The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

I’m going to start off right away by saying that I’m kind of iffy about this book, thus the three star rating.  There were some things that I liked about this book and then there were some things that drove me up the f*cking wall.

If you have never read a self-help book before, if you thought that they were hokey and you only picked this one up because there’s a swear in the title, you might get a lot from this book.  There is a lot here and I was actually impressed with the number of sources at Manson pulls from.  He has personal experience, psychology, and philosophy all through the text and there are a lot of areas where I felt like he went deeper than he needed to, which is fine.  I also appreciated his look at values and I think that’s because another book that I was reading at the same time addressed values.  It’s an interesting way to look at things, I suppose.  Honestly, I cannot remember a book I’ve read that talked about values in the past few years.

Now, here’s my problem:  Manson says a number of times that he’s going to cut through the bullshit and this isn’t going to be like every other self-help book you’ve ever read.  Only, you know, it is.  Putting the same ideas into blunt language doesn’t make the ideas any different.  I also got to the point where the word “entitlement” made me see red.  There was a particular discussion about how thinking you’re better than everyone else and thinking you’re worse than everyone else are the same thing, a way to feel special, and that idea really rubbed me wrong too.  Also, sometimes he tries to be funny and it falls flat, like very flat.  He literally reeks of entitlement…

So, I kind of trashed this one but I didn’t mean to.  Again, it wasn’t bad and it got me fired up and motivated which is the reason I read things like this.  I have to give it credit for that.  Maybe it will do the same for you and maybe it will seem like brilliant, new ideas.

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Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

As with all King books, this took me a frustratingly long time to get through.  The worst part is that there is no real reason why.  I loved the book.  I loved it so much that when I finished reading it last week I wanted to keep it to myself for a while.  I wanted to think it over a bit before attempting to talk about it with anyone and then I wanted to be sure that I talked it over with the right person.  Approximately four hours after I finished it, I decided I was ready and over those four hours I had decided that I loved this book.

A plague is spreading across the world.  When women fall asleep, they develop cocoon-like growths over their bodies and woe to any man who tries to remove those growths.  A woman who is awakened from this magical slumber is likely to rip your throat out.

In Appalachia, the city of Dooling is about to be thrust into a battle that could mean the end of the world as we know it.  A strange woman, Evie, has appeared in a spectacular fashion, by putting a meth head’s head through a trailer wall.  Evie is arrested by Lila, the sheriff, and through the pulling of strings she is sent to the women’s prison where Lila’s husband, Clint, works as the “prison shrink.”  However, it doesn’t take long for someone to notice that Evie is the only woman in the world not effected by the sleeping sickness and Clint is smart enough to realize that there will be more than one desperate father/husband who will want to know why.

So, let’s break this down.  First, there were a lot of things in this book that reminded me of The Stand.  I didn’t mind that at all.  I mean, if you write as many books as King, you’re going to have some similarities popping up.  If you read enough Stephen King, you probably know that there are a lot of similarities in his books other than plot point.  As an example, I like to yell “Eyeball!” the first time one is mentioned in some gross way.  When describing a character to my husband, he said, “Sounds like a Stephen King character.”  Whatever.  If you like him, you like him, and he’s my favorite.

Second, let’s talk gender because that’s what this book is about.  Not all men are bad men.  We know that and I think that there are quite a few men in this book who are not “bad” guys.  There ARE some really shitty men who do really shitty things but that’s pretty true to life too.  There’s obviously one character who you just want to die the most unfortunate death ever throughout the whole damn book but there almost has to be.  It’s an interesting idea, though, to split the genders apart in an “end world” scenario and see what they do and I don’t think that either side is a very accurate portrayal of how that would be.  You know what it is, though?  It’s a book and it’s a book that is playing with some ideas.  If you want accuracy, go read a newspaper if you can find one and quit the fiction.

The more I thought about this book, the more I liked it and it was the kind of book that gave me a lot to think about.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston

This is one of those books that kind of makes you ask what you consider to be a graphic novel.  See, when I started at this library, this book was shelved with the young adult fiction.  It wasn’t long before we moved it to the graphic novel section in the hopes that it would get more circulation there.  Even before I read it, I knew this was a neat book and pretty much completely up my alley.  I’d really like to see it check out more.

So, no, this is not a traditional “graphic novel” in that it is not in comic form at all.  Instead, it is told through a scrapbook with tons of 1920’s memorabilia.

Frankie (never Francis) Pratt is the smartest girl in her class.  She is also poor, her father having passed away at a young age and left her mother to care for Frankie and her two younger brothers on a nurse’s wages.  When we first meet Frankie, she is in high school, spending time with her friends and even going on a date with the smartest boy in her class.  She is accepted to Vassar on scholarship but decides to nurse instead in order to help her mother.  However, when Frankie starts a unfortunate relationship with her charge’s grandson, a recently returned war hero, she finds herself on her way to Vassar anyway.

We watch as the 1920’s unfold.  Frankie wants to write and she starts wanting to write like “Mrs. Wharton” but she is soon turned on to Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Joyce.  At college she takes up smoking and bobs her hair.  She goes to New York and Paris and smokes and drinks and has romances.  It’s pretty great.

I really enjoyed this book.  Even if the story is sparse and very “let’s get through everything in the Roaring 20’s,” I found myself caught up in it.  I also googled old brands and found that endlessly fascinating.  This isn’t for everybody but it was definitely for me.

