A Muslim, a Christian and a Jew walk into a New York apartment...
Ranya, Suzanne and Priscilla are mothers struggling with faith after 9/11. They start...moreA Muslim, a Christian and a Jew walk into a New York apartment...
Ranya, Suzanne and Priscilla are mothers struggling with faith after 9/11. They start a writing project that will explain the commonalities of their religions to children, but quickly realize they share values, but not necessarily interpretations. Thus launches the Faith Club, a multi-year project in which the women read, research and explore their own faiths and share findings and questions with each other.
In some ways, this is a 4-star book. All three women confront their own stereotypes and cherished beliefs and are very honest about their journey. Unfortunately, the writing is drab. This would be an interesting choice for a book club or even a Bible study group.(less)
My MIL recommended this book and I am glad she did. I've always been more interested in the print side of journalism and I didn't know much about Rath...moreMy MIL recommended this book and I am glad she did. I've always been more interested in the print side of journalism and I didn't know much about Rather's career, but this is more than just "Memoir of Stories I Covered." Rather covers the history of CBS television news and what he sees as its downfall after the network was purchased by Viacom.
Rather explains the chain of reporting that led to his CBS exclusive regarding Pres. George W. Bush and his military service (or lack thereof) during the Vietnam War. Viacom's corporate executives fought to keep the story off the air, then blamed the reporters after the story ran and the Bushies got angry. From Rather's perspective, he and other longtime correspondents were fired or otherwise removed not because their reporting was false but because CBS was less concerned with truth and more concerned with its corporate image vis a vis the Republican Party.
Some reviewers cast Rather as whiny. He does have several moments of "they were out to get me" and "I really trusted that person," but I also agree that Rather was screwed. He has a strong ego--it would be hard to do his job otherwise--but he also wanted to get the true story to the American people and was stifled by corporate TV. I would willingly read the other side of the story but his evidence is damning.
A few minor quibbles--the writing is choppy in places and a few news stories aren't explained well. For example, Rather explains how Rep. Charlie Wilson got involved with the Soviet war in Afghanistan, but lets the story dangle and assumes the reader is familiar with Wilson's story. Extra points because I only found a couple of small typos; it appears someone actual copyedited this book.
Recommended for people who hate corporatized news or are interested in the history of CBS, Rather or TV news. (less)
I read this years ago and it was a fascinating memoir about a young man who learns that his parents were raised as Jews and then converted to Catholic...moreI read this years ago and it was a fascinating memoir about a young man who learns that his parents were raised as Jews and then converted to Catholicism. Fun fact--this is the same Stephen Dubner who does the Freakanomics radio show.
I don't remember when I read it but my grandmother gave me the rec and she died in 2004.(less)
Adrienne Martini shares her adventures in the knitting world as she attempts to knit a Mary Tudor, a complex Fair Isle sweater designed by Alice Starm...moreAdrienne Martini shares her adventures in the knitting world as she attempts to knit a Mary Tudor, a complex Fair Isle sweater designed by Alice Starmore.
If you just said to yourself, "Why would I read a book about knitting?" or "Alice who?" this might not be the book for you. Martini wrote it for knitters. She covets the Mary Tudor but it is impossible to knit it exactly to Starmore's specifications because some of the yarn is unavailable. Find new yarn? It gets more complicated and Martini visits a number of knitting superstars (Ann Shayne, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Amy Singer) as she works on the sweater and tries to figure out the relationship between an artist and her artwork.
Martini is my kind of memoirist. She rarely gets in the way of her own story, and while the book asks some serious questions about art and copyright, it is meant for entertainment and I was entertained.
Recommended for knitters and other fiber folks.(less)
Cheryl Strayed is a 40something writer who, in her twenties, hiked a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in California and Oregon after her mother died...moreCheryl Strayed is a 40something writer who, in her twenties, hiked a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in California and Oregon after her mother died. Her original plan for coping with this tragedy was to use heroin and cheat on her husband, which made a solo backpacking trip look like a better option.
Strayed's self-destructive streak simply emerges in a different form. She is ridiculously unprepared for the trip and makes errors that even I recognize immediately and I dislike camping, backpacking and all things dirt. She survives with some luck and some common sense earned from a childhood in the northern Minnesota woods, but I didn't admire her "pluck." I thought she risked her life in a lot of really stupid ways. For example, it doesn't take an Outward Bound instructor to know that you do not venture into the desert without making assurance double sure that you have enough water.
Strayed is an excellent writer and the way she writes about complex family relationships is poignant and real. I found her excruciatingly annoying but she tells a good story. Some pages were 5s and others were 2s, but she deserves at least a 4 for a sustained and fresh, if whiny, voice.
