Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

"Ultimately we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria, if you let it." --J.K. Rowling

The above is from J.K. Rowling's commencement address to the Harvard graduating class of 2008. She goes on to say, "So given a Time-Turner, I would tell my twenty-one-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who comfuse the two."

A short, sweet, and powerful speech. You can read it in minutes, but think about it for a bit after. I think my life would improve if I listened to a commencement speech every Monday.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Essentialism is about deciding what's really important in your life and trimming away everything else that isn't so that you can focus on what is. There are four parts to this book. Part I is about the "Essence" of an Essentialist. Part II is titled "Explore" and focuses on how to figure out what really is important. Part III is called "Eliminate" and includes a great, practical section on how to say No. The last part is called "Execute" about making the things we do even easier.

This is a brilliant book. It goes against our culture of busyness and trying to fit everything in. This is also a very practical and accessible book as well. I am thinking that it could apply pretty much to anyone in any kind of work at any stage of life. I'm planning on reading this book again in a little while.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Lars Thorvald is a chef who loves his wife and his newborn baby, Eva. Soon after Eva's birth, his wife decides that she was not meant to be a mother and she leaves for California.

What a sweet, sweet summer read. It actually reads more like a series of short stories each told from a different character's point of view, but the story is cohesive. A bittersweet but delightful book makes for an easy and just-thoughtful-enough end of summer reading choice.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Finally! Sarah Dessen has a new book out, and she breaks out of the formulaic storyline that was in her previous books.

Sydney is 16 years old, and her brother, Peyton, is serving time for driving drunk and paralyzing a boy in a car accident. She moves to a new school in order to break free from all of the baggage that comes with being Peyton's sister. She meets some new friends, and a new family that embraces her and gives her the gentle and compassionate care that she needs to find her way again. Plus, there is a pizza! (The family owns a pizza restaurant.)

If you haven't given Young Adult books a chance, I encourage you to read something by Sarah Dessen. Her characters have depth and I love the creative details she includes.

PS: This falls under "a book by a favorite author" for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

During Georgia Ford's final wedding dress fitting, she spots her fiance outside with another woman. In a panic, Georgia drives home, wedding dress and all, to Sonoma County so that she can sort things out. But back at home on her family's ten-acre vineyard, Georgia finds that there are other family secrets going on that she has to sort through as well.

This is one book that I can imagine it being better as a movie than as a book. As a book, it fell pretty flat and never really came to life for me. However, with the lush Sonoma County vineyards as a backdrop and all of the family drama, this could be one beautiful movie.

Monday, August 17, 2015

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

After I read this book, I am so scared to try to be funny online and I will be careful about what I write. Even about this book.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

As a kid, I was fascinated with the sinking of the Titanic and the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. These were the topics of many of my book reports. I wasn't the only kid who chose the same topics for book reports each year. Boomer's two topics were J.F.K. and the battle of Midway. What were your topics??

Dead Wake chronicles the sinking of the Lusitania, a British ocean liner that was sunk by a German torpedo. I was amazed at how, even after the sinking of the Titanic, emergency procedures were not properly in place. For example, passengers were not instructed on how to use their life jackets (which led to the demise of many) and passengers were not assigned a lifeboat at the beginning of the journey.

This book consumed my July 4th weekend. On Saturday night, I stayed up late reading about the actual sinking and then did not sleep very well. The ship sank in a mere 18 minutes after being hit by the torpedo. 18 minutes! All night, my mind was processing this fact. Hence, I did not sleep well at all.

Dead Wake is non-fiction, but it reads like fiction. Highly recommended, especially if you're not that familiar with the Lusitania and the role it played in the United States entering World War I.