Sunday, November 29, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

This was easily one of the strangest books I've ever read and that probably makes it worthy of a prize in itself. I'm intrigued by ghosts and the supernatural and I found Niffenegger's description of the supernatural quite interesting. What didn't work for me was the relationship between the young twins and that might be a reason why twins would relate best to this book. It was too hard for me to relate to them when they slept together holding hands and refused to pursue careers that were different in any way. Martin's character, struggling with OCD, was written quite well, but I didn't much see a reason for him being a part of the story. There were a lot of really great ideas in this novel, but it almost seems as though Niffennegger tried to throw in four great novels into one and it doesn't quite work.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Superfreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
If you enjoy statistics, pop culture, and current events, you probably enjoyed Freakonomics. And you'll likewise enjoy Superfreakonomics because it is--and doesn't pretend to be anything but--a continuation of Freakonomics. Nothing was earth-shattering in this book, but there were some interesting anecdotes. Most interesting to me was the chapter on altruism and apathy in which they exposed the falsity in the New York Times story about the "38 law-abiding citizens" who watched Kitty Genovese get attacked twice. Although I did see a story about this on 20/20 which exposed the errors in the 1964 front-page story, it was still interesting to read more about this. Levitt's and Dubner's tone is again comical while presenting interesting stories about economists and the research they're doing on everything from prostitution to global warming. It's a quick read, good for dinner discussions, if not because of the intrigue but because it's already another bestseller.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Finally. A true challenge to The Secret! That woman and all her millionaire associates are laughing all the way to the bank, and that stupid book is still selling like hotcakes. Ehrenreich sets off to disprove the new wave of positive thinking psychology and the business surrounding it. Her qualifications are good, as well, as she is a breast cancer survivor. Although her views are never kept a secret within the pages, she offers valid points and food for thought for optimists, pessimists, and realists alike. She makes an excelletn point on page 172: "Why advocate for better jobs and schools, safer neighborhoods, universal health insurance, or any other liberal desideratum if these measures will do little to make people happy? Social reformers, political activists, and change-oriented elected officials can all take a much-needed rest."

I mean, honestly. You visualize yourself as a millionaire and it happens? Look at what happened to Wall Street when they got to "positive" and lofty in their goals! Ehrenreich is simply realistic. She doesn't pretend any earth-shattering research and certainly no news that hasn't widely been reported in the media, but she offers an interesting view of the facts.

Ehrenreich wrote, "Happiness is not, of course, guaranteed even to those who are affluent, successful, and well loved. But that happiness is not the inevitable outcome of happy circumstances does not mean we can find it by journeying inward to revise our thoughts and feelings. The threats we face are real and can be vanquished only by shaking off self-absorption and taking action in the world. Build up the levees, get food to the hungry, find the cure, strengthen the 'first responders'! We will not succeed at all these things, certainly not all at once, but we can have a good trying."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Juliet, Naked

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

How can you not love Nick Hornby? He's funny, he's honest, and his writing flows like a Rolling Stone article. Likely because he writes about pop culture in his other life, and his interest in it comes through in all his novels. This one let me down a bit. I guess I was looking for a deeper look into obsessive fandom or for more of a love story and I didn't get either. It's still Nick Hornby, even if Hornby not at his best, and it still tells an interesting story. But, eh, I wouldn't recommend it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
Looking for good chick lit? Pick up Emily Giffin! Better yet, pick up Something Borrowed. I enjoyed Love the One You're With, but forgot about it a few minutes after putting it down. Giffin's first novel might just be her best. Sure, it's a common theme--friendships and affairs and true love--but Giffin is such a gifted writer that the reader is never quite sure where the story is going--and that's a good thing! I couldn't put the book down.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Strength in What Remains

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

Wow. Deo, an African-turned American, has one inspiring story and Kidder does a phenomenal job of telling it. He comes from Burundi in 1993, escaping Civil War and the genocide in Rwanda and arrives in America with absolutely nothing (well, he does have $200) and no English-speaking skills. Kidder takes the reader from Burundi to America to Rwanda and back to America to tell the remarkable story of how this young man survived and then thrived in New York City, climbing up from making $15 a day as a grocery delivery man to attending Columbia, and then Harvard grad school, and, ultimately, medical school. Having lived in New York myself, I was shocked that he was able to survive living in Harlem crack houses and sleeping in Central Park bushes. But after the atrocities he experienced in his native land, his plights in New York were hardly inconveniences.

Not only is Deo's story inspiring, the generosity of the people he meets in America who help him is truly heart-warming. To think that people could care so much about another human being that they would welcome him into their homes and ensure he received the education he desired is incredible. And to see how Deo gives back all he has gained since he first escaped the horror in Burundi is enough to give anyone faith in humanity. A beautiful story that I feel is a must-read for everyone.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Me vs. Me

Me Vs. Me by Sarah Mlynowski
I had low expectations for this book--it is a complete chicklit novel and claims to be nothing more, but I was pleasantly surprised! Mlynowski took a common theme--career vs. love--and a common desire--what if I didn't have to choose?--and adds an interesting spin. Gabby, our somewhat likable heroine, doesn't have to choose--she sees what her life would be like with both decisions. It's a plot that most writers couldn't pull off, but Mlynowski does a great job of laying out both scenarios and literally making it hard to decide how she'll wrap it up. I'd recommend this to all chicklit fans, but it probably wouldn't appeal to anyone older than 30 or younger than 20.