Saturday, October 13, 2018

Room


Room
by Emma Donoghue

Finished the frightening story of Jack’s and Ma’s captivity at the hands of Old Nick, a demented man who kidnapped Jack’s mother at age eighteen while she was attending college.  The book, Room, by Emma Donoghue, was inspired by another case similar to the one she tells.  The story is told from the perspective of the five-year-old youth who was born in the room. The boy is convinced by his mother to play ‘dead’ as she rolls him up in a carpet to be taken away by Old Nick, which he does.  The escape plan works. The youth escapes from the truck he was being carried in to be buried and a passer-by notices his fall from the truck and calls the police.  The last half of the book follows how Jack and Ma are brought to the hospital to begin the recovery process and his meeting his previously unknown grandparents.  The difficulties for re-integration are harder than one would imagine.  A tough read based on true stories, as hard to believe as it is.  When we lived in Syracuse, there was a very sick man holding a woman in captive underground in a similar way for years.  The question remains, how can people cause this much pain to others?  Well written, but the subject matter wasn’t a hit for me.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Tiny Beautiful Things

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
by Cheryl Strayed

Really enjoyed reading Cheryl Strayed’s book on advice called Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.  Strayed is asked to respond to real life people and the problems they face.  From addiction, lost love, mental health, money, and abuse, Strayed offers a refreshing and non-clinical approach through the lens of someone who has her own struggles. She is all too familiar with having an abusive father, a mother with addictions, living in poverty and learns to be self-driven from the age of thirteen. While some may be taken aback by her aggressive and ‘no-nonsense’ take-care-of-yourself attitude, she comes from a place of care, honesty and true love for self and others.  An author by training, Strayed was asked by a friend to respond in column format and the book is a collection of submissions collected over the years.  She is blunt, she is witty, and she is honest.  I really enjoyed the book and was reminded to be honest, be caring and to never stray away from who you say you are as a person.  Refreshing is the word I keep coming back to.  I highly recommend it…truly!  A good read.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

In the Time of the Butterflies


In the Time of the Butterflies
by Julia Alvarez

Finished another RA Favorite book, In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.  The book is a historical fiction set in the Dominican Republic during the era of the dictatorship of Trujillo, a man who ruled with an iron fist, having those people who challenged him killed.  The story follows three Mirabal sisters whose life included education and challenging Trujilo’s rules.  It eventually led to their death in a “car accident”, which didn’t seem like an accident to most.  The book is a creative recreation in that the author used notes and stories from others but also used some poetic freedom.  I enjoyed the various characters’ views on each chapter of their lives, one chapter for each character.  A sad story of injustice in the DR.  Well written, moving story.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Uprising

Uprising
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

It still amazes me how many books I read that have a connection to NYU in some way. This time, a character in the story was an NYU second-year law student attempting to assist the main character.  It reminds me how lucky I am to be working at NYU, a place that impacts so many people!  The book, Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, describes the story of three young women all brought together by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (located in a building I can see from my office window in Kimmel Center). The book chronicles the stories of the three main characters and how their lives lead to their employment at the factory.  All three are immigrants who face the struggles of working in sub-human conditions for menial wages under barbaric supervisors.  It is a retrospective story in that one of the small children whose father owned the factory begins trying to find a woman who lived through the fire. She happens to be one of the three woman whom we meet throughout the book.  The three fight against the factory by forming a union, which meets resistance.  The events leading to the fire, the inferno itself, and what happens to the three friends is detailed in the following chapters.  The story ends full circle noting that the sole survivor of the three women carries her two friends with her as a memory through her own children.  Amazing to imagine the cruel and inhumane ways people were treated in the US….  But have we really completely changed?  An important story to never forget.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon


Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
by Patty Lovell

Always great to read a book that makes you smile, especially when it teaches you a lesson. This children’s book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, does just that.  In this very short picturesque book, Molly Lou is taught by her grandmother to embrace who she is: a small, bucked-toothed girl with a voice that squeals.  It is when she moves away to a new town and starts school that the kids – one in particular – pick on her, but because she believes in herself, she is not afraid to run strong, use the teeth to her advantage, and sing proudly.  Through these three actions, she wins the praise of her new classmates in the face of the biggest of bullies, Ronald Durkin.  It ends with Molly Lou sending a letter to her grandmother thanking her for the reminders!  Wow…nice message in this day and age of so many haters.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Stiff


