Book Report!

Nameless Novel

Nameless NovelI was talking with a co-worker about movies, and found that we have similar interests in things that are strange and disturbing, so he recommended this book to me. It’s described as “infamous” because it is so depraved. haha It feels wrong to begin this post with such a disturbing book, but I make these lists in the order in which I read the books.

So what did I think of this one? It was okay. It definitely contained a lot of offensive material (to the exclusion of anything else), but it was so devoid of anything real that it wasn’t actually disturbing to me. There has to be some sense of reality, of humanity, of something you can relate to in order to evoke any real emotion or response, but because it was all just a jumble of outlandish lewdness and violence, it was almost like reading a string of unrelated words. I’m glad I read it, because it’s different from anything else I’ve ever read, but basically it was boring.

Also, I will reiterate that my Book Report posts are not book recommendations, just documentations of what I’ve read. I would definitely not recommend this particular book to 99% of people.

The Psychopath Inside

The Psychopath InsideI’ve been interested in serial killers for a while, and understanding what in the world makes them the way they are. Over the years, I’ve learned more about psychopathy and sociopathy (basically the same things), not only in relation to serial killers, but just as a way to understand those individuals we see regularly who seem to have no concern for anyone but themselves; people that I wouldn’t otherwise understand at all.

I heard about this book while listening to the author’s TedTalk on a podcast. His TedTalk was all about his neuroscience research and his discovery that he himself is a “low-level” psychopath. He breaks down what psychopathy is, and possible causes of it, as well as how it might be beneficial in some ways. Very interesting!

The Woman In White

The Woman In WhiteThis is considered to be one of the first mystery novels written, which sounded interesting to me. Unfortunately, I found it boring. It was a bunch of mess around inheritances because no one actually had real jobs back then so they had to just kill each other or pretend to be someone else in order to “maintain their status in life.” Also, it was too long for what it was. Meh.

Before Ever After

Before Ever AfterIt’s like a time-travel romance fluff. Meh, it was okay.

The Secret History

The Secret HistorySo good! It felt really meaty, like I was reading a “real book.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but that’s what it felt like. It’s about a tight-knit group of college students who find themselves in a sticky situation. The timeline is the most interesting part, as we learn *what* happens before we learn *why* it happened.

The New Jim Crow

The New Jim CrowI read this for work. It’s about how our criminal “justice” system targets young black and brown men, and the name alludes to how it has become our society’s new way of segregating the races. I have no real response other than a sad, “yup.” This system is terrible in many ways, and it needs to be dismantled and rebuilt entirely.

A Visit From The Goon Squad

A Visit From The Goon Squad

The story follows a handful of characters whose lives intertwine, and the timeline is disjointed (you never know if you’re reading about things that happened last week or 2 decades ago). The characters aren’t particularly likable, and they don’t really do anything of interest. It wasn’t my thing. I think you need to read it in just a few sittings because picking it up a couple times a week (which is how I read) makes everything too messy. You can’t keep track of who’s who and what’s happening when. Oh well.

The Outcasts

The OutcastsI tend to like westerns, and this one seemed to have a cool heroine, so it seemed like a good prospect. It was okay, but I didn’t have much respect for the female protagonist (she made terrible decisions, and was a bit of a pawn), so it was kind of a let down. Though, one of the characters complained about the The Woman In White, which made me giggle.

Looking Backward

Looking BackwardMy dad mentioned this book to me (though he doesn’t remember it) when we were talking about economic/social structure, and communism/socialism/idealism. It was kind of a “You think things could be better? Read this book. You’d probably agree with him [you silly idealistic communist].” But in a nice way. 🙂

The book is essentially the author’s description of how he thinks society should (and possibly would?) be organized in the future. He wrote the book in 1887, imagining (fantasizing about) life in the year 2000, when everything is perfect, there is no poverty, no greed, nothing bad whatsoever, basically. He never uses the word “communism” (my favorite euphemism he used was “living in concert”), but socialism was pretty much what he described.

I mean…I don’t have any problems with his ideas, but throughout the book I was just imagining patting him condescendingly on the head like, “Yeah Edward, that’s a nice idea.” Kind of how people do to me. Of course he’s being naive. Of course it’s too perfect to ever occur in reality (especially expecting such a drastic change in just 100 years and without any growing pains, or sense of what steps it took to get to the end point). But I don’t think it’s unrealistic to believe that our economic and social structure could be drastically improved, and that we should work toward something like this. It was a nice model for inspiration.

