I saw Christopher McDougall on "The Daily Show" soon after this book came out, and I immediately saved it to my to-read list. Almost a year later, I fI saw Christopher McDougall on "The Daily Show" soon after this book came out, and I immediately saved it to my to-read list. Almost a year later, I finally get the happy notice from the library that it's my turn to check out this book. It's been a popular one, as my library wait list can attest.
This book ranks with the best of Jon Krakauer, and it's a lot funnier (you can only laugh so much when reading about people dying on Everest and the like). McDougall is a great writer with a quick, smooth voice and a real knack for capturing kooky personalities in an honest yet respectful manner. I am not someone who runs (I won't say I'm "not a runner" because I'd be going against one of the major messages of the book), but the sections of the book that talk about our evolution as a running species still engaged me. That's not a topic I would have ever expected to enjoy learning about, but I did.
The sections covering shenanigans of the running shoe industry are damning. McDougall has a great line about how it seems too easy to blame Nike for the sham of designer running shoes and their central role in running injuries, except you have to because it's basically Nike's fault. The barefoot running movement, which on the surface could be dismissed as a crazy hippie trend, actually has firm roots in science, medicine, culture, and history.
I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. If you are not someone who runs or cares at all about running, read this book. If you hate to run but do it anyway, read this book. If you run for serious--read it. ...more
I'm still recovering from reading the scene of Tillman's death, which moved me to tears. I didn't know much about Tillman before this book, but I wasI'm still recovering from reading the scene of Tillman's death, which moved me to tears. I didn't know much about Tillman before this book, but I was interested in it because I love Krakauer's writing, I'm interested in the history of the US and Afghanistan, and I wanted to learn more about Tillman beyond the shallow coverage in the media.
Krakauer's political views are hardly disguised in the book, but he is such a thorough researcher that his indictments of the Bush administration/Army's cover up of Tillman's death are hard to argue with. He uses testimony from the investigations, interviews with soliders who were there at Tillman's death, previously sealed documents on the incident, Tillman's journals, and a complex portrait of the Army chain of command procedures that contributed greatly to Tillman's death. Yes, there is a political purpose to this book, but the facts Krakauer has uncovered are rock solid.
The book is a blend of biography, history, and political commentary that works seamlessly to create a shattering story. It made me feel ill to read about the callousness with which Tillman's family was treated following his death--the lies about how he died were sanctioned at the highest levels of military command and White House leadership. The most sickening moment that stood out to me was that a good friend of Tillman's, a Navy SEAL, unknowingly delivers an entirely fabricated story of the way Tillman died while he gives a eulogy at Tillman's memorial service.
I don't have many complaints about the book--the only thing that bothered me somewhat was the uber positive slant on Tillman's character. I don't doubt that he was a brave man who gave up a very comfortable life out of a sense of duty, and that he was a caring and thoughtful family member and friend. These qualities are evident in his journal entries and interviews with Tillman's family, friends, and NFL and army comrades. But he certainly had a darker side, as evidenced by his assault on a fellow high school student and his reckless behavior (which he considered a way to challenge his limits) such as leaping from cliffs to catch onto trees or cliff diving into dangerous waters. These aspects are given cursory coverage, but I think Tillman would have wanted the full story of himself told. He seemed to recognize his own demons and not shy away from discussing them, so I wish Krakauer had done so a bit more thoroughly. ...more
A quick and engrossing read, but not a stellar novel in terms of character or subtlety. Salak begins and ends the book by spelling out in unnecessaryA quick and engrossing read, but not a stellar novel in terms of character or subtlety. Salak begins and ends the book by spelling out in unnecessary detail exactly what her heroine, Marika, is thinking and experiencing. The first couple pages really put me off as she presents us with a predictable metaphor and goes on to discuss what it represents (I could have figured that out on my own, thanks).
Most of the novel is not so annoyingly explanatory, and on some occasions she does a nice job of telling the story through action and subtle emotional clues to let her readers interpret meaning. The real star of this novel, and what makes it worth a read, is the setting of Papua New Guinea. Salak has traveled the country extensively, and it adds a layer of interest to read her novel knowing she has drawn heavily from her own experiences. It reads as very authentic and respectful, yet not uncritical of some aspects of culture. I loved the character of Tobo in particular--he shone while other characters felt flat and one-dimensional (the unconvincingly infallible Seb, for instance).
