Some of the more direct and honest adive for writers I've read, plus the pleasure of reading about Stephen King's childhood, made this a great experie...moreSome of the more direct and honest adive for writers I've read, plus the pleasure of reading about Stephen King's childhood, made this a great experience. He narrates the excellent audiobook. I really enjoyed hearing about his life, from his comics manufacturing business as a child, to the Rock Bottom Remainders, his hilarious band with Amy Tan, Dave Barry and a rotating host of other writers, to his horrific accident. I'm not a big reader of King's novels, but this book gave me an appreciation for his love of the horror genre and his abilities. I like that he is such a storyteller he can't just write a straight advice book; the advice is all wound into the story of his own experience. I expect that's more useful anyhow!
A few things I loved:
* "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." In other words, get real! If you want to write, you have to put in the time. DO IT.
* "Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open," i.e., first drafts are for getting it out of your system and onto paper. Revisions are where you need to axe your preciousness and force your work to appeal to an external audience. Every word.
* An example of a short profile he wrote for his first writing job for his school newspaper, and how his editor changed it. This is vital information!
* You can make an adequate writer into a good writer, but a bad writer will not become a good writer, and a good writer will not become a great writer. Those are born, not made. (I found this a relief.)
Things I took minor issue with:
* King doesn't understand why a professional writer would only have a few books published over their lifetime. (If they are really writers, they should be constantly prolific and published!) I'm not convinced. Not every writer has the output of King, Oates, Rendell. I don't think anyone would argue that Marilyn Robinson isn't a very fine writer, and she has published only a handful of novels.
* He says adverbs, and words that replace "said" are almost always terrible. I disagree. I've had too many arguments with my husband over misunderstandings of tone when communicating via text or chat to believe that a writer can always be able to convey tone without these modifiers. I don't ALWAYS know if a character is joking, or sarcastic, or lying, if I'm not told; and, unless it is meant to be ambiguous, I thin it's fair for the writer to convey how they want dialogue and its speakers to be interpreted. I agree they should probably be used sparingly, except in humor writing, where they are required.
While I appreciate the idea of a method in between "cry it out" and "deal with it", I was infuriated by Pantley's inclusion of a speculative descripti...moreWhile I appreciate the idea of a method in between "cry it out" and "deal with it", I was infuriated by Pantley's inclusion of a speculative description of the agony a child might be feeling as they cry it out (e.g., "His little body is burning with desire and utter loneliness" - I'm paraphrasing, but that is exactly the tone.) You can't use that manipulative, mean tactic AND say that (a) that you're offering a moderate option or (b) that whatever works for a family is what's best. I'm not wild about letting my baby cry it out, and it doesn't always work, but I'm not going to tolerate being judged for trying it, or judge everyone for whom it has been a lifesaving technique. This reminds me of the "breastfeeding Nazis" and other women (and men) who say that mothers who go back to work are selfish and hurting the baby, or that you have to feed solids to (or not, or wean, or not, or take away or give the pacifier or lovey, etc.) at a certain point. I'm not sure why everyone insists on being so harsh judging (other) parents. Every child, every family, every situation is different. If you watch the documentary "Babies," you'll see that children raised with incredibly different styles are all still doing about the same things at 1 year. Yet everyone is sure that everything you do or don't do before, during, and post-pregnancy will completely ruin your child's life.
