I'd love to get conversations going, so if you've also read a book I've reviewed, feel free to comment and add your opinion!

If you're interested in purchasing a book, or would like to learn more about it, click on the author's name at the top of the post and it will direct you to the book at amazon.com.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

By John Elder Robison, 2007
282 pages

Look Me in the Eye is the story of John Elder Robison, who did not know until age 40 that he had Asperger's syndrome.  The book chronicles his life as he tries to survive the world with a social disorder he is unaware of.

Having a brother with Asperger's really made me want to read this book.  However, if you're curious about the life of an average "Aspergian", as Robison calls himself, this book would not be my top recommendation for information.

While this memoir maps the life of a very fascinating man, it's not the ideal window into the life of the average autistic child.  Robison often was in the right place at the opportune time, and because his diagnosis came later in life, he was thrown into situations that would be unlikely for someone known to have Asperger's.  Many of the stories in this book are entertaining, and sometimes shocking, because they are out the ordinary life experiences, and not necessarily because they were experienced by someone on the autism spectrum.  The earliest years that he writes about are probably the most informative as far as portraying what life as an "Aspergian" is like.

But if you enjoy stories of characters who overcome extreme life challenges, then Look Me in the Eye is an entertaining and heartfelt read.

If you want more information about Asperger's and autism, then I recommend Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support at www.oasisautism.org.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


By Neil Gaiman, 1996
370 pages

Neverwhere is a cheap mash-up of fantasy and soap opera.  I picked this book up off Barnes and Noble's usually reliable "Buy 2 Get One Free" table.  I hadn't heard anything about it or the author, but thought the blurb on the back sounded interesting - a Londoner's life is dramatically altered when he stumbles into an unusual, underground version of the city.  My instincts must have been dysfunctional that day. 

The book's themes and metaphors leap from Christian religion to Greek mythology.  The historical power of these references led me to believe that I should be unveiling hidden meaning in the story, but had no such luck.  The goal of the protagonist is also unclear.  His previous experiences do not coincide with his thoughts and actions later in the book.  The relationship development is also sketchy.  As the reader, you are constantly forced to run circles around absurd characters who seem to have a Wonderland complex - like Alice, you never get a straight answer from anyone.  Reading along, it felt like the author was too engrossed with inventing unbelievable, physics-defying scenarios to have his characters react appropriately to what is happening.  The childish, fairy-tale-like environment clashes badly with adult language and bizarrely gruesome violence.  

I got the overall impression that the author lacked an initial plan for the story's development.  There are so many inconsistencies, that I can't give Neverwhere my recommendation.  But there's something to be said for having read a bad book.  I'll be more wary of that table in the future!

If you've read Neverwhere, what did you think?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

By Stieg Larsson, 2009
630 pages

You may be relieved to discover that the sequel to Larrson's first novel is much more fast-paced.  As far as books and movies go, I generally find the second in a series to be the weakest.  However, that was not the case when I read The Girl Who Played With Fire.  The conflict detonates in the opening chapter and leaves you feeling a little breathless by the time you grab the last page.

As I mentioned before, the character Lisbeth Salander is the mechanism for everything intriguing about these books.  This sequel dives deeper into her past, and uncovers a disturbing and eye opening look at an intelligent eccentric.  Her personal background becomes the complicated puzzle for the story, and the pieces are really entertaining to connect!

Larsson's consistency with his characters and the way he paints the psychological and emotional canvas make for a gripping read.  While the book contains some extremely violent imagery and aggressively odious concepts, I feel the writing opens a fictional window to an unsettling landscape, rather than providing unnecessary shock value.

If you've read The Girl Who Played With Fire, what did you think?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

By Stieg Larsson, 2008
590 pages

I'm sure you've heard plenty about this National Bestseller that has passed the mark of 10 million copies sold.  If you're reluctant to entangle yourself with this Swedish trilogy, I say start reading!

This first novel involves the investigation of a 40-year-old murder mystery.  But all the books of Larsson's Millennium Trilogy also touch on themes of social prejudice and question what is generally accepted as "normal" vs. psychotic behavior.

The greatest thing about this book is its characters.  Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, is a delinquent genius who is simultaneously fascinating and irritating.  Her nonconformist psyche is confusing but also refreshingly different.  I deem it a sign of excellent writing when, as the reader, you can't decide whether or not to like a character.  Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist pull all the various elements of the book together into a cohesive and intriguing storyline. 

If you think the book is dragging in the first few chapters, don't give up!  The background threads slowly weave in, and once the momentum picks up you'll feel as if your sprinting.  The ending is certainly worth wading through the seemingly impeding details.

If you've read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, what did you think?

  • Checkout the Swedish film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo!
  • Learn more about the author Stieg Larrson at www.stieglarsson.com

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
By Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner , 2005
268 pages, including Bonus Matter

I'd heard good things about this New York Times Bestseller, but was worried I would fail to comprehend a word of it as I have near zero knowledge of economics.  The amusing title appeared to be a trap for unsuspecting readers.  However, I was surprised to find it unpretentious, unlike so many other information-based, non-fiction literature I've come across.  The writing style is very conversational, making it easy to follow.  

Freakonomics uses unexpectedly entertaining factoids to illustrate the force of incentives and the difference between correlation and causality.  My brain felt like it was absorbing several mini lessons at once, as the book contains everything from why people cheat, to the science behind how parents name their children.

The authors of this book reminded me of the best teachers I've had throughout my education.  New ideas last longer in my memory when they come from teachers that create an engaging learning environment and tie information to real life situations.

This is an intriguing read even if you are not an economic enthusiast.  There are handfuls of great conversation starters and controversial topics worth considering.  If you're doubting the incredible educational nature of this book, listen to this: Freakonomics is required reading for Economics 101 at Weber State!

I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Super Freakonomics!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Top Ten

It seems appropriate to ignite this blog by sharing my "Top Ten".  This list is of course in a constant state of revision as I eat through a new book every couple of weeks or so.  While some books tap me with a feeling of "ehhh....", others leave their stamp on my memory, either because they contain intriguing interactions between characters, an engaging puzzle to piece together, or enlightening information about our world.  I feel these ten books, in no particular order, have one or more of these memorable qualities and are also just entertaining to read!

 House of Sand and Fog, by Andre Dubus III
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
The Harry Potter Series, by J. K. Rowling

Yes, I know that Harry Potter is actually seven books, but since the whole series is needed to complete the story I counted it as one....so there.  :)