Friday, June 30, 2017

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in BetweenTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved the beginning about her early life and trying to act in her twenties. I laughed out loud a few times. But then it turned into a for Gilmore Girl Fans-only book. I love Gilmore Girls but if you don't this might not be that interesting?

Also, it's a very short book so it left me feeling like it didn't provide enough personal information nor enough Gilmore Girl information from the 90s (because she didn't remember a lot from those days). Forget about any Parenting info, she barely touches on that show. Really it was a 3.5 but I love her so I rounded up.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

One Perfect Word by Debbie Macomber

One Perfect Word: One Word Can Make All the DifferenceOne Perfect Word: One Word Can Make All the Difference by Debbie Macomber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is very religious, and clearly a lot of people find it inspirational. It's a pretty easy short read and I don't regret reading it.

However, I just read Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America and this is the exact kind of "magical thinking" she argues against.

I have a big problem with the line of thinking that goes, "pray and your prayer will be answered, unless it's not and then either 1) you didn't pray hard enough, or 2) God has a different plan we can't understand." But did you know that people have studied whether or not prayer works in medical situations?:

Analyzing complications in the 30 days after the operations, the researchers found no differences between those patients who were prayed for and those who were not.

In another of the study's findings, a significantly higher number of the patients who knew that they were being prayed for — 59 percent — suffered complications, compared with 51 percent of those who were uncertain. The authors left open the possibility that this was a chance finding. But they said that being aware of the strangers' prayers also may have caused some of the patients a kind of performance anxiety.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/hea...

So yeah, I can't get terribly excited about Macomber's message, though I don't reject it completely either. I think that focus, meditation, and determination can have big effects on a person's life, as can luck.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

The Girl Who Fell from the SkyThe Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a little confusing in the beginning, but it ended up being good. I think my favorite things were the diverse and realistic characters and the way the writer made sorrow seem beautiful. That's a hard thing to pull off.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich

Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined AmericaBright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I appreciated her critique of the positive-thinking culture in culture and business. I find the former irritating and the latter oppressive. The research shows that pessimists make the best attorneys. I've always suspected that would be true in a number of other fields where anticipating and averting disaster would be beneficial to a cheery facade. But the demands on sick people to be positive and even to pray are exhausting. What are we to make of how we've treated both the most positive and religious people who die from cancer- not to mention the grumps and atheists we tortured with this advice right to the grave? I agree with the premise that there is a sinister intersect of religion, magic and the corporate world in all this victim-blaming.

That said, I think Ehrenreich wasn't very fair to the scientific study of happiness and positive psychology. (Says the person who is obsessed with Jonathan Haidt and his books.)

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite RunnerThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this novel. Hosseini did a good job of writing about some of the complications of friendship and family. I could relate to the experience of immigrants and refugees trying to adjust to a new country, culture, and language.

The setting of Afghanistan in two different times was also really interesting. I've read some of the history of the U.S. and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan but I still think this book could have benefitted from explaining a bit more clearly what was going politically to understand the relationship to what was happening in the plot of the story.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Own WordsMy Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love The Honourable Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I think she's one of the most brilliant Americans alive today. This collection of speeches is a mess though. For example, one of them is a brief introduction for Gloria Steinem at an event for her, but we learn nothing about either Ginsburg or Steinem for the inclusion of the introduction. There are two speeches that are actually her husband's, and he has the same opening joke in them. There is an entire cut-and-paste of the opera, Scalia/Ginsburg, which was just the worst. This book could have been really great, and it does have some great feminist writing in it, but you'll have to wade through a lot of poorly edited content to get to it.

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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.

Sigh.

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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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