Hello one and all! Apologies for the sparse posting this last month. I’ve been working remotely with virtually (pun intended) no access to Internet much less cell phone service. Thankfully, my contract in Alaska is almost up (9 days, but who’s counting?) and I look forward to coming back and binging on your lovely posts. Until then, here’s what I’ve been reading…
As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:
- (★★★★★): Loved it
- (★★★★): Really liked it
- (★★★): Liked it enough
- (★★): Didn’t care for it
Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Genre: Non-fiction, religion
GoodReads rating: 3.90 / 5 (231,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)
Summary: “With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament, to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion, and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence.”
Thoughts: As fellow biologist like Dawkins, this book was great and did well to explain how natural selection has answered a lot of questions about the origin and evolution of life that religion has chocked up to “chance.” Some of the physics and astronomy stuff went over my head, but all in all it’s an essential read for sceptics. Here are some of my favorite passages and quotes:
- “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from delusion it is called Religion.”
- “The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become the mark of eccentricity.” – Douglas Adams
- “[O]ne of the truly bad affects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.”
- “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.” – George Bernard Shaw
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, classics
GoodReads rating: 3.98 / 5 (369,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (public domain)
Summary: After a twister, young Dorothy finds herself in the magical land of Oz. On a quest to return home, she meets others who wish that the all-powerful wizard can grant them wishes as he might for Dorothy.
Thoughts: Look at me, reading a fantasy book! This book was short and sweet. For such an amazing story, I was hoping for it to be more fleshed out (perhaps it is in the other books but I probably won’t get around to reading them) but as it’s a children’s book, it was more fast-paced and simple.
Other adaptations: We’ve all seen the movie, but it’s been at least a decade for me. I think I prefer the movie not only for its massive cultural impact but for the iconic lines we got from it.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Genre: Fiction, young adult, romance
GoodReads rating: 4.21 / 5 (3,547,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)
Summary: “Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.”
Thoughts: In my big 2019 reading wrap-up, I mentioned this was one of the books I didn’t finish (I couldn’t get passed the fact that Gus puts unlit cigarettes in his mouth as a “metaphor”). I recently watched “Watching Every The Fault in Our Stars Rip-Off” and laughed my ass off, I figure I’d check out the one that started it all, plus when I wanted mindless crap to break-up The God Delusion, Green was the first to come to mind. Seeing as I was pleasantly surprised with Looking for Alaska overlooking most of character dialogue I figured giving this book another try could either make me eat my words or I’d end up with a good hate-read. Either way, I had nothing to lose but needless to say it ended in the latter.
I’m convinced John Green exists exclusively on Tumblr and writes for that audience alone. I know because I used to be one of those kids and would have eaten this book up like scripture if I read it before my frontal lobe was fully developed. I go back to the characters: has Green ever met a teenager? Was he ever one himself? It’s hard to tell. Not to mention probably the worst, most tasteless thing I’ve read in my entire life: sharing a sensual first kiss in the Anne Frank House and everyone clapped. The relationship seemed underdeveloped and when things did happen they seemed too abrupt to feel anything in the end. When will these, “Oh baby, write my obituary” books and movies die like their protagonists? They all follow the same formula anyway. Once you’ve seen once, you’ve seen them all. I’m somewhat of a crier. I cry at gum commercials and if I look my dog too long in the face (I just love him so much!), but this elicited absolutely nothing, which speaks volumes.
Other adaptations: As I mentioned, I tried watching the movie last year and turned it off after the Anne Frank House, so I had no idea how it ended when I picked up the book again.
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
GoodReads rating: 4.19 / 5 (45,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (purchased from Kindle store)
Warning: This book contains mention of eating disorders, drinking and drug use.
Summary: “When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming an adult, journalist and former Sunday Times columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, finding a job, getting drunk, getting dumped, realizing that Ivan from the corner shop might just be the only reliable man in her life, and that absolutely no one can ever compare to her best girlfriends.”
Thoughts: I’m really upset I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. For memoirs, I find the best ones are either a unique story that needs to be told (such as Megan Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church) or has to be really fucking funny (like David Sedaris or Slone Crosely). Sadly, this was neither. I did find some comfort in the relatability, especially living in the United Kingdom for two years. I frequented the exact places she’s mentioned, lived in a dilapidated student house and drunk and shagged myself silly, too. I can absolutely identify with the quote, “We were just trying to collect stories for each other”, each friend trying to outdo the others on nights out that boarded on showboating. I did laugh at a lot of the shorter chapters but her personal stories I found unremarkable.
Have you read any of these?
Photo by Radu Marcusu.