The Asylum

The AsylumA page turner! It had a lot of similarities to The Woman in White (hidden identities, inheritances, mistaken parentage, accidental commitment into an insane asylum), but it was much more interesting. It was fun, suspenseful, and sometimes scary. Loved it!


Book Report!

Zero Waste HomeThis was a fantastic book! Bea Johnson has a family of four, and they produce about a quart of garbage A YEAR. A YEAR. One quart. Of garbage. A year. Look!

zero-waste-home-trashThat right there is literally the Johnson family’s yearly garbage.

So the book is Johnson’s description of how she and her family accomplish this. She gets into very specific details about this, categorizing everything in terms of the 5 Rs: refuse (refuse stuff you don’t need in the first place), reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot (compost).

As you can imagine, some aspects of their life are unrealistic for the average person (she makes all of her own cleaning and feminine hygiene products, she has literally one sweater/one hat/one pair of jeans/etc., she even made her own cheese for a while), but it’s a really good example to work toward in baby steps.

HowToBeWoman pb cNope. All right, so Moran is some sort of vaguely well known music critic in England..? So maybe if I were into that kind of thing, I would have enjoyed this more. But as it stands, this was just a meandering memoir/feminist manifesto that was boring, self-indulgent, and hyperbolic. I got it because I usually appreciate feminist discussions, and people said that it was funny, but this one just didn’t work for me.

Brooklyn TP smallNope again. This had all my favorite things: Irish stuff, the 50s, and romance. How could I go wrong? Well. It was boring. Nothing happened. And what did happen was really unsatisfying. Boop.

AttachmentsThis, I liked. I’ve read Eleanor & Park (another by Rowell), and this was similar. A simple, sweet (but not saccharine) love story.

Thinking Fast and SlowBoooooring. I only got about a third of the way through, which normally I wouldn’t even count, but since this book seems to have so much superfluous chatter in it, I feel like I pretty much got the gist. The idea is that we all have two brains, essentially: our fast brain (like our gut feeling), and our slow brain (more considered, logical analysis). And there you go, that’s pretty much the whole book. The rest is just the most boring, repetitive way of describing it you can imagine.

Sex_at_Dawn_Ryan_Jetha_2010This book was great! It has had a significant impact on my perspective on romantic relationships and marriage. It’s nonfiction, and it explores the hypothesis that humans are not naturally monogamous (but rather, for lack of a better term, promiscuous like chimps and bonobos, our closest living relatives). And heck, I’m convinced. The implications of this are huge, as our entire modern social structure is essentially, counter to our natural inclinations.

The book also delves into other anthropological analyses and theories, including that humans are probably not naturally violent (which contradicts many prominent theorists), and that changing from hunter/gatherer to agriculture was detrimental to our health and happiness. I’m interested in finding information that might refute any of the assertions made in this book (just because I like to learn as many different sides of an issue as I can), but for now, I’m sold.  Read it!

Book Report!

The Heart Goes Last

This is the fourth episode in the Positron Series. I can’t really say much about it, because it’s still in progress. The plot has thickened, our protagonists have been filled in on their missions to take down their community’s managers, and we’re now about to see what the world looks like outside of their dystopian village.

The Highly Sensitive Person

As a Highly Sensitive Person, it was nice to hear that some of my more annoying quirks are shared by others like myself. For example, I always noticed that I perform extremely poorly just when it most matters (i.e. when I’m being assessed, tested, or scrutinized in any way like during auditions, work training, or dance performances). I can do just fine when no one’s looking, ya gotta believe me! It is maddening.

And it was helpful to learn why this happens: HSPs are at a continually higher rate of sensitivity to stimuli, so when anything more is added (i.e. stressors), we become overwhelmed and we shut down, whereas most others simply have heightened arousal (e.g. nervousness) or some lucky ducks experience improved performance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seem like there’s a whole lot I can do about this problem.

Another thing to note about this book: a lot of the information was referenced in and/or related closely to information in Quiet (a book about introversion which I also read recently).

The Black Moth

The gal wrote this book when she was like 19. Nutso! I read this because I really like Robin Hood-type characters, which can include Highwaymen. I just think the whole concept of a Highwayman would make for a really good story, but I’m not really aware of any yet (I should totally write one :)). When I heard of this one (“The Black Moth” is this Highwayman’s nickname), I thought I’d check it out.

