January book (and life) report

Apologies for not posting on Monday.  I was wiped out from a weekend with multiple events! January was a whirlwind for me… I had several programs for our temple sisterhood that I put together, a board meeting to lead, Girl Scout cookie sales to organize, some evening meetings, plus the usual life events.  Our house construction is nearing it’s end, thank goodness.  It will be soooooo nice to not have people around outside every day. We are doing some final things on the garage apartment like the plumbing, a/c, and pouring a new driveway.  The pool has been on hold until the other was out of the way, but now we’re getting started with that again.  We pour the plaster next week.

Also, I’ve finally had it with myself and how I feel heavy and sluggish so I’m exercising every day and eating healthy.  I got a Fitbit so I can get in a certain number of steps every day, and I like how it prompts me to get up and move around every hour.  I’ve enjoyed walking around the neighborhood and looking at all the new construction. I’m back to using the Lose It app for calorie counting.  15 days in, I’ve lost 6 pounds.  Lots to go but I feel excited about it. Rarely am I hungry since I’m munching on fruit and veggies and eating a huge salad every day.

I hope all of you are hanging in there.  The country has been absolutely upside down, it seems.  Threats to things I have always taken for granted happen at least once a day.  I just this past weekend went to a group meeting for a new chapter of The Sisterhood of Salaam  Shalom, a group of Muslim and Jewish women who want to form friendships and fight intolerance and hatred.  That was beautiful and refreshing.

Houston is hosting the Super Bowl and all I can think of is this.  I have heard the rodeo we have in March is also a huge problem.  I am looking into helping raise funds for one of the projects that houses and cares for escaped victims.

Ok off for school pickup, dance class, and bath time…

Do share your latest news and what you’re reading!

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

Lewis writes in his introduction that it is thanks to these two Israeli psychologists (Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky) that much of his work has occurred.  Their focus was on the ways ideas develop and the different ways the mind can make mistakes, jump to conclusions, and pre-judge situations. Their use of algorithms to make better predictions for success started the field of  behavioral economics.

This book was a bit rough at first for me.  You’ve got biographies of both of them, often from the fully developed point-of-view of yet another person.  You’ve got the science behind their work.  You’ve got stories that at first don’t seem to belong at all.  How it all comes together in the end is amazing.

Both men were geniuses, but Lewis writes that their brilliant work would not have come about had they not collaborated.  It’s the case here that these two are far more than one plus one.  But they were almost complete opposites!

“The students who once wondered why the two brightest stars of Hebrew University kept their distance from each other now wondered how two so radically different personalities could find common ground, much less become soul mates… It was as if you had dropped a white mouse into a cage with a python and come back later and found the mouse talking and the python curled in the corner, rapt.”

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

This story is basically the generations-long after effects of a christening gone wrong.  A chance encounter changes two families’ lives and we follow several relationships over time.  Patchett definitely knows how to develop characters that remain in your mind long after you’re finished reading.  The number of characters, however, is slightly off-putting to me.  Also, I think we are somehow observing all the scenes rather than being right there in them, if that makes sense.  Still, a good story.

“People are scared of the wrong things,” Fix said, his eyes closed. “Cops are scared of the wrong things. We go around thinking that what’s going to get us is waiting on the other side of the door: it’s outside, it’s in the closet, but it isn’t like that. What happened to Lomer, that’s the anomaly. For the vast majority of the people on this planet, the thing that’s going to kill them is already on the inside.”

The Improbability of Love: A Novel by Hannah Rothschild

This is the story of how one painting, considered to be “the greatest, the most moving, and the most thrilling representation of love,” lost for years and unknowingly found by Annie in a junk shop, changed lives.   We read from so many points-of-view (even the painting’s!) that it can get confusing, but Rothschild ties it all together beautifully.  There’s love, a passion for cooking, buried pasts. I thought it a great read.

