Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This Book is Overdue!

This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us by Marilyn Johnson

Well, this book was a surprise considering Johnson is not a librarian and the publisher isn't Libraries Unlimited. Johnson chronicles the work of public librarians and academic librarians and Library 2.o champtions. She pins the profession right when she describes librarians as: "Civil servants and servants of civility...they would be whatever they needed to be that day: information professionals, teachers, police, community organizers, computer technicians, historians, confidantes, clerks, social workers, storytellers..." There's not much else for me to say about this. My main problem with this book is that Johnson didn't present any solutions to the mass problem of disappearing libraries and librarians. It's a wonder she even found people with the "librarian" label to interview.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Five Men Who Broke My Heart

Five Men Who Broke My Heart by Susan Shapiro

Shapiro's memoir offers a glimpse into the six most important romantic relationships in her life--five men who broke her heart and the one she is currently married to at 40. Not only does she offer humorous recollections of these failed relationships, she also sets out to meet up with all of them to talk about what went wrong in the past and how things are going now. Her path crosses with four of them within months--a couple she has to force but the men are very willing to meet--and another refuses to meet but rather answers questions via email. The memoir is at its best when Shapiro talks about the past five relationships, but it becomes very slow when she jumps into the last few chapters about her husband. Still, any woman who has had her heart broken and still thinks of the heartbreaker 20 years later would likely laugh and cry along with Shapiro's stories.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

When Ghosts Speak: Understanding the World of Earthbound Spirits by Mary Ann Winkowski

Ok, so not everyone believes in ghosts and some might say that a woman who speaks to ghosts for a living is not only loony, she's a scam artist. If you're one of those non-believers, this book might change your mind. Winkowski was the inspiration for the TV show "The Ghost Whisperer" and she has successfully helped detectives solve murder cases and ordinary people rid their houses of "earthbound spirits." In this book, she tells stories of various encounters with spirits and gives readers insight as to what to do when it's suspected that a ghost is present. She also touches on why some people choose to stay on earth as ghosts instead of "crossing over" into the "white light." I found this to be a fascinating read and recommend it to anyone who's ever pondered the idea of ghosts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Year of Living Biblically

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

Jacobs is agnostic, but he decides to spend a year living his life as the Bible dictates which includes the obvious--following the Ten Commandments--and the less obvious, growing a beard and not shaking hands. The book is most interesting when Jacobs takes the reader inside uber religious communities and shares objective and open-minded insight on believers from Hasidic Jews to Amish to creationism enthusiasts. He points out some pretty strange lines from the Bible that leave much to be interpreted. For example, Mark 16:18 states, "They will pick up Serpents..." and many Christians take "serpents" to be a metaphor for challenges. For literalists like the Tennessee man who attends the Church of God, devotion to Jesus is shown by picking up venomous snakes during church services. I probably would have enjoyed the book more had it only covered six months. It started dragging a bit and I found myself getting annoyed at his continued project and couldn't help but feel sympathy for his family and friends. In the end, it's a new twist on religious tolerance.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Last Single Woman in America

The Last Single Woman in America by Cindy Guidry

I thought this memoir would be more about dating and marriage and being single at 40 (because that’s what Guidry is and that’s her shtick—she’s single at 40), but unfortunately it’s a big mish mash of stories that sometimes fit together and sometimes don’t. Guidry is funny and has an interesting view on life in Los Angeles (why is everyone so wealthy but never working?), but David Sedaris she is not. The publisher advertises the book as “The funniest, freshest essayist since David Sedaris, Cindy Guidry examines American culture and present-day gender relations in all their confusing, heartbreaking, and hilarious glory.” I’ve read funnier and fresher. When she sticks to the hilarious dating stories, she’s good. When she talks vaguely about working in film, she’s boring.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Too Much Happiness

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

I have taken two classes on writing short stories and in both classes I was told to study Munro as she is one of the modern masters. Indeed, her latest collection won the Booker Prize and from the very beginning I found myself stopping to think about how she was able to convey so perfectly what I'd just read. Most of the stories focus on mid-life Canadian women and the different types of sadness they face. None of the stories could really be described as "uplifting," but as is Munro's style, they are all especially true. That is, she has conveyed real life and the struggles within it with a grace that really does make me pause and contemplate how she has made the ordinary sound so extraordinary.

The Weight of Silence

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

This novel kept my attention despite the plot holes and unsurprising "plot twists." We follow the disappearance of two 7-year-old girls through the viewpoint of several different narrators related to the tragedy. Calli, one of the young girls, is a selective mute and much of the drama arises from her inability to speak and the quest for her to again find her voice. Gudenkauf created strong characters and an engaging story that moves quickly through the tension that builds between each narrator's voice. A pretty good novel, but not fantastic.

Monday, February 1, 2010

An Affair to Remember

An Affair to Remember: The Greatest Love Stories of All Time by Megan Gressor and Kerry Cook

Another book with true love stories--this one covering those that are well-known. Everyone from Lordy Bryon to Elizabeth Taylor to Napoleon to Mary Queen of Scots to Charlie Chaplin to Marie Antoinette and the loves of their lives are covered. Each story is very short, no more than 5 pages, but the authors manage to start each one with an interesting event in the couple's lives and then concisely cover more of the ups and downs of the love affairs. What was most interesting to me in reading this was to see how similar love affairs from the 1700 and 1800s were to those today. Jealousy, affairs, long-distance relationships, multiple divorces...all are covered in this interesting compilation of some of history's most famous couples.