92. Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of my Family’s Schizophrenia by Patrick Tracey
The book started out interesting with the author detailing the history of schizophrenia in his family. Then it got much less interesting after he begins detailing a trip to Ireland where his ancestors came from. He talks about the history of Ireland and the prevalence of mental illness during a certain period of time. He visits places his family is from looking for unknown extremely extended family members who may be able to shed some light on the prevalence of schizophrenia in his family. I give it a 5 out of 10.
91. I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass
The story of two sisters spanning 25 years from 1980 to 2005. The beginning chapters are split up into sections where each sister tells part of her story. The later chapters switch back and forth between which sister is narrating the chapter with each chapter advancing often years in time. I couldn’t get into this book. The characters just seemed like caricatures. There didn’t seem to be much depth to them, and I really don’t think the status of their relationship was conveyed as well as it was supposed to be. From what I could tell the basis of the story was really how the relationship between the two sisters evolved over time, but I never really got a good feel for what their relationship was supposed to be at any given time. I give it a 4 out of 10.
90. Traveling Light: On the Road with America’s Poor by Kath Weston
A twist on the books about living in poverty in America. The author spends several years riding around the country on Greyhound. She intertwines stories about her travels and the people she meets on the bus with commentary about the state of the poor in America. Most of the information about America’s poor was not new to me, but the stories about her experiences on Greyhound were interesting. I give it a 6 out of 10.
89. Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
An absurdist kind of novel. The main characters are a royal family from some unnamed country who were deposed from their thrones and are now living in Seattle. The “princess” falls in love with an outlaw wanted for bombing various things. It was kind of weird and not really my taste. There were enough things that amused me that I didn’t hate it though. I give it a 5 out of 10.
88. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief takes place in a small town in Germany during WWII. The “book thief” is a little girl named Liesel who learns to read and subsequently love books, which she steals on occasion. More than that though the story is really about her life and the people in it during a horrible time in Germany. The story brings a slightly different perspective than you usually see in holocaust stories because it is not really a holocaust survivor story in my opinion, although the family does wind up hiding a Jewish man in their basement for awhile. I think it is more about how people learn to go on and live their lives even when bad things are happening around them. Technically the book is a young adult book, so it read kind of fast. But really had I not known it was intended for a YA audience I wouldn’t have guessed. The narrative style is different than you normally see and there are lots of asides inserted into the writing. The whole story is narrated by someone, which I won’t reveal here because you don’t find out who it is until halfway through the book. There were a few chapters where the narrator inserted more of his own story, which I found a bit ridiculous and felt like it took away a little bit from the main story. But for the most part I really liked this book. I give it 8 out of 10.
87. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
Vowell’s examination of the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the Puritans who came over from England 20 years after the arrival of the Mayflower. I liked the first half of the book much better than the second. If you’ve ever read any of Sarah Vowell’s other works you know that she has a wry sense of humor that she usually inserts throughout her writings, so that even when she is talking about history she makes it really interesting and fun. She also tends to talk about what the history means to her or inserts some story about her life relating to the history into the narrative. She rarely does this in The Wordy Shipmates and even less so in the second half of the book than in the first I found. There is very little talk of her own life in the book at all, which is unusual compared to her past works. That didn’t bother me so much in the beginning as her wry asides seemed very much present. However, in the second half of the book she gets bogged down in fighting between John Winthrop and Roger Williams and then in the Pequot Wars. She rarely inserts any of herself in the book at this point and it gets kind of tedious to read, especially if you don’t care to read about war. Unfortunately a disappointing work from an author I usually enjoy so much. I give it a 5 out of 10.
86. The Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War by Asne Seierstad
Norwegian reporter Asne Seierstad describes her experience reporting the wars in Chechnya over a period of 10 years. She describes the war to some extent, her experiences covering it, as well as recounts stories of people who experience living through it. It’s a heartbreaking story of war. I also learned a lot about the Chechen/Russian war. I vaguely remember it happening, but I didn’t really know that much about it. I also didn’t know much about Chechnya. I had no idea that it was mostly a Muslim country until I read this book. It’s definitely not an easy read, but well worth it if you want to get a better appreciation for what these people lived through during the war and continue to live through even though the war is officially over. I give it 7 out of 10.
85. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
In Outliers, Gladwell posits that in addition to talent there are other things that affect success particularly environmental influences such as the time of year you are born, the time period you are born in, the amount of practice you are able to put in, culture, and parenting. He provides examples from Candadian hockey stars, to the Beatles, to Bill Gates, and the crash rate of Korean Airlines. I found the book interesting and his arguments do sound as if they could be true. However, Gladwell breaks one giant statistical rule throughout the entire book, which is that “Correlation does not equal causation.” So it’s not to say that everything he says is true, but really it may or may not be. It was a quick, interesting read but the book only gets a 6 out of 10 for bad statistical practice.
84. Night of the Gun: A Reporting Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life–His Own by David Carr
Written by New York Times reporter David Carr, this book is written based on memories, interviews, and documentation about Carr’s earlier life as a cocaine addict. After discussing the titled night of the gun with a friend and reading his twin daughters college admission essays, Carr realizes that perhaps the memories he has of his life as a drug addict and his experiences overcoming the addiction may not be what actually happened. He conducts interviews with people involved in his life during the time including friends, family, co-workers, lawyers, etc. He also uses court documents, letters, and other documentation to piece together what happened. Many of the things he discovers indicate that his memories are not right, and that he didn’t easily pull himself out of addiction and become a model father after the birth of his twins. It was an interesting twist on the usual drug memoir and makes you wonder how accurate those stories are even when they aren’t completely made up like A Million Little Pieces. I give it a 7 out of 10.
83. A Mercy by Toni Morrison
The story focuses on four women during 1600’s in the United States: Sorrow and Florens, who are African-American slaves; Lina, who is a Native American taken into captivity; and Rebekka, who is the wife of the owner who owns them all. The story is told from various perspectives and covers how the lives of these women came to be intertwined. It’s very short, and I never felt like I got a real feel for the characters. Not one of Morrison’s best works by far. I give it a 5 out of 10.