Books

Book 502: Jane Austen, the Secret Radical – Helena Kelly

Perhaps I’m too smart for my own good, but overall this book was a bit disappointing. With a title like Jane Austen, the Secret Radical, you’d expect there to be revelations of sorts and yet there weren’t. I mean that’s why I requested a copy from the publisher.* I was hoping as the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death rapidly approaches there’d be something completely new and innovative to talk about, but there wasn’t.

Sure Kelly highlighted a few things that I missed when reading Austen, but really she just expounded upon the things that those of us who don’t read Austen ONLY as a romance novelist, but as a social commentator hopefully picked up on. She provided more detail of course, especially when it came to names and places, but overall there just weren’t a lot of revelations.

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Books, The Classics Club

Book 424: A Wind In The Door (Time Quintet #2) – Madeleine L’Engle

L'Engle, Madeleine - A Wind in the Door (Time Quintet #2)Picking up not long after A Wrinkle in Time, this book starts off with just as much intrigue and mystery as the first! If I would’ve remembered how easy these were to read and how entertaining they were, I would’ve re-read these a long time ago. Seriously, I’m devouring them and loving every minute of it. This will count for the 47th book of my Classic’s Club list!

Although powerful, this one didn’t quite stack up to the first in the series. I think it’s a combination of parts of it taking place in such a foreign setting and that about half-way through I once again had the thought about how good versus evil as an archetype isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can get a bit exhausting if you read too many in a row. This series, like many others, at heart deals with dark versus light/good versus evil/heaven versus hell. There are dozens I’ve read on this blog that deal with this from young adult to classic literature. Where they separate themselves is the story they tell and how they chose to portray the battle this time.

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ARC, Books, Professional Development

Book 422: Smarter Faster Better – Charles Duhigg

Duhigg, Charles - Stronger Faster BetterWhen I requested a copy of this upcoming book (released March 8, 2016) from Random House*, I was really hoping for a repeat of Duhigg’s 2012 The Power of Habit. Unfortunately, there was something missing from this one. I can’t quite figure out what it is, but I think it has to do with the first book being much easier to apply and this one overall being more theoretical.

That being said, this was incredibly readable and had a lot of great case studies that I’ve encountered in numerous settings and other books I’ve read recently about work productivity and managing up. Duhigg’s writing style is incredibly easy to read and he seamlessly ties together disparate examples to elucidate his points. Off the top of my head a few are: the development of Disney’s Frozen, General Electric (I feel like I’m an expert after Badowski’s excellent Managing Up), aviation near-crashes, the writing and staging of West Side Story, Google, Cincinnati school reform, debt collection and many others! Needless to say you will easily find at least one example that you really identify with.

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CRWMPodcast

CRWM #09: Dr Mütter’s Marvels

CRWM09For episode nine of Come Read With Me, my friend Jess joined me to discuss Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’ Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine. As usual, there were plenty of tangents including a five-minute tangent (you’re welcome, I edited it from 20) about Jane Austen fan fiction. Maybe I should just turn this into a Come Read Jane Austen with me podcast! (Don’t worry, I won’t.)

I was apparently super fidgety during the recording so I’m super sorry about all the background noise!

Download it here: CRWM #09 (Right Click and “save as.”) Or, better yet, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher!

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ARC, Books

Book 391: Dr. Mütter’s Marvels – Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe- Dr. Mutter's Marvels[To hear the episode of Come Read With Me where my friend Jess and I discuss this, click here.]

I’m a little torn on this book. At the same time that it reminded me of some fascinating books I’ve read over the past few years (Geraldine Brook’s March and William MacAskill’s Doing Good Better) I couldn’t help but compare it to Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. And unfortunately for Aptowicz, it wasn’t that great of a comparison. Don’t get me wrong, this was a very interesting read and I enjoyed the book. I’m sure this book had its own set of challenges in the research done, but I still can’t quite put my finger on why I wasn’t as much a fan of this.

At first I thought it was because Aptowicz was super young and this was her first book. Her writing style felt a bit like student-work, which she admits is when she got the idea and started writing originally, but I found out pretty quick I was wrong on this one. And it’s not her first book, but it is her first work of nonfiction. (Thanks Wikipedia.) Either way, I’m grateful to Avery, a Penguin Books imprint, for providing a copy.* And the best part is, if you’re interested in the book it’s just been released in paperback at the beginning of September! (AKA Yay for more affordability!; Publisher’s website.)

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ARC, Books

Book 387: The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

Atwood, Margaret - The Heart Goes LastI didn’t quite get this one read before it’s release, but considering how busy I’ve been, having it read and posted within a week of its release, September 29, is pretty impressive! Any time there is a new Atwood, I get excited. Margaret Atwood is the Queen of Speculative Fiction, among other things. So when I had the opportunity to request a copy and the publisher, Nan A. Talese granted it*, I was over the moon.

I still have a few older Atwood’s on my shelf to read, but the last I read was Stone Mattress and I really liked where she was going. This being said, I’ve seen quite a few reviews recently of The Heart Goes Last where I’ve wanted to slap the reviewers and say WHAT ABOUT THE BOOK? Mostly people were complaining they had bought the first few chapters on a website and then had to buy the whole book to find out what happened (Hello, single song releases?! Do we not remember the “old days” of the 1990s – early 2000s?) As this doesn’t affect me and most readers, I don’t see why it’s important so don’t let that impact your judgement!

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ARC, Books, Professional Development

Book 380: Doing Good Better – William MacAskill

MacAskill, William - Doing Good BetterI’m torn on this one and not for any obvious reasons. I think MacAskill does an excellent job laying out the foundations of “effective altruism” and I think this is something fundraisers and nonprofits need to be aware of for the future. However, I feel like there wasn’t enough to convince me 100% that this is the best way to move forward, probably because I had questions about MacAskill’s own nonprofits and experience.

Let’s start with the good. MacAskill has created a solid evidence-based way of helping alleviate some of the world’s biggest problems. Learning what a Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY, pronounced kwalee) challenged my perception of how to rate a nonprofit, but more importantly raised questions about whether things should be comparable when you’re talking about life-saving research. The answer is yes, with a bunch of caveats.

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