Category: Books

Read these books!

I’ve said it before- I love to read. I love nothing more than disappearing into a great book. I usually have a thousand books on my list to read next, but in case you don’t, here are the best books I have read in the past 5-10 years:

1. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris: This book is hilarious and so are all the other books this man has written! If you have read all the Sedaris books and like that style, try Dry by Augusten Bouroughs- also very good.

2. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson: Non-fiction book talking about science from the big bang until present day. Bryson is a very entertaining writer and makes science fun.

3. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl: Don’t worry- it’s not about physics. But, it is a great novel by a beautiful writer.

4. Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas: Classic! My sister and father told me that this is one to definitely get around to and I am glad I did. I actually knew very little about the story before reading and was swept away.

5. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen: This might be the best novel I have EVER read! I really mean that. The writing is so good and the story is perfect. It is about a dysfunctional family, an affair, an unhappy woman- it’s perfect! (Corrections by the same author is also amazing)

6. The World According to Garp by John Irving: This is a great book about a boy who is a writer and his strong-willed mother. It’s just really good.

7. The Curious Incident with the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon: Honestly it’s been a while since I read this book so I don’t remember a lot about it other than the fact that I loved it and it made me smile.

8. The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs: This is a non-fiction book about a guy who tries to live the bible literally (the best he can) for a year. It’s funny and surprising. He is respectful but smart.

9. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: A beautiful story. I am pretty sure Oprah used it for one of her book club picks so it must be good.

10. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan: Best food writer of all time! Non-fiction about what is going on with the ‘food’ we eat and why we should be demanding better.

11. Middle-sex by Jeffrey Eugenides: Fascinating story about a greek family and their intersex offspring. Beautifully written.

I guarantee that the second I press “publish” I will think of 3 books that I forgot but if you are looking for a next book, you can’t go wrong with any on this list.

What did I miss? What is the best book you’ve read in the last 10 years? I might put it on my to-read list.

I’ve always wanted to be a part of a book club, but could never organize enough people to read the types of books that I want to read. So, I started my own. I will pick the first book and then be open to suggestions for future books. There is no obligation because obligations are not fun and I want this to be fun. The only thing that we will miss by doing it via my blog is that we can’t get together and drink wine to discuss. But, I guess we can all drink alone at home in front of the computer (for a lot of us this is nothing new).

I am VERY excited to announce the first book in Candysbrain No Obligation Book Club. I chose the book ‘Strong Motion’ by Jonathan Franzen. Here is a quick description of the book: Louis Holland arrives in Boston to find that a minor earthquake in Ipswich has killed his eccentric grandmother, triggering a struggle between him, his sister Eileen, and his mother Melanie over the disposition of a $22 million inheritance. During a visit to the beach, Louis meets Dr. Reneé Seitchek, a Harvard seismologist who believes she has discovered the cause of subsequent earthquakes in Peabody. Louis, Reneé, and the Hollands’ affairs become entangled with the petrochemical and weapons company Sweeting-Aldren, as well as a pro-life activist commune called the Church of Action in Christ, headed by Reverend Philip Stites.

I chose the book because I LOVE Jonathan Franzen’s writing. He may be the best writer that is writing right now! No one can write a dysfunctional family like this man can. He just has a way of describing things that make you feel like you are there. His writing is a big fluffy towel wrapped around you after a day at the beach. And, it’s not that his writing is ‘light’ or ‘comfortable’- it’s not! It is just so beautiful it makes your heart hurt. I have read ‘The Corrections’ and ‘Freedom’ by the same author and LOVED them.

A line from Strong Motion: “She gave careful attention to her ankles, fingering the round protruding bones, pinching the tendons in back and rocking a little. Her face was already losing prettiness. Time and sun and business school had made her color more shallow, a conceivable middle-aged Eileen suddingly beginning to show thruough like old wallpaper beneath a coat of new paint.”

I am starting this book today and do not have a due date. It’s a Franzen book so it’s probably pretty long. I have a Kindle so it’s hard to tell how fat this book is. I will post occasionally under the category of book club and please feel free to comment as you are reading. Since this is the first book in the club, there is a pretty good chance that I will be reading this alone and that’s okay. Thanks for joining me!

When I was little I think I knew I wanted to be a writer. I LOVED to read. I would disappear from the house, go down to the creek, climb a tree, and read until I heard my dad’s whistle. I had a pretty ridiculous imagination (still do) and I could just be in my own head for a long time. I also LOVED to write. When I got a new notebook I would open it up, smell the pages, and stare at the lines on the page. There was something so exciting about the potential of that blankness waiting to be filled. I would write (bad) poetry, short stories, and pretend to interview people for a ‘newspaper article’ I was writing.

 And then I lost my way. At some point I realized that writing wasn’t just about creativity but you actually had to know your stuff (gramar, sentence structure). I still don’t know what a dangling participle is! Writing is hard work and most people don’t make a living at it. That was just a little too real for me. It took the fun out of writing.

