This book cracked me up after seeing the movie Thor, because they both portray Thor as sort of lost and funny and Odin as sort of angry and tired. ButThis book cracked me up after seeing the movie Thor, because they both portray Thor as sort of lost and funny and Odin as sort of angry and tired. But in very different ways! In traditional Adams style, things are wacky and jump all over the place, but he ties it up in one big odd knot at the end.
When I was in graduate school, I took a course in travel writing and publishing. Throughout the semester, we had to read a number of bookFrom my blog:
When I was in graduate school, I took a course in travel writing and publishing. Throughout the semester, we had to read a number of books about travel, including Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. In this book of essays, I loved the way Gopnik described the five years he and his wife and young son lived in Paris. He describes the minutiae of everyday life and then brings it around to a larger point on a humanity scale. I loved that book. I listed it as a favorite book back in 2004. So I was very excited when Through the Children's Gate came out. And although it wasn't as good as Paris to the Moon, I did enjoy many of the essays in the book.
I wish I had the book here to reference, but of course I've decided to write this review at work sans the book. So I guess you'll have to trust me when I tell you that Gopnik is an amazing word chooser. I feel like he really though about each and every word in his book, making sure each one said exactly what he was trying to say. My favorite essays are those that describe everyday events in his life: the death of his betta fish and how it affected his kids; learning about IMing with his son, thinking LOL means "lots of love" and then subsequently signing all emails and IMs (including a few to grieving widows) that way; playing the game Mafia with his friends; and coaching his son's football team with a dying friend.
I will say that there are times when I feel Gopnik is name-dropping. Perhaps if I lived in New York and was part of the literary and art scene I would have understood a few of the essays more, but I found myself skimming a couple essays, wishing he'd get back to his personal life. This also happened in Paris to the Moon — I'm just not all that current with French politics, for example. When he goes into name-dropping mode, I feel like he's trying to hard. It's like, "look at me! I'm Adam Gopnik. And I know all of these people and I'm not really going to tell you their histories because I assume you know them, too." It gets a little lofty and that's kind of annoying.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book. I like Gopnik's style when he's not being supercilious, and I think that it would appeal even more to readers who live (or have lived) in New York.
My Rating: 7 out of 10 because Damn. Gopnik knows how to write. ...more
Anne Lamott is sort of off her rocker. And I love her so very much for this. Whereas so many Christian writers seem pulled together, even in the worstAnne Lamott is sort of off her rocker. And I love her so very much for this. Whereas so many Christian writers seem pulled together, even in the worst of times, Lamott is not. She struggles like the rest of us. She cries. She yells. She says things she doesn’t mean (and says mean things she does mean). She has no idea what she’s doing most of the time. Yet she still manages to practice a very real grace to those around her. She loves deeply, and practices real forgiveness. She is self-depricating yet true to herself. And I just love this about her. The essays in this book are, for the most part, excellent. Of course, some are better than others. I loved the essay on the death of her dog. As I was listening to it, I cried thinking about how we lost our dog, Phydeaux, a few years ago. How does that hurt so much? But it does, and she captured it.
My favorite quote from this book shows just how different she is from mainstream Christian authors: “Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing—that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.”
The Namesake, written by Jumpha Lahiri, tells the story of Gogol Ganguli, an American-born Bengali son of immigrants from Calcutta. Gogol, like many cThe Namesake, written by Jumpha Lahiri, tells the story of Gogol Ganguli, an American-born Bengali son of immigrants from Calcutta. Gogol, like many children of immigrants, is never fully American, and lives on the margins of the culture and society in which he inhabits. His name, even, is neither American nor Indian; instead he's named after his father's favorite Russian author Nickolai Gogol. The novel is about Gogol trying to find his place in the world, never quite fitting in.
The story is less of a novel, though, and more just small vignettes of Gogol's life: his birthdays, the difficulties surrounding his name, vacations with his parents, the women he loves after he leaves home for Yale, and the ways he tries to reconcile his half-Bengali, half-American life.
Readers who are looking for a carefully plotted book are going to be disappointed. Lahiri drops in on Gogol, sometimes leaving ends undone, much like real life. I didn't mind this; I actually thought it was a smart choice on her part. Her prose flows beautifully, and for most of the book I forgot I was reading. Because I've been to India (my mother went to high school there, and Indian culture is prominent in our family even though we're about as white as you can be), I felt an even stronger connection to the story -- I've eaten samosas and lamb korma, walked around Fatiphur Sikri, and worn my mother's silk saris. I loved how my knowledge of these things made the story even deeper.
