Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eastern Standard Tribe

As the month comes to an end, it does so on a good note.  A gorgeous day in Northeast PA and a good read!  Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow.  The sci-fi has been a good read from the RA lists to date.  Ender’s Game was one of my favorites, while I wasn’t loving Dune.  This story has the protagonist, Art, going to an insane asylum due to his two friends (his girlfriend – whom he met in an accident—and his co-worker) whom turn on him, but in the end his experience allows him to start a new business to market health care products using the info he learned from his stay.  The book is set in 2022, I hope it is a great year for me! I love Art’s idea for peer-to-peer music sharing while driving in a car.  May be happening already.  Art seems to be a great guy, he needs to exercise a bit more with all that bad back stuff happening, especially after his workout with his girlfriend.  Yes, Dr. Marcus, another book with sex in it.  Fun fact: the author is best known for his blog “Boing Boing."  Take a look.  Overall a nice fun read.  Thanks for the RA who suggested it. 

Friday, July 30, 2010

I Am Not Myself These Days

Juvenile stories of twenty some-things who turn to drugs and alcohol and seemingly hold down a job and have lots of sex are really pretty trivial and uninspired works in my book.  Today’s book:  I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell is another in a LONG line of the drugs, sex (and damn, missed the rock n roll – that actually may have improved it!).  I have read a few others of these "hmmm, have another drink dude, hey let’s have some sex" books before.  This seems a rip-off of  Bright Lights, Big City (another RA favorite) and then Dry (ugh even worse!).  Bright Lights is from a heterosexual perspective and Dry and I Am Not Myself are from a homosexual perspective.  All three are dull and done already, too often.  Only difference in this book, the author, yes he too said this was a memoir, didn’t really have an ending, i.e. did he become more strung out or did he become like Augusten Burroughs of Dry?  To be honest, not sure I even cared.  I guess the twist in this book was adding in the drag queen aspect of the author.  Nonetheless, don’t waste your time.  Even by writing about this book I guess I am giving it too much press.  If you really want to read something like this, Dry is a better read, though by a hair.  Was able to read this while sitting at the pool, so it was not entirely a wasted amount of time.  My tan is looking GREAT so thanks to my vacation for being just the right amount of time.  We need to get some of these publishers a bit more picky about what they publish…  Did anyone else who read this feel differently?  On a good note, my mentor, Stephen Pollan (read his Best Selling books), sent me a kindle!  I’ll be setting it up tomorrow.  Can’t wait!  Dogs are driving me crazy, hey maybe that might be a twist for me to use in writing a book like Bright Lights, Big City, or Dry?  I was driven to drink by the dogs?  

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shoal of Time

Well an interesting read for sure, but felt like it was a high school mandatory history course read, either that or a college course, Shoal of Time: History of the Hawaiian Islands.  Who would say this was their favorite book, let alone 2 people said it???  It began with Capt Cooke and his death and being eaten, then to venereal disease brought by sailors to the natives, to the plantation farms (sugar and more), annexation, the missionaries come to Hawaii, political battles, unions, more politics, racism, ethnic segregation, the war, hating the Japanese, and then statehood.  Now you have read the book!  For history buffs, an interesting read.  For those who like fiction, kind of boring linear view of Hawaii.  Wish they went more into the customs and heritage of the people.  Missed a lot of interesting things I’m sure.  Always wonder in a book like this how does the author know what to put in, what not to put in?  I’d say he missed a lot of good tidbits about the Polynesian culture.  At the end wasn’t sure what the through line was for this historical read.  I wouldn’t put on your top ten books to read.  If you need restroom reading, it may be ok… not that I’m into that.  Hope all are enjoying the summer days.  They are going too fast.  Also have a second dog now!  Oh no.  My mother-in-law is not able to have her dog any longer.  More details in future posts.  Maybe I should read a dog book?  Sorry, not on the list!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Glass Castle

