This was a quickie loan from the library (only seven days, non-renewable, alas!). The impression I got from cramming for an hour before having to relu...moreThis was a quickie loan from the library (only seven days, non-renewable, alas!). The impression I got from cramming for an hour before having to reluctantly return the book was that this is a pragmatic and reassuring look at cooking, filled with no-nonsense ideas and myth busting goodness. Cooking for real life.
Seems to be highly liked by those who have read in its entirety, and the taste I got left me wanting more. Will be getting this one again soon and reviewing fully. (less)
Some books on drawing seem to want to scare away the riff raff, approaching art as something to fear or grovel before (I'm not worthy!). This one is a...more Some books on drawing seem to want to scare away the riff raff, approaching art as something to fear or grovel before (I'm not worthy!). This one is a refreshing find, after making a slow slog through an exorbitant amount of art how-tos books that had begun to bleed into one another. Many books seemed to assume the reader would be in art school (or had already attended), and more than one recommended among other nonsensical advice, that one should hire models regularly to study human posing. Advice like that serves to throw most beginning artists into immediate despair and frustration, and eventually to alcohol or Rocky Road ice cream.
I love Bert Dodson's approach to art. He lends his passion and artist's eyes, encouraging you to truly see and feel what is there and draw from your own unique perspective. I found myself connecting more thoroughly with whatever I was drawing; I felt (and still feel) I understood that thing, person, or idea in a totally new way.
The beauty of Keys to Drawing is that while it inspires and empowers, it instructs in a simple-to-follow and useful way. You WILL be drawing with this book, right away, and it won't be a huge, scary deal. The exercises don't require much beyond a pencil, possibly an eraser, and a drawing surface. Many are surprisingly easy, while managing to also be imaginative and often strangely mind-altering.
It's not a perfect book, and maybe I oughtn't review a book I didn't get to finish, but if I walked away and never got to look through it again, what I took away from Keys to Drawing was invaluable; it furthered my confidence by improving my drawing skills and perspective. I give it an unrepentant five-stars.
I'd especially recommend this for beginners and possibly intermediate artists, or people who may have drawn in the past and would like to start again but struggle with knowing where the hell to begin.
Anyone can learn to draw or learn to draw better, and there are much worse places to start than with Bert Dodson. (less)
Maybe I'm too ADD, but I listened to three of the cds, and when the subject still hadn't gotten rolling good and properly, decided not to finish. This...moreMaybe I'm too ADD, but I listened to three of the cds, and when the subject still hadn't gotten rolling good and properly, decided not to finish. This is a subject I'm very much interested in; the art and implementation of rhetoric has been sadly neglected in schools, to society's detriment. Unfortunately, while this professor may well have had lots of illuminating insights later on, I found he dallied too much on very basic explanations, and brother, if you haven't started teaching me anything by the fourth lecture, I'm over and out.
To be fair, I'm notoriously harder on audio books than written ones, so this isn't my favorite method of "reading." Could well be that I'd have had more patience if it had appeared in written form. I won't rate, since I couldn't finish. (less)
This looked like fluff, and oh it was fluffy; like Garfield's fur after a tryst with the hairdryer, like a bunny farm right before Easter. But this fl...moreThis looked like fluff, and oh it was fluffy; like Garfield's fur after a tryst with the hairdryer, like a bunny farm right before Easter. But this fluffy and teeny book--72 pages--bears a comparatively large price tag (8.99 US). I'm all for shorter books being worth as much or more than one of those hardly-edited doorstopper books you see so much these days, but dudes (Drs. Roizen and Oz), there are rules about these things. If you're going to be concise, you'd damn well better rock it. And you didn't rock it. You pebbled it. Silicaed, even. I'll stop now.
The problems are numerous: the writing is trite, limned with many an eye-rolling clunker, providing tips that are more often laughably simplistic or obvious than they are useful. Oh, and there are recipes, three of em! Just what I was hoping for in a de-stress yourself book: cooking. Yoga and stretching are recommended. Get eight hours of sleep. Take naps. Take valerian, if it helps. Drink lots of water and green tea. There, I just saved you nine bucks.
I suppose I'm harshing on the authors a bit here, but I think they deserve it. This truly looked like the most slapped-together book I've ever seen, ready built for waiting rooms and Barnes and Noble bargain bins ... except it's not even good enough to hold your attention for 30 minutes until your name is called for the old turn-and-cough. Most of the stress-buster tips I already knew about, same goes for the factoids about the dangers of stress.
If anything, the book didn't go nearly far enough into how damaging stress is, treating it more or less as a frivolous subject.
About a year ago I watched a well done documentary called "National Geographic: Stress: Portrait of a Killer," which was infinitely more useful and informative than this diminutive dud. Am I recommending a film over a book on Goodreads?! For people truly interested in the subject matter, I guess I am.
