I vote Sandra Tsing Loh to be most likely to be included in my group of friends on a trip to a day spa for wine, brunch and massages. I know she would...moreI vote Sandra Tsing Loh to be most likely to be included in my group of friends on a trip to a day spa for wine, brunch and massages. I know she would fit right in with my brilliant witty girlfriends. She is like the friend that gets me and experiences things I experience just a mere two years ahead of me. I am her demographic.
In her latest personal memoir Loh takes on her year of surviving perimenopause hormonal changes while dealing with the fall-out from her divorce (which was famously chronicled in the Atlantic) while dealing with tweens and an aging father. Let's just say I can relate to all of it and it is good to know it will all come out well in the end.
Thank you Sandra--the Gail Sheehy for Generation X.
I like publishing history and for that I liked Janet Groth's memoir of her life and times spent as a receptionist at the New Yorker. I've made a note...moreI like publishing history and for that I liked Janet Groth's memoir of her life and times spent as a receptionist at the New Yorker. I've made a note of a few New Yorker authors from the fifties and sixties mentioned in her memoir that I would like to explore. I think her book captures a time and a role that is rapidly disappearing. I can also relate to her on some level because I've always wanted to be a writer myself but have let opportunity pass me by--I can relate to how she found herself still a receptionist many years later. I once worked as the accounting assistant at a regional magazine and started out in book publishing as an administrative assistant before moving on up in my career. But man--what fun to be at the center of everything! This is the kind of lady I would love to have lunch with.
That said, I think the book could have used a stronger editor--was this a personal memoir? a memoir about the New Yorker? life in New York in the sixties? I think the book suffers a bit from claiming to be one thing--memoir about the New Yorker but really about that and the author's personal life. But yet not enough of the personal life. Maybe the problem was marketing wanted a MadMen type book and the author wanted to tell her story. It was just oddly structured. This book could have used the firm hand of a good developmental editor.
The taxi whizzed up Fifth Avenue, which was then a two-way. I was so exhausted that I could barely find my tongue, but after a while I said stupidly,...moreThe taxi whizzed up Fifth Avenue, which was then a two-way. I was so exhausted that I could barely find my tongue, but after a while I said stupidly, "I hope someone will read the piece."
"I'll be happy if twelve people in the country read it," he said.
"You can't mean that," I said. "How could the magazine keep going if people didn't read it?"
"I want any piece to be read by its natural readers--people who will understand and enjoy it."
He went on to say that he edited the magazine as if we were the ideal readers, and assumed that if we liked a piece the readers would. It seemed such a utopian notion that I could scarcely believe he could hold it. But in subsequent years I learned that that was just one of a number of utopian ideas that he held and was somehow able to indulge while still turning out an extremely financially successful magazine.
Fantastic memoir by writer Ved Mehta of his relationship with William Shawn the editor of the New Yorker from 1952 to 1987. (less)
One of my twitter friends recommended this book a year or so ago and it finally came up on my Kindle queue to read. I liked this book. I liked it so m...moreOne of my twitter friends recommended this book a year or so ago and it finally came up on my Kindle queue to read. I liked this book. I liked it so much that I plan on ordering a hard copy to keep in my kitchen and use for mark-up. Another memoir project book in the vein of Under the Tuscan Sun and Julie and Julia I thought this a cut above others I've read recently.
Kathleen Flinn previously wrote about her experiences at the Parisian Le Corden Bleu cooking school. Here she shows what she did later with that experience. After observing a mother and daughter pack up their grocery cart with packaged food--Kathleen approached them and asked them why they didn't cook fresh. Seeing a need here--Kathleen decides to interview a group of women about their fears around cooking and then takes them through a class to teach them the basics of using knives in the kitchen, roasting chicken, making vinaigrettes, etc. Along the way you learn each woman's story, hear what happens in the class (and after the class) and you learn a few recipes. I really enjoyed this book and I learned a few things from it. I roasted my own chicken (which I know how to do but hadn't done in a while) and have done some experimenting since with a few leftovers.
What I still need to do is take a class or watch a few youtube videos on how to use a knife.
Completely understand why this won the Pulitzer prize. I read the entire graphic novel in two sittings and even though I've read and seen countless mo...moreCompletely understand why this won the Pulitzer prize. I read the entire graphic novel in two sittings and even though I've read and seen countless movies of Holocaust survivors--this still packs a punch. Artist Art Spiegelman interviewed his father about his experiences surviving the Holocaust and then wrote and drew the story and the interviews in comic form.