Stiff
by Mary Roach

I finished a very strange favorite book called Stiff by Mary Roach.  The book details the history of the human cadaver.  From the history of gravediggers exhuming bodies to make a living (selling them to science) to how the human body decays to how to embalm and everything in between, this book chronicles every aspect of the body after death.  Chapters are “self-contained” and focus on all things related to the body once someone dies.  Roach explores how cadavers are used as test subjects for car crashes, transplanted parts, practice bodies in the lab for medical students, new methods for embalming, cannibalism, and whether Jesus could have suffered on a cross based on the pictures on the cross.  She finally wraps up the book with her own thoughts on whether she will donate her body to medicine after her death.  I actually learned a great deal, but I’m not so sure I wanted to know all I found out.  It is a “niche read”, one that you’ll probably either love or find disturbing….  Parts of it were hard to read after lunch to be honest.  Just shows the great diversity of interests NYU students have in terms of reading materials. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

How to Walk Away


How to Walk Away
by Katherine Center

What happens when your boyfriend takes you on his airplane without a license, asks you to marry him, you get stuck in a storm, crash and then wake up in the hospital…paralyzed?  Welcome to Margaret Jacobsen’s nightmare.  Chip, her long-time boyfriend – the calm, cool, collected, WASPy, all-American guy – loses his cool, but manages to escape the plane crash unscathed.  He is unable to look at his “deformed” newly-asked fiance.  Katherine Center’s book How to Walk Away is a clear ‘chick-lit’ novel that is rather depressing, but it leaves the reader realizing there is a glimmer of hope, if you build it for yourself.  After a lengthy rehab, Maggie finds a way to realize that one creates their own lemonade out of lemons.  She endures despite never regaining her ability to walk, losing her fiance, falling in love with her physical therapist while in the hospital and then driving him away, watching her father leave her mother when it is learned that he is not the biological father of her sister, and many more hardships.  You can’t really have more drama!  Well, all things bad can turn bright…at least for those who work at it.  Cute book, somewhat predictable, but a pretty soft read.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Circe


Circe
by Madeline Miller

I haven’t ever been a fan of Greek mythology books, but this updated version was actually quite good.  In Madeline Miller’s book Circe, we are told the story of the ‘ugly’ daughter of the God of the sun, Helios, a mighty God among the leaders of the universe.  Circe is isolated from the rest of her family and is ultimately banished by her father to a remote island for eternity. There, she discovers that she has the powers of a witch, something that her father had long described her as, but she had never discovered her power.  On the island, she builds her repertoire of abilities.  Many of the greatest mythological figures make an appearance to grapple with her, including Daedalus, Medea, and Minotaur.  Circe falls in love with a sailor, Odysseus, who ventures onto the island and finds out she is pregnant with his child after his departure.  As their son, Telegonus, grows up, he desires to be reconnected with his father, the ruler of Ithaca.  But Telegonus soon learns that fate has bad things in store for him.  His visit brings about the death of his father, an escape with his half-brother, Telemachus, and his mother, Penelope.  Circe is constantly challenged to survive family bitterness & rivalry, and the Gods rule over all mortals.  The book is readable and enjoyable.  It is a story of love lost and holding on to the one thing you want in life.  Circe is brave, courageous, and beats all of the odds.  Classic read into today’s language.  Enjoyed this one!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A Dog's Purpose


A Dog's Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron

Every dog lover will shed a tear for W. Brice Cameron’s book A Dog’s Purpose, and every dog hater should read it to better understand the relationship between a pet and his/her owner.  The book is narrated through the dog, which is an interesting twist. It is broken into a three-phase story that begins with a dog being adopted by a family and given to a 9-year-old boy, Ethan, by his parents.  A deep and rich relationship develops, and the dog, Bailey, shares lessons learned as the mutual bond builds between the two.  Bailey helps save Ethan’s life when a fire is started by the evil next door neighbor, is by his side during his parents’ divorce, and then later in life when Ethan requires rehab from an injury and moves to the grandparents' farm. Bailey notices relationships and gains a keen sense of love, evil, obedience, and of rules.  The first part ends with Bailey’s death, being brought to the veterinarian to be put down.  Tears flow, but that’s not the end of the story.  Bailey is re-born, into another life, as Ellie, a canine rescue dog for the police.  He saves lives, learns new lessons with two very different owners.  He learns about love, gentleness, and how to smell and find victims in tragic situations.  He experiences death when searching for and finding lifeless bodies.  Again, the story ends at the vet with Ellie being put down.  More tears, but then the third part starts and Bailey/Ellie is a new dog, a lab.  This time his owners are not so nice. They eventually bring him to the outskirts of town to die, but with the lessons “Buddy” (his new name) has learned, he comes full circle.  His nose brings him to Ethan’s grandparent’s farm.  This time, Buddy has a new purpose…he finds Ethan, forty years later, as an older, lonely man and he helps Ethan to learn and love again.  I won’t ruin the ending, but yes, more tears.  I really enjoyed the book and it also made me appreciate my dog Roman so much more.  What lessons has he learned, and what is his purpose for me?  I’d add this to your list!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Bright Ideas


