Tag «nonfictionchallenge2015»

Single Sundays: America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t (from Goodreads):
Book nation, in the history of mankind there has never been a greater country than America. You could say we’re the #1 nation at being the best at greatness.

But as perfect as America is in every single way, America is broken! And we can’t exchange it because we’re 236 years past the 30-day return window. Look around–we don’t make anything anymore, we’ve mortgaged our future to China, and the Apologist-in-Chief goes on world tours just to bow before foreign leaders. Worse, the L.A. Four Seasons Hotel doesn’t even have a dedicated phone button for the Spa. You have to dial an extension! Where did we lose our way?!

It’s high time we restored America to the greatness it never lost!

Luckily, AMERICA AGAIN will singlebookedly pull this country back from the brink. It features everything from chapters, to page numbers, to fonts. Covering subject’s ranging from healthcare (“I shudder to think where we’d be without the wide variety of prescription drugs to treat our maladies, such as think-shuddering”) to the economy (“Life is giving us lemons, and we’re shipping them to the Chinese to make our lemon-flavored leadonade”) to food (“Feel free to deep fry this book-it’s a rich source of fiber”), Stephen gives America the dose of truth it needs to get back on track.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Nonfiction 2015
Author: Stephen Colbert
Genre: Nonfiction, Politics, Humour, Satire
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

In September 2015 I decided to start listening to audiobooks. It takes me approximately an hour to go grocery shopping when I am at school when you factor in walking, buying and returning home. I reasoned that would be the perfect time to listen to an audiobook instead of regular old music.

Lindsey @ Bring My Books wrote a great review of Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me audiobook and it inspired me to try listening to audiobooks of nonfiction novels–especially humour ones. Why I didn’t clue into that earlier is beyond me but it made me want to try an audiobook!

This one was just based on what was available when I looked. I loved watching The Colbert Report and I figured if I could watch Stephen Colbert on a daily basis, listening to him narrate his audiobook wouldn’t be that difficult.

The Concept:

As a Canadian I will admit that I didn’t get every American reference–however, I probably know more than the average Canadian about American politics thanks to my viewing of The Daily Show with John Stewart and The Colbert Report. He even throws in some hilarious Canadian references that had me laughing like a crazy person as I took the subway.

This book is essentially a satirical view of American politics and ideals. It basically reads as if you were watching an extended episode of The Colbert Report but on a much more candid level. As you progress through the story, Stephen gives his ironic tips on how to reclaim every American stereotype I’ve ever heard. It’s entertaining and hilarious and was everything I expected from Stephen Colbert.

The Writing/Narration:

Like I said, I felt like I was listening to a longer episode of The Colbert Report–which is exactly what I was expecting. I couldn’t imagine anyone else delivering this novel other than Stephen Colbert.

Did it Impact My Life?

I suppose it did. The simplest way is that it made me like listening to an audiobook. I had tried to listen to one or two before but I couldn’t get past a female narrator changing her voice to sound like a man during YA fiction. But listening to the author narrate their own nonfiction title–that works for me.

It also taught me a bit more about American politics and ideals. It was rather enlightening.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

This book thoroughly entertained me. It was so much fun to listen to! I don’t think it would have been the same experience if I had read it. Having Stephen Colbert actually speak the words in the way they are intended to be really helps the humour come to light.

Read if You Like: political satires
Avoid if You: don’t like books that deal with politics

similarreads

  • A Nation Worth Ranting About by Rick Mercer

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Single Sundays: How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for How to Be a Woman (from Goodreads):
Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven’t been burned as witches since 1727, life isn’t exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them? Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women’s lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother.

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Author: Caitlin Moran
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Feminism, Humour
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: June 16, 2011
Source & Format: Public Library–Audio Book

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After successfully listening to my first audiobook (Stephen Colbert’s America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t), I quickly went out to find another one to listen to while I ran errands at school. I remember seeing this book everywhere when it first came out and I heard it was a pretty funny read. I was also interested in how it approached feminism. I had tried earlier to read Spinster, a book that I thought focused on the modern view of a women but instead focused on one woman’s discovery of notable female poets…at least, that was all I got from the first two chapters before I DNF’d it.

So while How to be a Woman is essentially a memoir, the promise of humour made this book way more appealing to me and so I was excited to read it.

The Concept:

The book is essentially Moran describing her growth into womanhood from her youth to now. What makes it fun is Moran’s witty and often cynical approach to the various topics, like getting her period for the first time or shaving her legs. Things every woman has essentially had to go through or every girl will go through–making it very relatable for the female reader and enticing a laugh from her simultaneously.