Bob Harris was writing an article on the world's most luxurious hotels. Appalled at the waste he saw and the gulf between the lives of the richest an...more
Bob Harris was writing an article on the world's most luxurious hotels. Appalled at the waste he saw and the gulf between the lives of the richest and the poorest--Bob decided to take the fees he earned and do something good with it. He researched and began loaning funds out through Kiva and other micro-lending organizations. He then traveled the world and met some of the real individuals who are recipients of those funds to hear their stories and find out how those relatively small loans can make a huge difference downstream.
In his book International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time, Harris connects the story to his own background--from roots in Appalachian poverty his own parents moved up for a better opportunity. He describes the long hours his own father put in--and how he sees that and his mother time and again reflected in these hard working individuals around the world.
He also tells the bigger story of micro lending in the book--of Kiva and other organizations--their successes and failures. This is as much a travelogue of the world's poorest regions. He does it with humor and respect for those he meets (except in a couple cases the individuals are not told that he was their benefactor).
I've been a big fan myself of Kiva, and also organizations like D-Rev and Room to Read that are on the ground solving real problems.
In this vein, here are other books I would recommend on globalization and giving back:
Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli An economics professor chases the economics of a simple t-shirt around the world and it's effect on the economy--from it's creation in a factory to a used clothing economy in Africa.
First of all a thank you to Lynda Weinman, Lynda of lynda.com for giving every single one of the company's employees a copy of this book over the hol...more
First of all a thank you to Lynda Weinman, Lynda of lynda.com for giving every single one of the company's employees a copy of this book over the holidays. Books make the best gifts and when I start a job and first thing they hand me is a stack of free books I know I've landed in the right place.
You have heard of Salman Khan the creator of the Khan Academy and this book published by TwelveBooks serve as an introduction to his story and his thoughts or manifesto on learning. I was inspired by this book. Sal started out tutoring one student--his cousin Nadia and before he knew it he was spending his spare time tutoring more family members. He was very good at it. And from there his teaching starts to spread, his ideas start to catch on and now he is on a mission to create a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
I could relate to Nada's issue. She had missed one important concept and that put her on a lesser school track. When I was a freshman in high school in my first Algebra class--maybe I was talking...maybe I was sleeping... but I missed something important. That semester I received my first ever D! My teacher told my mother I was lazy and she needed to take my television and music away from me. (I knew the woman hated me! And yeah I was probably too busy talking.) From then on I was put in the more basic math--not the college prep and I had to repeat the semester in order to change my grade for college transcripts. The next semester when I took the class, I took the textbook and studied on my own. Then it clicked and I spent the rest of semester doing my homework during lectures. This time I received an A.
And I do owe a big apology to my older brother the engineer who didn't talk alot in class and studied harder. He actually tried to sit down and teach Khan-style concepts before I received my D. At the time I just wanted to learn how to do my homework, I didn't want to learn the concepts he attempted teach me. C'mon I had Brady Brunch re-runs to watch! Luckily he seems to have had a better student in my niece.
I like what Salman has to say about learning--covering the basics and practicing until you can prove you've got it to move on, and to also move at your own speed. Okay--you got me. The guy speaks my language. After all my career has been all about learning--first in creating how-to technology books to self-paced elearning, ILT courseware to certs and now in online video training. Not ironically, a career that has also called on my "talking" skills so there Algebra teacher! Technology loves self-learners and there is plenty to learn. This book did make me think about what concepts are basic and essential for the business technology subjects I cover.
I've also spent a lot of time on Khan Academy the past few days. I always regretted that I never really made it past basic Algebra and Geometry. I thought it was because I hated math, but the fact is I've loved puzzles. I've done quilting which requires a lot of math. And I use data analysis and statistics regularly to uncover business insights. So I'm going back to the basics--starting at the beginning just like Salman Khan suggests (and how can you not respect someone that Bill Gates says is his favorite teacher!). His site also has Science, Art History and more. Stuff I want to learn.