A real mix between Running with Scissors (a dysfunctional family story) but from a woman's perspective (so has a little similar story ) and much more wacky than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which is a keeper!).  The Glass Castle is the story chronicling a young girl's story of growing up in multiple places, landing in West Virginia.  My first time I went to West Virginia, I knew what people meant when they say "Oh, you're from West Virginia!"....  Yeah, tough place, but if you ever get a chance to visit Harpers Ferry - go visit, great city!  Used to take our RAs there for Spring training retreat.  Has great history and it is very scenic!  Jeannette Walls, poor girl.  It is amazing to think how many homeless kids can turn things around.  I was disappointed she wasn't able to challenge her faculty at Barnard about homeless people being stuck in the system.  The book was a quick read.  Funny that my son saw the cover and said, hey we read this book last year in class.  So, I guess it is a high school favorite these days.  Always amazing how bad parents can actually be in raising their children.  This story demonstrates the real truth that not every adult should have children.  So if you plan to not feed your children, not house them in a place with running water, or decide to disappear for three months for further education and expect your 13 year old to run the household, don't have kids.  Jeannette, congrats on committing yourself to education!  It can be a way out of a really bad situation. Interesting how often books reference books.  Feels good when you can say, "Hey, I read Grapes of Wrath or Anna Karenina."  Put this book on your list after you have finished reading some bad books.  I wouldn't read it after a fantastic book like The Giver or something like that though!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Race, Sex, and Religion

What a beautiful day in PA.  My sister and her family visited on our boat.  Started a new book, more on that tomorrow and started a great book on tape, more on that when I finish.  So I was thinking about the books I have been reading, and also something a faculty member, Dr. Marcus, had shared with us in a Diversity class I took in my PhD program.  He stated that life has three, I believe, topical areas that it all boils down to, Race, Sex, and Religion.  With the last grouping of books I have been reading, you know what, he may be right….sometimes all three in the same book.  Thanks for that insight Dr. Marcus.  SO, when I decide to write my book, I guess I need to scratch out the story of the inspiration of RAs dreams and think more about jazzing it up with those three areas, huh?  When I finish reading this list, I will commit to writing my book.  Ideas? Send them my way.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Elegance of the Hedgehog

So, I was in the car for 8 hours today!  UGH!  Had to pick up youngest son from a leadership conference in DC – went from PA home to Philly on a Friday afternoon.  How stupid, huh?  Traffic, late train (yes Amtrak tells passengers that the trains are delayed as the rails are too hot to have trains running fast.  Hmm in this day in age? Weird.).  So, listened to a book on tape.  Don’t read this one!  Whacked book… The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I now remember I don’t like French books.  This book was a series of short “random thoughts” put under the story of two voices, a young twelve year old, and a 54 year old concierge who happen to live in the same building.  This one had a preoccupation of suicide of the young girl, philosophy of life and how literature plays a role in the lives of these characters.  To be honest, trite ideas using the veil of deep thoughts.  Nothing deep for me.  Two really uninteresting characters trying to figure out why they are where they are and you know what? I couldn't care less.  Don’t waste your time like the other million people who actually bought this book.  I didn’t find it imaginative, engaging, or worth a read.  The author's use of Ch. 6 – the blanket blank and switching “authors” was confusing and the style of writing is overused.  Thank goodness I didn't pay full price for this book.  Instead I paid $3.95 for it on    This will make my top 10 don’t read/listen to books for sure.  Reminds me of my all-time worst song, Total Eclipse of the Heart.  Yes, I hated that song.  On to some good books, I hope!  Seven vacation days left!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Left to Tell

