Monday, October 30, 2017

Garlic and Sapphires - Ruth Reichl

Garlic and Sapphires
Title: Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Author: Ruth Reichl
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 334
Genre: Food / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've read some of Reichl's other work
Date Completed: 10/23/17

Summary: Reichl recounts her time working as the restaurant critic for The New York Times: the disguises she wore, the food she ate, and the way the job changed her.

What I Thought: I have really enjoyed the other works I have written by Reichl, fiction and nonfiction. Her prose is easy to read and feels familiar. Though her life experiences have been very different from most of her readers, she invites you into her space and you feel part of her world.

This is especially true here. While many of us would dream of being the food critic for The New York Times, Reichl reveals what it's really like. There are incredible benefits, to be sure. However, it also required incredible sacrifices of her and her family.

The book is a really fun read. Reichl goes into detail about each of her various disguises and what it was like to inhabit that character. They each bring out a different side of her and you can see that Reichl would likely have enjoyed a secondary career in theatre. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What Color Is Your Parachute? - Richard N. Bolles

What Color Is Your Parachute?
Title: What Color Is Your Parachute? 2018: A Practical Manuel for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
Author: Richard N. Bolles
Publication Date: 8/15/2017
Pages: 354
Genre: Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Date Completed: 10/16/17

Summary: Looking for a job or wanting a career change? Bolles offers practical advice about how to make that happen in today's world. 

What I Thought: When I saw this book offered on Blogging for Books, it seemed fortuitous. As many of you know, I'm exploring a career change from college instructor to...something else? Not exactly sure quite what yet, but probably something in either the non-profit or public policy sectors. 

Bolles' book is an old classic in the job hunting world. It's been around for ages and the copy I received is the 2018 version, updated for the current world. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

French Impressions - John S. Littell

French Impressions
Title: French Impressions: The Adventures of an American Family 
Author: John S. Littell
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: One of my best friends gifted it to me.
Date Completed: 10/7/17

Summary: An American couple with two young boys decide to spend a year in France. Cultural hijinks ensue.

What I Thought: It has taken me way too long to read this book. One of my very best friends gave it to me for my birthday...last year. Like two birthdays ago. She knows me well as this book falls solidly in the niche genre of expats in France, which I love. I don't know why it took me so long to read, but I finally did. It proved the perfect book to grab as I headed out for some time in my hammock chair this summer and fall. 

This is just a fun book. I cannot imagine picking up a family with two small kids and heading off to another country. Particularly not in 1950. Littell's work is actually a compilation of his mother's journals from the time, as he was only four when the family lived in Marseilles. Mary Littell was clearly a woman who was always getting into various scrapes. She reminded me a bit of Lucy Ricardo in that regard. It seemed something was always happening to her that likely would not to other people. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Pursuit of God - A. W. Tozer

The Pursuit of God
Title: The Pursuit of God
Author: A. W. Tozer
Publication Date: 1948
Pages: 128
Genre: Faith / Nonfiction
How I Found It: It's a popular book in Christian circles
Date Completed: 10/7/17

Summary: A deep look at what makes us long for God and how we seek to satiate that desire elsewhere. 

What I Thought: This is a seminal work when you think about American faith. Tozer is a well-known theologian in evangelical Christian circles and this book has a lot to do with that. I have no doubt that nearly every pastor under whom I have ever sat has read this work.

And, perhaps, that's why I found it so familiar. There were few moments in this short work that felt really groundbreaking to me. Tozer's concepts were familiar. They are profound, no doubt, but I had heard most of them before. Tozer's work has made its way to me through years of preaching long before I ever got my hands on a physical copy of it. It's easy to see how the teachers from whom I learned learned from Tozer. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Call - Peadar O'Guilin

The Call
Title: The Call
Author: Peadar O'Guilin
Publication Date: 8/30/2016
Pages: 312
Genre: Fantasy / Thriller / Young Adult / Fiction
How I Found It: Someone recommended it to me on Twitter when I asked for scary book recommendations.
Date Completed: 10/7/17

Summary: Ireland has been blocked off from the rest of the world. One by one, its teenagers disappear for three minutes and four seconds. Most of them return dead and even deformed. Teenagers who have yet to be called are trained at intense schools, hoping what they learn will one day save their lives.

What I Thought: Someone in the Twitter book community recommended this to me after I asked for scary book recommendations. As you know, I'm on a hunt for a good, terrifying psychological thrilled this Halloween season.

This really wasn't what I was looking for, but it was a quick, interesting read. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Sixth Extinction - Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction
Title: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Author: Elizabeth Kolbert
Publication Date: 2/11/2014
Pages: 336
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: My book club is reading it.
Date Completed: 10/2/17

Summary: Scientists believe there have been five major extinctions in Earth's history. We are likely in the middle of the sixth. Kolbert explores and extrapolates this idea. 

What I Thought: As I say with basically every book I pick up for the nonfiction branch of my local book club, I never would have read this book on my own. That's what I love about participating in this part of the book club. I'm reading things that I would never consider otherwise. 

This fall squarely in that category. I'm not a science person. I have a basic grasp of general concepts because I was blessed with a liberal arts education, but I really just don't care about the details of the field. I know it impacts us all, so I'm not dismissing that element. What I'm saying is, I'm thrilled other people love this and are studying it because it is not what I want to spend my time and energy figuring out. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Last Policeman - Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman
Title: The Last Policeman
Author: Ben H. Winters
Publication Date: 7/10/2012
Pages: 288
Genre: Dystopian / Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I heard about it on On the Media
Date Completed: 10/1/17

Summary: An asteroid is speeding toward Earth and will decimate the human race in a matter of months. So, how does law enforcement function in the increasing chaos? 

