Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book #49

Book #49: The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment, by A.J. Jacobs

Not as good as his previous works, but in the same vein - A.J. takes on projects that take over his life. His first two books involved him living the Bible as literally as possible for a year and then reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover. This book summarized a series of "experiments" he did for a month or so each, ranging from outsourcing his entire life (including having someone else email apologies to his wife!) to posing nude for a magazine after an actress he was writing an article about for Esquire said the only way she would pose nude was if he did so as well.

Same kind of humor as before, and I look forward to reading more books by him. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book 48

Book #48: Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank, by Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D.

The sense of humor in this book reminded me of Mary Roach's first book, Stiff (I recommend that one but not so much her later books, by the way). Dr. Hutter Epstein tackles scientific topics with a humorous outlook and a healthy dose of skepticism, realizing that stories that may have been accepted in their time, such as that of the 16th century farmer who performed his wife's c-section (and had both mother and baby live!), may not be as true as we'd like to believe. She discusses the rise of the c-section epidemic, the emergence of in-vitro fertilization and egg freezing, and the "freebirthing" backlash.

One seemingly mundane thing I liked about this book pertains to the formatting of the book's footnotes. The editor or publisher or whomever is responsible for this made the helpful choice of including the footnotes at the bottom of each page rather than in the back of the book. I really appreciated this, since the footnotes were, more often than not, a humorous side note to the accompanying regular text rather than simply a source note.

The little things that make us readers happy, huh?? ;)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Expensive weekend

This was an expensive weekend for us. After we tore down our shed last weekend, we'd been waiting until this weekend to buy our new one. We already had it picked out, but Lowe's gives all veterans (including those of us without a fancy retirement ID card!) a 10% discount on purchases up to $5,000. So... as much as I was dreading it, we pulled the trigger and bought this one:
This is the 10' by 10' Rainier "wood storage building" from Heartland. Supposedly it will be here and installed within the next month - we're hoping they can come out the week of Thanksgiving since Jeff will be off from school. It will come in a boring primer color, with black shingles. 

Eventually we'll paint it the same color as our house - which, after having a new window installed this weekend, is becoming increasingly patchwork! Most of the house is a beige color, but with all the windows we've replaced, with various kinds of stucco, we've got some lighter tan patches, some white patches, and even now some dark gray patches, haha! It'll all work out. 

Now I just have to go cry over how much we spent this weekend on home improvement projects!

It'll all be worth it in the long run...right!? ;)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book #47 - Driving with Dead People

Book #47: Driving with Dead People by Monica Holloway

Holloway's memoir should, by any rights, be somber to the point of making the reader cry - but it isn't. The story of a small town girl who grows up in a broken home,  Holloway finds her own ways to thrive. Her father is physically abusive, her mother in denial, and her and her three siblings are left to deal with it, each in their own way. Monica escapes in school, boys, college, and generally in striving to please. Her one-liners throughout the book are great - one wonders if they're born out of an attempt to cope or out of denial, but I laughed out loud a few times nonetheless. Recommended!


Five more to go for the year to reach my goal! I'm sending out a big stack to swap through tomorrow - I haven't read them all, but I have too much going on with all my sewing projects and just trying to de-clutter the house, I don't wan to keep books around that I'm not as interested in reading as I once was!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Books 45 and 46!

Thanks to posting almost all of my non-wishlisted books onto my shelf at, and subsequently having so many end up being requested RIGHT AWAY, I've been reading up a storm! I've decided that yes, while I still enjoy reading, the one-book-a-week pace is just right for me...but if I'm still going to acquire books, I really need to do some housekeeping to keep up with my goal of "minimal to-be-read books by the time we move in, um, 2013."

Here are the two I finished over the last few days!

Book 45: My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student, by Rebekah Nathan

The premise of this book was interesting - an anthropologist does an ethnography of life as a college freshman. The execution, however, as flawed. There was only so much real integration that Nathan could do, given her much-older-than-the-average-freshman status - she didn't really socialize with them in the same way that someone younger (even mid-20s) could have. Most of the time I found myself thinking "well...duh." Yeah, college is more about time management than learning, in many cases (maybe that's what you ARE learning?). Yeah, college students aren't as prepared as they perhaps used to be - if you're there five minutes, and are even five years older than average, you'll notice a lack of maturity and lack of preparation that, on some cases, is quite startling.

Ultimately I found myself wondering who this book is for. Most college administrators probably already had data similar to hers at their disposal. Current college students (or even those who've at least been there recently) know about the struggles associated with it (and the payoff one earns at the end, I suppose - don't want to be too cynical!). Possibly the group that would benefit the most would be parents of first-generation college students, to gain some understanding of what their children will be going through.

Not a bad book, but not really recommended for leisure reading.

Book 46: Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic, by Martha Beck

I can't say enough good things about this book. Looking out onto the prospect of becoming a mom someday, I'll admit that one of my biggest fears is having a child with a disability. Through blogs like Driving with No Hands and a book like this, both about life with one or more children with Downs Syndrome, I've come to realize that it would not be the worst thing in the world. Beck's writing is joyful, skipping back and forth between her horrible experience with being pregnant with Adam and anecdotes from Adam's childhood so far. She relates the trauma of his diagnosis, her coping with that (often alone!), learning to allow herself to receive mothering, her family's reaction, the prejudices from those around her (including absolutely terrible doctors), and how his birth ends up being one of the best things to ever happen to her.

I highly recommend this book. You will cheer along with her.


Almost done with my "required" reading for the year - only six to go! I have NINE books that have either been requested from me or which I've agreed to send in the next week or so. I've started skimming a few, and even though the topic of the book may have been really interesting to me, I'm not going to force myself to read books I can't get into! My folks are borderline hoarders - that's NOT something I want to inherit.

Besides, clearing out books means more room for fabric. :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Books 43 and 44

Book 43: Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China, by Leslie T. Chang

The premise of this book is one that's definitely been in the news lately - the development of the Chinese economy through the rise in urbanization. Much of the book does focus on that, with Chang profiling various Chinese women who have migrated from rural villages to a large city in order to work in factories. She discusses their means for getting ahead - often lying about credentials or work experience - and how often they change jobs (and the costs associated with doing so - many factory managers will keep an employee's first month-or-two of wages in order to try to get them to stay for six months or a year).

In the middle, however, Chang focuses on her family's own migratory history, from one end of China to another and, ultimately, out of the country. I really could have done without those chapters. While they helped me understand why she wanted to write the book, it didn't really contribute to the themes, as her family didn't go to a city to work in factories and really ended up much  better off than most "factory girls" will.

An interesting book, but not particularly recommended.

Book 44: I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted (A memoir) by Jennifer Finney Boylan

I've read another book by Boylan (She's Not There), in which she discusses in some degree of detail her transition from man to woman. This book, however, focuses less on the here-and-now, life-changing events and more on the consequences of those changes. Using the "haunted house" she grew up in, Boylan paints herself as haunted, both by the expectations that were placed on her while growing up a boy and by her own past AS said boy.

As with her previous book, I was struck by the frankness with which Boylan is able to write about transgender issues. I enjoyed her writing style and would definitely recommend this book and the other one I've read!