Bright Ideas
by Eric Coble

I never know what I will receive as a favorite book from our Tisch students, but, in this case, a play was the reading option of choice.  The play is called Bright Ideas by Eric Coble.  The story focuses on the life of Josh and Gen Bradley, parents of three-year-old Mac who will be entering daycare.  Mac’s parents are hyper-sensitive, thinking about every single thing needed for their son to be successful and prepared for the world after daycare.  Josh and Gen become neurotic after visiting one center, realizing it isn’t the best one in town.  The best in town, called Bright Ideas, has a 98% placement rate into Ivy League colleges! The couple takes the shocking step of poisoning a parent whose child goes to Bright Ideas to open a space for their son as he is next on the waiting list.  After getting Mac into Bright Ideas, the parents do whatever is necessary for their child to win the “Golden Pony” excellence award. They go so far that they almost kill Mac’s teacher by loosening the blades on her lawnmower! The book is a social commentary on the lengths parents will go to get their child to be a superstar at all costs.  Very dark humor with a gentle message: let kids be kids.  Interesting note, my MFA Directing faculty member was the Artistic Director for the show’s first production at the Cleveland Playhouse in 2002.  A total overboard on many levels of what is happening.  Fun to see staged, I’m sure.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Course in Miracles


A Course in Miracles
by Helen Schucman

I will say this book is one of the more interesting books I have had as an RA Favorite book.  The book is called A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman and is a thesis, practical course book, and a teaching manual for instructing young doctors on the importance of Christianity in saving and healing patients.  It is an actual teaching ‘device’ with a theoretical and practical explanation.  It is a very long book – 629 pages for the thesis alone.  The text goes into great depth on the concepts that are the foundation for the author’s beliefs on how to approach healing. The workbook piece contains over 365 lessons, one for each day (but suggested to do more than one lesson a day).  As the first page states, “this course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:

                Nothing real can be threatened

                Nothing unreal exists

                                (Herein lies the peace of God)

Here are some of the thirty-one chapters contained in the book: The meaning of miracles; the illusions of the ego; healing and wholeness; the lessons of love; the journey back; the idols of sickness; God or ego; the Holy Spirit’s curriculum; the attainment of peace; the vision of holiness; the justice of good; the healing of the dream; the wakening; and the final vision.  I will say, it is one of the most in-depth and repetitive series of points I’ve seen in a book.  Being a Christian, many things resonated with me with respect to the teachings, but I would imagine this would be a very difficult read for a non-Christian. I wish there had been more context provided by the author as to the WHY?  I will reach out to the RA who said it was their very favorite book so I can gain more context about how and where this course could be used.  A very, very long read – been reading it over a long period of time, interspersing other books in between.  I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want an in-depth view of the process of thinking and applying the faith.  Otherwise, yeah, very helpful read on getting one’s life back to a religious and spiritual place.  

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles


The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
by Julie Andrews Edwards

And yet another young children’s book for this RA Favorite book called The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, written by Julie Andrews Edwards.  This book features a fantastic journey that incorporates the power of imagination, genetics, and how the littlest kid is usually the most successful in solving a problem.  The three Potter kids (Ben, Tom and Lindy) were excited for trick-or-treating on the upcoming Halloween.  Their parents – Dad, a University professor, and Mom, a homemaker – gave great freedom to their children, especially on Halloween, allowing the kids to visit the local ‘haunted house’. But was it truly haunted?  What they learned was that a local Professor, Dr. Savant (whom their Dad knew), lived there. He had just won a Nobel Prize for his work with genetics. Dr. Savant takes the three children under his wing and tells them about his desire to see the whangdoodle, an intelligent, ungulate-like character capable of changing color to suit its emotions, from whose hind legs grow a new and different set of bedroom slippers each year, of which there is only one left in the world.  When the Potters’ parents go away, Dr. Savant brings them to the far, far away land where the whangdoodle lives to look for him.  The adventure getting there and dealing with all of the obstacles (characters and travel difficulties) make for a fun and energetic story.  A cute read for a kid – loved how they intertwined science (genetics) in to the ending. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

