Monday, August 30, 2010

Musing Monday

Should be Reading hosts a weekly Musing Mondays question. I've commented on several bloggers' posts about the past questions. This week I really like the question, so I figured I'd join in the fun!

This week's question:
How often do you actually put into practice what you learn from reading nonfiction books?

I read a lot of non-fiction. I find, in many cases, truth is stranger than fiction. It also can be more entertaining.

I frequently change my way of thinking or my behavior after reading non-fiction.

Here are just a few of the examples:

Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food

Both of these books read made me think about the food we eat and where it comes from. I wrote here about some of the changes we've made in our eating habits.

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

This book is a mix of travelogue and self-help dealing with happiness. I found it really insightful.

Out West by Dayton Duncan

I'm not sure how or why I picked this up, but it significantly changed my life. It put the idea in my head of moving west. (The link is from my personal blog.) And, eight years later, I'm still here. It kinda blows my mind just how much this one book altered the path I'm on.

And finally, a lot of the non-fiction I read reminds me how blessed I am to leave here and now. That isn't "putting something into practice," but it is really important to remember. Aren't you glad you aren't a welfare mom or stuck in a polygamist FLDS family or growing up in the Cultural Revolution or even living in the days before central heating.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Garlic and Sapphires

I love food. When my online book club selected this for our monthly read, I was really excited.

It didn't disappoint. Anytime we travel, I like going to fancy restaurants and finding interesting meals to eat. I enjoyed reading about the meals that Reichl ate. (But, really, can you talk about foie gras one more time?)

In order to maintain her anonymity as a food critic for the NY Times, Reichl wore disguises. Her reviews covered the food, as well as the service. She was treated very differently based on the costume she had on and when she was recognized. The reviews of the service were to me the most interesting part.

The book also includes several recipes. I haven't tried any yet, but plan on it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Can I tell you how much I love my Kindle?

I really freaking love it.

Since I got it about a month and a half ago, I've read seven books on it. I have bought a few and found lots of free books online. I've gotten those free e-books both from the Amazon Kindle page and Project Gutenberg.

Getting books from Amazon is super easy. Ridiculously easy. Getting the ones from Project Gutenberg requires a couple more steps, but is also a quick and painless process. (Nook users can also use Project Gutenberg. It has book files in many different formats.)

I took my Kindle with me when I traveled to Georgia earlier this month. Anytime I travel, I end up taking lots of books. This trip, I took two paper books and my Kindle. I actually had room in my suitcase for other stuff and lots of reading choices on the Kindle.

Another plus about the Kindle is not having to hold it open like a regular book. It's very easy to read in bed or while eating since all you have to do is hit the next page button.

And one feature I thought was unnecessary, but find really helpful: the dictionary. You can move the cursor to any word on the page and a definition will pop up. I'm surprised how much I've already used it.

Overall, I'm thrilled with it. I was skeptical before I got my Kindle, but it's totally won me over. I LOVE it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Annie's Ghosts

One of the categories for the book challenge is book with ghosts or psychics. I chose Annie's Ghosts as a different type of ghost: those that reside in our family histories, the ghosts of the past.

Author Steve Luxenberg found out, at the end of his mother's life, that she wasn't an only child like she'd always said she was. She'd obviously kept the secret for a reason so Luxenberg didn't question his mother. But, after her death, he wanted to know what happened to Annie, the aunt he never knew. The book is the story of tracking down Annie and guessing why his mother never told anyone about her sister.

Annie had been committed to a mental hospital when she was 21, which made it even harder for Luxenberg to beleive since Annie had been part of her sister's life for 20 years. The book is several different things: a memoir of the author's family, a mystery of what happened to Annie, and a history of mental health resources in the 20th century.

In the process of finding Annie, Luxenberg uncovered other, totally unexpected, family secrets. He also told the story of an aunt who escaped the Nazis in WWII. I liked hearing the family's history and Luxenberg's reaction to it.

This was a really fascinating read. I really was interested in the changes in the mental health world. Luxenberg's mother kept her sister a secret because of the shame involved. Annie and others were locked up and forgotten about. Luxenberg had a difficult time tracing Annie because even on paper she was lost. While Luxenberg was able to uncover a great deal of information, the book shows how history is lost over time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Giver and dystopian novels

One of the categories in the book challenge is a dystopian novel. I have heard great things about The Giver and it's a Newbery winner. Another of Lowry's books, Number the Stars, is one of my favorite children's books.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm really not a fan of dystopian stories. I'm not sure I can articulate why, but the depressing nature of them is part of it. This is somewhat of a weird thing for me to say because I read and enjoy lots of non-fiction on depressing topics. I do like 1984, but I love Orwell.

I read The Hunger Games last winter and felt the same way. Twenty of so pages in to The Giver, I did not want to continue. I wouldn't have if it weren't a part of the book challenge. Needless to say, I'm not chomping at the bit for Mockingjay.