I'm also currently reading "The Art of Happiness," which so far has helped me better understand (among other things) how de-stressing is sometimes as easy as changing your mind. Yeah, I know changing your mind isn't all that easy, but at least I'm trying. For sure I won't be changing my mind on how I feel about the most inconsequential book I've read in a while: "You: Stress Less." (less)
Some stinker, I mean smart-person-who-knows-what's-good-for-em, put this on hold at the library before I got to finish it. And it is so very GOOD too!...moreSome stinker, I mean smart-person-who-knows-what's-good-for-em, put this on hold at the library before I got to finish it. And it is so very GOOD too! If I'd had this in book-form, it would have been pored over and ingested twice over by now.
The lesson I've begun to learn is that I am not a fan of audio books, not even when the book and narrator are incredible, faultless wonders. There are too many hours required to listen and too many fractured blobs of time--it equates to a very frustrating experience for yours truly. Audio books make it harder to remember the best parts, and there's no way to underline anything or jot down an inspired thought or scribble "Christie loves Sam Kean 4-ever" on the flyleaf.
Fortunately, I did get to hear the first five out of eleven cds before some intrepid soul put MY BOOK on hold. It was enough to know this will be bought by me (or someone who likes/loves me for Christmas, hint hint) soon, so that I might underline and dogear and inscribe until my crooked heart's content. (less)
An enjoyable, insightful book that I never finished. Sometimes that happens with me and non-fic; I stop and set aside the book when something really c...moreAn enjoyable, insightful book that I never finished. Sometimes that happens with me and non-fic; I stop and set aside the book when something really clobbers me so I can ruminate and classy stuff like that. I'll either have to recheck it out from the library or buy it, I s'pose.
I like that the author is not a dooms-dayer; I'm sick of all these negative books--it's like everything's going to kill you, or kill your kids, or kill your country. Richard Watson approaches this material in an intelligent yet lighthearted way. He has a reasonable style that is fun and easy to engage with. He's sure not saying everyone should go home and burn their computers and cell phones to evict the techno demons, but calmly tells us why it's important to clear out some space for our minds so they can work better for us, and then has suggestions on how to actually declutter a bit. Refreshing!
My favorite part was when he goes into how, why, and when our brains do their best creative work and problem solving. He includes convincing studies to back this up (real science, yay!), and also conducted a survey asking smart and creative people what activities they are typically engaged in when they get their best insights. Some of the most common answers included showering, taking a walk, reading a book, just before falling asleep or just before waking up, among others. Hey, I do all those things. It's probably not coincidental that these are the times when we're not actively engaged in anything heavy, but kind of daydreaming. Turns out our teachers were WRONG (so kiss it, every elementary teacher I ever had), and you should let kids (and adults) daydream; it's good for us, and good for our brains.
It's a no-brainer that we need to disengage some from our devices in small ways, like driving in silence at times or taking a walk sans phone. Just making time to do something dreamy, like doodling or doing a puzzle is good for you. Turns out that sometimes the best way to figure out a troublesome problem is to stop thinking so hard about it and let that beautiful subconscious do what it does best.
The thing that got me putting the book down to think was the research that seems to say the way we learn and the patterns of our thought processes are actually changing due to our rapidfire technology and connectedness. The place in the brain where deep memories are made and kept, and where deep creativity and problem-solving occur aren't as active when we over-connect, although our ability to think rapidly on our feet improves. Interesting food for thought.
If you're interested in reading David Sedaris, this probably isn't the place to start. Better to start with "Me Talk Pretty One Day," or "Naked." Thos...moreIf you're interested in reading David Sedaris, this probably isn't the place to start. Better to start with "Me Talk Pretty One Day," or "Naked." Those books lead to rabid fandom, or at least they did for me.
It's risky becoming famous for a writer of humorous, controversial memoir, because your life is your fodder, and because when fame happens, you become less an everyman. There's a tendency for readers to drop a writer when fame influences the material, but fortunately, Sedaris has never really been everyman--the unique outlook and style that makes his writing sing is present and accounted for.
Yeah, there were essays (especially the 2nd-6th) I didn't care for or found myself skimming back a page or two, to grok why he felt this one was important enough to write about; but the the ones that work really work. Not as many laugh out loud moments as usual, but there were essays that made me cry with laughter, and others left a mark and had me thinking about them days later. I'd have to say this is a more thoughtful Sedaris; the man who has always embraced the ugliness and grace of being obsessively aware of his own mortality is even more so, and that is kinda beautiful. I guess it's why I keep coming back for more, maybe the reason why most of his fans do. It's the rare comedian's gift that makes us laugh with him, at him; at ourselves and the world at large, bringing us to to an unflinching place where we see our dark sides are part and parcel of being human.
