Wither by Lauren DeStefano
The story: A post-apocalyptic young adult novel. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the Earth has been destroyed, and genetic engineering has been used on humans to eradicate cancer and all other diseases. Unfortunately this genetic engineering has backfired and the rising generations are dying young. The story is about a 16 year old girl named Rhine who is kidnapped and sold into a marriage because that is one option for girls her age.
The review: This was a book picked by my bookclub. I was not impressed. It was basically a rewrite of The Hunger Games and not nearly as interesting or engaging. There were not enough explanations about the state of the world, so mostly I read it thinking Why are they doing that? What is the point of that?
I don't recommend it.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The story: A true story of Louie Zampirini, an Olympic athlete turned WWII bombadier whose plane went down in the Pacific.
The review: This was amazing. It is a great true story, and Hillenbrand tells it really well. Hillenbrand includes thorough explanations, including things like the societal history of Japan which explains why they ran the POW camps the way they did.
I don't know how to give a good, long review without giving the whole story away. So I'll leave it with it is an incredible story and a great read.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The premise: Gretchen Rubin realizes she isn't really happy. So she decides to spend a year studying happiness and making (and keeping) resolutions designed to increase her happiness. She reports on each resolution, including the data she found for why it will make a difference, and how the resolution worked out for her.
The review: This was really interesting. First of all it was interesting to be invited into someone's life, and second it was interesting to see the goals that she set. She started with 11 areas -- like marriage, parenting, work, fun, etc. Then she made 4-5 resolutions for improving each area.
Areas I was most interested in: Clear the clutter. Maybe just because I start to feel overwhelmed with my stuff, but I really liked reading about her strategies for clearing out her junk. In her section on money, she resolved to "Make a modest splurge." Her splurges were spending a little more for something she would use or that would in some way make her life easier. For example, she bought the really fancy expensive pens that she likes, because she uses pens all the time. With that in mind, I went and bought little post-it flags. I'm using them to mark passages in my books for my literature classes. I'm not sure if it is making it easier or just cluttered.
She also created "Twelve Commandments" and kept returning to the first one which is "Be Gretchen." With all of her resolutions she tried to acknowledge who she is and what she would be able to do without causing huge amounts of stress or guilt. One of her resolutions was to keep in touch with friends, but she hates talking on the phone, so she decided to accept that about herself and send emails, because it is what she would actually do.
I think I was particularly fascinated by this because I was doing a mini happiness project this summer. Mine was really simple. I wrote down "Things that make me happy" and made a little list: yoga, cooking, and reading. So I spent the summer doing yoga every day and reading a ton. It did make me happy.
Added note: I read this because I heard an interview with Gretchen Rubin on Smart People Podcast. Love those guys. They've interviewed all kinds of interesting people from all kinds of disciplines and areas.