Daniel James Brown tells the story of the winning oarsmen in the 1936 Olympics. Everything about it is incredibly interesting to me.
1. The time period: Brown goes back in time and gives us the biography of Joe Rantz. His life during the Depression would have made this book readable on its own.
2. The rowing: I love reading about racing sports. I know some people found the technicalities of rowing to be a bit much, but I loved it all. I love reading about George Pocock, the craftsman of the boats. I loved reading about the workouts and the construction of the team. I love learning about Joe's fellow oarsmen. I loved hearing all the details of all the races.
3. Nazi Germany: I thought the quick chapters in Nazi Germany really set the stage for the final race. I have seen some of Leni Riefenstahl's footage of the 1936 Olympics and learning a little about her background was very interesting.
4. Edward Herrmann: I listened to the audio version of this book, and it is narrated by the late Edward Herrmann, which was a real treat.
This book made me so nostalgic for the way that sports used to be. None of the champion oarsmen had ever rowed before their first day of tryouts at the University of Washington. Three years late they were at the Olympics. Now sport seems to be so full of scandal, and I, for one, kind of feel jaded by it all. The Boys in the Boat is all about the amateur athlete, and I loved that.
There are two types of people in our book club: those who love Brandon Sanderson and those who have never read anything by him. So the members of theThere are two types of people in our book club: those who love Brandon Sanderson and those who have never read anything by him. So the members of the former category decided to rectify that situation by picking this book for discussion. (I belonged to the latter group.)
I feel like Warbreaker might not have been the best introduction to Sanderson. Overall, I felt like the book was really interesting but unnecessarily long. It didn't help that I had to read it in four days.
However, I can see that this book did have the great world-building and really interesting magic systems that everyone loves about Sanderson....more
Ken Jennings's Maphead was a fun book club pick. Maphead chronicles all that is weird and wonderful about maps and the people who love them. It gave Ken Jennings's Maphead was a fun book club pick. Maphead chronicles all that is weird and wonderful about maps and the people who love them. It gave our book club lots to discuss:
- The state of geography education. - Our own interest in maps and geography as children and adults. - Geocaching - Map Collections - The National Geographic Geography Bee - Fantastical maps and imaginary countries
While I was reading the book, I felt like I should be taking a geography quiz. It would be awesome if one was included with the book. When I mentioned this to my book club my fellow members whipped out their iPads and opened the National Geographic Society's GeoBee app. Now, I am kind of obsessed with the GeoBee game. I'm thinking about studying up so I can make it past level 11....more
This book club pick was certainly worth reading. It gives lots of insight into the situation in Pakistan. Malala is a brave, smart, and inspiring younThis book club pick was certainly worth reading. It gives lots of insight into the situation in Pakistan. Malala is a brave, smart, and inspiring young woman. I was very impressed with her tight-knit, supportive family, as well....more
I read Counting by 7s for a book club. And, I think it just wasn't my thing.
Counting by 7s is a story about a diverse group of characters that somehowI read Counting by 7s for a book club. And, I think it just wasn't my thing.
Counting by 7s is a story about a diverse group of characters that somehow make a family. One of my main problems with the book had to do with the fact that I'm getting a little tired of reading about super-special, super-smart kids.
The other big, big problem in the book is the ending when we find out that a certain character was, in fact, very rich, when she had been living in poverty for years. The money was so unexpected. It felt like, since money was the only way to make the story have a happy ending, that's what the author did, never mind how unrealistic.
Most everyone in the book club enjoyed the book, however. I was definitely in the minority....more
The Rent Collector has a very interesting setting. It takes place in the largest dump in Cambodia. In this dump live many people who make their livingThe Rent Collector has a very interesting setting. It takes place in the largest dump in Cambodia. In this dump live many people who make their living salvaging items from the garbage.
Parts of the book were less believable than others, but I enjoyed learning about this kind of life. As always, the book was greatly enriched by the discussion....more
Like all of Malcolm Gladwell's books, this one tells the reader a whole bunch of things he or she already intuitively knows while providing a lot of rLike all of Malcolm Gladwell's books, this one tells the reader a whole bunch of things he or she already intuitively knows while providing a lot of really interesting stories as supporting evidence.
I always find Gladwell's books to be really entertaining. The stories are interesting and the narration on the audio version, done by Gladwell himself, is fabulous. Even if the premise of this one--that what is typically seen as a weakness can really be a strength--is not particularly life-altering it's still a fun ride.