I would like to read Salak's non-fiction work about her time traversing PNG. Despite this book being a work of fiction, her knowledge of and passion for the country come through brightly. ...more
Part of me regrets giving this book only two stars because at times I really enjoyed the glimpses into the life and culture of Papua New Guinea. I leaPart of me regrets giving this book only two stars because at times I really enjoyed the glimpses into the life and culture of Papua New Guinea. I learned some things about its history, geography, and tribalism, but Salak never stays put in one village or town long enough to really immerse herself in a distinct tribal culture or establish lasting relationships with people she meets. This is on purpose--she doesn't actually WANT to stay put, but rather wants to visit as many towns and regions of the country as possible before she runs out of money or her health forces a return home.
More often than not Salak only skims the surface of everywhere she goes, stopping for a meal and supplies and a night of sleep but leaving again promptly before she really engages. It's only when her travel plans are delayed that she stays anywhere long enough to have real conversations with the people, such as the Indonesian refugees in Pastor Carl's camp. That segment of the book particularly irritated me because it seemed that the challenge for Salak is to see if she can actually get to the camp alive, not whether she can help or bring attention to the refugees. It struck me as thinly veiled narcissism masquerading as altruism. I guess the reader is supposed to be impressed that she continually puts herself in dangerous situations and narrowly escapes for no clear purpose---I'm not impressed.
More generally, I struggled with this book because there is almost NO part of me that can connect with Salak's choices, her attitude about relationships, and her stubborn, reckless treatment of her own life. She says to readers many times that she cannot figure out why she's on this trip, but she also repeatedly states that she went on the trip to be changed. Changed how? She doesn't know. To me it seems obvious that she thrives on doing what others says she can't do, and callously disregards her health and life in the pursuit of those goals. She's shocked at the end of her trip when she hasn't been transformed. I want to yell at her that she isn't transformed because all she did on the trip is do what she has always done--run away from relationships, stubbornly try to prove herself to some undefined person or entity, talk the talk of looking inward and making thoughtful change and then do what she's always done and make no change. The most aggravating part, perhaps, is a cheesy epilogue that jettisons her earlier comments saying the trip hadn't changed her in the way she wanted. She claims to have been changed in the end, but having spent 400 pages watching her refuse to change her ways AT ALL, it reads very disingenuously.
As I read Twisted Tree, I kept thinking of Jhumpa Lahiri's two stellar short story collections, Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth. TwisteAs I read Twisted Tree, I kept thinking of Jhumpa Lahiri's two stellar short story collections, Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth. Twisted Tree, despite Meyer's haunting and beautiful writing, falls short of collections like Lahiri's because it tries to be a novel. The character we're encouraged to consider the center of the story, Hayley Jo Zimmerman, is not the center. She is introduced to us by her abductor in a crushing first chapter (the best of the book), but we only hear glimpses of her voice throughout the rest. Other characters' portrayals of her are only frustrating snippets. Hayley Jo isn't the common theme linking the loosely connected stories--the themes are loneliness, escaping or succumbing to the past, and dashed expectations in relationships. Those themes make for compelling reading, but when the reader is promised Hayley Jo's life and legacy will unfold through the experiences of others, there's a letdown when that expectation goes unfulfilled.
Though the lack of coherence as a novel bothered me and caused the book as a whole to fall short of its potential, I was impressed by Meyers' writing and would like to check out his other works. ...more
At 500+ pages, Wolf Hall is a HIGHLY detailed story of the rise of Thomas Cromwell--his troubled past; his family life; his reWhew. My brain is tired.
At 500+ pages, Wolf Hall is a HIGHLY detailed story of the rise of Thomas Cromwell--his troubled past; his family life; his relationship to Cardinal Woolsey, Henry VIII, and Thomas More; and his understanding of himself in relation to the people and events in his life. It took nearly half the book for me to become comfortable with Mantel's choice to write "he" in reference to Cromwell in the narrative, never referring to him by name (though the other characters do, of course) until near the end. Looking back, I think it was a clever and effective choice for a man who is seemingly all things to all people and often unclear on who exactly he is beyond others' definitions of him.
