May 1st, 2012


Books 11 and 12 - both fantastic

11. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz

This fabulous Pulitzer winner, about a “ghetto nerd” named Oscar, his bright and lovely sister, Lola and their cruel and (literally) tortured mother, Beli is one of the best I’ve ever read.

The title is a bit misleading (though the life of flabby lovesick Oscar, with his penchant for Tolkien and inherent dorkiness is key), though. The sad, Spanglish tale herein is about the fuku, or curse, running through the de Leon family, from Beli’s days in Santo Domingo to her children’s lives as heirs to the Dominican diaspora in New Jersey.

Honestly, I can see where folks who don’t speak Spanish could have trouble understanding some central moments and feelings, so much does Diaz love to throw in a Spanglish word at critical plot points.

But, that’s the only real complaint I would have about a story that challenges stereotypes, draws characters and scenes that leap off the page, offers a compact history of a little-known country – all while telling the small story of one boy’s heartbreak at desperately wanting to fit in, to be loved without compromise.

12. Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error – Kathryn Schulz

It sure does feel good to be right.

But as Schulz describes in this essay book that spans history, philosophy, psychology and a bit of pop culture, there is actual more value in getting it wrong.

That is, errors can be useful in developing scientific theories, creating art, building comic moments . Basically, they make our lives richer and fuller than would an ideal existence.

That proposal has its detractors, not the least of which would be many of Schulz’s fellow journalists. No reporter wants to get it wrong, ever. Even a minor mistake can throw an entire concept into doubt.

Think, too, of the model rational thinker, arriving at a decision only after cooling weighing factual information. This, western philosophy believes, will give us the right conclusion.

And we also fear being wrong so much that we often opt for denial, even in the face of overwhelming contradiction (think Holocaust deniers, or climate change refusers).

Yet, we often know better on some level. Sarte suggests we can only live in denial when we know the truth well enough to hide it from ourselves.

Schulz turns that idea on its head, suggesting better uses for our energy in trying to trick ourselves. Why realize instead that our ability to err is uniquely human and gives us the creativity to accomplish great things?

My favorite part is when she delves into what the refusal of error can create. That is, we go through three stages when we encounter people whose beliefs we find wrong. First stage: They are ignorant, for if they knew what we are so certain about, they would surely agree with us. Second, we find them idiots, for now they have been shown our rightness but still reject us. Finally, we conclude they must be evil. How else to reject the One and Only Way?

Sound like any political fights you have ever had? Or maybe a fun family diversion about religion over Thanksgiving turkey?

Indeed, one of Schulz’s main points is that rigid certainty and the plan to erase error were behind some of our darkest moments in history. Why? Looking back, we can see that being wrong often feels so much like being right, and sure does feel good.

Better, then, to learn to enjoy being wrong. Research, Einstein said, is named because we don’t know what we’re doing. There is joy in that, too.

