August282014
A really incredible work that is a wild mix of science and prose. The stories took the science of the world and anthropomorphized it. It’s hard to describe exactly where the attraction of the book came in, but it was tangible throughout. The stories are short enough to make it well worth giving them a try. And, as the student who recommended it wrote so elegantly, “Everyone needs a get-away and Calvino created numerous that makes me want to renounce my Earth citizenship and move to the moon.”
Book 17 of 189

A really incredible work that is a wild mix of science and prose. The stories took the science of the world and anthropomorphized it. It’s hard to describe exactly where the attraction of the book came in, but it was tangible throughout. The stories are short enough to make it well worth giving them a try. And, as the student who recommended it wrote so elegantly, “Everyone needs a get-away and Calvino created numerous that makes me want to renounce my Earth citizenship and move to the moon.”

Book 17 of 189

August272014
The best non-fiction books read like fiction. They create a storyline that encourage you to keep turning the page, presenting the facts in an easy-to-digest manner. One of the best recent examples was The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
On the other side of the spectrum you have Jim Diamond’s Collapse. This book was just FILLED with minutiae that I often felt was irrelevant to the overall theme. You end up becoming so bogged down into details that by the time Diamond makes his point about a specific society, you stopped caring.
The book has a strong message about the various factors that, in conjunction, can cause the total collapse of a society. And he does an interesting job drawing parallels to modern society. But again, his knowledge of the topic, though vast, is just not matched by his writing ability, and so the book (and the reader) suffers for it.
Book 16 of 189

The best non-fiction books read like fiction. They create a storyline that encourage you to keep turning the page, presenting the facts in an easy-to-digest manner. One of the best recent examples was The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

On the other side of the spectrum you have Jim Diamond’s Collapse. This book was just FILLED with minutiae that I often felt was irrelevant to the overall theme. You end up becoming so bogged down into details that by the time Diamond makes his point about a specific society, you stopped caring.

The book has a strong message about the various factors that, in conjunction, can cause the total collapse of a society. And he does an interesting job drawing parallels to modern society. But again, his knowledge of the topic, though vast, is just not matched by his writing ability, and so the book (and the reader) suffers for it.

Book 16 of 189

August252014
Written 40 years ago, at times this book shows it’s age (referencing the transitioning hippie community, for instance), but much of it remains relevant and strong. Watts does a great job talking through some of Man’s big questions on karma, what comes next, and our place in the world. I found his discussion on (and “proof” of) reincarnation to be particularly enlightening. While not an overly difficult read, it does require some concentration to follow his line of thinking on different ideas. But it definitely opened my eyes and left me with something to mull over when I was finished.
Book 15 of 189

Written 40 years ago, at times this book shows it’s age (referencing the transitioning hippie community, for instance), but much of it remains relevant and strong. Watts does a great job talking through some of Man’s big questions on karma, what comes next, and our place in the world. I found his discussion on (and “proof” of) reincarnation to be particularly enlightening. While not an overly difficult read, it does require some concentration to follow his line of thinking on different ideas. But it definitely opened my eyes and left me with something to mull over when I was finished.

Book 15 of 189

August222014
This was probably the hardest 100-page book I’ve ever read. Without chapters, and consisting of approximately four total paragraphs, you never really got a sense of breakpoints in the stories. There was literally no pause from one piece to the next, so you couldn’t really catch your breath and review the last passage before heading into the next. It just all unraveled before you, and therefore I feel this book is best read in one long sitting. 
The deathbed styling is intriguing, and if you have a brief knowledge of Chilean history, the book becomes much more revealing. Even a passing wiki knowledge of the fall of Allende and the rise of Pinochet will help. 
Overall the writing was beautiful, but as I said, it was very difficult to get a sense of plot because of that same style.
Book 14 of 189

This was probably the hardest 100-page book I’ve ever read. Without chapters, and consisting of approximately four total paragraphs, you never really got a sense of breakpoints in the stories. There was literally no pause from one piece to the next, so you couldn’t really catch your breath and review the last passage before heading into the next. It just all unraveled before you, and therefore I feel this book is best read in one long sitting. 

The deathbed styling is intriguing, and if you have a brief knowledge of Chilean history, the book becomes much more revealing. Even a passing wiki knowledge of the fall of Allende and the rise of Pinochet will help. 

Overall the writing was beautiful, but as I said, it was very difficult to get a sense of plot because of that same style.

