Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
by Mindy Kaling
E-Book from Public Library
[#15 in my 75 Book Challenge]
Full disclosure: I don’t watch The Office. I didn’t even really know who Mindy Kaling was before reading this book, but I knew I had to read it. After reading Bossypants by Tina Fey, this one came recommended…and I can see why! I love smart, funny, successful women who don’t take themselves too seriously. Mindy is my homegirl.
I don’t know exactly what I would call Mindy’s book. Like Tina Fey’s book, it’s part memoir and part comedy essays related the life of a female comedy writer. While I wasn’t rolling on the floor laughing, I did find the writing delightfully witty. I enjoyed every second of reading the book and really didn’t care if there was a cohesive “plot” or not (there wasn’t…especially after the first half or so). It’s just a series of essays about everything, and they are totally worth it.
Some great moments in the book:
1.) The list of Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities
2.) The list of Greatest Comedy Moments (Liz Lemon crying out of her mouth? YES!)
3.) The list of alternate titles for the book
4.) Mindy’s description of not having one night stands because she’s afraid of getting murdered (my life story).
…aaaaaaand a few great quotes, which really emphasize why I loved this book:
“This book will take you two days to read. Did you even see the cover? It’s mostly pink. If you’re reading this book every night for months, something is not right.”
“I guess I find “Jack and Diane” a little disgusting…I wish there was a song called “Nguyen and Ari,” a little ditty about a hardworking Vietnamese girl who helps her parents with the franchised Holiday Inn they run and does homework in the lobby, and Ari, a hardworking Jewish boy who does volunteer work at his grandmother’s old-age home, and they meet after school at the Princeton Review. They help each other study for the SATs and different AP courses, and then after months of studying, and mountains of flashcards, they kiss chastely upon hearing the news that they both got into their top college choices.”
“Frisbee people won’t let it go. My theory is that this is because there’s a huge overlap between people who are good at Frisbee and people who do Teach for America.”
Final Grade: B+ This is a great book, totally recommendation-worthy and fun to read. It falls just short of “amazing,” which is what keeps it from an A. I have to be super-careful about giving away A’s, or else I’d just be flinging them around left and right! If you read Bossypants, you need to read this book. If you love The Office and other way funny shows (30 Rock), you need to read this book. If you love sassy, funny ladies, you need to read this book. It’s short, sweet, cute, witty, and charming. And I might even start watching The Office now. Go figure.
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming
Checked out from the public library
[#9 in my 75 book challenge]
Dear public library — why do you not shelve your YA biographies in the 921′s? It took me at least fifteen minutes to hunt this sucker down, but I wanted to read it because it’s on the Mock Newbery shortlist over at School Library Journal’s Heavy Medal blog. Nina has this in her top three, so I couldn’t pass it over.
This one reminded me of The Watch That Ends The Night because they were very similar in structure. Both take the narrative of the event (the voyage of the Titanic and the life of Amelia Earhart) and frame each chapter with passages about the aftermath of the event. In the case of Amelia Earhart, the story begins with Amelia not showing up for her scheduled refueling stop at tiny Howland Island. The next chapters begin with Amelia’s birth and tell her life story, but each opens with the continued questions and search attempts surrounding her disappearance.
Though the book is short (only 128 pages), it is very thorough. I learned more about Amelia Earhart than I expected. By the end I realized that I didn’t really like her. Sure, she did some interesting things to convince women to pursue their dreams and she was an inspiration to girls for generations. However, I got the sense from the story that she was a bit self-absorbed, reckless, and actively created her own media limelight. I was surprised to learn that she was married, though it appeared that Mr. Putnam loved her a bit more than she loved him. Amelia’s one love was flying, and she died doing what she loved. Before reading this book I don’t think I realized quite how dangerous flying was in the 1920′s and 30′s. If nothing else, Amelia was a very brave woman.
Do not look for this book to answer any questions about what MIGHT have happened to Earhart. This is not a book of speculations — it’s just the facts, ma’am. There is great bibliographical information in the back, as well as an introduction by Fleming that reminds readers, “Sometimes it’s hard to tell fact from fiction.” Amelia’s story is part legend and myth and part truth, but sometimes separating the two is difficult. This same principal applies to her disappearance, as much as I would LOVE to know what actually happened to her.
Final Grade: C It was okay. Non-fiction is sort of hit-or-miss, and it’s highly subjective. In this case, the subject just didn’t interest me — even though it ended up being more interesting than I thought. I will admit that my expertise in non-fiction is limited, so I can’t quite say if it it well-written enough to win the Newbery. Everyone else seems to think it is, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Do look for it to pick up at least an honor medal next week when the results are announced.
