Book Log #6: Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly [Little Shop of Stories, Paperback]

I caught the movie with the kids last weekend before reading this book. Unfortunately, I had accidentally put the Young Readers Edition on my wishlist, and received it for Christmas. So, it was a tad simplistic… I kind of want to get the adult version and read it again.

The stories are interesting, and I’m glad I read (a version of) the book after seeing the movie, so I could sort the dramatization from the facts a bit. If the book is taken as the reality, then the movie did take some liberties with time and order of events, and even reassigned some things that happened to different characters, but overall the movie was by and large a true story, just reshaped for dramatic effect.

According to the book, John Glenn didn’t trust the IBM electronic computers, and did indeed ask for the “girl” to check the calculations on his reentry before he would take his historic flight, which was a touching point in the movie that seemed exaggerated. Nice to know that piece was true.

At any rate, it’s amazing that these stories haven’t been mainstream knowledge until now. They’re inspirational, to say the least.

Book Log #5: The Three Body Problem

The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu and translated by Ken Liu [Christmas gift, hardback, Little Shop of Stories]

This was originally recommended by… someone. Curt? Can’t remember. But then President Obama recommended it. And I figured if two totally unrelated sources recommended a book, I should probably listen.

I wasn’t disappointed. I feel like Cixin Liu is a Chinese Neal Stephenson. Lots of interesting sci-fi ideas mixed in with a dose of history… a very enjoyable read. It went pretty quickly.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book translated from Chinese, so… a first.

Again, it’s difficult to discuss without spoilers… but the story spans from the Cultural Revolution and its fallout to the “present day”, covering a couple generations and jumping back and forth in time with gradual reveals of what’s “really” going on. Reminiscent of Cryptonomicon.

Good read. Thanks, Obama.

Book Log #51 – The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

I’ve read several autobiographies by comedians in the last few years– Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Faith Salie… hmmm, I felt like this list would be longer.

All of them have been funny, all have been interesting, all are good reads I would recommend… by Amy Schumer’s is the first one that also made me somewhat terrified for my daughter.

Ms. Schumer tells stories of her encounters with abusive or unstable boyfriends, and I’d love to say my daughter is too self-possessed, too smart, too self-respectful to fall for the crap a wrong person brings. But the fact is… so was Amy Schumer.

I’d like to think that we’re raising our daughter in a better environment, and maybe that will help, but you just never know.

Probably the best thing I can do is just let her read Amy’s book. When she’s much, much older, because this sucker is pretty raunchy and definitely R-rated, like most things Amy does.

Regardless, this was an excellent, funny, often poignant, sometimes cringe-worthy book. Definitely recommend.

Books Read: 51
Week Number: 52

This is it, folks. I need to knock one more out in three days. And I think I know just the book.

Book Log #46 – Approval Junkie

Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too Much by Faith Salie [Hardback, Little Shop of Stories, $27]

I knew Faith Salie a tiny, little bit.

Freshman year at my dream school, and her “safety” school (pg 224), we lived in the same 103 person dorm. We acted together in a video project, where I and two other guys sang (poorly, in my case) a serenade to her about art, or rather how “we have art for [her]”. We are not the heroes of this video, we are the jerks. She plays a being from another plane of existence, or something like that. I played a pizza delivery boy.

I know she took the Early to Bed, Early to Rise adage very seriously, to the chagrin of her suitemates, who were more the opposite and didn’t care much for shushing during Really Deep Conversations That We Have In College.

We once had a very nice conversation in a suite, the topic of which I completely forget.

She transferred to Harvard after freshman year, which I referenced in the dorm yearbook with a joke about “Faith No More”, a band I knew existed but couldn’t point out in a lineup. I stretch for the comedy.

But now she is part of the Golden Era of Female Comedians. Felicia Day, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, etc. etc. etc., many of whom have written memoirs. But not many of them are on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR, which is her greatest achievement IMHO.

I love these books, and Ms. Salie’s is no exception. Very funny, very readable, and just the right amount of poignant. She’s got plenty of stories worth telling, even at her young age of mid-fortiesish.

I recommend it, even if she disses my alma mater.

Books Read: 46
Week Count: 47
Gotta… catch… up.

Book Log #38 – The Member of the Wedding

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers [Little Shop of Stories, $7.56/Kindle $6.51]

“Recommended” by the Language Arts teacher at Dekalb School of the Arts. By which I mean, it is on my son’s reading list for this fall. This is the second book from his list that I’ve picked up, and I must say that we’re 2/2 on good reads there.

Probably I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much in 8th grade. Or 12th. Or when I was 25. Tastes change, now I am boring. Or I used to be. One or t’other.

This book is a fascinating character sketch of a 12 year old girl. Full of complex emotions she’s encountering for the first time, she struggles with finding her place in the small town she grew up in. That description seems cliche, and doesn’t really do justice to the fine writing and vivid portrayal involved here.

Regardless, I liked it quite a bit. I look forward to more of the school system’s recommendations for “my” reading list.

A note that I read the first half in paper form, then we forgot it when we went out of town and Roan needed to get a couple chapters read, so we grabbed it on Kindle, where I finished it. Being a short novel, the price/page on this one is fairly high.

Week: 38
Book: 38
Ratio: 1:1

Book Log #35: The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate [Little Shop of Stories?]

Katherine Applegate is a ridiculously prolific author.

She does not shy away from the dark and the sad. The first part of this book, while mingled with hope and levity, is mostly really sad. It documents various animals living in a mall zoo.

I understand this is based on the real story of a gorilla named Ivan who resided at the Atlanta Zoo.

In short, it tugs at the heartstrings, but is well-written and engaging. This was a book I read to my daughter in the evenings, and she loved it. Even when it was sad.

Book Log #34: Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Mary Poppins in the book… is kind of a jerk.

It seems the affection of the children is almost entirely based upon the fantastical magic she employs and then completely denies.

Still, very interesting to read when all you know is the movie. I decidedly believe the movie is a great improvement in plot. Plus, music!

Book Log #33: The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros [Little Shop of Stories, $11.00]

My son’s 8th grade reading list may prove a fruitful ground for good books. This is a riveting short collection of vignettes about the coming of age of a young hispanic girl. File it under less is more, the author manages to pack a lot of meaning in a page and a half. Both whimsical and touching, this book makes for a nice evening’s read.

And now I can talk intelligently with my son about his homework.

Week 34
Book 33
Having squandered by big lead from the beginning of the year, we have now fallen below the 1:1 parity of books:weeks. No more Bleak House sized books for me!

Book Log #31: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series Paperback – by David Lagercrantz (Author) [Little Shop of Stories, paperback]

As it goes, the fourth book in the series. I remember reading that he had worked on the fifth book in the series, and possibly the sixth, before he had died. There was all sorts of controversy and rumor, the girlfriend denies there was any further plans for the series.

At any rate, this was an okay continuation. It’s not as good, and no where near enough of the title character Salander. But there’s an evil twin sister of Salander introduced, and it kind of feels like this was a filler novel before getting to the plot Stieg started for the fifth book.

Basically, as good as one has any reason to suspect.