In college I started as an English major and was doing well. But I could never answer the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Being a ‘writer’ no longer seemed realistic to me (you know, because of all the hard work) and the other jobs that could come from an English degree didn’t excite me. I didn’t want to teach, or edit, and I didn’t want to starve. My writing career was over before it started. Blogs didn’t exist back then (back off, I’m only 30) so that media never occured to me.

So why is it that now, at this point in my life, I have returned to writing and am enjoying it so much. It’s pretty much all I think about. There is no greater thrill than when I see how many people have read what I wrote and shared it with their friends. There is no better compliment someone can give me right now than to tell me they like my blog (other than telling me I look skinny). I pretty much think about writing/blogging every minute. My husband is probably so sick of hearing  me say, “oh, I should blog about that.” It’s consuming me.

The problem is that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great job that I really enjoy, working for a company I am proud to be a part of. I am referring to what I want to do about this damn writing bug I have. I still don’t know if it is realistic to do it for a living. Everytime I read anything by authors they say how much work it is, how hard it is to make money, how it’s impossible to make money blogging unless you do it full time, etc etc. So, am I supposed to just let the joy of writing this free blog be enough? Am I supposed to pursue this further? I am not necessarily afraid of the failure. I am afraid of committing months/years to a project that brings me nothing in return (except for the joy of writing). Apparently a lot of authors work somewhere in the ‘biz’ like in publishing, or they edit a paper. I don’t. I would literally google, “how to publish a book”.

Well for right now, I am going to continue reading as much as I can, writing this blog (hoping people read it), and maybe work on my many book ideas on the side. We’ll see where it goes. Thanks for listening.

More On Christian!

 Okay, I feel like we need to talk about our obsession with Christian Grey. Obviously we are all swooning. Everywhere I go I hear women talking about Christian. (By the way, we are all now on a first name basis with Mr. Grey.) So, what is it that is fascinating all of us?

This man is self-admittedly ’50 shades of Fucked up’. So to say that he comes with a LOT of baggage is an understatement. He has treated women poorly his whole adult life. He has beaten and punished women (yes, I know it was consensual) and in exchange has provided them with gifts and cars and clothes. They had to follow a ridiculous set of rules and could never achieve a close and loving relationship. And, after he decided he was done, he would move on to another submissive. When I say it like this, he sounds horrible. No self-respecting female in the world thinks that sounds good. So, back to my original question: What is it about this man that is making us all crazy?!

Is it the money?: This might be a small part of it. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I mentally roll my eyes at Ana for being so reluctant to accept the lifestyle. “Oh, the house keeping and cooking and shopping is too much for you? Suck it up buttercup!” Who doesn’t want to vacation on giant yachts and have a second home in Colorado, etc etc etc. I think all women (even us feminists) dream of a man/partner that can provide this kind of life for us. This does NOT mean we can’t get there on our own, but deep down the life that Christian can provide sounds pretty darn good.

Is it the sex?: Okay, this is probably a big part of it. We all read the book and are enraptured by the passion in which these two ‘make love’. It’s like a dirty fairy tale- and they fucked happily ever after. But, beyond that, these two are doing things that most of us don’t do, don’t discuss, don’t try. Just like Ana, even some of the stuff that shocks us- intrigues us. Not to mention, the author describes Christian as a perfect physical specimen who has every possible skill a man would need.

So- to sum up so far an insanely rich man who is amazing and adventurous in bed who might also be the most handsome man on the planet. Check.

Is it because we all want to be the 1 girl that can save the man?: In my opinion this might be the biggest part yet. Don’t we all desire to be that one special someone that changes everything? They one girl that could make him change his ways. The one girl that can save him from his destructive lifestyle and turn him into the man we want. That is why we are attracted to ‘bad boys’. We want the adventure of the bad behavior and secretly we think that we are the one thing that he has been waiting for all this time.

Is it because we want to be loved that desperately?: Yes! Of course it is. I want to be loved the way he loves Ana. And, yes, I know it’s dysfunctional. I don’t care. I want a man to be obsessed with me! To think of me every second and to worry about my well-being.

Is it realistic- no. Does it matter- no. Even though this is fun to talk about, what we need to realize is that it’s fictional. This would not work for me- I am way too opinionated and competitive. I don’t think I have a submissive bone in my body. It doesn’t mean that I don’t also secretly love Christian (well I guess it’s not a secret any more). But, it sure makes for fun reading.

What about you? Why do you love Christian? What did I miss?

(Don’t worry- no spoilers) I am sure most of you have either read or at least heard of this book by now because it seems like the world is talking about. And, now that I finished the first book, I know why. First I’ll give you a little background without ruining the story for you and then I’ll go into my commentary.

