In terms of literary, this book is a 0. But that's not why you read this book. It was written by a former illiterate, after all.
It's clear the writer...moreIn terms of literary, this book is a 0. But that's not why you read this book. It was written by a former illiterate, after all.
It's clear the writer struggled with words his whole life, even now, when he has the capacity to write a book. For instance, Corcoran's thoughts are not focused (in the same page, he talks about his father's background then immediately discusses his role as the only boy of his siblings). He leaves many questions unanswered, his writing is somewhat repetitive and generalized, and for these reasons, it was not the easiest book to follow (or even keep an interest in, in some places). I also got lost in his analogies (which, he points out, he used as a coping mechanism when he couldn't say something exactly how he wanted to). However, these elements also made the book much more real, and therefore more powerful -- it's raw, passionate, and a journey through an amalgam of emotions.
Many people gave this story negative reviews because of the author's deception, his blaming others for his illiteracy, the fact that his wife & colleagues enable his illiteracy, and the fact that he does not speak up and ask to be taught. But if you know and/or work with illiterates, you know that's how it works. Illiterates do what they can to survive & to not draw attention to their deficiencies. (We all do, really.) Corcoran was extremely lucky that he was able to be successful as an illiterate (a fact to which he mentions several times), but he could be a posterboy for the Typical Life of the Illiterate (adult or child).
All teachers and parents should read this book.(less)
Perfect audiobook for a car trip. Martin's account of pursuing comedy was interesting in and of itself, and Martin knows how to craft a story. The ban...morePerfect audiobook for a car trip. Martin's account of pursuing comedy was interesting in and of itself, and Martin knows how to craft a story. The banjo interludes between each chapter were a nice touch. (less)
There were sections in this book that made me physically sick. But that's only because of the subject matter, and not the writing style. In fact, my i...moreThere were sections in this book that made me physically sick. But that's only because of the subject matter, and not the writing style. In fact, my illness may be a testament to Krakauer's writing, because he was able to extract the raw emotion of the events throughout the book.
This is the fourth of Krakauer's texts that I've read, and I think it's the best. I'm always impressed with the extensive research that Krakauer conducts, and perhaps I like this one better simply because of its subjects -- I find religion and unsympathetic murderers (a la Perry of In Cold Blood) much more interesting than tackling the wilderness. I loved the ending, as well as the writer's idea of essentially framing his story with the thoughts of apostate DeLoy.
There were a couple chapters that I thought dragged, but most of it moved quickly, and the multitude of characters he introduced us to were interesting and unforgettable. I thought Krakauer had a great mix of pretty evil characters, people who were just trying to be good people, and everyone in between. His bias didn't really come through until the last couple chapters. (And if you read the author's remarks at the end, Krakauer explains straight up what his theological leanings are.)
Overall, Krakauer is really telling two stories: Why the murder of Brenda Lafferty & her baby occurred, and the history of Mormon Fundamentalism (which, by the way, Krakauer does a good job at completely separating from mainstream Mormonism). Of course, these two stories are related, and the former probably cannot be properly understood without the latter, but they are interwoven well. Krakauer is successful in telling both stories, and it's no wonder that critics have compared this to In Cold Blood.
Perfect audiobook for a car trip. You don't really have to pay close attention, and it was humorous. I wasn't expecting much, which is a good thing, s...morePerfect audiobook for a car trip. You don't really have to pay close attention, and it was humorous. I wasn't expecting much, which is a good thing, since Gaffigan's not much of a writer. I also thought some of the chapters dragged on a little long. But it was certainly enjoyable to listen to.(less)
I've been crazy busy, but that's not really the reason it took so long to finish this. It's a thin book; if it interested me, I would have been done i...moreI've been crazy busy, but that's not really the reason it took so long to finish this. It's a thin book; if it interested me, I would have been done in less than a week. I was a little disappointed at how slowly it moved, especially after reading "Into Thin Air." I like Krakauer's style of telling the ending (i.e. death) at the beginning and then working backwards, but there were some missteps in here. For instance, I did not understand why he inserted two chapters of his own adventures. We know he is an adventurer, we know he relates with McCandless -- why was this part necessary? That seemed completely disconnected to me. Another aspect that seemed weak to me was all the research into McCandless' other travels. Not that this information wasn't necessary, but rather that it was a little monotonous -- McCandless was a "good kid" "friendly" "a hard worker" etc. We get it. I often felt like Krakauer was just trying to fill pages.