This was my first read by Lawrence Durrell who is most famous for the Alexandria Quartet. This is just a little memoir of the three years he spent on...moreThis was my first read by Lawrence Durrell who is most famous for the Alexandria Quartet. This is just a little memoir of the three years he spent on the island of Cyprus. While the book starts out a light-hearted memoir not unlike Under the Tuscan sun--expat moves in and begins renovating a house surrounded by local colorful characters--the book eventually turns a bit darker. Cyprus was rapidly ending its relationship with the British empire and terrorism and nationalism was taking hold.
So interesting to read this on the heels of Alexandra Fuller's Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. Another book about British expats as the curtains close on Colonialism, this time set in Africa. Interesting that both books feature a tree--in Fuller's book, that tree is one on her parent's property that is rumored to be a place of healing. In Durrell's book is a Tree of Idleness in the center of the Square where men also go to forget and while away the hours. I'm surrounded by trees, so the thought of sitting in the shade on a hot summer's day seems so exotic to me.
Durrell's prose is fantastic. One of the final chapters in the book is so beautifully written. Durrell takes one last day trip with an island friend (a school master) to pick flowers by the sea. The description of that entire trip from the gathering of the flowers to descriptions of land once owned long ago by ancient Greeks:
"And as we walked across the carpets of flowers their slender stalks snapped and pulled around our boots as if they wished to pull us down into the Underworld from which they had sprung, nourished by the tears and wounds of the immortals."
And this about and words from his friend Panos which are even more poignant with the knowledge that a few days after this meeting, Panos was killed.
"The sun was approaching mid-heaven and great lion pads of rock among the foothills were already throwing us forward their reflections of shadow. Panos put away his spectacles and fell to cutting up the coarse brown loaf, saying as he did so: "On days like this, in places like these, what does it all matter? Nationality, language, race? These are the invention of the big nations. Look below you and repeat the names of all the kings who have reigned over the kingdoms of Cyprus; of all the conquerors who have set foot here--even the few of whom written records exist! What does it matter that we are now alive, and they dead--we have been pushed forward to take our place in the limelight for a moment, to enjoy these flowers and this spring breeze which ... am I imagining it? ... tastes of lemons, of lemon blossom."
A beautifully written book that has some echoes in our world today and I look forward to reading more from Durrell.(less)
Sex was alive and well in Cuba according to the memoir of Reinaldo Arenas. But so was totalitarianism, homophobia, torture, betrayal, and poverty. Des...moreSex was alive and well in Cuba according to the memoir of Reinaldo Arenas. But so was totalitarianism, homophobia, torture, betrayal, and poverty. Despite those things there are also friends, community, and a love of poetry and literature. No matter what happened to him Arenas kept writing--hiding his manuscripts in his roof and smuggling them out of Cuba to be published abroad.
His story is a triumph but his end tragic--he died in New York in 1990 by his own hand after suffering from AIDS. His goodbye note though, left some hope, "I want to encourage the Cuban people out the country as well as on the Island to continue fighting for freedom. I do not want to convey to you a message of defeat but of continued struggle and of hope. Cuba will be free. I already am."
After reading this book, I have added his work to my wishlist.
"I will tell my truth like a Jew who has suffered from racism, a Russian who has been in the Gulag, or any human being who has eyes to see things as they are: I cry out: therefore I am." --Reinaldo Arenas(less)
When I was in third grade I borrowed a copy of Little House in the Big Woods at the school library. By some strange coincidence that same day my Mom h...moreWhen I was in third grade I borrowed a copy of Little House in the Big Woods at the school library. By some strange coincidence that same day my Mom had borrowed a copy of Little House on the Prairie for me at the county library. I was so surprised. I read both books quickly and became obsessed with the series and the idea of living the pioneer life. I wanted to grow my hair longer and wear long skirts and dresses just like Laura and her sisters. I would imagine riding a horse or driving a wagon on my way to school. My Barbies served as substitute Lauras, Marys and Nellys. While other girl's Barbies were trying out different fashions and driving their corvette, my Barbies were always striking out West in a covered wagon--which I was so excited to receive one year--a Jane West doll along with a plastic horse with actual covered wagon. My Barbies would set out across the backyard and make camp for the evening and live off land setting up to homestead when they reached a nice piece of level grass. The horror the day my father filled in the sprinkler run-off from our next door neighbors which was I was using as my Plum Creek.
