Year 2, Book 29

29.Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses by Stacy Mitchell

The author discusses the effects chain stores and restaurants, particularly Wal-Mart are having on our communities from effects on the local economy to the effects on the environment. She also discusses measures that people have undertaken to keep chain stores out of their communities. I already knew a lot of the information, but it still made me want to only shop at locally run places. Too bad that’s pretty much impossible around Baltimore at least for the basics of living. At least I avoid chain restaurants for the most part. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 2, Book 28

28. Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never- Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems by David Rakoff

A non-fiction book that I don’t really know how to describe. The author tales little tales of things he’s done, some of which are a little out of the ordinary. He starts talking about becoming a U.s. citizen (he was born in Canada), but then quickly winds up talking about stuff that he obviously did just to have a story to write about like going to stand outside the Today Show window every day for a week or going on a two week fast. I didn’t really care for the book that much. I didn’t find the stories that interesting, and there didn’t some to be much cohesion to it at all. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 2, Book 27

27. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
The newest Newbury Award winning book. I was curious to read it for two reasons. First I enjoy reading the Newbury Award books. I like to see what has been picked out. Second this book caused a lot of controversy in the library world because on the first page of the book the little girl overhears a conversation in which a man talks about how his dog was bit on the scrotum. The use of the word scrotum in a book meant for 9-11 year olds of course caused a big to-do. I don’t believe in censorship, but I’m also glad I don’t have to be the teacher, librarian, parent who has to explain to their kid what a scrotum is.

All scrotum issues aside, I don’t really think this book was worthy of the Newbury Award. I’ve read a decent number of the award winners, and I really didn’t think this one lived up to many of the past winners. And plus, although this is often a criticism of many of the award winners, I really don’t think it is a story that kids are really going to care about. I didn’t find it that interesting, so I certainly can’t imagine a 10 year old being engaged by it.

Year 2, Book 26

26. My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Picoult
I decided to check this book out since Jenny mentioned how much she liked it. I also thought it was a good book. It chronicles the tale of a family who has a daughter diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia as a small child. The parents then decide to have another baby to become a donor for the girl. The story begins with the youngest daughter seeking medical emancipation from her parents at age 13 so that she no longer has to continue to be a donor for her sister. You then weave your way through the family’s past and present circumstances through the points of view of various family members and the lawyer who is representing the daughter. I didn’t care much for the side story of the lawyer and his ex-girlfriend and some discrepancies in what would actually happen in real life based on the lawyer’s medical history (which I won’t get into because you don’t find out about what is actually up with him until the end of the book). But for the most part a very good, kind of heartbreaking book examining some of the tough choices life can force us to make. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 2, Book 25

25. The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
This book chronicles the entangled lives of many, many people in New York City. Too many people in my opinion. It was hard to really identify with any of the characters because the narrative was constantly changing. I also didn’t care for the end.

The whole story is supposed to come together over the events of 9/11. I really hate stuff that relies on 9/11 for some kind of reaction. I find it a very cheap way to try to evoke emotion in a reader, and I think it was a very lazy way for the author to wrap up her tangled story. I thought the book was at least decent until the last few chapters when that happened, then it totally lost me. Thus I only give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 2, Book 24

24. Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI by Dana Kollmann
Written by a former member of Baltimore County’s Crime Unit, Dana Kollmann recounts some of the absurd things that she encountered during her years as a CSI, while trying to debunk the idea that life as a CSI is anyway glamorous as it is seen on television. A highly amusing book. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 2, Book 23

23. Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado
An excellent book using the story of David to discuss how we should rely on God to face the “giants” in our life. I’m totally going to suggest this book for the next study that my small group does. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 2, Book 22

22. Religious literacy : what every American needs to know, and doesn’t by Stephen Prothero
I saw this author on the Daily Show talking about this book and then I found it at the library so I figured I would check it out. It turned out to be entirely different than what I thought it was going to be, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Based on his Daily Show interview I thought it was going to be more a study of world religions hitting the important points that Americans should know about each one. He does have a little glossary type thing with some of this information at the back of the book, but it is not the main thrust of it. The book really discusses why knowing about religion is important to understanding history, literature, politics, life, etc.; why we have become religiously illiterate; and what we can do to change it. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 2, Book 21

21. About Alice by Calvin Trillin
An extremely short little book (I finished it over my lunch hour one day) written by Trillen about his wife Alice a few years after her death to provide what he thought was a better perspective of who she actually was as opposed to the “Alice” that appeared in his other books and New Yorker columns. I never read any of those things, but now I kind of want to. It probably would have made this book a bit more meaningful to me.
I give it a 7 out of 10.