It was alright, kind of just light and simple. It is a “Regency Romance“, so the dialogue is old-style and some things just feel odd in a modern light. One such puzzling element: the height of the drama revolves around the lead female character being physically abducted and brought back to the villain’s house to be raped (or rather, forced into marriage, and then raped). Pretty dark, right?

Well, when she is *SPOILER ALERT* saved at the last moment (literally, the villain is about to tear her dress off, and the hero breaks in through the window or something similarly Errol Flynn-esque, and they have an almost-deadly sword fight), the hero and his band of helpers (including some of the heroine’s own family members) stay and eat dinner with the villain in his mansion. And the story pretty much ends with that happy little scene. Wha…? As a woman, and ya know, a human being, I found that offensive.

North and South

Ughhhhh this book was the worrrssssttttt. It was like it was trying to be Pride and Prejudice, but without the charming characters, believable plot, or witty dialogue. It went on forever, nothing happened, and worst: the characters were completely unlikable. It took me forever to read.

Ready Player One

What a great book! I should apparently only read dystopian novels, since I seem to always like them. So this one takes place in near-future America (about 30 years from now), in which the economy has completely collapsed, and climate change is looming yet larger, but people are kept pacified by escaping into an ever-available virtual-reality-ongoing-multiplayer-video game-type of thing.

The protagonist is competing in a global, virtual, easter egg hunt with very real (and mortal) consequences. The creator of the hunt grew up in the 1980s and was obsessed with the decade, so the book constantly throws out references to 80s pop culture, which was really fun. Very fun, satisfying ending too.

Start with Why

I read this because it was referenced by the CEO at my new job (part-time, an organization that works with technology in schools). I guess the idea is okay..I don’t disagree with it. In fact, it’s often my mantra (as in “Why again are we doing things this way..?”). But it’s not the “make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons” book that I anticipated. What it’s really saying is, basically, when big corporations do a good job of marketing a desirable lifestyle to its customer base (what I believe Sinek actually means when he talks about “the WHY”), people will buy their product and the company will make more money. Which is like..well…duh.

I did like one line, which paraphrased Thomas Friedman (“The World is Flat”..which I should read): “Pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists.” So true. Being a realist, people (i.e. optimists) often consider me to be a pessimist. They can call me whatever they want, ’cause I know I’m right. Too bad I’m useless.


Eleanor and Park

A friend of mine (June of the Moon) lent me this one and said it was really good. I was wary (it’s a YA romance…and I’m just..always dubious about everything in life ever), but I really enjoyed it. I just finished it about an hour ago. It kind of helped to show me what romantic love is (or at least this version of romantic love). I guess that’s mainly what this book is, in essence: one long definition of young love. I was also really grateful that the ending was not unhappy. The beginning eludes to a really tragic ending, so I was none too pleased about that, and braced myself for it, but was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t happen! It was a nice (though not unblemished) world  to visit.


Some Books I Like (or Liked)

Ok you guys, I’ve been trudging through the same book for like a YEAR, so it’s gonna be a while before I post a new “Book Report!”. So in the meantime, I’d like to document some of the books that I like, have liked in the past (when I was young and stupid…er), and/or think everyone should read.

The GiverOhhh man, what a good book. This was the first dystopian story I had ever read (I was in maybe 4th or 5th grade), and it blew my mind. If you haven’t read it (who are you??) it’s about a boy in an alternate/future-type society who discovers that there is a dark side to his idyllic world. I’m the kind of person who finds utopian societies desirable (They ride bikes everywhere! It’s always San Diego-style climate! Everything is clean and in order! What could be wrong with that?), so once in a while I need people to spell out for me exactly why removing people’s freedom miiiight be a bad thing. Also, fun fact, I have read this book exactly twice: Once, when I was in elementary school, and once about two years ago. Reading it as an adult, I learned that I had previously NOT AT ALL understood the ending, and had foolishly thought that it ended MUCH more optimistically than it really did. Ahhh childhood naivete, how sweet.

Charlotte's WebI already have a tendency to anthropomorphize animals, so maybe this book was just kindling the flame. I really do find, though, that the more I learn about animals (I mean facts, data, research), the more similar to humans they seem to be. They learn, think, communicate, share, comfort, despair, fear, envy, protect, fight, make peace, etc. What separates us from them? Not much, I think. Mostly, this book made it so that I feel guilty and apologize (out loud) when I kill a spider. I do still kill them though. Charlotte was great and all, but she doesn’t need to be hanging out in my shower.

