Year 8, Book 1

1. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald

This book is a result of the research of psychologists Banaji and Greenwald using the Implicit Association Test (more information about the test and the actual tests are available on their website.) They examine hidden biases people may have regarding thing such as race, gender, and age as well as a number of other things. They look at what those hidden biases may mean in regards to our behavior and what if anything we can do to guard against them. It’s definitely an interesting though slightly disheartening read. It’s hard to think that either your discriminating against people or they are discriminating against you via such an ingrained subliminal bias that there is almost no way it can be changed. I read an e-version of this book as an advanced reader’s copy through NetGalley. If you plan to read it I would highly recommend reading the book in print rather than electronically. There were a lot of tests included in the book that were virtually impossible to do anything with in the format that I read it. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 7, Book 103

103. The Last Best Cure: My Quest to Awaken the Healing Parts of My Brain and Get Back My Body, My Joy, and My Life
Currently Reading by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from NetGalley. I was drawn to reading it because Nakazawa I too suffer from autoimmune disorders though not the same ones that she has. In this book she investigates and writes about mind-body strategies for healing. I admit I was skeptical going into this book because there are far too many hey look how I cured my illness by doing such and such and you can too. That turned out not to really be what this book was about though. Nakazawa is a science writer as a profession and went in to her investigation just as skeptical as I was about reading it. She was not just trying random self-cures. Instead, she met with actual researchers and doctors doing work in these areas. She did not quit any of her traditional medical therapies during the process, and she though medical tests did show marked improvement she never claimed to be cured. The practices she went through in this book allowed her to regain control over her body and her illness in order to lead a richer life not ruled by her diseases.

Much of the research presented in the book is predicated on the fact that research has found that traumatic experiences during childhood have a very strong correlation with autoimmune disorders in adulthood. That does not in any way apply to me. The book actually includes a questionnaire used in the research and I did not answer yes to any of the questions, so much of the stuff specifically relating back to childhood wouldn’t really be for me. However, I do think there could be some value in incorporating some of these other practices for mindfulness into my life. I suspect that would be useful for even people without autoimmune disorders.

The author happens to live in the Baltimore area as do I, so I have the added benefit of actually checking out some of the same people and practices that she did. I haven’t really tried anything specific out yet, but I have at least incorporated some of the stress relieving breathing exercises she mentions when I start to feel stress levels rising up. I may not wind up pursuing much of what she wrote about, but I’m glad I read the book and I would recommend it at least as food for thought for other people suffering for autoimmune disorders. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 7, Book 102

102. Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic’s Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth and Mini-Marshmallows by Zac Unger

I received this book as an advanced reader’s copy from Netgalley. In Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye, Zac Unger begins by wanting to embed himself for a few weeks with researchers studying polar bears. He is unable to secure a position with the scientists who are considered the elite researchers in the field, but winds up spending a couple of weeks outside Churchill, Manitoba with a scientist who begins to make him question whether what the news and the elite scientists are telling us about the inevitable demise of polar bears due to global warming is in fact accurate. The book then takes a shift when Unger decides to move to Churchill for three months with his wife and their three young children. The story then becomes not only about the polar bears, but about the town of Churchill and its existence as a tourist destination for viewing polar bears in their native habitat.

I really enjoyed the book, and appreciate the insight it gave me into the actual experience of being in Churchill and going on one of the polar bear excursions. My husband is probably wishing I had never read the book because it refueled my own desire to go on one of these trips. I first heard about them years ago during the Vancouver Olympics. Despite the fact that Churchill isn’t anywhere near Manitoba there was a story about these excursions during the Olympic coverage. I love polar bears and always tell my husband I want one as a pet. He just informs me that it would eat me. There are only a few short weeks when these vacations happen and they happen to fall around the time of my anniversary, so I like to ask my husband which anniversary is the polar bear anniversary. Should I ever get to go on one of these trips I am glad that I read this book ahead of time because it really gave a lot of good information about how austere Churchill is. There would be no glamor in going to Churchill itself. It will be cold and ugly, but despite all that I finish this book assured that viewing polar bears in the wild is a majestic and awe inspiring experience that would make the discomfort of the rest of the trip worth it. I give it 8 out of 10.

