Sunday, December 31, 2017

Favorite Books I Read In 2017

The Quiet American

Pulitzer Prize Update

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:

2017) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (read)
2016) The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
2015) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
2014) The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
2013) The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
2012) No award... Finalists:
          Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (read it and love it!)
          Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
          The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
2011) A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (read)
2010) Tinkers by Paul Harding (read)
2009) Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
2008) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (read it and love it)
2007) The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2006) March by Geraldine Brooks
2005) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson  (read it and love it!)
2004) The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2003) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (read)
2002) Empire Falls by Richard Russo
2001) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
2000) Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (read)
1998) American Pastoral by Philip Roth (read)
1974) Did not get the prize but: Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (read)
1961) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (read)
1957) The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (read)

Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction:

2017) Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
2016) Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick
2015) The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert (read)
2014) Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin
2013) Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King
2012) The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
2011) The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (read)
2010) The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman
2005) Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden ... by Steve Coll (read)
1998) Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (read)
1974) The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (read)

Other Pulitizer Prizes:
2010) Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed (read)
2002) John Adams by David McCullough (read)
1998) Personal History by Katharine Graham (read)
1992) Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman (read)
1957) Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy (read)

We Were Feminists Once by Andi Zeisler

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political MovementWe Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement by Andi Zeisler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great collection of examples of the corporate co-opting of feminism for decidedly unfeminist goals. I enjoyed reading it and zipped through it very quickly.

The problem is, who is this book for exactly? She talks at length about how the younger generation does not understand the complexities of feminism. This is very true, I'm only recently starting to grapple with and understand all the issues related to feminism and I still don't have much of a complete picture. I can't really recommend this book to my many friends that are clueless about feminism. On the other hand, if you're already deep into the feminist weeds, the stuff in this book is probably fairly obvious to you? So I also can't really recommend this book to my friends that have been grappling with feminism for years now. I'm as close to the target audience as possible I suppose in that it provides just one small piece of the puzzle for me even though I still lack a foundational understanding.

Zeisler also doesn't provide a lot of direction in terms of what we can do to de-corporatize feminism or utilize the co-opting as a weapon, or even any other feminist action to take. By comparison, Gloria Steinem's essay collections discuss community organizing at some length.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

The 42nd Parallel by John dos Passos

The 42nd Parallel (U.S.A., #1)The 42nd Parallel by John dos Passos
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I just didn't enjoy this. I had to drag myself through the little character sections. Though I did find the experimental format interesting and liked the headlines and songs to give me a sense of the time period. I'm trying to decide whether I should just drag myself through the rest of the trilogy since I own it or give up while I'm ahead.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson

Gork, the Teenage DragonGork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I like fantasy, science fiction, and children's books (among other genres) so there is nothing that would predict I wouldn't like this book. It reminded me a bit of Riordan's Percy Jackson books, which I mostly like. There were also some unique ideas in the book, and I highlighted some of my favorites below. Unfortunately, the writing felt really childish. In most places, it felt like an actual kid or teen wrote it. At the same time, I don't think the book would actually be appropriate for a young kid because of the extreme violence and constant sexual references. So that's tough.

Quotes/Ideas I liked:

"Nobody knows exactly how big Scale Island is, in part because the island has time tendrils that extend into different dimensions. According to my grandpa Dr. Terrible, the island also has a bunch of wormholes floating all over it."

"...they prefer to inhabit several dimensions at once."

"...every cadet in their first semester at WarWings is required to take a History of the Future course, which outlines in brutal detail the Rise of the Machines and the enslavement of Normal dragons. This History of the Future course is part of the core curriculum, and the professors who teach it have shot up the timestream and witnessed firsthand the destruction of our species by the machines."

"Fribby is completely obsessed with dying. She’s one of the first organic robots that was hatched in an artificial egg, and she’s one of the first machines that can technically die. So Fribby is forever talking about dying..."

"Poetry as a weapon."

"... grandpa taught a special weeklong intensive seminar here at WarWings called 'I Win, You Die: The Art of Brokering the Diabolical Deal.'"

"We’re the only military academy in the galaxy whose campus extends to the Underworld and whose curriculum prepares cadets for battling and conquering hideous creatures and spirits from the Realm of the Dead."

