Friday, August 14, 2009

Booklog: August 2009

I'm reading Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman. It was one of the books we discussed reading later this year or early next for my bookclub, but we thought someone should read it first just to make sure it was worthwhile. Ayelet has a website, and she has the coolest thing on it - a list of all the books she's read in the past few months with brief comments. Her booklog goes back to 2001, and I thought it would be a nice record for me and maybe provide some suggestions for other people. I know that I am always looking for new books to read.

Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus with Alan Jolis
Yunus is a genius. So much of what he said about poverty and solutions for poverty were proven in other books I read over the Summer. Some parts of this book were too in depth and others parts didn't quite go deep enough.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Greg Mortenson is a great guy, but the book is just okay. I think a different journalist, or a writer like John McPhee, would have written a book with fewer weak areas.

Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout
Strout can really tell a story and her language pulls you in and keep you turning the page, even when you don't care very much for the characters. This is probably the weakest of her three published books.

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme
The best book I read all Summer, no all year, no in all the past few years. The voice is so perfectly Julia and her story is fascinating.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Why did it take me so long to read Gladwell? He blew my mind, and I'm totally rethinking school for my children. His other two books are at the top of my must read list.

Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl
Another hilarious and engrossing book by Reichl. It's more of a novella, and took me only two evenings to finish. I'm glad I learned more about her mother, who is also in her first two memoirs (maybe the third as well?). I'm eagerly awaiting Reichl's fifth book.

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh
In Freakonomics, the chapter on Venkatesh, "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?", is one of the best. I enjoyed GLFAG, and he disproves a lot of stereotypes people have about living in the projects. A lot of what Venkatesh says, is the basis for the success Muhammad Yunus's Grameen Bank.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Ariely loves to come up with questions about the world find out the answers, like "Will it hurt less to pull a bandage off slowly or quickly?" (ans: quickly) or "Are people more likely to steal unattended food or cash in a communal refrigerator?" (ans: food). A lot of what you think should be true is not, and Ariely keeps you wanting to know more and more about his studies.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
Strout's first book. I love her writing and I enjoyed getting to know the characters of Amy and Isabelle. Just when I thought the book would remain in a scary and creepy place, Strout takes it in a different direction.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Sad and scary, especially if you know of anyone with early onset Alzheimer's. More of a beach read than good literature, but Genova does know how to keep you turning the pages.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
There are some wonderful short stories in here, and some not quite as good ones. The not quite as good ones seem to be all the early ones, from the publication info on the copyright page. I loved the different ways she used the character of Olive Kitteridge to link all the stories together and Strout is a marvelous writer.

The Kid by Dan Savage
If I ever adopt, I'm doing an open adoption.

Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch
The inside world of Per Se is fascinating. I'd love to eat here or at The French Laundry someday.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and the next 5 in the series by Alexander McCall Smith
The first book is the best, but the others are good car books and it doesn't matter if my 4 year old is paying attention or not. In fact, he loves it when a snake is mentioned or someone gets into a car accident.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison
I wish Morrison had made this book longer. I didn't want the story and beautiful writing to end as quickly as it did.

The Commitment by Dan Savage
Dan Savage is so funny. I annoyed my husband so much while reading this book. The story of the Dan, Terry and D.J. family holds up to the writing.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Liked it, but I didn't end up on the Toole train. By the end, I was just ready for the whole thing to be over and for the characters to go away. Far away. Toole was a genius with the dialogue.