frankl doesn't try to tell you what is meaningful (though there is a strong bias towards helping others in the examples he gives that seems correct to me) but rather that person should pursue whatever is meaningful to them in the particular situation that they're in.


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Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

Rich and PrettyRich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm not sure what the point of this book was except maybe to point out how trivial daily life is? Entire plot: two childhood friends grow in different directions, though not necessarily away from each other. Not terribly deep. Not a "fun read" either.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am so surprised. I was really bored at the beginning and contemplated quitting, but then little by little I started liking the characters, and then I was invested in them. Then the plot suddenly got so much better.

The descriptions were great. The tents remind me Italo Calvino's cities only better.

There are just some small plot issues and a certain lack of seriousness about the book that makes me withhold the one star. But I would recommend reading it.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Return of George Washington by Edward J. Larson

The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789 by Edward J. Larson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was supposed to cover George Washington's life in the period between the Revolutionary War and when he became President. However, the bulk of the book covers the Constitutional Convention with mentions of George Washington or quotes from his diary entries. There are no entries for the period of secrecy during the convention so even this is sparse.

The book mentions numerous times that Washington was able to accomplish a lot politically because he was widely very well-liked, though since his respect was born of his service during the Revolutionary War, I didn't have a great picture of why.

I wouldn't recommend this book if you're looking to learn more about George Washington, the man, general, or President. This book can be summed up as: "George Washington was a popular but unwilling politician-farmer at the Constitutional Convention."

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Monday, July 4, 2016

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia, #7)The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't like this one, though having read the reviews, I seem to have a unique reason for not having liked it.

First, let me briefly address the other concerns people mentioned. Yes, there's some distaste for other religions, but the treatment of the honest prince of another religion clarifies that it's the good values not the right God that's the issue for Lewis. This is generous of Lewis, but it's not Christianity, which does indeed require belief in precisely the right God.

Second, I don't think it's so horrible that the "happy ending" is that everyone is dead in heaven, nor do I think in such a situation Susan's "punishment" is very terrible as it's only of a temporary nature. It's going to be a rough life for Susan, but it will be a longer one with it's own rewards, and eventually she'll probably also get to Narnia-Heaven. It's going to be a rough sad life, yeah, but possibly also good with a husband, kids, and maybe she'll become a train-safety reformer or something.

The main reason I don't like this book is how totally off-base and contradictory it is. Tirian says that it would have been better to die than to live and learn that Aslan was so different than he thought he'd be. In other words, he didn't want to learn that Aslan was evil on earth... though it turns out he's not! This concept is repeated over and over again in the book so I'm really not nitpicking here. Did Lewis live a charmed life? Do children not starve on earth? Do people not die of horrible diseases and train accidents? If Aslan didn't order people to be sold into slavery didn't he allow it? We can barely tell if allowed a train accident to happen at the end of he actually caused it mostly because it doesn't make a difference. We're supposed to believe either that "God works in mysterious ways" or that the afterlife is the life that matters so our own suffering on earth doesn't make a difference. Tirian would make a very poor Christian, and is not even a very good Aslan-follower.

Also, the entire first half the book was depressing and boring. It would have been one star but I do enjoy their run through heaven. It's a lovely wish.

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Undeniable by Bill Nye

Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of CreationUndeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn't need to be convinced about the veracity of evolution but I found the numerous fields of study that are evidence of it really interesting. He also talks about the many applications of the study of evolution. So here's a short break down of some of the specifics fields he discussed: physics (including Thermodynamics, and measuring the age of the earth and universe), the desirability of sexual selection versus asexual reproduction, biodiversity, geology, the fossil record, mass extinction events, population bottlenecking and DNA mutations, drug resistance, vaccines, the genetic basis of altruism, genetically modified foods, cloning, and racism. Though I had some familiarity with some of the topics and studies he mentioned there was so much I learned in this one. This was a wide survey of some of the most interesting aspects of biology.

My only small criticism is that he doesn't talk about how some of Lamarck's ideas have been reconsidered in the field of epigenetics.

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