Year 7, Book 101

101. An Idiot Girl’s Christmas: True Tales from the Top of the Naughty List by Laurie Notaro

My book club likes to read Christmas themed books for our December meeting. It’s often hard to find Christmas themed books that aren’t romances. I came up with this book of humorous Christmas essays. It’s a short quick read that I found amusing. I can see some of the other members of my book club not liking it that much, but I enjoyed it well enough. I’ll be interested to see what other people thought during our meeting next week. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 7, Book 100

100. If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
*Trumpet sounds* Upon finishing this book I reached my goal of reading 100 books this year, and with almost a month to spare. I actually can't review this book here as I received an advanced reader's copy through Netgalley and the publisher requested it not be reviewed on blogs until April. However, they did say it could be reviewed on Goodreads prior to that for some reason, so I guess go find my review there.

Year 7, Book 99

99. Also Known As by Robin Benway
I received a copy of this young adult novel as an advanced reader’s copy through NetGalley. The publisher asked that reviews for the book not be released until a month prior to publishing, which wouldn’t be until the end of January. Thus I can’t write an actual review of the book now. Sadly I’m unlikely to remember to come back and do it at that point either, but I did like it.

Year 7, Book 98

98. Winter’s Tales by Karen Blixen (also known as Isak Dinesen)

I read this book of short stories for one of my book clubs. I generally am not a fan of short stories, and this collection was no exception. I find that just as I am starting to get into a story it is over, and when I set the book down I don’t have anything compelling me to pick it back up again. The consensus at book club was that there were some interesting stories, but they were difficult to get into. The book did lead to a good discussion though. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 7, Book 97

97. Hysteria by Megan Miranda

I adored Miranda’s first novel, Fracture, so I was very excited to read Hysteria. Though the book started off with an interesting premise Miranda was not able to follow through on it. The book begins really well. Mallory is a teenage girl who just stabbed her boyfriend to death. She can’t remember what happened, but all evidence points to it being self-defense. In order to give her a new start Mallory’s parents decide to send her off to a boarding school away from where everything happened. Despite being hours away Mallory is still haunted both mentally and seemingly physically by what happened that night, which the book slowly reveals. That part of the book is great, though there some questions that I felt never got explained or if they were I missed it, in particular how what was happening to her physically actually happened. Additionally, there is also some mystery surrounding some people at Mallory’s new boarding school, which is not nearly as compelling as the aforementioned story and just doesn’t quite hold together. This book started out great, but I have to say I was disappointed in it by the end. It’s definitely not worth completely writing off, but be aware that you may find the ending less than satisfactory. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 7, Book 96

96. The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever
by Alan Sepinwall

I have long been a fan of Alan Sepinwall’s television reviews, so I was very excited when he announced he was self-publishing a book on the revolution in television drama that has occurred over the last decade or so. People tend to look a little askance at self-published books, but I think the tide is turning a little and there are some really excellent self-published books out there this one included. Despite it’s self-published status this book has been getting rave reviews from a variety of outlets including no less than the New York Times.

Having downloaded and read the book as soon as it was available I can see why. For anyone who likes television this book is a must read. It’s definitely full of spoilers though, so if you plan to watch in the future any of the shows Sepinwall writes about you should probably skip those chapters. Once you get past the introductory chapters, each chapter is dedicated to a specific show so you can easily skip chapters on shows that you plan to watch in the future.

The book covers the following shows at length though makes reference to many more: The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. Sepinwall examines how each show contributed to the current state of high-quality television dramas. The analysis includes not only his own commentary, but information from many of the shows creators from either interviews done specifically for this book or from previously conducted interviews when he was unable to conduct new interviews.

It’s an excellent book for anyone who loves any of these shows. I would highly recommend reading it if you’re a television drama lover like I am. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 7, Book 95

95. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee

Full disclosure, I sort of know the author of this book in that we went to the same college and were part of the same campus organization our senior year, though neither of the ones he talks about at length in the book. However, we were merely acquaintances and I have no idea if he remembers me at all.

Our brief acquaintance does not in any way affect my opinion that Torn is a fantastic book. Justin uses his own personal experiences realizing that he is gay despite his Christian faith to address the current debate between gays and Christians. He examines what he believes are the fallacies behind what many Christians teach about homosexuality in particular ex-gay ministries. However, he presents his arguments in a way that encourages open debate and dialogue. He realizes that not everyone holds the same Biblical views oh homosexuality and tries to respect those views while encouraging a change in the way gays are too often treated by Christians.

I found it to be an extremely well-written and engaging book. As someone who whole-heartedly shares Justin’s beliefs, but struggles to talk with my Christian friends who don’t share these same beliefs I hope that I can use this book as a springboard for the conversations I know I should be having but am not. I give it a 9 out of 10.