Well had a great read today, Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza.  When I think of her story, I think of my mother and the type of faith that she has and lives by.  This story is truly inspiring and for those who don’t have a faith tradition, reading this book should give you reason to pause.  Immaculee is a courageous young woman who lived through the Rwanda genocide.  She and her family were of the Tutsi “tribe” while the Hutu “tribe” attempted to cleanse the Tutsi from Rwanda.  Some believe upwards to a million Tutsi members may have perished.  Immaculée is the only member of her family to live through the genocide by hiding with seven other women in the bathroom of a local Hutu priest who willingly risked his life to hide the women.  Through the process Immaculée turns to her savior for strength.  Every time she seemingly will not be saved, her strong faith sees her through.  Three months and fifty pounds lighter, she survives to be saved by the French soldiers sent to serve as a free zone group.  This is an emotionally driven book outlining this heroic story.  She now works for the UN based in Brooklyn, NY and is on the talking circuit.  Worth sending this author (the heroine of the book) an email, whose life serves as a model for the oppressed who expect service and excellence of themselves for freedom and serving a greater being than our own.  A definite must read (and a quick read)!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Bluest Eyes

In stark contrast from books that are neatly wrapped into a beginning with challenge, middle with more challenge, and ending neatly wrapped together where the reader feels conclusion, aka chick flick books like Eat, Pray, Love (Ugh, you know that didn't sit well for me, and now a movie! The only redeeming factor is that the author is an NYU alum.).  Today's book, Toni Morrison's first novel The Bluest Eye, was vivid, courageous, and a sign of the time.  I really enjoy Morrison's depiction of the race issues of the day.  Couple that with a story of incest, violence, and hate and you have a heavy-hitting text.  Morrison is a wonderful storyteller weaving in time from end to beginning and back again.  She paints pictures that are clearer than the bluest sky and she is able to present characters who live in our world, better than most.  Two examples of these, the first on explaining the feeling of not getting the real meaning of the gifts she would want for Christmas:
"But I did know that nobody ever asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  Had any adult with the power to fulfill my desires taken me seriously and asked me what I wanted, they would have known that I did not want to have anything to own, or possess any object.  I wanted rather to feel something on Christmas day.  The real question would have been, Dear Claudia, what experience would you like for Christmas?" 
And the other how she describes how a black girl would want blue eyes, the type of doll white girls get for Christmas.  Morrison captures the struggles of some in the Black community today and for all ages.  She gave me a glimpse of the feeling, though I will never truly know it.  A strong read for anyone wanting to step in the shoes of someone needing love and much more.

Themes are deep and the book has some violent moments, similar to yesterday's read.  What's next?  Vacations are fun reading times!  Listening to one and reading another. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Orange Tree

I have not read any other of Fuente's books, and after reading this one, not sure I ever will.  While it has won accolades and the such, missed it for me.  The Orange Tree is a series of stories (five in total) that I guess are supposed to be connected under the theme of the Spanish  identity of the Orange tree...  I thought that it was a really superficial connection.  Stories ranged a 500 year time period.  One story discussed Columbus not finding America, one had to do with story of a war hero's sons, both named Martin and their version of how their father left things for them after his death.  The most interesting, but weird, was the "Apollo and the Whores" story.  At least I wasn't falling asleep through it.  Had to do with the story of a B film movie star and his escape with 8 whores on a boat, named Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I think they were not like the 7 dwarfs in Disney's Snow White.  See Weekend with Bernie to imagine what happens...  The mixture of these five short stories that were boring and unconnected under the title is a complete skip in my books.  Sorry Mr. Fuentes but bring back Alexander Hamilton's bio.  Off to some Toni Morrison tomorrow.

Vacation is fun, and reading during afternoon storms is always fun.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Alexander Hamilton

Long ride bringing Alex to DC for a leadership conference (drove from NYC to DC to PA!)  So, that means 13 hours of listening to the finale of a great book.  The biography of Alexander Hamilton!  Finally finished it.  What a great read.  It doesn’t cease to amaze me how badly we as humans treat each other.  The power of politics and ideological differences.  The final chapters outline the duel between Hamilton and Vice President of US Aaron Burr.  Was it murder by Burr, was it suicide by Hamilton, or the duel as it is supposed to be?  Democrats and Republicans of today have nothing on the Republicans and Federalists of early American history.  I hadn’t really remembered how much of our early development as a nation we owe to Hamilton.  Not a real fan of history books per se, but I would say this one was a 10!  Learning so much about our founders.  The spunky and hard headed John Adams and the sex-crazed Jefferson.  So true how history repeats itself and how much “power” is desired by man.  A recent publication, 2004, which I bought from for $1!  It’s a long read, audiotape was a great way to finish.  Thanks to the RAs for a great suggestion.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Hmmm... I will have very few books with a "pass on these" note without a lot of comments.  This time a children’s book by H.B. Gilmour, Clueless.  Just as bad as the movie, though Alicia Silverstone was fun to watch.  Take a pass.  Hoping my vacation to PA and the ten books I read have better outcomes! 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Season of Migration to the North

Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih, was a pretty complicated and difficult text to understand the subtle and NOT so subtle messages contained within the book. Having limited, at best, knowledge of the Sudanese culture in the post-colonial time and how Sudanese men might transition from their culture to Britain, I read with interest the journeys of two men. Each man was given the opportunity to travel to Britain to further their education. While we learn little about the narrator's time away, the antagonist journey gives some insight as to some struggles that may have existed at that time, albeit pretty dark ones. The struggle of male/female roles within Sudanese culture, the struggle of black/white culture in Britain and the frightening way people can be devoid of feeling, all make for a gripping and keen attempt to follow the journey of 2 men following very different paths. While the book for me was troubling on so many levels, the depth of complexity into the mind of two men, one who chose his path and one who struggled to find meaning, left me with more conviction to the path I hope to choose in my life. As a life coach (not sure many knew that or not), I always try and encourage people to connect their journey to their values. In many ways, this book gives some deep understanding to how backgrounds dictate emotions and choices. I, like many I am sure, wonder whether Mustafa, unlike all of his woman he has had in his life, lived and continue the circle of life, or actually has drowned. Not surprised this dark and perplexing book is viewed as a favorite in the country.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ella Enchanted

A nice, fast read for those who like the “Cinderella” family of stories, Ella Enchanted (by Gail Carson Levine) is the same type of story, but with a twist. This time the young woman, Ella, is given a gift, or a curse depending on how you look at it, by a fairy, Lucinda.  She is to be obedient, what a nice gift, huh?  Can someone bestow that on my sons?  Or even the new puppy (As an aside the puppy is the sickliest animal I ever had.  4 weeks, 4 trips to vet for different things.  This week, pink eye.  Nasty stuff! Did I tell you how expensive having a dog is?).  So with her obedience, she needs to do whatever anyone asks of her.  The prince who she falls in love with comes along, but she can’t marry him because if someone asks her to kill him, she would.  An interesting twist in that Ella has evil friends (not step sisters) too!  Throw in some ogres, a mean step-mother, and yes a concluding ball, and you have it!  Funny how the Cinderella story lives throughout history and everyone wants to repeat it, over and over.  I’m sure nieces will like better than nephews, not to be sexist.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

One L

So now I have a better understanding of what it may be like attending law school. One L by Scott Turow was an autobiographical review of his first year (hence the name One L) at Harvard Law. I can’t wait to interrogate my friends who attended law school to ask the question, is it really like that? If he was keeping as many detailed notes as he did, was he really putting in 80+ hours a week studying? Come on Scott! It made me laugh that he decided to change the names “to protect the innocent,” speaking like a real lawyer. And why did he have to add that he and his wife “made love” after the big stressful night of studying for first semester finals. I really didn’t need to know that. His perspectives on the Harvard brand was much like I had anticipated; cut throat and gossipy about grades and getting ahead at all costs. I read the version where he gave a decade reflection on what he learned and the path he chose after graduation. To be honest, I thought he would have gone in a different direction based on his earlier career as an instructor at Stanford. After a wiki on him, it appears he continued the path I thought he’d travel as an educator, well novelist, same difference. Good perspective on Ivy-type law schools. Non-fiction with a lot of fiction in it; worth a read if you run out of any classics on the list.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Red Violin...

Are you sure this is your favorite book?

