I liked this book overall, but I didn't love it. It didn't live up to Don't Get Too Comfortable which I loved (and need to reread). Some parts were en...moreI liked this book overall, but I didn't love it. It didn't live up to Don't Get Too Comfortable which I loved (and need to reread). Some parts were engaging; others, I felt like I had to slog through, and I don't know how much of this book will really stick with me after the immediacy has faded. Still, I plan to read Fraud eventually.(less)
I first heard about this book on Slate.com's Culture Gabfest podcast and was immediately intrigued because J., too, despises airplane travel. A fun re...moreI first heard about this book on Slate.com's Culture Gabfest podcast and was immediately intrigued because J., too, despises airplane travel. A fun read; I literally LOLed in places! Stevenson's weaving in of factual information about the different forms of transport (cargo freighter, ferry, train, cruise ship, etc.) may have seemed a bit forced, but the tidbits were interesting nonetheless. (less)
Three and a half stars, rounded up to four. I found this book interesting enough while reading it, yet somewhat forgettable upon putting it down. Upon...moreThree and a half stars, rounded up to four. I found this book interesting enough while reading it, yet somewhat forgettable upon putting it down. Upon picking it back up, I'd find that I'd lost track of some of the "characters" in the story, especially the women with whom Kerman interacted in prison.
For a woman who spent 13 months in prison, Kerman is incredibly lucky. Her boyfriend/fiance stood by her unwaveringly throughout the ordeal, never judging her for the mistake that landed her in the situation in the first place. Her family and friends, too, were uniformly supportive. If anyone in Kerman's life dumped her because of her imprisonment—and the wrongdoing that led to it—she does not let on. During her sentence, Kerman receives faithful visits, letters, and gifts of books from outside. Moreover, Kerman had the financial resources and legal representation to be spared worse consequences. A compelling story is based on conflict, and given a story about a woman who broke the law and paid a price for it, there is surprisingly little conflict in Kerman's memoir.
The saving grace? Kerman is keenly aware of her fortune, and she writes with humility. She is deeply ashamed of the consequences that her legal ordeal and imprisonment have on her loved ones. In prison, she becomes more aware of the consequences of the crime itself (a brief foray into drug trafficking). She never once tries to put herself "above" her fellow prisoners and develops genuine friendships with several of them. While Kerman does not become a better person in prison, I think she connects more with some of the better sides of herself.
Also, Kerman offers a valuable look into the prison system. Danbury is not out of Shawshank Redemption, but it isn't "Club Fed," either. Most depressingly, there is little being done to help prisoners truly rehabilitate and prevent recidivism. We lock prisoners up for months, years, without thinking long-term to their survival "on the outs," and then we are shocked when they turn back to a life of crime.(less)
In assessing this book, I'm trying to not give in to one of my own pet peeves—deciding that because I am disappointed in a book, or find it unrelatabl...moreIn assessing this book, I'm trying to not give in to one of my own pet peeves—deciding that because I am disappointed in a book, or find it unrelatable, that it is inherently not a good book. That said, I had much higher hopes for this one. It is certainly not for a reader looking to take the first plunge into home cooking, as Erway began her project with a fair amount of cooking expertise under her belt and immediately dove into complicated, from-scratch recipes, entertaining, supper clubs, and cooking contests. It is possible to be a competent home cook without ever dabbling in freeganing or urban foraging. Objectively, though, I didn't find Erway the most compelling storyteller, either; I often felt as though she had to backtrack during some of her stories to fill in details that she'd omitted.
I give this two and a half stars and am rounding it up because I still feel like I'm judging this book more on its relevance to me personally than on its objective quality.
Erway's enthusiasm for home cooking is to be applauded, but I hope that this book doesn't intimidate some novice home cook into giving up and going back to takeout.(less)
It's hard to not compare this to David Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day. How many memoirs from gay men named David who moved to Paris does one bookshe...moreIt's hard to not compare this to David Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day. How many memoirs from gay men named David who moved to Paris does one bookshelf need? I'd say that they're both worth a read. Lebovitz focuses primarily on culinary experiences (that being his area of expertise), but he also touches on health care, the French penchant for striking, and other, more general issues of French culture. He also sprinkles his prose rather abundantly with French expressions—thanks to my Spanish minor (hello, cognates) and one year of French, I had no trouble following along. Not as funny as Sedaris, but Lebovitz does demonstrate an occasional dry wit.
As with so many food memoirs that I've read, each chapter concludes with a recipe (or a few). Some looked worth a try, but I had a to return the book too soon.
