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I finally got an Audible subscription (thanks for the recommendations/advice everyone!). So now that I’m audiobook-addicted, here are some reviews of books I’ve “read.”
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Ok, I admit that I’m slightly ashamed to have listened to this popular novel-made-movie. I liked it at first, when they were just cancer kids living their lives and being funny (yes, I realize this statement makes me an asshole), but then it started getting all love-story-ish, and lost its mojo. Overall, on a scale of 1 to 5, (1 being, “No way, Jose!” and 5 being, “Yeah, baby!”) I’d give it a 2.5. Not a 3 because it’s not that good, but I feel bad about giving it a 2 (hurt it’s feelings and all). Anyway, this is the story of two kids who met in a cancer support group, both having miraculously survived childhood cancer. They fall in love, and it gets sappier and sappier from there (read: no modicum of reality). Perhaps I’m shunning my teenage angst by shunning this book. I can see how I’d have cried over it had I read it when I was 14 or something. Whoops, spoiler alert?
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This book was long. I got an award on Audible for listening to a book that took 30+ hours. But it was totally worth it. This book tells the story of anti-hero Theo Decker in three parts, starting with the day his mother died in the bombing of an art museum. You follow him through troubles and good times as he moves to Las Vegas to live with his estranged dad and meets his BFF Boris. Events conspire that bring him back to his home town of New York City, and the third part is where shit gets real. At first I thought I was following the life of this unfortunate boy, which, I was. But the novel gets deeper and deeper as it goes, and you find yourself thinking, “Whoa! What am I reading/listening to?!” I’ll admit that, had I been real-life reading this, I probably would have given up during some of the extended boring parts, but listening made it better. The narrator is great if you go the audiobook route. If you’re reading it, then you are the narrator, so the narrator is always default great.
The end is where it lost me. You go through this kid’s life from childhood to adulthood, and crazy stuff happens, and then the characters spend the last chapter lecturing you about the minutiae and subtle notions of good and bad. I get it, you wanted your novel to have a “message” but let the story tell it, not the actual dialogue beating the dead horse with it. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give it a 4. The lack of lesson at the end would have made it a 5.
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
Mother of God. This book. It is my manifesto. I have never been a mega huge Amy Poehler fan. Nothing against her, she’s just never stood out to me before this. But now. I can’t even begin to recommend this book enough to all women to read. Get it NOW. Listen to Amy read it to you on audiobook. Or get the book and mark the passages that stand out to you. This compendium of personal stories is SO relateable, but also just plain good advice. Some of my favorite tidbits are these…
Talking about self-hate & insecurities:
“When the demon starts to slither my way and say bad shit about me I turn around and say, ‘Hey. Cool it. Amy is my friend. Don’t talk about her like that.’ Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works.”
On comparing yourself to other women:
“Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again.”
On treating your career like a bad boyfriend:
“You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look… Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don’t depend on it. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you.”
Amy, we love you. Marry us. This book is a 6+ out of 5.
The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
I read this book because Amy (see above) recommended it in a section of her book. This is a sort of popular self-help book. So, take it with a grain of salt. But it had a lot of solid points that I think people could benefit from learning. The author is a security specialist and has worked for the gov, public figures, large companies, etc. The book’s subtitle is “And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence,” and talks about things the author calls “Pre-Incident Indicators” that we can pay attention to in order to avoid being attacked. The book uses examples when telling you about these signals, so it reads almost like a thriller. Things like, when we say, “No” to something. That should be the end of the conversation. “No” is the answer, not an invitation for negotiation. No means no means no. End of conversation.
Also, another thing I found interesting is his discussion of not discounting your fear. Imagine a deer in the woods hears a noise that spooks it. It perks its ears up, listens, and then runs away. What do we assume? It knew a predator was nearby based on all the signs, and got the hell out of there. Now, imagine a woman waiting for an elevator. The door opens, and it’s a creepy looking guy alone in the elevator. All signs point to, “DO NOT GET IN.” And yet she ignores her fear, and gets into a steel box with a potential predator. What would it have meant to hurt his feelings and wait for the next elevator? Not much to him probably, but could have been a lot for her.
I don’t agree with everything he says. There’s a hint of victim-blaming toward the end that I can’t get behind, but I think the rest is useful and interesting enough to ignore that and appreciate the good parts. I found a free excerpt of the first chapter here. Rated: 3.5 out of 5.
The Martian by Andy Weir
This book was awesome. The story begin when Mark Watney, an astronaut on a mission to Mars, is left behind on the Red Planet. A storm hits his crew, and Watney is swept away. His suit malfuntions leaving his crewmates to think him dead, and they leave him there. Until… (dramatic reverb) we discover he’s aliiiiiive. But seriously, I have a hint of like for sci fi, but this doesn’t even feel like sci fi. The voice and tone of the book narrator (Mark Watney) is ON POINT. I found myself laughing in my car at some of his quips. You’ve got to make your own humor when you’re stuck alone on Mars. Watney manages to stay alive on Mars through hardship after hardship. Mistake after mistake. It’s a great book. I read that it was self-published and so awesome that a publishing company re-published it under their label. The audiobook narrator is awesome, and really captures the emotion in some of the logs that the Mars man writes. I loved this book. I’ve been trying to get everyone to read/listen to it.
But even better news, guys. I found out they’re making a MOVIE out of it with Matt Damon. It’ll come out around Thanksgiving next year, and I can’t wait. Definitely a 5 out of 5. Get it. Read it. I need someone else to be giddy about it with me.
Ok now, do you have any recommendations for me? I’m currently in the midst of All the Truth is Out:The Week Politics Went Tabloid by Matt Bai, a nonfiction book about how the media and politics have changed over the years to get where we are today. I heard about it originally from listening to Fresh Air after class one night while driving home. So far, it’s super interesting. Here’s a blurb about it:
In 1987, Gary Hart-articulate, dashing, refreshingly progressive-seemed a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination for president and led George H. W. Bush comfortably in the polls. And then: rumors of marital infidelity, an indelible photo of Hart and a model snapped near a fatefully named yacht (Monkey Business), and it all came crashing down in a blaze of flashbulbs, the birth of 24-hour news cycles, tabloid speculation, and late-night farce. Matt Bai shows how the Hart affair marked a crucial turning point in the ethos of political media-and, by extension, politics itself-when candidates’ “character” began to draw more fixation than their political experience