A Tale Dark Grimm was the book club pick for July. Unfortunately, I wasn't crazy about this one. It's a mash-up of a several fairy tales. It stars HanA Tale Dark Grimm was the book club pick for July. Unfortunately, I wasn't crazy about this one. It's a mash-up of a several fairy tales. It stars Hansel and Gretel. The fairy tales are, as the title states, dark and grim. There's a lot of blood and a fair amount of violence for a middle grade book. The narrator often speaks directly to the reader in a manner that reminded me of Lemony Snicket--don't keep reading all these terrible things are going to happen. ...more
The Remains of the Day was Rachel's book club pick for September. It's the story of Stevens, a butler from the grand age of butlerdom. Now, as StevensThe Remains of the Day was Rachel's book club pick for September. It's the story of Stevens, a butler from the grand age of butlerdom. Now, as Stevens nears the end of his career and so much has changed in England, he looks back on his life and contemplates his years of service.
Kazuo Ishiguro's book is beautifully written. I especially loved the mirroring of momentous events in Stevens' life--[spoiler: when his father died and Miss Keaton got engaged]. I thought the book made for a really great discussion. I always love an unreliable narrator, and I enjoyed talking about Lord Darlington. As seen through Stevens' eyes Lord Darlington is a rather sympathetic character who made some huge mistakes and trusted the wrong people, but it was interesting to think about whether or not Lord Darlington deserved our sympathy.
Other interesting discussion points included: Race War Dignity Service Regrets Lies...more
In this dystopic future Nat and her brother Sam have come to Hawaii to "celebrate" their parents' final week of life. Choosing one's death date is common in Nat's world where the old can live very long lives and become more and more depressed as they age; thus, corporations have arisen to usher the elderly to their deaths.
In a world full of dystopia stories, I really think that Lydia Millet's is special. I loved the journal format. Nat imagines she's writing to someone off in space; someone that has escaped or is unaware of the earth's problems. Nat has the soul of an artist (although art really isn't a thing anymore), and I loved her lyrical descriptions. Equally well done was the futuristic language with new slang and Nat's pokes at her parents' more old-fashioned sayings. The other benefit to having Nat tell the story is that she is as unaware of some of the more sinister aspects of her world as the reader, and I loved how the world was revealed one puzzle piece at a time. It's not clear right away how sinister the corporations might be or how the population may be controlled with pharma.
I can think of a whole list of subjects covered in this book that would make for a really interesting discussion: pharma and self-medication, global warming, family, "going native" and its implications, the models that predict the future, the corporations that rule the world.
There's a quiet, slowness about this story that really appealed to me. It's devoid of any heady infatuations or soul mates who suddenly make the main character see the world with fresh eyes. Nat's journey is a slow one and of her own making. Pills and Starships is more about a future family when families are at the point of dying away. (They call Nat and Sam's generation the last generation.) There is a sense of melancholy to the whole book (Nat's parents are about to die) but it is mingled with the hope and irrepressible optimism of the young.
The audio version, read by Mozhan Marno, is very well done.
We read 1776 for book club. It was a small crew that day, but we had a great discussion.
1776 is definitely worth reading. However, I find military hisWe read 1776 for book club. It was a small crew that day, but we had a great discussion.
1776 is definitely worth reading. However, I find military history a bit tedious, and the audio version (sorry Mr. McCullough) was pretty dull. Luckily, I had a lot of packing and cleaning to help me get through it. Or was it the other way around? I also think it's a little odd how the book only covers one year when the Revolutionary War was so long.
1776 gives a fuller picture of George Washington, who can seem like a more of a legend than a person. The story of Henry Knox and his journey with the canons is unbelievable. There are several remarkable retreats and the crossing of the Delaware is always a big hit. It was also fun to read about the taking of Boston because it reminded me of my trip to Boston with Jill, Kristen, and Nicole. Jill had just finished 1776 and she had Nicole take us to Beacon Hill so that we could see where the Americans dragged their canons in the dead of night.
Also, during the book club I could not stop mentioning the Stuff You Missed in History Podcast. This was me: "Oh, the Hessians. The Stuff You Missed in History girls just did a podcast on the Hessians." "Oh, the Boston Massacre. The Stuff You Missed in History girls just did a podcast on that topic too."...more
I didn't really know how to react to Portuguese Irregular Verbs. At times the book is very funny, but at times I found myself wondering if I should beI didn't really know how to react to Portuguese Irregular Verbs. At times the book is very funny, but at times I found myself wondering if I should be offended by the book. This reaction has everything to do with me and the fact that I too have a PhD and am interested in impractical things, and I think that is okay. My suspicions that one might read this book as a cautionary tale of a man who misses out on life because he is too engrossed in one, impractical, obtuse thing were confirmed when we discussed the book at book club. However, it was a surprisingly productive book club pick, inspiring quite a bit more discussion than one would think its slim volume could. The book club discussion proved once again how differently individuals can react to a book and how our reactions are often based on our own experiences, preferences, and interests....more
Book club really helped me thinkTill We Have Faces was the book club pick for this month. C.S. Lewis crafts a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth.