So B. It


So B. It
by Sarah Weeks

Another tear-jerker in this book for young adults: So B. It by Sarah Weeks. Heidi knows nothing about her heritage, except that she was born to a woman who is called So B. It. So, yes, Heidi’s last name is “It”…or so she believes.  Her neighbor, Bernadette, found her as a newborn in her mother’s arms on the floor outside of her apartment thirteen years earlier.  Heidi’s mom has some form of mental disability that doesn’t allow her to function normally, and she can only speak twenty-three words.  Bernadette lives in an “attached apartment”, which allows her to come and help raise Heidi and assist her mother with all aspects of living.  Bernadette suffers from agoraphobia, the fear of going outside, and hasn’t been out in years, so she home-schools Heidi.  As Heidi gets older, she is the one who goes out to do the shopping, taking her mother along the way.  Heidi has a strong desire to learn about her history and about her mother’s life.  We learn that Heidi has a lucky streak and is able to predict things, allowing her to win money at the local slot machines (they live in Reno, Nevada).  One day, Heidi finds a mysterious camera in the apartment with film inside and she decides to have it developed. It turns out that they are pictures which look like her mother, maybe a grandmother, and a picture of a facility called Hilltop House in Liberty, NY.  Heidi and Bernadette call the place, a home for people with mental disabilities, and the man in charge will not speak to them.  Finally, after multiple attempts, Heidi decides she is going to take a bus there.  Bernadette is beside herself but relinquishes.  Heidi uses her special powers to win money on slot machines to get there.  What she finds out will be the answers to her heritage, and of course, will introduce more dramatic twists in the plot.  I liked how the author names each chapter after the 23 words that her mother speaks.  This book has the makings of one of the “afternoon specials” which aired when I was a kid.  Well written, good book for young kids who are inquisitive about how diverse and challenging others’ lives can be.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Another Brooklyn


Another Brooklyn
by Jacqueline Woodson

A truly touching story of friendship, family, religion and growing up in Jacqueline Woodson’s book Another Brooklyn. The main character, August, looks back twenty years to her childhood the day her father is buried.  She and her brother were raised by their father after the death of their mother, who never recovered from the death of her own brother in Vietnam.  Instead of being given to protective services when her father could have abandoned the children, as the character reflects, her father stayed and raised two good children despite the poverty and lack of educational opportunities in the poor areas in the 1980s.  August meets her ‘soulmates’ – three black teens – and explores the issues they faced: boyfriends, prejudice, and being ostracized in a community that was riddled with crime.  She also explores the impact of her father’s female friend who instills the Muslim religion into their life.  Woodson’s prose is beautiful and the art of reflection after the passing of a parent adds to the depth of relationships, sadness, and moments of joy that were experienced moving from Tennessee to Brooklyn and during a trip back home to learn more about her mother’s life.  Highly recommend this book.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Killing Pablo


Killing Pablo
by Mark Bowden

The ‘behind the scenes’ search for Pablo Escobar, the number one hunted man in Columbia, for his killings and numero uno kingpin in the illegal drug cartels in Columbia is the framework of Mark Bowden’s book Killing Pablo. Bowden uses personal interviews from police, intel, US CIA agents, newspaper and other media sources to provide an in-depth look into the man, his failings, and his ability to evade a country for years as the leader of the largest drug ring ever to be known in the world.  Escobar started as a ‘young thug’ and later was hailed as the calmest criminal to exist.  Dedicated to family and his inner-circle of comrades, he was quick to eliminate those people who stopped him from what he wanted most: money, luxuries and young women.  If he wanted something, he would buy it and the would order the people around him to do his dirty deeds.  An extraordinary story of how a country fell prey to one man’s yearning to be the leader or “el jefe”.  The elusive one’s checkered life story well documented.  Worth a read.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Fire to Fire


