Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Best of the Bunch: October 2019

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

Of the 6 books I read this month, I had one 5-star read. That's my Best of the Bunch for this month!

The Magician's Nephew is my favorite of the Narnia books that I've read so far. (I've got one left.) There were many parts I enjoyed that were funny or sweet or just satisfying. And as always, Lewis shows that he is an excellent study of human nature. This book, to me, was the best plotted and least problematic of the series. It also apparently took Lewis the longest to write, which is not surprising. If I were making a recommendation for reading this series, I think I'd recommend reading just this and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

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

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: March: Book Three and Unsheltered
Five years ago I was reading: Breath, Eyes, Memory, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and Cordelia's Honor
Ten years ago I was reading: The Pigman

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Top Ten Books I'd Retitle

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is books that we would give different titles to. I did a search through my Goodreads reviews and found ten books for which I'd mentioned wanting to change the title or subtitle. Here they are!

1. Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein
Why change it? The majority of this book is about probability and forecasting, which are not actually the same thing as risk management, as becomes quite clear from reading the book itself.

2. America's Public Schools: From the Common School to "No Child Left Behind" by William J. Reese
Why change it? The book was published in 2005, and if the author had waited just five more years then this history of public schools spanning four centuries could have been subtitled "From the Common School to the Common Core"! So much more satisfying.

3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Why change it? It's a spoiler. The book opens with a section labeled "Verity" and if it weren't for the title of the book, I would not have guessed that that might refer to the person narrating that section, which is an important plot point.

4. How She Does It: An Everywoman's Guide to Breaking Old Rules, Getting Creative, and Making Time for Work in Your Actual, Everyday Life by Anne Bogel
Why change it? The subtitle is disingenuous. The book is not actually for "every woman." It's written for women in male/female marriages who have or plan to have children and want to do at least some work for pay. It's fine to write for a limited audience if you don't pretend that it's applicable to everyone.

5. Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff
Why change it? Many of the things Goff "does" are not so much evidence of his love as evidence of his lawyerly wealth, like flying his kids to 30 different countries on a moment's notice, and he seems oblivious to how much of what he "gets away with" is evidence of his privilege, not just a cute metaphor for being a Jesus freak. The book would be more honestly subtitled A Story of Wealth and White Male Privilege.

6. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Why change it? This isn't really about love so much as it is about a guy who can't get over being rejected and continues to pursue the woman he wants for the next 50 years (while also sleeping with literally hundreds of other women). A more accurate title would be Sex and Obsession in the Time of Cholera.

7. An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography by Paul Rusesabagina
Why change it? This book is not just a memoir but also an important overview of the Rwandan genocide, and the title doesn't capture the gravity of the story within. You have to read far enough down on the cover to see that it's the book that the movie Hotel Rwanda was based on.

8. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
Why change it? The subtitle makes it seems as if politics and religion are given equal treatment within this book. While Haidt is able, over time, to see the perspectives of both liberals and conservatives, he does not seem equally able to see the perspectives of the religious and non-religious, but instead sees religion only as a potentially beneficial delusion. He cannot seem to conceive of a person who is politically liberal and also religious.

9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Why change it? Between the title and the cover design I had the impression that this was a whimsical read in the vein of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, but instead it turned out to be a heavy read about a sad, lonely man taking a painful cross-country walk while thinking about all of his regrets in life. I would have appreciated a title that more accurately captured the mood of the book — you know, something like The Long, Difficult, Depressing, Painful Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

10. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Why change it? I really disliked the plot twist in this book, and people's reactions to that seem to be, "You shouldn't be surprised; the title is We Were Liars!" OK, but it wasn't the protagonist lying to us — she has amnesia, but she's honestly reporting what she's experiencing and what she remembers as she remembers it. It has nothing to do with why the friend group called themselves Liars.

Which book titles would you change?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: It's OK Not to Share and Unsheltered
Five years ago I was reading: Bad Feminist, High Fidelity, and Frankenstein
Ten years ago I was reading: A Day No Pigs Would Die

Monday, October 14, 2019

Ten Extraordinary Book Titles

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

There was similar topic two years ago, "Unique Book Titles," and so I've limited the books here to those I've read in the past two years. This are titles that are particularly clever, thought-provoking, or conversational.

