Saturday, October 30, 2010

October Book Reviews: Schulz and Peanuts, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Born on a Blue Day, Carrie, A Farewell to Arms, and The Glass Castle

October turned out to be a great month for reading. I was surprised at how many books I was able to finish and I really enjoyed all of them! You can't lose with any of these.

My Rating System: *OK, **Good, ***Great

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography
by David Michaelis
Rating: **

I had the audiobook version of this one which I noticed was an abridged version of the original, so I'm not sure how much was taken out. I actually really liked this book. It was interesting to find out how Schulz got his start. I admired the fact that he set a goal as a kid to be a cartoonist and just kept plugging away at his dream until it happened. There was a bit of repetition as far as his relationship statuses and such... probably a little more of that could have been omitted without harming the final product, but overall it was an interesting and entertaining read.

by Benjamin Franklin  (duh)
Rating: *+

I really didn't expect to make it through this book. I thought I would get bored and dump it. But, it turned out to be very interesting. Franklin was responsible for so many things of which I'd never heard about. Did you know he actually created a day planner for himself? Yeah, me neither! I thought that was a total marketing ploy! I do think he was a little full of himself... he kept talking about how everyone would come to him to ask for his opinion and advice and thought he was the smartest man alive and also that he was the only one who had printing press skills. So that got a little old. But, he was a smart guy. And had a lot of great ideas. This was a bit difficult to read sometimes just because of the Old English style of speaking from back in the day, but I think I got the overall gist of things. An interesting insight to the life of one of our founding fathers. Also his son's initials are WTF. HA! Old Ben, what a card!

by Daniel Tammet
Rating: **+

I was immediately drawn to this book when I saw it was written by an Autistic savant. Basically Daniel Tammet is a high-functioning version of Rain Man. It was incredibly interesting to have a first hand account of how Tammet's brain works and how he processes the world. He covers his entire life up until the point he writes this book, so you get to see what he was like as a baby, how he developed as a child, and how he is able to make it as an adult. Any book written by someone who memorized 22,000 digits of pi has to be awesome, right?

by Stephen King
Rating: **+

Seth and I listened to this book on a road trip up to Idaho. First of all, it was read by Sissy Spacek, so you know that's going to be awesome. Ok, actually Seth had no idea who Sissy Spacek was, but we fixed that. Anyway, we both really enjoyed this book a lot. There are a lot of details and extra bits of the story you just don't get with the movie. Oh, and in case you're wondering what this book is about, Carrie is a girl with telekinetic powers who lives with her religiously fanatical mother. She also gets teased a lot. You know that's not going to make for a happy ending... Also, Seth and I rented this movie and watched it that same weekend. Awesome as well. Although "they're all going to laugh at you" does not come from the book. But I think it was a great addition. One more tidbit of info... Stephen King originally threw the manuscript for this book away. His wife was the one who found it in the trash and made him finish it. Good thing. It made him famous.

A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
Rating: **

After reading The Sun Also Rises, I decided to give this book a shot. I honestly wasn't expecting much, except maybe that I wasn't going to like it because it's a war story and I'm not usually into that sort of thing. However, I found myself really liking this one. I think I just like Hemingway in general. I like his simplistic writing style and the way he develops his characters. I was talking to Seth about how he makes the food and drink in his books sound so good, but he doesn't really describe them. For example, he talks about how a guy at the hotel makes him some sandwiches and I just thought... Man! Those sandwiches sound really good! Even though he hadn't described them at all. Seth said it was because he writes in a way that makes your brain fill in all the details and I totally agree. Hemingway makes it easy to use your own imagination instead of spelling it all out for you.

Also, for those of you who are into the audiobooks like I am, you know that the narrator can make or break a book. I thought John Slattery did an amazing job with this one. He provided the correct accents for each of the characters voices without sounding cheesy or overdone. It made me think that I need to keep track of the narrators I like so I can pick out more books that they've read. It's always disappointing to pick up an audiobook that looks good only to have the narrator ruin it.

by Jeannette Walls
Rating: **+

This was another book I picked up for cheap at a library sale. It's another one of those books that's very popular at the moment which was one reason I bought it. It's also the reason it sat around for awhile before I read it... I'm usually disappointed by the popular books. I finally decided I was in the mood to read this one and when I picked it up I noticed the caption on the front that compared Walls to Frank McCourt... DING DING DING! We have a winner. I hadn't realized this was a non-fiction book and had I known she'd been compared to McCourt I would've picked it up long ago.

The Glass Castle is a book about the author Jeannette Walls and her life growing up with her siblings in a poor family led by her eccentric parents. Constantly moving around, living off the grid, and fighting to survive are all part of a normal existence.

I was a little skeptical of the McCourt comparision, but I do think it was accurate. Although she had a really rough time of it, Walls doesn't make her parents into villains and actually seems to look back nostalgically at a great part of her childhood. I admire her for this as it would've been very easy for her to paint her parents as monsters and merely seek after sympathy from her readers. Of course, this angle would've been completely justified. I thought The Glass Castle is well deserving of its popularity and I would highly recommend it. A very enjoyable book.


Rachel said...

I loled and loled at your Benjamin Franklin review. From the "duh" to the "what a card," it was ingenious.

I heard an NPR interview with that autistic savant guy once and was fascinated. I'll have to see if I can find the book.

Holly said...

"Born on a Blue Day" is definitely the memoir I will be reading for my 101 in 1001 list. It sounds absolutely wonderful! Thanks for your book reviews - I love reading them and finding new books to add to my list.