Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This book took me a bit longer to read. I kept putting it off for other books and had to return it to the library twice. In the end, I finished it on the Kindle. As a typical introvert, I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile, but I didn’t get into it easily. The more I read this book, the more I related to it. Continue reading →

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

A funny and light autobiography. I actually read this book straight through rather than choose any choices as I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. While not completely linear, going by the actual page numbers was fine. NPH and the book publisher made it relatively cohesive if you read it straight through.

I laughed a couple of times which is all one can really ask for from a biographic work of an actor known for comedy.

Content wise, I was amused by the celebrity gossip and most of the stuff did not shock me. I like NPH, but I didn’t really start to know him until “How I Met Your Mother”. I enjoyed that show in its early years (not so much later). Harris’s insight on the show tickled me because he addresses how he himself loved the Robin character and engineered it so that Barney and Robin would get together. I was a Barney/Robin shipper because I saw the attempts at chemistry. I’m glad it was intentional.

All in all, a night and frothy cocktail of a memoirs.

Read June 16-17, 2015.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

This is a small book on tidying, organising and minimalizing in life.

As with many people, I like stuff. I would say I am a collector too. I have small collections of pens, agendas, writing paraphernalia, bags, clothing, and of course, books. I like to think that I have decent self-control with shopping and finances too. I do love a good deal. I love window shopping and I routinely even put things back in the store. I am not particularly dirty or particularly organised. Everything could be better so I dabble in minimalism by reading such topics and books.

There are lots of nice tips in this book that spoke to me. I think on the whole, it addresses the issue that people will and do get attached to things and objects, but they must serve an emotional and practical purpose. This is why Kondo recommends people asking “Does this spark joy?” and actually talking to the item. I discard clothes more easily through donation and take the same perspective as well. I also try to do the vertical folding method, but it can become inconsistent.

The book reminded me to not buy if I didn’t need it. There were good tips about having a closet for each person in the household. I also appreciated the sentiment how parents find it difficult to see their children discarding things. Most of the things I use less frequently, files, books, out of season clothing, and more are at my parents’ place. When I tried to donate some clothing from there, my mother said I shouldn’t and got anxious about it.

I still need to clean my own one bedroom flat. I am lucky to have two closets. I don’t think I could do all that Kondo recommends for my current situation and life, but I can definitely use the philosophy behind it.

After reading the book, I read the Good Reads reviews and was surprised by how many people hated it. In fact, many called Kondo “crazy” or “insane”. I guess it’s the kind of book that you either understand or don’t. I think a lot of the negative reviews took Kondo’s method too literally and they also didn’t exactly understand her lifestyle or Japanese mentality and culture. I think this book is very Japanese and Eastern. I would even venture to say that the method is very spiritual. Kondo talks about her own experiences working as a Shinto temple maiden and the idea of respecting your possessions and imbuing them with energy aligns to many Eastern religions which emphasize minimalism and energy. She emphasizes the present day as well when evaluating items which is important to Buddhist philosophy of living in the moment.

Personally, I can take many of these tips to my own life. I hope to keep a copy of the book with me so I can review it in the future. I look forward to evaluating my items in my next clean-up.

This is a quick tips list of Kondo’s method on Today.com.

Read June 15, 2015.

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

The last couple of Hornby novels were starting to confirm that I loved Hornby’s non-fiction writings more than his novels. This novel reminded me why I keep reading Hornby’s fiction.

This novel was delightful, snappy, and full of distinct characters. I really enjoyed the dialogue and the pacing. The novel is about the cast and crew of a 1960s British sitcom, and there were just enough period details to make it fun and believable.

I’ve been ruminating a lot on romantic relationships and there were characters and relationships in this novel in that same vein. There is a central romance, but it’s subtle and the man in love with the protagonist has a crush on her for years. He admitted he would be happy if he could just eat breakfast with her everyday for the rest of their lives. I thought there was a good emphasis on companionship, both romantic and platonic in this novel.

I am very glad Hornby seems to be really back in the novel game. While I didn’t dislike his last couple of novels, they were not as memorable for me. This one makes me more excited about reading all his works.

Read May 23-24, 2015.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

A good start to a mystery series.

I read the first few pages of this novel back in February, but I didn’t really pick it up until recently where I finished it one weekend day as I often do. I had a Not Great week. I had not read a book in a few weeks so this was just right. It was a hot, humid day. I needed this book after a long week. I sunk into the mystery.

It was not the absolute best mystery, but pacing was right. I think it is a bit too long though, but I enjoyed it. Now that I’ve been reading J. K. Rowling for almost seventeen years, I’ve become use to her style. There is a certain wry humor and I share her love of English words. Having read The Casual Vacancy, I could see the similarities in her characters and themes as well. She is not a perfect writer nor the most literary, but she has become almost a comfort.

One thing I really liked was how London it felt. I knew that area of central London well and reading the street names brought feelings of nostalgia. Rowling has always been an interesting observer of class as well. I think she tackles it just as well as any modern British writer. Maybe even better because of her backgroun.

While I did not absolutely love Strike at first, I did find him a fascinating character and well drawn. I really liked Robin too. I wish there had been more of her. It’s got a good Holmes/Watson dynamic. I am looking forward to reading the next novel.

Read May 9, 2015.

This entry was posted in Books.

No-Knead Bread Diary Vol.1

bread

This is a bread technique I’ve wanted to try for some time. I actually like kneading. I started doing this in January when I moved into an apartment with a kitchenette and almost no counter space. I have wanted to own a dutch oven for a long time too.

