The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
Genre: Classic Fiction
The Story: A young prince discovers a poor boy who looks just like him and because he is frustrated with the rules and responsibilities of palace life, he decides to switch places with him.
The Review: This is an interesting story of power and wealth and deception. Mark Twain is great, but I can't help feeling the characters are jerks. Still, it's worth a read.
Stoner by John Williams
Genre: Because of it's age, I'm going to put this in Classic Fiction. But it is a little-known book that was just republished and is getting some attention.
Stoner is the man's last name, not his hobby.
This novel tells the life story of a man named William Stoner. He's born into a poor farming family, and when he is old enough, they scrape together enough money to send him to college at the University of Missouri. He is supposed to study agriculture so he can help the family, but he falls in love with literature during his introductory literature course. He changes his major and the course of his life.
The book opens with Stoner's funeral and how he is viewed by his colleagues after he has passed. And I thought, oh no, this is just going to be a book about the pathetic life that this man had.
But as I finished the book, my feeling was entirely the opposite. He didn't have a sad, pathetic life. And to me the novel centers around the idea of what makes a good life? What makes a life worth living? And although the facts of Stoner's life on paper seem small and unexciting, I think he lived a good life.
It was also interesting to read about his time as a professor at the University, because it was such a wonderful portrayal of the life of academia. Williams is not given to long flowery description, but he created great images and impressions that made this really complete.
I highly recommend it.
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
Pinker is frustrated by some of the (archaic) rules of style, and sets out to write a new style guide in the vein of Strunk and White.
I teach writing. That is something that you should know before you read this review.
I really liked Pinker's approach to writing. He starts with an introduction and then sets up basic ideas about writing. These really fell in line with how I feel about writing and with how I teach writing. He gave me some ideas about new ways to explain what I mean because I felt that he was really clear. And I'm always looking for new ideas.
This was not a good book to listen to. The reader was fine, but the format of this book doesn't work for an audiobook. So I did not listen to any of the "Grammar" section.
I recommend it if you teach writing or are trying to write a book or write better for school/work/etc.
Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do by Greg Anderson
Anderson runs a cancer treatment center and writes his tips for what to do to regain your health when you have been diagnosed with cancer.
This was a very simple and very quick read. Anderson starts off with an introduction, but then gets to his 50 tips very quickly and keeps them clear and succinct. The tips are comprehensive and range from picking a doctor, getting a second option, and how to talk to your doctor to things like exercise, meditation or prayer, and drinking water. It's a very whole-person approach.
The problem is that I really did not like Anderson's tone. I continually felt like he was talking down to me, like he has told me these things over and over and over and I'm too dumb to do them. I'm not sure why this tone came across so strongly to me, but I wound up feeling frustrated as I finished the book.
Don't read this one, read Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber instead.
Adultery by Paulo Coehlo
A woman is having a mid-life crisis and decides to have an affair. She spends a long time trying to figure out how to have an affair with a man she used to know.
I didn't finish this book. It is kind of an awful premise, and I hated the main character. I tried to read it because it was the book club pick, but I gave up.
I don't recommend it. Partly because I can't because I didn't finish it.
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Gist: Brene Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher and in this book she examines the beliefs about shame and how we can (and need to) become more vulnerable in our lives to get what we really want which is love and belonging.
I've reviewed the content of the book before, so I'll just reiterate how much I like Brene Brown and her work.
The audiobook was narrated well and I enjoyed listening to it. It is interesting what stories and examples stick out when you listen rather than read.
I highly recommend it.
Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr
The Gist: Carr was diagnosed with cancer and filmed a documentary of her story and then wrote this book with tips for people with cancer.
This book really upset me. I did not like her approach to cancer or her perspective on how people (this is aimed particularly at women) should deal with cancer. I was also annoyed that her tips said "do this" and didn't explain how to make that happen. For example: One of her early tips is "Don't get blindsided." She explained that what she meant was don't walk into a situation thinking that no one knows what is going on with you and then get blindsided by the fact that they've all been told. I've had that exact situation happen more than a few times, and it's frustrating and awkward (also awkward: when you think someone knows so you said something, and it turns out they don't...). So I'd like to avoid that, but I have no idea how to avoid it. And Carr does not give any advice on how to avoid it. So I found her tips very incomplete.
It also bothered me that Carr has made a whole brand out of cancer and is giving advice on how to deal with cancer treatment -- chemo, radiation, surgery -- and the aftermath -- hair loss, scars, etc, when she did not go through any of that treatment herself. Now, this reaction is entirely because of my own personal experience, but there it is.
I don't recommend this. Again, if you want to read about cancer and being healthy, read Anticancer by David Servan-Schreibers.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Story: During World War II, the island of Guernsey was occupied by the Germans. After the war, a young writer receives a letter from a man on Guernsey and is pulled into their story.
I believe I have reviewed this novel before, and it is charming. It is cleverly told through the letters that are exchanged as well as telegrams and notes passed. It allows each character to have their own voice and expression.
The audiobook is equally charming. They had a different actor read for each character and so each letter is read in a different voice. This made it easier to keep up with who was talking, but also made the characters come to life. But because they were reading entire letters, it wasn't a disconcerting back and forth and constant changing.