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is not the sexy Buddhist nun story it promises to be on the first few pages. That was a disappointment. It is also not the realistic story it promises to be for the first 60% of the book as it descends into magical realism madness. But I fell in love with the characters and any book that weaves mindfulness and physics into a narrative about time is likely to win me over.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Sappho by Bliss Carman

Sappho: One Hundred LyricsSappho: One Hundred Lyrics by Bliss Carman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I knew that of Sappho’s poetry there remained only a few fragments. As I read this book I thought, this is not as little as I thought... and I was pretty bored. Only after I finished did I realize that this was Bliss Carmen’s attempt to fill in what a full collection of Sappho’s poetry might have been like. So then I googled the original fragments and sure enough, there’s almost nothing. While some of the poems were lovely, I feel like I wasted a little bit of my life. A male poet in 1907 is probably quite a bit substantively different than the original woman poet in 600 BC, but I guess it was a serious attempt at applying his knowledge of the era and contemporary accounts of her poetry.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Furious Love by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger

Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the CenturyFurious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner and  
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not that interested in celebrities as a general rule and I would never have picked this book on my own, but it was one of my mom's few recent books I found in her apartment. She moved a lot and didn't tend to keep her books from move to move.

I had two main issues. The first was that it should have been edited down and shortened. The second was that I didn't enjoy the first chapter and almost stopped reading right away because of it. The first chapter is a sloppy attempt to get us to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton while basically skipping over their early lives, but still mentioning their early lives. A subsequent chapter goes back to deal with things more chronologically.

But in general, given that I wasn't even originally interested in the topic, I felt a little obsessed after reading the book. I was talking about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, looking up their films, looking up youtube clips of them, and even dreaming about them. (We went yachting and watched their daughter Maria play.) I didn't really know anything about them in advance - a bit more about ET than RB but not much. The photos in the book helped place the story a bit but the Youtube videos were a must for me.

Youtube videos:
Mike Todd:
50th birthday:

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Monday, December 18, 2017

The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol

The OvercoatThe Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bureaucracy in society = loss of humanity. I agree 100%.

My mother died this year, and my father already died 7 years ago. Do I get to mourn my mother and my complete loss of parents at my leisure? No. Everything related to dealing with my mother’s death is a nightmare. Most recently I’m fighting with Cobra because they put in their system that she died a month before she did, even though they had a death certificate that says the correct date and they know it is their error. I expect that this error will cascade into many more errors as I get rejected payments for her end of life care. This is just one of many problems I've encountered with the bureaucracy of death.

Additionally, I got an incorrect tax bill this year because my former boss filed his end of the taxes incorrectly. I have to jump through several hoops to correct errors other people made. This began while my mother was literally on her deathbed and has still not been resolved. Being powerless against the machinery of the IRS has a special irony this year, in this the year of President Trump.

Do I want to come back after my death and haunt all these institutions, customer service representatives, politicians that do nothing to regulate this, and society in general? You bet I do.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott

Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother's LoveGorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother's Love by Zack McDermott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the text:
The memoir is very well written. McDermott has a clear talent for language and is exceptionally smart. His personal story about mental illness is very interesting. He conveys his personal experiences in a very raw and emotional manner. It's riveting throughout.

During the period of the memoir, he's an attorney and a public defender. The things he writes about the legal system are extremely important and well-expressed. I'm not sure what the solution is outside of legislation and better mental health facilities, and Congress is currently under siege by a party that does not care about these issues. He's no longer practicing.

The way he writes about his mother and other important people in his life is very touching. It's definitely a love story too. It's just a very good memoir.

Outside the text:
I know the author from law school in Virginia. I also know other people with bipolar disorder, who when they are not in the midst of a full-blown episode, are really nice people. In law school, he regularly went out of his way to be rude to me when presumably he was not in the midst of an episode. The harassment came in the form of emails to our entire section, yelling at me in the school, and destruction of my property. Additionally, he definitely had some serious breakdowns in law school before the NYC subway incident that he's left out of the story. While the author gives the impression of being very honest in the memoir, the omission of the law school breakdowns makes me wonder what else he is leaving out to conceal his character.

I can relate to a lot of what he writes. When we were growing up money was definitely an issue. I lived with my grandparents for several years, and when I lived with my parents we ate a lot of pasta with nothing on it because it was cheap. In my case, no one in my family owned a house, but I was fortunate in that my parents rented in a good school system. In my case, it was my stepdad who was my "Bird." He has since passed away.

Working hard at school and ultimately going to law school was supposed to be the way out. I also thought that (at least eventually) I'd find a way to really help people and do something meaningful with my degree. I also went to work as an attorney in New York City after law school, and it was extremely stressful. Many of my coworkers and I were at a minimum borderline depressed, and some sought out treatment and medication. Life knocked me down repeatedly too and it's a struggle I can relate to in general if not in the particulars. Reading the memoir makes me sadder that this person and I had really negative interactions.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Richard II by William Shakespeare

Richard IIRichard II by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this one to be the most straightforward of Shakespeare's War of Roses plays that I've read so far. ( I previously read the three parts of Henry VI.) It was much easier to follow the action, though it was not the most interesting play. The entire scene with Duke York trying to turn his own son Aumerle in seemed a bit unlikely.

