Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pound Foolish by Helaine Olen

Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance IndustryPound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry by Helaine Olen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was well-conceived and extremely well-executed. It's organized, researched, and holistic. I wish all the non-fiction books I read were this well-done. I devoured it. I really want everyone to read it and love it.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene

The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the CosmosThe Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a great follow-up to The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality. It didn't repeat a lot of material from the first one, it explained the progression in physics since then. It was pretty mind-blowing. I did get a little stuck in some sections, but I decided that a perfect understanding of the topic wasn't strictly necessary for my purposes.

I do think Greene protests too much that every aspect of physics isn't a *miracle.* I've never heard of so many miracles I believe in, even if, as Greene claims it's statistically expected when dealing with such large numbers. "Shoes in my size" indeed!

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Thinking About My Dad on Father's Day 2017

It's been seven Father's Days without you, Dad. The last few years, I've been reading your books which means that in a way you are with me quite often and you are still teaching me things (economics, foreign policy, anthropology, philosophy, and physics) and even having fun with me (Cat's Cradle, The Lathe of Heaven, Anathem!). I've branched out a bit too and bought books published by some of your favorite authors after you died.

It's hard that you don't know my children- you would have loved them so much. Your namesake James even plays chess and he's not all that interested in sports. Miranda is just like all your favorite girls were, loud-mouthed and bossy. I'll do my best to try to get them to know you by following your example as a parent: playing with them, answering their questions thoughtfully, and eventually, maybe they'll read your books too. I love you as much as ever and I miss you.

