Several of us traveled to other places, times, or possible lives in our reading this month. Amber read The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, and while she isn’t going to quit her job tomorrow, it did inspire her to reexamine aspects of her lifestyle and career [review]. Meghan read The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity, perhaps an interesting counterpoint to The 4-Hour Workweek. The author envisions a future of “high speed rail, walkable communities, less reliance on cars and highways and smaller housing,” but “can’t quite bring himself to admit that ‘the evidence for [being frugal] is “more like wishful thinking”‘” [review]. Grace read Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life, which didn’t provide new perspectives on “the mommy wars and the second shift” which seems to exist in most industries but did spark discussion with her partner, an academic, about the unfortunate fact that his colleague, an accomplished scientist and mother of two, is something of an anomaly in their field [review].
I read – and admittedly didn’t finish – Blue Highways: A Journey into America, a rambling road narrative that dipped into many hidden corners of our country. I look forward to finishing one of these days, taking the book at the same pace as William Least Heat-Moon took his road trip [review]. Out of Yarn read My Land and My People: The Original Autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet – a totally different kind of journey, compelling and restrained, of a stranger in a strange land longing to return home [review].
Mike read The Sheltering Sky, and described the author’s style as feeling “as arid as the desert landscape he’s writing about.” While Mike was undecided about the book itself, he was drawn in by biographic information about the author, Paul Bowles, who had, by all accounts, an amazing life [review]. In the same part of the fictional world, Rebekah read The Alchemist and, upon finishing, wished that she hadn’t, as she found the spiritual and moralizing aspects grating. Coelho’s writing, which she has enjoyed elsewhere, was “simple and elegant in its way, but more irritating than compelling” [review].
I haven’t read much science fiction, so I apologize if I do these stories a disservice in my summary. Angel reread Dune, one of the most seminal of the genre, full of “suspense…political intrigue, adventure, and coming of age, all in an epic science fiction tale.” His review ends with a strong exhortation that “if you consider yourself a science fiction reader, and you have not read Dune, go read it.” J Harker took advantage of a rare opportunity for pleasure reading and read not one but two sci-fi novels: Citizen of the Galaxy [review] and Snow Crash [review], both of which imagine other lives in other worlds, though not entirely convincingly. The former, written in the 50s, explores slavery and race relations in a far distant future; the latter hearkens back to strange fads of bygone days, somehow making what sounds like a plodding story fun and engrossing for 470 pages. Now THAT is good writing. Or bad writing. Or something. Also points to J Harker for the reference to Hackers, which I also cited in my class Tuesday night. On a slightly different but related note, Sara read Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written by Salman Rushdie “just after the fatwa against his life was announced, wondering each day if he would see his son again.” As a result, the book – written for children but enjoyed by adults – is an allegory packed with the sort of characters Rushdie was encountering in his real life. [review]
One of the things I love hearing about are the fortuitous ways we come to read the things we do. Anj picked up People of the Book for her aunt’s bookclub last year, zipped through 180 pages, and was happy to return to it this month. The book centers around a conservator who protected the Sarajavo Haggadah– a book about a book, with stories building upon stories. [review] Eva, laid up after emergency surgery, read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo after myriad recommendations, and found to be “suspenseful and action-packed”, “just different enough from [her] usual mystery choices that it felt exotic and new” [review] – a nice change from her last read, Gourmet Rhapsody, which “left an unpleasant aftertaste”, especially in comparison to the author’s “completely savorable” other work [review].
Lanea read The Good Brother, a gorgeous example of Appalachian fiction that explores “the concept of manhood and its attendant responsibilities and pitfalls” while expressing a surprising and subtle clarity in his interpretation of “race and difference in Appalachia” [review]. Vanessa felt like she barely scratched the surface of For Whom the Bell Tolls – darkly dramatic, poignant, intense, and poetic as only Hemingway can be. A quote from the man himself opens and summarizes her review: “All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened.” Vanessa also read A Reliable Wife, a swift and elegantly-written book “set in the middle of a Wisconsin winter”, fraught with “violence, loneliness, and a hum of insanity.” That description rings true in the depths of a Michigan winter as well, making me all the more curious to check out the book and the author’s other work [review].
Finally, Jill read Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life, her first non-fiction read in this challenge. She hoped to learn more about game theory than she actually did, partially due to the way concepts were explained in adjacent text. Most interesting to me from her review was that she learned that herrings fart, which, as she says, “you never know when you might find that useful”. Mark posted twice about Peak Learning, one review mostly positive, the other taking back his earlier review. While some of the exercises had potential for the adult learner who wants to focus his/her continuing education, at least 80% of the book is “fluff/extraneous babbling”, and a large portion of the remainder is woefully out of date. Mark also read The Social Life of Information, and has me intensely curious about his “slowly awakening thesis that ‘information’ as a foundational concept for libraries and librarians is a dangerous one,” which seems to have been fostered by the authors’ exploration of the information/IT binary [review].
Thanks for another great month of reads and reviews, you guys! Fingers crossed that spring break allows me some time to get caught up on my own reading – and to get the monthly round-up out in a somewhat more timely manner.