1. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (Sophie Kinsella) – Light, fluffy, perfect Bali reading. Loved soaking up the rays while reading about this characters ridiculous adventures. Fantastic.
2. The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath) – I got this in a trade from someone on our Bali trip. She got shopaholic, I got this book. I finished this book last night and I really enjoyed it. I must say that I didn’t entirely give this one as much attention as it needed. It wasn’t light and fluffy and really could have handled a little more thought. That being said, I did like it. I found the story interesting, the characters real, and the writing good. However, I do find it incredibly tragic that a few weeks after it was published the author committed suicide. It makes me wonder how much of the book is a work of fiction and how much is autobiographical.
3. I am America (And So Can You!) (Stephen Colbert) – English books make the most fantastic care package items! Funny and fun with it’s total lack of seriousness.
4. Dead Poets Society (N.H. Kleinbaum) – At each JET conference they hold a book swap. You bring books that you have finished/don’t want and then you get to take other people’s books. This was one that I just picked up at the last conference. I saw it and thought, wow, I liked the movie, I wonder what the book is like? Well, as it turns out the book was written after the movie and, so, it is exactly like the movie. A really quick read though.
5. How Would You Move Mt. Fuji? Microsoft’s Cult of the Puzzle (William Poundstone) – Sort of an unlikely read for me, but I saw it on the English language rack at the train station bookstore and decided to give it a go. I actually really liked this one. It talked a lot about interview theory and different ways to go about interviewing and choosing good candidates. Despite the fact that I would never want to work for Microsoft, I feel like a lot of what he said is relevant to any future interview situation that I might find myself in. I also really enjoyed some of the puzzles. I am still working my way through some of them and it is an interesting mental exercise. Many of them I am able to answer, which makes me happy, although I am not sure that I would be quite as successful if I were in the hot seat with someone else watching and waiting for my answer.
6. My Sister’s Keeper (Jodi Picoult) – Another book picked up at the JET book swap. Ended up loving this book. I couldn’t put it down. I thought the story was compelling and the characters were well-developed. I specifically liked the way that each chapter was narrated by a different character. That really helped to present the different points of view present in this book. Towards the end of the story I thought she was heading for a very predictable ending. But then, in the last 50 pages or so, she surprised me. Good read.
7. The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) – A really interesting story using a similar design as Picoult’s book. Two different characters told their sides of the story individually. I can’t say that this book had many surprises. I feel like I sort of knew what was going to happen before it did, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. The story was good, the problems were interesting, and while I didn’t get the happy ending that I necessarily wanted, I am satisfied that the characters seem to have found peace in their situations.
8. This I Believe – I listened to this one on audiobook, as I feel the creators of the series intended. A collection of essays from the long-running radio series of the same title. It was fun to listen to the short statements of belief read by all sorts of people from the average woman down the road who believes she is soul sisters with the tree in her front yard to Albert Einstein’s beliefs about the world. Fun to listen to and it may have inspired me to start my own essay.
9. Assault on Reason (Al Gore) – Audiobook in progress. So far I really like this and I am interested in Gore’s arguments about how various things in modern life (television) are reducing the reason and thought provoking conversations necessary for a smooth running democracy. I will be interested to see what he suggests as the book progresses.
10. The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom) – A really interesting piece of fiction that makes you kind of think about the world and the way that we don’t always know exactly why things happen to us the way that they do.
11. Shopaholic Ties the Knot (Sophie Kinsella) – Light, fluffy, just what the doctor ordered.
12. Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan) – Love foodie books and foodie issues. This one has been passed among the JET community and finally made its way to me. Started it about five minutes after I got my hands on it and it was well worth the wait. I loved every bit of this book and all the issues he raised. I think, specifically, that I most agree with the fact that we all need to slow down, relax, and learn that food is important and something to be savored. Food isn’t merely calories that need to be consumed, it is an opportunity to explore, luxuriate and form community.
13. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini) – After reading “The Kite Runner,” I knew I wanted to read more by this author. I was so excited when I found a copy of his latest novel at a used book shop in Tokyo. Hardcover, perfect condition, only 600 yen (less than $6). I enjoyed this one just as much as the first. It was captivating, the characters were realistic, and the writing was so superb that I felt as though I was there. Now, given the nature of the story, it was at times almost too realistic. I found myself, 5 months pregnant at the time of reading, in some ways unable to handle the themes the author was discussing. But, all the same, I am glad I picked this one up, I am glad I read it, and I eagerly anticipate the next novel by this author.
14. The Pregnancy Book (William and Martha Sears) – A good, all-around resource. I really like the way these two authors approach pregnancy, as a natural, everyday occurrence. I also like that they spend a lot of time exploring the emotional issues relating to pregnancy. I think this is a really important, often overlooked element.
15. The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy – Since I am pregnant and giving birth in Japan, I figured that a book with a more medical standpoint would be a good reference to have around. This one is good, for those reasons, but not my favorite.
16. The Breastfeeding Book (William and Martha Sears) – A really good, affirming book about breastfeeding. It really makes me feel like I can do it, just as I plan. It also offers a wide-variety of solutions to common problems that come up, so I am sure this will be quite helpful once the little squirt arrives.
17. The Attachment Parenting Book (William and Martha Sears) – A parenting philosophy that we are quite attracted to. It gives a lot of ways to develop a secure, loving, attached relationship with the new baby/toddler. And how that secure relationship enables the small child to become an independent minded young person. I’m sure we will be following a lot of the advice and adding a good dose of our own style once Little R comes.
18. The Baby Catcher (Peggy Vincent) – The author of this book is a licensed homebirth midwife. The book is simply a collection of birth stories told from her perspective. I really liked this one too, because it makes it seem that birth is something that is tough, for sure, but not as impossible as many modern moms might have you think. I hope that through reading about the various experiences of different women in this book, I am able to be more confident in listening to my own body once my time comes.
19. The Lucky One (Nicholas Sparks) – Bathtub reading. Light, fluffy.
Books on Hold
One Drop (Bliss Broyard) – Non-fiction about a woman who struggles to make sense of a family secret that came to be known shortly before her dad’s death.
Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides) – I started this one. I liked this one. But it was a 500+ page library book. Needless to say, it was overdue and had to go back. Perhaps I will pick it up during the month and a half when I won’t be teaching in March and April, then I should be able to finish it in the 3 week library loan period.
A Spot of Bother (Mark Haddon) – I bought this one because I was such a huge fan of Haddon’s first book (The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime), but I found it a bit slow at the start. I decided to pause on it since I just couldn’t get into it with the small amount of time I have for reading these days. I figure once a little more time frees up I will try it again.