Nancy Miller starts off with the idea that it makes more sense to change your environment to fit you than to try to change yourself (or your loved one...moreNancy Miller starts off with the idea that it makes more sense to change your environment to fit you than to try to change yourself (or your loved ones) to fit your environment. Unfortunately, the book does not quite deliver the promised help in "getting rid of clutter and getting organized." The chatty, conversational style is engaging, but it quickly wears thin as the same advice ("change your environment") is repeated again and again with few concrete suggestions for change. The book itself is disorganized, with Miller jumping from advice for the home to advice for the office and back again, with little or no warning. There are entire chapters on junk mail and holiday decorations, and then one chapter to deal with the rest of the house. The most helpful information - a clear list of how long to keep the important documents that tend to get shoved into boxes and file cabinets and never seen again - is buried in an appendix. The cartoon illustrations are cute, but they add little to the book.
In addition, the book is poorly edited. A second, revised edition should not be riddled with typographical errors or include entire duplicate pages inserted in the wrong chapter, nor should it make the reader wait fifty pages for the explanation of a full-page example.
There are many organizational books on the market - this one offers nothing new. (less)
Back in high school, a friend of mine decided to read the Bible from the beginning. In solidarity, I started reading it, too. Man, I wish we had had t...moreBack in high school, a friend of mine decided to read the Bible from the beginning. In solidarity, I started reading it, too. Man, I wish we had had this book!
As an adult, secular, American Jew, Plotz figured he was familiar with the Bible, and that that was enough. Flipping through the pages one day, though, he encounters the story of Dinah, and he realizes that he doesn't really know the Bible at all. So, takes on a challenge: Read the entire (Jewish) Bible, from Genesis through II Chronicles, and write about the experience. Book by book, he provides plot summaries, interesting points, and how what he reads relates to his own modern-day life. His observations are funny and sometimes touching, and his own doubt as to the truth of the Bible are always balanced with his respect for the document as a touchstone of faith.(less)
The subtitle is a little misleading, since Walker begins by saying that she had wanted to have a baby for over a decade. That said, she explores, thro...moreThe subtitle is a little misleading, since Walker begins by saying that she had wanted to have a baby for over a decade. That said, she explores, through the prism of her own experience, the conflicting feelings many women have about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Her writing is lovely - while I sometimes disagreed with what she said, it was always well-said. (less)
It seems like such a silly idea: A memoir about knitting a sweater? But like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (who makes an appearance), Martini isn't really wr...moreIt seems like such a silly idea: A memoir about knitting a sweater? But like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (who makes an appearance), Martini isn't really writing about knitting. She's writing about knitters. Mostly, just one knitter.
Over the course a year, Martini sets out to complete a sweater known as "Mary Tudor". As she tackles the challenges of acquiring an out-of-print pattern and substituting for out-of-production yarns (no small feat for a project in which color is key) as well as stranded colorwork and steeking, she gathers together details about the designer, Alice Starmore. She explores why knitters are so attracted to Starmore's famously difficult-to-obtain and difficult-to-knit patterns, and how far they can stray from the designer's vision yet still remain faithful to the project.
Martini travels to Rhinebeck, Nashville, and Toronto to interview bloggers well-known to knitters around the world. The history of Tudor Roses and the Alice Starmore brand intertwine with the history of knitting in the Shetland Isles and North America and the life one particular American woman in the early twenty-first century. Witty and self-deprecating, Martini doesn't hesitate to share her liberal leanings or drop the occasional curse word. Her writing style is clean and sharp, a pleasure to read. She's clearly aware of the absurdity of her "quest", which just makes it all the more enjoyable.(less)
The "how" in the subtitle can be summed up as "I ate less and moved more," which is not exactly groundbreaking news. Gross meanders through her past -...moreThe "how" in the subtitle can be summed up as "I ate less and moved more," which is not exactly groundbreaking news. Gross meanders through her past - a childhood in the suburbs, several months during college in Nepal, life as an adult in the city and the rural Berkshires - looking at her history of yo-yo dieting and couch potato habits. Between the repetitive prose and the muddied timeline, there just isn't much to hold the reader here.(less)
I knew Eboo slightly back in college - I was a year behind him, living in the same Residence Hall he talks about in the third chapter. His account of...moreI knew Eboo slightly back in college - I was a year behind him, living in the same Residence Hall he talks about in the third chapter. His account of growing up Muslim-Indian-American and how that led him to a career in organizing interfaith youth service projects is both fascinating and well-told. His struggle to integrate the pieces of his identity will feel familiar to many young people of very different backgrounds, and his commitment to encouraging pluralism around the world is inspiring.(less)
If you're hoping for tips to get your picky eater to try some new foods, then you're looking in the wrong book. Amster-Burton is a work-at-home foodie...moreIf you're hoping for tips to get your picky eater to try some new foods, then you're looking in the wrong book. Amster-Burton is a work-at-home foodie dad to Iris, who has tried a wide range of foods in her four years. She has also been lucky enough to have a father who cooks both for and with her, modeling an enthusiastic attitude toward all kinds of food.