My Rating: 9 out of 10, because Lahiri has crafted a beautiful narrative that is very reminiscent of real life. I can't wait to start her short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies. ...more
The title Searching for God Knows What is really applicable to Donald Miller’s writing style — he sort of meanders and wends his way around everyday tThe title Searching for God Knows What is really applicable to Donald Miller’s writing style — he sort of meanders and wends his way around everyday thoughts about Jesus and God, as well as deep theological ideas — which he manages to approach in a very accessible, self-deprecating, somewhat winsome style. It may not be for everyone, but I find it beautiful in its searching simplicity and humility.
A lot of what he talks about in this book has resonated deeply within me, and is related a lot to some of the things I’ve been writing on this blog. His love for people and knowledge of his own imperfection are both so real. Even though this book is the same thing people have been writing about for thousands of years, none of it feels scripted, cliched or tired — it’s fresh and new and very relevant. You can tell his heart is for people to just know that they are loved and valued by God, and that their acceptance in life is not based on the things they do or how many people like them — it’s based fully on the fact that they are loved and valued by God:
“Imagine how a man’s life would be if he trusted that he was loved by God. How could he interact with the poor and not show partiality, he could love his wife easily and not expect her to redeem him, he would be slow to anger because redemption was no longer at stake, he could be wise and giving with his money because money no longer represented points, he could give up on formulaic religion, knowing that checking stuff off a spiritual to-do list was a worthless pursuit, he would have confidence and the ability to laugh at himself, and he could love people without expecting anything in return. It would be quite beautiful, really.”
My knowledge of Rebecca stemmed completely from Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series (Please read these. Now.), with all of the Mrs. Danvers clones ruMy knowledge of Rebecca stemmed completely from Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series (Please read these. Now.), with all of the Mrs. Danvers clones running around. That’s it. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. Oooh, it was a lot of fun. Suspenseful, dark, brooding, suspicious, romantic, insanity — it had all of the trappings of a good read. It was a sharp look into how we perceive things — and how our perceptions distort the truth and make us CA-RAY-ZAY. Our unnamed protagonist slips slowly into Rebecca’s shadow, and her insecurities and fears are frighteningly real, especially for those of us who would put ourselves in the Don’t Make Waves or Keep The Peace categories of personality. And Mrs. Danvers is so creepy! Quietly skulking along the passages, keeping Rebecca’s rooms decorated after her death, making quiet threats — creepy.
My only gripe is one that I don’t want to share because I don’t want to give anything away. It has to do with relative morality. If you’d like to discuss, message me!
This was the second selection for my Literary Goddesses online book club. After giving Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List a big bucket of MEH, An AbundanceThis was the second selection for my Literary Goddesses online book club. After giving Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List a big bucket of MEH, An Abundance of Katherines came like a breath of fresh air. There are a lot of things I thoroughly enjoyed about this book — the snappy dialogue, the useful-and-funny-and-somehow-not-at-all-annoying footnotes, the hilarious best friend, and the moral of the story — accomplishments do not determine meaning, relationships determine meaning.
More than anything, I really loved the concept behind this book. It was about prayer and trust and questioning God’s omnipitence. Made me think quiteMore than anything, I really loved the concept behind this book. It was about prayer and trust and questioning God’s omnipitence. Made me think quite a bit about the nature of God and how His view of the future might look and how that affects free will. The writing was very fast-paced, with a bunch of chase scenes broken up by scenes of people planning chases. Every now and again the writing was a little clunky, but it worked for the most part. The whole thing felt a little cliched and overdone, but I had to remind myself that it was written seven years ago, before the books-about-Islam craze really hit its fever pitch. I liked both the characters and thought they actually had quite a bit of chemistry, which seems to be lacking in a lot of more action-packed books. I also learned a bit about Saudi Arabia, of which I knew next to nothing about before I read this. Now I know whatever the next step up from next to nothing is.
Along with this book comes a code to take a test online that gives you your top five strengths. Mine were Input, Harmony, Responsibility, ConnectednesAlong with this book comes a code to take a test online that gives you your top five strengths. Mine were Input, Harmony, Responsibility, Connectedness, and Intellection. (A little concerned that Intellection is a made-up word, but whatever). I don’t have time to go into each here, but suffice it to say they were pretty darn accurate. This would be a great tool for businesses and organizations if they want to get the most of their employees and volunteers.