Also, did any Carls read this? Were the Three Young Bucks from Carleton (an insular college an hour from Minneapolis?) I wish I had their real names because they would have been around my age.
This is one of those books that I found on a "librarians' choice" shelf and I love Trillin, so I checked it out. In the early 90s, Trillin wrote dogge...moreThis is one of those books that I found on a "librarians' choice" shelf and I love Trillin, so I checked it out. In the early 90s, Trillin wrote doggerel each week for The Nation, basing his verse on current events. The book is basically a tour through the headlines of 1990-94 and he includes many of his poems. If you like Trillin's work and bad puns, you should read this book. Otherwise, I recommend his essays from The New Yorker or his trilogy about American food. He is a terrific writer and this is not his very best.(less)
Jasmin Darznik is a successful, first-generation, Iranian American—a lawyer and English professor who remembers little of the country she left as a ch...moreJasmin Darznik is a successful, first-generation, Iranian American—a lawyer and English professor who remembers little of the country she left as a child. After her father dies, she finds a wedding photo of her mother, Lili, at her wedding to a much older man.
Lili is unable to talk to her daughter about the photo, but after Jasmin returns to her own home, Lili sends her audio tapes that tell the story of her childhood, first marriage and life prior to Jasmin's birth. The book is a memoir, but it is Jasmin telling her mother's story.
Her descriptions of the foods, scents and traditions of pre-revolution Iran are tempting and lush, all the more poignant because Lili's life is violent and unpredictable. She divorces her abusive husband but she is left with nothing, not even her first baby girl, who is raised by the father's family.
Lili's spirit and resilience are the center of this story. While still in her teens, she travels to Germany to study midwifery, then ricochets from Europe to Iran and back as her financial and family circumstances dictate. She eventually meets and marries Johann, a German of Slavic origin who is a hard worker but also an alcoholic, and struggles with infertility before giving birth to Jasmin. Lili is the family's emotional center and she earns professional respect as a midwife while trying to raise Jasmin and maintain contact with the daughter she left behind.
Lili, Jasmin and Johann eventually move to the United States, and in these last chapters the story falters for me. The writing remains beautiful but Jasmin is trying to piece together the story with her own memories and to find some sort of resolution, and it didn't feel genuine. Family stories teach us lessons but they don't really resolve. I also wish Darznik shared more about her writing process. Did her mother read the book for accuracy? Did she base the story entirely on the tapes? These are minor quibbles, however, and I highly recommend this book both as a memoir and as a tale of motherhood and the power of family history.(less)
This memoir begins with Larry McMurtry's first experiences as a reader and I expected a memoir about his favorite books and how they influenced his wr...moreThis memoir begins with Larry McMurtry's first experiences as a reader and I expected a memoir about his favorite books and how they influenced his writing. Instead, it is the story of his career as a buyer and seller of antiquarian books. McMurtry is one of my favorite writers but in this memoir, he makes it clear that bookselling is a passion that rivals or even surpasses his writing. Much of the book reads like John Dunning's research notes; we learn about some of McMurtry's favorite purchases and the bookshops and characters he meets along the way. The stories are organized into more than 100 brief chapters and this is a good book if you need something you can pick up and put down, say, when you have a sick child.
I enjoyed the anecdotes and McMurtry's dry wit, but I wish he'd provided a little more context for some of the stories, particularly in terms of dates and sequence. His observations of the ways in which the monied class buys and sells books are particularly amusing. The writing definitely is 4-star even if the content is sort of rambly.
This book probably will interest you if you buy, sell or read antiquarian books, or if you are a serious McMurtry fan, or maybe if you are just a book geek. Otherwise, pick up a copy of The Last Picture Show or Lonesome Dove instead.
I enjoyed this short history of swimming and Sherr includes some amusing anecdotes and shares her own story of swimming the Hellespont between the Asi...moreI enjoyed this short history of swimming and Sherr includes some amusing anecdotes and shares her own story of swimming the Hellespont between the Asian and European shores of Turkey. She references swimming stars from the mythological Leander to the nearly mythological Michael Phelps, and traces swimming as sport, recreation and Hollywood inspiration.
This was a light and fun read and I sped through three-fourths of it on a sleepless night. The only problem is Sherr is sort of a pedestrian writer. Not bad, exactly, but not fantastic.
I have a copy if any locals would like to read it.(less)
This is exactly how I like to hike: sitting in a chair and reading about someone else's battle with snow, rain, heat, bugs and steep climbs. I love Br...moreThis is exactly how I like to hike: sitting in a chair and reading about someone else's battle with snow, rain, heat, bugs and steep climbs. I love Bryson but never picked up this book because I thought I had zero interest in hiking or the Appalachian Trail. It turns out that I actually have negative interest in hiking, but the tale of the AT is a fascinating mirror of our nation's changing views of our natural environment. Bryson intersperses dollops of ecology, zoology, geology and history with his just-this-side-of-rude observations about his hiking partner, the compatriots he meets on the trail and the challenge of hiking some of the nation's toughest terrain.