The vignettes are sweet and funny, told in a conversational style with just a touch of self-deprecation. His love for his family is evident throughout the book. He doesn't claim to be an expert on parenting or nutrition - he's just a dad who enjoys sharing food with his daughter, and if his experiences can encourage other people to share great food with their kids, too, then all the better.(less)
A mostly fluffy chick-lit style novel, Roommates Wanted is about Toby Dobbs, a nearly-40-year-old Londoner who suddenly realizes that he sort of forgo...moreA mostly fluffy chick-lit style novel, Roommates Wanted is about Toby Dobbs, a nearly-40-year-old Londoner who suddenly realizes that he sort of forgot to grow up. With the help of Leah, his attractive neighbor across the road, he begins to get his life together by prodding his tenants to get their own lives together. The characters are intriguing, which is good, since wanting to know how things were going to turn out was what kept me reading through some mediocre prose. The chapter with Joanne's backstory, in particular, read like a character sketch written for the author's reference and then simply plopped into the novel. Still, it's a sweet and entertaining read. (less)
After years of reporting on hot-button topics like immigration and Iraq, Laufer jokingly announced that his next book would be about "butterflies and...moreAfter years of reporting on hot-button topics like immigration and Iraq, Laufer jokingly announced that his next book would be about "butterflies and flowers". Of course, the universe - here in the person of an American expat operating a Nicaraguan butterfly reserve - couldn't leave such a challenge alone. Thus, Laufer enters the realm of butterfly breeders, conservationists, and poachers. His explorations take him from Nicaragua and Mexico, as well as Florida and the California offices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He shares letters written between butterfly smugglers and his own observations trekking with both professional entomologists and enthusiastic amateurs. The fascinating subject matter makes up for the occasionally clunky prose, while Laufer's ability to make himself fade into the background while his sources tell the story really makes it worth the read.(less)
Julia Cameron is not a doctor, a nutritionist, or any other kind of diet expert. She is, as she says, "a creativity expert [who has:] accidentally stu...more Julia Cameron is not a doctor, a nutritionist, or any other kind of diet expert. She is, as she says, "a creativity expert [who has:] accidentally stumbled upon a weight-loss secret that works." (xv) Well, sort of. She found that participants in her 12-week creativity unblocking course were also finding themselves eating better and losing weight as they followed her daily assignments of writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness journaling and taking a 20-minute walk. Oddly enough, as they began to notice their own thought patterns and get more exercise, they lost weight! Go figure.
Cameron does have some good tips in the first section of this book - there is a lot to be said for writing down both what one eats and what one is thinking about when reaching for snacks while trying to change habitual patterns. There is a lot of "recovery speak" in this book, from using HALT (checking to see if you're hungry, angry, lonely, or tired) to finding a "body buddy" to check in with daily. Meanwhile, the Culinary Artist Dates are not unlike the Artist Dates she recommends in The Artist's Way.
The second part of the book (making up about three-quarters of the text) is a collection of short essays about various topics confronted by Cameron and her students as they set out to use the "writing diet". The essays are repetitive and do not flow naturally from to the next. They also reveal that Cameron's version of Clean Eating includes a whole lot of artificial sweeteners and a somewhat disturbing view of exercise as a tool for "making up for" eating off-plan.
There's very little here that isn't covered elsewhere, and better, by other authors.(less)
I love quirky memoirs about people taking on a possibly-ridiculous adventure. Couple that with my ongoing fascination with St. John's and its Great Bo...moreI love quirky memoirs about people taking on a possibly-ridiculous adventure. Couple that with my ongoing fascination with St. John's and its Great Books program (the college counselor back at my high school told me to apply, but I didn't), and this book seemed tailor-made for me.
Alas, it was disappointing. After surviving a dramatic battle with metastatic melanoma, Martin decides to take a sabbatical from his position as College President at Randolph-Macon and enroll at St. John's as a freshman. From the beginning, he shares that his plan is to write a book about the experience.
The trouble is that it's not clear what experience he was trying to have. He isn't truly a freshman, even a 61-year-old freshman, and that fact complicates matters. He goes in knowing that he is only sampling St. John's, enrolling for a single semester, not pursuing a degree. He refrains from participating in the freshman Seminar, instead observing and taking notes as the other students discuss the material. He visits the science lab once, never explaining why he wasn't actually taking the science course. He misses out completely on the required freshman chorus. He tries to befriend his classmates, but - like any participant-observer - can never really become one of them. Quite a lot of the book is taken up with his experiences on Crew, which seems to be more about achieving a later-life Moment of Glory than about athletics enriching his (and his classmates') more traditionally-academic pursuits.
The meandering narrative is not particularly engaging, and I was left wondering at the end just what the point of the whole thing was after all.(less)
Another in the string of blog-turned-memoir titles on the market. Better written than Julie and Julia (the author of which has a blurb on the back cov...moreAnother in the string of blog-turned-memoir titles on the market. Better written than Julie and Julia (the author of which has a blurb on the back cover), since Erway is able to keep a clear timeline (usually) and avoid too much whining. Each chapter features a couple of recipes for dishes referred to in the text - a must-have for any foodie memoir, it seems.
Erway spends two years avoiding restaurants (most of the time), instead exploring cooking new foods on her own, "freeganing" and foraging with others, and participating in underground supper clubs and popular local cook-offs. The first few chapters are engaging, but her recitations of what she ate and how she prepared it become pretty boring by the end. A decent effort overall, but not terribly compelling.
It is always quietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before.
Bill Bryson turns his i...moreIt is always quietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before.
Bill Bryson turns his insatiable curiosity and boundless enthusiasm for research to a subject quite literally close to home. His home, to be precise, a former rectory in Norfolk, built in 1851. He takes the reader on a guided tour of the house, room by room, from the entry hall all the way up to the attic. Along the way, he discusses the history of just about every domestic subject: food, health, birth, death, gardening, etc. His knack for pointing out just the right absurd detail provides unexpected laughs in the midst of very serious subjects.
I was introduced to Bryson's work during the year I spent in Manchester. It was a year after the publication of Notes from a Small Island, and Notes from a Big Country was running as a weekly column in The Mail on Sunday. Reading those columns about his reentry to the nation I'd just left, I fell a little bit in love with his writing. Fifteen years later, I still love it. I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with next. (less)