Parents Visit Brooklyn 2010
Dad reading in my apartment in Brooklyn in 2010

Dad's Books:
Title- Author- Date Published- Date read
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed- Diamond, Jared - 2004 - Jun 17, 2017 
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics - Susskind, Leonard - 2008 - May 29, 2017
  • Being Peace (Being Peace, #1) - Nhất Hạnh, Thích - 1987 - May 23, 2017
  • The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation - Nhất Hạnh, Thích - 1975 - May 16, 2017
  • Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy - Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2010 - May 15, 2017 
  • Moonraker (James Bond, #3) Fleming, Ian Jan 01, 1955 May 02, 2017 
  • The Soft Machine (The Nova Trilogy #1) Burroughs, William S. 1961 Apr 29, 2017 
  • Cat's Cradle Vonnegut Jr., Kurt 1963 Apr 24, 2017 
  • The Celestine Prophecy (Celestine Prophecy, #1) Redfield, James 1993 Apr 22, 2017 
  • Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West Pagden, Anthony - 2008 Apr 21, 2017
  • Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy - Chomsky, Noam - Feb 10, 2007 - Apr 12, 2017 
  • The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism - Rand, Ayn 1961 - Apr 04, 2017
  • The Beasts of Tarzan (Tarzan, #3) - Burroughs, Edgar Rice 1914 - Mar 21, 2017 
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values - Pirsig, Robert M. 1974 - Mar 20, 2017 
  • Salome - Wilde, Oscar 1891 - Mar 19, 2017 
  • Lady Windmere's Fan - Wilde, Oscar 1893 Mar 18, 2017 
  • An Ideal Husband Wilde, Oscar Apr 01, 1893 Mar 16, 2017
  • Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 Coll, Steve 2004 Mar 15, 2017 
  • The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Taleb, Nassim Nicholas * 2007 Mar 05, 2017
  • The Big U Stephenson, Neal * 1984 Mar 02, 2017 
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray Wilde, Oscar 1891 Feb 27, 2017 
  • The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are Watts, Alan W. 1966 Feb 26, 2017 
  • The Lathe of Heaven Le Guin, Ursula K. 1971 Feb 24, 2017 
  • Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA Weiner, Tim * Jan 01, 2007 Feb 20, 2017
  • The Voyage Out Woolf, Virginia 1915 Feb 13, 2017
  • Heart of a Dog Bulgakov, Mikhail 1925 Feb 11, 2017
  • Angels and Insects Byatt, A.S. 1992 Feb 07, 2017 
  • The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism Capra, Fritjof Jan 01, 1975 Feb 05, 2017 
  • Live and Let Die (James Bond, #2) Fleming, Ian Apr 05, 1954 Feb 04, 2017 
  • The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash Morris, Charles R. - 2008 - Feb 02, 2017 
  • I and Thou Buber, Martin 1923 Feb 2017 
  • Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs, #1) Morgan, Richard K. Feb 28, 2002 Jan 31, 2017 [
  • The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World Ferguson, Niall Nov 2007 Jan 29, 2017 
  • Casino Royale (James Bond, #1) Fleming, Ian 1953 Jan 25, 2017 
  • The God Delusion Dawkins, Richard * 2006 Jan 23, 2017 
  • Anansi Boys Gaiman, Neil * 2005 Jan 22, 2017 
  • De Profundis Wilde, Oscar 1905 Jan 20, 2017 
  • When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management Lowenstein, Roger Jan 01, 2000 Jan 15, 2017 
  • The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism Bacevich, Andrew J. Aug 05, 2008 Jan 09, 2017 
  • The Post-American World Zakaria, Fareed Jan 01, 2008 Dec 30, 2016
  • Cryptonomicon Stephenson, Neal * May 1999 Dec 20, 2016 
  • The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad Zakaria, Fareed Apr 2003 Dec 20, 2016  
  • The Broom of the System Wallace, David Foster 1987 Dec 04, 2016 
  • Use of Weapons (Culture, #3) Banks, Iain M. 1990 Nov 23, 2016 
  • Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance Chomsky, Noam 2003 Nov 11, 2016 
  • The Player of Games (Culture, #2) Banks, Iain M. Aug 1988 Nov 10, 2016 
  • Stranger in a Strange Land Heinlein, Robert A. Jul 01, 1961 Oct 25, 2016 
  • The Dead Lecturer Baraka, Amiri Oct 1964 Oct 24, 2016
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West Brown, Dee 1970 Oct 24, 2016
  • Gravity's Rainbow Pynchon, Thomas Feb 28, 1973 Oct 17, 2016 
  • I, Robot (Robot #0.1) Asimov, Isaac Dec 02, 1950 Oct 14, 2016 
  • The Return of Tarzan (Tarzan, #2) Burroughs, Edgar Rice 1913 Oct 11, 2016 
  • Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire #3) Asimov, Isaac Jan 01, 1950 Oct 02, 2016 
  • Anathem Stephenson, Neal * Sep 09, 2008 Sep 26, 2016 
  • Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1) Banks, Iain M. Apr 23, 1987 - Sep 16, 2016
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) Larsson, Stieg Aug 2005 Sep 08, 2016
  • The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality Greene, Brian 2003 Sep 06, 2016
  • Tarzan of the Apes (Tarzan, #1) Burroughs, Edgar Rice Oct 1912 Aug 29, 2016 
  • The Currents of Space (Galactic Empire, #2) Asimov, Isaac 1952 Aug 26, 2016 
  • The Stars, Like Dust (Galactic Empire, #1) Asimov, Isaac Jan 01, 1951 Aug 22, 2016 
  • I Am America Colbert, Stephen Oct 09, 2007 Aug 21, 2016
  • The World Without Us Weisman, Alan Jul 10, 2007 - Aug 17, 2016 
  • The Widows of Eastwick (Eastwick #2) Updike, John 2008 Aug 13, 2016 
  • Anthem Rand, Ayn May 1938 Aug 11, 2016
  • Man's Search for Meaning Frankl, Viktor E. 1946 Jul 11, 2016
  • American Gods (American Gods, #1) Gaiman, Neil * Jul 2001 Jun 02, 2016
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1) Adams, Douglas 1979 Apr 27, 2016 
  • The Witches of Eastwick (Eastwick #1) Updike, John 1984 Apr 14, 2016 
  • Codex Grossman, Lev * Jan 01, 2004 Mar 24, 2016 
  • Galaxies Like Grains of Sand Aldiss, Brian W. 1959 Oct 03, 2013 
  • Water for Elephants Gruen, Sara * - 2006 - Jun 06, 2010
  • Schrödinger's Cat 1: The Universe Next Door Wilson, Robert Anton Nov 01, 1979 Jun 27, 2007
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Diamond, Jared 1997 Jan 2005 
  • Civil Disobedience Thoreau, Henry David 1849 Apr 15, 1996 
  • Walden Thoreau, Henry David Aug 09, 1854 Apr 26, 1995 
  • Have Space Suit—Will Travel Heinlein, Robert A. Sep 01, 1958 Jan 1993