His comments on his friend's experience probably best illustrate my general attitude toward this type of adventure: "Occasionally he would exclaim over a view or regard with admiration some passing marvel of nature, but mostly to him hiking was a tiring, dirty, pointless slog between distantly placed comfort zones."
Bryson also complains heartily about the deprivations of trail life and I never really got a picture of why he wanted to hike the AT other than A) It was there and B) It would make a good book. But it makes for a fun armchair travel book, although not as hilarious as "In a Sunburned Country," which is a must-read.
SPOILER ALERT, ESP FOR CARLS READING THIS REVIEW * * * * * * * * * * *
Julianne Williams and her friend were murdered on the Appalachian Trail during the time that Bryson was hiking. He mentions them by name and makes several references to the killings, which could be upsetting to those who knew her well. I only knew Julianne slightly, as a former neighbor, but of course was horrified by her violent death.(less)
Some people write thoughtful memoirs that translate their personal experience into a more universal language. This is not one of those memoirs. I foun...moreSome people write thoughtful memoirs that translate their personal experience into a more universal language. This is not one of those memoirs. I found it on the "librarian's choice" shelf but I couldn't get through more than a few chapters of this self-indulgent mess. Don't bother. If you want some funny, middle-aged musings, Lisa Kogan's book is much better and I hear Bossypants is great.(less)
I loved "Talking to Girls About Duran Duran," and so I decided to pick up this earlier memoir by the same author. It really is a 2.5, or maybe parts a...moreI loved "Talking to Girls About Duran Duran," and so I decided to pick up this earlier memoir by the same author. It really is a 2.5, or maybe parts are 2 and parts are 3. This book is the story of his life with his wife, Renee, who died and left him a widow (he eschews "widower") in his early 30s. This is not a spoiler; it is on the jacket and in the first few pages of the book. A music lover, writer and critic, Sheffield begins each chapter with a playlist from a mix tape, and charts his relationship with Renee, her death and the aftermath.
A few of the sections are repeated in "Talking to Girls...," so I recognized them. I found the middle part of the book a bit repetitious, but I enjoyed reading about how they met, and he writes about her death and his grief in lovely and sad prose.
"I always had thought of the widow's veil as a degrading medieval tradition, but now I realized it had a practical purpose because when you cry all day, your eyes become sticky and dust gets in them constantly."
I'd recommend reading "Talking to Girls..." first, and then if you like it and want to know more of the backstory, read this one.
Thanks so much to Stephanie for recommending this memoir. My sister and I read the Little House books to tatters when we were children, and I occasion...moreThanks so much to Stephanie for recommending this memoir. My sister and I read the Little House books to tatters when we were children, and I occasionally page through the used copies we bought for our boys. I've read some of the biographical material, too. But this story takes a slightly different path. McClure rediscovers the books after her mother dies, and she quickly moves from a butter-churning attempt to a series of road trips to the towns where the Ingalls and Wilder families settled. A few of the scenes felt forced, but usually McClure's humor and observant eye provided a fresh perspective on very familiar stories. My favorite scene involves a homesteading weekend in which McClure thinks she will learn about spinning and candlemaking and instead meets some rather unusual people.
I live not far from Pepin, Wis., and my experiences at the museum and cabin mirror McClure's.
The author also shares a few unsavory details from the real lives of Laura and clan. This is far from a Little House tell-all but McClure unearths a few examples of truth-stretching and puzzles over the mother-daughter relationship between Laura and Rose. I think she was trying to avoid complete hagiography but I felt a little squirmy during those passages, as if someone were critiquing Mother Teresa. And, that is part of McClure's point. Those of us who delved into those stories found something comforting or edifying in the books, and if you fall into that category, you probably will enjoy reading about McClure's own exploration.(less)
I thought I reviewed this one a few months ago. Anyway, this was our book club pick and I was expecting cute. Instead, this book was laugh-aloud hilar...moreI thought I reviewed this one a few months ago. Anyway, this was our book club pick and I was expecting cute. Instead, this book was laugh-aloud hilarious and I am not usually one to laugh aloud at books. Sheffield is a music critic and he reviews his life thus far by highlighting rock, pop and New Wave songs that defined the moments in his adolescence and young adulthood, particularly as they related to the opposite sex. Other writers have tried this but they probably aren't as funny as Sheffield. His section on Hall & Oates cracked me up. I wish I had the book with me to add quotes. Recommended for anyone who loves 80s music.(less)