Not a keeper, but worth a read. If you're a fan of Lebovitz's blog or cookbooks (Thanks to The Perfect Scoop, I can barely bring myself to buy ice cream), the further glimpse into his personal life, and his impressions of life in France, are worth picking up.(less)
Beautiful—poignant and lyrical, while (mostly) avoiding becoming maudlin. And the recipes look amazing to boot. I may be checking this one out again,...moreBeautiful—poignant and lyrical, while (mostly) avoiding becoming maudlin. And the recipes look amazing to boot. I may be checking this one out again, perhaps even buying my own copy.(less)
I wanted to like this more than I did. Some parts were brilliant (unfortunately, I no longer have the book in front of me to quote or cite those parts...moreI wanted to like this more than I did. Some parts were brilliant (unfortunately, I no longer have the book in front of me to quote or cite those parts), while some were self-indulgent musings that I, for one, had to plod through. (And that's not to mention the editorial and typgraphical gaffes that made me suspect the book was rushed to print. I hate it when, as an editor, reading something fo fun feels like a busman's holiday!) I'm inclined to agree with Christine Mulhke, writing in the New York Times: "Bourdain has insight, access and good taste, and he’s a naturally engaging writer. But as a Personality, he can’t resist shoving his mug into the frame. ... Bourdain is acutely aware of his own shtick, which risks turning him into Andy Rooney in a leather jacket."(less)
If my review of this book is at all lackluster, it's because I'm comparing it to The Mommy Myth, Douglas's last book (co-written with Meredith Michael...moreIf my review of this book is at all lackluster, it's because I'm comparing it to The Mommy Myth, Douglas's last book (co-written with Meredith Michaels), which fundamentally changed the way I looked at an issue. Enlightened Sexism didn't shift any paradigms for me, but it was nonetheless a solid read.
This book picks up where Douglas's 1994 book Where the Girls Are leaves off, examining various pop culture phenomena from the last 15 years through the lens of feminism. For me, the most valuable insight was Douglas's observation that the presence of powerful women in the media (both realistic, such as the surgeons on Grey's Anatomy, or fantastical, such as Buffy or Xena) blinds us to the fact that women do not hold positions of authority in nearly the same numbers in real life. We see these images and become complacent, believing that feminism has finished its work, when the reality is much more dismal. Douglas also observed how irony is used as a cover for presenting (and consuming) sexist content, and I realize that I'm guilty of this. I've become much more uncomfortable watching The Family Guy, for example—but I'm still watching it.
I was a bit surprised that Douglas's chapter on reality television did not draw at all on the work of Jennifer L. Pozner, a feminist media critic who has written bitingly on the subject. (Actually, I'm surprised that Douglas did not cite Pozner at all.) Also, some of Douglas's humor felt a bit forced and repetitious at times.
Nitpicking aside, this is a solid read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who believes that feminism is no longer relevant or necessary. Although Douglas is an academic, and does slip into academic jargon at times (it's been long enough since I picked up an explicitly feminist book that I had to get reaccustomed to talk of "constructing" and "performing" gender), it's still highly accessible to the lay reader. And Douglas does not spare the sarcastic jabs at her targets. (less)
I'll be honest: I found this one to be a huge disappointment. Severson's relationships with most of the "eight cooks who saved [her] life" were not ne...moreI'll be honest: I found this one to be a huge disappointment. Severson's relationships with most of the "eight cooks who saved [her] life" were not nearly as personal or meaningful as the books title and subtitle imply. Although Severson's own story is admirable (having pulled herself out of alcohol addiction and rebuilt her life), I am sorry to say that this is not the most compelling way she could have told it.(less)
This book is not exactly a page-turner, but it's important—even essential. Gawande shows how the use of checklists can make a difference even in compl...moreThis book is not exactly a page-turner, but it's important—even essential. Gawande shows how the use of checklists can make a difference even in complex, demanding fields such as aviation and surgery. In fact, pilots depend on checklists for almost every possible emergency situation. (The "Miracle on the Hudson" in January 2009? Was possible in part because of a checklist. And Charles Sullenberger will be the first to acknowledge that.) Gawande discusses working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a set of surgery safety checklists, and how they were initially tested in eight hospitals around the world, from the United States to Tanzania. In that initial test, in which over 4,000 patients were operated on, researchers estimate that use of the checklists saved 150 patients from harm ... and 27 from death.
And yet ... surgeons (and other professionals, medical and in other fields) resist using checklists. Because they take time. Because we don't want to believe that our complex jobs can be boiled down to items on a list that can be ticked off.
I'm an editor working in distance education, and we, too use checklists—to ensure that we have all the materials needed to produce the course, that lessons meet their stated objectives, that assessment answers and references have been double- and triple-checked, that permissions are secured for all images and other copyrighted resources used in the course, and so forth. In reading Gawande's book, I learned more about how we might improve and streamline our own checklists, but I became more convinced than ever of their value in keeping us focused on excellence.
I found this deeply moving and inspiring. I'm sure I'm going to read it again, and I think I need to own my own copy. This could become one of my very...moreI found this deeply moving and inspiring. I'm sure I'm going to read it again, and I think I need to own my own copy. This could become one of my very favorite books ever.(less)
Talking about when Scottish Television recruited him and a few others to do a "hip" New Year's special, only to ge...moreSome of my favorite quotes/sections:
Talking about when Scottish Television recruited him and a few others to do a "hip" New Year's special, only to get cold feet: "I have seen this a million times since in show business. In TV, movies, and the music business you get executives who start out with a radical notion, but as the moment of truth approaches they lose their nerve and go back to what they are familiar with" (page 148). This really struck home with me as I've seen this pattern in my own fields of work as well.
And reflecting on the birth of his son, Milo: "I think when you become a parent you go from being a star in the movie of your own life to a supporting player in the movie of someone else's" (page 231).
Oh, and while I'd never heard of it before reading this book, I totally want to see the move Saving Grace now.(less)