Tuesday, May 15, 2018

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.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott: Although I have no personal desire to write a novel, this book does make me feel that, if I were to want to, that dream is within reach. That whether or not the book is ever published, the act of putting one's story down on paper is worthwhile. I can see why this book is so often recommended, and I would certainly be quick to hand it to anyone I knew who was trying to write their own book, particularly a work of fiction. I'm not sure how much practical wisdom it contained for me personally, but I'm glad to have read it.

When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne: In case I'm not the only one who didn't realize this, these books are not Winnie-the-Pooh sequels in the way that The House at Pooh Corner was a sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh, even though they're listed as "Winnie-the-Pooh #3 and #4." I personally found the poems in this collection to be weak in form and mostly forgettable in content, but my son enjoyed them so much that I was able to set aside my critical hat enough to enjoy them more or less. I doubt that I will want to read them again in the future, though.

A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller: I ended up liking this more than I expected. Eddie is a modern-day Greek tragic hero, with a fatal flaw that leads him to his doom. And while that flaw is usually seen as his love for his wife's 17-year-old niece, I think there's an argument to be made that this play is really talking about the problems of toxic masculinity. I can't say that this is a play I'll be thinking much about into the future, but I think Miller did a nice job with it and I enjoyed my book club's discussion.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr: Taking the reader through the history of technological changes, the science of neuroplasticity, and the research on how the brain is affected by new technologies, Carr builds a case that the way we use the Internet is making us better at certain, specific actions and worse at a lot of other things, like deep reflection and complex analysis of ideas. All of the information that Carr presented was fascinating and compelling in its own right; unfortunately, Carr kept making these overgeneralizations that did not account for human diversity, and the book (published in 2010) made predictions that seem laughable even eight years later.

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli: I don't understand how Albertalli hit it out of the park for the third time in a row, but she has. I laughed, I cried, I devoured the book. (Read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens first, though! No spoilers!) I'm bummed that so many people are hating on her plot choices; maybe because I didn't go into it knowing that the ship was fan driven, it didn't bother me as much?

Magician's Gambit by David Eddings: Finally this series has found its groove! I definitely understand the decision to republish this series with the first three books in one volume, because together they create a single story arc. This book has many of the scenes I remember most vividly from this series, particularly around Garion finally getting some training and learning how to do sorcery properly. Although I'm a more critical reader as an adult, I can't help but enjoy revisiting these characters.

Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work by Alison Green: I've been reading the Ask a Manager blog for a number of years now and recommend it to just about everyone who works. While the blog is in a Q&A advice column format, this book summarizes the most common types of questions through four categories: conversations with your boss, conversations with your coworkers, conversations when you're the boss, and conversations with your job interviewer. I honestly wish there was a non-offensive way I could suggest that everyone I work with read this book, but alas, I don't think that's possible. I will recommend it to everyone else, though!

America's Public Schools: From the Common Schools to "No Child Left Behind" by William J. Reese: This was, as expected, a pretty dense read, and I had to break it down into 10 pages a day to get through it, but it was ultimately an excellent, comprehensive history of the public school system in the United States, from the 18th century through 2005 when the book was published. It was fascinating to see how some of the tensions that exist within our current discussions of education have been around for decades, sometimes more than a century. I think this is probably too dense for anyone who's not a history buff or interested in education reform, but for those who are, this provides really valuable insights into this particular thread in American history.

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

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Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: American Street and Hidden Figures
Five years ago I was reading: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, The Hidden Brain, and Does Jesus Really Love Me?
Ten years ago I was reading: For Whom the Bell Tolls

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