Monday, June 30, 2008

Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck

Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck (2006)

This is a hot pick for the children's summer reading program and that, combined with the intriguing title, convinced me to pick it up. Also, I've never read a Richard Peck book so this seemed like a good introduction. The heroine, Eleanor, was likable and I really enjoyed the theme of women pioneers. It takes place outside Indianapolis so the references to the area were especially amusing for me, as were the stereotypes of libraries and librarians! Peck brought in some "beautiful" and lively librarians to bring some excitement to a small Indiana town stuck in the past and in turn brought some great PR to librarianship. "Put two librarians' heads together, and mountains move."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Areas of my Expertise

The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman, 2005

A good friend recommended this book. This friend has a great sense of humor and likes David Sedaris so I figured the book would be amusing to me as well. It was not. Hodgman is a comedian and frequently appears on "This American Life." The writer essentially creates a fake almanac of random facts, spending a lot of his wordcount on actuaries and hoboes. Some of the 700 hobo names he lists are amusing and some of the "facts" about the 50 states are pretty funny (that is, the states I know enough about to get the jokes), but ultimately I found the fake facts and his little narratives on black squirrels in Madison Square Park and other randomness annoying. If he'd had real facts, I would've been amused. But I simply didn't understand why this parody was so funny.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Gathering by Anne Enright

The Gathering by Anne Enright, 2007

This was one of the best, if not the best, books on memory I've ever read. Veronica, the narrator, goes back and forth through generations of time and perfectly captures the feelings of looking back on dark childhood memories. Her brother has died and her large Irish family comes together to mourn so we get back stories to all of the children and then see what happens in the present. The glimpses of different periods in the family's history we get at the beginning are intriguing and I plowed through the novel to find out the dark family secrets that led to the brother's death and the family's all-around dysfunction. I was disappointed in the ending, but still think it's some of the best writing I've enjoyed in years.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Born on a Blue Day

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet (2006)

**This fulfills my challenge--written by an author I haven't read before
This has been on my to-read list for months so perhaps I expected too much, but I was very disappointed. It's a memoir of an austistic man starting with his earliest memories as a boy and taking us to his present twenty-something life. Most of what stuck with me about his life is what I already know is common in autism--a compulsive need for routine, seeing colors in numbers, and difficulty empathizing or functioning in social situations. What is perhaps unique in Daniel's tale is that he traveled to Lithuania and lived on his own and taught English for an entire year following secondary school. This experience served as a wake-up and introduction to the greater world and he comes home to meet his boyfriend whom he still lives with.

Although Tammet had several unique experiences (meeting Kim Peek, the inspiration for Rain Man, reciting all the decimal places in pi for five hours, learning the Icelandic language in a week, appearing on David Letterman), I felt the writing was bland. There was a lot of boring talk about numbers and the words didn't really come alive for me. The only part of the book that really captured me was the small part of his chapter on falling in love in which he shows a hidden emotional side. He wrote, "Falling in love is like nothing else; there isn't a right or a wrong way to fall in love with another person, no mathematical equation for love and the perfect relationship."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

When You Are Englufed in Flames

Review #1
When You are Engulfed in Glames by David Sedaris, 2008

This is one book that does not meet the requirement for my "challenge" in the Summer Reading Program because I have certainly read Sedaris before. I recommend Sedaris to anyone--regardless of their literary tastes. He is funny and a good writer. A truly rare combination. That being said, his latest book of essays doesn't disappoint. Somehow he was able to cover new topics while giving us a further glimpse into his present and past life. I especially enjoyed the stories about his experiences with rowmates on airplanes, cabdrivers who ask far-too-personal questions and reveal way-too-much about themselves, and his difficulty in social settings and how he comes prepared to make small talk. I wasn't really grabbed by the long essay on his quest to quit smoking, but luckily the book had enough other gems that I'd still give it 5/5 stars. Not necessarily his best work, but some of the stories will belong in a "Best of David Sedaris" book one day.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer Reading 2008

So as I'm working on the children's summer reading program at the library this summer, I figure I'd have some fun with my own summer reading. I'll be posting reviews, lists of books I'd like to read, and perhaps include movies and music, too.

Please leave me a comment with book, music, and movie suggestions or reviews of your own!

Right now I'm going through a stack of vegetarian cookbooks because my summer project is becoming a better cook.

This week I re-watched Swingers (totally needed it after my relationship woes), read Cynthia Kaplan's Leave The Building Quickly (not as good as Why I'm Like This) and Scott Douglas' Quiet Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian.

I also watched Sex & the City on the big screen and could write about the movie for days. Let's just say, I wasn't happy with what happened with Carrie or Samantha. I don't know anyone who has broken up with her boyfriend that many times and married him. Let's be serious, ladies.

Ok, let the summer of fun begin!