Book Reviews – August 2017

By | August 7, 2017

It’s book review time! I recommend the last two, but not the first two. Huh, I only read four books this month and two were in the span of two days. That’s not very impressive. What did I do with the rest of my time?

The Portable Veblen, A Novel by Elizabeth McKenzie 

Quirky girl who talks to squirrels and translates Norwegian. She falls in love with a handsome doctor on the cusp of making it with the medical device he invented. It’s a study of people and relationships. We learn about girl’s narcissistic and hypochondriac mother, her absent father, her pushover of a step-father. We also learn about boy’s brother with disabilities, his parents who smoke a lot of pot and throw wild hippy parties and a couple of his ex-girlfriends.

I found it kind of meh. A bit tedious.

Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors by Jeanne E. Arnold and Anthony P. Graesch

Pictures and inventory of people’s houses. We, as a society, have so much stuff. More stuff than any society in history. We have a lot of rooms and space in our houses that we don’t use at all. It’s become so normal, but it’s shocking and disgusting when you think about it. At least when I think about it, I’m shocked and disgusted.

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Biographical graphic novel about the life of an Iranian woman. She was a child during the revolution. Iran used to be less doggedly religious, but experienced a cultural revolution. Horrifying and fascinating. They close the universities for a bit, mandate that all the women wear headscarves. We see, bit by bit, freedom eroding. The government jails and eventually kills journalists and activists. Iraq attacks and war ensues. At 14, the author’s parents send her to Austria. She has a hard life there too, living on the street for a bit and feeling like nobody cares about her. She returns to Iran a few years later after the war is over, but still struggles. Her friends see her as a European outsider. Eventually, she marries and quickly divorces. In the end, she decides to move to France.

I finished this book in one day. It was like a band-aid — you just have to rip it off. You can’t read it in chunks because of the utter dismay you feel while reading it. Societies fall and change all the time. Nothing is certain and a lot of life is simply beyond your control. Revolutions occur. Scary! I love that this was a graphic novel and I highly recommend it.

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: The Journey of Doaa Al Zamel: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Melissa Fleming

This is another book you have to read in one sitting because it’s just so horrifying and raw. I highly recommend it, but I must warn you that it will dangle on your despair for days after.

The Arab Spring started just a few years ago. Do you remember reading about that? First came Tunisia, which can boast some relative progress now with democratic elections and successful transitions of power. Then it was Egypt’s turn and the ousting of Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood won the presidency there initially. Then came strife in Libya, then Yemen, then Syria.

Syria. This book tells the story of a woman, Doaa, born and raised in Syria. She’s a child when the unrest starts and she’s eager to join the protests. Bit by bit and surprisingly quickly, the government brutally quells demonstrations through torture, frequent raids and constant violence. There’s not enough food and so much death. Horrifying. Her family flees to Egypt, where at first people welcome and help them. Doaa meets and falls in love with another Syrian refugee and they get engaged. But when the Muslim Brotherhood president is ousted, the tide turns against the refugees. They are harassed and threatened.

Doaa and her fiance decide to flee to Europe and pay smugglers $2,500 to take them across the water. Twice they attempt to go, but the Egyptian government catches and arrests them. The third time, finally, they make it onto the water.

There are evil people in the world. Most people are mostly good, but evil people exist without a doubt. I hate when I am confronted with that reality.

A group of pirates sinks the ship of refugees, yelling that they are dogs and should have died in their own country. Doaa, her fiancé and 500 others find themselves in the water. Most people drown or are cut into pieces by the sinking ship’s propeller. Absolutely horrifying. Doaa finds a float and clings to it for days. Her fiancé eventually drowns. It was a more horrifying version of Titanic. First one baby is entrusted to Doaa when their initial caretaker can’t swim anymore and dies. Then another. Four days of pure hell later, a cargo ship rescues Doaa and 10 others.

She eventually resettles in Sweden and, since her case is so extraordinary, her family in Egypt is able to join her. It’s an incredible story.

I read books like this to give me perspective and to re-appreciate my place in the universe. Most of us lived charmed lives and have so much opportunity and autonomy. The basic necessities of human dignity and security are never in question for us.

You know what the top item on my worry list is right now? I’ve gone out on 40+ dates in the last four months and I’ve liked three of the guys. When I’ve inquired about another date, they all say something along the lines of, “you’re pretty, but…” What happens when the universe takes my looks away from me and the only thing left is the part after the but?

And then I read a book like this and tell myself to get over myself. My biggest complaint is guys telling me I’m pretty? My life is pretty dam good. Big picture. Broad strokes. It works for a little while at least.

16 thoughts on “Book Reviews – August 2017

  1. Jeremy

    Part of a relationship is the realization of how meritorious your other is over time. Looks are what get us to say hello. Who we are is what keeps them around.

  2. Erin

    What did you do? It sounds like you were on dates! I hope you keep at it, it takes time to find someone who loves or shares your brand of weird.

  3. Amber

    It strikes me that you might be disappointed with any date who doesn’t have similar financial sensibilities, which rules out a lot of the population. I think you might find more simpatico candidates by asking your financially minded friends to keep you in mind for introductions.

    A friend of mine has romantic dreams of marrying a farmer but she lives in a major city with a low likelihood of meeting any farmers. So, think about what you want your life to look like and position yourself in that area. Perhaps you already are doing this, but it’s worth mentioning.

    Cheering for your team!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Thank you! And yes, I’ve asked all my friends to set me up, but I don’t have many financially independent friends. Credit card debt is a hard no.

  4. Lucy

    Don’t despair over only liking 3 guys! I don’t know if you’ve heard Chris McKinlay’s story, but it may be helpful:

    I think it’s common to only like ~5-10% of the people you meet, and so many of them will be duds until you meet your person. I’m sorry it isn’t happening sooner rather than later, and I know how frustrating and disheartening online dating can be. You seem to have a really great mindset about it though! I don’t have any great words of wisdom or anything, but just want you to know you’re not alone ♥

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Thanks for linking this article! I’ve been on way more than 88 dates, but I agree that I shouldn’t despair. Yet. 🙂 I’m not complaining about only liking three guys. I’m more complaining that they seemed to go out of their way to talk about my looks when they reject me. I realize how petty this all is.

  5. scott

    Thought provoking post as usual. I sometimes have to remind myself that that even on a bad day a large percentage of the world’s population would be happy to trade places with me. Dating is tough. OKcupid is good for meeting a lot of people, but I wish there was a site for mustacian minded 30 somethings.

      1. walter

        hi Anita, i heard about a different kind of online dating service called Hater. basically you whine and complain and they match you up with someone who whines and complains about the same things. even though we in America should have the least to whine and complain about, we always seem to come up with something. i don’t know if you can treat the 3 former potentials like an interview rejection and ask them what comes after the ‘but’ for self-discovery and improvement purposes? if they are willing to provide, and you are willing to hear, their unadulterated truth (as they see it), perhaps changes can be made. if there are reasons that you cannot or refuse to change about yourself, then it really wasn’t meant to be. however, if they could provide a delve into the twisted male mind, then perhaps self-improvement upon your (already) perfection can be made. my (less than) .02 cents, and still single male mind.

      1. Thriftygal Post author

        Yeah, I’ve heard that. But then I’d have to figure out how forums work, think of a username. It’s a whole process.


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