Calling this non-fiction because it is so largely based in fact. When I picked this up, saw that it was called an autobiography, read the preface, andCalling this non-fiction because it is so largely based in fact. When I picked this up, saw that it was called an autobiography, read the preface, and read a good 20-30 pages in - I still thought it was a totally made up character. Finally things started to sound just specific enough, and I found a photo of the guy on the internet! In my defense, it says "a novel" on the cover, I know Dave Eggers as a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and plenty of fictional books set up a premise of a real received oral account to make them more authentic. Still, glad I sorted it out before I read too far in.
This is one of the realest books I've read about Africa, and the first extensive (fictional or non-fictional) reading I've done about Sudan. As an overall summary: it's all so horrible, it's hard to believe. And yet! The book was perfectly written as to not conceal or skip over any of the horrors, but still be readable and not stomach-turning for the person who wants to be able to fall asleep at night. Eggers and Deng struck a really solid balance of telling things more or less as they happened, being honest and comprehensive, but not so horrifying that the reader would put it down and ignore it. I'll have to look back at what I wrote about the Eggers memoir I read; I don't remember liking it so thoroughly.
The narrative structure of relaying Deng's robbery and hostage situation in real time, spread out over many chapters, made me very anxious. Maybe Eggers was trying to give the reader breaks from the difficult Sudan story, but while reading about Sudan I was very worried about Deng in the present and wanted to get back and make sure he was okay! They let that scene drag out for a really long time - unsettling.
The stories about Sudan and Deng's various treks and refugee camps. Wow. The outlines of the story are familiar from so many other genocides and ethnic cleansings around the world, even if the places and names were new to me. It's difficult and hard to think of these things happening during my lifetime, and no doubt still today. I was glad for how specific Deng was and how many friends he told us about - it can't have been easy to relive all of that. This was a really great format to introduce someone to the recent history of Sudan - highly narrative, well organized, personal, and truthful. Great book, and so glad I randomly stumbled upon it in the book box in my neighborhood. Also not directly applicable, but interesting to read before I finally get to visit Africa this year, in Tanzania....more
Randomly found on the shelf at the library while volunteering. I had high hopes, but was mostly disappointed. When I was a kid, I ravaged the ghost stRandomly found on the shelf at the library while volunteering. I had high hopes, but was mostly disappointed. When I was a kid, I ravaged the ghost stories section in the kid room - along with shipwrecks and mythology. Good stuff! I pick up ghost stories to get spooked, but most of these were suuuuper dry - more history of buildings than actual creepy stories. Or a bunch of "well somebody said they heard of somebody who saw this one thing, but no one would confirm it." Or "this person was in this room and felt creepy, and never went in there again." Boooo.
Reading some Oregon building history was okay too, but not the super creepy stories I was hoping for. I can tell several ghost/monster stories from NJ where I grew up off the top of my head that are creepier than anything in this book. Oh well! Semi-worth a quick skim to get another book on my list for this year....more
Another good find from the Sherrett Square book box. Picked this up while mom was visiting town. I feel a special affinity toward Gretchen Rubin and tAnother good find from the Sherrett Square book box. Picked this up while mom was visiting town. I feel a special affinity toward Gretchen Rubin and the Happiness Project, after meeting her on an Independent Party NYC trip in college. I was very interested in her and especially how she went to law school but then realized that law was not for her. I don’t think that message got very far with most of my IP friends though! Our talk with her was all about the happiness project, and a couple years before the book came out, so fun to get a preview.
I had… a lot of feelings about this book. I found it hard to get all the way through, mostly because it’s hard to be confronted with all the things I could do to make myself happier, and still not feeling able to make a lot of these changes in my own life. She admits early on that she is not addressing true depression, only unhappiness, which is an important distinction. And the biggest thing going on in my life is a lack of friends since we moved to a new state almost 2 years ago. She frequently cites that social connections and friends are one of the most important factors in happiness… but then her “making new friends” section is a total bust! This is a woman who has lived in one place for a long time, around the corner from family, and has lots of friends. She makes some additional friends in the course of the book, but is introduced to a lot of them through existing friends, or meets other parents at her kid’s school. Sure, if I had friends they could help me make more friends! That’s a lot easier than starting from scratch. But she can only write from her perspective, of course.
There is a lot of good stuff in here. I did a lot of underlining. I find it difficult to imagine I could work on all of these big things given my extremely busy job and heavy workload, even one set of ideas a month like she does. So, it was inspiring to read, but also bummed me out. Also I prefer to read when I can escape into fiction; not read non-fiction and have to think about my own life and how I should make it better.