1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

2. How to Be a Perfect Stranger ed. by Stuart M. Matlins and Arthur J. Magida

3. It's OK Not to Share by Heather Shumaker

4. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

5. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

6. Reading People by Anne Bogel

7. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

8. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild

9. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch

10. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

What other extraordinary book titles have you found?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Special Topics in Calamity Physics and The Bluest Eye
Five years ago I was reading: Sister Outsider and Walk Two Moons
Ten years ago I was reading: The God of Small Things

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.

Another light reading month for me as I slowly work through Possession on audio and otherwise just try to find time to read print. I'm still six books ahead on my Goodreads challenge, though, so I'm doing OK! Here's what I've been reading.

Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives by Howard J. Ross: This was a pretty basic overview to the idea of biases. It definitely isn't the best book I've read on bias, but if for some reason you feel safer learning about these topics from a white dude, then this one isn't bad.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson: I'm not sure what I can say about this book that hasn't already been said, except that I had to stop listening to it while walking across campus because I couldn't stop laughing hysterically and was afraid I was going to pee my pants.

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien: This wasn't earth-shaking, and it won't be for everyone, but I did find it generally interesting and think it could be a valuable starting point for a lot of American Christians who haven't given much thought to the limits of their own perspective.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart: It was a lot of fun to be reunited with the characters from the original trilogy, now a bit older and trying to decide their next steps. I wouldn't say it's exactly a continuation of the original trilogy because the tone is slightly different, but it is a nice send-off into adulthood for these beloved characters.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis: This was my favorite of the Narnia books so far! To me it was the best plotted and least problematic of the series. I'm glad I kept going with them.

God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America by Lyz Lenz: I wanted this book to be good, and it had a lot of good content, but the way it was stitched together was kind of a mess, repetitive, and poorly edited.

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Special Topics in Calamity Physics and The Bluest Eye
Five years ago I was reading: Sister Outsider and Walk Two Moons
Ten years ago I was reading: The God of Small Things

Monday, October 7, 2019

Ten Character Traits I Like

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic took some pondering. What traits do I particularly like in my fictional characters? Here are ten I came up with; I'm probably missing some.

1. Analytical
I love a good detective story, or any other character who puts together the pieces of a mystery through clever deductions.

2. Caring
When our hero/ine inevitably gets knocked over the head, this is whose house they wake up in, bundled up in bed and being fed soup. Or it's the character who acts as a surrogate parent and provides unconditional love to another person for the first time.

3. Exuberant
This character is just thrilled to be alive and sees every day as an adventure. Their energy is infectious and may even drag the protagonist out of a slump.

4. Funny
This person is the comic relief of the story, who will reliably drop witty one-liners that have you laughing out loud.

5. Incorrigible
As mentioned in my post on my favorite tropes, this is the person who's on the side of the good guys but won't ever break all their bad habits.

6. Orderly
As someone who enjoys having a routine and sticking with what's tried and true, I like seeing a character who takes pleasure in always have the right tool at hand or who's already taken care of something before they're even asked.

7. Pessimistic
When done well, a pessimistic character can add comic relief in a way different from the class clown. This is a character like Eeyore or Puddleglum, who somehow manages to see the gloomiest side of even the best situation and, in doing so, draws attention to how silly our everyday anxieties are most of the time.

8. Resilience
Some of my favorite books are about characters who've gone through challenging circumstances and now are slowly learning to heal and trust again.

9. Unflappable
This character's only slightly irritated that she had to beat up the sixteen bad guys following her because it's made her late for dinner.

10. Wisdom
This character isn't always around to save the day, but they pop up at crucial moments to teach our protagonist the lessons they need to face the next challenge on their own.

What are your favorite character traits?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Special Topics in Calamity Physics and The Amber Spyglass
Five years ago I was reading: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Gang Leader for a Day, and Sing You Home
Ten years ago I was reading: Johnny Tremain