The title is taken from the quitting-smoking story, but is unfortunately saved for last. The anticipation almost kills me when a book puts the title essay or short story in the last slot; oh my god, editors, please stop doing this to me!
Here's the blow-by-blow:
It's Catching - On people with OCD-level cleanliness issues, and those of us on the opposite side who reap the benefits of having OCD friends and relatives.
The next 5 essays (Keeping Up, The Understudy, This Old House, Buddy Can You Spare a Tire, and Road Trips, pages 11-72) I could take or leave, and feel readers might easily put down the book. But after this the book lets out its sails, so skip these or soldier ahead, because there's open waters ahead!
What I Learned - On how to kill your parents' dreams.
That's Amore - On his friendship with Helen, an old woman in his apartment building who makes Walt Kowalski (the old man from Gran Torino) look like Dick Van Dyke. In some strange way, the two seem to deserve each other.
The Monster Mash - The joys of his visits to the medical examiner's office--raunchy, disgusting, and horribly great.
The Waiting Room - On how not knowing French when seeing the doctor in France can lead to mortifying embarrassment. Funny as hell.
Solution to Saturday's Puzzle - Even funnier than the previous--I snorted like an idiot throughout. David pisses off a seatmate on an airplane and hijinks ensue.
Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool - The regrets of bringing artistic enlightenment to one's family, and nostalgia for the gauche years.
Memento Mori - Gift-giving, and how it can come back to haunt you, more or less literally.
All the Beauty You Will Ever Need - The depths he sank to for a pot of coffee in France. Not a favorite, but amusing.
Town and Country - The perception and hypocrisy of the idea of class and classiness. I liked how uncomfortable this one made me.
Aerial - How to keep birds from pecking at your window the David Sedaris way.
The Man in the Hut - Another discomforting story. This one on a neighbor in Normandy who turns out to be a child molester, the uncomfortable orbit he traverses around the man.
Of Mice and Men - On the pitfalls and ways of having a story-inventory as a means of being interesting and having something to talk about. An interesting window into Sedaris's mind and process.
April in Paris - On how people seem to care more about animals than humans, and the unlikely critter of David's affection--a spider found in the Normandy house, which he names April--and the odd way he bestows affection.
Crybaby - Starts out with a grieving passenger being moved next to David in first-class on the plane. David lets it go on for a time, but can only keep the altruism going for so long, and ends up watching a movie which he finds hysterically funny, moreso because he should NOT laugh beside a man traveling to his mother's funeral. Ends juxtaposing this with stories of his grandmother's constant flatulance at the dinner table, and the immovable somberness of his father--the punishments of laughing when you shouldn't, and how laughing is similar to crying.
Old Faithful - On the difficulties and rewards inherent in a long-term, monogamous relationship. He remains faithful to his partner Hugh, but oh how Hugh ends up paying. One of the more disgusting stories, horribly awesome.
The Smoking Section - On moving to Japan for three months in order to quit smoking, in the hopes that the difficulties inherent in navigating an unknown language and culture will take focus off the main issue. He takes a Japanese language course and stresses out, struggling at the bottom of the class, but leaves Japan victorious, as a non-smoker. Here, the reasons a person smokes and continues to smoke are expressed exquisitely. This is accompanied by the elation of having increased his lifespan, which oddly but understandably leads to attaching an even higher premium on mortality. Ex-smoker's guilt rears its head, and is seen to in Sedaris fashion.
Written lovingly by the father of an autistic child, Following Ezra is a quick and excellent read. Anyone wanting to know what it's like living with a...moreWritten lovingly by the father of an autistic child, Following Ezra is a quick and excellent read. Anyone wanting to know what it's like living with an autistic child ought to read this; the stories are fantastically done. But it's probably most useful and edifying for those families in the thick of it. Especially illuminating were the chapters describing the careening descent into autism after age three (which was the age when we noticed things not-usual in our own son) and the diagnosis, and how the writer and his family deal with the challenges coming from a strong Jewish background. It's helpful to remember that autism knows no boundaries and affects people of every background, and seeing the path walked from discovery to acceptance through another parent's eyes is cathartic. There is nothing more terrifying to a parent than the first time they're told that "something may be wrong" with their child. The mind jumps years ahead, decades, imagining the worst, and there's denial and sadness, and not far behind loom dread and anger. Tom Fields-Meyer has approached this with a light touch that strikes true, and his book may help many others negotiate their own experience with that terror and the eventual acceptance. In the end there is much wonder at the talents and differences of the autistic mind, and much love for our children and hope for their promising futures. (less)