Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Author: Allie Brosh
TitleHyperbole and a Half 
Publication Info: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2013.
ISBN: 9781451666175

The deliberately crudely-illustrated comics from Allie Brosh’s classic Hyperbole and a Half blog are collected here in book form.  Brosh’s writing and drawing based on her life is both hilarious and poignant.   Her works on depression and motivation (or lack thereof) are particularly brilliant, and make me feel that she gets me.  She also writes a lot about her dogs and their lack of intelligence and a particularly belly-guffawing story of her house invaded by a goose.  The colorful pictures also attracted my two-year-old  daughter who kept picking up that book whenever I wasn’t reading it.  This book should be read by one and all.

Recommended books: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Rating: ****

Book Review: All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior

Author: Jennifer Senior
TitleAll Joy and No Fun
Narrator: Jennifer Senior
Publication Info:
ISBN: 9781482991376

This book explores the issues of modern parenting (at least for white, middle class Americans) where the expectations of what a parent can and should do seem to be out of line with the past and with reality.  One illustration of the shift in recent generations is the change of term from “housewife” (someone who manages the house) to “stay at home mom” (someone who manages the children).  And over that same time mothers are spending more hours working and more hours with their children.  The challenge of balancing so many responsibilities contributes to grave stresses, yet paradoxically there is much joy in experiencing the children’s development.  The book is illustrated with interviews and observations with a variety of parents

Favorite Passages:

“Our experiencing selves tell researchers that we prefer doing the dishes — or napping, or shopping, or answering emails — to spending time with our kids. . . . But our remembering selves tell researchers that no one — and nothing — provides us with so much joy as our children. It may not be the happiness we live day to day, but it’s the happiness we think about, the happiness we summon and remember, the stuff that makes up our life-tales.”

Recommended books: Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy
Rating: ***

Book Review: Strivers Row by Kevin Baker

AuthorKevin Baker
Title: Strivers Row
Narrator: Thomas Anthony Penny
Publication Info: HarperAudio, 2006
ISBN: 9780060195830
Other books read by same author: Paradise Alley and Dreamland

This is third in a series of books known as the City of Fire, where Kevin Baker delves into the drama of everyday lives among the ordinary, working class communities of historical New York.  The books are always richly detailed and well-told.  This time the story is set in Harlem in 1943 against the backdrop of World War II and racial tensions ratcheting up.  This story is framed around two main characters: the Reverend Jonah Dove who feels unworthy of his leadership role compared with his legendary father and is sometimes able to pass as white, and a fictional version of Malcolm Little who would become Malcolm X.  Choosing Malcolm X for a character in a novel is a daring move, especially since Baker takes liberties with the timeline of his discovery of the Nation of Islam.  But overall both his characters are rich, flawed, fully-human, and have a feeling of authenticity.  The novel is peppered with historical events and the characters reactions to them.  Like the previous two novels – Paradise Alley which ended with the Draft Riots and Dreamland which ended with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire – Strivers Row culminates in a major event in New York City, this time the Harlem Race Riots of 1943.  I think Baker did a better job overall with the previous two books, but this is an entertaining and though-provoking novel

Recommended booksThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
Rating: ***

Song of the Week: “Low” by Young Fathers

Young Fathers is a hip-hop trio from Edinburgh, Scotland.  Their sound is described as psychedelic with comparisons to De La Soul (which is a good group to compared to imo), but I found their sound unique with classic soul and electronic sounds strengthening the mix.  Check out “Low” below, the track brought to my attention by the most recent episode of All Songs Considered.



If you have a new sound you’d like to share, let me know below in the comments.

Book Review: An astronaut’s guide to life on earth by Chris Hadfield

Author: Chris Hadfield
TitleAn astronaut’s guide to life on earth
Publication Info: New York, NY : Little, Brown and Co., 2013.


Like many people I was charmed by Chris Hadfield’s social media presence on Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube et al during his time as commander aboard the International Space Station in 2012-13.  So I was pleased to read his autobiography to learn more about the man who reignited my fascination with space exploration.  Hadfield was among the first astronauts selected by the Canadian Space Agency and prior to his time aboard the ISS he flew on two space shuttle missions.  Hadfield describes the hard work he put in to become (and remain) an astronaut, his willingness to learn to do just about anything, and the necessity of working in a team.  A frequent refrain in this book is “being an astronaut is a whole lot more than going to space (although that part is really awesome)” as he relates the significant time spent training and preparing (and sometimes learning skills he may never use, but made him more versatile) as well as public appearances to promote the space program.  Hadfield the memoirist seems as delightful as Hadfield the social media star, and I enjoyed reading this book.
Recommended booksPacking for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach, Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon by Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Jay Barbree, Howard Benedict,  Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jeffrey Kluger, James Lovell, and The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe,
Rating: ****