Monthly Archives: November 2013

Title: The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World
Author: Mark Hertsgaard
Publication Date: November 1, 2002

Rating: ★ ★ ★  
This book was required reading for me in a colloquium entitled “America’s Role in the World.” The course explored not only the idea of globalization but also the ways in which the United States is perceived versus how we, as American citizens, believe or want it to be viewed, making this an excellent choice of text.

Hertsgaard approaches the topic as unbiasedly as I think he can as an American himself. His visits with individuals from around the world provide interesting and sometimes eye-opening ideas and it’s easy to get the sense that he was learning just as much as the reader through his conversations. The cultural comparisons as well as the discussions of specific actions and policy choices are indeed enlightening as is the way in which many of the interviewees make a stark differentiation between their views of America and AmericaNs.

While I think this book might be difficult for some people, as we often let our ethnocentrism get in the way of considering outside perspectives, it is indeed a very different one. While the description of the book does reference September 11, 2001, it’s not the focus of the book itself or of the conversations, necessarily, that Hertsgaard relates in the text.

Title: The Children
Author: David Halberstam
Publication Date: March 30, 1999

Rating: ★ ★ ★  
For anyone who is either fascinated with the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s America or just the idea of civil disobedience and/or social change in general, I recommend this book. It was required reading for me in a colloquium entitled “The Life & Times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” What was interesting to me is that it was my favorite book from that seminar, even though it was the one that dealt least specifically with MLK, Jr. himself.

Halberstam’s focus is on the youth of the movement – college students who were around his own age at the time – and the steps they took in the fight for equality. The story is one of hope and inspiration, helping one to realize that if these young people could stand up for what they believed in and make a difference, there’s no reason that any of the rest of us can’t be bothered to do something similar. It also helps to remind us that while it is easy to look back on the past and think only of the great things that came from it, real people were and are involved in these struggles – and that’s something we should never forget.

Title: Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin
Author: Kathy Griffin
Publication Date: January 1, 2009

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆
If you’re a fan of Kathy Griffin’s brand of humor, you’ll definitely enjoy her book. But don’t expect to be reading a transcript of one of her stand-up specials. This is a memoir, and, in being true to exploring the experiences that have brought her to where she is, it’s not all celebrity trash-talking (although she does get that in there, too). Kathy is willing to talk about and tackle some of the less positive experiences she’s had in her life and how those have helped to make her stronger and inspired her to become the woman, actress, and comedian that she is today. But don’t be scared away by that – it’s hilarious and it definitely left me with a new respect for someone I’ve been a fan of for years.

Title: Something Sweet
Author: Megan Derr
Publication Date: December 27, 2011

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆
Just as the title suggests, this short story is a sweet little bit of fluff that does a great job of engaging the reader in its few pages.

Sherlock took over his grandfather’s candy shop in his small hometown when he inherited after his grandfather’s death. While it wasn’t what he expected for his life, he’s been more than happy to take on the shop and he knows it’s what his grandfather would have wanted. But something has been missing and he hasn’t been able to figure out what it was. When his former high school crush and retired professional football player, Basil Deacon, shows up in his shop shortly before New Year’s, he begins to wonder if that’s what he might be missing. And why is Basil in town? Why is he in his shop? With his fame and money, he could go anywhere, so why would he – of all people – return to their town that has so little to offer? Sherlock is about to find out.

If you’re looking for an erotic story, this isn’t it, but it’s still very enjoyable and will leave a smile on your face. It’s clear that it was a quick edit job as the wrong character’s name pops up in a few places, but it’s not so much that it gets in the way of understanding and enjoying the story.

Title: A Separate Peace
Author: John Knowles
Publication Date: 1959

Rating: ★ ★ ★  
I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that this novel is one of my favorite books I have ever read, especially when it comes to required reading from high school. It is a story that has really stuck with me, I think mostly because it speaks to universal human experiences.

Who hasn’t experienced a bit of a rivalry with a friend? Who hasn’t been driven to act out of jealousy? Who hasn’t struggled with finding their place among all of those who seem to have it already “figured out”?

I think these are things we can all say we’ve experienced and I think it is even more poignant for adolescent males who should not find it difficult to relate to the characters, their emotions, and their actions. It’s been a while since last I read it, but the imagery and the themes are ones that stick with me.

Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Author: Stieg Larsson
Publication Date: September 16, 2008 (English edition)

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆
Although it started out a bit more slowly than I normally prefer, this is one that I highly recommend. The writing is excellent, as is the story. Even though I had guessed early on what Harriet’s true fate was, I didn’t anticipate all of the twists the story would take. It’s somewhat of a dark mystery, but I wouldn’t describe it as necessarily depressing.

Highly recommend reading this before watching the films.

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Publication Date: February 10, 2009

Rating: ★ ★ ★  
It’s often said that “the book is always better than the movie”. In every case where I’ve experienced both, I’d have to agree, making The Help no exception. I worked through this book quickly, but I found myself easily immersed into the world and lives of the characters.

One thing that differs greatly from the film is that Stockett tells the story using first-person narration from three separate points of view – Aibilene, Skeeter, and Minny. Each has a distinct voice – not only in the way they speak but also the way they see the world. There is a depth and richness to this story that goes well above the film (which I also enjoyed). The writing is very well done and I definitely look forward to another novel from Kathryn Stockett.