This is not an easy read. I had trouble keeping up with the characters, who are sometimes called by their given names and other times by their titles (which change over the course of the story). At times I lost the plot thread and had to reread sections to understand, not my favorite thing to do when a book is so lengthy already. Wolf Hall is a challenging read--not a book to take to the beach. If you have at least a moderate interest in the legacy and mythology of Henry VIII's era, you will find the challenge worthwhile and rewarding in the end. ...more
Where to start on this book? There were scattered moments of brilliance in which Portman really nails his depictions of high school angst, and I was aWhere to start on this book? There were scattered moments of brilliance in which Portman really nails his depictions of high school angst, and I was also quite touched by Tom/Chi-Mo's reflections on his father. The first several chapters are laugh-out-loud and very promising. At times I was ready to rate it four stars, but the females in this book?? ICK. /Facepalm. I'm not saying all young adult novels need to have a perfect social message and ignore the realities of teen sex and drug use, but the portrayal of high school females in King Dork is really bothersome. The sexual escapades made me cringe when I thought of young males reading this book--they read like creepy fantasies. In my head, I was ready to give three stars toward the end but the ridiculous plot resolution (or lack of resolution) in the final chapter and epilogue just seemed like laziness pretending to be thoughtful ambiguity. I really wanted this book to be better than it was because Portman clearly has a kooky and creative brain--I just didn't always like what he did with it in the case of King Dork.
I can hardly believe this is the first time I've read this book. I have known about it for years and had some sense of the legendary story (and the faI can hardly believe this is the first time I've read this book. I have known about it for years and had some sense of the legendary story (and the famous first line), but I'm so glad I finally read it for myself. What an indulgent treat--mystery, intrigue, violence, love, deception, wealth, class divisions...loved it. As I finished the final chapter, I immediately turned back to the first and reread it. I would recommend any new reader of this book to do the same--you appreciate in a whole new way du Marier's stellar foreshadowing that manages to give very little away but provides just enough to hook the reader from the start.
I now want to watch Hitchcock's film version but it appears not to be on DVD yet, unfortunately. ...more
I was lucky enough to have Tal as my teacher for seventh and eighth grade at the Paideia School in Atlanta. Reading "A Room for Learning" was a wonderI was lucky enough to have Tal as my teacher for seventh and eighth grade at the Paideia School in Atlanta. Reading "A Room for Learning" was a wonderful way for me to remember finding and accepting my own voice as a learner. To the outsider unfamiliar with the North Branch School or Paideia, Tal's educational approach probably seems crazy. It has a sizable dose of crazy, but embedded within the crazy is an empowering and revolutionary approach to education that actually works. The emphasis on creative writing and the classroom as a community allows middle school age students to develop self-awareness, confidence, and ownership of their feelings during a time in their lives when the forces of puberty, schoolyard politics, and the end of childhood conspire against all of those important qualities. I carry with me the experiences of learning with Tal, and they prepared me to succeed in ways I am still discovering twelve years after I left his classroom.
The book is personally and professionally inspiring to me, particularly because I work at a public university with over 50,000 students. I believe strongly in the tenets of the North Branch School and its educational approach, so my challenge is to understand how it can live and thrive among the endless regulations, restrictions, and conformities of a huge university. There is a real need for college students to have opportunities for self-directed learning, personal reflection, and hands-on education like the experiences of the NBS students. In my small slice of influence, I hope to play a part in advocating for and facilitating these opportunities....more
I don't often read suspense/mystery/conspiracy/thrillers, but I thoroughly enjoyed being sucked into a good ole page-turner. It's blissfully nerdy funI don't often read suspense/mystery/conspiracy/thrillers, but I thoroughly enjoyed being sucked into a good ole page-turner. It's blissfully nerdy fun to find a book I would think about when I wasn't able to be reading it at the moment and look forward with excitement to the moment I could pick it back up.
Larsson's prose is nothing special. It's a somewhat clunky at times, with too much detail on irrelevant matters (the types of computer and Internet programs used by the characters) and too little where there was an opportunity for skillful writing (the various contrasting landscapes and cityscapes in Sweden and elsewhere). Probably the inelegant prose is in part due to translation.
I have rarely read a book by a male author with such a fully realized and intriguing female character who doesn't fall prey to female character cliches and cop-outs. The epilogue irked me somewhat as it suggested an easy-way-out emotional storyline wrap-up for an otherwise unconventional character, but I'll forgive it in anticipation of some serious butt-kicking by Salander in the rest of the series....more