I couldn't continue reading this book, and anyway the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon clearly summarize her points, and indicate that this is nothing new. Picking up my baby, calming her, and trying to put her down is what I'm already doing instinctively. I'm not going to start obsessing about every detail of the sleep pattern of someone who changes constantly. I'm happy for everyone this book has helped, but I cannot abide the guilt-tripping flavor of this book.(less)
Venkatesh offers a rare glimpse into the lives of tenants and gang members at Chicago's Robert Taylor projects in the heyday of the Black Kings' crack...moreVenkatesh offers a rare glimpse into the lives of tenants and gang members at Chicago's Robert Taylor projects in the heyday of the Black Kings' crack-dealing reign there (and the heyday of crack-dealing gangs all over, in the late 80s and early 90s). What struck me most about his adventures was learning that the police and politicians really were/are as corrupt and intertwined with the gangs as TV would have you believe. And that means that the odds of good prospects for poor black people in those communities really are ridiculously stacked against them. Choice: work a dead-end job (or two, or three) and go to school and somehow manage to support a family while the gangs and the tenant leader of your building skim off all your earnings in exchange for "protection" and housing-related services that middle class Americans would never consider less than a right, or anyone else's business anyway (example: to have a broken door replaced, a couple at Robert Taylor can't just call a handyman or buy a replacement themselves -- they have to pay the tenant leader to appeal to the Housing Association; pay the gang to watch their apartment while it is vulnerable; pay to stay with other tenants, etc, etc) -- or join the gang, deal crack and make a lot more money. The other major interesting point to me was the history of the female-led economy in the communities before the gangs stepped in and took it over by threat. What a hopeless place. Anyway, 3 stars because it was pretty good, but I wish Venkatesh had offered more potential solutions, and the title is a bit misleading - his stint as "gang leader" is pretty banal.
I advise against listening to this audiobook -- read it instead. Reg Rogers is the wrong choice for narrator. With his metallic, dramatic voice, he gives young, hippy Sudhir an inappropriately panache sound. He practically rolls his r's. (less)
Fantastic Kindle Single addressing Patchett's experience with becoming and being a writer. Contains some of the most reassuring and straightforward wr...moreFantastic Kindle Single addressing Patchett's experience with becoming and being a writer. Contains some of the most reassuring and straightforward writing advice I've read. Also loved her descriptions of the three writing teachers who influenced her the most ( I had no idea Allan Gurganis was one of her writing profs). I highlighted all the books and stories and authors she recommended and can't wait to read them!(less)
I did get (reminded of and for the first time) some solid science trivia out of The Canon, and I do think it does what Angier set out to do: give an o...moreI did get (reminded of and for the first time) some solid science trivia out of The Canon, and I do think it does what Angier set out to do: give an overview of the foundations of the "hard" sciences. Angier also brings a great whimsy to the book and discusses why science isn't just for kids, but can be fun and exciting even after the years of school science projects. I did appreciate that. But the CONSTANT wordplay that Angier engages in, and clearly finds enormously clever and witty, wears thin very quickly, making it a slog, and a groaner.(less)
This book is narrative journalism at its finest. Cullen remains neutral and respectful (no photos here) and delicately navigates the effect the traged...moreThis book is narrative journalism at its finest. Cullen remains neutral and respectful (no photos here) and delicately navigates the effect the tragedy has on the town. In chapters alternating between the time leading up to the massacre and in its wake, Cullen shows how rumors spread, where the media was and wasn't culpable for these, how police are trained to respond to terrorist and hostage events and how Columbine changed that. I was interested to learn that Eric and Dylan were NOT social outcasts, nor were they previously known as "the Trenchcoat Mafia"; that both boys were almost off-the-charts intelligent; and that Dylan was actually a hopeless romantic constantly searching for love. He did very little actual shooting. (less)
I listened to this on audiobook, and was very engaged. Mothers (and mothers-to-be) suffer a great deal of disapproval -- and even outright attacks --...moreI listened to this on audiobook, and was very engaged. Mothers (and mothers-to-be) suffer a great deal of disapproval -- and even outright attacks -- from others, especially other women (with or without children). Waldman very honestly discusses the expectations mothers have and how these expectations are impossible to fulfill (versus those of being a "good father": be reasonably present and supportive of mom and children). She delves into very personal material, such as the devastating choice to terminate a pregnancy of a child with a rare trisomy. She has taken a lot of flack for an essay about sex after children because she stated that she loved her husband more than her children. All very interesting. I think it's important to realize the ridiculous pressure on women who have children and make an effort to reduce it -- or at least MYOB.(less)