So, I’m not sorry I read this, there were a lot of good ideas in there, but I’m pretty sure now I’ll put it on my shelf and not really think about it again. Bummer....more
I had a lot of thoughts about this book! Read because it was a book club selection on A Practical Wedding, and indeed I had to wait months to get it fI had a lot of thoughts about this book! Read because it was a book club selection on A Practical Wedding, and indeed I had to wait months to get it from the library because of a long wait list. First thing I've read by Roxane Gay, but it includes a lot of essays she's published over time.
She's an interesting writer, and an interesting person. I'm bummed by her overall premise of being a "bad feminist". She depicts her struggles with the word "feminism", what it encompasses and doesn't encompass, how we should all be welcome under the banner but often don't feel that way, etc. It's surely a catchy title, but I think she never quite came around to calling herself a feminist without the "bad" qualifier, and that's a shame. It makes my skin crawl every time a woman distances herself from feminism, and though Gay has a much more nuanced debate in this book, she ends up doing just the same.
I really enjoyed some of the personal essays that had nothing obvious to to with feminism, particularly the competitive Scrabble essay and her stories about being a college professor. It's quite a varied collection! And I was glad she included the story of her own rape, although even in somewhat cloudy language it of course wasn't enjoyable to read. I was intrigued early on when I swear she said something about not being entirely heterosexual, but never came back to that point.
I was much less interested in her literary/TV/film commentary, except sometimes when I too had read/seen the things she was discussing. But I find it very uninteresting to read someone's review of a book I've never read nor intend to read, and she had a bunch of that! Notably, I took issue with her portrayal of Orange Is the New Black. I super love that show, and have been nothing but delighted to see a rich, diverse cast of women with really exciting story lines. Of course I can't speak from the perspective of a black woman, and she's right about some of the stereotypes they portray on the show, but she also gets a few points definitely wrong - about exploring black women's sexuality, the over-focus on Piper, lack of focus on non-white women's stories, etc. Maybe she wrote this before the second season and I've blended them together in my head, but I think Jenji Kohan was also outspoken about her intention to focus season 2 less on Piper and more on the whole cast.
Again from my white lady perspective, I thought the writing was best and most important when she got to the Race & Entertainment and Politics, Gender & Race sections of the book. I felt like I was back in my college classes! Really good dissection of some recent events in America, contrasting some against each other (the discussion around Trayvon Martin vs. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev), and I got at least one good movie recommendation for a film I'll try to see. I read a lot in this arena already, so nothing felt super groundbreaking, but I generally agreed with her points and liked the overall collection.
So, good book! I felt a little studious for reading it, generally quite liked it, and now will go back to fiction again :)...more
Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, now Rachel Dratch – what other female comedian memoirs do I need to read to complete the set?? Even though she’sTina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, now Rachel Dratch – what other female comedian memoirs do I need to read to complete the set?? Even though she’s buddies with Poehler and Tina, Dratch gave this book a very different structure, a much more cohesive narrative. Maybe it’s because she’s doing less acting? But she still has a kid, so it can’t be an abundance of free time! But I really enjoyed the well thought-out timeline, coherent narrative story. She still related anecdotes from childhood and earlier in her career, but it was much less staccato and more writerly.
I liked it! I must horribly admit that I was put off by Rachel Dratch’s character acting in the past. As she talks about, she has often been pigeonholed into “ugly weirdo” parts. I thought she was weird and unpleasant when I watched her on SNL as a kid. But what a delightful person! She has done a great deal of reflecting on her career trajectory, writes herself well, and definitely won me over. I think I picked this up in the first place because Amy Poehler and/or Tina Fey referred to her book in their books. Worth it! And it was fun watching and rewatching a bunch of her old SNL sketches as I read – she did good work, and it’s aged well in most cases.
On the girly side, this book had a lot more focus on her romantic relationships than I expected, and I actually dug it. I’m not generally into people’s mushy stories, but she told it all very simply and it was fun to read. In sum, worth a read if you have any interest in the life of this excellent sketch comedy lady....more
I don't have a load to say on this one. Picked it up at a friend's house back in 2012 and read the first ~30 pages. Found it all very charming. I didnI don't have a load to say on this one. Picked it up at a friend's house back in 2012 and read the first ~30 pages. Found it all very charming. I didn't know Mindy Kaling was a writer on The Office before she was on screen, and she writes quite well. Consequently, much closer in quality and coherence to Tina Fey's book than Nick Offerman's, thank goodness!
Finally grabbed it again this fall after enjoying Tina Fey's memoir, and getting myself on the list for Amy Poehler's from the Multnomah County Library around position 500. It will be a wait! Fun read, quick, enjoyable. This former nerdy child certainly enjoyed reading about another young nerd girl.
