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review 2018-02-14 08:46
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection - Carol Burnett

As I said in my recent status update, I loved this book.  The Carol Burnett show was such a staple growing up in the 70's; it wasn't until I started reading/listening to this book that I realised how much I missed the kind of comedy she and her cast served up every week.


The book is broken into individual anecdotes that cover her early life and career.  Almost all of them are light, interesting, amusing and often laugh-out-loud hilarious.  A couple towards the end will bring tears as she relates particularly heartbreaking moments, but mostly the tears are from laughing so hard.


I don't know how well this book's promise would translate for anyone who hadn't at least watched a few episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, but for those that have and enjoyed it, this is a welcome trip down memory lane.


Burnett herself reads the book, and she does an amazing job.  At no point did it ever feel like she was 'reading' anything; her delivery is as natural as if she was right there talking to you.


I'm thrilled to find out she released another book last year, In Such Good Company.  All behind the scenes stories from the show.  It's taking all my self control to not check it out and immediately start listening, but I'm going to make myself listen to a book from my shelves first.  

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review 2017-12-23 22:54
Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books
Browsings - Michael Dirda,John Lescault

First, I want to be clear: this 3 star rating is for the audiobook only.  I have a print copy of Browsings, but in an effort to pack more reading in, I borrowed the audiobook from my library to listen while driving to and from work.


The narrator, John Lescault, is not great.  He breathes very little, if any, personality into the reading of the essays.  As the book progresses, some life comes out here and there, but mostly there are large swaths of the narration that sound exactly like a computer generated voice is reading the text to you.  Because work ended for the holidays before the book did, I read the last few columns from my print edition.  Once I got Lescault's voice out of my head, I found the essays a lot more lively and enjoyable.  I suspect when I pick this up again some time in the future, when the soulless narration has faded from memory, I'll enjoy the essays a lot more.


Browsings is a collection of Dirda's columns, written over the course of a year, for The American Scholar.  He talks about a little of everything book related and his reading tastes are the very definition of eclectic, so there's likely something here for everyone who might enjoy reading about a bookish life.  My only disappointment – aside from the narration –was a lack of solid, factual information about collecting and living with books, but that's the result of my own hopeful expectations, not to any unmet promises on the part of the book itself.


An enjoyable book to dip in and out of, but definitely skip the audio version.

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review 2017-02-14 23:08
Food: A Love Story
Food: A Love Story - Jim Gaffigan

This was my first exposure to the comedy of Jim Gaffigan.  I went with audio because I figured it would come the closest to seeing him live; he's the narrator, so you experience this book presumably the way it was intended to be delivered.


It was good.  At no point did I ever want to fast forward, or yell at him through my car speakers.  I found almost all of it amusing, and there were some great one liners, but other than one out-loud chuckle, most of the humour remained at the amusing level.


If asked about my favourite bit, I'd definitely say it's the part where he talks about McDonalds, and how everybody has their own McDonalds, whether it's Star Magazine, or the hidden stash of chocolate, or the Ben and Jerry's in the freezer, we all have a McDonalds equivalent.  This had me talking back to my dashboard: "Yeah, that's right, I never thought of it like that - we do all have our own McDonalds!".  


The narration was... ok.  I don't think anyone could have done it better - but there was, especially at the beginning, a bit of stiffness; a sense that he hadn't seen the material for some time before he started recording the narration.  Sometimes, he really got into it and then the narration was great; the listener got a good idea of how great he'd be in a live show.


I'm glad I listened to it; it was entertaining.  If Gaffigan were ever to make it this far on tour, I definitely pony up the money to see him live.

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text 2016-09-08 09:33
Sometimes asking for clarification isn't very clarifying...

Most of my book friends have heard be bitch over the years about how expensive my library's InterLibrary Loan program is: $5.50 for every book requested.  The librarian was very clear about the program when I first applied for my library card.  This fee has always been a motivating force behind why I buy all my books.


But a couple of months ago my part-time work became much more part-time and it felt prudent to pare that book buying habit way back.  I sure as hell wasn't going to pare my reading back, so that meant finding a way to embrace my local library and its limited (regarding my tastes) collections.


I was on the site the other day, figuring out how to borrow their Audiobooks, and I saw a passing comment about how you could pick up or return your library books at any council (county) library.  That's all it said; I couldn't find anything else that expanded on that but I started to have the sinking sensation that I'd been part of a massive cultural translation fail.


So when I went to the library the other day, I asked:  Do you differentiate between ILL and inter-council library requests?  The answer:  Yes!  You can borrow any book in the council library system for free and it will be delivered to your branch of choice for pick up.



This is a perfect example of what I mean when I try to tell people that moving to AU was in some ways harder than it would have been had I moved to a non-English speaking country.  That librarian and I both knew what an InterLibrary Loan was; we just didn't know our definitions were different.


On the plus side, my choices have expanded exponentially.  :)

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review 2016-08-17 23:28
A Passion for Books
A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books - Rob Kaplan,Harold Rabinowitz

The Subtitle for this book is:

A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Lore, and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books.


which is pretty much the most accurate synopsis of the book possible.  It's an excellent collection of bits: cartoons, lists, quotes, poems and essays that range in length from one page to twenty.  I think there's even a curse upon those who steal books in here somewhere.


Everything included revolves around the simple love (or obsession) for books, as objects more than the stories they contain.  That's not to say the joy of reading isn't part of the whole, but this collection focuses on the joy, the need, of owning the books themselves.  Readers who've gone wholly digital, or prefer a minimalist housekeeping approach won't find much to love here.


As with any collection of writings from various authors and times, some are better than others, but there were very few I just didn't care for and then only because I either found the writing too dense or dated or the subject matter not quite interesting enough to enthral me.  There were maybe three all up that I wouldn't have missed if they were left out.  Given the table of contents runs to two and a half pages, that's a pretty good ratio.


The authors also include a 6 page bibliography at the end of other books about books, with the ones they used to create A Passion for Books marked with an asterisk.


This was a library loan for me, but I've already ordered a copy in hardcover for my personal library.  I'll enjoy dipping in and out of it again and again.

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