Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Goldfinch -- Donna Tartt ---------------- 4.5 Stars

Before I get into my review for the wonderful The Goldfinch, I want to note and celebrate accomplishments. 

#1 - This is my 100th book review. 
#2 - This blog has been now going for almost 6 years. 
Who would have thought back in 2009 I would still be attending to this so many years later?  Who also would have thought I would have read so many books?  Not me for either question.  I truly impressed myself!

Anyway, let's get to this fine book.  The Goldfinch is a real pleasure.  In fact, the hardest part of writing this review was trying to determine if it should be 4.5 stars or 5.  It's been floating around lately as a pretty popular book from last year and my sister said I would like it.  As she described it to me though, I got concerned.  Some orphan kid, something about artwork, use of drugs... it all seemed a bit odd to me, but man am I happy I read it.

So the plot isn't critical to the book.  Don't get me wrong, it's a very good plot with some real action at the end and some excitement, but coming in at over 700 pages, this book is much more about the characters.  And what great characters there are.  There's a variety of interesting and intriguing characters but the book is still built around the first person narrator - an orphan.  What makes the characters so wonderful?  A lot, but for me, their well fleshed out histories add so much to each individuals story.  Whether young or old, you truly understand how the history of their lives does so much to affect their current behavior.  Tartt does a great job of really rounding off each character so you can truly understand their motivaitons.

Why else is this book so good?  Well, it's wildly entertaining.  Written in modern times, the descriptions of various settings are pretty fascinating; be it New York, Las Vegas or Europe, you get a real sense for the certain places in these cities.  It also includes gratuitousness.   Not overwhelming, but the amount of drug use described could have killed a small horse.  Also, writing and including dialogue of modern speakers (with developmentally appropriate conversations depending upon character) was done quite well.

I also really enjoyed the book because, at the end of the day, it's a story about beauty.  Defining that beauty and how it might change from person to person is, of course, an underlying current but the beauty of a piece of art is a pivotal part of the story.  The idea that some paint on a piece of wood from nearly 500 years ago can so significantly pervade the livelihoods of people throughout history is truly fascinating.  What else is beauty though?  Unrequited love between a boy and girl?  Pure platonic love between two friends?  Love of an actual craft like woodworking?  All of these questions and others are identified and left for the reader to sift through in this book.  I highly recommend it to all!   

What a wonderful book to have read for my 100th review.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fierce Conversations -- Susan Scott ---------------------- 3.5 Stars

This book was on my list of a work type book that still might be an interesting read.  As you can imagine from the title, Fierce Conversations, this book is about having more open, and forward conversations in work and in life.  It had a pretty good model on how to do that but one that if you followed all the way through, might make life a bit crazy.

So, this is a sort of typical self-help book with a bit more flavor to it with the author giving some interesting anecdotes from her time helping people be more open.  Basically, the book is suggesting that in all conversations, people should be honest and to the points; always considering 'what is the most important thing we should be talking about right now'.  The book has about 6-7 chapters that help explain how to have these conversations and what happens after.

On a positive, her very clearly detailed explanations for how you have a 'fierce conversation' was excellent.  She literally explains every step and how to prepare prior to the conversations and how to have them.  I also really enjoyed the later chapters in the book about dealing with the 'emotional wake' of these conversations and allowing silence to have some value and importance.  The book is told in a pretty easy way to understand and her use of stories from her experience teaching people how to do this, really did make the book more enjoyable.

What wasn't great about the book was the intense focus in the first half about the actual conversations.  I am all about being open and truthful but it sometimes felt like the author was living in a world where pleasantries and small talk don't exist.  To say some of her ideas are a bit 'intense' is an understatement.  Again, the general idea is good, but it was kind of overwhelming to read page after page about how to change conversations to be 'fierce'.  Frankly it would be exhausting to do at all times (both mentally and emotionally).