Fire to Fire
by Mark Doty

Finished a book of poetry called Fire to Fire written by Mark Doty.  The book contains selected poems from previously released publications. Some of his work is set only blocks away from NYU, some in Houston, and some in ancient times.  His style is simplistic with understandable descriptors (i.e., not flowery language).  It is like having the guy next door share thoughts on areas such as defining beauty, hanging at the corner diner (21st and 3rd avenue), the burning of a gorgeous home in Jersey City, a local theatre house, and love.  I especially enjoyed his poem on being aboard a plane about to make an emergency landing (appearing to crash) and what the moments were like for him and his partner.  Doty, a gay male, offers some perspective on how vulnerable one can feel searching for love in a society not always understanding of same-sex relationships.  His poems are short and I recommend you take your time as reading such prose is, not only impressive, but a lost art today.  There are few contemporary poets who can describe visiting a gym as eloquently as he can (funny because I was reading the poem At the Gym at the gym this morning!)  He captured it perfectly.  Not a hug fan of poetry as I still remember taking a poetry class my junior year and never finding the depth I was expected to in the poems, but this is a good read.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Crossroads of Should and Must


The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion
by Elle Luna

This one is a life coach’s dream book!  I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend for any person interested in living the life you want for yourself.  Author Elle Luna lives the book by challenging herself to find her passion, live her passion, and, in turn, writes her book: The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. Luna describes how others influence our thinking and the importance of filtering out these external influences and discovering our own desires instead.  She begins with true life stories of others who did just the same thing – famous people like Einstein, Picasso, T.S. Eliot, etc.  She believes our “crossroads” are found where “should”, what others have us influenced to believe, and “must”, what’s in our hearts, meet. Choosing “must” is the greatest thing we can do with our lives.  The book covers the origins of “should”, “must”, and the return on living a “must” life.  She gives concrete examples of how to work towards living the “must” life by sharing how we challenge the barriers that one will face: money, worthiness, time, and other things that often hold us back.  The book is an artist’s dream: great colors, pictures, and inspiring thoughts/quotes throughout.  You can read this one in 90 minutes and every page will blow away long-held assumptions that are deeply embedded in one’s psyche.  I plan on using this as part of my speech for Torch Day this year.  Thanks JP for sharing the book.  I really loved this one!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Scarecrow and his Servant


The Scarecrow and his Servant
by Philip Pullman

Always fun to read a young-adult book with a message.  This one, The Scarecrow and the Servant by Philip Pullman, is a quick read.  Yes, this is the same author who wrote His Dark Material, trilogy of three books which were very popular.  This book is a bit on the lighter side. It details the story of a scarecrow who has been stolen from one farmer by another, is struck by lightning and is able to speak, walk and behave like a human!  He meets a young boy who he recruits as a servant.  The two go on a journey, eventually learning that they are being chased by the evil family of the original owner who made the scarecrow.  The scarecrow loses parts of himself on the journey, including his head (an onion), which the boy is forced to eat as he was so hungry that the scarecrow offered it.  His head is replaced with a coconut that they find on the journey.  Eventually they are caught by the police and tried for treason, but they counter-sue the evil family who has made the claims against the scarecrow.  In a strange twist, they win the court case with the help of a friendly raven, who helps to show that the scarecrow can be the rightful owner of the land that the original farmer left him, even though he was rebuilt as a scarecrow.  Evil never wins!  A nice cute story! 

Friday, August 31, 2018

This I Believe


This I Believe
by Jay Allison & Dan Gediman

A great motivational read in This I Believe by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman.  The authors found a copy of a book written in the 1950s with the same name, and, after investigating, they learned it was a weekly radio segment in which well-known citizens were interviewed (politicians, celebrities, authors, scientists, etc.) about what they believed.  Some ‘regular citizens’ were upset that they were not included and asked if they could submit their own beliefs – and they were allowed to do so.  The show went off the air a few years later.  This 2006 re-make of the original captures stories from the 1950s show AND those submitted by regular citizens through a website (which is still live), which asks “What is it you believe in?” Take a look: https://thisibelieve.org/. Pretty remarkable things that people believe in and commit to doing.  A good pick-me-up in this era of the ‘haters’…. Lots of good 2-3 page stories.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Cinderella Ate My Daughter


