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review 2017-09-21 17:07
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach

Several years ago, I listened to the audiobook version of Gulp.  My reaction at the time was “Fascinating, with just the right amount of yuck factor.” 


I re-read Gulp during the early part of September since it was picked as the first Flat Book Society read.  The chatty, anecdotal style that worked so well for the first listen, didn’t hold up as well to a (print) re-read.  The level of detail for many of the chapters seemed more appropriate for a podcast or a newspaper article than for a book, and perhaps would have been better if encountered in episodic form with a break between sections.


My least favorite parts were the early chapters discussing the history of Fletcherism (obsessive chewing) and the 19th century experiments on Alexis St. Martin (he of the fistulated stomach), both stories I’d previously encountered.  The book picked up a bit once Ms. Roach started talking about the Oral Processing Lab at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and other recent research into the digestive process.   I particularly liked the chapter debunking the story of Jonah and the "whale." While many find the closing chapter regarding stool transplants repugnant, as someone with a delicate digestion, I found the idea of recolonizing the digestive system fascinating.


If you can appreciate potty humor and are interested in a semi-random series of tidbits loosely connected to digestion, then you might want to pick up Gulp for your next audiobook or bathroom read.   

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text 2017-09-19 03:33
Reading progress update: I've read 36 out of 208 pages.
The Thin Man - Dashiell Hammett

Golly these folks are boozers!!!  I wonder if they don't trust the water. If I drank as much as they did, I wouldn't be able to think straight.  Is it an attempt to portray an idealized life of the leisure class or something else?


While it's a hall-mark of classic noir, I'm also not particularly enjoying the obsessively male gaze.


I do want to fill the Classic Noir square, and it's a short book, so I think I'll keep going a bit longer.  But I've just requested The Best American Noir of the Century - James Ellroy,Otto Penzler from the library as a backup.



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review 2017-09-19 02:44
Half-Off Ragnarok
Half-Off Ragnarok - Seanan McGuire

Afraid my opinion of Half-Off Ragnarok isn't all that original. 


If you like the cryptozoological world full of basilisks, bogeymen, Jhorlac and The Aeslin Mice created by Seanan McGuire, you are going to want to read volume #3 of The InCryptid series.  


Alex Price isn't quite as captivating as his perky older sister Verity.  Ohio isn't as exciting as NYC. The love interest isn't nearly as intriguing as Dominic. The Aeslin Mice make fewer appearances and have less of a role in the plot. But Half-Off Ragnarok is a decently paced urban fantasy with a lower body count than the previous volumes that moves the series along.


I'm counting Half-Off Ragnarok for



This book at the rest of the InCryptid Series would also work for



Seanan McGuire is the Featured Author Guest at Philcon this November.  It's day-trip distance for me and we are planning to attend.  If anyone else is going, please let me know, because I'd love to meet for coffee.

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text 2017-09-17 14:38
Reading progress update: I've read 17 out of 208 pages.
The Thin Man - Dashiell Hammett

Started The Thin Man.  Loving all the activity, but carefully avoiding everyone's updates so that I don't read spoilers by mistake.

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review 2017-09-10 04:39
The Book of Joy
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World - Douglas Carlton Abrams,Desmond Tutu,Dalai Lama XIV

In 2015, Archbishop Desmond Tutu travelled to Daramsala for a week of conversations with the Dalai Lama on the topic of Joy and to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.  The Archbishop and the Dalai Lama articulated 8 pillars to finding Joy in a sorrow-filled world: Perspective, Humility, Humor, Acceptance, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Compassion, and Generosity. They discussed each topic and answered questions submitted by members of the public. The public conversations were facilitated by Douglas Abrams, video recorded (excerpts are available on YouTube), and summarized in The Book of Joy.  I randomly grabbed the audiobook off the new-book shelf because it looked interesting.


All too often when I listen to the Rabbi’s talk about the weekly Torah portion during services or when I listen to a TED talk, I go “that’s interesting, I’d like to think about it more” but if you asked me the main points later in the day, I couldn’t tell you.  I feel much the same way about The Book of Joy.  The discussions about how to achieve Joy in the face of both individual and world-level suffering were interesting, but it would take a lot more study for me to retain more than the broadest outlines of what was discussed.


The producers of the Audiobook made the decision to have separate narrators for each person speaking.  Douglas Abrams narrated his own role, and distinctive voices spoke for the Dalai Lama and Archbishop.  While I appreciated the ease of knowing who was talking, after watching a few video clips of the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama, I didn’t like that they picked readers with even stronger accents than the men themselves.  I also thought that Mr. Abrams was too blatantly adulatory and spent a bit too long dwelling on his own role in the dialogs rather than getting out of the way and letting the two stars speak for themselves. 


If you have a casual interest, I recommend looking for the videos of the meeting between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu or videos of other panel discussions with the two men.  If you are interested in a deeper understanding, plan to devote time to studying The Book of Joy and exploring the suggested meditations and exercises rather than just reading it.


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