Overall, this is a book that is definitely worth the read if you would like some useful and practical strategies to better set up and have good conversations.  Although a bit intense and very detailed and clear with suggestions, there are some good ideas, especially in the last part of the book.  Just be careful not to go too crazy with the suggestions or you might find that the friends you had might not be as friendly any more. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Power of Habit -- Charles Duhigg -------------- 4 Stars

So, for anyone that follows my blog, you know that there is a certain type of book I really enjoy.  I kind of know, often before I read a book, how much I'll like it.  Sometimes I'm surprised or I'm off by a little bit (especially books of fiction), but, for the most part, those types of books, like The Power of Habit, I always like.  They're the Gladwell or Nudge or Freakanomics type books.  You know, they have some overarching them about how we live told with really great stories and anecdotes and written a very easy way to consume.  Well, this book sort of fit that niche perfectly.

I really enjoyed this book and struggled between 4 and 4.5 stars.  Ultimately I went with 4 stars as I found it a very entertaining book but one that is not as 'incredible' as some of the other 4.5 star books.  The book basically breaks down into explaining how habits work and then looks at habits at the individual level, organizational level, and societal level.  Nearly every chapter within those areas was interesting (save the chapter about civil rights; never really got the connection).  Duhigg's stories within each chapter, which illustrated an overarching concept about habits, were nearly always fascinating.  Some, like the story of Alcoa's new leadership and how they train at Starbucks, were among the standouts.  As a whole, I leave having a much better understanding of how habits develop (cravings) why they continue (our routines) and how to change them (that's a bit more difficult).  Basically, any habit can change if you work through it and determine a new way to take it on.

In general, the book is written in a very easy to understand way and the afterword was actually pretty interesting too (I can't say the same for the 50 pages of notes... I'm not sure why I felt the need to read those).   There are some drawbacks though.  Like many books, he rolls along too long with some themes.  As I mentioned earlier, the two chapters about habits in 'societies' were pretty weak.  I didn't really understand the connection with Rosa Parks and the last chapter was basically discussing how gambling addictions are neurological illnesses, though since one can understand that, is responsible for changing them.  It was just kind of a let down to end the book.  However, first 3/4ths was absolutely excellent.

So, who would enjoy this book?  I think most people.  The big picture thoughts about how habits develop and how they can be changed are really quite fascinating.  In addition, the examples he provided really made me think about my life and job and how I could change things if I really wanted to try (spoiler alert: it's quite hard to change habits but can be done through hard work and diligence).  Do check this book out if you like a nice easy read that you'll also pick up some things about your life too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Breaks of the Game -- David Halberstam -------------------------- 3 Stars

David Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game, is by all accounts, an absolute classic about the growth of the National Basketball Association.  Written over 30 years ago, I had heard about it being a 'phenomenal' book on many occasions.  Well, it was about time I gave it a spin to see what I thought.

What I did I think about it?  I'm still grappling with that question a little bit.  I know it was a fairly long book that seemed to be written with no real organization.  Although my Kindle said it was only 270 pages, the pages must be gigantic or have very large print.  It would take me many minutes just to finish a page.  Also, it seemed to just wander along going from one story to the next with no real organization or strategy to the order.  The backdrop behind all of it is the study of the Portland Trailblazers the year after they won the NBA championship with a great team led by Bill Walton.  That was about the only structure that existed.  I think it only had 4 chapters in the entire book and one of the chapters was about 200 pages by itself with no real demarcations from one subject to the next.  So, it was a bit hard to read.

I also did not love Halberstam's writing style.  I know he has been named one of the great writers of this generation, but I found his style frustrating as it would go from being short, succinct and somewhat informal to longer passages with a formalized structure that was not as appealing.  He also struggled to really grab me, as the reader, on many occasions.  I am not sure if it was because the stories were so dated or just, perhaps, boring and uninteresting, but it was a major problem of the book.  Also frustrating was the quite obvious lack of basketball information.  Make no mistake, this book is about a time period, really, society, entering the 1980s and how that had changed, especially socially, in the past 10 years.  All that is great and fairly interesting, but if you notice above, their is a giant picture of a basketball; kind of what I was hoping to read about.