O! but they say the tongues of dying men
Enforce attention like deep harmony:
Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain,
For they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain.
He that no more must say is listen’d more
Than they whom youth and ease have taught to glose;
More are men’s ends mark’d than their lives before:
The setting sun, and music at the close,
As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,
Writ in remembrance more than things long past:
Though Richard my life’s counsel would not hear,
My death’s sad tale may yet undeaf his ear.”

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Monday, December 11, 2017

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

The Quiet AmericanThe Quiet American by Graham Greene
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel is great. There's so much to it that I'm not sure how to review it.

[Full disclosure: Graham Greene's The End of the Affair is currently my favorite book ever, and has been for 10 years, and probably 500 books. But The End of the Affair is not an ambiguous book like this one.]

A huge part of the book is about the foreign involvement, diplomacy, and media in Saigon during the Vietnam war. To a small degree, it's also about the Vietnamese people at that time. It's more about religion and ethics, and the evils of relativism. It's about the inability to really know other people, and possibly even to know ourselves? It's about the different ways people understand - or misunderstand love. It's a crime mystery.

It's just very good! But The End of the Affair is still my #1.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Angels by Denis Johnson

AngelsAngels by Denis Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I get that this book is beautifully written, but this book made me suffer. It made me suffer a great deal, on almost every page. The worst part was in Chicago, but things never 100% rebounded after that. I might be a sensitive flower but I really couldn't handle it.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Dead by James Joyce

The DeadThe Dead by James Joyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first 60-70% of the story is boring by design. It’s evidence of the point at the end. But it's a very short book (or long short story) so it's not a big price to pay for the ending. The ending is beautiful, passionate, and moving.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American TragedyWe Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of 8 previously published essays by Coates. I found the essay about Bill Cosby’s negative activism and the essay about Michelle Obama underwhelming and I wish they weren’t included in the book, or at least not at the beginning of the book. However, the other 6 essays are so phenomenal that even though I’d read some before I found myself wanting to scream in agreement. Possibly the 2017 context of these essays makes them even more powerful- or rather 2017 makes me more open to how correct and powerful the essays have always been.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver TwistOliver Twist by Charles Dickens
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This just didn't need to be 600 pages long. 100-200 would have been sufficiently long to convey all the major plot points and good sentences. I gave it an extra star for social commentary/ defense of the poor. All theatrical productions of Oliver are superior to the lengthy book.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Train DreamsTrain Dreams by Denis Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Had to read it twice in a row. The first time, I read it slowly. It was lovely but the very last memory left me a bit lost. So then I went back and constructed an OCD-induced timeline of Grainier's life. While it helped me get a better grip on what happened and when, it isn't relevant. These are memories, told and remembered out of order, as you might get from your grandparent, parent, or spouse. All the memories aren't always remembered correctly and the timelines are always hazy, but it's the only way to know a person. These are quite likely the final memories of Granier, possibly as he's looking over his life, and maybe even dreaming. He's not perfect, but he's a beautiful soul. I hope I'll read this book again many times.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was pretty interesting in that it was significantly different in both form and substance than what I usually read. Although substance-wise, I recently read a discussion of The Iliad and its pre-Christian culture having an ethics not of kindness and mercy but rather of strength and beauty, and it reminds me of this sort of narrative.

On the other hand, though Okonkwo often commits terrible acts, the reader is not alone in his judgment. There is often a villager who voices the wrongness of his action. And when Okonkwo is opposing the missionaries, I found myself suddenly sympathetic to him.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a TimeThe Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very important topic. I pay attention to sleep research whenever it comes up in the news and this still had a lot of new information. Likely worth the read for everyone. It's a serious examination of the benefits of sleep and the serious health consequences of going without sufficient sleep.

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrimageColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What the what? loved a few parts of this novel, such as the importance of these early friendships to Tsukuru. I could relate strongly to that part of the narrative. And the unexpected way in which the kids grew into adults. I also loved his use of color and music in the book. And his narratives about trains, though maybe he was piling too much on at that point.

I also hated a few parts. The characters of the young friends were not sufficiently developed. I felt like I understood the adult version of the characters a lot better but I really needed to connect with the younger versions to care about them. What's the deal with the little bag on the piano? Why is the magical realism not magical or real? I am so confused.

