Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

My husband declares himself the "non-reader" of the family. Sure, it's a bit ironic considering my aspirations. But don't most wives enjoy the challenge of improving their loved ones? Well, it seems after all these years, I'm getting a bit closer to wiping him off that sordid and fabricated club of "people who don't like to read."

After an addiction to all books written by either Dan Brown or Dave Barry  (polar opposites? maybe...), my Doug has informed me that Unbroken by Ms. Lauren Hillenbrand has taken top honors as his favorite book of all time. I had the pleasure of topping off the read yesterday...and while it's too fresh for me to put into my favorite of "all time" category (my bookshelf is a bit wider than my darling's), it will certainly get the "Five Star" and the "heart" on Shelfari.

Anyone that has read Seabiscuit knows that Hillenbrand is an accomplished artist when it comes to writing compelling non-fiction. It's been awhile since I read about the racehorse, but the story of Louis Zamperini had me so captivated from the start, it felt like I was reading something from fiction. Could this all be for real? Yes. Amazingly, yes.

The stories will appall in parts. How can it not? It was war. But it's not all about despair. The story is incredibly inspiring. On my worst day....my very worst day, it would do me good to think about what some of the poor young men battled in those awful POW camps. It would seem we, and I mean my generation (of the X variety) of Americans, take a lot for granted.

I have a friend in her 80's. She's a widow, and her husband was a WWII veteran. She still ventures to a WWII veteran reunion with his battalion that has been meeting every year since the war. Isn't that amazing? They never forget what it's about. I love my country. But honestly, sometimes I forget about freedom. I take it for granted. I complain about taxes. I forget how easy it is to walk outside. Or to do whatever I want. Or say whatever I want. This book made me think how so much has been given for the lives we live today. In our peaceful land in the center of the universe.

Thank God for the many, many heros....like Louie Zamperini. I found a few interviews with Louis. This one was my favorite. It won't take away from the book. Take a look...and don't forget to pick up the book!

Sidenote: I was thinking about the argument of E-books being the decline of the book industry. But for a really great book, like Unbroken, perhaps that argument is flawed. Case in point: My mother purchased the book on her Kindle. Then decided my father needed to read it, so purchased the hard bound book. She loaned to us. Doug read. Then I read. Now, I feel that we need the book on our shelf. I will buy upon our next visit to a bookstore. I also believe that my 80-something friend (aforementioned in the post) would love this story, so I will also purchase a copy for her as a gift. Thus not only has one electronic copy been purchased, three additional hardcopies. Oh - and I mentioned this book to one of my best friends, Amy,who also is a bibliophile and most certainly will grab the book on her next visit to a B&N...So make that four additional hardcopies. My point? Maybe we need more great books...

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Storm Before Atlanta by Karen Schwabach

Did my last post ramble on about reading for pleasure? Well, let's get back to expanding the mind. For my hospital stay, I chose a book that took place during the Civil War. Interesting choice, I must say. As I learned of men having limbs sawed off without provisions, I thought maybe I should suck up my bit o' pain with a bit more gusto.

For anyone who likes historical fiction, this is a good read. I believe it was actually written for Middle Grade, but I just loaned it out to my mother-in-law. She'll read it quickly...cuz I do want the kids to read this one. (I want my kids to read everything. Just ask them.) Anyway, back to the Civil War...back to this book.

While I wasn't unfamiliar with the details that were described in the book, they were very well done throughout the story. It never hurts to be reminded of the horrors of war. And the Civil War seems, to me, to be the worst of the worst.

What was great about this book was the personal stories of a boy who went to war to find glory and a girl who escaped slavery to find freedom. Neither of them discovered what they expected. (Do we ever find what we're after?) After navigating fierce battles and befriending a Rebel spy, the war gives Jeremy and Dulce battle scars. But most of all, it gives them a deep understanding of selflessness and true friendship.

There are a lot of interesting twists and turns in this book that will definitely keep you flipping the pages. I don't won't to blow it for you... Alex told me she's starting a unit on the Civil War in History. How timely. I mentioned there's this book that would be great for her to read...I don't think she rolled her eyes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reading for Pleasure??? YES!

Preface - Half of blog was written "before surgery." Finished this blog today...sorry if the ending seems a little "rushed." :) I really did enjoy the book. 

