This summer I've been chewing through books like an industrial paper shredder so I thought I'd share the reviews I've put up over at Goodreads.com in case anyone needs some suggestions.
Lawson mines her completely bizarre upbringing and resulting mental
health issues along with various life traumas for total comedic effect.
When I read Augusten Burroughs' memoirs I felt like some sort of sick
voyeur and failed to see his brand of humor. Jenny Lawson however, is
just plain funny. How funny? Funny enough that as I sat in a cancer
hospital awaiting an appointment to tell me how we'd be addressing my
own malignancy I sat in the waiting room laughing hard enough to convulse silently with tears
running down my cheeks at some of what this woman had written. If you
can make me laugh that hard when I am in that scary a context you
deserve five stars and more. Hats off to Jenny Lawson for not only
being funny but having a point in the end about accepting where you came
from so you can move forward and even return to find the value in the
This book was recommended by Logophile. If I needed very much to laugh before surgery this book helped me cry (in a healthy cathartic way) after surgery.
This should be required
reading for medical students. Doctors should pass this out free to
patients facing either chronic or life-threatening illness. Remen
shares stories of her own illness and stories of patients with whom
she has walked through peaks and valleys of their health battles.
There is a very personal touch here allowing her to reach her goal of
this being a story telling session at the kitchen table with a trusted
Remen shows respect for both patients and doctors as
vulnerable human beings because she has been on both sides, in fact
still was as of the writing of this book. There is hope that connection
and honesty about mutual vulnerability layered with dignity and respect
promotes healing in ways more than physical and that it is all tied
I read this one concurrently with the last book on the recommendation of a yoga teacher who has gone through serious illness.
I think it will take me a
while to process this and sift out my final opinion of it but there are
certainly a great many valuable concepts here for those facing either
chronic or life-threatening illness. I've read some criticisms saying
this book reduces illness to a blame the victim stance. Since Siegel is
exploring the mind-body connection and part of the process involves
patients processing why they "needed" a particular disease in order to
make the changes necessary to live more fully I can see why some folks
would respond to this book in that way. However, I do think it is
ultimately hopeful in that it empowers a person to see they are not
passive recipients of either disease or cure, that one can participate
in and influence one's own outcome.
By the time I finished the above books I was heading to the beach and needed something with a completely different tone. This mystery written by Coopernicus fit the bill quite nicely.
I'm not typically a reader
of mysteries but I quite enjoyed this one. Chynna Lennox does not quit and
I couldn't stop reading. Cooper creates a crew of realistically flawed
main characters and truly deviant villains. Even with the villains he
provides more than flat explanations for their deviance which allows the
reader to view the horror they perpetrate as not just gratuitous plot
twists but the consequences of being caught in a tragic downward spiral.
On the other hand, Lennox and her friends battle their demons and
though we know those demons will not back down any time soon the reader
knows, neither will this gritty protagonist
After a mystery I was ready to laugh again but have some food for thought as well. Lewis Black worked well.
While the title suggests
Black has little faith and though he lays out his gripes against various
organized religions he does reveal his own brand of faith, which merely
has little to do with dogma. I know plenty of very theologically
conservative people who would react as he describes a former classmate's
reaction (a letter seeking to lay out the evangelical Christian road to
heaven). I'd like instead to see them actually read this book and
consider some of what Black says because whether one agrees with his
conclusion or not it provokes thought and gives some good laughs in the
process. Though I do adhere to significantly more orthodox belief than Black does I
fully agree with him when he says we all need more thought and more
laughter in our lives. Furthermore, I contend that being angered or
threatened by mere differing viewpoints is indication that one actually
lacks faith in whatever point of views they are most rabidly
Since I feel the need to make some changes in my own life. I am a great fan of A.J.
Jacobs and his willingness to engage radically with the ideas he chooses
to explore. In this volume his quest is to become the healthiest man
alive. He experiments with various diets, exercise programs, and other
life-style modifications which remove toxins from his environment,
change the way he does his desk job, and gets him meditating. He offers
up the evidence provided for each change he makes, often tries out
conflicting philosophies, and tracks his own reactions and progress.
During the two year project he loses his 94 year old grandfather and an
aunt in her 60s (a woman extremely devoted to an organic lifestyle).
Jack LaLanne also dies in the process of Jacobs trying to schedule an
interview with him. These events provide further grist for the mill as he considers what it best.
What I appreciate most is that though
Jacobs gets extreme in his experimentation he ultimately seeks a middle
road, a sense of balance in life. This is also not a how-to book
written by some guru who lives up in the ether somewhere. Jacobs starts
out as a self-described semi-squishy guy simply looking to get healthier so he
can stick around longer for his family. In the end he has made
significant improvements to his health and found what works best for him
in terms of creating habits that keep him well but don't distance him
from those he loves. Along the way he shares his frustrations,
successes, and insights in an authentic way.
I know I am late to the party with this book but I finally got around to reading it after it languished in my "to read" pile for a long time.
This memoir is rich with
lessons borne from self-examination and a willingness to enter into the
world of another when Simon agrees to spend a year riding the city buses
with her sister Beth, who has mental retardation. By engaging in the
routines of her sister, Simon gains insight into not only her sister's
thinking but her own. The result is a discovery of an unexpected but
loving community as well as greater understanding of her sister.
Perhaps the greatest lesson for Simon and all of us is just being
willing to take a journey and be open to wherever it may lead, those we
encounter along the way, and what we can learn from our fellow
travelers. Beautifully told.
This was a good, fun, easy read while sitting on the beach.
gives a gently humorous reminiscence of his early years owning a very
rustic cabin in very rural Vermont. He shares how his attitude changed
from wanting to conquer his environment to wanting to learn from it and
peacefully co-exist. It's a brief but sweetly unpretentious modern-day
I really enjoyed the last run of books and I knew I'd eventually hit a clunker. For me, this was the book to end the run though someone else may enjoy it more.
Oppenheimer was a verbally
precocious child who had a a serious mean streak (in fact he went so far
as to cause a friend's father to be investigated by police after a
false accusation) and few friends as a result of that combo. In junior
high he found the debate club to be his saving grace in allowing an
outlet for his argumentative ways and an opportunity to make friends.
Through high school and college being on a debate team was a major part
of his life. Oppenheimer obviously has a great facility with words but
for a fellow so willing to let us know about his prowess as a debater he
never persuaded me to care very much about his story or demonstrate
that beyond the debating arena he ever learned to apply the lessons his
mentors sought to impart. He just comes across as a privileged brat who
can't get his head out of his own ass. A solid "Meh."
After that I needed to have my faith in humanity restored. Kate Braestrup did so wonderfully.
Braestrup was married to a
Maine police officer who planned to leave the force to become a
minister. Instead he was killed in a car accident and she went on to
become a chaplain to the Maine Game Warden Service. She explains why
the Game Wardens might need a chaplain (lots of dangerous or upsetting
search and rescue missions), how she arrived there, and what she does.
no time does she descend into maudlin sentimentality or an
overestimation of her significance but neither does she shy away from
sharing her own pain or that which she witnesses, nor does she
underestimate the power of simply listening to people. It seems she
strikes a beautiful balance both in life and in writing by just bearing
compassionate witness to the complexity of both tragedy and triumph
along with a dash of gently self-effacing humor.