Book club really helped me think through this book and gain a little more appreciation than I would have had for it without the discussion.
It seems many love this book, but I found it kind of strange. There are, of course, overtones of Christian belief that are worth pondering. The characters, however, are just so unlikable. I think The Fox was probably my favorite character and what does that say about me?
I wish the whole "you will be another Psyche" would have been shown rather than told to the reader. I was not a fan of the beauty vs ugly theme. The idea of "till we have faces" is a good one, but I'm not sure I needed a whole story to illustrate it. ...more
My favorite part of Starry River of the Sky was all the stories the characters told to one another. It made me think about the power of story and how humans love stories. We love to tell stories and hear stories. Stories teach us about other people in other lands, and they teach us about ourselves. It's fitting that my sister, who is a storyteller, gave this book to me.
I also enjoyed the beautiful woodcuts and illustrations throughout the book. There is something special about reading a beautiful book.
The book club discussion for this book was fun. I wanted something light and enjoyable for the busy month of August, and I think this was a good pick.
Malika Oufkir, her mother, her two brothers, three sisters, and two family friends were imprisoned for twenty years following Oufkir's father's attempMalika Oufkir, her mother, her two brothers, three sisters, and two family friends were imprisoned for twenty years following Oufkir's father's attempted coup in Morocco. Her father was executed. What makes Malika's story even more mind-boggling is that she was raised by King Hassan II. He was a father figure turned captive.
The endurance, fortitude, and love shared by this family is praiseworthy. Human beings truly have untapped potential and reserves of strength.
This was a great book club pick and inspired lots of discussion....more
The Power of Habit was a great book club pick. Habit is much more instinctual and gripping than most of us realize. The anecdotes and evidence in theThe Power of Habit was a great book club pick. Habit is much more instinctual and gripping than most of us realize. The anecdotes and evidence in the book are really interesting: Charles Duhigg writes about how Target can tell women are pregnant before they make the big announcement, how Febreze is marketed, why Rosa Parks was the spark that ignited the Civil Right movement, how one individual functioned on habit alone. He writes about why habits are so powerful and what can be done to override them. Each habit has a cue, a routine, and a reward. To change a habit we need to keep the cue and the reward and change the routine. We can't seem to kick the whole cycle to the curb. Belief also plays a major role in rewriting especially strong habits, like additions. ...more
Mayflower is all about the Plymouth colony. It begins with the Pilgrims in Leidon. Contrary to the title of the book, the crossing of the Atlantic occupies very little of the narrative. Instead, the majority of the book focuses on the Pilgrim's relations with the native peoples. Before reading this book, I would have said that my knowledge of the Pilgrim's voyage and subsequent life in Plymouth was marginally higher than the average person. However, now I know so much more.
Some things I learned: I was surprised by Squanto's early death, and his conniving ways. He told the Indians that the Englishman were storing the plague beneath their houses. The Pilgrims started not starving once they instated capitalism. The Pilgrims had a greater number of non-Puritans than I realized (much to the Puritans' dismay). It's so interesting/scary how often we see the children of those who sacrificed so much forget the lessons of their fathers--enter King Philip's War.
We seriously considered naming Felix, Winslow, and if I had read this book before he was born it might have tipped the scales more heavily in Winslow's favor. The story about Edward Winslow saving Massasoit's life (and many others as well) during the typhoid outbreak was pretty impressive.
I really liked the first half of this book. The second half was very informative too, but I find reading about battles to be rather tedious.
This book made for a great book club discussion....more
I read Heaven is for Real for book club. The book is very short and is a fast read. I read it in two sittings. I think how a reader receives this bookI read Heaven is for Real for book club. The book is very short and is a fast read. I read it in two sittings. I think how a reader receives this book has more to do with what he/she thinks about heaven and near-death experiences than the book itself. Maybe I should be more skeptical, but I didn't pick up on any exaggeration or manipulation on the part of the authors. So, it seems to me, that at the very least, they believe what they have written. ...more
I checked Susan Cain's book out a couple of years ago on Janssen's recommendation, and I never finished it. I just kind of stalled out in the middle sI checked Susan Cain's book out a couple of years ago on Janssen's recommendation, and I never finished it. I just kind of stalled out in the middle somewhere. So, I was happy that my book club picked it. I started from the beginning and, with the proper motivation, got through the book fairly quickly.