The entire issue of the accusation is very strange to read about in this unique cultural moment.Why does everyone just believe Tsukuru? Especially having an insight into his private thoughts, I'm not sure I believe Tsukuru. I was really anxious throughout the second half of the book.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Misalliance by George Bernard Shaw

MisallianceMisalliance by George Bernard Shaw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Love all the feminism in this book, and it was funny and charming. Mostly it was little pointless and pretty harsh on marriage. It's easy to dismiss marriage if you've never had a good one.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Oresteia by Aeschylus

The Oresteia  (Ορέστεια, #1-3)The Oresteia by Aeschylus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently reread this 20 years after my first reading in a college class, the details of which I cannot remember. I think we were studying the religion of mythology and their conception of justice? I don't remember what I thought the first time but on this reading at least, I am not impressed with that justice.

Part 1 "Agamemnon" is about Clytaemnestra murdering Agamemnon. I have a lot of sympathy for Clytaemnestra. Agamemnon killed their daughter Iphigenia. This is basically the most unforgivable crime I can imagine, but he's not in the least worried.

Clytaemnestra also killed Cassandra, which is maybe a little harsh, but Cassandra didn't seem especially worried about shacking up with a man who murdered his own daughter so maybe she has it coming a little bit too. Reading a more generalized Greek mythology in high school I loved the character of Cassandra, but Aeschylus doesn't really have a lot of patience for her, and that's fine.

Part 2 "The Libation Bearers" is about Orestes killing his mother Clytaemnestra to avenge his father's murder. This one is really intense, even compared to the first part.

Orestes kills his mother even after she begs him not to. Heartless. His motives are a bit dubious. Does he not know his father killed his sister Iphigenia? Is he actually just mad his mother sent him to live outside of the castle? Is he just a super religious opportunist who has to follow the Oracle or risk life-failure? Maybe all of these things.

Part 3 "Eumenides" is about Orestes's trial and is a travesty of justice.Orestes was either equally or *more* wrong in killing his mother Clytaemnestra than she was in killing her husband Agamemnon, Orestes's father.

The Gods spew total sexist nonsense that the child doesn't share the mother's blood. It's a ridiculous set-up having Athena, who didn't have a mother, judge the trial. The jury is obviously all male. Not to mention the irony that Agamemnon was such a bad father that he killed his own daughter, but he's considered the rightful parent.

My star math: 5 stars for part 1 and part 2, 2 stars for part 3. 12/3= 4 stars.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and WonderThrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Those of you who know me in real life, or even from my book reviews, know that I am not easily impressed. Well, I'm impressed. I'm impressed by this book and the studious, thoughtful, lovely soul that wrote this book.

It starts off with softballs. She states the problem. Okay, we all know what a disaster the business culture has become. Then she makes a big case for meditation and sleep and exercise. This might feel obvious to people who have been trying to figure things out for a long time, but surely this advice the younger crowd needs, as many of us waste several tired unhappy years without mindfulness. It would have helped young me. But also around this time, you might become skeptical that you're reading another cheesy self-help book, albeit a very well-cited and scientific-sounding one.

It's not another cheesy self-help book. It's more like an owner's manual to being a complete person. An action plan for humanity. A philosophical work that perfectly captures this particular moment in time. A push towards spiritual enlightenment.

I would also say that if there's a part you feel like discarding or ignoring, check your feelings to see why. I had the experience in part of it as well, but I sat with my resistance and I think I'm wrong. If you're trying to disregard something she says, you're probably letting yourself off the hook for something you don't want to do. But Huffington's advice not wrong. This is because she's obviously read widely, thought deeply, and mindfully experienced a great deal.

Really 5+ stars.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a straightforward adventure tale with magic in it and I found the story and a few main character enjoyable. The only slight demerit is that the rules of magic are pretty arbitrary and ultimately these arbitrary magic rules determine the outcome so that's a little less than satisfying.

It also feels like the story was supposed to be harder to resolve, but the author got tired of writing. Of course, there are sequels to this book, which I will probably read, and they might resolve this feeling.

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Free Will by Sam Harris

Free WillFree Will by Sam Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This makes me deeply uncomfortable, but nonetheless, it's difficult to dispute. I'm also not comfortable with a leap into public policy based on this, unless as Harris suggested we focus the prison system on containing dangers, instead of punishment.

There is a section about observing our thoughts arise on their own that might make more sense to people that have studied and attempted meditation.