But there was good stuff.  It's still a pretty fascinating portrayal, and as far as I can tell, incredibly accurate portrayal of what this nascent NBA was all about.  The story lines about Bill Walton, some of the other players, and the Trailblazers management was truly fascinating.  When Halberstam did take a few stanzas to describe basketball being played, it was quite lovely.  In fact, his descriptions of Walton and his true love of the game when it's being played at its best, was beautiful.  It truly can be a beautiful team game.  Also great was getting to really understand how much basketball is a profession at that level and not the joy that many people think it to be.  It's a grind, and in those days, it was a really hard grind as the money was just not great (many of the smarter athletes didn't even go to the NBA as it was a financial loss).

Overall, I do suggest reading this book if you want to truly have a consummate look at what society is like as the 1970s end and '80s begin.  The backdrop will be a small basketball team from the Pacific Northwest, but the stories told are examples from across the country.  Just know that it will take some real investment to stay connected with the text as you go through it.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Defending Jacob -- William Landy --------------------- 4.5 Stars

I was a bit nervous about reading a third book in a row about murder.  I mean, there's only so much you can take, and even though this was fictional, I was worried.  But, I lucked out and read and awesome book in William Landy's Defending Jacob.

This book is an easy, fun read.  Basic premise, the guy telling the story is a district attorney in a small town.  A murder occurs and his son ends up being looked at as a suspect and eventually is put on trial.  The book follows, in real time, what is occurring in his case while jumping back in the past to explain the lead up to the present part of the book.  It's a nice way of writing and keeps you interested on both time lines.

So, why does this seemingly simple, rehashed plot type done many times before, earn 4.5 stars?  Because it does what it does really well.  First, it's an awesome story.  It's got good characters and a superb plot.  It's told in a fun way and it keeps you guessing.  Second, it's got a lot of great dialogue.  As people know, I am big dialogue guy.  So, the exchanges with lawyers and witnesses was superb and the infighting that occurs between the 'good' guys and 'bad' guys was great.  Third, it's an easy read.  Not super long, crisp and fun dialogue.  Lots of chances to put down and pick back up easily.  Lots of exciting chapter endings to keep you going.  Fourth, the book has no major weak spots.  As I was near the end I thought to myself, there is only one thing that can ruin this book and it's a bad ending.  Well, guess what, great ending.  Ties things up well, little bit of a twist.  Truly enjoyable.

So, this sounds pretty great, right?  Well it is.  The only thing is it's not a 5 star book.  It's not epic.  It's not something that you HAVE to read at some point in your life.  It's incredibly entertaining but it's still a simple (although really awesome) legal thriller.  My only small nits worth picking is that the ending doesn't really tie everything together and, on occasion, the book gets a bit slow through it's covering of various parts of the legal proceedings.

Overall, you really want to check out this book if you have not read before.  It was a standout novel and really fun and easy read.  I doubt you will not regret it and will certainly have some thoughts on the ending and what happened.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery -- Robert Kolker ------------------- 2.5 Stars

Robert Kolker's new book Lost Girls promised to be an exciting, unsolved mystery about what happened to 5 young woman near New York city that went missing; it accomplished half of that, it was certainly unsolved but not all that exciting.

The basic set up of the book is divided into three parts.  It starts with biographies about each of the 5 girls.  Where they grew up, the type of families they had, the struggles they faced in their lives, etc.  The second part was about their move to NYC and their lives as prostitutes.  The final part was about the mystery of who may have killed them and the putting together facts to better understand what may have happened to lead to their deaths.  As it was, all were found in very close proximity to each other in similar ways (except for one girl who went missing after running off in the middle night loudly from a neighborhood.  She was the girl who started the whole search that found the other bodies though ironically was found last and not as close to the group). 

