Dubliners – James Joyce

This work of art reflects life in Ireland at the turn of the last century, and by rejecting euphemism, reveals to the Irish their unromantic realities. Each of the 15 stories offers glimpses into the lives of ordinary Dubliners, and collectively they paint a portrait of a nation.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

An odd and – dare I say it? – boring little book. The book blurb – glimpses into the lives of ordinary Dubliners – is very accurate…the short stories cover the extremely mundane lives of working-class city folk, and you’d be sorely disappointed if you went in expecting any interesting action.

And yet.

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The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Well you guys, this is it – my first ever 1-star review. Words cannot describe how much I detested this book.

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Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain, laying out his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine—now with all-new, never-before-published material.

New York Chef Tony Bourdain gives away secrets of the trade in his wickedly funny, inspiring memoir/expose. Kitchen Confidential reveals what Bourdain calls “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine.”

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This book is a total whirlwind to read. I first picked it up one winter break in college, and it immediately grabbed me until I was done just a day later – it was just impossible to put down. I’ve since come back to it a couple times (especially interesting as the restaurant industry has overhauled itself in the past decade or so) and recommended/gifted it to countless people, and I have to say, it’s still as good as it was that first time through.

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Born to Run – Christopher McDougall

Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book. Even though I’d call myself only a casual runner at best (and that’s when I’m actively running at all), Born to Run really ignited an excitement in me to not only run more, but also to simply enjoy it.

The main story about the eventual race between the Americans and the legendary Tarahumara was really interesting to read, but the two most fascinating parts for me were: 1) learning the evolutionary history of how humans became uniquely designed to run, and 2) as mentioned above, that you can sheerly love the act of running itself and have fun doing it. The bushmen’s hunt near the end was also extremely vivid – the storytelling made it seem like running your prey to exhaustion was the most natural thing to do in the world, and genuinely like running at an easy lope for hours on end was what we were born to do.

McDougall alternates the science/history sections and anecdotal sections so you get a good balance between entertainment and knowledge, and his pacing is even and gradual, making his ideas easy to follow and digest. This book also popularized those dreadful-looking toe shoes (Vibrams being the biggest brand) under the idea that they allowed you to run more naturally – the closest sensation to running barefoot while still wearing something protecting you from the ground. Even though that theory has since been disproven, the other premises in its pages were still fascinating and more than made up for that misplaced endorsement.

I can definitely see myself coming back to this book throughout my life. 

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

‘Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.’

People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be skeptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. But what if, for once, the predictions are right, and the apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea? You could spend the time left drowning your sorrows, giving away all your possessions in preparation for the rapture, or laughing it off as (hopefully) just another hoax. Or you could just try to do something about it.

It’s a predicament that Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon now finds themselves in. They’ve been living amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and, truth be told, have grown rather fond of the lifestyle and, in all honesty, are not actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse.

And then there’s the small matter that someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist… 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What a delightful, quirky book! I watched the TV show first (which I’ll get to in a sec) and followed it up with the book, and the absurdist, clever tone in both was a perfect match for my sense of humor.

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The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let’s begin…
***
Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others.
For fans of Claire North and Kate Atkinson, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive novel that follows one man’s race against time to find a killer— but an astonishing time-turning twist means that nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Omg. Where do I even begin with this book?! If you haven’t read it yet, you need to. It’s that good.

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Uncanny Valley – Anna Wiener

In her mid-twenties, at the height of tech industry idealism, Anna Wiener—stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, like any good millennial–left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress.

Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building.

Part coming-age-story, part portrait of an already-bygone era, Anna Wiener’s memoir is a rare first-person glimpse into high-flying, reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, unregulated surveillance, wild fortune, and accelerating political power. With wit, candor, and heart, Anna deftly charts the tech industry’s shift from self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment.

Unsparing and incisive, Uncanny Valley is a cautionary tale, and a revelatory interrogation of a world reckoning with consequences its unwitting designers are only beginning to understand.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

First off, I just have to say how much I LOVE the cover! It’s eye-catching and fits the subject perfectly…although to clarify just in case, know that this book is not about robots and AI (not directly, anyway), but about Silicon Valley during the growth years.

This was one of my most anticipated reads of early 2020 (can’t believe I posted that in January, seems like a lifetime ago). How’d it stack up? I was maybe a little disappointed by it overall, but it was still an entertaining and informative read.

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