My students would possibly pick this up because of the mystery surrounding Earhart (they love stuff like that), but I would probably have to put it on a display or a list. I doubt they’d wander over to the 921′s and just pick it. Our seventh graders are about to start a biography project, so I’m sure they’ll show it some love for that.
Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds
by Scott Berkun
[#58 in my
52 60 book challenge]
I might be slightly ridiculous at times. I dance around my media center, make stupid jokes, have Justin Bieber posters in my office, buy everything in pink, and watch waaaaaay too much reality television. However, at my heart I am a very logical, driven person. Everything I do is purposeful, even if I try to make life fun. Scott Berkun’s book speaks to that side of my personality. I’d like to give one big Jersey Shore-style fist pump to Scott Berkun for being logical, objective, driven, intelligent, humble, and awesome.
Mindfire is a collection of thirty essays organized into three categories: Gasoline, Sparks, and Fire.The essays were all previously published on his website, but he has handpicked from his many other essays to create this thematic collection. I’ve read short stories and non-fiction before, but this is my first experience reading an essay collection. Based on Berkun’s praise of essay collections at the end of the book, I may read more in the future.
He won me over with the first essay, “The Cult of Busy.” It’s like this man is in my head! Busy people like to say and believe that they must be more important because they are so busy, but sometimes it actually means they are not very efficient. I see this all the time in the education field! We’ve got these martyr teachers who stay at work until seven every evening and work on stuff all weekend and all break and all summer and never have enough time and are sooooo busy. I leave every day at 4:00 because I either A.) use my time wisely while I’m at school or B.) determine that some tasks are not important enough to spend my time on. Less busy people are not necessarily doing less and we certainly are not less important. I wish I had a copy of “The Cult of Busy” to hand to every person who ever snidely told me, “I wish I could leave every day at 4:00. Must be nice.”
It is nice. You should try it.
Other great essays included:
- “There are two kinds of people: complexifiers and simplifiers”
- “How to give and receive criticism”
- “On God and integrity”
Logic and objectivity run through each of the essays, but those three really stood out in terms of personal value. Some of the essays, though good, didn’t really hit close to home for me because they were about worlds that I don’t really live in. I guess they are applicable to education, but not as much is they would be applicable in the business world.
Final Grade: A-
It would be hard for a non-fiction book to reach a full A, but this one got bumped up from a B+ because of the sheer number of times I chanted, “AMEN! For real!” to myself while reading it.
by Allen Say
Junior Library Guild sent us this book, and I’d seen some buzz about it on other blogs so I thought I’d read it and see what it’s about. It came in our Upper Elementary level and I was expecting a graphic novel-type book. I guess I was both right and wrong about that — the format is very unique, a cross between traditional kids non-fiction, memoir, graphic novel, and picture book.
The story is about Allen Say’s life growing up in Japan in the 1940′s and how he become a cartoonist and artist. At age 12, Say’s grandmother let him live in his own apartment in Tokyo because he got into a prestigious middle school there. Say studied hard and enjoyed the freedom, and in his free time he sought his favorite cartoonist to be his mentor. Say worked under Noro Shinpei for several years, learning a lot along the way, before accepting his father’s offer to move to America.
This is a beautiful book and I appreciate the information as an adult, but I don’t know how many children will appreciate it. The language is definitely kid-friendly (kudos to Say for doing that EXTREMELY well), but it would take a really sophisticated kid to want to pick the book off the shelf. To me, if felt like one of those children’s books that’s really for adults. I didn’t know who Allen Say was when I put this book in the TBR pile, and I still didn’t know when I was done with the book. What did he write? Some research revealed how very, very little I know about picture books (thus my Picture Book Challenge). Allen Say won the 1994 Caldecott Medal for the book Grandfather’s Journey. I recognize the cover of the book, but I’ve never read it. Maybe I need to add it to my picture book TBR pile (which is rawther small).
Sometimes the books I read are quite long, so I spend longer than a week on them. I’m currently reading three very long books, so I’m working my way through all of them. Here they are, in the order I will likely finish them:
I discovered Delirium while browsing other bloggers’ posts for a Top Ten Tuesday a few weeks back. It is YA dystopian romance, but apparently the ending is jaw-dropping. And I loooooove a good, jaw-dropping ending. I’m particularly proud of this one because it’s an e-book that I successfully checked out and downloaded to my Nook from the public library.
I’ve got The Help as an audiobook. There are sixteen discs in this massive novel. So far I think it’s amazing, even if I have seen many critiques of the historical accuracy.