Collapse by Jared Diamond

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or SucceedCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Five stars for the importance of the topic, three stars because it's so repetitive. I get it! We're all going to cannibalize each other. Well, maybe not us, personally, but likely our grandchildren or great-grandchildren.


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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ulysses by James Joyce

UlyssesUlysses by James Joyce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm finished!!!! Oh, happy day!!! Done! Done!

Can't say I enjoyed this work of genius, though the ending was lovely, exhilarating, and terribly sad all at the same time.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The BFG by Roald Dahl

The BFGThe BFG by Roald Dahl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read with my kids over a series of days. Kind of slow, with little action. That would be okay except the extended discussion with the giant were also mostly racist. I know it was silly stuff mostly, what different nationalities taste like and whatnot, but not great and can be confusing to kids.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Girling Up by Mayim Bialik

Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and SpectacularGirling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular by Mayim Bialik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good book for young girls, probably around the time they go through early puberty. Most of it is also applicable to boys and I'm not sure why she only focused on girls. I have a son and a daughter and this would be a handy little guide for discussion but the bent of the book would make it a little strange for my son.

One nice thing is that it briefly touches on transgender issues though strangely I don't think there was any mention of homosexuality. She also discusses being a late bloomer a lot which kept making me think of asexual people who won't develop sexual feelings later on despite whatever other "blooming" they might do (and ironically probably what the Sheldon character really is on the Big Bang Theory). I know it's a short book and she can't cover everything but these seemed like notable oversights given the topics she did cover.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and StoriesThe Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection is unusual in that it's a mix of nonfiction essays and fiction short stories. The author died as a passenger in a car accident just days after she graduated from college, and her parents and teachers picked which of her writings to include in this collection. It's a decent collection for a 22-year-old. What's remarkable though is how almost all of the pieces deal with death. The collection could as well be called The Opposite of Death. I think and read about death a fair bit, but she still gave me some new things to think about.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3)The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pretty fun one. Not sure how to say anything that isn't a spoiler but this one develops The plot a bit further. Everyone is in a major role now, more or less.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

The Case for ChristThe Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It would have been 3 stars but it's super-condescending. It claims to offer a fair investigation, but it's a one-sided affair. Which would have been fine, if that had been addressed honestly. I think that if you pick up and read a book with a title like The Case for Christ, you probably have an open mind to Christianity, so it was all the more disappointing that this wasn't well-done. I wish a super-intelligent and fair-minded Christian such as Marylynne Robinson would write a nonfiction book about Christianity. (She hasn't has she?) Does anyone know of a book like that to recommend?

The reason I did like it is because it presents an attempt at proving the events of the New Testament. Strobel at least makes a good argument that it's not insane to believe in this happened. But despite his constant self-congratulating in the book, he doesn't make a good argument that it's highly logical based on the evidence. The reasoning is very unclear in a number of places. He doesn't acknowledge that weakness in some of the more important topics particularly weakens the entire structure of his argument. His house has an excellent roof on a very poor foundation.

If anything, this book made me aware of some cogent-sounding counterarguments to Christianity of which I was not previously aware. However, the more logical the counter-argument, the less time Strobel spends addressing it with any seriousness.

