A BOOK : Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

B L O G M A S   D A Y   12

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is a sobering look at the American justice system. It’s broken down into two parts essentially. As a young lawyer, Stevenson began working on this case involving a man name Walter McMillian who was going to be put to death for killing a woman in the town. It is a COMPLETE mess of an accusation. McMillian had multiple witnesses as to where he was that day and stories told accusing McMillian were later admitted as lies by the people that told them. Yet. Somehow, McMillian was still on death row.

So that’s the core of the book– Stevenson’s journey as he digs through the case and tries to get McMillian off death row.

Scattered throughout are more cases Stevenson has worked on throughout the years, so you’re able to see how the law plays out in different situations with different people– especially in regards to race, poverty, and gender.

There is a LOT of information about the law, but truthfully most of that didn’t stick in my brain. What stayed were the stories. Stevenson is passionate about what he does and his care and compassion is evident in the pages. He breathes life back to the statistics and share stories from the front-line.

Plus, I like that he includes the after. This is a case he started on in 1980, and I am not going to spoil what happened (although it’s easy to look it up if you’re curious before you read the book), but a decision in the end was made. Stevenson looked at the affect of a man being locked up for years and years and years had on the man and his family.

It’s an engaging piece of work. If you’re a To Kill A Mockingbird fan or a fan of Serial, this might be something you would be interested in.

Add it to your to-read list!

A BOOK : Binge by Tyler Oakley

B L O G M A S  D A Y 7

25507925

This is a memoir that does not need extra promotion really, but I still wanted to talk about it. 🙂 Tyler Oakley is a large internet personality and has also made his way into mainstream media through appearing on talk shows and red carpets.

I’m a fan of Tyler Oakley’s podcast and truly this book felt like him. His voice definitely carries over and it has a very similar feel to the content he has already created– just written down. He covers the same type of stuff, just spends a little more time in his childhood and school years going deeper with those stories. You pretty much get what you expect– inspirational stories, funny stories, and a lot of innuendos.

Which brings me to the thing that I liked the most about the memoir– but also shows off this weird sort of tension that exists in the book. What I like is seeing how Tyler Oakley is just so… Tyler Oakley. He is himself and is bold and is messy and is fun and is just him. All day every day.

And the tension lies where at the end of the day he is trying to be his 26-year-old self while reaching an audience that is VERY diverse in age/skews super young in the bulk of the numbers. So there’s this thing where he is sort of walking the line of sharing these details from college and beyond of more… adult situations- haha- but still be able to connect with readers that are 12, 13, and 14– basically a lot younger than him. As a result, there is a story literally for every age and it’s neat to see that bundled up in one collection. But at the same time, I almost wish he would have split the book in two and just focused on one batch of ages per a book. As someone super close to his current age, there were things I would have loved for him to expand upon from his later years, and there were sections I definitely skimmed from his earlier years.

Do you have to be a “fan” of Tyler Oakley to read this? I wouldn’t say so! It’s essentially a really interesting person that’s done a lot of really interesting things talking about his life so far. It has a lot of wide appeal. 🙂 It’s goofy, yet filled with heart. Although clocking in at 300-ish pages, it’s a pretty quick read with short chapters and a lot of jumping around that keeps you going.

Did you read it? How’d you like it?

Add it to your to-read list!

A BOOK : Citizen by Claudia Rankine

B L O G M A S    D A Y    3

REQUIRED READING.

20613761

One of my coworkers was sharing an experience at a young adult literature panel about how books work as either mirrors or windows. They mirror your own experience, or they show you the experience of others. She was talking about the importance of having both types of books readily available for people.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine is such a powerful example of such a book. For me it’s a window. A window of what it’s like being black in America– the sheer amount of comments and situations in which she and the stories of other people she shared have been casted “less than” by those they encounter. Her neighbor calls the cops on her babysitter because he is walking back and forth pacing aggressively talking to himself in front of Rankine’s house. He was black and talking on the phone. She gets the surprised “I didn’t know you were black!” meeting someone in person for the first time and overhears the “I don’t understand it when black people talk, it’s like they’re talking in another language” right before she enters a round table discussion.

It’s constant.

And then she shares the inevitable “just let it go” responses and the “are you sure?” and that feeling of disbelief  of “are you really saying this?” And it just sounds like exhaustion. Bone breaking exhaustion.

And while for me this book is a window, I’m sure it also acts as a mirror to so many. This work of poetry bleeds from the heart as she shares a wide spectrum of her own experiences, starting from 12, and brings in the experiences of others– even famous tennis player Serena Williams. It’s intimate and specific, yet the intimacies and specifics speak to experiences that many, many, many experience daily in all different forms.

