Month: January 2009

The Next Thing On My List

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There is a website, bookmovement.com, that has a top ten list of book club recommendations every week. This book was #1 this week:

The Next Thing On My List

Meet June Parker. She works for L.A. Rideshare, adores her rent-stabilized apartment in Santa Monica, and struggles with losing a few pesky pounds.

But June’s life is about to change.

After a dark turn of events involving Weight Watchers, a chili recipe, and a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June finds herself in possession of a list Marissa has written, “20 Things to Do By My 25th Birthday.” Even though they barely knew eachother, June is compelled by both guilt and a desire to set things right and finish the list for Marissa.

The tasks before her range from inspiring (Run a 5K), to daring (Go braless), to near-impossible (Change someone’s life), and as June races to achieve each goal before the deadline, she learns more about her own life than she ever bargained for.

Funny, engaging, and heartwarming, The Next Thing on My List features a loveable, relatable heroine and a story with plenty of humor and heart.

Anna And The King — Thoughts?

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I finally finished it! Sadly, it was the juvenile version, 192 pages and about 14 point font with pictures. But I think that it might give the general idea of the larger, 400 page book.

It was not one of my favorites. I did not love any of the characters and therefore it was hard to become invested in the book. I appreciated Anna’s courage, but I heard that she overplayed her role in the progression of Siam, and so that made me not trust the telling of the story. And I really admired how the King wanted to educate his children. But I was annoyed how he went back on his promise to increase Anna’s salary — it reminded me of an old boss I had!!

Read Along With Us

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We’re reading Freakonomics! Here’s a summary from Amazon:

Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences. The annual Nobel Prize winner in that field never receives as much publicity as his or her compatriots in peace, literature, or physics. But if such slights are based on the notion that economics is dull, or that economists are concerned only with finance itself, Steven D. Levitt will change some minds. In Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don’t need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections. For example, Levitt traces the drop in violent crime rates to a drop in violent criminals and, digging further, to the Roe v. Wade decision that preempted the existence of some people who would be born to poverty and hardship. Elsewhere, by analyzing data gathered from inner-city Chicago drug-dealing gangs, Levitt outlines a corporate structure much like McDonald’s, where the top bosses make great money while scores of underlings make something below minimum wage. And in a section that may alarm or relieve worried parents, Levitt argues that parenting methods don’t really matter much and that a backyard swimming pool is much more dangerous than a gun. These enlightening chapters are separated by effusive passages from Dubner’s 2003 profile of Levitt in The New York Times Magazine, which led to the book being written. In a book filled with bold logic, such back-patting veers Freakonomics, however briefly, away from what Levitt actually has to say. Although maybe there’s a good economic reason for that too, and we’re just not getting it yet.

Reading Right Now!

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Yesterday I picked up at the library the book “Scream Free Parenting.” I’ll let you know how it is. What is your favorite book on parenting or families?

The Liar’s Club

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#4 on the list is The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. Here’s a quick summary if anyone is interested. It reminds me of The Glass Castle, a bit.

In this funny, razor-edged memoir, Mary Karr, a prize-winning poet and critic, looks back at her upbringing in a swampy East Texas refinery town with a volatile, defiantly loving family. She recalls her painter mother, seven times married, whose outlaw spirit could tip into psychosis; a fist-swinging father who spun tales with his cronies–dubbed the Liars’ Club; and a neighborhood rape when she was eight. An inheritance was squandered, endless bottles emptied, and guns leveled at the deserving and undeserving. With a raw authenticity stripped of self-pity and a poet’s eye for the lyrical detail, Karr shows us a “terrific family of liars and drunks … redeemed by a slow unearthing of truth.”

Modern Classics

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Entertainment Weekly came out with a list of 100 Modern Classics. Below are the top ten. How many have you read?

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)

Reading Lolita in Tehran

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LeeAnn is reading, and I started a few months ago, Reading Lolita in Tehran. Here’s a quick summary from Amazon if anyone else is interested in reading it:

In 1995, after resigning from her job as a professor at a university in Tehran due to repressive policies, Azar Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of great Western literature in her home. Since the books they read were officially banned by the government, the women were forced to meet in secret, often sharing photocopied pages of the illegal novels. For two years they met to talk, share, and “shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into color.” Though most of the women were shy and intimidated at first, they soon became emboldened by the forum and used the meetings as a springboard for debating the social, cultural, and political realities of living under strict Islamic rule. They discussed their harassment at the hands of “morality guards,” the daily indignities of living under the Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime, the effects of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, love, marriage, and life in general, giving readers a rare inside look at revolutionary Iran. The books were always the primary focus, however, and they became “essential to our lives: they were not a luxury but a necessity,” she writes.

Threaded into the memoir are trenchant discussions of the work of Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and other authors who provided the women with examples of those who successfully asserted their autonomy despite great odds. The great works encouraged them to strike out against authoritarianism and repression in their own ways, both large and small: “There, in that living room, we rediscovered that we were also living, breathing human beings; and no matter how repressive the state became, no matter how intimidated and frightened we were, like Lolita we tried to escape and to create our own little pockets of freedom,” she writes. In short, the art helped them to survive.