Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review Round-up

As you might have guessed from the lack of posts recently, I ended up getting that teaching job! I've been back for two weeks now and it's been exhausting, but I think it's going pretty well. I am still planning to write more about this soon but I wanted to get some reviews that I've been sitting on out of the way. All three of these books come from my Tried and True list, so I've been making progress on that. It's ground to a halt now that I'm working again but at least I got to squeeze in a few good reads while I could!

The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (audiobook)
This was a surprisingly quick "read" and like Gladwell's other books, had a lot of interesting information. The premise here is twofold: 1) change is often quite gradual until a tipping point is reached and then there's a rapid shift, and 2) things that tend to go viral (or "create epidemics", as Gladwell called it over a decade ago, before the concept of "viral" became a thing) all tend to follow similar patterns in the way that they spread. Gladwell outlines the factors involved in something being "sticky" enough to become an epidemic. Some of the things discussed are common sense but a few things stood out for me. The research that went into the creation and success of Sesame Street, for example, was really interesting, especially since my daughter is just starting to discover Elmo and friends right now. 

Every time I listen to an audiobook, I comment on the author reading it. Gladwell reads this one, too, and for the first time, I think it may have been better if he didn't. His voice was so soft and soothing that it was hard to stay engaged sometimes. He could almost lull you to sleep. 

The Imaginary Girlfriend, John Irving
I bought this short memoir of Irving's at used book store several years ago, intrigued by the idea that a man who constantly insists that people stop looking for an author's life in his novels would have written a memoir. It turns out, he doesn't give us much to work with. If you're interested in his wrestling career, there is lots of high school and college wrestling minutiae. I would have been much more interested in his family life and writing career. There were a couple of surprises: Irving is dyslexic and actually hates the city of Vienna. The Vienna bit surprised me considering how much a part of his novels Vienna tends to be, and not usually in a negative way. It's worth the read for the sake of completeness if you are an Irving fan but you're not missing much otherwise.

And The Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini (ebook)
Oh, how I loved this book! It's been over a week since I finished and I'm still thinking about it. 

If you are familiar with Hosseini's previous novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, you probably already know that this, too, will break your heart. That's what Hosseini does. He pulls at your heart strings until they snap, but he does it so well. And The Mountains Echoed was much more subtle and less devastating than The Kite Runner, and not at all emotionally manipulative like I found A Thousand Splendid Suns to be. There is no gratuitous tragedy here, just the simple, beautiful heartbreak of people living their lives and making difficult choices that have lasting consequences across generations. I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I loved the way the story was told through the different viewpoints and formats. This is easily my favourite book of the year so far.

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