Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Art of War

Book 17 of 2017 is The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

It felt like the right time in my working life to re-read this. It is a short read. The first and last time I read it, I was in my early 20s and I didn't see why any of it mattered. Working in the corporate world 15 years later, it seems more relevant.

Even though this is a 2000 year old Chinese military text, I read it thinking of European warfare and American business. I guess in the end, strategy is strategy.

3 strategies out of 5.

Should I read this? Yeah, every couple of years.
What did I learn? Confusion is a tactic.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Born a Crime

Book 16 of 2017 is Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.

For someone who used to say she didn't like autobiographies, some the best books I have read in the last few years are just that. This is one of them.

I laughed, I cried. I felt so connected to this half black and half white boy telling the story. The culture you grow up with. The never belonging completely anywhere. But I didn't grow up a black man in South Africa so there is a big difference.

If you read any non-fiction this year, let this be it.

5 amazing black mothers out of 5.

Should I read this? Everybody should.

What did I learn? Less learnt than reinforced is the belief I have always had that not really belonging anywhere allows you to belong everywhere. That's how I've always seen myself and it is a nice idea.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

Book 15 of 2017 is The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King.

I miss Sherlock Holmes stories a lot. Having read all of them over and over, it is lovely to find something written in such a close style and involving my favourite fictional detective.

This was long but it establishes the training of the apprentice and the style of of the series. I will be reading more of this for sure.

4 obvious reasons out of 5.

Should I read this? If you are a Sherlock fan then yes..

What did I learn? You can never get enough of a great literary character.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Porcelain: A Memoir

Book 14 of 2017 is Porcelain: A Memoir by Moby.

I'm learning that autobiographies make very good audio books when read by the author. This may be the only type of audio book I will entertain.

Considering I enjoyed Moby's music but always considered him a little mainstream and elitist, this was a nice awakening. Yeah, he is a geeky little balding white guy who grew up very poor but he truly does love music and is a real musician. This made me respect him that way.

Realising that not all celebrities are rich and that it can take a decade to have an albums selling millions was awakening for me. I always assumed they were on private jets and sipping on Champagne while eating caviar. Not the case it seems.

The end felt a little rushed. The final chapters reflecting on his childhood and his mother would have been nice if they were extended but it feels like he didn't really want to go there. That made you feel his sadness, all the more.

This was a great view in to the New York music scene in the 90s. Much in the style of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Mental note: Must read that again.

5 bowls of brown rice and vegetables out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, yes and yes. You don't even have to be in to his music.
What did I learn? Famous does not automatically equate to rich.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

That most vulnerable moment

There is a moment each night that is the most raw time in my day.

It is the moment that I slow down and am nice to myself, without exception.

Seattle winters and springs are cold and rainy times. The weather is grey. The people are grey. The deep long breaths are grey.

When all is done in my day and work has wrapped, friends have shared hugs and wine and the door is locked behind me, I stop.

My bra is flung in the clothes hamper. My shoes are shoved under my bed. Then. Then, I peel off my tights.

Everything that happened in the day is replayed. Dashing to a friend in need; Listening patiently to some very mediocre male mansplaining my obvious mistakes in executing my job; Applying compassion when I don't quite understand why someone is melting down; Laughing until I snort coffee through my nose; and Getting shit done at work.

Was a I good person?
Did I treat everyone decently?
Can I be strong yet gentle?
Would my parents be proud of me?
Do I like myself?

I'm not sure how other people do it but I like this moment. It is my rawest moment. It is my kindest moment. It is how I plan to be better tomorrow.

I often wonder how others end their days.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Red Rising

Book 13 of 2017 is Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

Everyone has been recommending this book to me for the last 6 months so I had to read it. It didn't take long because it is a very easy read and thoroughly enjoyable.

This has the flavour of old sci-fi and a lot of the Hunger Games. It's done very well. This is part of a set and I will certainly read the rest.

5 discriminations based on skin colour out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, if you get excited about the small rising up to slay their oppressors.
What did I learn? This isn't just the future. It's the present too.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Book 12 of 2017 is The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

This was such an odd book about magic but I loved every single second of it.

I have nothing to really compare it to except maybe Night Circus for the phantasmagorical storyline.

5 stolen babies out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. Absolutely, yes.
What did I learn? Your magic is only a curse when at first you don't know how to control it.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Life After Life

Book 11 of 2017 is Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

This book has been on my To Read list for quite some time. It turns up a lot on "best books of the year" lists. I can not for the life of me work out why.