Wendy McClure with her book the Wilder Life does a great job of capturing that little girl feelings for Laura and the Little House books as you follow along on her quest to discover more about Laura and the real-life she lived. She learns to churn butter, makes a hay stick and travels to different sites that the Ingalls and Wilders lived, visits museums, sees festivals, etc. You learn a little bit about Rose Wilder Lane--the controversy over whether she wrote the books or Laura did, and how the books are in the fiction section in the library. The editor in me would have liked some photos included in the book--her descriptions of photos aren't enough, but luckily they are all only an Internet click away. And it wouldn't have been all that bad if she would have included a recipe or two, surely permissions from some of the other books she mentioned could have been included. I did really enjoy the adventure with the extremist Christians on the Prairie. Her descriptions of Garth William's illustrations also makes me hope that someone will do a similar book on him. She also has some good comments on the difference between the book and TV fans. I was never a big fan of the television series--I just couldn't get over Little House in the rolling golden hills of California.
But overall, this is just the kind of memoir-project book I like. What do they call this genre? Maybe experiential memoir. Where the author sets out to relive, discover and learn, and you are along for the ride? There have always been books about a subject, but in the past decade or so it is as much about the author as it is about the subject. I think this genre could only come along in the post-blog Internet world--Goodreads has a good list for it called, "I Did Something For a Year and Wrote a Memoir about It." I blame it all on Under the Tuscan Sun--certainly not the first but one of the most successful that spawned more. Combine this type of book with a literary topic or books and you've sucked me right in. It allowed me a few moments to recollect on my own obsessions.
If you are a fan, you have your favorites--what are they? My favorite in the series were the two later books--Little Town in the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years. Little Town most likely because Nellie makes a grand reappearance. And Golden Years because who wouldn't want to be courted by sleigh or carriage drives at least once in her life? My least favorite was By the Shores of Silver Lake--I don't know why, that one I always had a hard time getting through.(less)
Another story about her family in Iran from the author of Persepolis. This one is the story of how her great Uncle, a musician, loses his will to live...moreAnother story about her family in Iran from the author of Persepolis. This one is the story of how her great Uncle, a musician, loses his will to live. (less)
This is a good book--but not the one I was expecting. Alice Ozma and her librarian father started a tradition of him reading to her every night. At fi...moreThis is a good book--but not the one I was expecting. Alice Ozma and her librarian father started a tradition of him reading to her every night. At first they agreed to do it for one hundred nights--but then decided to keep going and made it past one thousand into a streak that lasted until she went to college.
What I was expecting was a book about books--and a discussion of what books he read. What the book turned out to be was a sweet memoir about being raised by a single Dad who happens to be an extraordinary librarian and an interesting character. The book is about how the act of reading brought them closer.(less)
A fantastic collection of essays by author Pat Conroy on books and literary mentors. I especially enjoyed reading about how his mother influenced him...moreA fantastic collection of essays by author Pat Conroy on books and literary mentors. I especially enjoyed reading about how his mother influenced him by opening up the world of books through libraries and her southern heritage with Gone with the Wind. She raised him to be a "Southern" writer. His high school mentor Gene Norris deserves his own book by encouraging Pat to pursue writing, introduced him to famous writers and encouraged him to stand up against banning books. And maybe because I've worked in the trade, I really enjoyed the essay about the cantankerous old book rep who took Conroy with him as he sold Conroy's title. That man I can especially relate to--a love of books so deep but stymied by the fact that he has no talent for writing, just a love of the written word and great books. Pat also provides throughout the book a list of authors and great books not to miss.
You'll enjoy this book if: *you are a bibliophile *like Pat's fiction--Prince of Tides or the Great Santini *you like reading about publishing history *had someone in your own life who has made a difference *thinking about making a difference in someone else's life *enjoy a good reading list(less)
In dealing with my mother's recent decline, this book recommended by my colleague Sharon was a godsend.
New York Times journalist and blogger Jane Gro...moreIn dealing with my mother's recent decline, this book recommended by my colleague Sharon was a godsend.
New York Times journalist and blogger Jane Gross describes the long slow process of her own mother's decline and both good and bad decisions made along the way. The book is packed with helpful advice and by reading it you gain a good view of what is fracked up with our health and government systems for dealing with the elderly.
Wondering if your mother or father are starting a decline? Did you know that a simple test--can they rise from a chair without holding on to anything is a good indicator that they are on the way down? I know! And you'll find this and more in the pages here. (less)