The story is about a young girl, fresh out of college who meets a ridiculously hot and insanely rich man who wants her. Too good to be true? Yep! It turns out that this man, Christian Grey, has some very particular sexual preferences. The book (in pretty serious detail) talks about their sexual relationship, the normal ups and downs, and the sacrifices or concessions you make in a new relationship and when dealing with another person’s baggage. This is actually a trilogy, but I have only read the first book so I can only comment on the beginning of the story.

What is so fascinating about this book is how it is unlike anything that most of us have read. This is a love story WITH sex. And, let’s be honest here, that’s what women want in a book, love AND sex. We might not have known this about ourselves before reading 50 shades, but we know now! Now, I don’t want to say that women are more sophisticated with our ‘pornography’ preferences, but what the hell- Women are more sophisticated with our ‘pornography’ preferences. (I am using quotes because I feel like porn has a bad stigma and this book is nothing like what the average person thinks of when they think of porn). Women are not impressed by the following: girl answers knock at door, it’s the pizza guy but she has no money for the pizza. How can she possibly pay the man? Oh, I have an idea…. Yadda yadda yadda…..rough degrading fast sex…..shows over. We want a love story with a strong female protagonist and a sexy man, oh yeah and sex (even kinky sex). Who knew?! This book provides that. It’s like porn for the strong independent female.

Since first hearing about this book, I have heard women talking about it EVERYWHERE! That is every author’s dream- to write a story that the world is talking about. Women of all ages are discussing this book. Your mom is probably reading this book! Why? Because it is missing from our lives. This is the perfect book for women in monogamous relationships and its the perfect book for single women too. We could all use a little sexual excitement. How is it that no one else has thought of or succeeded with this? This is a HUGE un-tapped market and I predict it won’t be un-tapped for long. I bet there will be a lot more books and movies coming out like this in the next 3 years. The market has spoken.

Now, I’m not blindly praising this book. It does have flaws. Some parts are a little repetitive and the writing is not great. I like beautiful literary fiction and this definitely falls short, but frankly I don’t care. It makes up for that in how the story sucks you in and you want to hear about what they are going to do next. Feminists might find issue with this book (and I usually lean a little feminist myself), but I don’t mind it in this story. Does the female character make sacrifices she is not thrilled about to make a man happy? Yes. But the male character does as well. They struggle to find their own version of normal the way that we all do. And it’s thrillingly voyeuristic to watch it unfold.

Read this book! Better yet, read it out loud to your husband. 🙂

These books pretty much consumed my life in the short time it took me to read them. Now that I am done reading them, I find that I want to keep talking about the books. Here are some of my thoughts on what we should learn from the Hunger Games. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t finished the books, you may not want to read!

1. Don’t be so wasteful: Don’t be like the people in the capitol living a life of excess while others suffered! Take a couple of minutes to think about how wasteful we really are. How much food do you throw away because it goes bad before you eat it? How many times have you taken a long shower because it feels SO good? I’m no angel, I probably throw away more lettuce than I eat. But, since reading the books, I definitely think twice. If Katniss can have wild dog stew, I can eat my salad even though I am dreaming of take-out. We could all learn a little from the waste-not, want-not attitude of district 13.

2. Don’t become de-sensitized: Don’t let reality TV and the evening news make you forget that there are real people with real problems out there. Now, I am not talking about white girl problems. I am talking about the real suffering in the world. I know we hear about shootings and war all the time and it can be overwhelming. Don’t forget that people in Iraq and Africa love their babies as much as we do. People in Uganda want a good life just like you do. We are not entitled to a better life because of where we live.

3. Learn to be resourceful: How many of you thought while reading these books, “Well I’d be dead first!”? We are all so clueless because of the easy lives we have led. We live in this suburban bubble. This doesn’t mean that you need to learn to shoot a bow and arrow and kill your dinner. But maybe you can start a garden, or learn about your local environment. Are you fit enough to hike to safety in an emergency? Do you know CPR or how to make a tourniquet? Hopefully this will never be an issue for you and you stay in your bubble, but…..

4. A young girl can change the world: What are we teaching our young people- girls especially? Do they know-not only- their potential but also about their obligation to improve their world/community. I grew up with good parents in a good community and truly DID believe that I could do whatever I wanted. However, no one told me that I would be expected to sacrifice for the betterment of all (maybe they did and I wasn’t listening). That should be a lesson we all learn. Women right now need to step up and be the positive role models our young girls (and boys!) need. If not us, it will be all Snooki and Kardashians and god knows who else.

5. You DO have time to read: I have to give credit to my sister for this one. But how many of you think to yourself “I am a mom, I work full-time, I have no time to read”? How fast did you read the Hunger Games? I have a 3 1/2 year old boy, an 8 month old girl, a full-time job, and I just started a boot camp. I read all three books in 12 days. I can no longer use the excuse that I don’t have time to read. We are obviously just not prioritizing. I love when people say I don’t have time to work out but they have 3 hours a week for American Idol. You make time for what you want. Make time to read!