Friday, January 30, 2015

Top 10 Best and Worst Books of 2014: The Gourmet Reader

If you can not view the audio, please click HERE!

Bambi Review:
Bonjour Tristesse Review:
Disney After Dark Review:
The Gospel According to Disney Review:
Housekeeping Review:
Life of Pi Review:
Love Letters to the Dead:
The Moviegoer:
The Silver Linings Playbook Review:
The World According to Garp:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The World According to Garp by John Irving

I won't lie when I tell you that the death of actor Robin Williams really had an impact on me. That is a weird way to start off my review of The World According to Garp by John Irving but if you are a Robin Williams fan then you are probably aware that he starred in the film adaption of the acclaimed novel. I had never heard of the novel or film before Williams's death. In fact, I found there were many Robin Williams films that I was ignorant to. In an attempt to become more familiar with his film career, I added all of his film credits to my watch list. But Garp was different. Seeing as it was a novel, I added it to the top of my reading list although I can't say I was looking forward to the read. The book sounded okay, my library copy was old and worn and I just wasn't in the mood to read a huge book. I had to give myself a pep talk for that last reason because it is a long read. To my surprise, Garp immediately got my attention and I knew long before I finished that it would be a favorite.
The World According to Garp is a widely expansive novel that focuses on the life of writer T.S. Garp. The story begins with an in depth look at his mother Jenny Fields and how she came to conceive Garp. It would seem a bit curious that the story doesn't start with our main man but then again, there are many curious narrative choices made by author John Irving to tell Garp's story and all of the choices are particularly brilliant; for if we didn't hear Jenny Fields story then we wouldn't have such a good look at how Garp's mother impacted him and his life. The book focuses on many things in the midst of Garp's life. At once it is a commentary on list and politics and the next moment it is about writers and morality and parental paranoia. The book encompasses so many aspects of life and with most novels this would be a huge problem. But not with Garp. Irving seems very aware of the grandness of his tale and matches it with brilliant writing and deep reflections on life and diverse characters.
I feel compelled to compare the experience of reading this novel to reading Ian McEwan's Atonement when I was 17. While these novels are completely different in scope, they both focus on a similar theme and that is the theme of the writer. Both novels illustrate how reality becomes fiction and how fiction is not much different than reality and how the two bleed into one another for better or worse. This theme is captured so well in Garp.
My complaints are limited when it comes to this book. It was a bit boring at times but character development makes up for it. I had a love/hate relationship with Garp's writing. While it was awesome how he came to write a certain piece, I never truly enjoyed reading his writing. I appreciated it in the overall scope of the story but actually reading it was hard to get through. But I don't feel those complaints warrant me from not loving this book because man, did I love it. I'm so glad I read it and wish I could take a class on it and study it more! Definitely giving this 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen Dubner

I don't listen to audiobooks often. I only listen when I feel I don't have time to read a book but want to comment on it or if I feel listening would be more beneficial. In the case of Freakonomics, listening definitely seemed more beneficial because I am a frequent listener of the podcast with the same name. I enjoy the podcast. It isn't my favorite but I enjoy it. I have also seen the documentary, complements to Netflix.
If you are like me and have this much experience with Freakonomics, I wouldn't recommend this book. Much of the text was old news to me. I've already heard the argument about less crime in the 90's having to do with legalized abortion, and I already know about the sumo wrestlers cheating. I've heard the same argument about names not deciding a person's fate over three times between the book, podcast, and documentary. So in that regard, the book was a bit repetitive and boring. However, if you are coming to this book for the first time and have no prior experience with the podcast or documentary than you will probably enjoy this book.
What I love about Freakonomics is that it makes connections is placed no one thinks to look. It isn't a biased program taking sides but just dishes the info and allows you to make your final call. The same can be said with this book. It presents the evidence very well but also leaves room for defiance.
Overall, it is a good book. It didn't really wow me so perhaps my review is biased since I already formed a relationship with Freakonomics. I will give the book a 3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Why I Return to Harry Potter

When I tell people that I have read the Harry Potter books six times (the first book seven times), most are shocked that I would return to a series so many times. That equates to 43 books and over 25,000 pages (25, 479 to be exact). I'm shocked by those numbers myself. While those numbers are large, I never feel as if rereading the books is any sort of grand accomplishment. For me, rereading these books is a tradition. I return to them like I return to buying gifts at Christmas and eating pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. I return to them as an adult would return to their childhood home, just to take a peek back into their childhood even if it is a quick glimpse. Harry Potter, to me, is the same as returning to my elementary school or watching old home movies or eating a piece of pizza that tastes exactly like the kind from Chuckie Cheese where I had birthday parties often. I am filled with a sense of time travel that no Tardis will ever give me. In many ways the books are a key to my past. They are my very own pensieve. Each time I read I dip into a different memory, recalling my old self and my old perceptions. The books hold many pieces of me and in most cases I leave them a different person.
Books, in my opinion, are more than just simple words on a page. They are friends, experiences, and life lessons. They reveal truth to us in very subtle and unexpected ways. With them we learn new things and sometimes a book will raise more questions than answers, forcing us to look deeper into the text and deeper into our own lives. When I reread Harry Potter, it isn't only nostalgia that keeps me coming back. It is the sense that every time I return I will be gaining new insight not only in my life but into the text. Rereading forces me to notice different bits of dialogue that reveal character depth and allows me to notice foreshadowing which in turn reveals the brilliance of J.K. Rowling and helps me in my own writings. There is a lot to be gained from Harry Potter in terms of plot, mystery, character and setting for any writer.
Growing up with Harry always gave me a small sense of community. When I read about Harry visiting the Weasley house I was, and still am, reminded of family gatherings and nights spent with the youth group. The comradery provided a sense of relatability and provides a look back at childhood ethics similar to those found in the 1986 film Stand By Me. 
But I think what ultimately brings me back to Harry is my love of literature. Going back to analyze these books is such a treat and helps me when going to analyze other works of art. And I think Harry Potter provides this amazing element of story telling in that it raises more questions than it answers. The books continually force me to think critically and help me become a better critic, artist and writer. For that I am thankful!