Not as fun, nor as intense, as The Hot Zone, this collection of essays, most of which were originally published in The New Yorker, nevertheless entert...moreNot as fun, nor as intense, as The Hot Zone, this collection of essays, most of which were originally published in The New Yorker, nevertheless entertains. I admit to being most interested in the ebola essay and the one about Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (parts of which made me laugh out loud, much to my relief, since this terrible disease mostly afflicts young boys and I was afraid I couldn't handle it). I could not get into, and skipped, the tree-infestation piece, and was underwhelmed by the essay on the Russian mathematicians looking for a pattern in pi, and the piece later in which they return to mathematically solve assembly of high-def photographs of the famous Unicorn tapestries. It seemed like a random mish-mash of essay topics and lengths, when the title made me assume I was starting a collection of disease/public health topics. The Lesch-Nyhan piece is the only one I can totally recommend.(less)
Surprisingly well-written account of Jentz's attempt to uncover the truth behind her 1977 attack in Oregon by a man with a hatchet. Nothing overly gru...moreSurprisingly well-written account of Jentz's attempt to uncover the truth behind her 1977 attack in Oregon by a man with a hatchet. Nothing overly gruesome or overwrought here, just fascinating, straightforward detective work. I was pretty heartbroken that Jentz was unable to share her experience with the other girl in the attack, who did not remember it and did not want to. Amazing how little actual investigation was really done at the time. With the statute of limitations on attempted murder at just 3 years at the time in Oregon, Jentz's case could be pivotal for making changes to the system (but I'm not done yet so I don't know!). Scary stuff, sociopaths, but there's a lot of empathy and humanity here to make up for it.(less)
Very much enjoying this clearly written, well-narrated audiobook. I didn't realize that counting cards is not technically illegal, but it's interestin...moreVery much enjoying this clearly written, well-narrated audiobook. I didn't realize that counting cards is not technically illegal, but it's interesting how little bearing that has on the ethics of it anyway. This book gets astonishingly exciting!! The audiobook is narrated well, too.(less)
I liked learning a bit about the ways veterinary surgery and medicine are parallel to, yet different from their human counterparts -- parallel to espe...moreI liked learning a bit about the ways veterinary surgery and medicine are parallel to, yet different from their human counterparts -- parallel to especially in the cases of the very young, very old, and unconscious humans who receive healthcare without the ability to verbally express their feelings and concerns and wants. I didn't see a need for the "in one day" set-up when he makes it clear that this isn't a real day but a medley of experiences and cases from over the years. I would have liked an essay-style format better, I think, with a mix of narrative and analysis for each case. But it was enjoyable and somewhat interesting. I do not recommend the audiobook -- definitely read it yourself. The narrator of the audiobook was very melodramatic and didn't seem right for the part. Also, he was unable to come up with a wealth of American accents. One character in the book is obviously meant to be a Valley girl, and the accent he uses for her is Scottish! Very odd.(less)
Listening to the audiobook, read by Dubner. The introduction was charming, and I'm keen to see how they tie each mini-study to their newfound theme (i...moreListening to the audiobook, read by Dubner. The introduction was charming, and I'm keen to see how they tie each mini-study to their newfound theme (incentives can make behavior seem illogical). But their first little assertion, that drunk walking is more deadly (for the drinker anyway) than drunk driving, relies on a completely invented assumption -- that the same proportion of walking distance is covered drunk as is driving distance (and I'm curious to look up the source of that proportion, as well, because it strikes me as incredibly difficult to measure). No justification is offered for this assertion, nor is its potential variance addressed, even though the value of this variable could completely reverse their "findings." To me, this negates the authors' argument that economics is true to the numbers and not a field where you can lie with statistics. Riiiight.
So I listen on with a slightly soured, cautious attitude. Levitt and Dubner are quick to assure me, though, that the book is not trying to state anything as fact, but merely open a conversation -- they HOPE I will catch errors or otherwise doubt their methods; this means they've done their job. Well, I guess you win this round, Freakonomists, but now I'm not enjoying your book as much as I did the first one. It's not that fun to read something that comes with equal parts disclaimers and substance. (less)