What I Thought: This is such a fascinating concept. Often, we talk about immediate disasters. The world as we know it destroyed in moments or days. We rarely think about a slow-motion disaster, as least not in this sense. 

Winters has created a unique story. Here, people know their lives will end on a specific day, at a specific time - or, at least, within months of that time if the asteroid hits on the other side of the globe. Society unravels. Not all at once, but with exponential speed. With an increase in suicide, does murder still matter? Should it still be investigated and punished?

That's the premise of this book. A detective in New England finds himself one of a shrinking group of law enforcement officers who care about enforcing the law. Or at least about investigating crimes.  So, when his gut tells him an apparent suicide isn't what it seems, he faces a lot of resistance as he looks into it further.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Let Nobody Turn Us Around - Manning Marable & Leith Mullings

Let Nobody Turn Us Around
Title: Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices of Resistance, Reform, and Renewal
Author: Manning Marable & Leith Mullings
Publication Date: 12/15/1999
Pages: 598
How I Found It: From a list of books recommended for better understanding racial issues in America
Date Completed: 9/27/17

Summary: A collection of essays, speeches, and other writings by African Americans throughout our country's history.

What I Thought: Reading through this anthology was so powerful. We each have such a limited perspective on the world, so reading the words of Americans who had vastly different American experiences than my own is important. 

Cognitively, I know the history of the African American experience. Yet, to read the words of those who lived it adds a dimension I could never grasp on my own. We need more books like this to help us understand each other, particularly as race remains such a fraught issue in our nation.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Widow - Fiona Barton

The Widow
Title: The Widow
Author: Fiona Barton
Publication Date: 2/16/2016
Pages: 324
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember. A list of thrillers, maybe?
Date Completed: 9/25/17

Summary: A man dies after getting run down by a bus. His widow is left wondering how much of his story to tell. A little girl disappeared years before. How much of that story belongs to the widow as well?

What I Thought: I always get to Halloween and find myself in the mood to read something scary. In general, thrillers are not my favorite genre. However, the spooky occasion puts me in the mood. Most years, though, I totally forget about that feeling until about October 29. This year, I'm starting early. I am hoping to read several thrillers in late September and early October so I can be posting about them right around the haunted holiday.

I started off with The Widow, which got a lot of marketing time in the book world when it was released last year. I can't totally remember what made me end up putting it on my TBR list, but it landed there somehow. So, as I ended September, this seemed like as good a first pick as any to put me in the thriller mindset.

What I really want to find is another book that just scares my pants off the way Marisha Pessl's Night Film did for me a few years back. I couldn't sleep for days. It was wonderfully terrifying. I am not usually a scary book/movie person, but every once in a while, it's fun. That's what I'm looking for this year. 

This wasn't it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

Exit West
Title: Exit West
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Publication Date: 3/7/17
Pages: 231
Date Completed: 9/22/17

Summary: Saeed and Nadia are very different people. Yet, they are drawn to one another as their country falls apart. They make the decision to flee together, tying them together for the foreseeable future. 

What I Thought: I first heard about this book on my favorite podcast, Pantsuit Politics. They had a bookstore owner on to talk about books to read in our modern political climate. This was one of a couple fiction recommendations the guest had. It then became the Pantsuit Politics book club pick for September, so I knew I had to read it now. 

It tells the story of refugees, two specifically, but really the book is about the general emotional experience of refugees. Hamid avoids getting into specifics of a refugee's flight by placing his characters in a world of magical realism. They go from place to place through doors. Some doors are guarded, some are hidden, all seem to appear unexpectedly. At first, that mechanism feels a bit odd, but I ended up really liking it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow
Title: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Author: Michelle Alexander
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 338
Genre: Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've had this recommended to me through many avenues.
Date Completed: 9/21/17

Summary: Alexander explores the ways in which mass incarceration in the modern era is serving many of the same social and racial functions as slavery and the Jim Crow laws did in their eras. 

What I Thought: Wow. This book is powerful. I've seen it recommended on countless lists in the past couple years for those who want to become more educated on race in America. I get why. It deserves to be on every one of those lists.

The general thesis of the book is that the War on Drugs has been used (both intentionally and unintentionally) as a way to weaken populations of color in America, specifically the black community. Apparently, when we started the War on Drugs, less than 2% of Americans saw drug use as the most important issue facing the country. Yet, governments charged ahead with intense crackdowns on drug users and dealers.

Monday, October 2, 2017

September 2017 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

September News 

September has gone by so quickly. With school starting back up and Kevin traveling for work every week, I feel as though we haven't had time to catch our breath. October likely won't be much different, although we did have to cancel our trip to Puerto Rico. That was really disappointing. Granted, it's nothing in comparison to what the people of Puerto Rico are experiencing. We're planning a shorter trip to Savannah and Charleston instead, hoping to soak up a bit of autumn in the South. We also did a weekend getaway to Boston this past weekend (in conjunction with a work trip for Kevin) and we're headed to Philly at the start of November for a wedding, so I'm taking consolation in the fact we are covering the East Coast pretty well this fall.

The second half of September has been interesting. I sprained my ankle pretty badly while running (proof that exercise is ultimately bad for you, I think). So, I spent a good week on crutches and am still using a compression wrap and a small brace. It's been a pain (literally) and has totally derailed my exercise routine. It's really been more of an inconvenience than anything else, though I did have a couple very painful days when it first happened; Kevin was out of town and trying to do simple things like shower and make breakfast without putting any weight on one foot proved difficult. I'm trying to stay positive about it all and use this as a reminder of how important it is to listen to my body when it tells me to slow down.