I definitely consider myself an introvert, so I could relate to a lot of things about this book. There were times when I found myself wishing for a bit more nuance. Not all introverts dislike public speaking, for example. Also, Cain tells us that shy and introversion are not the same thing, but then I felt like she didn't separate the two much. I wished there had been a bit more on being an introverted parent.
The discussion for this book club was very interesting and gave all of us introverts the opportunity to talk about ourselves and our experiences as introverts, including all the times we wished we were more extroverted. I think, at this point, I am pretty accepting of my introvertness, so much of the book was very affirming for me.
One of the funniest tidbits concerning book club and this book actually occurred at the next month's book club when a member who had not been to the Quiet discussion told us all how much she had wanted to come to that book club because she doesn't understand introverts at all. We could have used an extroverted perspective at our discussion. ...more
Eowyn Ivey'sThe Snow Child is a retelling of a Russian fairytale about an old, childless couple who build a girl out of snow that comes to life. IveyEowyn Ivey'sThe Snow Child is a retelling of a Russian fairytale about an old, childless couple who build a girl out of snow that comes to life. Ivey sets her story in 1920s Alaska. Mabel and Jack, our older couple, are new homesteaders in this harsh wilderness.
This is a really lovely piece of magical realism. Ivey does a fantastic job adapting this tale. One never quite knows if Faina (the snow child) is real or not. The chapters with Faina have no quotation marks--a hint that something magical is taking place? I loved all the descriptions of the wilderness and life on the homestead. I also love when characters are developed throughout a novel, and Jack and Mabel certainly grow.
The Snow Child is a novel about family, life and death, loss and love. It was also a fun book club pick. I wish we had talked about it longer. I love how everything we have read for book club, thus far, has been so different.
I'm certain that no one needs me to tell them what Laura Hillenbrand'sUnbroken is about. Louie Zamperini's story is insanely amazing. Here were someI'm certain that no one needs me to tell them what Laura Hillenbrand'sUnbroken is about. Louie Zamperini's story is insanely amazing. Here were some of my thoughts while reading it:
1. How could I not love all the running stuff?
2. When reading about Louie's time as a bombardier I could not help thinking about Joseph Heller'sCatch-22 because the main character of Catch-22, Yossarian, is also a bombardier in WWII. A lot of the horrifying things that happen in Catch-22 really happened to Louie and his crew mates--the ever raising of the air missions, the inept officers (ordering Phil's crew to take out that faulty plane). And, now I know why Yossarian always dropped his bombs with very little attention to the target--the pilot can't do any evasive maneuvers until the bombs are away and the computer is no longer flying the plane in a straight, unwavering line.
3. Anyone who has a fear of sharks is absolutely justified. That time on the raft was unreal.
4. Reading about the POW camps was hard. Really hard. Because I had already read about the Bataan Death March and POW experiences in a couple of other books it wasn't new to me, and I think that not newness made it more difficult for me to get through. I just kept wishing the war would end.
5. So, so glad that Louie was able to find redemption and have a good life....more
I liked Eddie's story, and the concept that everyone meets five people in heaven who explain the newly deceased life to him or her. However, the messaI liked Eddie's story, and the concept that everyone meets five people in heaven who explain the newly deceased life to him or her. However, the message--that everyone's little life is of value--was just too heavy handed. The book reminded me of The Alchemist in that it seemed that the authors decided on a message first and then shaped the plot around that message, instead of allowing the themes to develop organically. Both books feel like they are trying to be super life-changing, and that's a rather high mark to which to aspire....more
For a year Jana Riess tries to fully commit to one new religious practice per month. For example, she fasts for the month of February as if it were RaFor a year Jana Riess tries to fully commit to one new religious practice per month. For example, she fasts for the month of February as if it were Ramadan. She practices strict Sabbath-keeping, fixed-hour prayers, generosity, gratitude, among others. She also reads a book or two each month that corresponds with her chosen practice. Riess finds herself failing to reach perfection in these commitments month after month, but she does gain a lot in trying.
The writing is humorous and fluid. Riess's book feels so honest. She does not hesitate to be critical of herself or the authors she reads. She readily recognizes her shortcomings. This initially didn't seem like the type of book that I would really enjoy, but I ended up reading it in two days.
