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review 2017-05-25 01:51
The View From the Cheap Seats
The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction - Neil Gaiman

The View From the Cheap Seats is a compilation of Neil Gaiman's best non-fiction.  Some of these are essays, some are introductions, some are speeches and all of them are thoughtful.  In this book, Neil Gaiman shares things he believes, things about the people he is fortunate enough to know, movies, comics, music and more.
 
You might be thinking that Neil Gaiman is best known for stories, fantasy or science fiction works and why would anyone want to read 500 pages of speeches and introductions, who reads introductions anyways?  Well, I always read introductions and hopefully you will too. 


In The View from the Cheap Seats I have learned what I have always known, but have never put into complete thoughts; stories are important, stories have power.  I have learned that words are magic that turn into ideas, ideas that can make you change the world.  

In his essays, speeches and introductions about other authors I learned of the deep respect held for fellow mentors and writers.  I also gleamed some insight into how authors work and develop ideas.  Most of all, I discovered some authors that I have never had the pleasure of reading and have now been added to my to-be-read pile. 

With any compilation, you could pick and choose which sections to read or individuals selections.  If you do choose to read this, read it however you choose, skip around, devour or meander through, but I do suggest reading it all and letting the power of the words soak in. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

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review 2017-05-24 07:14
Make Your Own Lunch by Ryan Porter
Make Your Own Lunch: How to Live an Epically Epic Life Through Work, Travel, Wonder, and (Maybe) College - Ryan Porter

This is one of those books you give to high school students or beginning college students.  The author provides motivational stories on making your own decisions about what you want to do with your life aka "make your own lunch".  The book is amusing and well written.  It's not a bad book, but I wonder how realistic some of the advice is.

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review 2017-05-22 09:12
The Wonderful Weekend Book
The Wonderful Weekend Book: Reclaim Life's Simple Pleasures - Elspeth Thompson

One of my impulse buys from the library sale, I thought it would be a fun source of inspiration for new weekend activities.  

 

As it turns out, the author and I are apparently on the same page when it comes to ways of enjoying a weekend:  most of the things she recommends or suggests are things we already do, to some extent.  Except learning to play the ukulele - er, no thanks, I'll pass on that one.  Still, MT and I are guilty of the weekly Sunday shop; something both he and I dread, and even though we take advantage of farmer's markets, there's just always something on the list that can't be gotten without a supermarket trip.  (We're not quite ready to trust online grocery shopping yet, either.)

 

There are a lot of good ideas here, helpfully broken down by season and all-year-round activities.  While the ideas are universal to all, the main drawback is that the book is entirely UK-centric, providing liberal lists of UK sources and the author's anecdotes about great places to stay or things to do in the UK.  The debate about how worthwhile it is to go to France to stock up on alcohol seems a particularly moot one to someone living in Australia (or anywhere else that isn't Europe for that matter).

 

Frankly, it's not a book I'd say is worth buying in the shops, but if your library has it, or like me, you find it for a buck at the library sale, it's not a bad source for ways to mix your weekend up a bit.

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review 2017-05-19 18:34
The Secret Library by Oliver Tearle
The Secret Library - Oliver Tearle

The author states that the aim of this book is to "bring to light the lesser-know aspects of well-known books, and to show how obscure and little-known books have surprising links with the familiar world around us".  The book has generally managed to accomplish the stated aims.  This book is a collection of bits of information and commentary (with toilet humour attached) about the best-known and the least-known books ever written in English, European and American literature.  At first I found this book amusing and interesting, after a while it got rather tedious.

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review 2017-05-19 02:04
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi

This is one of those books that comes along and turns everything you thought you knew upside down. I loved every minute of it and can't wait to read more from Nafisi.

She manages to do so much in this book. It just amazes me. She makes me want to read everything over again (except Lolita which I read for the first time in tandem with this and am so grateful that I did. Here's the review for Lolita), and to teach literature, and to have my own group where we can dive into all these books together. Unfortunately, all these things are incredibly difficult to come by or create and I can't imagine how she managed to do it in Tehran, of all places.