For me, reading about physics has taken me further in believing in difficult-to-believe phenomena than this book has.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Tinkers by Paul Harding

TinkersTinkers by Paul Harding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a sad, beautiful, weird little book this is.

"... and the only thing common to all of this is that I feel sorrow so deep, it must be love...."

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the DomesticMating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic by Esther Perel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was fine (more of a 3.5). The author is a psychotherapist and she bases her examples and very generalized advice on her counseling of married couples. She also claims her European culture gives her a different perspective on sexuality and sexuality in marriage. It's not a waste of time to read this whether you're married or not. That said, this book is deeply unscientific. There are no studies or statistics on any element of sexuality or marriage. Probably best not to gamble on any advice you read here - unless you're already in a very desperate situation.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card

Children of the Mind (Ender's Saga, #4)Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everyone loves Ender's Game. After that, opinions are all over the place. It seems most people like the second book, Speaker for the Dead a bit better than I liked it- though I did give it 4 stars for reasons I can't recall. But the third book, Xenocide was just bad. A little research revealed that originally Xenocide and Children of the Mind were one huge book. That would explain it. If you spend time reading Xenocide, you have to read this one. This one will make the time you expended on Xenocide worth it.

Only Ender's Game works as a stand alone book. This one would make absolutely no sense if you didn't read the three that proceed it.

I liked almost all of this book, especially everything related to Jane, the Hive Queen, and Rooter. The romantic relationship that Wang-Mu develops doesn't make a lot of sense to me, especially since it's fast and not based on much. But the thing that bothered me the most is that Quara's character makes no sense to me. She spent earlier books defending and protecting the Descolada virus and in a fit of argumentativeness, she turns on all her most deeply held values? Not great character development.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On a purely superficial level, this book (and the current Netflix series) is highly entertaining. No one disputes that the topic of the book, suicide, is an important one that should be discussed. The disputes around this book center on how suicide is addressed, and I get that. Parents should take an active role if their children are reading this book or watching the series.

That said, one of the big criticisms is that the book doesn't address depression. I had some post-partum depression after my first child, and though I never wanted to hurt myself or others, one of the central feelings was that of being inept. After a lifetime of feeling confident based on specific achievements, I suddenly felt unworthy of so many things. One interesting thing about my depression though was that it coincided with concrete outside events: my father had passed away at the same time and I'd left work. So the story I told myself was that I wasn't depressed, because actual bad things had happened to me, and any bad feelings I felt about myself- I should feel based on the reality of the situation. I guess my point is that depression is not always so easy to separate from outside forces or intrinsic self-worth, and this is especially true for the person who is depressed. So the fact that Hannah doesn't understand or communicate her own depression isn't strange or wrong to me.

Additionally, years before in high school-- high school was the worst-- I was so upset by things that were occurring in my social life in school, that for about a week, I visibly cried everywhere I went. My parents saw me. Numerous teachers saw me. No one did anything to get me any kind of help. Even though I had my mind focused on leaving for college and not on ending my life, I was a walking red flag. Adults are often not equipped for the maelstrom of teen emotions and their ramifications.

So while it would have been good to understand the main character's depression a little better, I think the portrayal was still fairly realistic. The suicide of a young person doesn't actually make sense so it's a lot to expect the author to give sense to something that has none in real life. To the extent that Asher gave it some sense, I think it's his plea to be gentle with each other, protect each other, and reach out to each other. It's also a call for the adults who supervise teens and their shitty high school environments to step up and make those places livable and institute safety nets for teens that are flailing for help.

P.S. The biggest difference for me between the book and the Netflix series is that the Netflix series went into the lives of Hannah's antagonists as well. Those characters are mostly flat "bad guys" in the book, but the series humanizes those characters while still insisting that they bear responsibility for their actions.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

The Black Hole War by Leonard Susskind

The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum MechanicsThe Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics by Leonard Susskind
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not my favorite physics book. The order of topics is a bit confusing, and a lot of the explanations leave a lot to be desired. Interesting if you're interested in the personalities in the physics world, or interested in trying to understand black holes... which you probably still won't after you've read this book, but maybe you'll have a better general idea.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now that we have the characters back story, the characters go on a second hero's quest, while dealing with the bigger underlying problem. Cute, fun, and more about family and religion.