So, the basic premise as described above was pretty interesting and something that I thought would be a great read.  And it was; it started out very well with a superb description about each girl's history and their lives.  In fact, by the time they go into prostitution and end up going missing, you really do feel for each of them and their families.  The problem with the book is the last third: the search for the girls.  As the title makes clear, though the author never blatantly notes it, this is an UNSOLVED mystery.  Which in no uncertain terms means there is no real ending.  Kolker basically meanders through all the evidence, witnesses, suspects, and tries to juxtapose what might have happened and you are left with ..... nothing.  I know little more about who might have done it then I did on page 1.  Really there is no good evidence or information about who killed these girls (though one can assume pretty sure it was some guy who found them on Craiglists ads). 

Overall, the book is not awful.  It's just not great either.  It is a mystery but just not a very interesting one.  Though the author is pretty good at developing characters and making you connect with them on a general level not having any real sense as to what occurred really made the book suffer.  I am sorry if I ruined the ending for you but, as I said there is really no ending anyway, so in many ways I saved you the time from reading the book.  Nonetheless, if you are inclined to read it do know that it is a true story with some pretty sad themes running through it and pretty empty ending.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Dinner -- Herman Koch -------------------------------- 3.5 Stars

So, it's that time of summer where it's a bit of a challenge to find an interesting book.  Sure, there are plenty of good ones supposedly but when there is only a very finite amount of time to give to reading, you have to pick carefully.  Do you want to do a 1,000 pager?  Not really.  How about only non-fiction?  Fine with me but probably best to mix it up with some real literature from time to time.  So when I heard that Herman Koch's The Dinner was booked as a 'European Gone Girl', I was in.

Let's be clear early on, this book is, in some ways, like Gone Girl but it is not nearly as good.   They both have a very similar style to them and follow a very fun little routine.  If you've read either, you know what I'm talking about.  The story starts out pretty nonchalant with everything seemingly above board.  All the characters seem like they are really quite normal and nice and everything is going swimmingly with not any real questions of danger or concern.   Then, of course, things slowly start to unravel.  Small things start to become bigs ones and all of a sudden you start thinking to yourself "wow, there's some really weird stuff going on". 

This book follows the story line mentioned above.  In this case, it all seems fine with a typical European wife and husband going out for dinner with the husband's brother-in-law.  As they have dinner, though, we get some flashbacks to some previous events that occurred between their two families and all of a sudden I'm thinking to myself, "What a second, things are really getting strange... could it really be __________________?"

So, obviously, the book is a bit of a mystery that you need to read to find out more info. about.  It's a pretty fun read but it does start awfully slowly and takes much longer to 'get into it' than Gone Girl.  It's not nearly as gruesome either but it does have some great twists and is a super easy read.  Between it being a very short overall story, lots of dialogue, and the simplicity of being able to follow it, I was able to finish it in only a week or two.

I do encourage people to pick it up.  It's quite entertaining, and if you are a fan of Gone Girl or any stories with some good twists, you will enjoy this one.  Just remember that it's not the real McCoy and take your time to read some other mysteries before you get to this one. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thinking, Fast and Slow -- Daniel Kahneman --------------------------------- 4 Stars

Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow is a monster.  It's a monster in length, in scope of content, and in general premise.  But, it's also quite awesome and highly recommended.

So, why 4 stars?  Well, as I said, it's really quite good but it really is a challenging read.  In the same vein as many other books about behavioral economics, Kahneman's basic goal is trying to explain to the readers how we think.  To do so, he narrows down our brain to two simplistic parts, simply titled: System 1 and System 2.  System 1 moves fast, very fast, instinctual fast.  System 2 is slow, analyzing everything.  System 1 does a vast majority of our everyday lives: read, breath, eat, walk, drive, etc.   System 2 does the more complex stuff, but it asked to take things on far less often.  The problem in life is that many things that we should be using System 2 for, System 1 takes on (silly System 1), and vice versa.  So, basically the book is trying to explain and rectify these issues.

