Friday, April 13, 2012

March Reads

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome and One Man's Quest to be a Better Husband by David Finch.
His marriage was starting to fall apart when David Finch was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) at the age of 30. Instead of it being a traumatic discovery, it had the opposite effect. It empowered him. He realized he wasn't just a selfish jerk of a husband and that he could do something about his behaviors. With the help and support of his wife Kristen, Dave started jotting down ways to be a better husband and father on napkins and backs of envelopes and gradually filled a nightstand drawer with his notes which became his "Journal of Best Practices".

I love the premise of this book. I think both Dave and his wife showed remarkable selflessness as they worked together to make their marriage strong. Dave was willing to do what needed to be done and Kristen was remarkably patient, loving and supportive through the process. It's an unconventional but moving love story. I really enjoyed this book and found it uplifting (especially the ending) except for the parts where the author is a potty mouth (and there are several parts). Overall though, I thought it was a worthwhile read. 

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Fascinating reading. The first 72 pages or so, Capote introduces us to the Clutter family. As a reader, I started to really like them and relate to them. I guess it's not any spoiler to say that they all die. It is weird to be reading a book about real people whom you think you'd like if you knew them or were neighbors and knowing that they will all be killed in gruesome fashion. It was pretty disturbing actually.  Still, it was great writing. Reading about the killers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith was very interesting from a psychological perspective but I imagine it must have been really draining to Capote to write the book. It was somewhat emotionally draining to read it.

The scope of Capote's research is pretty amazing. The book reads like a novel but it is non-fiction. It is considered one of the first (if not the first) non-fiction novel and a pioneer in the true crime genre (Wikipedia). It's heavy subject matter, so I wouldn't recommend reading it unless you are in a frame of mind to be able to deal with this sort of thing.

Mother Teresa: A Life of Charity by Mildred Pond
I felt like I needed to read something wholly uplifting after reading In Cold Blood. I have always wanted to learn more about Mother Teresa but I couldn't find any books about her in our library except this children's biography. It was easy reading, if a little boring, and not too long but was still a good general overview of Mother Teresa's life and accomplishments. If anything, it whet my appetite to learn more about this remarkable woman.

Matched by Ally Condie
I finally picked this up after having several friends recommend it. The premise: The Society controls everything from where the characters work to who they marry to when they die. As the book progresses Cassia becomes a strong female protagonist who decides she wants some control over her own life and that's when things start to get interesting. Think The Hunger Games meets The Giver.

I am a fan of dystopian fiction. I thought this book was well written and I had a hard time putting it down. I loved the literary references and the themes of being an individual and the importance of freedom. This book could have easily crossed into the mushy/cheesy realm but it didn't and for that I give it major props. I have the second volume of the trilogy on hold at our library and am looking forward to the next installment. I really liked it.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
I hated this book but I kept reading it hoping it would have some redemptive plot twists at the end. It didn't. It was horribly depressing. As far as I could determine, the theme was: don't be an individual because you will become an outcast and people will bully you and beat you up so badly that you almost die. The end.

I wanted to curl into the fetal position in a corner and rock myself after reading this. I understand it is supposedly one of the great young adult novels of our time. The writing style itself is fine, but I still hated it. And I don't hate many books. There is no way I would encourage my 13 year old to read this. Books can be important, pertinent, not sugar-coated and still have a positive take-home message.

I know not all literature is going to be uplifting. I also know high school really stinks for some people (although my experience was fairly positive) but the sociopathy of the characters bordered on was criminal.  Are people really this horrible? I'd like to have more faith in humanity. In my opinion this book failed.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What have you read lately? Tell me in the comments.

People who have read Matched will especially appreciate today's poem:

"Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

1 comment:

Misty Buck said...

glad you enjoyed I'm interested in "In Cold Blood". Hmmmm