Book 14 of 189

August202014
A really wonderful bit of poetry.
There was a book I read a number of years ago called “The Missing Piece” (no, not that one.) It was about a world where solving jigsaw puzzles was a major sporting event. It got really detailed into the act of doing jigsaw puzzles and the different strategies people used to solve them. I imagine many of these strategies are real, and there are probably small circles and groups where people get deeply into jigsaw puzzles in this manner.
I mention the book because Maggie Nelson does the same thing with the color blue. Besides the use of the color as a metaphor, she draws out quotes and history and science about the color. She draws inspiration and sadness from it. It becomes the focal point. And she delves so deeply that you are pulled with her and sorta see, in a hazy way, what that sort of love for a color would feel like.
Book 13 of 189

A really wonderful bit of poetry.

There was a book I read a number of years ago called “The Missing Piece” (no, not that one.) It was about a world where solving jigsaw puzzles was a major sporting event. It got really detailed into the act of doing jigsaw puzzles and the different strategies people used to solve them. I imagine many of these strategies are real, and there are probably small circles and groups where people get deeply into jigsaw puzzles in this manner.

I mention the book because Maggie Nelson does the same thing with the color blue. Besides the use of the color as a metaphor, she draws out quotes and history and science about the color. She draws inspiration and sadness from it. It becomes the focal point. And she delves so deeply that you are pulled with her and sorta see, in a hazy way, what that sort of love for a color would feel like.

Book 13 of 189

August192014
I felt a little disappointed in this book, as I didn’t really feel like it had a narrative carrying the reader forward. I felt like it started strong, sorta getting into the connection between man and city, but it become more ethereal afterwards. It became more of a David Byrne stream-of-conscious of his experiences in different cities, and it didn’t seem to me he had a set of ideas in advance of writing the book that he wanted to get across. It just seemed like a notebook that he carried in his pocket as he traveled, recording his thoughts, and then published that notebook. Some people will enjoy that style of writing, but it fell flat for me.
Book 12 of 189

I felt a little disappointed in this book, as I didn’t really feel like it had a narrative carrying the reader forward. I felt like it started strong, sorta getting into the connection between man and city, but it become more ethereal afterwards. It became more of a David Byrne stream-of-conscious of his experiences in different cities, and it didn’t seem to me he had a set of ideas in advance of writing the book that he wanted to get across. It just seemed like a notebook that he carried in his pocket as he traveled, recording his thoughts, and then published that notebook. Some people will enjoy that style of writing, but it fell flat for me.

Book 12 of 189

August182014
Zainab Salbi joins the ranks of Barbara Demick (North Korea), Barbara Kingsolver (Democratic Republic of Congo), Katherine Boo (Mumbai), and Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan). Particularly with Demick and Hosseini, Salbi opens up doors to an otherwise closed society of which Americans have, at best, a glossed-over knowledge. 
Besides of her family’s relationship with Saddam Hussein, we get a very unique perspective on Iraq during his reign. She details the “prison bars” her mother metaphorically felt trapped the family in Iraq, as Hussein set one family against another in order to instill fear in all. Her pathway to escape was difficult, and yet it wasn’t until she began working for others that it nearly overcame her.
A fascinating story, and a great summary of a regime that is quickly being forgotten by the western world.
Book 11 of 189

Zainab Salbi joins the ranks of Barbara Demick (North Korea), Barbara Kingsolver (Democratic Republic of Congo), Katherine Boo (Mumbai), and Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan). Particularly with Demick and Hosseini, Salbi opens up doors to an otherwise closed society of which Americans have, at best, a glossed-over knowledge. 

Besides of her family’s relationship with Saddam Hussein, we get a very unique perspective on Iraq during his reign. She details the “prison bars” her mother metaphorically felt trapped the family in Iraq, as Hussein set one family against another in order to instill fear in all. Her pathway to escape was difficult, and yet it wasn’t until she began working for others that it nearly overcame her.

A fascinating story, and a great summary of a regime that is quickly being forgotten by the western world.

