Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Reviews: First 5 Books of 2017

So my resolution to review the books I read has not gone all that well thus far this year, lol. I thought I'd do a little catch up here with a few reviews. If you're not into this type of post, don't worry - the sewing and knitting will continue shortly :)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is an interesting look into the mind of a boy with autism. The story is told completely from Christopher's point of view, a young English boy who lives with his dad because his mother couldn't handle their family dynamic and left. Christopher's father told Christopher his mother wasn't coming back, and allowed a lie to grow into Christopher believing his mother is dead. His world is turned upside down when he discovers letters from his very alive mother hidden in his father's room, which sparks an adventure where he runs away to live with her.

The story is interesting even just for the way it is written. Christopher is a mathematical genius, but he can't handle interacting with people. He also hates certain colors and can't process information like those around him. I've heard some say this book was contrived to deliberately be popular, and I've heard others say it really is accurate to how an autistic person operates. Personally I enjoyed the story and Christopher's adventure through his eyes. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Joy On Demand is written by Chade-Meng Tan, a Google programmer who has become an advocate for Buddhist teachings in a secular environment. This book teaches the ins and outs of basic meditation practice without all the Buddhist religion you usually have along with this info. While I picked up many good tips from Chade-Meng, one of my favorites is to lift your mood by simply focusing on someone else and inwardly hoping they have a good day, or that things are going well in their life. Just that quick little altruistic thought can brighten your spirits so much, because it pulls you out of your own petty problems and helps you focus on someone else with no thought of personal gain. That's just one little tidbit in an overall wonderfully explained book. Even if you are completely new to meditation, this book will help you being and get better control of yourself. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero was one of those "the right book at the right time" situations for me. This book worked on me exactly as it is designed - to be a kick in the ass to finally do something about the things you don't like in your life. Jen is a "life coach", which has always sounded ridiculous to me, but she has some very valid points and certainly seems to know what to say to cut through your crap and get you to really see your life for what it is. I listened to the audiobook of this, so I had the added fun of having the author read me the book, which made this more like a sarcastic therapy session with great stories and examples. This book got me to try running (!) - yes, ME! That's huge. That's a manifestation of how well this book works if you are tired of being unhappy and ready to change. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - What can a person really say to describe what makes this book so great? I don't know if I should even try. I will say that this book confirms my love of Tolstoy. He always manages to use believable comparisons of very realistic characters to bring you around to contemplating the meaning of life. I completely understand why this book is at the top of books you must read in your lifetime. It's a huge undertaking to get through, but very much worth it, and the story is so interesting that I never felt bored. Personally I love that in spite of all the terrible things the characters endured, they all look back and say how they wouldn't change anything because it made them who they are now. We all have tragedies in our lives, whether large or small, and it is our attitude about the experience that shapes our future lives and happiness. I definitely agree with the sentiment of Natasha and Pierre - I am grateful for the things I have lived through because I can better enjoy and appreciate the life I have now. In my opinion this book is worth reading just to have that fully sink in. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides is the story of the sad suicides of an entire family of girls in the 1970s. The story is told as an investigative project long after the event done by some neighbor boys who had a strange obsession with the girls. The story leaves you to contemplate what causes suicide to become an option for the very young, but doesn't offer up an answer. The book just lays out the events leading up to the tragedy as well as the aftermath for those left behind. The book is depressing, there's no doubt, but it is an interesting idea to contemplate. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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