Cinderella Ate My Daughter
by Peggy Orenstein

This will be my last book for a while I think as the class of 2022 checks in tomorrow to NYU residence halls.  Finished a read about the perplexing problem of how to raise a female in the 21st century.  Author/sociologist Peggy Orenstein makes her case (based on research) that young girls are missing the role models they need in this day and age. They grow up with immense pressure to be physically attractive, faced with the constant threat of being called “fat” “ugly” or a “slut”. The behavior of female teens, based on this messaging from society, is leading them to fall prey to low self-esteem, drugs, suicide, and engaging in early-age, pre-marital sex.  Orenstein’s book was published in 2011, right in the middle of the Miley Cyrus craze and the Disney movies featuring princesses that succumb to the desires of princes.  Orenstein uses data focused on young and teenage girls to strengthen her points.  She holds no punches in an explosive attack on this generation’s sense of morals.  She speaks with a Disney executive who validates that money is the impetus for all decisions, even if it may be hurting young girls’ self-esteem.  Orenstein goes back to the era of FDR as one of the pivotal moments where gender was linked to color (blue = boys, girls = pink) and describes how societal expectations have gotten worse since then.  Feminists, sociologists, and supportive males will feel more than validated by this analysis of young girls and the pressures they face in our society.  Not much new for me on this front, even having raised two boys, but appreciate the reminder to be aware of how our actions can stereotype a gender.

Friday, August 24, 2018

You Can Win


You Can Win
by Shiv Kera

There are some really good ‘how to enhance your journey of life’ books from the RAs.  This book, You Can Win, is no different.  Shiv Khera, a popular public speaker for those who want to change the course of their life and meet their life-long goals, is the author of this one.  His book contains helpful reminders of the little things, such as “keeping your eyes on the prize”, as well as more complex lessons, such as identifying what is holding us back from reaching greatness in our life.  Khera interweaves stories and parables that are well known as well as those that I had not heard before.  He draws upon stories of people who have reached success: Lincoln, Michael Jordan, Henry Ford, political leaders and millionaires.  There were many reminders from the Dale Carnegie philosophy to Steven Covey’s 7 Habits work.  The main topics include: how to improve your attitude (and why it’s important), reaching your destination through a positive attitude, the attributes of a successful person, what is motivation (best chapter), the importance of self-esteem in your success, what interpersonal skills are needed for successful teams, how one’s personality enhances their chances of success, how our subconscious (once trained) makes us better, goal setting, and, of course, connecting to our value set to guide our decisions.  This is a strong reminder of how important our personal approach and characteristics are for a successful career.  I highly encourage anyone who is rethinking themselves to add this book to the top of your reading list.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Man Repeller


Man Repeller
by Leandra Medine

An interesting read on how women “repel” men in a book called Man Repeller by Leandra Medine.  The book is Medine’s attempt to tell her life (to date) and how she learned to drive men away (without actually trying to do so).  Medine is overweight from an early age, but she never sees it as a serious problem that needs to be addressed until her older brother tells her she is too heavy.  Being her ‘hero’, Medine took it to heart at age sixteen and changed from heavy-set teen to svelte eighteen-year-old, good-looking woman.  Medine, a graduate of the New School (a few blocks away from NYU), born and raised in Manhattan as a Jewish American Princess (her words, not mine), goes on to work at a high-end fashion store doing their social media and other marketing assignments.  It is then that she claims that she is a ‘man repeller’ and tells her stories of lost loves, never getting kissed until her late teens, and even ending her “drought” (her words not mine) as a virgin.  The book is a series of short stories and some comical pictures of her.  I laughed out loud a few times; otherwise, I sat back and learned how one Jewish American Princess (self-proclaimed) is preoccupied with looks, money and fame.  And yes, she did have to lose the term ‘man repeller’ as she entered marriage to the man she lost her virginity to a few years later. The book gives a pretty good bird’s eye view into the NYC high income teen/young adult world and all that goes with it.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries


Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries
by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Back from vacation and RA Training has begun, so may not be reading as much now that we are in the zone for welcoming the class of 2022.  Finished Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s book, Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries. The book is a series of previously printed essays that are placed together to create this interesting read on the science of quantum physics, the ways of nature, how to understand nature, how the earth was created, the future of the universe, and the question of whether or not God exists.  The forty-two essays are short reads, some more interesting than others.  Science geeks and astronomy lovers will really enjoy the book.  Love the reference to the sci-fi movies and the author’s thoughts on God, discussion of humans vs. chimpanzees, and examples of how science never stops evolving (what is being questioned today should be answered in some future generation).  He did a great job of providing perspectives from the past and showing where these “truths” were later challenged and eventually disproven. Scientists will always uncover more of what is out there: the stars, the galaxy, and beyond. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Big Little Lies