Book 11 of 189

August142014
I can count on one finger the number of anthologies I have read in my life. I attribute this to the fact that I pick up new books based on one of three criteria: read a review, have read something by the author before, like the plot. It’s very infrequent to read book reviews of anthologies. I don’t want to read a 400-page anthology just to get at a 10-page story by an author I like. And there’s as many plots in an anthology as there are authors.
And now I’m upset by how much good writing I’ve probably missed over the years! This anthology was friggin fantastic! It contained great works by authors I know - Jon Ronson (Lost At Sea, Adventures With Extremists), Kevin Brockmeier (A Brief History of the Dead), Junot Diaz - writing about really interesting stuff - the rise of the modern real-life superhero, the interaction between the living and the dead, and childhood. And I was exposed to a number of really interesting authors as well who I now want to read more from, such as Judy Budnitz, Louise Erdirich, and Michael Poore.
Just an overall really phenomenal read populated with some great stories.
Book 10 of 189

I can count on one finger the number of anthologies I have read in my life. I attribute this to the fact that I pick up new books based on one of three criteria: read a review, have read something by the author before, like the plot. It’s very infrequent to read book reviews of anthologies. I don’t want to read a 400-page anthology just to get at a 10-page story by an author I like. And there’s as many plots in an anthology as there are authors.

And now I’m upset by how much good writing I’ve probably missed over the years! This anthology was friggin fantastic! It contained great works by authors I know - Jon Ronson (Lost At Sea, Adventures With Extremists), Kevin Brockmeier (A Brief History of the Dead), Junot Diaz - writing about really interesting stuff - the rise of the modern real-life superhero, the interaction between the living and the dead, and childhood. And I was exposed to a number of really interesting authors as well who I now want to read more from, such as Judy Budnitz, Louise Erdirich, and Michael Poore.

Just an overall really phenomenal read populated with some great stories.

Book 10 of 189

August122014
An intriguing piece of literature. The plot moves at a normal pace over the first 15 pages or so, then Patchett essentially hits a pause button on the plot and the lives of the characters for the next two hundred plus pages, before resuming. The pause button doesn’t stop their lives, I’m not inferring that the intermediary is set in flashbacks and out of sequence. But rather it’s the feel of the entire book set in pause. The characters are all living in this seeming netherworld, a purgatory, where they have only a tenuous link to the outside world. The comings and goings of the negotiator and the changing of the season are how they measure their days. Clocks are no longer meaningful. It’s like trying to measure the hours of a planet’s life, the scale is just off.
The writing is precise, the relationships well-crafted. A very interesting novel by Patchett, and it definitely has gripped me enough to read another of her works.
Book 9 of 189

An intriguing piece of literature. The plot moves at a normal pace over the first 15 pages or so, then Patchett essentially hits a pause button on the plot and the lives of the characters for the next two hundred plus pages, before resuming. The pause button doesn’t stop their lives, I’m not inferring that the intermediary is set in flashbacks and out of sequence. But rather it’s the feel of the entire book set in pause. The characters are all living in this seeming netherworld, a purgatory, where they have only a tenuous link to the outside world. The comings and goings of the negotiator and the changing of the season are how they measure their days. Clocks are no longer meaningful. It’s like trying to measure the hours of a planet’s life, the scale is just off.

The writing is precise, the relationships well-crafted. A very interesting novel by Patchett, and it definitely has gripped me enough to read another of her works.

Book 9 of 189

August112014
Positives: Interesting novel format, working through two distinct perspectives, that of a Japanese teenager and a middle-age American writer. Good exploration of Japan and Buddhism. Both characters feel out-of-place within their place, oftentimes feeling like they are living outside of their own worlds. For Nao, she uses the cultural metaphor of a living ghost, while Ruth disassociates from the island’s culture.
Negatives: I never really felt drawn in to either character. I think Ozeki writes really strong characters, but I think they will speak more powerfully to certain readers. I think it’d be interesting to look at readers who both rate this book well and poorly and see the characteristics each group share within themselves. It felt more written towards character identity than plot.
Overall, a really strong novel from Ozeki, but one that just fell outside my zone.
Book 8 of 189

Positives: Interesting novel format, working through two distinct perspectives, that of a Japanese teenager and a middle-age American writer. Good exploration of Japan and Buddhism. Both characters feel out-of-place within their place, oftentimes feeling like they are living outside of their own worlds. For Nao, she uses the cultural metaphor of a living ghost, while Ruth disassociates from the island’s culture.

Negatives: I never really felt drawn in to either character. I think Ozeki writes really strong characters, but I think they will speak more powerfully to certain readers. I think it’d be interesting to look at readers who both rate this book well and poorly and see the characteristics each group share within themselves. It felt more written towards character identity than plot.

Overall, a really strong novel from Ozeki, but one that just fell outside my zone.

Book 8 of 189

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