As I might have mentioned, the Kenosha Library now lends out Nooks. They’re really nice! There’s no glare, ever. I’d love to know how they do that. The lightest touch makes the page advance. The menus aren’t too complicated, it feels good, it looks good. I like the Nook.
This particular Nook came preloaded with six books on it. I read them all, one a day, and shall be reviewing them here and now. The books are:
Wild, Half the Sky, Killing Kennedy, One Hard Day, My secret life as a CIA agent (aka ARGO), and Mugged.
I’ll go from best to worst.
Half the Sky
This excellent book is about charities that focus on women’s rights and health in third-world countries. The author discusses the operations, the history of the site, and larger geopolitical concerns, one case study at a time, complete with photos. Its a glimpse into a touching and horrifying world us privileged westerners will never comprehend.
Each chapter is more fascinating than the last. It goes from slavery in Thailand to self-made businesswoman in Kenya, to hospitals in Cape Horn to workers rights in China. Did you know the most cost-efficient way to increase women’s rights is to hand out blocks of iodized salt? The sales increases the economy, and the increased health of the population results in more girls in school. Since most charities are religion-based, you’ll find out if teaching abstinence as a method of controlling HIV works. You’ll find out if Muslims are sexist. Anyone who has any interest in women, sex, religion, education, health, civil rights or the rest of the world should read this book.
My only complaint, if you could call it a complaint since its a result of my ignorance, is it seems to be geared towards female readers. It’s written by a man, but it talks a lot about female biology and reproduction, things I, and most men, know nothing about. I could figure out much by the context – for example, being in labor for six days is a bad thing – but why is it bad? You mean you’re not supposed to jump up and down on the stomach to force the baby out? That sort of thing.
Final Grade: A
A memoir of one crazy girl’s solo trek up the Pacific Costal Trail. It follows the standard memoir format – a blow by blow account of interesting moments interspersed with flashbacks that piece together one individual’s life.
It is extremely well written. The author carried a ton of books with her on her trek (Yikes!), and her extensive literary background shows in her writings. It’s smart, funny, humble and honest. It reminded me a lot of Prozac Nation. Little quirky reminiscences like “‘Wow’ said the one who’d said ‘yeah’. ‘Yeah’ said the one who’d said ‘Wow'” made me giggle.
The best parts are not the stories of the trail (being attacked by frogs!) or her flashbacks of her messed-up childhood, but her interactions with the quirky characters she meets on the trail. They are almost all men, and she’s a lost, attractive girl wearing a pack that’s way too big from her – of course they’re going to try to help her, and us readers get a ringside seat to the subtle dramas that ensue.
It’s a satisfying and entertaining read and made me wish I were a hot girl who gets free food and drinks from every guy ever. My one negative is more of a personal thing. I found her fear towards men annoying. She judges the men she meets as attractive or not, and from that first description, you can predict how she will interact with them. If they’re younger or handsome, she becomes best friends and hangs out with them. If they’re not handsome, she’s quiet and afraid and always checking to make sure her Swiss army knife is close at hand.
Final Grade: A-
My secret life as a CIA agent
This is the book Argo is based off of. If you thought the movie was boring, fear not, the book is much better. It details his career through the CIA and how he was instrumental in helping bring down the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war.
The guy is an artist and is trained to become a master forger. The first parts of the book are about the technical intricacies of the job and some of the techniques he uses. The rest is about his missions overseas, usually involving getting a defector out of the country quickly.
He successfully forges some documents under a tight deadline, and quickly advances through the hierarchy to be the one leading and running missions. He builds disguises and thwarts the KGB again and again. It’s one thrilling spy story after another.
The Argo mission is just one small chapter. While most of the stuff in the movie never happened in real life, the book will take you on a ‘behind the scenes’ of things that were never explained in the movie, like how Ben Afflack’s character knows so much about Iranian security or how he is able to forge stuff so quickly.
Final Grade: B+
One Hard Day
This is the book ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is based off of. But just like the Argo book, the killing of Osama Bin Laden is just one small chapter of what is basically this guys biography.
His childhood dream is to join the SEALs, and that’s what he spends his whole life doing. Each chapter is his recollections of a mission he went on. He picks the best and most exciting missions, but after a while they all sort of blur together. Get a midnight helicopter ride to a suspected terrorist house, sneak in, shoot everybody, fly out.