Overall, the book is fascinating.  While I had seen many of the studies from it in other books on behavioral econ., like Predictably Irrational or Nudge, I still love the premise of this book, and though he gets way too deep on some things, the basic points of each chapters and large sections are fantastic.  He has a great organization to the book and there is pretty good flow during his presentations from experiment to the other.  It's really amazing how much though has gone in to understanding our thoughts and this, at least to me, is the most comprehensively explained books of this type.

The biggest drawback, however, and what kept it from a higher rating, was the length and difficulty to follow some of his writing.  To me, Malcolm Gladwell, is one the best at simplifying complex ideas and taking rather scientific studies and making them clear to a laymen like myself.  Kahneman, while nowhere near as difficult to follow as, say a scientific journal, does not have Gladwell's skills for being straightforward and clear.  While one might think this is not a big deal, I agree it's not, until you ask someone to read over 500 pages and, by the end, they are begging for a better editor.  So, yeah, it's kind of a rough read throughout many spots.

Overall, though, this book really is a gem.  So many great experiments, so many wonderful points made, so many new ideas and concepts for the reader to think on, and so many interesting ways to better look at, and contemplate, human psychology.  While you need to have a specific interest in this type of work to read this book, if you do have some time and can manage to wade through the deep end of the some these ideas, you will come out on the other side with a much better understanding of thinking.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Killer Angels -- Michael Shaara -------------------4 Stars

So, there is this old saying NBC had going for a while, "It's new to you."  I think it was a way to promote and market people watching repeats of television shows.  You know, if you have not seen something before, even if it's old, it's new to you.  This make sense.  I am watching the old Friday Night Lights TV series right now (btw, fantastic!) and all of it is new to me.  All of this is a long way of saying that when I recently read Michael's Shaara's classic, Pulitzer Prize winning novel from 1987, Killer Angels, it was new to me, and it read as well I could have imagined if I picked it up when it came out.

Basically, its historical fiction for the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg.  What is so cool about the book, though, is that Shaara takes each of the major generals, Lee, Chamberlain, Longstreet, Pickett, etc., and creates dialogue and scenes to mimic the action that occur during this pivotal battle.

I waited on reading this book for a little while after getting it as I was not convinced that I would enjoy it.  I am not a big fan of historical fiction, in general, and am even less of a fan of any sort of books that detail war and events of battles.  As such, I was pretty wary about reading a book about the 3 days of the very bloody Gettysburg battle.  But I was so very pleased with what I got.

While this book is definitely about battles and includes a fair number of descriptions about the fighting, the book is really a story about people.  Sure, the lens is the Civil War, but this book's description, dialogue, and expression of people's thoughts really is incredible.  I loved the descriptions of each main character at the start, discussions that occur throughout the days while the battles are going, and incredible connections made between the characters and the reader.  As a history teacher, this book truly helped me better understand and empathize with these soldiers but also, to more easily identify with the challenges of war through individuals. 

I really recommend this book for nearly all readers.  It's a great story, historically accurate (including plenty of maps), and is really a wonderful portrait piece about these different characters.  Have no fear, this is not a book that glorifies battle in anyway, but does give you really good understanding of what some of the most critical soldiers thought during America's own Civil War.  If that doesn't convince you, remember, it won the Pulitzer Prize, and if you haven't read it before, it will definitely be "new to you". 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears - Rich Cohen ----------------------- 4 Stars

Some books that a person reads tend to hit home for a personal reason.  Such is the case with Rich Cohen's wonderful Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football.   I bought this book for my father and he re-gifted it back after finishing and singing it's praises; he was right.  It is very good and I was not disappointed.