I listened to this on audio, which I enjoyed– however I wish it was read by Claudia Rankine. I listened to her reading some of her work on Youtube and man. Her spoken voice is just as powerful as her voice in writing.

Check out her reading an excerpt here:

And then make sure to add it to your TBR list.

 

A BOOK : Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

22889767

I! Love! Books! Like! These!

I’m a fan of learning how people live the details of their life. What do you do when you put nail polish on? What’s your morning routine? Do you pick out what you’re going to wear ahead of time? Do you have an eating schedule?

I could listen to people talk about this stuff forever. Well, some people. Not everyone. 😉

Very much related to this, I LOVE books about habits– the every day routines and things we do that make up our lives. How do you choose what habits you want to keep and get rid of? How do you actually follow through?

Well, in true Gretchen Rubin project (most known for her book The Happiness Project read my post about it) she combines research, with personal story, with advice to create a book all about HABITS and how to go about forming them.

What I love THE MOST about this, is she never really tells you what habits you should form. She focuses more on the tools of helping you understand yourself the best you can in order to set yourself for success in creating these habits you are interested in creating.

Yes, her biases to some habits are SUPER blatant (low-carb eating for one), but the thing that she has learned in this path that she makes clear is that there isn’t one right way to do everything. A good habit is right for YOU.

While she doesn’t have a list of habits you might be interested in, due to the nature of how she talks about habits and the experiences she shares, you do get some good ideas of habits you might be interested in trying too!

I listened to this on audio, and she narrates it herself. She has a pretty clear voice and not very distracting. It’s a good one to listen to while you’re doing chores or driving. Because she’s trying to write a book that will help people with all different methods of living and functioning, some of it isn’t always directly applicable- but! Still interesting. 🙂

Also, in true Gretchen Rubin form she mentions A LOT about where she got her research from– not in a heavy handed way, but in a useful and storytelling way– so if you’re interested in learning more she definitely gives you direction!

Interested? Add it to your to-read list!

A BOOK: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

2195464What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
by Haruki Murakami
Published 2008

In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and even more importantly, on his writing.

Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes us to places ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a panorama of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back.

Photo and summary from Goodreads.com

2015 is the year of me possibly dipping into Haruki Murakami’s writing. Okay. That’s not true. It is the year of me dipping into Murakami’s writing, but I don’t know how much further I will go. This year I have listened to  The Strange Library and now I have listened to What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. The first title is a more recent title and is only an hour long in the audio format. This title, as you can read from the cover, is a memoir. Because these works are not things Murakami are really known for, I feel like I am skirting around his edges.

But.

What I really liked about this memoir was how much I ended up liking Murakami as a person. I think it’s because he is so built up in my head (you know, Murakami this, Murakami that, literature literature literature) but in this memoir he seemed so humble and just a simple man dedicated to his crafts. Of course this is a memoir, so he has control over the message, but whether or not that is an accurate picture of him it made my reading experience a lot more enjoyable.

While this is a very conversational story about Murakami’s relationship with running, he also delves into his relationship with writing. He talked a little bit about some of his philosophy, which was a surprise treat for me. He also touches on aging and the surprises of being on the other side of “old.”

I particularly enjoyed the format I read this. The audiobook is narrated by Ray Porter, and to me he ended up being a great fit for the story. His own voice is measured and calm, which really fit with the tone of the book. It also matched the style of the book- it really felt like Murakami just talking to you.

If you’re interested in…

…short snippets into a very private writer’s life
…a book discussing passion in running and writing
…a story that takes its time
…an audiobook where you feel like you’re sitting on the floor listening to someone reflect on life

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running might be for you!

Add it to your to be read shelf on Goodreads!

Waiting on… Friday? : HANNAH HART WROTE A BOOK.

Pardon my absence… I have been hibernating! Unfortunately, my hibernating has not included a whole bunch of book reading. I’ve been having trouble getting into things.

BUT. Something happened this week that made me too excited to stop hibernating and SHARE.

HannahHarthasacoverforherbook!HannahHarthasacoverforherbook!HannahHarthasacoverforherbook!

And it looks so. freaking. good.

LOOK AT THIS COVER:

It is coming out August 12, 2014. You can PREORDER IT or ADD IT TO YOUR TO-READ shelf on Goodreads. If you forget to now, don’t worry because I will be mentioning this to you again. And again.

Why am I so excited about this one?