One mission does stand out: They have to rescue a hostage in the middle of the Indian Ocean. They jump from the plane from over the horizon so the terrorists don’t see them. They parachute for miles. They ride the boat they jumped with for hours. They get into scuba gear and swim around with sniper rifles. They wait for hours for the third terrorist to poke his head up, and when he does, they kill all three terrorists at the same time. Now that’s seriously bad-ass.
While exciting at points, I found the book a bit shallow. I was hoping for something more cerebral. Reading about killing after killing with only a trite explanation of the larger picture just isn’t my thing. I recommend watching the movie instead.
Final Grade: B
By Bill O’reilly of the O’reilly factor (apparently some kind of popular TV show)
This appropriately named book isn’t content to just walk you through the details of his assassination, but seems to try to assassinate Kennedy again and again by detailing screw-up after screw-up. There’s Kennedy’s killer and how Kennedy’s security screwed up, the bay of pigs invasion and how Kennedy screwed up, a bit about Vietnam and how everyone screwed up- but the emphasis of the book is about Kennedy’s lesser-known… ah.. how shall I put this… his um, um – Oh what the hell, it’s about sex. Sex sex sex. Lots and lots of sex.
Did you know Kennedy had sex every day? Every day! He claimed it was a medical necessity. If he didn’t have sex at least once a day he would get terrible headaches. At least! Implying he had sex multiple times a day! And not with his wife! According to the book, the Secret Service was always on edge when Jackie Kennedy was around, because when she was, JFK would be tense and irritable; the implication being he had a headache and therefore wasn’t having sex presumably because Jackie might catch him.
Kennedy swam every day in the White House pool around 1 pm. Nude. He insisted real men swim nude, and that was that. The secret service would stand guard outside and not let anyone inside, not even Jackie; not for his privacy, but because he was swimming nude with some girl. Also nude.
He had sex with so many girls the secret service stopped keeping track. If she arrived on the arm of JFK’s campaign manager, they just assumed she was for JFK and let her through. One of these girls was a nineteen year-old who was also sleeping with some aide in the Soviet Union embassy. Inconceivable!
Maybe it’s just my sexually frustrated Id, but after reading about his dalliances I couldn’t concentrate on the rest of the book. How does a guy have sex every day? Where do you get the women? I assume we are not talking about homeless old bag ladies here. While the ages of these women were not discussed, they did talk about the one nineteen year old. What kind of nineteen year old would sleep with some guy she doesn’t know? How did they find her? I assume JFK himself didn’t go out and hit on random girls on a college campus or the mall or whatever. So how does it work? His forty-year old campaign manager sees some girl walking down the street and goes “hey, want to go have sex with the president?” Maybe flashes her some hundreds? Inconceivable!
And apparently this was the norm for all the Kennedy boys. Their father lived the same way. HOW?? I mean, maybe I can see it working if you are the freaking President of the United States, maybe, but his father was just some rich guy who worked for the mob. And the boys were just sons of some rich guy who worked for the mob. Did the mob supply these girls? If so how did they get them? Did they ship them in? How did they have so many girls? I assume they had to share? Maybe not. Augh! Sex! Inconceivable! Sex everywhere! *head explodes*
I’m going to take a cold shower now.
Final grade: B-
And last and least,
By Ann Coulter
This book can be described in one word: Angry. It is just one continuous, incoherent rant against ‘liberals’, whatever they are. It goes like this: Give her version of a story from the news. Give someone else’s version of the same story. Criticize the hell out of them. End with some nonsensical, sarcastic comment. Repeat.
The sarcastic comments might have been funny. Too bad they never made sense A few examples: “But no, they forgot to give him his cookie!”, “How many blacks work for Micheal Moore?”, or my favorite “Those blunderbutts!”.
I read every agonizing 300 pages, trying to figure out her point or why she was so mad. The only semblance of any order or organization or outline was the chapter on Rodney King, and the chapter on OJ Simpson. The former she criticizes these ‘liberals’ for questioning the criminal justice system because it declared the cops innocent. The latter she criticizes this same criminal justice system when it declared OJ innocent.
It’s just bad. She says Bob Jones University’s policy of not allowing interracial dating is not racist. She’s insane. And angry. I can’t believe someone would publish this trash. More proof that brand-name recognition matters more than quality content or a shred of sanity. Stay away.
Final Grade: F