I think I'm done with dystopian novels for awhile. It might sound silly to give up on the genre after a couple books, but I've also had The Handmaid's Tale on my shelf for a long time. Every once in awhile, I'll pick up and then immediately think, "I really don't want to read this." Plus, life's too short for books you don't enjoy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Spellman Files

My mom and I are big fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, so when someone suggested this series to her based on the love of Stephanie, she picked it up. She enjoyed it and I did too.

There are some definitely similarities between the two series, including female main characters involved in mysteries and funny secondary characters.

Isabel Spellman works for her parents' private investigation firm. The book is centered around her wacky family and their adventures.

If you are fan of Evanovich, you should pick this up. I've felt like the Stephanie Plum series is getting close to jumping the shark (Ranger or Morelli, Morelli or Ranger), so finding a similar series that felt fresh was good.

The Spellman Files was a fun mix of humor and mystery, with a teeny bit of romance. There are four books in this series. I'm definitely going to read them all.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lucky me!

My husband, with a little bit of help from my parents, surprised me with some new Ikea shelves! They were set up when I got home, though my husband smartly left the book organization up to me.

Here's what I've done so far. As you can see, there are still books on the floor. I think I need to ask for another one for Christmas. I'd like another 2x4 squares shelf to put to the left of the one lying on its side. This one would be up and down.
I'm so excited! I think they look great!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Have you read Cold Mountain?

Here's what Cold Mountain looks like from the Blue Ridge Parkway. My parents have a house in the NC mountains that I'm visiting this weekend. Despite the mountain being near a place I've spent many holidays and vacations visiting, I still haven't read the book. Maybe being back here (again) will be the motivation I need!

Cold Mountain is in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Not only are they beautiful, but the house is a great place to sit back and read.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Garbage Land

I have had this book for ages, but hadn't gotten around to picking it up. I'm really glad I finally did. I really enjoyed it. It was a fast, but important read.

Garbage Land is the story of where your waste goes--to a landfill, waste water treatment plant, recycling facility, or composting site. Royte lives in NYC and based her travels on where her personal trash went.

Living in a small town, where I can and have visited the dump or recycling site, I found the descriptions of big city facilities interesting. I also think based on my own experiences, I knew some of what to expect. (I've pulled stuff out of the metal pile. Evan found a thermarest, a camping sleeping pad, with a small hole and repaired it.)

Garbage Land is one of those books that makes you feel discouraged about the state of the world and your place in it. But, in a good way! It made me think a lot about the waste I produce and where it goes. I think all of us know that we could do better in reducing, reusing, and recycling.

The book acknowledges the downsides of recycling, including the fact that municipal trash is only about 2% of all the waste created in the US . Despite that, she writes of the value of recycling and the importance of reducing. Things you throw out create plenty of waste when they are created. When you reduce your consumption, it also reduces the 98% of other waste created.

I think that you should read this book because I think everyone should know where their waste goes. If you like Mary Roach's books (Stiff, Bonk, and Spook) I think you'd like this too. Royte's writing doesn't have the same humor that Roach's does, but it's easy to read non-fiction by a chatty author that covers some important and interesting topics. I've also read Royte's Bottlemania, which is about bottled water and is way more interesting than you'd think.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Shelf Life

Shelf Life is author Suzanne Strempek Shea's memoir of working in a bookstore. I read this for the seasonal book challenge's category of a dream career. I would love to own a bookstore. But, I know that's not reality.

After reading Shelf Life, I even more would love to have a bookstore. I really enjoyed reading about the book selling trade--the publishers' reps, the credit for sending books back, how a store orders books. I was really jealous of the job of setting up seasonal interest tables (Valentine's Day or Halloween or 9/11, which occurred during the book). I think finding books from all different genres related to one issue or event would be so fun. The employees also set out their favorites. I'd love to share my favorites in such a way.

I read some reviews of Shelf Life that found it rather snobby. I can see how people might think that about it, but I guess I'm kinda snobby too. I loved it as is. And really, if someone asked for a book on how to speak Bermudian they deserve a bit of a "Really?!"

I got this book for my Kindle and felt like a huge jerk for it the whole time I was reading. The bookstore Shea works at is an independent. I bought my version of the book from behemoth Amazon. It gave me food for thought on that issue.

If you love books and have ever thought about having your own bookstore (and realize Bermudian isn't a language), I think you'd enjoy this book.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Upcoming book

I can't wait for this book to come out.

Or maybe I can.


I recently reread Persuasion. It might be my favorite Jane Austen novel. I'll have to reread Pride and Prejudice to be sure, but I think I'll still lean to Persuasion. (Now, the BBC P&P miniseries is another story. I could watch Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy all day long.)

I know the plot of Persuasion, but still cried at the end. It is just that good!

If you like Jane Austen and haven't read this one yet, you need to pick it up. You don't have an excuse since it's one of the many books you can get free for your Kindle or Nook. You can thank me later.