While the main crux of the book is the '85 Bears SuperBowl team, arguably the greatest team of all time, the book is really a history of the Bears (and, by connection, football as well).  Starting with the incomparable George Hallas' creation of the team and then Butkus, Ditka, Singeltary, Ditka again, and then Payton and McMahon, the reader learns a litany about the team.  The book was so enjoyable to me as I knew very little about the history of the Bears or details about the players that were beyond my generation.  Whether the beginning of the books stories about how the team was created to the amazing history of linebackers to the incredibly complex review of the '85 Bears team, including the inventive '46 Defense by Buddy Ryan, there is not one chapter that is not interesting and well created. 

Normally, I would never recommend this book to any non-Bears or non-football fans, but in this case, I actually do think this book might be enjoyed by many types of readers.  Certainly, being a Bears fan at heart will make this more enjoyable, Cohen's writing style and text is so rich that it's a breeze to read, easy to get through, includes great dialogue, and has great action.  He has a very strong writing style that alllows the reader to really 'feel' the scenees he describes and never dwells on a topic too long.  Each chapter finishes just when it's starting to perhaps feel a bit long and then he quickly shifts to a new person or event.

However, if you ARE a Bears fan, this is a must read!  It's history of the team and interview with hundreds of individuals really bring you back to '85 and that incomparable team.  Whether it be his summary of Duerson's career or the agile feats of Sweetness, #34 (both will be missed), this book is a beautiful tale about one of the greatest teams in Chicago sports history.  While I figured the book would just be a decent, fairly dry historical memory, I was so pleased to have been treated to such a wonderfully crafted book.  Rich Cohen certainly did the Bears proud!  BEAR DOWN!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

David and Goliath -- Malcolm Gladwell ------------------------- 3.5 Stars

I love Maclolm Gladwell books.  I have read them all and think that Tipping Point and Blink are among my favorites.  So, it was with great excitement I purchased his new book: David and Goliath.  Normally, I borrow new books from the library as they are quite expensive, so I was so excited to see that this was available on Amazon for only $3.99; now I know why.

This book is very mediocre.  Great premise: what people often think are weaknesses are actually strengths and areas where people think they have a disadvantage can be advantages.  He starts off with some great chapters and continues his typical style of introducing a new 'anecdote' for each chapter and 'point' he is trying to make.  The book starts off really strong.  There is a great chapter about basketball and full court pressing and then moves on to talk about dyslexia and how many CEOs and other very successful people have dyslexia and have 'compensated' through having strengths in other areas. 

Perhaps one of my favorite ideas he talked about was the idea of an inverted U.  Basically, its a theory that talks about how as you go up in number it improves or changes things for the better until it gets too big then goes back down.  The case he uses, which was very interesting, was class size.  The point in the context for the book was: one assumes that smaller class size is always better but that's not true.  Once you get to a certain number that is too small, the class actually gets worst.  Same on the other end; so, you want the number in the middle. 

Anyway, the book had a really solid first third.  The last third was more difficult to get through.  The stories were less interesting and less connected and less supportive of his overall thesis.  In fact, some of the stories were just bad.  I think the biggest problem with the book was the overall idea in general.  With Tipping Point and Blink, Gladwell does such an amazing job of making you understand not just his theory but why its important to know in our lives today.  While he tries to follow that same goal with this book, it falls more flat.  The theory is not as good, the cases are not as supportive, and the writing is less exciting.

Nonetheless, I still recommend the book, especially if you are Gladwell fan.  His writing style is still very engaging and the stories he offered are pretty interesting, especially at the start.  It's not a long read and is pretty easy to get through so I would definitely recommend. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Masterminds and Wingmen -- Rosalind Wiseman ----------------------------- 2.5 Stars

Masterminds and Wingmen seemed a book worth reading when I heard about.  It's written by the same author who wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes, which went on to be the basis for the movie Mean Girls, and was supposed to be one of the best books to really describe and help to have people understand girls.  Masterminds and Wingmen, is supposed to be the same version for boys.  Seeing as I have a 3 year old son and work with many boys in school, I thought it would be a very relevant book in my life.  Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations.