The idea is good. It is a WWII Groundhog Day but in the end, I couldn't like the main character or her family. One thing I will say is that the first half of the book was thoroughly boring. The second half almost redeemed it but is it ever worth sticking with it?

2 alternative lives out of 5.

Should I read this? No, don't.
What did I learn? Nothing is perfect. No life is perfect. I'd rather just do it once.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Golden Keel

Book 10 of 2017 is The Golden Keel by Desmond Bagley.

People often ask me how I find books from vast arrays of genres. The answer is that I go off recommendations from my friends. That is why GoodReads my primary reading discovery source.

In the case of this book, I picked it up because Desmond Bagley was one of my Mum's favourite authors when I was a child. In fact, both my parents enjoyed The Golden Keel. That made this book extra meaningful to me.

Books that people recommend are a glimpse in to who they are. Once I witness someone share many similar book likes with me, I learn to trust them implicitly and vice versa with books some have like that I did not.

The Golden Keel is a great heist adventure on stormy seas with pirates and unusually for my normal set, characters from South Africa and Italy.

My tropical Mum told me today (when I was half way through this book) that the first time she read the word avalanche was in one of his books and he described it perfectly. That brought an awareness when I was finishing this. This book talks about sailing and a lot of books do but Bagley describes perfectly what a concept or actual thing is in a way that is easy to understand. That is a talent, especially with sailing terms. He also described being trapped under something heavy in a way I felt I'd experienced in ways although I never had.

If you pick this up, keep in mind that it was written in 1963 and reflects the post war boom times in many countries. That said, it could be set right now too.

5 heavy keels out of 5.

Should I read this? For sure. It is a funny and easy read.

What did I learn? I need to read more books about great adventures. Why did I ever stop?

The North Water

Book 9 of 2017 is The North Water by Ian McGuire.

This book is full or gore and great examples of the worst kind of men imaginable. I did not enjoy it at all. There wasn't anything that redeemed it in any way.

It is hard to say if my quest to read more female authors and the eight I read prior to this book meant that the very male story, characters and theming seemed over the top. The killing of animals, people and an awful chapter about pouring puss out of a man's abdomen was just too much. It wasn't even done in a way that made it fit properly. It was like the author would pause once in a while and describe something disgusting in great detail. That behaviour also distracted from the story.

Two polar bears out of five.

Should I read this? No. There are many better books in this genre.
What did I learn? Reading a majority of male writers desensitises me things I don't like in some male writing. There is certainly a different voice.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Men Explain Things to Me

Book 8 of 2017 is Men Explains Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit.

I have to stop reading similar books one after the other. This is good writing. This is relevant to what is happening in the world at the moment and certainly to my work.

The only complaint I have about this book is that it seems to lack purpose. It is a bunch of very well written essays that are not pulled together to draw a conclusion or make a point. That is thoroughly disappointing.

Four mansplainers out of five.

Should I read this? I wish I could have every man I know read this but in reality, it will be the women. Read it and know you are not alone. Find your confidence and don't let anyone shake it.
What did I learn? You should carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white male :P

All the Single Ladies - Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation

Book 7 of 2017 is All the Single Ladies - Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister.

I am a feminist. That's not new news to anyone who knows me. This book isn't about being single and justifying that. It is about research backed data that explores the idea that western women are now in control of their own lives and choose how men will participate in.

My concern when starting this was that it would be bitter but it was kind, respectful to all and hopeful.

Five strong women out of five.

Should I read this? For sure. It is not just for single women.
What did I learn? So much that I would need a post all about this. The data she presents is solid and then accompanied by anecdotes too which made it more human. I now like that kind of non-fiction.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

How To Train Your Dragon

Book 6 of 2017 is How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell.

For a book that is aimed at children, this transcends all those boundaries. My friend Katie chose this as an audio book for a road trip we did last weekend and it was perfect. Light, well read by Dr. Who (David Tennant) and an enjoyable story with characters I wanted to love and hate. This is wonderful on every level.

This is the kind of book that you should read no matter your age.

Five toothless heroes out of five.

Should I read this? Yes. No buts about it. Just read it already.
What did I learn? Scholars are heroes.

Thursday, 19 January 2017


Book 5 of 2017 is Illuminae by Amie Kaufman.

Continuing with consciously reading female authors in 2017 sees me read my fifth in five books. I'm sure I can't ignore male authors but this gives me a good incentive to read books I may have decided to top with something higher up the pile written by a man. It is changing my reading style.