The Writing / The Narration:

She reminds me a lot of a Georgia Nicolson from Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, only if she was 35+ years old and lacked a filter. And I mean no filter. There really isn’t a thing that Moran does’t touch in this book and while I admire and respect that, it didn’t make it any easier to read/listen to.

Case and point: her lengthy chapter on the discovery of masturbation and pornography. First, I commend her for discussing a somewhat taboo topic in society but that didn’t make it easier to listen to while I was grocery shopping in public…

One thing I think this book struggled with was maintaining the balance between Caitlin Moran’s personal life and her observations of what it means to be a woman. I had no idea who Caitlin Moran was before I picked up this book and so I had very little interest in hearing her long-winded stories about her personal life. I understand that this book is a memoir and a lot of her stories were completely relevant to the topic at hand–but it made me feel as though this book was 20x longer than it really needed to be.

And I’m upset that I feel that way because when she actually does get to the observations of society and what it means to be a woman, I was thoroughly engrossed. Her reflections are spot on and it makes me wish she spent more time talking about them with little tidbits of her life thrown in here and there instead of having the first 5 or so chapters retelling her life story.

Did it Impact My Life?

Yes, in a way. It reminded me that it shouldn’t be awkward to talk about some of the things she does in the book and I think it shows some of the double standards we have in society with respect the men and women. There is a time and a place for everything of course, but I think my reaction to some of the topics she addresses goes to show how conditioned I am about certain things. So in that sense, I found this book to be enlightening.

It also reassured me that I am not alone in my observations of how females act or why they feel pressured to do something a certain way. As I was listening to some of the things she was saying, it was absurd to me that some of these positions/standards haven’t been challenged.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

While I think some of the humour would have been lost if I was reading the actual text, I think I might have preferred to read this one instead. The audio book clocks in at approximately 8 hours and I know it would have taken me only 5 to read it. I felt like it was slower at times and I think reading would have let me move past those parts at a better pace. But once I got used to Caitlin’s approach and she started to delve deeper into the feminist issues, I found it much easier to listen to.

Read if You Like: cynical humour, British humour, books about female views
Avoid if You: want a short audiobook

similarreads

  • Yes Please by Amy Pohler
  • Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

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Single Sundays: We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story (from Goodreads): 
A bright, poignant, and deeply funny autobiographical account of coming of age as an amputee cancer survivor, from Josh Sundquist: Paralympic ski racer, YouTube star, and motivational speaker.

Josh Sundquist only ever had one girlfriend.
For twenty-three hours.
In eighth grade.

Why was Josh still single? To find out, he tracked down the girls he had tried to date and asked them straight up: What went wrong?

The results of Josh’s semiscientific, wholly hilarious investigation are captured here. From a disastrous Putt-Putt date involving a backward prosthetic foot, to his introduction to CFD (Close Fast Dancing), to a misguided “grand gesture” at a Miss America pageant, this story is about looking for love–or at least a girlfriend–in all the wrong places.

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Author: Josh Sundquist
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Humour
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: December 23, 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember whose blog it was (if it was yours, let me know!), but I found out about this book there. It was applauded for its humour–and I love a story that can make me laugh!

The Concept:

It takes a lot of guts to admit your embarrassing dating stories to your friends; but to write a book and share it with the world? Now that’s bold and takes a lot of guts. Not that anything is extremely embarrassing–it’s actually pretty typical and realistic. But I could see why, looking back, that it is embarrassing 😉 Whether or not all those things happened? I’m sure they are embelished a bit, but it sure is entertaining!

The semiscientific approach was a cute way of analyzing the events without it being like an essay. It kept the flow going and definitely added to the humorous tones of the novel.

The WRITING:

This book was super easy to read! It never dwelled on anything too long, it had a great flow and it was funny! Humour can be really hard to convey through text but I think Josh did a great job with it here.

did it impact my life?:

Not particularly, though I think a lot of us can relate to the events that happen to Josh. We all have those stories where we assumed things when it comes to our romantic lives.

To me, the main message of this book was to not let the past get you down. Reflect on the past and learn from it but move forward.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

This book is perfect for those who want a quick but uplifting, humourous read. I had a lot of fun reading this and I think most people will as well!

Read if You Like: humourous true stories
Avoid if You: want a more thought-provoking read

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Single Sundays: Your Ex-Boyfriend Will Hate This by Blue Sullivan

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Your Ex-Boyfriend Will Hate This (from Goodreads):
Your Ex-Boyfriend Will Hate This, is a relationship advice book that differentiates itself mostly by not being about dating at all…

Instead, it’s about answering the four core questions in life:

1) Who are you?
2) Where are you?
3) Where are you going?
4) Who are you going with?

