Review: As If!

Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I found out about this book from one of the lovely people I follow on Twitter. I a9781476799087_custom-d38365a3d37179dc23f4b552ee7e1c02f02de262-s300-c15dore Clueless. It made me want to read Emma by Jane Austen, although I gave up on that several months ago. And this book mostly delivered some great stories about the creation, filming, and general pop culture relevance of Clueless. My only issue with it is that this book was only available as an audiobook from my library and it really did not translate well to this medium, which is unfortunate. It could have been great if they had used the actual voices of the people interviewed, but it was all read by one person, who tried valiantly to distinguish each person slightly in order to make it more understandable, but it was really a hard job.

The format of the book was somewhat chronological according to script-writing, the Jane Austen connection, casting, and then all the way through the filming process to the popular reception and current pop culture relevance, including a video tribute by Iggy Azalea that I had never heard of. Each section is a bunch of interview segments from the cast and crew, and other related people, and it is sewn together in a narrative.

There really isn’t much more to say about this book other than that. I really liked hearing all kinds of background information about certain scenes, locations, actors, and other things. It definitely made me want to watch the movie again!

3 stars.

This book fulfilled no requirements for the challenge.

Review: Spook

Spook-cover2I read a lot of these layman’s academic non-fiction type books, and usually by the time I get to the end I feel somewhat disappointed. In this case, it might be because the author never really shores up enough evidence to persuade the reader either way. However, I think that feeling in this case is¬†more because I so enjoyed the book that I wish there were more of it!

Mary Roach takes us on a journey about finding more about what science (and pseudo-science) says about the soul and life after death. We start with reincarnation and end with near death experiences, and along the way we talk to a variety of scientists, researchers, and people who are using “science” (applied loosely) to communicate with the dead. I found Roach’s writing style to be witty and inclusive, and just like a friend telling you interesting stories over coffee. (By inclusive, I mean that when the book gets jargon-y, she realizes this and tells you how it goes over her head too. There is lots of care to guide the reader along when things start to get complex, and I really appreciate this as a non-scientist.)

One omission in the book is about the amount of Biblical scholars that write and teach about the existence of heaven. They may not be scientists, but are academics in their own right. Several years ago, I read a really really long book by Randy Alcorn titled Heaven, and I know he interviews a bunch of researchers. While he has a vested interest in biasing his book towards the probability of Heaven existing, there was a lot of good stuff in there that I found convincing when I read it. This book only has a brief side bar about Catholic priests and the papacy. The Hindu religion actually has more prominence in this book.

Otherwise, I found this book very engaging and enjoyable, and I much enjoyed her writing style. I will probably be checking out more of her books in the future.

4 stars.


Review: Throw Out Fifty Things

throw-out-fifty-things-book-cover-jacketI started reading this book ages ago and just randomly stopped. Okay, it wasn’t entirely random, it was because the first time I sat down to read it, I actually intended to follow it and throw out fifty things. In much the same way that I ran out of steam with my One Year to An Organized Life reading and series of blog posts, I just couldn’t keep up with it on any sort of timeline, and gradually the book made its way into the closet and I didn’t even find it until post-KonMari. The thing is, I now compare all organizing/decluttering/tidying books against The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and they all fall short. Not in the sense that the KonMari method is just so mind-blowing that no other book comes close to approximating the genius within those pages, but mostly because all those other books basically say the same thing, but not as clearly and concisely.

Gail Blanke’s purpose for this book is not actually centered around your living space. This is a motivational self-help book disguised as organizing how-to. The book is arranged into 3 basic parts (actually 4, but 1 & 2 are pretty similar). The first deals with physical clutter (what I was interested in), the second was mental clutter (hrm, okay), and the third was about achieving your maximum potential (what?). I just want a clean house – I’ll worry about realizing my dreams after that. (Really, my dreams right now are to be able to walk without stubbing my toe on something or be able to find something without tearing the house upside down.) I felt deceived by this book when I got to the third section, because it did not seem like the same book. And it became a whole lot of positive thinking meets “The Secret” meets cognitive behavioral therapy. And that stuff is all fine, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for.

In a way, I can understand why a book might have this premise and also might appeal to a lot of people. If you are unhappy and looking to make a change, you might think a house sprucing-up might just be the ticket, but while reading you may realize you need to make some bigger changes in your life. That’s great! I hope this book really helped someone. I would have preferred that it hadn’t been advertised as something else though. After finishing the book, I skimmed the jacket and blurbs and really didn’t see how anyone would be able to see what this book is really about. Maybe that’s by design. Either way, it has a lot of rah-rah motivational speak that I find cloying and absurd. The book is also much too long for the content within.