If you aren’t familiar with Hannah Hart she runs a Youtube channel at youtube.com/harto in which she has a weekly show called My Drunk Kitchen. In that show she drinks and cooks and muses about life. She also runs another YouTube channel youtube.com/yourharto in which she posts more things. She is inspiring, hilarious, smart, uplifting, and just a genuinely awesome person. She has a very interesting and fascinating perspective of life and the world, and I cannot wait to read her thoughts and see what recipes she ends up choosing to put in the cookbook!

AND since most of my readers are book people, you know what else she does book-related other than writes them?! She reads them too! She hosts a monthly walking book club that you can partake in. Right now they are reading Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres, so you can read along and post a video of your  response to the book.

Anyway. Stop reading this and go watch her videos. I apologize for my bossiness. Sort of.

Review: Zeitoun

Zeitoun
by Dave Eggers
published July 2009
McSweeney’s

The true story of one family, caught between America’s two biggest policy disasters: the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun run a house-painting business in New Orleans. In August of 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approaches, Kathy evacuates with their four young children, leaving Zeitoun to watch over the business. In the days following the storm he travels the city by canoe, feeding abandoned animals and helping elderly neighbors. Then, on September 6th, police officers armed with M-16s arrest Zeitoun in his home. Told with eloquence and compassion, Zeitoun is a riveting account of one family’s unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water.

Photo and summary from Goodreads.com

You know, if I were to be honest I’m hesitant reading outside of the young adult genre. I want to, but (call me immature) I’m just so afraid everything that isn’t YA is going to be boring or complete fluff. I don’t know why I’ve developed such a hesitancy, especially since I’ve read SO many books that I loved that aren’t on the YA shelf, but still. I always have to give myself that extra push.

Now I’m here to tell you today, that this book was totally worth ignoring my first doubts. Don’t I sound like an infomercial? But wait! There’s more!

The thing that I loved about this book was it really got me out of my own head while I was reading it, and it made me angry. And frustrated. Especially towards the end. What’s that quote? “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” This book certainly makes you pay attention, and want to keep your eyes open.

Zeitoun deals a lot with two seemingly separate issues: being a Muslim in America post 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. When I first started I just figured the fact that the Zeitouns are Muslims was a great opportunity for Dave Eggers to cover two substantial topics he wanted to write about, and I was a little confused why he explored their faith SO MUCH. But, later on it made a TON of sense why he spent so much time discussing the Zeitouns’ faith. I’ll let you learn why yourself.

The story in general is riveting. Even though before I read this book I knew a fair amount coming in about Hurricane Katrina, I feel like it had something new to tell. There were a lot of things I hadn’t thought about before reading this book, one example being how if someone was going to use a boat with a motor to rescue people in houses post-hurricane, then that person would be less likely to hear someone trapped inside of a house calling out for help compared to someone who was traveling motor-less. It really made me think of just how in-depth you would have to think to effectively and efficiently take care of a situation like this. There were a TON of things that went wrong post-Katrina that I’m not going to get into here, and Zeitoun unfortunately suffered a lot because of it. What was good to read was at the end, Eggers included responses from some of the people who took part in allowing Zeitoun’s suffering, which helped me to understand a little more about why everything happened.

Above all, Zeitoun put a big emphasis on how a bunch of little things add up to a big thing.  Eggers was very careful to show the chain of effect going on in this story and it is incredibly evident how if one or more of the actions carried out were slightly tweaked, they could have led to a way different result (for better or for worse!).

I’m pretty sure I’m rambling. This is what happens when I don’t do my numbered list!

Anyway, another thing that I liked a lot was how this book was told from Kathy’s perspective, who left New Orleans, and Zeitoun’s perspective, who had stayed. Both perspectives were painful to read at times because, to put it in the most eloquent of terms, the situation sucked. Hearing about Kathy trying to find out information about her husband, while still trying to keep it together for her daughter’s? It broke my heart. And watching Zeitoun lose parts of himself as the story progressed? Man. The two really grew on me, and so especially by the end of the book I wasn’t only sharing the general pain of Hurricane Katrina and all the mess that went on after, but I was able to feel a tiny tiny bit of their personal pain as they tried to find all their pieces and put them back together. And let me tell you, feeling a tiny tiny bit of their pain was more than enough.

All in all, I’m pretty sure my only big qualm was the amount of family history Eggers went into on Zeitoun’s side. I liked reading a lot of it, but the amount seemed a little excessive.

Ultimate Review: This is pretty much a must read– at least for Americans, especially those not directly impacted by the hurricane. The justice issues going on in the book are incredibly important to be aware of. It was pretty much appalling to read. But important. Plot wise for me: while it got slow sometimes with family history it was overall a page-turner.
Hey go here: Here is a Q&A with Dave Eggers concerning his work behind Zeitoun.