Graphic Friday- Blankets by Craig Thompson

Welcome to Graphic Friday, where sometimes we accidentally post on Wednesday.  We’re working on it folks!

I was surprised to see that this book came out in 2003.  The way Thomson talks about his teenage years, which I placed vaguely in the early 1990’s, made it feel more distant at the time of writing.  You know, I am one of those people who forgets that I graduated 16 years ago so I guess that’s not really surprising.

This book, well, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me.

Thompson tells the story of his coming of age.  I can’t think of any better way to describe it.  He tells stories throughout that are memories of his childhood, when he shared a bed with his little brother.  Craig says that he was not a very good older brother, that he was sometimes mean to his brother and that he didn’t protect him.  He touches on the inappropriate conduct of a babysitter, a trap that he let his brother fall into and that sent him headlong into religion and the striving for heaven.

Craig takes religion seriously, seriously enough that his pastor asks if he has considered going into the ministry.  Craig hasn’t really considered anything about his future.  Then he meets Raina at winter church camp and he is instantly smitten.  When he goes to stay with Raina and her family in Michigan for two weeks in the winter, he begins to see that he may have missed out on some of life.

This book touched on a lot of sensitive and emotional subjects: religion, abuse, first lover, doubt.  However, I felt like all of these things were handled very well.  I can promise that I was invested in this story after my initial doubt that it was for me.  Craig’s experience of first love and his realization that he may not have been invested enough in the real world felt like legitimate experiences to me.  They felt real.

This was a touching tale but one which I can see not fitting for everyone.

Writers Gone Wild by Bell Peschel

Out running errands one day right after Little Dude was born, Hubby wanted to stop into Barnes and Noble and I was actually too tired to go in.  Me.  Too tired to go into a book store.  I waited in the car with the baby, my shoes off and my phone out, until he returned.  He thrust a bag at me and this was what was inside.  Hubby randomly bought me a book about writers because he is just that awesome.

It took me a while to read it because, as always, I have so many books stacked around that it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle.  This one sat on my coffee table for months and I dipped in and out of it until about a month ago when I decided that it was time to buckle down and clear some book clutter.

These stories are great.   They were short tidbits that filled my conversations up with trivia.  When asked to help fill in the blanks in a public discussion of Hemingway, I told a story about him breaking a walking stick over his head, much to my delight and embarrassment.  But I think it really says something that these tales of writers behaving badly actually stuck with me.

If you are interested in “literature” at all, there is most likely something in this book that will catch your attention and keep you reading.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee

Published in 2007 and probably added to my To Be Read list when it first came out, I don’t think that I had any idea what I was getting into when I first came across this book.  “I like Edith Wharton,” I can imagine myself thinking.  This is true.  The first “classic” that I ever read for fun was The Age of Innocence, a hardcover edition that my best friend’s mom bought for her and that she eagerly handed off to me.  After that I read The House of Mirth and was so engaged in the story that I read the last 50 pages of it out loud to my mother in the car.  I have a list of authors whose (nearly) complete works I’d like to read and Wharton is on there.  Still, I can’t believe that Past Rachael would put an 800 page biography on her TBR because, well, biographies have never been my cup of tea.

And at first I have to admit that I found this book to be intimidating and dull.  I thought that I would probably not make it through and I have no idea what kept me going except for a stubborn streak.  Then I started loving it.  I started really looking forward to my 10 pages a day.  I read it out loud to my 9 month old and he listened, once for twenty minutes!  This week, jumbled up in my huge stack of books that need to be read, I made the final push and when I closed the book up yesterday I confess that I felt… like I was losing a trusty friend.

Lee’s coverage of Wharton is masterful, mixing biography with deep looks into Wharton’s writing.  There was so much that I didn’t know about Wharton.  I knew that she had lived in France.  I knew that she had been divorced.  There was always some hint of a broken heart in her youth.  I had no idea that she had a deep love of gardening or that she had been awarded for her charity work during WWI.  This was a book that set me off Googling, looking at pictures of Italian villas and Newport mansions, art works and muses.  In the end, I found this to be a very rewarding read.

Graphic Friday- Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

I read Bechdel’s Fun Home a few months after my father passed away and even though her father and her relationship with him was much different from my own, I found it to be very soothing in my grieving process.  I’m sure that I added this book to my TBR soon afterwards but the two books are very different.  Actually, I recall breezing through Fun Home and kind of expected the same of this.  This was a much heavier book, full of quotes and psychology.  I had a completely different reaction to it.

Bechdel tells the story of her relationship to her mother.  She talks about her mother’s reaction to the book about Bechdel’s father and the many ways that Bechdel has been formed by her mother.  There’s a lot here, about her mother’s disapproval of her homosexuality as well as her disapproval of memoir writing.  There is a deep look into why Bechdel feels envy over other’s successes and how her panic attacks possibly stem from her anger with her mother.  What you end up with is a deep look at their relationship that seems fairly told.

Now, I enjoyed this book.  It got me thinking which is something I love a book to do.  Again, it seemed to find me at the right time, when I am considering my own parenting.  Toward the end of the book, Alison’s therapist asks her a question and tells her to answer the one thing that comes to her mind first.  She asks what she most learned from her mother.  And that question alone sent me reeling, the kind of reeling that pulled me right out of the book so I could look around my own life and see the ties.

This was a great read.  I’m not sure if I like this or Fun Home best or even if the two can be compared.