Sunday, November 29, 2015

Best of the Bunch: November 2015

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in November.

Of the 10 books I read this month, I had two 5-star reads:

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Both are bestsellers for a reason! Between the two, I'm going to say the best of the bunch was...

This is a masterfully written biography of Louis Zamperini, one-time Olympic runner who fought in WWII and spent more than a month adrift in an inflatable life raft only to encounter utter brutality as an unlisted Japanese POW. Most compelling is the way that we are able to feel the alternating hope and despair along with him and his companions, as time and again it seems like things are finally getting better, only to get worse again. The book is pretty graphic about some of the horrors — violence and illness — but it's not gratuitous. Hillenbrand is an exceptionally gifted writer who knows how to craft a story better than almost any other biographer I've ever encountered. If you're willing to have your emotions rattled in every direction for the sake of a good story, pick up this book.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Top Ten Quotations I Loved From Books I Read In The Past Year

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

I wasn't sure how I was going to figure out which of my saved quotations were from books I'd read in the past year, but then I learned that Goodreads has an "Export My Quotes" feature. Using the vlookup feature in Excel I could link these with another spreadsheet of when I read each book, and narrow down my list pretty easily.

That still doesn't mean it's easy to pick just ten! Here's what I came up with.

1. "Seeing myself or my church or my denomination as "the blessing" -- like so many mission trips to help "those less fortunate than ourselves" -- can easily descend into a blend of benevolence and paternalism. We can start to see the "poor" as supporting characters in a big story about how noble, selfless, and helpful we are." - Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Nadia Bolz-Weber just kind of rains truth when she writes or speaks.

2. "When Jean Piaget lectured in the United States, he was frequently asked whether the rate at which children attained his cognitive stages could be accelerated -- in other words, whether you could train your child to be 'ahead' of other children. Piaget was bewildered by the question. In his view of development, being 'ahead' or 'behind' anyone else was meaningless. But he got the question often enough that he came to associate it with a particular worldview: he called it 'the American Question.'" - Baby Meets World by Nicholas Day
This is something I've kept in mind frequently as we watch our little guy grow and learn.

3. "You can't always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now." - Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
I don't think you need to be ignorant of how someone's acted in the past, but there should always be room for someone to change.

4. "You may have heard the talk of diversity, sensitivity training, and body cameras. These are all fine and applicable, but they understate the task and allow the citizens of this country to pretend that there is real distance between their own attitudes and those of the ones appointed to protect them. The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country's criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority." - Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This book is chockfull of uncomfortable truths like this -- that we can't always point to others or "the system" as the root of all problems.

5. "Idealism easily becomes dangerous because it brings with it, almost inevitably, the belief that the ends justify the means. If you are fighting for good or for God, what matters is the outcome, not the path. People have little respect for rules; we respect the moral principles that underlie most rules. But when a moral mission and legal rules are incompatible, we usually care more about the mission." - The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
I've been thinking about this recently with this past week's events in Paris, both in how terrorists operate and in the justifications used for retaliating against them.

6. "In life you'll meet a lot of jerks. If they hurt you, tell yourself that it's because they're stupid. That will help keep you from reacting to their cruelty. Because there is nothing worse than bitterness and vengeance... Always keep your dignity and be true to yourself." - Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This was a remark by Satrapi's grandmother, who'd lived long enough to know a thing or two about what's worth holding onto.

7. "Possibly when the professor insisted a little too emphatically upon the inferiority of women, he was concerned not with their inferiority, but with his own superiority. That was what he was protecting rather hot-headedly and with too much emphasis, because it was a jewel to him of the rarest price." - A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
More than 85 years ago, Woolf was pointing to this truth: many men, even if they say they believe in gender equality, don't actually want their own slice of the pie to get any smaller.

8. "They lost Olivia at Newport Beach. The panic made Alice hyperventilate. You were meant to be watching her, Nick kept saying. As if that were the point. That Alice had made a mistake. Not that Olivia was missing, but that it was Alice's fault." - What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
This exemplifies why I fell in love with Moriarty's writing in this book. She nails the way real conversations play out, especially in marriage and friendship.

9. "As a committed Christian, I have always struggled with locked doors -- doors by which we on the inside lock out "the others" -- Jews, Muslims, Mormons, liberals, doubters, agnostics, gay folks, whomever. The more we insiders succeed in shutting others out, the more I tend to feel locked in, caged, trapped." - Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? by Brian McLaren
Although I don't think McLaren ultimately resolves the paradox he presents in this book, he certainly captures well what it feels like to live in the middle of it.

10. "That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me." - Yes Please by Amy Poehler
A new classic quotation that celebrates the diversity in ways to live one's life and raise one's family.

What are some of your favorite quotations from your recent reads?

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry: I enjoyed this reread from grade school, though I was surprised at how little actually happens in the course of the book. The plot was a little formulaic, but the historical and geographical details woven in still made it a good read, and it's a good introduction for children to WWII and the Holocaust.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: Despite the length, I quite enjoyed this read, which I highly recommend on audio. It's certainly not the most realistic of plots, but the length of time one spends in Copperfield's world makes both the characters and the plot lively and memorable.

Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa: This was not my kind of book. It was convoluted and steeped in sex and violence, and not much actually happens during the "present day" of the plot — just a lot of flashbacks and retellings. I only finished it because it was a book club pick.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart: This was a nice ending to the series, even if probably wraps up a bit too tidily for some readers. For myself, I like a good happy ending, so I enjoyed it.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: As powerful and blunt as James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time but written for the current generation. Coates addresses racial identity, police prejudice, and the ways in which his son's experience in the world is both hopefully different and painfully similar to his own experience growing up black and male.

Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews: This mystery was a fun read, which was exactly what I was looking for. There's a lot of humor drawn from the array of absurd situations and people that make up the book, so don't expect anything too realistic, but do look forward to some laughs.

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber: My favorite book of October. An inspiring, challenging, and hilarious follow-up to Pastrix.

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange: This short book/play should not be mistaken for light reading. As the characters share Shange's poems, they talk about rape, abortion, and domestic violence as well as personal empowerment, female friendship, and sexual pleasure. Some parts were too dense for me to grasp (poetry was never my forte), but most of it was clear and evocative.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore: This thought-provoking memoir/biography traces the life paths of two boys named Wes Moore, both from the same area of the Baltimore. I think the author falls short of his goal of illustrating what exactly made the difference between the Rhodes Scholar and the felon, but both stories are interesting nonetheless.

Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth: I quite enjoyed this novella about the rise and fall of a summer love. I'm not sure I personally connected with the larger themes about time and nostalgia and divided loyalties, but I did enjoy the enveloping nature of the prose. It's worth a read.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley: This book had so much potential, and I actually liked the mystery itself, but there were so many things about the book I disliked: the unrelatable narrator, the overt racism, the odd plot holes, the cliché climix... I know many people love it, but it wasn't for me.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand: This was an amazing, masterfully written biography that 100% deserves its high praise. Be aware that there are graphic descriptions of violence and illness, but they are necessary to the story. If you're willing to have your emotions rattled in every direction for the sake of a good story, pick up this book.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations I Would Consider Watching

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

My husband and I are opposites when it comes to books and movies. I read voraciously but only watch about two movies a year, while he is a movie buff who might make it through a couple of books in the course of a year. We are most likely to enjoy the same stories if they're available in both print and film.

For this week's topic, I looked over some lists of books that have been made into movies, and quickly determined that the majority of them fell into two categories:
  1. I have seen the movie.
  2. I chose not to see the movie because I could only deal with the story's violence/gore in a book, not on screen.
That left me with only a handful of books whose movie adaptations I have never seen, but which I would consider watching.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
This is one of the top books I want to reread because I don't remember much except that I liked it a lot, and it was super long. If I never get around to rereading it, I should at least watch the movie.

2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
My husband watched this movie in high school, and when I was reading the book he was like, "Did you get to the part yet? You'll know what I mean." I never could figure out which scene he meant. Apparently there is a classic climactic scene of Miss Havisham on fire that is really not as interesting in the book. So I guess I need to see the movie to appreciate it.

3. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
I'm a fairly reluctant reader of fantasy, but this one is all about books and reading, and I'd be interested to see how it translates to film. Somehow I doubt it quite captures the essence of the story, but it could be fun to watch anyway.

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I read this book about five years ago and I didn't really understand the hype about it. Maybe I would appreciate it more as a movie? I tried to watch The March Family Letters but had to stop because the acting was so bad, which is unfortunate because I heard that it did some cool story-bending with sexual orientation.

5. Marley & Me by John Grogan
I am not the kind of person who cries every time a dog dies in a book or movie, but I did enjoy this memoir and would watch the film adaptation because puppies are cute.

6. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
I liked this book a lot, even the controversial ending, but I heard they changed the ending for the movie, which was its own controversy. I'd be interested to see how it was changed and whether it still works.

7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I know, there are multiple film adaptations of this, and people have big arguments over which is the best, and there's a thing about Colin Firth being in a lake, and I still haven't seen any of them. I did watch — and love — The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but that was a web video format, not a movie. I would totally watch a movie version, though — tell me your favorite in comments.

8. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
My husband got me a copy of this movie when we were in college (back when I still thought I should buy him books and he thought he should buy me movies), and I never watched it. I eventually got rid of it. The book was good enough that I would still be interested in watching the movie, but I just never have.

9. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The ratings of this movie adaptation aren't great, but I wonder if knowing a lot of the details and backstory from the book would make the movie easier to follow. It's one of my favorite books, so I'd give the movie a shot.

10. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
I think I might have heard of this movie before I even heard of the book, but I've still only read the book and never seen the movie. I liked the book and thought it was interesting, so I would watch the movie as well. And apparently it's going to be a musical soon? I wonder how that will be.

Which of these movie adaptations should I watch, and which should I take a pass on?

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