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)
Subjectively, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. However, as a regular reader of Charlotte's blog and a fitness enthusiast in my own right (though not n...moreSubjectively, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. However, as a regular reader of Charlotte's blog and a fitness enthusiast in my own right (though not nearly at Charlotte's level of dedication or zeal), I'm square in the target audience for The Great Fitness Experiment. I think that someone coming into this book cold might be a little lost without some of the background understanding of who Charlotte is, and might find some of the "Whooo! Look how wacky I am!" persona a bit offputting—especially when the narrative can turn from the wacky to the poignant on a dime (Charlotte weaves her past experience with rape and eating disorders into the chapters, and especially into the essays that follow each chapter). Those of us who follow Charlotte faithfully are, I think, more used to these twin aspects of her persona.
I think Charlotte can also be a bit disingenuous in describing her fitness level and experience. In one instance, she states that she's an "ordinary woman" and not super fit. In another, she admits to having 13.5% body fat. This would be an excellent level of body fat for a man; for a woman, it's extraordinary. (My own is 21%—at least, it was before I hit the Christmas cookies—and that is considered good for a woman!)
There are a few places where I felt like pieces were taken straight from the blog and not edited very carefully for the general reading audience, and also a few places where editing generally could've been tighter.
Bottom line: If you read Charlotte's blog, definitely pick up the book. If you're new to Charlotte, you might want to poke around the blog a bit and then read the book.(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)
Really three and a half stars, but I'm rounding up. At times I though Okrant's observations rang a little trite, but in general I enjoyed the book and...moreReally three and a half stars, but I'm rounding up. At times I though Okrant's observations rang a little trite, but in general I enjoyed the book and was particularly struck by how, in trying to follow Oprah's advice to the letter, she found so many inconsistencies—not just minor ones (having Bob Greene on to talk fitness one day, and the sampling decadent ice cream from Cold Stone the next) but in the big picture (don't be materialistic, the spirit is what matters, live with less ... EXCEPT ... buy this, this, and this).(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)
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)
I feel a bit weird including this on my shelf, as it's not the type of book that one would read cover-to-cover. However, I got an ice cream maker for...moreI feel a bit weird including this on my shelf, as it's not the type of book that one would read cover-to-cover. However, I got an ice cream maker for my birthday last summer (the ice cream maker attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer—totally recommended), and I checked this book from the library. And rechecked it. And rechecked it. And finally got my own copy for Christmas.
I've tried at least half a dozen recipes from The Perfect Scoop, and I've yet to experience a single fail—everything from plain old vanilla to coffee almond fudge to strawberry sorbet. The best find: Aztec Chocolate. See, Haagen Daz used to make what they called Mayan Chocolate, a chocolate-cinnamon ice cream with just a hint of chile spice. I loved this stuff; it was my kryptonite. But then Haagen Daz stopped selling it in the United States (weirdly, it's still available in Canada). Lebovitz's Aztec Chocolate recreates the Mayan Chocolate beautifully, though. I gave some to a friend who was also a fan of the Mayan Chocolate, and she decided that she might like this version even better. So #$!$# you, Haagen Daz.
Thanks to Lebovitz and my ice cream maker, I may never buy ice cream again. So for that, this was one of the most influential books I picked up in 2010. (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 read this several times as a kid (yes, I was a weird kid), found it in a closet during a recent visit with my father, and decided to re-read it and...moreI read this several times as a kid (yes, I was a weird kid), found it in a closet during a recent visit with my father, and decided to re-read it and see whether it stood the test of time. I was surprised by how much I still enjoyed it. As an adult reader, I was able to more easily see how much of Moody's behavior was mental illness rather than religious fanaticism. The storytelling was a bit more nuanced than I expected.
Of course, I had to hit Google and find out what was up with the major players in the book. Wikipedia reports that Moody collaborated with a Dutch director on a film telling his side of the story, and that he died in August 2009 at the age of 70. Betty Mahmoody is listed as a speaker with the (conservative) American Enterprise Institute and has founded a nonprofit to help families in similar situations. Mahtob—now about 30 years old—seems to have grown into a reasonably well-adjusted adult who supports her mother's story.(less)