On the other hand, Krakauer is a phenomenal writer and researcher, and he chooses intriguing subjects to write about. The story line was definitely enjoyable; I just wish it had moved a little faster. (less)
When I started reading this, I wasn't sure exactly which age group it was aimed at. Obviously, it's a young adult book, but there were so many things...moreWhen I started reading this, I wasn't sure exactly which age group it was aimed at. Obviously, it's a young adult book, but there were so many things in the very beginning that would seem foreign to young adults. After all, it took place in 1996 -- there was dial up internet, rare use of cell phones, and if anyone had email, it was only AOL. How can teens relate?
However, I realized quickly that these details didn't matter. The crux of the story was how can a typical teen girl make her future life turn out perfectly, and how minutiae can affect not just your future but someone else's. This is something to which all teens (and, by extension, many adults) can relate.
I also thought the satire of Facebook (i.e. Emma's line, "Why am I writing about what I ate for dinner!?" [paraphrased]) was well done, though maybe too subtle.
I only rated this three stars, though, because much of the dialogue seemed forced or fake. (But then again, how do I know what 1996 teens sounded like? I was only 12 at the time.) Many of the characters also seemed flat, and I was also expecting a little better plotting from Jay Asher. Especially with regards to the ending. (I have no idea which part of the book was his and which was his writing partner's, but the style was at least consistent throughout.)
On the other hand, I did finish this in two days. It kept me interested the entire time, despite its major flaws.(less)
I do have to commend Larson for weaving two disparate stories into one, though I found the parts about Holmes far more interesting. I skimmed most of...moreI do have to commend Larson for weaving two disparate stories into one, though I found the parts about Holmes far more interesting. I skimmed most of the parts about Burnham and the building of the fair. While it was an interesting story, it just didn't appeal to me. I care neither about business nor about architecture. Despite this, however, the entire book was very well written. I did think some of the details (like the meals, for instance, or the characters that were not crucial to the plot and never really mentioned again (i.e. Root's SIL)) were a little too tedious and made the narrative feel bogged down.
I also liked the author's disconnected tone throughout the entire book. And the sub-plot with Prendergast was well done. Overall, it was enjoyable but I don't think I would recommend this.(less)
With all the hype that stemmed from the book, I was incredibly disappointed. I did not read Seabiscuit, but I picked this up since the story seemed in...moreWith all the hype that stemmed from the book, I was incredibly disappointed. I did not read Seabiscuit, but I picked this up since the story seemed interesting, and it had gotten such high acclaim due to its amazing writing. My response: what amazing writing? The story is amazing, for sure; no one can deny that. But the writing put me to sleep. The beginning was fantastic, but then when the war came, I slogged through it. Louis' struggles from being lost at sea and being a POW are intrinsically interesting, but Hillenbrand's amount of detail and nonchalant style with which she told his story made everything droll. I zoned out for much of the book, and thus was lost about important plot points.
To Hillenbrand's credit, the extensiveness of the research is incredibly impressive (especially because of the writer's health issues), but this did not read like a novel. I just did not care for her style of writing; there was absolutely no nuance in terms of subtext, and there were times that I felt she was telling a different story, not Louis', which was a bit of a disconnect.
I realize I am in the minority with this review, but perhaps it's because my expectations were not met and I am disappoint.(less)
I enjoyed hearing this in Martin's voice. Never having read a book by Steve Martin before, I didn't know what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprise...moreI enjoyed hearing this in Martin's voice. Never having read a book by Steve Martin before, I didn't know what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised. I thought his writing was precise, engaging, and he captured Daniel's voice well. I felt myself really connecting to Daniel, even though we have nothing in common, and there were parts where I laughed aloud, which I rarely do with books. The abrupt happy ending was a little disappointing, but it was also surprising, which was enjoyable. I will definitely read (hear?) more by Steve Martin.(less)
I couldn't even finish this. I was expecting something great, considering this is by JK Rowling. The writing was solid, but neither the plot nor any o...moreI couldn't even finish this. I was expecting something great, considering this is by JK Rowling. The writing was solid, but neither the plot nor any of the characters held my interest. I gave up around page 140. It just wasn't going anywhere.(less)
I'm not really sure what to think of this. It was pretty meaty. It took me a while to get through for several reasons.
