The Broke and the Bookish, a brilliant book blog,
hosts a weekly top ten list meme.
Today's list is a freebie, so I've chosen to do
Top Ten Books I'm Surprised I Enjoyed
1. The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-Old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop by John Marchese
I picked this up because I liked the format of the book - slim, long like a violin, with a well-designed cover. It was well-written in a chatty, informative style that was reminiscent of reporting without being convoluted. It wove between the history of violin-making traditions and the present Brooklyn-based workshop. All-in-all, it was quite lovely and a nice change to read some literary non-fiction.
2. Tepper Isn't Going Out: A Novel by Calvin Trillin
A friend in college handed this to me. She was a New Yorker, from the Village, will live and die there, and as I'm not of that ilk, I wasn't thrilled to have a book about those sorts of New Yorkers recommended to me. But Mr. Trillin is hysterical in a sly, witty, dead-pan, describing an everyday scenario in the most tongue-in-cheek and reasonable way that I was instantly hooked and now devour everything he writes, fiction and non.
3. Three Night in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager by Buzz Bissinger
Though I've written about my love of baseball before, I also believe I've written about how I like to let baseball knowledge come to me via second sources (also known as eavesdropping on conversations around me). I honestly don't know what made me pick this book up, but I'm so glad I did. The drama, the rush of excitement, the tension between teams, the anecdotal baseball knowledge, and the high-quality writing makes me appreciate baseball so much more than I ever did before.
4. On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar
Written by women, for women, this book doesn't dumb it down but instead lays it all out there - what you need to know about your money, how to manage it, how to save for your goals, how to spend it wisely, etc., step-by-step. I think every high school graduate and college graduate and grad school graduate should receive one (and yes, hopefully on each occasion so that if you make it all the way through grad school, you'll have read this 3 times over and maybe some of it will have sunk in).
5. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach
I read this way before Eat, Pray, Love was published which is why I was SO disappointed in that book and put it down after 10 pages. HERE is a smart, funny, introspective novel about a modern, independent woman of a certain age traveling the world in a thoughtful and intelligent manner and if she happens to find some romance somewhere, good for her because she's not all giggly about it and instead values the importance of thinking for herself and not in relation to how others will see her.
6. Knock Yourself Up: No Man? No Problem: A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom by Louise Sloan
First, let me just say I hate the cover of this book and the middle subtitle "No Man? No Problem". This made me all the more surprised to enjoy the writing, the information, the discussions of pros, cons, outside pressures, internal pressures, society expectations, and ultimately choosing your own way through the quagmire that is having a baby in America, single or not.
7. A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson
In all honesty, I was way too young to be reading this book and not because it described sex or alcohol or drugs or abuse or anything of that sort but because I'm not a middle-aged woman questioning my marriage and living Kate Chopin's The Awakening by taking a vacation from things in my life and moving away to the sea. And yet there was something about her introspection that really pulled at me, as if it was giving me a taste of what would or could happen in my own life if I didn't get my act together and really get to know myself now. Sad but inspiring, too.
8. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
I have no idea. The wordplay maybe? The incredibly well-done film version? The huge ampersand on the cover? I don't know why, I just love it.
And to switch things up, here are two books I thought I'd like, but absolutely abhor instead.
9. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
I apologize in advance to Ms. Emily Crowe for this, but I really couldn't stand this book. Also, full disclosure, I put it down after about 80 pages so can't speak to the full text. In the short piece I read, I thought the voice of the narrator was supremely unauthentic as a man tried to write as a man writing from the point-of-view of his mother whom he didn't ever know. In addition, it seemed that in terms of the storyline itself, all the parts I wanted to know about were the parts glossed over or missing. Then there were the incredibly detailed surgical descriptions which I thought were unnecessary to the story. Lastly, though this normally doesn't bother me, and yes, I know the young woman was a nun, but the constant Catholic, God, Catholicism, religion, etc. references were way too heavy for my enjoyment. It was the sort of experience where, because I have a friend that loves it and had heard so much about it, I kept checking the cover, title, author, and ISBN to make sure I had the correct book in hand because my reaction was SO drastically different from all the recommendations. I'm sorry to say this simply wasn't the book for me.
10. American Shaolin by Matthew Polly
It's difficult for me to speak, talk, write, or even think about this book without using strong language, but basically if you're going to be a self-centered American prick about it, you shouldn't get to write a book about your experience with a different culture. Take an Anthropology class and learn how to be culturally sensitive, you arrogant fuck. Also, if you get off your fat ass and actually practice some of the training and dedication these monks were kind enough to let you view, then maybe I'll have a little bit of respect for you, you piece of shit poser. There, don't say you weren't warned.