So I scoured the library and the internet for the book, The Red Violin.  How can it be someone’s favorite book?  It isn’t a book!  I need to find out which RA actually said it was their favorite, email them and ask for a real favorite book.  If not….  I’ll disclose who they are on this site and yes all of you, their colleagues will be able to razz them a wee bit.  I did decide to watch the movie, since maybe they misunderstood me.  I don’t intend to do movie reviews, so I’ll say, A- movie. I’d add to your list if you haven’t seen it.  Back to reading!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dear Friends

What I love about NYU is the diversity of thought and opinions.  Just take a look over the list of favorite books and it becomes crystal clear how different our students interests and motivations.  Today just finished book number 200!!!!  In a little over two years, so pacing at about 8 books a month, though in early summer months can get through 15 or so. 

Toady, I read a very different type of book, a commentary on photos of men together during the mid 1800’s – early 1900s, Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1919.  As a sociologist (I can’t really say I am one, but hey close to it I guess), the author’s concept of looking at how some men were photographed together gave a glimpse into their relationship during time of war, heartache, and industrialization.  The author/editor, David Deitcher, was trying to show that same-sex affection (and homosexuality to a stronger degree) was as prevalent as it is today.  The pictures did illustrate, in a number of cases, a strong case for men in love with each other, though as the author does at times suggest they may be related.  I think he was a bit heavy-handed in making his case and didn’t allow the pictures to do as much of the talking as he did… pretty redundant in why he was writing the book.  His research method, for those trying to do a historical study, was sound and worthwhile.  I thought the motivation (or idea behind the book) was interesting (I’ll save it for those who pick up the book).  Some of the pictures are pretty outrageous for the times – seeing men in drag in the poses they were in was something you’d see in numerous cities in America today, who da thunk it?  Quick read with pictures galore but the author did drone on a bit.

Watership Down

Got through another book, Watership Down!  You know, these fantasy animal books are quite the read.  When I read about the author, Richard Adams, I was surprised to hear that he generated the idea for the book from stories he told his daughters before going to bed every night.  Good for the daughters to encourage him to write it.  All kids, when they feel their parents have a talent, should strongly encourage them to go for it and commit.  I remember telling stories every night to my son Christian about Jeremy, a superhuman kid who did good for his family while always seeming to get in situations he wished he didn’t.  Every night ended with “To be continued” and Christian always said, “more dad, more”...  I miss those days.  And to think son number #1 is going to college in 7 weeks.  How time does fly.  I yearn for those days.  I wish they didn’t go so fast.  Being a father to a 5/6 year old is one of the best days of my life.  While I love having teenage/young adults, it was much easier a decade ago.  Cherish the days my friends.  Watership Down was a good journey story that challenges those who look for a better life to not be afraid to go on the journey.  I always love characters who take the advice of the “crazy” one in the group.  It is those who are a little off the norm that usually has it right.  Think about how in community we tend not to give voice to those outside the norm.  When I teach my graduate course at NYU this will serve as a really good discussion about how we deal with a loud voice who gets ostracized from others.  Funny how we as humans always believe (or want to think that) that animals behave like humans.  Animals don’t wish for that at all.  Maybe we should follow their lead.  Well on second thought, having just come back from puppy play night at the local kennel, maybe that might not be a good idea.  Biting each other on the neck and sniffing privates.  Oh, to be a dog.  I so digress….  Sorry friends.  It happens.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn… so they say this is a top read of all-time.  Ernest Hemingway declared, "All modern American literature comes from Huck Finn,” and hailed it as "the best book we've had."  I do slightly remember reading the book way back in the day.  Somewhat hard to keep attention to this classic.  The language was appropriate in having the reader go back to the day and to the area where this happened.   I don’t begin to understand the South and why slavery was important, no idea - everything about it is bad.  I happened to hear a keynote while away at my conference in the great city of Austin, sorry one last rip on it, by Bertice Berry – wow was she good.  Her point was maybe we should be reading more books about abolitionist and less about slavery.  This story would be ok to Beatrice as it illustrates support of abolitionist of sorts.  The intricacies of Huck and his decision making in committing to Jim, the slave, was admirable and hard to find, I’m sure, when all seems against you.  The story line “interruption” of the Duke and the King added little to the story for me.  While this certainly was the journey genre I tend to really enjoy, between the language and the extraneous storylines, not a great read and certainly not an all-timer for me.  Bring me Shakespeare’s Hamlet or even Dante’s Inferno.  It was hard to connect with that 1840’s – 1850’s storyline.  Thank god I was not born during that time.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Time & Place For Both: Listening vs. Reading