First, I found myself rereading...moreI'm not really sure what to think of this. It was pretty meaty. It took me a while to get through for several reasons.
First, I found myself rereading several passages out of confusion of syntax and sentence structure, and I often found myself questioning Krakauer's structure (and aside from each chapter being vaguely designated to a particular elevation -- which didn't always stay the same for the majority of the chapter, which was confusing -- there wasn't much). I also found it difficult to keep track of characters. The list in the beginning didn't help much because a) two of the Sherpas had the same name -- I realize this is non-fiction, but c'mon, change it a little to avoid reader confusion; and b) when you referred to people like "The Texan" when I don't remember who was from Texas, and "Harold" when you mean "Andy," and all the Dr's and which one goes for whose team, it's difficult to follow who's who, Jon. (Wow, I'm writing sentences like Krakauer now... time to shift a little).
Secondly, there were times when I felt so overwhelmed with the drive and determination of the people in this book that it made me feel so useless, and I had to step away from it. That's a good thing, I guess. Made me re-evaluate my priorities (which I didn't, really -- let's face it; I will never attempt to climb Everest. And I'm ok with that.). That's what a good writer should do -- make you think. So Krakauer deserves props for that.
Thirdly, I found most of the mountaineering history extremely dry. I can understand why it's necessary for this book, and Krakauer does try to present it in an interesting way, but it's a subject I just don't care about at all. I read this because it's on the "suggested reading list" for my students and I need to teach a non-fiction book. Despite the action and myriad of themes that are present in this book, I feel like the dryness of mountaineering history will drive students away.
Finally, there is just so much stuff in here that it was rather overwhelming. I really enjoyed Krakauer's focus on the commercialization of Everest, his struggle with his guilt about the deaths, the hubris that goes into conquering Everest and the question of whether or not we should, the power of nature over people, and pretty much every other theme he touched upon. But it was a lot to take in. I needed to step away from it every two chapters or so. Again, that's a good thing -- it makes you think about the writing and about the world at large.
Whoops -- did not mean for this to be so long. Anyway, overall I thought this was a fairly good read but I will need to re-read it with a fine-tooth comb to make it manageable for a group of high school students.(less)
For all her proselytizing about the trees in this novel, Patchett sure wasted a lot of paper here. I hate to say it, but I think I'm done with reading...moreFor all her proselytizing about the trees in this novel, Patchett sure wasted a lot of paper here. I hate to say it, but I think I'm done with reading Patchett. How can anything else she does even compare to Bel Canto? I would recommend BC to anyone, but really, that's about all the Patchett anyone needs to read.
But onto "State of Wonder" (by the way, why is it even called this? I found nothing in this book wonderful). The plot is absolutely ridiculous, and I found all of the characters painfully boring and/or immoral (with the exception of Easter -- what would really have been interesting, I think, was to write it from his perspective; then maybe you would have a novel). Dr. Swenson wasn't even a character; she was too pedantic and self-righteous to identify with. I only finished it because I thought it would redeem itself at some point: nope. (And the only reason I even started it was because I was on a plane at it was this, or stare at the back of the seat... I'm still not sure I made the right choice.)
In fact, it just kept getting worse. For example, (view spoiler)[ Mr. Fox & Barbara randomly showing up in the jungle on a tributary that was supposedly secret? Anders in fact being alive and then sleeping with Marina? (hide spoiler)] Excuse my language, but WTF?? The writing was completely sloppy, which was a surprise, considering Patchett is usually so precise with her language and character development (oh, and plot -- but really, who needs that?). The morally medical questions that I guess was the whole point of the novel were mired by overly complicated plots and mind-numbingly stupid characters (they're doctors?? Seriously?) It seems to be written in a way that shows Patchett had a day left until her deadline and threw a bunch of random crap together in order to end the damn thing.
However, I thought by far the worst part of the book was that no one thought to think until almost the end of it, "Oh, wait, maybe getting pregnant when you're 70 isn't such a good idea!" And the fact that a supposedly brilliant doctor had to experiment on herself to discover this fact? Yeah... totally unrealistic.
I don't understand why this book got such rave reviews. Especially when compared with Bel Canto, which is probably a masterpiece. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.