13. Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis
I love it when I go through a spate of good books. This book was the most recent of several books in a row that I have really enjoyed. Too often I’m on the other end where I’m reading a bunch of not-so-good books in a row. The book is of stories Lewis wrote about his 3 children when they were small. Many of them were previously published in Slate magazine. Although he fleshes out the book with some previously unpublished tales. The book is broken up into three sections each encompassing stories from when each of his three children was born and their first couple years of life. They were mostly funny, sweet, heartfelt but not schmaltzy stories. A quick, easy read that is like a nice warm hug on a cold winter’s day. I give it an 8 out of 10.
12. Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gillies
I really enjoyed this book, but can’t really say why. It’s nothing special. In fact the title pretty much says it all. It’s about something that happens every day. I do really like where she came up with the title of the book though. It’s totally not what I expected, but you’ll have to read it to find out. The story is about how Gillies quits her job as an actress in New York to move to Oberlin, Ohio with her poetry professor husband and their 2 small sons only to have him leave her for another woman shortly thereafter. Her experiences leading up to and immediately following that moment are what the book is about. Nothing more. Yet somehow it really engaged me. It was a quick read that I really liked. I give it 8 out of 10.
11. My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
Another book I pulled from my bookshelves while riding out our snowpocalypse. I picked up this advanced reader’s copy back when I was working at Barnes and Noble. The book was hugely popular when it was released, but I never got around to reading it until now. In the book Pat Conroy explores his life through his love of basketball, particularly through his senior year season on the Citadel basketball team. Although it is a lot about basketball and the games that team played, it also explores his whole life, particularly his relationship with his mentally and physically abusive father. The book is probably more interesting to someone who like college basketball, which I do, but it has enough other stuff in it to keep the attention of people who aren’t so interested in basketball. The book talks a lot about the coach of Citadel’s team during Pat Conroy’s tenure. My one complaint with the book is that through the entire book he seemed to be painted as this villain who ruined his team and many of his players through meanness and spite, but yet at the end Conroy reveals how much respect he has for the coach and how all but 3 of the guys on the team really loved him. It didn’t really compute for me. I’ve definitely had experiences with teachers who I hated when I was in their class, but afterwards respected them for how well they prepared me for my future, so I guess Pat Conroy must have experienced something similar. I still don’t really understand though. I give this book an 8 out of 10.
10. Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole by Jerri Nielsen
I wasn’t expecting to be stuck at home for a week due to 2 freak back-to-back snowstorms in Baltimore, so I wasn’t prepared with something to read after I finished Age of Wonder. Thankfully bookshelf is stocked with plenty of free books I picked up working at Barnes and Noble many years ago or books cheaply bought at rummage sales that I’ve never read. This one actually appears to be a library withdrawal. After perusing my shelves for something to read I decided that Ice Bound would be an appropriate book to embark while snowed in and that it would probably make me feel less bad about the frozen tundra outside my own front door.
The book is about Dr. Jerri Nielson, who after a difficult divorce that left her estranged from her 3 children, decided to take a job as the doctor at the South Pole. Apparently the South Pole is staffed by one doctor, who is hired on an annual basis. She describes her experiences living and working as a doctor in Antarctica as well as the other people living and working there. Unfortunately during her stay she winds up self-diagnosing with breast cancer. Thus the end of the book is her tale of trying to keep herself alive with limited resources until winter is over and a plane can safely land to rescue her. It was a really good read. I give it 8 out of 10.
9. The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
I saw this book listed on a ton of best of booklists for 2009, so I decided I should read it. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting based on the title. I never really got the whole terror part, which made me think it was going to be a whole lot of stuff about people having a backlash about scientific advances that they didn’t understand. In fact, that wasn’t the case at all. Perhaps I would have been more prepared if I remembered anything from my high school or college English classes. Whereas today science and literature seem to be wholly disparate subjects in which the same people are rarely if ever involved, in the Romantic Era the scientists and the literary minded were the same people. They would write poetry about scientific discoveries and literature based on science. The book basically followed a handful of people who were big names in science during the Romantic Era discussing their lives and their discoveries. Most if not all of those people wrote poetry and some prose about their scientific work in addition to other now well known figures such as Shelley and Coleridge writing about them as well. The book was very dense and took awhile to read as such, but it definitely informed me of a lot of things I didn’t know. I’ll give it a 6 out of 10 because although interesting it is a long, tough read that you have to want to get through in order to finish. At least in my opinion.
8. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
I read this book for one of my book clubs. It was a really quick read. I had it finished in about an hour and half. It is almost a collection of short stories tied together by the fact that character in each story is a member of the same cooking class. Each chapter is written about a different character in the class relating their “story” while also advancing in time what is happening at the class each month. I had mixed feelings about the book. It is beautifully written and very descriptive. The failings I found in the book are mostly due to my own personal tastes. I’m not a big fan of short stories, so the fact that this novel was essentially a series of short stories tied together didn’t do a whole lot for me. Although I’m sure many people would like the characters that were presented, I didn’t care much for the idea of them. It’s not that I hated any of the characters personally, just as a whole they all seemed a bit much. It seemed like the author was going through a list of cliches when writing them. Older couple struggling to rebuild their marriage…check, grieving young widower…check, young girl trying to define who she is…check, young harried mother…check, beautiful exotic foreign woman…check, shy guy who falls in love with beautiful exotic foreign woman…check, and down to earth, motherly chef who will guide all the little ducklings in her cooking class to make the most of their lives…check. I don’t know how to describe my other issue with the characters other than to say that they were all too “something”. Although I can’t think of the best way to describe what that something except to say these were the kinds of characters I was dreaming up back when I was in my early teens and I would think of stories that I never actually wrote to send in to magazines like Seventeen and Sassy if that helps anyone understand what I’m talking about. I don’t mean to make the book sound horrible because there is certainly an audience that would love this book, I just wasn’t it. I give it a 5 out of 10.
7. What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
This book is just a publication of essays written by Gladwell for The New Yorker. The book is broken down into three sections, which Gladwell in his introduction to the book tries to explain saying that the essays in each section are drawn together by similar themes. I think he was stretching on that point, but no matter. I enjoyed the essays, and the book reminded me why I have enjoyed Gladwell’s work in the past since I was less than pleased with his most recent real book. I give it 7 out of 10.