Wilkie Collins'The Moonstone is considered England's first detective novel. Collins, a contemporary of Charles Dickens, crafts a tale about the disapWilkie Collins'The Moonstone is considered England's first detective novel. Collins, a contemporary of Charles Dickens, crafts a tale about the disappearance of a Indian diamond, the moonstone. He tells the story through the words of several narrators, each of whom knows the details of only one particular point in the case. I enjoyed this method of tale-telling.
I really enjoyed The Moonstone. At different points I suspected each one of the major characters. They all seemed to have amply motive and opportunity. However, I was quite pleased by the ultimate culprit.
We read this for my first book club meeting in Maryland. I think it was a good choice, even if others are tired of old British books. (Mentioned with humor.) It's not necessarily a book that I would have picked up on my own, but one that I definitely should have considered with or without the added incentive of a discussion....more
Becca's book club pick is the story of Ernest Hemingway's marriage to his first wife Hadley Richardson, as told from Hadley's perspective. During thisBecca's book club pick is the story of Ernest Hemingway's marriage to his first wife Hadley Richardson, as told from Hadley's perspective. During this period of the author's life, the two lived in Paris and participated in the burgeoning artistic climate of the post-war period. I found everything about this book fascinating. In my academic pursuits, this time period is one of my particular interests. I very much enjoyed reading of Ernest's and Hadley's dealings with artists such as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Maddox Ford, and Gerald Murphy. The Sun Also Rises might be my favorite book by Hemingway, so it was also interesting to read about the circumstances surrounding it's creation (even if I don't necessarily agree with Paula McLain's interpretation of the novel). However, I also was extremely interested in all the more mundane and personal aspects of Ernest's and Hadley's life from their shabby living conditions to their use of birth control. I think that Paula McLain crafted the book so that Hadley is a very rich and captivating narrator. In her hands Ernest is an artist with a vigorous and energetic spirit who, although not without his demons and flaws, is clearly a fascinating person. The connection between the two main characters felt honest to me....more
Jamie Ford's novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a Romeo and Juliet story featuring two immigrant families living in Seattle during WorldJamie Ford's novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a Romeo and Juliet story featuring two immigrant families living in Seattle during World War II. The young Chinese Henry and Japanese Keiko are the only two Asian kids in their middle school. As scholarship students they bond over lunch detail and blackboard cleaning, then later jazz. It's not a good time for the Japanese immigrants and Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp.
I found Henry and Keiko to be very likable, if not always incredibly realistic, characters. I think the choice to move between 1986 and 1942 was a good one that gave a fullness to the story that would have been lacking if we only saw these characters as children. The importance of the local jazz scene was probably my favorite part of the novel.
As a book club pick, I think we had some really interesting topics to discuss: immigration, assimilation, integration, parenting, internment camps, etc. ...more
Jennifer Haigh'sFaith is about a priest in Boston in 2002 who is accused of sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy. The novel deals with how this accusJennifer Haigh'sFaith is about a priest in Boston in 2002 who is accused of sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy. The novel deals with how this accusation is handled by the priest, the church, and his various family members.
Faith is extremely realistic and well written, but it was kind of like watching a train wreck. You just couldn't take your eyes off the devastation. Also, none of the characters are particularly likable. The issues that the book raises, however, are ripe for discussion and discuss them we did.
So, overall, I'd say, good book club pick, but one that I wouldn't have picked up on my own....more
This latest book club pick is a fabulous read about a controversial topic. Henrietta Lacks's cells became the first immortal human cells, HeLa. ThoseThis latest book club pick is a fabulous read about a controversial topic. Henrietta Lacks's cells became the first immortal human cells, HeLa. Those cells helped create the polio vaccine, AIDS and cancer treatments, and were a crucial component of cloning and nuclear research. But Henrietta Lacks had no idea she had "donated" those cells and neither did her children or husband. When they found out, long after Henrietta's death from cervical cancer, that knowledge haunted them.
Rebecca Skloot weaves the tale of Henrietta and her children with the history of the HeLa cells. Skloot is as unbiased as possible both celebrating the advances that HeLa has made possible and never sugar coating the trauma suffered by Henrietta's family. The book causes readers to question the morality and legality of tissue research and illuminates what a tricky issue this is.
A seriously good book club pick by Gigi. Everyone had lots to say on the topic. And Skloot's writing is pretty fabulous....more
Amy Chua's books is a fascinating read. It produced a whole range of emotions. At times I was cheering her on. At times I thought what she was doing wAmy Chua's books is a fascinating read. It produced a whole range of emotions. At times I was cheering her on. At times I thought what she was doing was ridiculous. At times I found Chua offensive. That's all I'm going to write for now. I think this will be a fabulous book club discussion and until then I reserve final judgment....more