I received Just My Type as an advanced reader copy from the publisher. I finally figured out how to open it up on my Nook, so I’m finally able to read it. I do so love getting free books. Maybe one day I’ll be cool enough to snag ARC’s/galleys for YA fiction. Here’s hopin’
Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us
by Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman
[#50 in my
52 60 book challenge]
A non-fiction book featuring a series of chapters about various life annoyances and the science (usually brain-related stuff) about why…I’ll sum it up for you: most of our annoyances appear to come from evolutionary responses to things that used to be really dangerous (fingernails on a chalkboard have the same frequency as a scream). That or they come from our expectations not being met — like the expectation that a repetitive sound will stop. The book explains how the science of annoyance is a very new, under-studied science and annoyance is hard to standardize and quantify. Neither of those surprised me, but I found the ideas behind why we would want to quantify and study it quite interesting.
Things I learned included: why skunk smell bothers us, why cell phones in public drive us crazy (learned a new word: halfalogue), and where to buy a novelty item specifically designed to annoy people with a random beeping (look out, family!). The book covered annoyances in multiple senses and cultures, and everything was very well researched.
This was my seventh (and final) audio book for 2011. I felt really, really dumb when I realized that the authors are from NPR. I was listening, thinking, “This sounds more like NPR than an audio book?” Well, duh. I often listen to Science Friday and didn’t even realize that Flora Lichtman is the familiar voice from that show. As audio books go, the NPR-factor made this a very difference experience because the authors read with a much more conversational style. At times it was off-putting, and Flora Lichtman can be a little much over 6.5 hours of content (there wasn’t much of Joe Palca). Don’t get me wrong — I LIKE her. She has a very unique, interesting voice. But I did get sick of her eventually.
A lot of people ’round the web compare Annoying to the books of Malcolm Gladwell (have you read The Tipping Point? You should). I think that comparison is a bit ambitious. However, the comparison makes sense because they are similar books that would appeal to the same audience. Overall, a worthwhile read if you are a science nerd or love NPR. It was a little dense for me at points as a non-science person, but I suffered through and did get something from it.
An Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University
by Kevin Roose
[#43 in my 52 book challenge]
Take a Quaker boy from ultra-liberal Brown University and plop him onto the campus of the ultra-conservative, evangelical Christian school that is Liberty University and you get this book. Instead of studying abroad, Kevin Roose experiences another culture right here on our own country. Liberty was founded by Dr. Jerry Falwell to raise the next generations of evangelical Christians in holy, conservative environment. Roose goes undercover as a full-time student, living in the dorms and following the “Liberty Way” to learn more about evangelical Christianity and the students who choose to attend such a university.
While at Liberty, Roose learns to read the Bible daily, pray, and witness. He attends church every Sunday, sings in the choir, and goes on a mission trip over spring break. For his courses he must learn about evangelism, the Old Testament, and creationism. Roose learns to see the students as individuals, instead as simply “The Religious Right,” as he learns more about himself.
An Unlikely Disciple is one of the best books I’ve read in this year’s set. I was impressed by Roose’s open-minded approach to this project. He has liberal views about evolution, abortion, and homosexuality, and he quite strongly believes that the evangelical approach is flawed in many ways. However, he plants himself in the middle of a community of people with completely opposing viewpoints and seeks to understand them. I think we all could benefit from learning about each other with such open minds, and I applaud his strength in holding on to his own beliefs while he did so.
I was most intrigued by Roose’s insights on prayer and praying for other people. He, like me, struggles with the idea that God actually sits down and listens to/answers all of our prayers. With all the terrible things going on in the world, how could He? Roose’s conclusions after experiencing hours of praying each week taught me some things about why people pray. He also shed some light on why students attend such a strict University — offenses such as kissing, cussing, and watching R-rated movies are punished with monetary fines.
If you are fascinated by religion or even slightly intrigued by fish-out-of-water-type experiences, I highly recommend this book.
God, No! Signs You May Already Be An Atheist and Other Magical Tales
by Penn Jillette
[#41 in my 52 book challenge]
Can I stop my review with just that? “Oh my?” Because that kind of sums it up.
I enjoy Penn Jillette’s work, so reading this book was a no brainer. Penn is one of the two-man magic show Penn and Teller, but I really know him from their show Penn and Teller: Bullshit! on Showtime. Penn Jillette is both a Libertarian and an atheist, and he is also a skeptic…which are all things I respect him for. Religion fascinates me and I love Penn Jillette, so I naturally gravitated toward this book.
I say it right now: I am a Christian. I am not an atheist. I didn’t pick up this book to give a mental fist bump to a guy who shares my religious ideology. I picked this book up to learn a little bit about one guy’s life story as an atheist. Even as a Christian, I understand where atheists are coming from and I respect the conviction/intelligence/skepticism that comes with rejecting religion and God…and that it’s not always taken lightly. Atheists are usually very intelligent people, and I value intelligence greatly.