If you like Kaling's comedy on The Office (if you can see past Kelly Kapoor's terrible personality to the clearly smart actor underneath), you will probably like this. Always fun to read some background on people I admire. She scored some great feminist points with me in a few spots (although she spends a lot of time talking about her looks/body and dieting), so a bonus star for that....more
Finished my first book of the year in February?! Oh dear! Started off last year with a book that took me 6 weeks. This year has been a mixed bag so faFinished my first book of the year in February?! Oh dear! Started off last year with a book that took me 6 weeks. This year has been a mixed bag so far.
Started reading Peace Is Every Step, decided it was good enough I’d like to have my own copy I can mark up, so returned it to the library and shelved it for the moment.
Then started reading Alice Munro’s Selected Stories… loving it, but so dense! Super good but packed stories, and hard to relax with this book from my busy work schedule.
But then finally got this one from the library after jumping on the waiting list around position 500, hooray! Cranked through it in just a few days.
I don’t have a lot to say about this book. (Shocking.) It was everything I expected from Amy Poehler – funny, feminist, totally written in her voice, etc. I think my favorite bit was actually the chapter written by Seth Meyers, and the photo at the front of it, just because of how much he loves her and what good friends they are. It’s heartwarming! I liked the ways she talked about Will Arnett and their marriage. I was surprised by how much she talked about sex (still not very much), but probably only because women don’t generally have much platform to talk about how much they enjoy monogamous sex with their long term partners. Totally appropriate.
It was really great. Right up there with Tina Fey’s book in terms of quality, although slightly more scattered and repetitive at times, only because Poehler has not spent as much time writing as Fey has. Leagues ahead of Nick Offerman’s book, and infinitely better written.
The only big thing I wanted to say was I really enjoyed how the physical book was constructed. All the color, photographs, costumed photo shoots, memorabilia that looked like it was taped in, the 2-page spread blown out quotes, not to mention the really nice thick paper. It’s a really great product, and more interesting than most of the comedian memoirs I’ve read.
Great book, Amy Poehler! And I stand by my statement that I would watch her and/or Tina Fey do literally anything. Read the phonebook, anything. Love them both....more
This was a quickie I grabbed off the shelf at the library while waiting for other books to come in. Had read his previous account of reading the encycThis was a quickie I grabbed off the shelf at the library while waiting for other books to come in. Had read his previous account of reading the encyclopedia (also because the book fell into my hands, not because I sought it out specifically), and figured it would be amusing. It was! Nothing super profound here, but fun to read. A variety of different experiments - I found some more interesting than others. Also appreciated his explorations into elementary psych and cognitive biases, and efforts to control his own brain better.
Actually on that theme, I probably liked the second-to-last essay the most, about unitasking. Really really good points, and something I coincidentally recently established a system for in my own life, right before I read this book! I've been pleased with my ability to get professional work done more efficiently while unitasking, so it was nice to have this essay back me up.
This brings me up to 4 books for the year in the first week of April. Not great! Darn that Owen Meany :) But not terrible either....more
Responding to 90% of the other reviews on this book: I completely agree that it's not great, BUT, I liked the second half a lot better after putting iResponding to 90% of the other reviews on this book: I completely agree that it's not great, BUT, I liked the second half a lot better after putting it down for a few days after reading the first half. If you're not enjoying it but want to finish it, maybe give that a shot.
Gift book from mom, who knows we both like Parks & Rec and the Ron Swanson character specifically (even despite the meat obsession!), and even the bits I knew about Nick Offerman & Megan Mullally and their real lives. I was sorry to not enjoy the first few chapters of this book basically at all, came on here and found everyone saying the same things I was thinking. It was extremely scattered, poorly paced, randomly slipped into proselytizing, and WAY too much cursing!! Which is never a thing I've felt about a book before, even the super dirty humor books I borrowed from the adult section when I was a kid. I have no idea why a sensible editor didn't have him tone down the cursing, but it's exactly that kind of excessive profanity that's the mark of someone who's not otherwise a good writer, and is trying to cover it up by being real/profane/street/whatever. Just obtrusive.
But that's really the problem with the whole book, and it's scattered randomness. It was not skillfully shepherded through the publishing process by a wise editor. It was rushed out to coincide with Offerman's current fame, before P&R goes off the air, and much to its detriment.