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Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

Being Peace (Being Peace, #1)Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Talks a lot about the interconnectedness of humans? For this reason, we should prevent suffering in the world...

I guess this is an alternate argument to the Christians' fundamental sanctity of human life as a reason for human rights.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Swing TimeSwing Time by Zadie Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is very layered. I feel like I could read it again and still get so much out of it. It's very political but it's also open-ended. The characters all have different perspectives and are constantly calling each other out for what they perceive are the wrong views or actions. So, a lot like real life. Wonderful writing.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Call to Action by Jimmy Carter

A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and PowerA Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power by Jimmy Carter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How wonderful is it that former President Jimmy Carter wrote a book about feminism? He's the best, and I love him.

The book is sometimes difficult to read because terrible things are happening to women on a daily basis in both in the US and abroad, and Carter isn't shy about going into great detail in his anecdotes (with statistics to back up the larger points he is making).

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't say I enjoyed this book because it's like getting stabbed in the chest repeatedly, but it's also so good. The love in it is so tangible. And there's so much love. But life, for most people, is one huge tragedy after another, and this book is very realistic. It's a difficult read in that regard.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Beach at Night by Elena Ferrante

The Beach at NightThe Beach at Night by Elena Ferrante
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dark in a weird way. Very short.

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The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of MeditationThe Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even though this covers basic mindfulness and meditation really well, it's not a good starting place for the average American. It is a great book to revisit if you're already acquainted with the scientific evidence that mindfulness and meditation work, and can even be used in your meditations by following along the text.

As a starting point, I recommend The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt and Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzburg. If you're not religious or spiritual Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris would be good too (though maybe skip it if you are religious).

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A Guide to Wine by Julian Curry

A Guide to WineA Guide to Wine by Julian Curry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first 40% or so was interesting, but the last 60% did a very summary of some of the most popular wine regions, and this part, in particular, was less valuable in audiobook form. (It doesn't appear to come in ebook or paperback.)

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Freefall by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World EconomyFreefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy by Joseph E. Stiglitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please, if you live in the United States, I beg you to read this book. The author is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, and he makes the information he's conveying very clear to the non-economist. I realize it's a little old now and would benefit from a little updating, but it's still so valuable to understanding modern economic theory and how political decisions are affecting the economy. New favorite!

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

Outrageous Acts and Everyday RebellionsOutrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2016 was a rough year for the equality of women, and 2017 isn't off to a great start either. Lots of people are rereading relevant fiction such as Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, or the more generally dystopian (as opposed to feminist) 1984 by Orwell. But we need to revisit nonfiction works as well. This book is educational about the history and current reality of sexism in America, but it's also a bit of a how-to manual on achieving more progress.

I strongly recommend this book. Even if you flip through to only read the essays you're most interested in, you will find something valuable.

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After the Fall by Arthur Miller

After the FallAfter the Fall by Arthur Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of the strangest things I've read. Parts of it are amazing. Other parts are confounding or infuriating. It's impossible to describe beyond that the main character examines his three marriages- one of which appears to be based on Miler's real-life marriage to Marilyn Monroe. It's also about McCarthyism and the Holocaust. Um, yeah, that's a lot. It's messed up.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Zone OneZone One by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fabulous scathing critique of all the preoccupations of society. Very nihilistic. I loved the main character and the way his challenges before and after the last day were presented. I felt like I could relate to him and his problems even though he's a very emotionally reserved character. I also loved Gary and Kaitlyn, and how they were awful and wonderful in their own ways. Some of the last 1/5th of the book was a little convoluted with the present day conversations of numerous characters that didn't play a central role.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Life by Bill Clinton

My LifeMy Life by Bill Clinton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like I should throw myself a party for finally reading this book- in its entirety- after owning it since July of 2004. Over 12 years!

