Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language & Culture in All of Its Moods by Michael Wex
*On Education by Northrop Frye
*Heart of a Stranger by Margaret Laurence
Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade of Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
A God Somewhere by John Arcudi
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck (Ph.D)
Ten Years in the Tub (not finished)
*The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson
18 Days Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison & Mukesh Singh
*Oryx & Cake by Margaret Atwood (reviewed in the podcast)
* Canadian books
Well, that’s done it. Hornby has turned me into a complete thief, although I’m sure I’m not the first, or the best, to have stolen his Believer article format for their blog. As I’ve been ludicrously irresponsible to this blog, I’ve decided that a monthly post might be a good place to start. It’s not particularly Canadian in theme, but hopefully it will get me writing again. BTW, I’m really enjoying Ten Years – it’s a compilation of great articles where Hornby doesn’t take himself too seriously, doesn’t let others take themselves too seriously, and where he writes well about books.
I’ve been reading a lot of Business Psychology/Talent Psychology non-fiction. It’s only two books this month, but it’s been a lot more in the last 5 months. I read them mostly for teaching ideas for my dance instruction and, in many respects, they are very helpful. But dude, the sales language. I’ve worked in sales my whole life and just can’t stand this kind of lingo in my leisure time. Writers of these books might do well to learn more about the subtleties of rhetoric, and less about the blatant tones of pure sales. Reading these books feels rather like walking onto a used car lot. Some, like Essentialism by Greg McKeown (which I read a few months ago), had me feeling like I was buying a Ford Pinto. Others, like Mindset, had me still spending money on something I didn’t need, but it was at least something sensible like a Toyota Corolla. Made to Stick was the best at hiding the sales pitch, and the most accessibly written, with concrete examples of how to put their ideas to work without having to buy anything. I enjoy learning more about how to teach, how we learn, how to bring about the best in people, but if I must have sales with my learning, I’m looking to feel like I’ve discovered a mint Corvette for the price of an old Mazda 323 in the midst of a walk through the park.
Enough with the cars, let’s move onto the gods. Both A God Somewhere and 18 Days are comic book trades that deal with gods and super powers. AGS is a reasonably interesting look at how many human beings would deal with getting superpowers: we’d think we were god, or that god had given us these powers because we were chosen. The reviews were pretty stellar, but I didn’t find it was all that original in its execution. 18 Days is Grant Morrison playing with yet more myths, religious stories, folktales, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Here, Morrison writes his comic book re-working of the classic Indian text: the Mahabharata. It’s beautifully drawn and really explores the ideas and consequences of having to become as bad as the bad guys in order to beat the bad guys. As I’ve always said that what the good guys need is an evil genius on their side, I’m quite enjoying this series so far.
Speaking of comic books, I read a lot of them, too many to review in one sitting. So I’ll limit it to 2 or 3 single issues per month. I’ll mention Klaus by Grant Morrison & Dan Mora because it was a festive blast – who doesn’t want to read about a kickass Santa during the merry season? And Black Magick by Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott, a noir detective story interwoven with Wicca secret societies.
I’ve been fictionally feel-good this month. Without intending to, I seem to have read 3 book that are, at their core, about the high and lows of living an optimistic life. Navigating Early was another perfect children’s classic from Vanderpool – that lady knows how to make you feel like you’re reading something out of another time in history. Two boys learning to live with essential pieces of themselves missing find what they need in a long journey, and in the story of the number pi. Mistborn is the first in a Fantasy trilogy that deals with a group of people trying to incite a political rebellion amongst a downtrodden people, but is essentially a novel about the difficulties of trust (not the strongest Sanderson book I’ve read, but that means it’s still better than most Fantasy). The End of the Alphabet is a frikkin beautifully designed book about a couple coming to terms with the end of a life by traveling through the world from A-Z. Richardson does a nice job here. It’s not a life-changing book, and it does have a certain predictability to it, but he does a good job of writing one-sided conversations, of creating snippets of childhood memories, and of knowing when the story is told and not going on for too long. All rare and excellent skills in a writer.
Well, that’s it. Month the first is done. Kirtles and I will be sitting down to discuss The Story Girl for January 13th. Thank you for reading. Hope you all had merry and joyful holidays!