Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Hello, hello. I got a lot of positive response from my previous book review post, so figured I should let you all know what I have read since then. I'm not necessarily proud that I spent hours reading some of the books listed below, but cut me some slack, I don't have a TV. I'm allowed to read for mind-numbing amusement sometimes.

This is the second book by the brilliant author of I was Told there'd be Cake, which I wrote about previously. I thought this was only slightly less amusing than the first, (perhaps it was just the novelty of this hilarious writer wearing off) but definitely still great. Sloane recounts stories from her childhood, to life as a 20-something in NYC with descriptions so vivid you will feel like it was you...who was doing an illegal furniture trade in a dark alley of Manhattan with a mysterious man who you met at Design within Reach? Really, funny.

This is where the aforementioned note about not judging my junk reading comes into play. I had always wanted to read this book when I saw it on display in the airport book stores, but I was too embarrassed to be carrying it around, risking that a co-worker or elder might see me (or hear me laughing) and look over to see me reading about *gasp* one night stands! Well, that is the glory of the kindle, my friends- no one knows what you're reading! So I downloaded this sucker and plowed through it. It is, as titled, a bizarre and truly unbelievable--not as in "amazing" unbelievable, but as in "I'm really not sure if I believe you" unbelievable-- collection of one night stands. Whether true or not, they are laugh out loud funny, and I quickly hit download on her next title.

This didn't differ all that much from the first book, and honestly I can't remember which stories were from which book at this point. Despite the adult-only titles, Chelsea writes a fair amount about her childhood: from walking in on her parents, to the missteps of her embarrassingly nerdy father, and stories of trying to fit-in with the cool kids. After finishing this in a day, I read....

This is the most recent of Chelsea's books and so recounts more recent stories from her life. The book takes place when she already has 'made it' (she has a show apparently? yes, I don't have a TV). It contains some pretty funny stories of the ridiculousness of the LA scene, and how much she seems to torment her long-term live in boyfriend. Mostly it made me feel bad for him. And laugh a lot. Luckily she doesn't have any more books so I was forced to return to more intellectual reading.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
Appropriately, I decided to download this on my way to Mexico which marked the start of my time off from work, in search of new work. It's a best-seller, but honestly I think it's a little shallow. While there are some lessons to be learned from this guy about how to maximize efficiency in life and in work, I think his overall proposal was weak. Basically he thinks that everyone should create some sort of online business in which they can set up to function almost completely without their supervision, but by which they can rake in buckets of money monthly to spend on travel and fun. Sounds nice, huh? He uses himself as a model-- he managed to set up a very lucrative online vitamin business. I think he over-simplifies the ease of doing such a thing, assuming unrealistic demand and success. Furthermore, he makes the assumption that to all of us, this would be satisfying. This part bothered more more than the simplification-- the idea that no one would actually derive pleasure or satisfaction from his/her job, or life's work and that everyone should work on minimizing their time working. It is the complete opposite of the more popular concept of finding a passion that can be your work, or work that ignites your passion. In any case, interesting read, if for no other reason than for suggesting that everyone hire a remote personal assistant in India. I'm looking into it.

If you're going to read one book from this list, read this. In fact, if you're going to read one book all year, read this. This is an incredible memoir of a girl who was born to two drug addicted parents in the Bronx. She lives with them through her middle school years, as they spend their welfare checks on coke, and she scrounges for food on the street, sometimes resorting to eating ice cubes because chewing makes her think she's eating. Despite the clear abuse of her addicted parents, Liz tells her story without distaste or anger towards them, which leaves the reader feeling compassionate towards the whole family. After her mother's mental illness causes her to be taken to a hospital, and she ends up living with her mother's abusive boyfriend and finally runs away, spending almost two years sleeping in the subway and on friends' couches. She misses all of her first two years of high school, but at the age of 16, after her mother dies of AIDS, and Liz feels she's about to hit rock bottom, Liz comes to the realization that she wants to turn her life around. She begins applying to alternative high schools and eventually gets in, impressively finishes in two years, and wins a NYT Scholarship to Harvard. This story is real, and it is one of the most unbelievable testaments to the will of the human spirit. It's beautifully written, humbling, heartbreaking and inspirational. MUST READ.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
As you've probably read in every liberal publication, Tina Fey wrote a book. And, no surprise, it's funny. My experience of this book was definitely influenced by the fact that Lauren and I read it aloud to each other in Mexico, while lounging in on the beach, or while listening to the waves as we fell asleep. I'm pretty sure I would enjoy it anywhere, but in that setting, it was pretty much heaven. I enjoyed the first half more than the second-- her stories of her childhood and post-college days of "making it" as a comedian and actress are hilarious, and as is the story of a cruise ship fire on her honeymoon (confirming my commitment to lifelong avoidance of cruise ships). Read it.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I'm embarrassed that I started reading this, and even more embarrassed that I finished it. This is the first of a series (but the last that I'll read of it) set in a futuristic world where teens from each state are chosen for an annual survival test called the Hunger Games, where they fight to kill each other off while living inside some sort of life-sized terrarium controlled by the game makers. Now I know I'm not one for fantasy, but if I'm going to read it, I'd at least like it to be vivid and well-written. I was as disturbed by the attack of the larger than life foxes as I was by the horrible writing quality. Apparently after the whole Eclipse saga swept the nation, teen lit is now completely socially acceptable for not-so-young adult readers. Verdict: I'd rather read Judy Blume.

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