This is a very in-depth autobiography/ memoir of Bill Clinton's life from birth to 2001. At first, I was frustrated that it appeared to mention everyone he ever met and every policy he ever implemented. As I gave in to the detailed nature of the book though I began to appreciate the opportunity of seeing a president's entire story. It was also a good opportunity to relive the important events of 1992-2000 when I was mostly too young to fully appreciate them.

I went to the book signing on July 7, 2004:

Bill Clinton Book-Signing

You had to go twice, the first time for a bracelet and the second time for the signing. This is me and my friend Julie in 2004 with our copy and our bracelets for the signing.

Bill Clinton Book-Signing

My copy :

Bill Clinton Book-Signing

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Monday, May 8, 2017

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember (Book of Ember, #1)The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was a good story, but a little slow for me. Based on the ending, I'm interested in what happens next in the series though, so I'll probably read the next one.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

The Buddha in the AtticThe Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strange in that it's written in the first person plural point of view so no individual story is fully developed, but it is still powerful and moving. It's the story of a group of Japanese immigrant women and the most heart-breaking parts for me revolve around the children. After the Japanese are sent to the relocation camps the story changes perspective to the apathetic Americans left behind. The sin of apathy is laid bare.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Torah: The Five Books of Moses

The Torah: The Five Books of MosesThe Torah: The Five Books of Moses by Anonymous

The Torah is also the first five books of the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, the Pentateuch. From Wikipedia: Bereshit/Genesis (בְּרֵאשִׁית, literally "In the beginning"); Shemot /Exodus (שִׁמוֹת, literally "Names"); Vayikra/Leviticus (ויקרא, literally "And He called"); Bəmidbar/Numbers (במדבר, literally "In the desert [of]"); Devarim/Deuteronomy (דברים, literally "Things" or "Words")."

I'm not going to rate or review holy books, but I will mention a few things mostly for my own reference in case I want to return to something specific later.

Genesis has the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and his two wives Leah and Rachel, and finally Joseph. Joseph becomes a big deal in Egypt because he is an effective food administrator.

After Genesis, the other four books are about Moses. Exodus is the most revolutionary. Leviticus has a lot of rules with harsh punishments. Numbers is largely a census that requires some skimming. Deuteronomy is very violent in the beginning, and then becomes a summary of the story of Moses and the rules of Leviticus. And then it becomes very violent again.

Some of the rules are fascinating. We hear about Biblical prohibitions of gay relationships all the time, but sleeping with a man's wife is also punishable by death (that would affect a lot of Congressmen which is perhaps why they are so silent on the matter). If a man rapes an unengaged virgin woman , the rapist must marry her. (But if she was engaged to a man, the rapist must be put to death.) Men may have multiple wives, but he can't disinherit his first born son even if the first born son comes from the wife he doesn't love as much. No wearing linen and wool together. A widow must marry her brother-in-law unless he totally refuses to marry her, which he shouldn't do. There is a harsh punishment for a step-brother and step-sister that marry too, and various other marriages that don't involve blood relations. There are so many more but these stood out in my memory for obvious reasons.

Also, I'm strangley curious about the "Nephilim":

"When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. Then the Lord said, 'My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.' The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown." (Genesis 6:1-4, New Revised Standard Version)


"The Lord said to Moses, 'Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites' . . . So they went up and spied out the land . . . And they told him: '. . . Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.' . . . So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, 'The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. 33 There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.'" (Numbers 13:1-2; 21; 27-28; 32-33. New Revised Standard Version).

Numbers (and I think Deuteronomy?) also mention Anak, the Anakim, and the Rephaim.

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Threats by Amelia Gray

ThreatsThreats by Amelia Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well written, interesting, weird, and with a distinct mood through.

[Spoiler alert?] But it's also dark, sad, and a bit unresolved in the end. There are two distinct possibilities which I can support with the text. Maybe even three possibilities.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Should All Be FeministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a short book about the basics of feminism, which the author explains with much humor and kindness.