Harold and the Purple CrayonI love this kid. I’ve always liked to draw, but I never felt like I was very imaginative or creative, so the way that Harold thinks is so inspiring. He invented thinking outside the box. I also like the idea of creating the world that you want live in (in a broader sense, i.e. don’t litter if you want to live in a world with no litter on the ground), and Harold was totally in control of how his world turned out. If he got into a jam, he had the presence of mind and creativity to draw himself an escape route. What a great role model.
Catcher in the RyeI am just such the little emo kid. I read this in middle school, of course, and thought that it was speaking directly to my black little soul, of  course, and I was all, ooo now I have permission to be brood-y and mad at the world. If you haven’t read it (again, who are you?), it’s about a teenager dude who meanders aimlessly through New York, having various interactions with people that all validate his sense that people are “phony”, disappointing, and generally beyond his grasp and/or beneath him. It’s nice, as an adolescent, to see someone acknowledge that sometimes people really are inane/self-centered/moronic/etc. But when you gain a little maturity, it’s just like ughh…yes, sometimes it rains, but must we spend an entire 200 pages discussing just how unpleasant the rain is?

StiffI LOVE this book. I love Mary Roach as a nonfiction writer; she could make any topic interesting, engaging, and easy to understand. In this book, she explores all of the common things that we do to a person’s body after death (e.g. embalming, burial, cremation, scientific studies, etc.).

Hitchiker's Guide to the GalaxyI love anything that intelligently presents our social world to us through the lens of an outsider. We humans are so silly. And this book is so entertaining. Read it!

Pride PrejudiceI am a female, yes? Two words: Mr. Darcy.

FreakonomicsThis book quickly teaches you not to trust any assumptions, opinions, or assertions made by yourself or anyone else. Ever. Data is your friend. And the more valid the data the better, though it’s best to just, ya know, keep gathering as much data as possible on every topic ever because you’ll never know the one right answer to anything. And apparently our world is built entirely on disproved assumptions that people have chosen to ignore.

Alias GraceHey, weird! Margaret Atwood is on this list, who’da thunk? This was like the book version of The Sixth Sense- not that it’s the same story-line at all, but it had a surprise twist ending. I love stuff like that!! It had the kind of ending that makes you see the entire rest of the book in a completely different way.

Sylvia PlathI read this simultaneously with a friend while we were in college (the perfect time and experience for reading this). I can’t really explain what about this book was so great, but she was just a really good writer (no duh). Whenever I think of this book, I think of this one line that she wrote when she was nannying for a family one summer, and she ladled ice cream into bowls for them after dinner. I’m not going to attempt to recreate the line, but just that some random line about ice cream has stuck with me for so long is what I liked about the book. The simple but beautiful way that she described little things like that just delighted me. And the book really  showed how hard she worked to be good and to be recognized as good (in the male-dominated world of writing). Writing is something we can all “do” in the sense that we can all sing (physically, we can), so you don’t always realize what it takes to be really good at it.

Book Report!

The Marriage PlotI read this book because it was recommended for my Myers Briggs type on this list of “The One Perfect Book for Your Myers Briggs Type.” (I’m an INFJ.) So do you think I liked it or hated it?

I HAAAAATED it. Might be one of my least favorite books that I’ve read all the way through. First, as I’ve said before, I don’t like media (books, movies, etc.) in which nothing happens (i.e. lots of description, lots of musings and philosophical theories, etc.). And nothing happened in this book. I don’t even know how to tell you what it was about. It’s about a few stupid college students who stupidly graduate and try to figure out their stupid places in the stupid world. And none of the characters are likable. Or at least, I couldn’t relate to any of them.

Aside from being boring, this book seemed to me to have nothing to do with the values of my Myers Briggs type (which was the whole reason for reading it). INFJs care a great deal about the world, society, others, etc. We want to help people and make an impact, and all kinds of idealistic things like that. And the characters in this book all seemed to be functioning on a very trivial, self-centered, myopic level. It was all about them, how they would be happiest, how to get the most out of their relationships, how to become the most prestigious in their field, etc. It felt really shallow and empty.