I did not throw out fifty things while reading it this time. I’d already done plenty more before that while going through KonMari, and the best part of that is that book was shorter and didn’t really require steps in between chapters. If I had decided to go back and do Blanke’s program, it not only would have required a lot of journaling for the mental clutter and dream actualization chapters, but I would have had to start over and go chapter by chapter.

The best part of the book was the heart warming stories about being who had turned their lives around after dumping stuff they didn’t need and thoughts and feelings that were holding them back. I would read a whole book about that.

2 stars.

This book fulfills the book with a number in the title and book you started but never finished requirements for the challenge.

Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up


A short article I came across about this book piqued my interest in it. I’d already seen a couple of mentions about it, and was ready to disregard it, until I read the basic premise. Marie Kondo’s tidying philosophy is so simple – only keep things that “spark joy”.

I think this book really resonated with me because I’ve been so unhappy with our living space lately. It has become overrun with clutter. I have boxes upon boxes of stuff that I just don’t know what to do with. I had a closet full of clothing that I didn’t love. Books I have had on my shelf for ages that I don’t care about reading anymore. I’m just done with all of it, and I’m tired of storing this stuff that I don’t care about. I was already in the middle of a great amount of discarding, but this really pushed me forward. Now, the idea of having a closet full of things that I am excited about wearing, books I am excited about reading, and other things that “spark joy”, is really attractive.

I kind of lost steam of my “One Year to An Organized Life” book blogging series that I was doing, mostly because it was moving too fast. The monthly sections were just too much to undertake in one month, and I was ending up with a pile of stuff at the end that was in a bit of a holding area, since I didn’t know where to store it and the rooms I wanted to store them in were so messy and cluttered that I didn’t know what to do with them in the meantime.

Getting rid of other people’s things without permission demonstrates a sad lack of common sense. … To quietly work away at disposing of your own excess is actually the best way of dealing with ¬†family that doesn’t tidy. (Kondo, 51-52)

The one thing that I feel is lacking here – although she does address it – is the fact that I have no control over other people’s things and that is part of the problem. Being overrun with toys and other things that don’t give ME joy, but may give joy to my family members – or that they are not psychologically ready to part with for whatever reason – is a huge part of my clutter issues. Her contribution to this problem is to simply take care of your own things, and the zen-like aura emanating from you will be contagious, but I really will have to see it to believe it.

A booby trap lies within the term ‘storage’. (22)

This was one of those ah-ha! moment quotes from the book. It made me think about how I’m storing things, and that I can organize things to be perfectly neat and tidy and it all falls apart within days. Also, unless it’s something that I use at particular times (like holiday items), why am I storing things in a way that makes it hard for me to get to it? It just makes me less likely to use it. If I’m not using it regularly because it’s a pain to get to and that doesn’t effect me in my day-to-day life, then I should just discard it.

In fact, that particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life and you are free to say, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me,” and let it go. (60)

There’s no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. Their purpose was to be read halfway. (91)

You will never use spare buttons. (111)

The above quotes were some of the biggest take-aways for me from this book. I do hang on to several item “just in case” and half-read books, some clothing, and buttons are big ones. I’m 31 and I have never used a spare button. I’ve forced myself to finish books that I hated. I have a ton of clothes that I save for a someday occasion or size that by the time I even get close to wearing it, I don’t even like it anymore.

The things we own are real. They exist here and now as a result of choices made in the past by no one other than ourselves. (183)

I’m not really into all of the spiritual things that she brings up in the book. I’m not going to start asking my house where it wants me to store things. But hanging onto things out of a sense of obligation to either ourselves or others when the utility or joy of the thing has passed is pretty silly. It just creates more mess to contend with. And I, for one, am tired of dealing with it.

This book fulfills the originally written in a different language requirement for the challenge.

Review: Think Like A Freak

2015/01/img_2423.jpg“Think Like A Freak” by Stephen Dubner & Steven Levitt

I think I would have liked this book a lot more if I had not listened to the podcasts previously. It definitely just rehashed all the same material that they’ve had over the course of the past year or so. I really enjoyed the first Freakonomics book. The second felt less like an additional book and more of an addendum, which is interesting because the second book is actually 5 pages longer.

Some interesting anecdotes sprinkled throughout, as is the modus operandi for the Freakonomics duo. Some stuff about hot dog contest eating, soccer playing, and our reluctance to quit things or admit that we don’t know something. This book is written sort of in the manner of “here are ways you can challenge the way you think about things”, but it doesn’t really do that. It mostly just gives examples of how conventional wisdom is often wrong. (I can tell you how to challenge your thinking without spending a couple hundred pages discussing it – question everything!)

My personal opinion is that the contents of the podcast should have been collected in a CD or digital download presentation, and just packages that way. The podcast really sells it with the interviews from people and everything. The book is a little disappointing.

2 stars.

This book fulfilled the non-fiction requirement for the challenge.