When choosing a book to read, my selection usually boils down to
  • a long-standing bestseller,
  • an Oprah pick,
  • a Classic...so that I'm well-read - and of course living up to my "English degree" from the U of Iowa reputation (and becoming more masterful writer),
  • a spiritual or self-help - for obvious reasons,
  • a non-fiction/business to hone, hone, hone, hone...expand, expand, expand my knowledge of anything really, and/or
  • basically anything that's not wasteful of my time...
Then it occurred to me as I finished reading a book the other day, what's so wrong about wasting time? And does reading always have to be a learning experience? It seems I've forgotten the joy of reading for leisure. So, about this book? Chasing the Sun by Kaki Warner. And it was really good! Quite honestly, it probably wasn't something I would have picked up, but I won it on a blog contest. And I'm glad I did - BECAUSE:

I haven't read a Western since....??? And it was great fun. It was like watching Hopalong Cassidy with my dad as a little girl. And who couldn't love a story with a myriad of strong female characters, tangled love interests, witty dialogue and, of course, despicable villains? Oh yeah, there's a really nice fairy tale ending - my favorite... 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination by Hugh MacLeod

The Kindle has some handy features that allow you to bookmark, notate and highlight passages you find inspiring or at least worth revisiting. This is all good and dandy, until you find a book so amusing and full of delectable quips that you find yourself bookmarking the whole damn book. Such is the case with Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination by Hugh MacLeod.

Don't let the name fool you. While Mr. MacLeod takes a few jabs at corporate America - and he doesn't lack of sharp wit with shreds of cynism (undoubtedly, residue from his time working an inane job that suffocated his creative spark -dang cubicles), Hugh is an inspirational writer. And this is a book (believe it or not) about...love. As a matter of fact, I think I'd like to have tea with Hugh. Although, I very much think he's cut more from my hubby's cloth and prefers a brewsky. Anyhoo-

Things I LOVE about this book:

  • The author's vocabulary - use of words like "feckless" and other words that don't even show up on the Kindle's dictionary.  I can't remember them, but there seemed to be a few obscurities starting with the letters "sch..."
  • The cartoons - undeniably funny. And some very sweet! Too bad I had to view them on the Kindle. But I was compelled to visit his blog this way. You should too - www.gapingvoid.com
  • Anecdotes and other business stories. They were relevant for every point Hugh made. Hugh's smart. I like smart people. It generated much discussion between me and my husband. Basically, I read the entire book to my husband.
  • A poem called "Welcome to the Hunger." Seriously, I had tears in my eyes when I finished reading it. At the end, there was a cartoon with a caption stating "my name is hugh macleod. and right now i'm crying."  How is that for uncanny?
For anyone who is interested in reconciling passion and career, entrepreneurialism, or marketing your own business, this is a must-read.  It was surprisingly delightful and stirring. I'll leave you with one of Hugh's cartoons (which I think can be purchased by visiting his website) in hopes that you'll be inspired to visit his blog and find wisdom in any of his many art forms:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Social Network

"In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst." -Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)

Last weekend I was finally able to sit down and watch The Social Network - a movie with a story that has piqued my interest since I saw a preview some time ago. Perhaps I was merely struck by an eerie rendition of Radiohead's Creep. Nevertheless, I was even more compelled when the screenplay became nominated for an Oscar...and isn't it time that I finally see a movie with some depth? Apparently! Cuz I can't seem to quit thinking about it.

While there were many aspects of the movie that I admired - the soundtrack, the clever dialogue, the intricacy of the screenplay, great acting - what I loved most is how the movie reflected the terrifying and wonderful experience of college-youth. No matter if you're the brilliant outcast who would someday develop Facebook. Well, he's not much of an outcast anymore. And by the end of the movie, Mr. Zuckerberg (youngest billionaire in the world) didn't seem to care about "fitting in" anymore. I think we all learn that lesson eventually - but most people would agree that Mark Facebook Zuckerberg has had a far more interesting journey than most of us.

Oh sure, The King's Speech swept the Academy, but I wouldn't let that stop you from seeing this movie! (Not sure if the Oscars sway you or not...) And no matter your opinion of Facebook - it's a game-changer. And it's origin is quite intriguing.