The book is okay.  It starts off very interesting and I was quite engaged at the beginning but as it went on, it became harder and harder to stick with it.  In fact, the last chapter (the longest?) about girls and dating, I was on total skim mode.  In general, the premise of it is pretty good: she talked with a whole bunch of adolescent boys, they shared their 'secrets' and then she organized and explained what to make of those for the average reader to better understand.  So, on a positive, it did provide me some interesting glimpses into the way boys think and act.  It did make me question some of my assumptions about boys and it definitely made me think back to when I was a kid and a few indiscretions I had.  The book certainly had moments of really good points when she talked about strategies that she thinks work well with boys in various situations.  But those useful strategies were few and far between.

Sadly, the book had far more negatives going for it.  First, its a long read and I struggled with her writing style.  Besides writing in a incredibly familiar tone (I'm pretty sure she's not actually my friend), she comes off as very pretentious and as if she's an expert.  As it's a type of 'self-help' book, I get that, but rarely did she ever doubt what she was saying nor do I really understand her qualifications.  Second, this book  is really for a very specific group in society.  Middle-upper class white people; further, probably just mothers.  Almost all the problems she discusses are based on this group of society and it was constantly annoying how she explained clearly what a mother should do but rarely mentioned a father.  Third, I was hoping this book would actually provide me a lot of new ideas.  It did not, perhaps because I am in education, I knew many of what she suggested, but I found much of this elementary.  Perhaps there are parents out there that could really get a lot of it?  Finally, the best part of her book, the quotes from students, were often just segways and setups for the next section or point in her book.  I really wish she would have spent more time with what they said and had more explanation.

So, perhaps this book is good for you.  If you loved her last book, are a clueless person with kids, or really feel you don't understand boys that well, than this would be a worthwhile read.  For me, I'll pass on any future books by her for a while... now if a movie comes out, I guess I could give  a couple hours to that :)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dad is Fat -- Jim Gaffigan -- 2 Stars

If you are not aware of the comedian Jim Gaffigan, I would definitely take the time right now (STOP READING!) and go check him out.  He is very funny; he talks about Pop Tarts and Hot Pockets and being pale... it's quite good.  Unfortunately, his book, Dad is Fat is not anywhere near the same level as his comedy. 

On a positive side, the book is an easy read and does have some very good jokes and stories.  In fact, much of the book is based around anecdotes from his life as a father.  He has 5 kids and lives in the NYC, so there are some very funny stories.  I like the stories he tells and points he makes in the book.  Certainly, there are times when I laughed out loud (when he talks about feeding kids, he says if you are going to give your 3 year old a taco, you might as well just throw it on the floor and save some time), but for the most, it was alot of stories that were not super funny but were occasionally interesting.

The biggest problem of the book, is that it is really set up as a book that is supposed to be funny and make you laugh.  So, normally, a book you read is interesting because of the content and points it might makes (or stories it tells, if fiction).  While this book does try to make certain points (i.e. 5 kids is a lot), it's mostly set up to be funny.  As I said, though, it really wasn't that funny.  I mean, when you see him do stand-up it's like 45 minutes of jokes and there is the whole way it's told, facial expressions, etc.  In a 200 page book, the joke stands alone on the page and, if you were to read it out loud, it would probably take hours.  My point: there's only so much good material and it's very hard to keep it up through a whole book.

I gave it 2 stars as there were numerous times reading it when I was dreading having to continue.  While I did not really dislike it, it wasn't doing much for me.  The jokes were few and far between, the anecdotes were short and not all that interesting.  Normally, when I read a fiction book, its a great story; this was not.  When I read non-fiction, I am usually learning something; I did not much here (again, besides knowing 5 kids is a lot).

So, if you are a huge Jim Gaffigan fan or do enjoy humor about raising kids, this might be up your alley.  Or, if you are a reader with a lot of time and just enjoy simple stories, this might be good.  But, if you expect a bit more to think about when you reading, do give some of the higher rated books on my blog a try first.