This book is very interesting. It is written in the style of a hacked dossier so fits the whole wikileaks theme of the moment. The AI character is very HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey but extends that in a Young Adult book way. I won't say too much about that so as not to spoil it for anyone.

This is book one of a series and I'm not sure I will continue with it but this was enjoyable because it was original but safely predictable.

Three space walks out of five.

Should I read this? This is another YA book that will appeal to someone who wants an easy read with a few twists.
What did I learn? You never know when your entire world will fall apart so live life like this is your last day on Earth... or the moon.

Friday, 13 January 2017

A Man of Some Repute

Book 4 of 2017 is A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson.

This has been described as a very British mystery and boy, is that true? I could hear the accents as a read it. With that in mind, the story is very much like a BBC weekly crime show and I love those. In keeping with this genre, the twists were mostly predictable so this was more about the characters. The Brits often appear mild and reserved but there is often more to a person than that. This is what I enjoyed thoroughly about this book.

This is not the best murder mystery book out there but it keeps with the theme and is a satisfying read.

Four men fainting at the sight of blood out of five.

Should I read this? Yes, if you like BBC murder mysteries.
What did I learn? Some authors write accents really well.

Friday, 6 January 2017

If Someone Says "You Complete Me," RUN!

Book 3 of 2017 is If  Someone Says "You Complete Me," RUN! by Whoopi Goldberg.

I consumed this as an audio book. This is the third book I've read this year and so far they are all by female authors. My goal for this year is to have at least 50% of the authors of the books I read be women. So far, so good. Last year, 10 of the 30 books I read were by women. Very disappointing.

This is my kind of relationship book. When I picked it up, I didn't consider it a relationship book but more comedy. Interestingly, it was both.

My life is not quite a conventional one and although my friends and family respect how I choose to live for myself, I've not oft heard this touted as by someone famous in a book. This took me from always loving Whoopi to feeling quite connected to her.

Some people are not meant for relationships but society seems to keep forcing us to reassess what is wrong with us and why we choose to be alone like we are broken. It is so nice to hear someone say that it's a different way to live but it isn't wrong.

Four drive-bys out of five.

Should I read this? In this case, it is a 4 hour listen so not too long. I think that it would be helpful for most people single or otherwise to read it.
What did I learn? I am not alone in how I choose to live my life.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Talking As Fast As I Can

Book 2 of 2017 is Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham.

I am so glad that I read this within weeks of watching the revival of Gilmore Girls. Graham had me in fits of laughter, tears and finally with my heart broken for the third time as I say goodbye to Lorelai again.

The thing I loved the most about this was that she writes like she seems in Gilmore Girls and that did not disappoint me.

There are spoilers towards the end so don't read it until you have watched every episode ever made including the revival.

The writing is free and honest. I consumed this is just under 6 hours.

Five cups of mother and daughter banter out of five.

Should I read this? If you are a Gilmore Girls fan then absolutely. Not sure it will mean as much if you aren't. But who isn't a fan?
What did I learn? I learnt that the last four words of a TV show are very important.


Book 1 of 2017 is Grunt by Mary Roach.

This is a book I was trying to get through before the end of 2016 but December was disrupted and so this ends on the second day of the new year. Last year, I missed completing my 2016 Good Reads Reading Challenge with 30 or the 36 books finished. For 2017, I've set the challenge to 30 books which does not feel daunting.

Having never read Mary Roach before, I was expecting this to be a boring text book with some good statistics. Boy, was I wrong. She is a very entertaining writer and had regularly laughing between IEDs destroying penile function, disinterested sharks and polar bears obsessed with tampons.

I can't say I enjoyed every section. This was about war and that means that there are hard truths to read. Some chapters saw me put down the book and walk away for a few days to read fantasy in order to process the horrors of war. Roach does talk about everything with respect and an appropriate sense of humour. She had my respect on that.

This is both disturbing and enlightening. It is not for everyone.

Four special ops goldfish in a submarine out of five.

Should I read this? This is a hard one to answer. It may trigger people who have been in similar situations. It may be a bit to gory and detailed for some. I very much approached it as science and still cringed regularly. I'd say only read it if you can compartmentalise well.
What did I learn? Where to start: so much. That's why I would recommend reading this book. It made me look at war science in a very different way. It's not just nuclear science or signals processing. There is the people part. I guess I learnt that... these are real people dying for... something.