I especially like when she discusses that oppression based on class does not negate oppression based on gender. To my eyes, though most do not agree with me, the most recent American election played class off gender to the ultimate detriment of the poor, the middle class, and women. It would be great to hear her talk more about how the oppression of one group contributes to the oppression of other groups.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Moonraker by Ian Fleming

Moonraker (James Bond, #3)Moonraker by Ian Fleming
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the best of the first three James Bond books but only because the other two are so crazy, bad, racist, and sexist. (Casino Royale #1, Live and Let Die #2, and Moonraker #3) Moonraker is an okay Bond story though it's still far-fetched and somehow still boring in many parts.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the beginning. It was a 5-star beginning with great characters, and an old but beloved premise- doors to magical worlds! But as the mystery aspect of the book takes off it devolves into a 3-star ending. So I averaged the two ratings.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

Bartleby the ScrivenerBartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This a wonderful story, beautifully written, but wow. Is it about mental illness in a time when all its permutations were unknown? Is it, as suggested by the sentence, "I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is best," a treatise on how a man may self-deceive himself about his own flaws by attributing them to his piety? Or is it a symbolic pitting of a Taoist against a Christian?

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Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon - April 2017

Wrap up time! I read 5 short books during the readathon in addition to spending time with my family at Miranda's soccer practice, James's t-ball game, and cooking out on our deck. A wonderful day! My favorite book of the readathon was definitely Coraline. I read a total of 687 pages! My reviews for all the books are below.

38 pp
184 pp
64 pp
239 pp
162 pp

Readathon April 2017

My original TBR pile was Moonraker (which I started pre-readathon), The Soft Machine, and TInkers. The only one of those I read was The Soft Machine, so I'm going to try to wrap up Moonraker today, and start Tinkers this week.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My last read for the spring Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon. A perfect children's book that's exciting and fun for adults too. It's about bravery, loyalty, family, and love. A classic! Can't wait until James (and then Miranda) is old enough to read it and appreciate it.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

King Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare

King Henry VI, Part 3King Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Finally read part 3, although not as good as Part 1 and 2. It's a lot of war, politics, and intrigue without the delightful details that set apart Part 1 and Part 2. Probably enough war, politics, and intrigue these days in real life to suffice for all of us lately.

Love free classics on Kindle though! I know it's only hour 15 of the readathon, but it's bedtime. No promises I get up early enough to finish another one. #readathon

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The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

The GrownupThe Grownup by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this because I'm doing a readathon today and it's really short. But it's hilarious, terrifying, and kind of awesome. Unfortunately it's not without a little bit of a plot hole, but it's forgivable. I can't say what it is without spoiling the story though but we can discuss if you read it.

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The Soft Machine by William S. Burroughs

The Soft Machine (The Nova Trilogy #1)The Soft Machine by William S. Burroughs
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The absolute worst book I've ever read. -5 stars. It's like someone out of his mind on drugs trying to write sex adventures as poetry disguised as a novel. "Experimental" and also a total failure. I feel like the author is just making fun of me for persisting for 182 pages.

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The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe

The Murders in the Rue MorgueThe Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Just... not good. It's Poe's version of Sherlock Holmes or something. Bad.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan

Ajax Penumbra 1969 (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, #0.5)Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute back story of Mr. Penumbra. His adventure makes more sense than the one in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very quick enjoyable read. Even though I knew what would happen, it was beautifully written. A very modern and unique story.

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Walden by Henry David Thoreau

WaldenWalden by Henry David Thoreau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this my sophomore year in high school, and then subsequently went on a field trip with my class to Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. I'm not sure how much I appreciated it then, but I recently reread it and it's clear that I couldn't totally appreciate it as a child. I love it as an adult. Thoreau seeks and achieves real freedom. But, Thoreau is the original Konmari. He has no kids and lives alone... even in those circumstances it's pretty hard to live like this, but his points are still worth thinking about.

My friend and I in front of Walden Pond, May 1995

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