This thing won a Pulitzer? I never claimed to have “good taste”, so I must be the stupid one here for not seeing this for the supposed gem that it is, but ugh, I don’t care. What a dumb book.

s-e-c-r-e-tThis book was all right. I didn’t have high expectations for it, and I think that’s the best way to go into it. It’s nice, pleasant, fluff. It’s a romance novel I guess? I don’t really know, since I feel like that term is to be used solely in reference to a book with Fabio on the cover, but if this isn’t a romance novel, I don’t know what is. The ending was really really bad, but it happened so quickly that you can kind of forgive it. That’s as much discussion as this book deserves.

PositronI do love me some Margaret Atwood. Positron is a series, 4 episodes of which have been released so far (I just read all 4). As with most of Atwood’s books, Positron is what she would term “Speculative Fiction.” She uses this term to differentiate her work from Science Fiction (which is how many people classify her books). Speculative Fiction is more about a potential world; a society on this earth that could result from our current trajectory (rather than a fantasy world, or a world based on science that we do not yet have).  I would say that 1984 and Brave New World could fit into the Speculative Fiction genre.

So Positron takes place in the U.S., after economic collapse and years of the resulting chaos. The story revolves around a married couple who live in an experimental town called Consilience, in which all the citizens spend every other month in an idyllic, highly-regulated, 1950s-style life, and every other month in (a fairly pleasant) prison. This is meant to create financial and social stability. I’m at the point where the main characters are involved in a plot to destroy the experiment. I don’t know how many episodes are going to be released, but it feels like I’m in the middle of the story, so I’m not sure where I’m headed, but I’m liking it so far.

pic_1This is the second book in the Outlander Trilogy. It follows the story of a woman who accidentally leaps back in time (it seems much less silly when you’re actually reading it), falls in love with a man (a Scottish Highlander….providing lots of brogue-y, plaid-filled charm), and finds herself  swept up in a Jacobite Rebellion (there is quite a bit of history…though I haven’t researched yet how much of it is accurate). I preferred the first book, but this one was okay.

The main character, Claire, is getting on my nerves a bit. First, she seems to have little empathy (for anyone other than her husband). I can maybe forgive this because she’s kind of in survival mode most of the time (akin to Katniss in the Hunger Games books…I don’t mind that she sees all of her interactions as a strategy for winning because, ya know, she has to). It just feels kind of less than fulfilling to swim around in that brain for so long (these books are looooong).

Second, she’s a bit unrealistically competent. She seems to know everything, and to be good at everything. It’s really nice for her and all, but it would just be a little easier to buy into a character with a few more weaknesses. That’s what contributes to depth, no?

Anyway, this book ended on a very sad note, and as with the first book, I need a little time to step away and breathe easy (and not have to worry about evading the British, and amputating limbs, and…saying goodbye to loved ones…) before I move onto the last one.

Book Report!

Time to talk about the books I’ve read recently!

Holy crap this was the best book. It was so entertaining. They have GOT to make this into a movie. It’s everything you could ever want in a book about a circus (and everything that Water For Elephants failed to give you): magic, romance, mystery, stripes! It’s all here. Read it!


Okayyy…I had heard gushy things about this book for a long time. I resisted it because it was so long, but women seem to lose themselves over it. Like Twilight for grownups, I guess. I have never read a romance novel before…and while reading this I thought maybe this is what they’re like? It’s heavy on the steam. It was definitely a good read, and I’ll probably read the others in the series. And probably see the movie(s). But don’t worry, I’m not going to change my name to Sassenach or anything.


I have read something of substance lately. As an introvert, I always like to hear about how great we are. And how victimized we are by our evil extrovert overlords. There was a lot of really good, really helpful information in this book (information that I’m hoping one or two extroverts will read at some point). At the same time, I have two complaints:

1. I feel like she gets a *little* heavy handed in the rah-rah introvert mode. If I were an extrovert reading this book, I feel like I’d take offense or at least be a bit defensive the whole time. She basically makes it sound like introverts are ignored geniuses and extroverts are noisy, empty cheerleaders. I exaggerate a bit, but I do wonder how accessible it is for extroverts.

2. It was a little dry. I don’t know if it really was dry or if I’m just used to Mary Roach (Stiff, Bonk, etc.), who could make the phone book hilarious and engrossing. There was a lot of information in this book, and I felt like it could have been woven together in a more engaging way.