Big Little Lies
by Liane Moriarty

As vacation comes to an end, I finished another RA Favorite book: Big Little Lies by Liane Morairty.  Set in Australia, the book brings together the stories of a group of mothers whose children are entering kindergarten in a local public school.  Each of the three main characters are connecting through their children and their own journeys in life: neglect, refusal, and rape/domestic violence at the hands of men.  At the same time, a side story is presented through the children, one of whom is wrongly accused of bullying another child in the classroom.  In the end, the characters and stories all tie in when a tragedy occurs involving the death of one of the women's husbands.  In many ways, the book reminds me of a Jodi Piccoult book, where the story is okay but the message is the ‘main thing’ that makes it worth reading.  I have heard that the book turned into a movie/TV series, which was pretty popular.  Unsure how different the book is from the movie.  I did listen to this one on tape, so the dramatic effect was much akin to a movie.  It is a microcosm of much of what happens in our society today: ‘urban legend’ fiction becoming fact and the inevitable bonding over shared misery.  A bit of what was termed many years ago as the “chick flick” genre.  Real life at its best.  It does have some good “oh wow, I didn’t expect that” moments.  Probably a good beach read. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

I'm Still Here (Extra Book)


I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
by Austin Channing Brown

Thanks to Tyler Miller for suggesting I read I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. The book was suggested as an additional reading for my class on campus communities, which I think fits very nicely.  The author shares her real life experience as a black woman in a white world.  She begins by sharing how she is a ‘minority’, one of only a few black children in her school, and the experience of hearing the “n” word used by a classmate. She also details the tiring role of being an educator when a well-meaning white person shows both their privilege and their ignorance through words/actions.  What I appreciate in the book is the author’s honesty and transparency, not hiding the exhaustion resulting from her daily work as a racial justice educator.  Brown’s book differs from others by bringing in the Christian perspective, which speaks to me.  She packs a great deal of lessons in this very short 180+ page read.  For being such a young woman, Brown provides valuable life lessons, and I would add this as a must-read for all white people who really want to understand the daily challenges of living in the skin of a black person.  Ignorance doesn’t cut it, so read books like Brown’s or Renee Watson’s book (from the perspective of a high school student) or Ta-Nehisi Coates’ (a contemporary black author) who also shares his life experiences, raw and personal.  White America still needs to hear the lessons that MLK, James Baldwin, and Malcom X shared fifty years ago, many of which seem to have gone unheard.  It is more than time to be uncomfortable and hear first-hand how we are stuck as a society in the US, still bound in the chains that don’t let people of color be truly free from the verbal and non-verbal, conscious or unconscious, attacks that occur each and every day.  Important read for all.

  

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Healing of America


The Healing of America
by T. R. Reid

I often wonder how students select their favorite book, and this one is no different.  While the book is very educational and helpful in understanding the state of health care in our society today, I don’t think I would take it with me to a deserted island or give it to a best friend for a present.  Nonetheless, it provides perspective on how different countries approach health care.  The book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid, details the author’s journey to get his shoulder ‘fixed’ from an old injury sustained while in the military. During the process, he decides to find how other country’s health care would address his needs as a patient.  Reid actually visited physicians and had the same injury evaluated and was also able to get costs for the corrective work.  Needless to say, the US system was one of the worst!  (Note this was done prior to the health care reform bill passed during President Obama’s term in office).  As Reid argues, providing health care to all citizens is a moral and ethical issue, so why doesn’t the US do it just as the rest of the world?  Reid goes to France (rated #1 by the World Health Organization), Germany, Japan, UK, Canada and Asia to see physicians.  He provides in-depth data that helps to illustrate how far behind we really are in relation to other countries (with the exception of our research and facilities/equipment).  In the end, we should provide equal access to all.  Again, helpful read for all, but especially those studying global public health or related fields.  Will become dated in a few years as it was written in 2009.  