Once he started actually acting, I found the narrative much more coherent and interesting, and was glad to enjoy the second half a lot more than the first. So, still possibly worth reading if you like Ron Swanson and/or Nick Offerman (which is a big theme in early chapters, with Offerman trying to prove that he's not Ron Swanson, and then going on to document how he's exactly like Ron Swanson), with the caveat that it's only good not great....more
The 400th book I've marked as read in GoodReads! Primarily books I've read since summer 1999 (since which I've kept track of every single one), with aThe 400th book I've marked as read in GoodReads! Primarily books I've read since summer 1999 (since which I've kept track of every single one), with a few more added from my youth. Not necessarily a worthy book for this milestone, unfortunately!
I try to read non-fiction every now and again, and had seen this recommended a few places. My general review is that (except for 1-on-1 interviews he conducted), none of this is new information. This book is verrrry pop psychology, and all of this information is available elsewhere. It was published in 2013, and yet I remember learning a lot of this in my intro psych classes in college in the mid 2000s.
Bergner also does his readers the disservice of skimming very lightly across the surface of actual research, and rarely going into actual numbers. There is nary a chart in the whole book! I'm not sure how you can spend a whole book talking about actual scientific studies done with broad groups, and not publish a single chart. Clearly scientific/factual was not the tone they were going for here, which is a shame when so few books about female sexuality have gained any kind of popularity.
My real problem with the book was that while I found the information very interesting, the author came across as very skeevy. I would love to understand why, nearly every time he was speaking with a female researcher, he felt the need to describe what they were wearing, how tight or low-cut their clothing was. Never with the male researchers! And he was also completely inconsistent about referring to researchers (not talking about the anonymous interviewees here) by their first or last name, but often defaulted to last name for men and first name for women. It's a book verging on feminism, and yet actual successful female researchers are called by their first names. Really took the book down a notch for me.
So in summary, much of the research is very interesting, but if you've read any articles about female sexuality in the last 2 decades, you probably know a lot of this already. The author comes across as overly horny, which is unsettling in a book like this. Still a decent quick read, and frankly something I think men should consider reading more than women. The whole time I was thinking, well yeah I already know that. But honestly a lot of men could use more information in this area....more
First David Sedaris I've read in years. I liked this one! I would have liked more Hugh stories, but there was lots of good family stuff in here. I espFirst David Sedaris I've read in years. I liked this one! I would have liked more Hugh stories, but there was lots of good family stuff in here. I especially liked the two stories featuring his younger brother, but really most were enjoyable. Another good collection....more
Second book I've ever gotten to read that was written by a friend! Once again, glad that I can say I truly enjoyed this book. Knowing Amy from long agSecond book I've ever gotten to read that was written by a friend! Once again, glad that I can say I truly enjoyed this book. Knowing Amy from long ago added a special element for me, but reading her journey through religions and doula work and chaplaincy was fascinating regardless. The labor chapter was one of the most honest passages I've ever read about the birthing process (not that I've sought out the genre!), and was very interesting for this future mother. Her work as a hospital chaplain was very moving, and she really got me in the last chapter!! Riding next to my husband in the car on our roadtrip, I felt many feelings. Good job, Amy :) Definitely a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in spiritual/religious journeys - but nothing that whacks you over the head with any particular religious view, don't worry, athiest friends - pregnancy & birth, life & death discussions, etc.
Also on a side note, I just want to say that I'm impressed with the physical book itself! This was my first time reading a self-published book, and the product is very good. Amy deserves credit for shepherding this book every step of the way from writing to printing. Self-publishing certainly seems like a great option for other aspiring authors....more
19th book for 2013, including the 4 I read in December to bring my total up! 19 indicated on GoodReads, minus 2 I didn't actually finish, plus 2 that19th book for 2013, including the 4 I read in December to bring my total up! 19 indicated on GoodReads, minus 2 I didn't actually finish, plus 2 that were re-reads so they're not on the list. 19 books is not super great, but better than nothing.
The non-fiction stories in this book were enjoyable in the way that all David Sedaris stories are. Many great small observations on life, smilingly but not laugh-out-loud funny, for the most part.
But as always, I found the fiction pieces he included here incredibly disturbing. I don't know why they made no effort to segregate or distinguish the fiction from the non-fiction here. Yes, you could always figure it out within a paragraph or two, but why confuse your reader like that? With one exception (the teenager with the fake British accent, which I actually found sad but quite charming), the fiction pieces were incredibly dark and often violent and disturbing. It disturbs me enough to know that this kind of stuff so easily comes from the brain of someone who writes such fine non-fiction, but I don't like to be surprised by them as I'm reading a book. Not nice.
By the second story that sounded weirdly familiar, I remembered that I saw David Sedaris speak at an NPR reading in 2009 or 2010, while he was developing the stories for this book. I think I only heard those two live, and was glad to remember, because it was going to drive me crazy with deja vu!
So, another good story collection, but watch out for the fiction pieces if you find them disturbing like I do....more