Yeast: Unless otherwise stated, I used Fleischmann’s Traditional Active Dry Yeast. I didn’t proof it before using.
Salt: Fine sea salt or kosher salt.
Water: Room temp distilled water or room temp boiled tap water. I didn’t measure my water as I would always just pour enough to get a sticky dough.
Proofing: My first rise was usually 18 hours or more, but due to my schedule, I’d often have a very short second rise for about an hour. I found no significant difference with a longer second rise.
Non-stick Grain: I experimented with flour, wheat bran, cornmeal, oats, and polenta. Plain or WW flour was best because cutting made a mess of the others.
Dutch Oven: Lagostina 4-qt round dutch oven from Canadian Tire. I could not afford a Staub or Le Creuset yet; I would have to order a Lodge one online. The Lagostina is enameled on the inside unlike the Kitchen Aid and it had the dimpled lid (perfect for steam) unlike the Cuisinart. The only downside is that it’s a bit wider than I like and not 4″ high, but that’s alright for now.
Lid: I usually covered the bread for about 15-20 mins and uncovered for another 10-15.

Continue reading →

Time and Again by Jack Finney

I started this 1970 time travel novel on the day of “Mad Men”’s 7B premiere. This book does excel in its details about 1882 New York City. It was an interesting historical novel to read about 1970 as written by a writer of that time. It had some interesting moments about how someone would think about it. There was even a line about “seeing Negroes… and I prevented myself from going over there to tell them I had liked Martin Luther King Jr.”

The plot and characters were alright. Neither aspect was exceptional. I thought the protagonist and most of the characters were decently drawn out. I understood their motivations. At times, I was a bit irked that for a man trained by a government time travel programme, he made a number of historical gaffes in the past. The plot prodded along. I did no find it very compelling and not much actually happened until the last quarter.

I found the actual time travel method used in the book to be a bit silly. Maybe it was the style at the time, but there was no technology or magic involved. It was never explained in detail. The author just wanted the character to go back to 1882 more than anything.

The ending was interesting. I will no spoil it, but there is a paradox involved. It is not annoying because I think for the purposes of character and plot development, I liked the ending. However, if you have read or watched even a couple of time travel books, shows, and movies, you’d realize the paradox.

Not a bad novel. I recommend it to New Yorkers since if I lived there I’d love to find time and explore the city as the characters did.

Read April 5-6, 2015.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

This was such a simply yet nicely written memoirs. There is such a deep humbleness to Hadfield even though he admits to being an overachiever.

He is very self-aware about life and goal setting. There was a big emphasis on being prepared while enjoying the journey. At times, it felt like a good self-help book does. I wanted to emulate this man. I definitely admire him more so now after reading the book.

I also think his message and the writing about his life is not over the top or pushy. He seems to be grateful and happy with his life. He’s also worked hard and had struggles. As another optimist, I liked that. Good read.

Read April 3, 2015.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Robinson’s Gilead was one of my favourite novels of the last decade. I found it had some of the best prose of modern literary works. I knew I had to read Robinson’s other works.

When I started this novel, I had a feeling I would not love it quite as much as Gilead which is a tall order for any modern novel. I did really enjoy the writing though. Robinson’s unique storytelling and voice runs through this more darker and somber novel.

There was an ethereal quality to it that reminded me of fantasy novels by Neil Gaiman. The characters in this novel are not exactly the most relateable for me, but Ruth the narrator is a character the reader can sympathize with.

All in all, I enjoyed the prose immensely, but I would not recommend this novel for those who dislike literary fiction or who do not already like Gilead.

Read March 28-29, 2015.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

I’ve had this in my library pile for awhile. I am not sure why I put off reading it because it’s a novella more than a novel.

The only other time I’ve read Tóibín was his translation of Beowulf. With that and this novel, I can’t deny he is talented and writes well. However, he is one of those authors whose prose I respect and deem talented, but I don’t find his characters particularly engaging.

I did like this book more as I read it because I’ve had an affinity for Mary since I was a child in Catholic school. I was not there long nor am I Catholic, but Mary’s always been a comforting and fascinating person from religion.

Since reading this book over a week, it’s left a better impression than when I read it. I think reinterpreting Biblical works is a great source for literary exploration. I support it especially by good writers such as Tóibín.

Read March 28, 2015.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I believe this book is essential reading for anyone who likes the Little House series. It made me fall in love with the series again and also admire Wilder more than ever. I am glad this book has her raw writing, but also lots of great historical notes about her, Lane, and life on the frontier. Editor Pamela Smith Hill did an excellent job.

An original manuscript (which she intended to be edited by her daughter) from that time is not the most polished, but I did appreciate seeing Wilder’s natural prose. She did have moments that showed she was a great writer as the series leads you to believe.

The stories in the manuscript are much more realistic and grittier than in the series, but it still retained that voice of innocence. I ended this book liking everyone more including Pa and Rose Wilder Lane.

The physical beauty of the book is an added bonus. It’s a hefty, wide hard cover book with photos and a lovely cover.

I really enjoyed this book and it cements my love of Wilder as an author and the Little house series even with those little caveats I had during the reread.

Read March 22-25, 2015

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

I knew who the murderer was when I started this book. I had heard this story adapted on a BBC radio programme. This coloured my reading of the book and made me look more closely at the murderer.

I’ve only read a handful of Christie novels, but I’ve seen a number of the mysteries adapted for TV and movies. I find her an engaging novelists. There is a quality of timelessness to her books. I knew the work was early twentieth century, but it could have been anywhere from 1900 to 1960. She gives so much more to her characters, their psychology, and relationships.

This one has some great psychological bits and clues. Even knowing the murderer, I forgot how it happened precisely. I did find the murderer suspicious and there are indeed lots of character clues as well as real ones for the culprit.

Hope to read more Christie soon.

Read March 8-9, 2015.