That being said, I don’t think I got much out of Jillette’s book. He outlines the 10 Atheist Commandments in contrast with the commandments from the Bible, but he spends much of his time rambling. The stories he tells, though interesting to Jillette fans as tidbits from his life, are only loosely related to the topic at hand: atheism. Jillette does a lot of Hollywood name dropping, which I found unnecessary. I just didn’t get much out of reading this: I didn’t learn anything, I didn’t laugh out loud, and I was barely entertained. It wasn’t terrible, just mediocre. The kind of book that would be best checked out from the library. But I paid $13 for it on my Nook and now I’m stuck with the digital copy forever. Thus is life.
Oh, and FYI, it’s full of cussing. ‘Cause that’s what Penn does best. Just a warning (though, if you’re an atheist and over age 14, probably an unnecessary one).
by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
[#37 in my 52 book challenge]
Here we go. This one was non-fiction AND a grown-up book, aren’t you proud?It’s been on my list for a long time, since I loved the original Freakonomics so much. I listened to all eight hours on audio from the public library and it made great listen for the car because it was both engaging and educational.
If you read the cover, you can see what the main chapters of the book are about. Dubner and Levitt explain life through economics, or the study of how people respond to incentives. Most of the sections start by addressing the big topic, looking at various asides and related studies, and then returning to prove something interesting/contradictory about the original topic. Sometimes it felt like the “plot” was meandering a bit, but it works. Just like the original.
Reading a book such as this one certainly gives a person a myriad of topics to discuss at parties, many of which will shock and infuriate. I don’t know that I would tell such anecdotes to strangers because they might require me to back up my knowledge with a bit more than, “Well, I read it in Superfreakonomics, so it must be true,” but they would be interesting points to debate with friends. I know these statistics and assumptions must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, I find the economic way of thinking fascinating. For example, I was surprised, and horrified, to learn that many doctors don’t wash their hands as often as they should…and why. I was surprised by the safety statistics of child car seats. I was surprised to learn that prostitutes actually make more money with pimps than without (and how Realtors compare).
What didn’t surprise me was all that Levitt and Dubner had to say on environmentalism. I am a major skeptic when it comes to the whole green movement and global warming (not a non-believer! Just a skeptic!) and I was thrilled to see the economists’ take on it. I was especially thrilled to learn that cutting down on red meat one day a week does more to reduce greenhouse gases than eating locally — and that eating locally is actually more damaging to the environment than people believe (both of which I’d assumed on my own, which is why I’ve cut down on meat in general). Again, I’m taking all of that with a grain of salt. But fascinating nonetheless.
Reading this as an audiobook was a true joy because it was read by the author, Stephen Dubner. I enjoy Dubner’s Freakonomics Radio podcast/NPR show (and I enjoy Levitt even more than Dubner!), and listening to this book for 8 hours felt like an extension of the podcast. It probably should be the other way around, but I just love that podcast so much. You should definitely check it out, even if you don’t plan on reading through the whole book.
My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands
by Chelsea Handler
[#30 in my 52 book challenge]
I bought this book because I saw it for $1.99 in the Nook Book store. I’ll just say that I’m glad I paid $1.99 for it, because that’s about all it’s worth. It was okay. $1.99 worth of okay.
So why didn’t I like it? Probably because I just don’t like Chelsea Handler. I know she can be a funny lady, but I just find her annoying. I thought the book would be like The Idiot Girl’s Action Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life and Autobiography of a Fat Bride: True Tales of a Pretend Adulthood by Laurie Notaro. Notaro’s books are collections of self-depricating, humorous essays about being young and dumb as an awkward 20-something. I like her stories and her style. I relate to her. Chelsea’s book was all about sex. I should have gathered that from the title (duh, Miss Anderson) but somehow I thought she would have a big more substance.
Sure, there were moments that made me laugh. Most of her experiences would make great sitcom story lines…if spread out over a whole cast of characters. I found the fact that they had all happened to her to be a bit sad. And I found Chelsea’s life to be a bit alcohol-dependent and shallow. I guess it’s just my values? I value hard work and education in addition to having fun after hours. Chelsea’s life appeared to be all about the fun and promiscuity without any of the hard work that makes a person interesting.
Not every book I read is excellent. My Horizontal Life is one of the less-than-excellent ones. What it highlights for me, though, is the reason why I do this challenge: it forces me to finish books that I might walk away from. I would have put this one down and walked away, but I followed through and read the whole thing to get my $1.99 worth. And then I felt a strong need to go back to fiction, which is why my next post will be the start of my re-reading of the Harry Potter series. Excellent!