The book suggests that the last of these questions can only be satisfactorily resolved by answering the other three first.

You must know who you are before you can know where you are in life.
You must understand where you are in life before you can decide where your life is headed.
You must also know your destination before you can choose the right “travel” partner.

To address these essential questions, we invite the reader to contemplate the origins of:

Their ideas on love.
Their ideas of what constitutes the “perfect” mate.
Their ideas of their own personal “type”.
And most importantly, their ideas of themselves, including their own capacity to love and be loved.

Your Ex-Boyfriend Will Hate This isn’t a set of inflexible rules for who you should be, how you should behave, or who and what you should care about because life is messy, and people are not the same. This book helps you unearth the “rules” which best suit you. Often success in life isn’t about discovering concrete “answers,” it’s about asking the questions better.

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Author: Blue Sullivan
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help, Dating, Relationships
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: 2014
Source & Format: Provided by Author–eBook

disclaimer

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I will admit I’ve never read a “dating help-book” before. My romantic life is a little lower than zero so I wasn’t sure if it really was for me. But when I was asked to review this book, I admit my curiosity was peaked. What appealed to me was the promise of self-discovery and enlightenment–not a set of rules that women think men like and need to do in order to “get a man”.

And don’t be deceived by the cover! It isn’t a romance novel at all. It’s a relationship advice novel for women: it is entirely nonfiction!

The Concept:

I can’t stand when my fictional book heroines change who they are to be with their “one true love” — so it TOTALLY doesn’t fly with me in real life! But what I really liked about this book is that the focus is on YOU–as in who are you as a person? What do you like in a partner? Where do you see yourself in a few years? 

The idea is that you have to find out who you are in order to make sure you find the right person to spend the rest of your life with–or have a casual relationship with. That was another thing I really appreciated about this book: it didn’t “slut-shame” or tell women not to explore their sexuality! I thought it was a really modern, open opinion on dating in today’s society and culture and I thought that was great!

And while this book may be geared more towards women who are attracted to men, the basic premise can apply to anyone of any sexual orientation.

The Writing:

This book was funny throughout but serious when it needed to be. I definitely laughed out loud with some lines with their witty cynical sarcasm. The humour didn’t make me feel like I was reading some PhD scholar who has spent his/her entire career researching relationships and was now telling me how to act in a relationship. Instead, it felt like a conversation with a real person who has personal experience and the research to back up their statements. It made the book very easy to read.

Did it Impact My Life?

A little bit. I think because I don’t really have a whole lot of dating experience, a lot of the dating topics didn’t really apply to me. But at the same time, I think the general message of knowing yourself first before you find someone else is the take away lesson for me.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

A fun and informative modern relationship advice novel that has a great message for women: find out who you are first so you aren’t defined by your relationship.

Read if You Like: relationship advice books, humourous nonfiction
Avoid if You: don’t like nonfiction, books about relationships

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Single Sundays: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (from Goodreads):
For the past three years, Jon Ronson has traveled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us, people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly or made a mistake at work. Once the transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know, they’re being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job.

A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice, but what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people’s faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.

Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws and the very scary part we all play in it.

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Author: Jon Ronson (The number of times I typed Ron Jonson: 30)
Genre: Nonfiction, Psychology, Sociology
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge Daily Show (with Jon Stewart) fan. One night, he had Jon Ronson on to discuss his newest book which was this one. The premise fascinated me and he is quite a humourous guy so I knew this book wasn’t going to be particularly dry. (I couldn’t find the Daily Show interview on YouTube but check out his interview with Channel 4 if you are curious)

Social media is so ingrained into society that it’s crazy! Never before have we been so connected to the entire world–and it to us–and I think we often forget that. Who hasn’t heard a story about someone posting something on Facebook only for it to bite them in the ass with their partner or boss finding out? Sometimes the world even gets on their case! It also is the prime method for delivering cyber bullying, often resulting in deadly consequences.

And while social media does have it’s negatives, it does have it’s positives. Social media can cause real change when like minded people band together.

The question Ronson purposes is: when is this “banding-together” taken too far?

The Concept:

This book is basically a documentary but in written form. It has interviews, investigations and history all relating to the topic of public shaming. All are very well researched and thought-out.

While I mostly read this for the social media aspect, I found myself fascinated by the other types of shaming discussed: like prisoners in a jail or public shaming as a verdict for a legal case. There were also some shaming situations that I had never considered before discussed which I found to be really interesting (like “watch your speed” signs”).

