Thriftygal’s Book Reviews – November 2016

Hey, y’all. I’m working on Bucket List Item #6 (write a book) and it’s taken over everything else. This is not me complaining. I’m giddy! I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life — crafting words on my computer in a comfortable space and giggling to myself like a loon.

I’m even giddy over the rejection letters. It’s all part of the process. Grit. The universe is asking if this is really what I want and I find myself nodding through the stumbles. It’s the writing, the process, the journey, the system of “writers write” that makes me happy. You have no idea how empowering that realization is. Almost as empowering as having enough money.

Find what makes you giggle like a loon and go do that. Happiness ensues.

I am still reading though because I can’t not read. Here are some more book reviews.

If you (1) click on the link and (2) buy the book or anything on Amazon within 24 hours, then theoretically, Amazon will give me a few pennies for directing you there. I say theoretically because I haven’t actually seen any money. It’s possible I didn’t set it up correctly. Or maybe everyone takes my advice and gets the book from the library. I’m okay with that. Woot library!

When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Fun series of blog posts by the author of Freakonomics with various thought experiments. I enjoyed it enough to add their blog to my feedly. But then I took it off my feedly because they just do podcasts and I can’t listen to podcasts.

 

My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One by Elena Ferrante

If I had known this was the first in a series of four books, I would not have picked it up. This novel tells the story of the first 16 years of life for two girls in Naples, Italy in the mid 1900s. The story is well-told and the characters leap out at you, but, dammit, I read books so I don’t have to deal with cliffhangers! I’m not sure I liked it enough to devote another 1100+ pages worth of reading time to three more.

It’s Always Something: Twentieth Anniversary Edition by Gilda Radner

Gilda was an original Saturday Night Live cast member married to Gene Wilder. She died of breast cancer in 1989 and this book is basically the story of her illness. I wanted to like the book, but the writing put me off. Maybe if I knew who she was as an actress, I would find her more endearing, but all of the above I learned today while reading said book.

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life by Charles Murray

I picked this title up because I really appreciate the word curmudgeon. I no longer enjoy the word after reading this book. It’s full of judgmental, cranky, “get off my lawn” rants from a man lamenting that everything doesn’t stay exactly the same as what he’s used to.

Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search for Love and Art by Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder, husband of Gilda Radner from a couple of books ago, was an actor in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and died recently. He was a little before my time, so the names he drops in the book aren’t that familiar to me. Not as funny as I was expecting and I found myself sad and uncomfortable reading about his dating life, especially after reading Gilda’s side. It all feels so hollow.

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

The author is a funny guy with a misanthropic and self deprecating way with words who likes to travel. He’s trying to understand human happiness through culture, visiting different countries and theorizing. Entertaining read with thoughtful bits. Here’s an exchange between the author and someone living in Qatar, a country in the middle east with recent and staggering wealth, that I liked:

“All this wealth. Does it make people happy?”
“No, not really. You need enough money to have your dignity. Beyond that, it won’t make you happy.”

The Story of a New Name: Neapolitan Novels, Book Two by Elena Ferrante

Sigh. This is book two from the series I mentioned above. I will not read book three. The characters are starting to get on my nerves with their low self esteem and stupid decisions. I know, it’s a book about two girls growing up in poverty. Of course the characters question their worth growing up in such a misogynistic society and of course they make poor decisions because they have such limited options available to them. Realistic maybe. Depressing definitely.

Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

Ah, some comfortable, warm, comforting, easy, chic lit. I don’t dislike that term. Five sisters in Cincinnati, unmarried with soon-to-be “destitute” parents and their search for marriage. Of course, happiness reigns in the end for everyone. That’s not a spoiler.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Recommended in the comments a bit ago, the author postulates about motivation. You need autonomy (my precious control), mastery (getting better at the thing you’re doing, but knowing you’ll never master it because it’s the journey that matters) and purpose (don’t just be a selfish lifeform taking taking taking).