“That all changed when he met Annie. His life, once an orderly, monotonous and pleasant series of tuneful single notes exploded into a cacophony of riotous, unpredictable chords. Sunshine flooded into dark, unknown corners of his being. He had become utterly daft, light-headed and open-hearted. He smiled at strangers, sang in lifts, danced down corridors. He heard melodies as if for the first time; saw colours afresh. Every tiny task became effortless—he ran down streets and bounced up stairs. Some inexplicable film had been lifted from his eyes, allowing Jesse to see the world from a familiar but altogether surprising viewpoint. Everything became heightened, acute and affecting. His painting was utterly transformed: muted tones and careful composition gave way to extravagant bursts of colour and wild flights of fantasy as his brushes flew with brio and élan across canvases. Occasionally the breath escaped from his lungs with such force that he had to hold on to something solid to stop the ground from giving way. He knew with absolute, undeniable certainty that he and Annie were meant to be together.”

Mothering Sunday: A Romance by Graham Swift

This is a quick read… most of the plot happens in one day in 1924 as a servant girl and a gentleman neighbor soon to be married to someone else have their final tryst in their years-long relationship.  The story unfolds as Jane recalls it years later and we learn of her self-discovery because of that day.

“Can a mirror keep a print? Can you look into a mirror and see someone else? Can you step through a mirror and be someone else?  The grandfather clock chimed two o’clock.  She had not known he was already dead.”

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

This is one of the books that are helping me understand the recent election results.  It was fascinating to hear about what life is like for white, working class people in parts of the country.  It is simply one person’s experience living in the culture of Appalachia and explaining his own experience as a blue collar worker who turned his life around in the Marines and later went to Yale Law School.  Mainly due to his grandmother, he learned to expect more from life.  Highly recommend.

“I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children. I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it. I want people to understand how upward mobility really feels. And I want people to understand something I learned only recently: that for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us… It was Greater Appalachia’s political reorientation from Democrat to Republican that redefined American politics after Nixon. And it is in Greater Appalachia where the fortunes of working-class whites seem dimmest. From low social mobility to poverty to divorce and drug addiction, my home is a hub of misery.”

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin

I’ll always read a book about a bookstore! This one was charming, I thought.  A widowed book store owner finds a 2-year-old girl in his store, abandoned, and raises her as his own.  The characters and the story are excellent.

“The words you can’t find, you borrow. We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone. My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart. We are not quite novels. The analogy he is looking for is almost there. We are not quite short stories. At this point, his life is seeming closest to that. In the end, we are collected works.”

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5 Responses to January book (and life) report

  1. I loved The Storied Life of AJ Fikry – like you – I’m a sucker for books about books! But – I’m always drawn to books about art too – so I will check out The Improbability of Love. Maybe it could be a choice for my book club for women artists. And- I understand how life gets in the way – and I agree everything seems a little upside down right now.

  2. Naomi says:

    That’s a great pic for your book club! The amount of influence that one work of art has on so many throughout history is so interesting. And that the value of art is so subjective…

  3. They all sound wonderful! I’ve read Hillbilly Elegy also and agree with your recommendation; it has helped me understand, in part, the election results, although I still don’t really understand why a number of my relative who live in the Great Plains states and rural Minnesota (I live in Minneapolis) voted for Trump. I’ve read a couple of other books that have helped me understand the rural-city divide as well as the high school-college divide (both of which have held true in my admittedly limited experience: “Strangers in Their Own Land” by Arlie Russell Hoschchild and ” The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration” by Justin Gest. If you’re interested in the topic, I recommend both of these, although they aren’t as easy to read as “Hillbilly Elegy”. (Can you tell I am a total bookworm?)
    Thanks for the reviews–most of them are going on my to read list!

  4. Naomi says:

    I am actually reading Strangers in Their Own Land right now! I’m in the middle of Part 2. I find myself shaking my head and frowning at the contradiction these Louisiana people are. I’ll definitely read The New Minority too. It’s so interesting to figure out what people are thinking and feeling. I think it’s true what Hoschchild writes:”Our polarization, and the increasing reality that we simply don’t know each other, makes it too easy to settle for dislike and contempt.”
    I am so happy to find a fellow bookworm!! Are you on Goodreads?

  5. Debbie Goode says:

    My goodness you are one busy gal! Must be something in the air these days because I’ve found myself ‘burning the candle’ at both ends too! I’ve also noticed my creative energy levels seem to be running high….inspiration usually hits around 3am..LOL! Congrats on the weight loss and healthier lifestyle!
    Debbie Goode recently posted…Comment on Amur Leopard by Debbie GoodeMy Profile

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