Author: Felicia Day
Title: You’re Never Weird on the Internet
Narrator: Felicia Day
Publication Info: Simon & Schuster Audio (2015)
Felicia Day’s memoir is funny and inspiring, and especially good narrated in Day’s own voice. Day describes her unusual childhood where she was homeschooled and first found community through gaming communities on the internet. Growing up and deciding to go into acting, she finds herself typecast in roles and ends up writing, producing, and starring in one of the earliest successful web series, The Guild. I first learned of Day watching The Guild, and despite knowing next to nothing about gaming culture, I found it hilarious and accessible (and if you haven’t seen it you should watch it now). While the documents her success as an artist creating her own niche, Day also has lived with anxiety and depression with a particular bad period coinciding with the end of The Guild and honestly described. Day also includes a chapter about gamergate, the notoriously misogynist and nasty movement which has split the gaming community Day loves so much in recent years. All in all, a good, honest, and funny celebrity memoir.
Recommended books: Bossypants by Tina Fey, Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg, and American Nerd: The Story of My People by Benjamin Nugent
Author :Truman Capote
Title: In Cold Blood
Narrator: Scott Brick
Publication Info: New York, NY : Random House Audio, p2006.
Previously Read by the Same Author:
This is one of those books that’s long been on the list of “Why haven’t I read this yet?” In Cold Blood is known for being the prototypical non-fiction work written in the novelistic style and a forerunner of the true crime genre. Through Capote’s extensive research he is able to recreate before, during, and after of a brutal quadruple murder in Holcomb, Kansas from the points of view of the victims, perpetrators, investigators, and variety of friends, neighbors, and townsfolk. Capote’s writing style is impeccable and the story is griping. Yet there’s a nagging doubt in my mind of just how much of this is true to life and how much was designed to make a good story. Despite being a well-written story, there’s also is a gratuitousness to it that left me feeling a bit dirty afterwards.
Recommended books: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.
Author: Alfie Kohn
Title: The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting
Narrator: Alfie Kohn
Publication Info:Tantor Audio (2014)
Summary/Review: The current generation of children are often described by the media, politicians, and even parents as entitled and narcissistic. Alfie Kohn shows through his research that 1. similar statements have been applied to children for centuries, 2. there’s no evidence to show that these statements are true for any generation, and 3. strategies and policies for parenting and education formed by a belief that children are particularly “spoiled” today are actually harmful to children. This is a fascinating book that offers a lot of research that shows that parents and teachers are actually too controlling. There’s an idea that life is all about competition and the kids “better get used to it now” which forces children to experience everything as a competition rather than a learning experience. As Kohn succinctly states “Competition undermines achievement,” which is something our leaders and policy makers fail to understand especially when it comes to children. Definitely a must-read book!
Recommended books: Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood by Steven Mintz, and Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy.
Author: John Irving
Title: Last Night in Twisted River
Narrator: Arthur Morey
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2009)
Previously read by the same author:
Another sprawling, epic novel by John Irving. I haven’t read one in a long time. This one tells the story of Dominic, the cook at a logging camp, and his son Daniel, who grows up to be an author. Irving frequently refers to them as the Cook and the Writer. After an accidental murder at the camp, the father and son are forced to flee and the novel follows them throughout their lives from Boston’s North End to Iowa City to Brattleboro, VT and finally to Toronto. All through this time they keep in touch with the gruff logger Ketchum, who looks out for their pursuer. Along the way there are common Irving themes of coming of age, sexuality, unhappy relationships, and unpleasant people. Daniel’s life as an author strongly parallels Irvings, and Irving seems to be trolling his readers to make one think that this is autobiographical. But there’s also a lot of insight into creativity and the writing process as well. Despite being the putative central character, Daniel isn’t particularly interesting or well-defined (perhaps purposefully). Dominic and Ketchum and various minor characters provide a number of entertaining scenes and tangents. Overall this is an enjoyable novel, but like many of Irving’s works could deal with some heavy pruning and more of a sense of purpose.
Title: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
Narrator: Dylan Baker
Publication Info: Simon & Schuster Audio (2014)
Previously read by same author: Moneyball : the art of winning an unfair game, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, and The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.
This book focuses on the contemporary financial trading practices of high frequency traders or “flash traders” seeking to gain advantage in fractions of seconds by having more direct cable connections to the markets. This is emphasized by an effort to lay a cable from to New York to Chicago through the mountains of Pennsylvania as directly as possible. Many financial intermediaries are taking advantage of the high frequency trading to basically rip-off their customers and by proxy making the whole financial system susceptible to collapse. The heroes of the book are the quirky iconoclasts who create the Investors Exchanges (IEX) to counteract this effect. Lewis can get bogged down in technical details and traders’ talk at times, but mostly keeps things moving along to be entertaining and informative
Author: Erik Larson
Title: In the Garden of the Beast
Narrator: Stephen Hoye
Publication Info: New York : Random House Audio : Books on Tape, p2011.
Books Read by Same Author: The Devil in the White City and Isaac’s Storm
This history and biography book explores the rise of the Third Reich from the perspective of one American family. Specifically that is the family of William E. Dodd, appointed to be ambassador to Germany by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dodd and his adult daughter Martha are the main characters of the book. Dodd initially is supportive of Hitler and shares in some antisemitic beliefs. Martha, recently separated from her husband, enjoys the social life of Berlin and liaisons with several men including Soviet intelligence operative Boris Vinogradov. Over time the Dodd’s became more aware of the violence and oppression of the Nazi state, and the ambassador begins to become more vocal in calling on the United States to oppose Hitler’s regime (which in isolationist America proves to be an unpopular stance). This is an uncomfortable book to read. The Dodd’s are not very likable people, but then they’re contrasted with Nazis. No one comes off looking good. Still this is an interesting glimpse into a troubling time in history.
Author: Ursula Le Guin
Title: A Wizard of Earthsea
Narrator: Harlan Ellison
Publication Info: San Bruno, CA : Fantastic Audio, p2001. [originally published, 1968]
This fantasy novel set in the magical land of Earthsea introduces Ged, a boy whose magical ability shines in a society with numerous witches and practitioners of magic. After saving his village from an attack, Ged is taken as apprentice by a wise wizard and then sent to wizarding school. Despite his talent and proclamations that he may become the greatest wizard, Ged is headstrong and impatient and unleashes an evil shadow that follows him around and tries to possess his body. Ged thus has to face many quests and challenges to learn how to face down the shadow creature and understand himself. It’s a good novel, and apparently pretty influential as many of the tropes and ideas are picked up by other fantasy novels. Harlan Ellison’s reading of the audiobook is a dynamic performance that captures Ged’s anger and uncertainty.
Recommended books: The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling and Eragon by Christopher Paolini.