Friday, July 27, 2018

Parenting Out of Control (Extra Book)


Parenting Out of Control
by Margaret K. Nelson

Thanks to Kristin Balicki for sharing this book as part of the preparation for Pre-College students at NYU.  She used the books to prepare staff who will interact with parents and their high school students coming to NYU this summer.  The book is called Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times by Margaret Nelson, a sociologist at Middlebury College specializing in parenting.  The book is the result of a study of 97 parents across socio-economic backgrounds and various regions of the United States to better understand how they “manage” the relationship between them and their children.  Her question focused on the motivation of parents who were adamant about knowing their child’s every move and would buy into any technology that secured that knowledge.  She then wondered if these were the same parents who were engaged in hyper vigilant practices – so controlling of their children and unwilling to launch them into adulthood. Nelson clearly did her homework given the hundreds of citations throughout the book.  My critique of the book is that it is rather redundant.  After she answers the questions early in chapter two, the rest of the book continues to answer the same question.  The final conclusion? Middle class parents who work in professions considered to be “white-collar” seem to be more hands off than lower socio-economic class parents who have more to worry about their children because they aren’t there to watch them.  OK.…  97 parents being interviewed made for a pretty generalizable study?  I’ll leave that for the reader to decide.  I was hoping for a bit more information on the parenting piece.  The info on the latest technology parents could use was quite robust.  In many ways, I felt like it was a book more about the technology and what was working/not working for parents.  Ho-hum…. Read the conclusion, probably all you need to read.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Art of Community (Extra Book)

The Art of Community 
by Charles H. Vogl

When I did a call to Facebook friends for books on “community” for the class I am teaching in the fall, I didn’t expect to find such a great book in The Art of Community by Charles Vogl. He learned about community through the process of forming one as a PhD student at Yale.  Vogl draws upon the rich history of the various religious heritages to illustrate his seven principles of community. The book is easy to read and can help any community organizer, religious leader, or even a student affairs professional.  Vogl, who never felt he experienced true community before, learns how to do it, and then goes on to write about it.  So accessible and a real treat for anyone who needs to train RAs in the coming month for building community.  Thanks to Elizabeth Cox for sending the recommendation!  I’ll be using the book for class in the fall.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sing, Unburied, Sing (Extra Book)


Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward

And yes, the rain continues…so I finished yet another book, this one a gift from the President’s Office at NYU for assisting in the selection process for the Presidential Fellows initiative. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is an award-winning book set in rural, “deep south” Mississippi.  This is a beautiful story that brought tears to my eyes.  Written in the voices of three characters, a grandson (JoJo), a mother (Leonie), and a man who died at a young age (Richie, who served in jail with JoJo’s grandfather decades ago), come together to explore their fears and what got them to today.  Family dynamics are a very complicated thing, but add race, hate, and the evils that become of them into the lives of one black family in the depths of Mississippi and it’s a whole different story.  Pop, JoJo’s grandfather, serves as his father when Jojo’s real father, Michael, a white man, is imprisoned.  Pop and Mam, his grandmother who suffers from terminal cancer, have raised him and his younger sister, Kayla, while his mother, Leonie, works (or does drugs, whichever she has the time or money to do).  It is usually the evils in the past that cloud the present, and, for this family it is the tragic death (murder) of their son (Leonie’s brother, Given) and the death of Pop’s friend from decades before that has this family where they are today.  Ward interweaves the spirits of the past into this haunting reality.   I highly recommend this book to all.  The truth of how our pasts never leave us is front and foremost in this book.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Piecing Me Together (Extra Book)


Piecing Me Together

by Renee Watson

I have no idea how this book got on my desk, but I read it as the rain continued to come down during this vacation…oh well.  Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson is another young-adult book but could be read by anyone looking to better understand the power of prejudice and the significance of skin color in the world today.  Jade, a poor black teen growing up in Portland, Oregon, receives a scholarship to a predominantly white private high school and is forced to leave behind some of her best friends, who are also black.  Her mother reminds her that her education will help her escape the socio-economic challenges that her family faces.  Jade’s journey includes joining a young women’s empowerment program though her school, which ultimately leaves her with a scholarship to college.  Her assigned mentor, an alum of the school and a black woman with financial means, faces significant challenges as a result of her disparate life experience.  The book provides a terrific learning opportunity for readers on: difference within race; paying attention to the subtext of messages; and the complexities of race/socio-economic differences.  Watson hits the mark in this easy-to-read tale aimed at young adults, but it is a valuable read for all who care about changing the narrative of this generation.