Wednesday, February 01, 2012

January Books

I decided I'd like to start keeping a record of the books I read. My memory for books/movies is so bad that I often can't remember whether I liked a book, or even if I've read it. So, I thought I would do a brief review of each of the books I read at the end of the month. I normally don't read this many books in a month, but schoolwork hasn't really ramped up yet.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I had heard really good things about this series and decided to go for it over the break when I knew I'd have a lot of time to read. I absolutely loved the first book, really liked the second, and thought the third was only so-so. But, overall, the series was great. The characters are very relatable, and it brings up interesting ideas about sacrifice, free will, and our addiction to reality TV. I think the third book falls apart when the focus changes from a character-driven story that takes place in the future to a more traditional, plot-heavy science fiction story.

Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy
This was offered for $0.99 on Kindle, and I thought it might help with my word of the year: "discipline." Like most self-improvement books, it was a bit repetitive and had a lot of common-sense ideas. But, it was a quick read and I think worth the time for the few really interesting ideas in it. It certainly inspired me to try to curb my insane multi-tasking.

51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life by Kristen McGuiness
This was offered for free on the Kindle, and it seemed like it would be right up my alley. I love memoirs, especially ones about crazy life experiments. In this one, the author decided to go on 51 dates in 50 days in order to hopefully find her life partner. While it was interesting and funny in parts, the author's worldview was just too different from mine (she's way into mysticism) for me to get into it. Additionally, in her attempts to overcome her lack of confidence, I think she became over-confident. She expresses the idea that she didn't fit in in Texas because she "thinks too much." Boo. I don't think Texas wants her. ;)

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People
This is a book that I borrowed from my dad a while ago and just got around to reading. The back cover says, "If Jane Austen had been lucky enough to set foot in modern-day India, she would have written [this book]," and I completely agree. Like Austen's books, it offers a strong critique of the status quo but does so through lovable characters and an ultimate happy ending. I would describe it as "light" but certainly not "fluffy." The influence of Indian English is obvious in both the dialogue and the narration, which was interesting for me to read as an ESL teacher.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
I cannot believe that this book has been sitting neglected on my shelf for years. When I finally began it, I finished in a matter of days. It is about a group of Jesuit priests and scientists who make first contact with alien life on another planet. It is such a smart, compelling, and heartbreaking story. And it offered a very challenging perspective on the nature of faith and doubt, the problem of pain, and the level of God's involvement in day-to-day life. Highly recommended.

The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark
I agree strongly with the premise of this book: that we should always be questioning our religious beliefs and not be satisfied with trite answers. However, I found the stream-of-consciousness style of the author hard to follow. And, while he claims to be apolitical, he obviously equates liberal political views with true Christianity, which I think can be just as dangerous as the opposite view. Ultimately, the philosophy that everything should be questioned falls apart. How can one even say that everything should be questioned without questioning that statement? So, while I agreed with much of what the author said, I found the book impractical.

Running by Patrice Fitzgerald
This was another Kindle freebie. It is about a presidential race between two female candidates, centered around a blackmail scandal. The main character is very likable, and it is definitely a page-turner (or page-toucher, hee-hee). But, the criticism of our current political system, especially the Tea Party, was not subtle enough and definitely too one-sided for my taste. Probably not worth your time.

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