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Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

Letter to a Christian NationLetter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite being a very short book, this is a good critique of fanatical literal Christianity and fanatical religions in general. It is also a good critique of the liberal denial of the threat of Islamic fanaticism on Western society and its values. I agree for example that misogyny shouldn't get a pass just because it's Islamic misogyny. Does try to answer the question of why the more moderate religion Karen Armstrong proposes is still a danger and ethically harmful.

Nonetheless, he fails to address how he can preclude a superpower of some kind in a (multiple?) universe that operates under such totally unexpected and not-rational-seeming rules of physics. So he still comes off as sounding nearly as arrogant as the religious fanatics he critiques.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab GirlLab Girl by Hope Jahren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I started reading this book I didn’t think I’d end up liking it as much as I do. It’s pretty unexpected. I enjoyed all the information about plants and plant research, and the struggle of being a research scientist, but more than that, this book is a friend-love story.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Caraval by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reviewing this book is tricky because you will love it or hate it. It's a solidly YA fantasy book. If you like fun and can tolerate purple prose, then you might love this. If you require literary things in it like developed characters and well-written sentences this is probably not for you. For me, it was a fun quick read- and like a combo of The Night Circus and The Hunger Games. I mean that sounds good right? I might even reread it.

The ending felt like a bit of a letdown, and it also felt like kind of a messy wrap-up with some things I couldn't accept. Also, the mystery aspect is a bit of cheat because you can't actually solve the mystery though I understand this is true of most mystery books.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Breathe by Anne-Sophie Brasme

BreatheBreathe by Anne-Sophie Brasme
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting short French novel about Charlene's obsession with an American French girl that is awful to her. There's no surprise in the book, but only a meditation on the obsession. The writing is good and very interesting. It's true though that something is missing- after all Charlene appears to have a mental illness that pre-dates Sarah.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro

Hourglass: Time, Memory, MarriageHourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some good writing. Interesting. She does the Joan Didion repeat repeat repeat again later thing. Doesn't give me much insight into her marriage or marriage in general. Is an interesting meditation on time and memory. Does the repeat repeat repeat thing.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Nudge by Richard H. Thaler

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and HappinessNudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One basic premise, many thoroughly detailed examples. But the examples are super important life examples about investing, insurance, education and as such are pretty interesting. Be warned though, I don't think it really works as a self-help book. It's more about how governments, companies, or other large entities can point people in the right direction of their best decisions.

There's a political/economic bias in the book which the author admits up front, but is neither liberal nor conservative per se, but something Thaler calls "libertarian paternalism." The idea is that people should get a few choices (but not lots of choices that overwhelm them) keeping in mind that they rarely know what's best or act in their own best interest. Libertarian in practice but paternalistic in your mind? Sort of.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

It's Okay to Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmort

It's Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too)It's Okay to Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmort
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is wonderful. It's honest, raw, and hilarious. The next thing I'm going to say is going to sound like it's not that hilarious, but I swear it is. In rapid succession she had a miscarriage, her father died, and her husband died of cancer. Having been through something similar with both of my parents dying of cancer (they were in their early 60s, I was in my 30s), I could relate to a lot of her feelings and appreciate the sometimes dark humor. Obviously, that's still totally different than what she went through, but she has a whole section on how grief is lonely because it's so different for everyone, and yes, that part is also spot on. Reading the book is like having a friend that really gets it go through the bad stuff with you.

I might be a little OCD, but the chronology in the book was crazy and I couldn't get a handle on what happened when. I'm still not totally sure when the last part of the book took place chronologically, but for me, that was the only small flaw in this nearly perfect memoir.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune (Dune Chronicles #1)Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nearly perfect fantasy-scifi book except for the kind of weird vaguely political ending. I especially enjoyed the numerous strong interesting female characters that play important roles in the action. This is one of those books that when I finally read I regret waiting so long to read.

Also, this is the 100th book I read from my dad's inherited collection.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual EnlightenmentThe Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good simplification and modernization of Buddhism to make it less religious-y for modern readers. (Ie., never mind about rebirth and hungry souls, and what not.) It's in a question-and-answer format which is more effective for this subject than it sounds like it would be.

That said, I think it's a stretch to say the Bible or Christianity is referencing these "enlightenment" frames of mind. Also, the small section on menstruation, not necessary, and hard to take from a man that really has no idea what he's talking about. Wouldn't have loved that part even if a woman wrote it though.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own PersonYear of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very funny at times, interesting, and even a little inspiring. Probably more interesting if you've seen Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. I've only watched a season of Scandal, but maybe I'll go back and binge watch Grey's Anatomy. (I also never watched ER, House, Scrubs, or any of the doctor shows except Doogie Howser, and that was a really long time ago!)

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