Okay, to be fair, I don't have to imagine, she details it in the book. Other than Pride and Prejudice, I wasn't a fan of any of the books they so loved in their courses and most I had already read for my own English degree, again the exception is Lolita. That said, I really have to go back and reread them and appreciate all these things that I didn't see on the first pass. I absolutely loved the Gatsby trial because it also made clear for me the things that are amazing about the book and made sense of it all. A problem that I have had with classics like that one and Great Expectations was that the women were so unreal to me. I had never met nor knew of a woman in real life like any of them. It had not occurred to me that these are only the impressions of the male protagonist of what these women were like. Even when it was once pointed out to me, I was horrified and couldn't bring myself to really believe it. Surely, men don't actually view women the way that Pip viewed Estella, but I was assured that many do. This did not help me like that particular novel, but it helped me understand Daisy in The Great Gatsby when that same thought process was pointed out here.

I think the difference is the timing and the impression that was left. Like with Madame Bovary, I remembered the highlights of the The Great Gatsby and the feel of the book but not an excess of details. I could remember that Daisy was always seen as the embodiment of everything desirable and wonderful by Gatsby but not why. It helped my impression of her that she loved him, though it left me confused when she chose to leave him at the end. Nafisi does help clarify this when she supports the idea that Daisy in the book isn't always interpreted adequately by Nick, the narrator, which is why her actions can be confusing. The same would have been true for Lolita, who is seen entirely through the eyes of HH, had I not read the section about Lolita here prior to getting into the meat of the audiobook. I could see through HH's interpretation and make my own interpretations of the same actions, something I couldn't manage with Daisy or Estella. I mentioned in the Lolita review that it really makes me want to do a reread of both and I'd throw Daisy Miller into the mix now that I've read her section in this book as well.

Madame Bovary I had already learned to appreciate shortly after starting this blog because it prompted me to think a little more about the context than the story and that she is such an unlikeable character for me. Once I got over the idea of judging her for her actions, I remembered to appreciate that she is a fully developed character, written like a real woman with reasoning for her actions that I can understand and even empathize with while disagreeing with them and that she was written by a man over a hundred years ago. She was written in a way that see beyond all the delicacy that we are attributed into the people that women are and that we can have our own ambitions and desires. She's a precursor to all the amazing women in Game of Thrones who finally got me to like fantasy because there were real women going through stuff and messing everything up and making mistakes and getting it done. Because of this, I could just nod and agree on Madame Bovary though I didn't think she was discussed quite as much as some of the others.

I knew going in that this was a book about other books and that it took place in Iran, but I had managed to ignore when this class took place. Thus, I was not prepared for how much the book was going to be about the war between Iraq and Iran. The amazing interpretations that this time and place give to the interpretations of these books are reason alone to read this, and probably the primary reason to do so, but Nafisi also does the reverse and interprets the world through the books, adding a depth to her memoir that I hadn't expected. The timing of the class gives Nafisi and her students certain insights into these books but the books also give them other insights into their time and place.

Each book made them see something different in their world the same way their world made them see things in the book that I overlooked. Something as simple as Daisy Miller and her actions are taken entirely differently when one also lives the heavier restrictions that are placed upon women in some parts of the world. It's easy as a reader in the US now to just see Daisy as being a little slutty and forget that she is lashing out at society. I certainly missed it. I also missed how such simple actions work to begin the breakdown of societal restraints on our lives and free us just a little more. It's girls like Daisy that get us from where she was to where I am and I never paid enough attention to appreciate that about her.

So I've gone a really long way to say that this book revolutionized the way I think of the books mentioned and, in certain respects, the way to even read a book. That said, it is a wonderful memoir of a woman who lived through a historical period in Iran that absolutely needed documented from a woman's perspective. I am grateful to her for that as well. It is a look into the lives of women in a time and place that we often overlook women and their experiences. We fall into a mindset that women aren't doing anything because they aren't the people on the screens and given the higher priority bylines. The more I make an effort to read about women, the more I'm a believer in the hidden history of women getting it done and then having credit taken from them or their contributions covered up. We absolutely must make a better effort to know our own herstories and make them louder, make them as inescapable as the men in history are.

Women were there, women were contributing, women need to be remembered for it all.

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