Jazzy Looking Around the Corner

April Reads

30.  A Sound Among The Trees by Susan Meissner When young Susannah Page was rumored to be a spy for the Union army during the Civil War as a young bride.  Her great granddaughter Adelaide the matriarch of Holly Oak in Virginia doesn’t believe that Susannah haunts Holly Oak looking for a pardon but that the house itself is cursed.  When Marielle marries into the family and moves into Holly Oak she tries to come to terms with the ghosts of the past.  When she finds some of Susannah’s letters she learns the truth about her involvement during the Civil War.  This is a good book with references to the past and how the past haunts the women of the house.  Marielle marries a widower with two young children who had lived in Holly Oak with his late wife and she has to learn to live with the ghost of her new husband’s wife as a memory to her husband and her new stepchildren.  She uproots her life in the southwest in order to marry a man that she met online who lives in Virginia.  This book is a good book about the women of the house battling their own ghosts of the past.
31.  Canary Island Song by Robin Jones Gunn  Carolyn has lost her husband seven years ago and she needs to get her heart back from her grief.  When she travels to the Canary Islands for her mom’s seventieth birthday she runs into Bryan Spencer an old friend of hers when she first traveled to the Canaries as a teenager.  Carolyn finds it hard at first that Bryan could be interested in her romantically but gradually grows to learn to love again.  This book also shows the mother daughter relationships instead of just the romantic relationships.  This focus on other relationships as well as romantic relationships is what makes this a great book.
32.  Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes This is a good book about forgiveness in a relationship after one partner has cheated on another.  This book is actually written from the male point of view which is unusual for romance novels.  Eric and Kyra have separated after being married for twenty years when Kyra is in a car accident where she doesn’t remember the separation from her husband.  Eric isn’t honest with her at first about their relationship status and instead tries to win her back.  He even tries to win her back after she learns the truth about his infidelity.  
33.  Beyond Bath Time:  Embracing Motherhood as a Sacred Role by Erin Davis This book gives a biblical view of motherhood.  She is honest with her readers by thinking that she was childfree for a while until she decided that it was her Christian duty as a married woman to have children.  She did not tell the reader who might be childfree and married who is reconsidering her decision not to have children that her husband might leave her if she changed her mind about having children since he didn’t want to have children.  She also does not acknowledge that not every woman is called to be a mother and that doesn’t make her less of a woman, though she did use an example of an older woman who never married who loved her nieces and nephews.   This book is written as a study guide for both working and stay at home mothers and she doesn’t say that being a stay at home mom is an ideal situation.  Though one of her suggestions of joining a moms group is actually easier for a stay at home mom since quite a few of the moms groups meet during the day and is designed for stay at home moms.  She does acknowledge that there are selfish reasons to have children as well as selfish reasons to be childfree as there are also unselfish reasons to remain childfree such as for health reasons.  She is giving a biblical foundation for motherhood and how mothers should see motherhood.  She has had no contact with the childfree community even when she was childfree since most childfree people who are vocal about it see Conservative Christians as those who want to have children that they can turn into Christians like themselves.  She also does not realize that most childless women in the church do want to become mothers even turning to fertility treatment for assistance.  She only mentioned the statistics that supported her point not how much is spent for fertility treatments and adoption fees in order for couples to become parents.  There are also still women who get pregnant in order to become the wife and mother that they want to be in their own timing.  I have seen quite a few women who get married while they were pregnant.  The statistic on the back cover about 47% of women who feel that the roles of wife and mother should not be emphasized for women does not take into consideration that childless women especially single women are not made to feel as important in the church as those who do have children.  She also blames feminism on the role of motherhood being downgraded though without feminism there would be more pressure on women to get married and to have sons that can support her in her old age.  Feminism also made it possible for women who never married to be able to work outside the home and to support themselves instead of entering into a marriage that they did not want for security.  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
34.  The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy  This book is about a southern family as seen through the eyes of their son, Tom Wingo.  He is in New York City after his twin sister Savannah’s suicide attempt.  He tells the story of their family to Savannah’s psychiatrist  with whom he eventually strikes up an affair with.  Tom is also dealing with his own demons since losing his job as a football coach and with his wife cheating on him.   Through the retelling of his family story to Savannah’s psychiatrist she can better understand how to treat Savannah.
35.  Wayward Son by Tom Pollack, John Loftus and Jim Alves  When Amanda James opens up a treasure trove of ancient artifacts she is surprised to find artifacts from a few ancient cultures in there.  She discovers that the place holds the secret to what had happened to Cain in the Bible.  This is an adventure story, however there are also tales from ancient cultures incorporated into the story.  This is a good telling of what had happened to Cain after he had killed his brother Abel and was doomed to wander the earth forever.  This is also a tale of redemption.
36.  Wicked by Sara Shepard
37.  Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
38.  Where Secrets Lie by Donna Marie Lanheady  This book is about a family and the secrets that they keep from each other.  Sara’s marriage is in trouble because she is secretly taking her birth control pills even though her husband thinks that they are trying to get pregnant.  Sara is hiding the secret of a pregnancy that her husband doesn’t know about even though her mother does know about it.  Sara’s sister Katie is hiding the fact that her roommate is her girlfriend and that she is gay.  Katie feels that her mother wouldn’t accept her if she found out the truth about her sexual identity.  Katie doesn’t know that her late father also held a similar secret of his own.  Their mother Lee has also hid a secrets from her daughters about their step father Jack that she has never revealed to anyone and even one about her late husband that no one knows about.  This is a good book about family secrets and how living a life of secrecy can affect your loved ones around you.
39.  The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson In this southern tale we meet five women whose lives are intertwined with each other.  The book goes through the decades with only a mention of the passage of time.  The way that the passage of time occurs in the book can be a distraction since you wonder what happened in the intervening years.  There is no mention of the years that the story occurs which means that the story can happen in any recent time period in history.  The writer writes about aging in a different way where the three older women in the book age differently.
40.  The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexandar McCall Smith
41.  Soul Harvest by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins


April Books: 45-60

"Red Hot & Howling' #'s 1, 2, and 3 by Dahlia Black
Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
Shades of Grey by EL James
Beast by Judith Ivory
Medusa the Mean by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams
A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin
Horns by Joe Hill
Big Bad Wolf by Christine Warren
Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab
Little Red and the Wolf by Alison Paige
Where to Go When ed by Joseph Rosendo
Monica Bellucci ed Monica Bellucci
Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block
Vampire Art Now ed by Jasmine Becket-Griffith & Matthew David Becket

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