Not only does Ronson talk about what public shaming is and its various forms, he also tries to find out why public shaming has the effects that it does on some people and not others. I’m a science student, so I really liked the psychology aspect to this story. It added another layer to this story I think.

The WRiting:

This book had a great flow to it and was easy to follow. I never really got bored with it and it kept my attention from start to finish. Everything was explained clearly and it was broken down nicely. It really felt like you were on this journey with him as he explored the world of public shaming.

Ronson has a witty sense of humour and I found myself chuckling on occasion. His personality showed in his writing and I think that’s what stopped this book from being dry.

Did it Impact My Life?

Yes! It’s funny (in the ironic sense), that the day I started reading this I noticed a video trending in Canada that was a “fail” video about some Jeopardy contestants getting Canadian city questions wrong. I will admit, I’m the first person to watch a fail video because I have a twisted sense of humour. BUT this book made me realize that maybe I am a part of a bigger problem. That by watching that video–even if I’m not saying hateful comments to that person–I’m contributing to the “attack” on that person. How that affects that person can vary (it could ahve positive or negative outcomes) but this book has definitely made me think twice about what I post AND click on when using the internet.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I really enjoyed reading this book! I found it to be very interesting and easy to read. I think people of all ages can enjoy this book but I encourage those in the “Millennial” generation to give this a read. It never hurts to think twice about the consequences of your social media actions 😉

Read if You Like: documentaries, investigative journalism
Avoid if You: don’t like nonfiction books

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Single Sundays: Death of a King by Tavis Smiley with David Ritz

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year (from Goodreads):
A revealing and dramatic chronicle of the twelve months leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination

Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. New York Times bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King’s life, revealing the minister’s trials and tribulations — denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country’s black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few — all of which he had to rise above in order to lead and address the racism, poverty, and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy.

Smiley’s DEATH OF A KING paints a portrait of a leader and visionary in a narrative different from all that have come before. Here is an exceptional glimpse into King’s life — one that adds both nuance and gravitas to his legacy as an American hero.

Review:

One of my personal goals when it comes to my reading habits in this coming year is to read more non-fiction books. I tend to stick to my romances or young adult novels but I love learning about new subjects and I love to watch documentaries. So why I don’t read more non-fiction is beyond me: I suppose it is for the fact that I could watch something about a topic and get the visual effects that I need as a visual learner. However, I watch a lot of John Stewart’s Daily Show and more often than not he has on an author and I end up finishing the interview and seeing if the book is available at my library so I can read it.

I will be the first to admit I don’t know all that much about Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), which is why I wanted to read this book. I studied his “I Have a Dream” speech in my university English class about Rebels and I know the general gist of what he did in the Civil Rights Movement but nothing else really. So I was interested in learning more about him, especially with his work after the initial Civil Rights Movement began.

While the book is easy to read and people/things are explained in easy to understand language; it was hard for me to get into the flow of the writing. I haven’t read any biography books that aren’t autobiographies, so maybe this is a common practice, but it seemed a little fictional at times given that the author was writing how MLK was feeling at that particular time. How does he know that really? I’m sure he talked to people who were with MLK and did his research but it seemed really presumptive to me and I had a hard time getting past that. I suppose that is what happens with biographies but for someone who isn’t use to that, it is a big change and makes it a little difficult to process things.

What I did enjoy was learning about what was going on historically. And when the Smiley wasn’t trying to tell me how MLK was personally feeling and instead focused on the historical events and their implications, I was drawn into the story so much more.

One thing that really surprised me about reading this book was the fact that the struggles people faced in 1967-1968 are very similar to issues that we (at least in North America) still face today, such as racism, war and unemployment. Which is what Smiley was explaining on The Daily Show and how we should take to heart some of MLK’s messages as they still apply today (like focusing on national issues like unemployment and not so much on international issues). I think it’s easy for some of us to forget that these issues are happening depending on where you live. I know I am guilty of it and this book reminded me of that.

While MLK is an interesting person to read about and I liked learning more about him as a person and not just as a social advocate; I really want to read more about his wife Coretta. I would love to read a biography/memoir about her life because it seems so interesting to me. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for one.

Conclusion:

This is my first book about Martin Luther King Jr. so I’m not really sure how it compares to others. However, I think those who want to learn more about him in his last year of life and his work with the Vietnam war but want a condensed, easy to read way of doing that will enjoy this book.

Rating: 3.5/5
Would I Recommend this Book to a Friend: If they really wanted to know about MLK I would suggest this.

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, American History, Social Justice
Recommended for: 20+
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: Third Person