The Postmortal by Drew Magary

Science fiction novel where some scientist figures out how to prevent aging. Chaos ensues. The government bans it. People protest. The government unbans it. More chaos. Told from the point of view of a 29 year-old lawyer, documenting his life for sixty some years, it’s a stark version of humans reaching the edge of their petri dish. We destroy the world, systemically kill those deemed unfit to use precious resources and Russia takes over Canada. Oh, that’s a spoiler. Sorry.

The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships (Signed Edition) by Neil Strauss

I loved the little red string that served as a built-in bookmark. Very fancy.

Everything else about this book made me feel sick, anxious and sad. To be fair, the cover does tell you the author also wrote “The Game,” a book I admittedly haven’t read, but which nudged along that whole men’s rights, red pill, negging culture. I’m going to stop reading about relationships for a bit.

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much

The authors consider the study of scarcity a new science or maybe a new subset of behavioral economics. When anything is scarce — money, time, love — we react differently than if we have an abundance of those things. We focus on what is scarce often to our detriment, using up value brain space and energy.

***

I revived my Goodreads profile and came across this gem law school student-Thriftygal wrote in 2007 that made me giggle. Not like a loon, but it was still fairly hearty.

The Tenth Circle: A Novel by Jodi Picoult 

Yicky. I hated all the characters. The prose was unnecessarily flowery and the ending was utterly predictable. The drawings detracted and I read this instead of civ pro just so I could say I was done. And I’m going to get called on in class tomorrow and look like a fool. A fool!

Say something!

  1. I came away from this thinking that you really need to choose your books more wisely before you embark on them. Seems like you hate nearly every single book you tackle.
    Read some reviews or talk to friends before you embark on your next one!!!
    (Though having said that, you’ve confirmed my reservations about the Ferrante trilogy. I heard rave reviews, but I read a stand-alone novel by Ferrante first before committing. That, plus your review…? Nah….)

  2. I recently read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and it is one of the best books I have read in quite a while. The story weaves around 2 half-sisters in Africa and their generations that follow over 2 centuries. The characters and their struggles – tribal wars, slavery, civil rights, personal demons – reverberate and take us from a little village in Africa to Harlem USA. It’s moving and the struggle is still relevant! What I loved most is the writing style. I’m telling everyone I know about this book, so now you know too 🙂 Maybe you will like this one!?! or not…that’s fine 😉

  3. Writing the book is as easy as pulling together a couple dozen of your best blog posts into an ebook. Add cover design, format it into epub and moby, and walla! Simplicity itself. If you get snagged, lemme know and i’ll help.

  4. The word is that as a writer one must read, even voraciously, or go into the army like Norman Mailer. The voice of the loon is an amazing thing to bring up here — this visceral sound of an ancient life-form that sends shivers down the spine. The common theme around these books seems to be a kind of quest – either because of or in response to scarcity, or for love. I was saddened by Gene Wilder’s passing recently, and if you ever see him act, you will catch on that unmoving vacuous look. So this is November. Hunger, Love, and Thanks.

  5. If you’re looking for suggestions, here are the five most recent books I’ve read (and loved!) —

    The Boys in the Boat (Daniel Brown)
    Smarter Faster Better (Charles Duhigg)
    The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande)
    Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes) –
    An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaa Tahir)

  6. I have read all of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s books. I really enjoy their writing style and the economic theories that they test. When they use to have a blog on the NY Times it was fascinating to see what they were working on. Now that it’s podcast only format it seems a little drawn out so I’ve lost interest.

    • Aww, what a sweet thing to say! I’m obsessed with working on my book and now I’m in Maui because, why not? I did just finish a really good book on the beach yesterday though that I think has some good potential for a new post. Stay tuned!

  7. Thanks for the Elena Ferrante review. I read the whole quartet and felt they were COMPLETELY overrated. I still can’t understand why she’s so universally praised. Thanks for showing the emperor has no clothes!

  8. The third was, I thought, the best, but the quartet was DEFINITELY not worth the time. Agreed- the characters were fairly superficial and the plot seemed forced.

    If anyone can explain to me WHY this series was so popular I’m all ears.