The 4th of July was a beautiful day in PA.  Hot, humid, and lots of moments to listen to Alexander Hamilton on tape and then hit The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Listening vs. reading.  There is a place and time for both.  Driving as much as I do in the car, I try and listen to “longer books” rather than the short books, though that isn’t always the case.  For instance, I listened to the Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, compared to The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.  Dumas book took me about 4 months to finish (after I switched from reading to listening) and Albom’s took two days to listen to.  I also listen to books on tapes while at the gym, a stark comparison to the AWFUL music they play at my gym, David Barton’s (which I plan on changing next week).  Books on tapes are helped by good narrators.  Jeremy Irons read Lolita, which was excellent whereas Pride and Prejudice on tape was pretty bad.  The Hamilton book is apropos listening to on Independence Day!  A great way to celebrate and learn more about what happened in the coordination of our country.  Surprising to me how much writing our ancestors did.  I don’t think my kids have written but ten letters in their lifetime.  Hamilton must have written five letters everyday.  It is time to get the next generation to write more.  Hmm, maybe I’m serving as a role model for my kids. :)

Back to reading!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Love is a Mix Tape

Out in PA for a few days, what a gorgeous day with the family on the boat!  Actually got our new puppy, Roman, into the water swimming for a few minutes.  Hopefully he’ll learn to love it.  He did it, but begrudgingly.  Interesting read tonight after a boat ride, Love is a Mix Tape.  Was a relatively quick read, only two hours as the wife watched Law and Order in the background.  I actually love the concept of the book, by Rob Sheffield.  Since he was only a year younger than me, this autobiographic book about the love and loss of his wife (and the music that underscored the book) really resonated with me.

I remember creating actual mix tapes for parties when I was in college.  I haven’t made a mix tape since that time to be honest, but still have the 6 or so tapes that I created.  What great tapes and yes, the memories that flood my mind when looking at the cover of the tapes are amazing.  Those were great days!  The 80s, Foreigner, Journey (dang college kids listening to them still!), AC/DC, Van Halen (my son loves them!), check out this site: and it will bring back all of the memories. 

A quick review ahead...

Friday, July 2, 2010

In Cold Blood

Jumped into a new book today, a big departure from my most recent reads, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.  Having seen Capote interviewed many times on television a long time ago, I was really surprised by this type of book.  I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s awhile back and did not expect this psychological murder mystery.  When listening to Capote, I always thought of him as a modern day (NYU grad) Perez Hilton.  (As a side note, one of the staffers at NYU is very close friends with Perez.  Omar was in a MTV video clip sharing his high school experience with Hilton.  Hilton hosted our NYU Ultra Violet Live.  A disaster!  His f’ bombs and lack of humor took away from the show.  Sorry Truman, didn’t mean to connect you with another sharp tongued, but low brow comparison.)
Back to the book…

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I Capture the Castle

I am fortunate to have a good amount of free time, between dog sitting – the new dog has gained 4 pound in 8 days, I guess he is hungry a lot – and summer days.  It tends to be a slower time of the year for us, though things pick up around first week of August.  Hope to get my reading in for the next 4 weeks, as not sure I will get too much in August.  My RA meetings will pick up considerably, so the list will be sure to grow through the beginning of October.  I tend to learn a great deal during the 1-1 meetings with RAs.  So I was able to jump in and read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, completely removed from her later novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, which turned into a movie by Disney. Click through to read more thoughts...