Books

Book Thoughts: Why Not Me?

I enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and her second book, Why Not Me?, did not disappoint either. Reason enough to read it is the chapter dedicated entirely to a hilarious fictional email string highlighting extreme inappropriate use of workplace email.

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(Image from amazon.com)

But she weaves plenty of inspiring thoughts in with her self-deprecating style of humor. She writes about how she sometimes feels really sad about how the friendships of our early twenties change so much with marriages, children, and careers, but revels in the fact that “the best laughter is that over a shared memory.” So true. That reminded me of a dinner I had a couple of months ago with one of my old college roommates. Over Mexican food and margaritas, we laughed until we cried reminiscing about the same old college stories we have reminisced about dozens of times.

One thing I didn’t really get is the title. It seems like the book would be more appropriately named Hard Work Pays Off, even though that doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

Kaling ends the book with a shout-out to a young girl who asked her a question at a speech she gave years ago. Her dedication to instilling confidence in young girls and grown women alike is evident throughout the book even if it is sprinkled with stories like that of her drinking too much champagne at a baby shower and making fun of a Hollywood mom for not getting her children vaccinated (to that mom’s face).

Books

Book Thoughts: Kitchen Confidential

I have felt a little lost when it comes to book selection this summer. When watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown a few weeks ago, I remembered I have never read his book Kitchen Confidential.

I loved Bourdain’s book Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. He won me over with the over-the-top adventurous foodie story of dining on Ortolan, a rare small bird illegal to eat in most countries. His description of himself and a group of other world-renowned chefs eating the Ortolan, which are traditionally consumed whole, beak and all, took my breath away.

If you think I wouldn’t try Ortolan if given the chance, you apparently have never seen me eat freshly harvested Rocky Mountain oysters cooked on the branding iron fire.

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(Image from amazon.com)

These tales of the restaurant industry makes me so glad I have never worked in that field. It also makes me realize why so many chefs develop drug and alcohol problems.

Bourdain writes that he has stayed in the rough and exhausting industry because he loves everything about food. I do, too, but I prefer to experience it as a diner and a terrible cook. This is an interesting read and might just make you be thankful for the career field you chose, whatever that might be.

Books

Book Thoughts: The Natural Way of Things

I have been in a book rut this summer. I just haven’t been able to find a book that really wows me. Until now. I devoured The Natural Way of Things by Australian author Charlotte Wood.

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(Image from amazon.com)

The book is set in a dystopian, misogynistic society at a prison camp where young women are sent to be punished for sexually promiscuity, even for being raped. They withstand violence and hard physical labor at the hands of the prison guards.

This harshness changes them, bringing some of the young women closer. Verla and Yolanda, the two main characters, are flawed and fierce. Wood’s development of characters is excellent, making the book a total page-turner.

Wood’s imagery is perfection, even when it is extremely disturbing. A really good author can make me cringe with her descriptions, and Wood does just that.

If you’re looking for light summer reading, this isn’t it. It’s dark. Very dark. There’s always little parts of dystopian stories that are a little too close for comfort to our real-life society. Despite having none of the happy, light-heartedness many of us look for in summer reading choices, I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

Books

Book Thoughts: My Life on the Road

Gloria Steinem begins her latest book by describing an airplane ride to Rapid City, South Dakota, during the week of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Steinem first views the biker culture as sexist, a view I would say is quite accurate in a lot of cases. But then something shifts. She visits with a middle-aged female biker who explains that since she began riding motorcycles, she and her husband have had a completely new level of equality in their relationship. It’s empowering and evens the playing field.

Wow. What happens when your long-admired feminist idol takes something you dislike about your hometown and acknowledges it as a breakthrough in gender equality?

And that’s the point of this book. Steinem, now 82 years old, writes about traveling and how the people she has met along the way have completely changed her way of thinking about cultures, stereotypes, and more.

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(Image from amazon.com)

This is the most inspiring piece of non-fiction I have read in a really long time and maybe the timing was just right for me. After a particularly rough week at work, I was drawn to Steinem’s interpretation of a nasty conflict with a fellow feminist in the 1960s. She writes: “I needed a teacher in surviving conflict, and she was it.” I jotted that one down on a Post-It and placed it on my keyboard at work. Thank you, Gloria Steinem, for continuing to be relevant and changing my way of thinking.