Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book 38 - Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss

So, I'm a huge fan of the podcasts on Slate and recently (well, recently for me anyways because I'm still catching up on my podcasts), they spoke about this biography of President Obama. Now, I've read Dreams From My Father and I've also read a Singular Woman, which is a biography of President Obama's mother. I wanted to get more of a third party story of Barack Obama, so I picked this up.

I found that Maraniss strove to rise above the myth making/myth-bashing that both sides have attempted to create in surrounding Mr. Obama. Mr. Maraniss starts with early Kansas and early Kenya. A good portion of the book is dedicated to the familial heritage that led up to Mr. Obama's birth, including the death of great-grandparents and the fight for independence in Colonial Kenya. We don't meet an infant Obama until page 165 or so. I was particularly impressed by how detailed Mr. Maraniss' descriptions of Obama's alcoholic and self destructive father were. I was also struck by how quick Ann Dunham's relationship with Obama, Sr. was - I mean, I knew it wasn't a particularly long relationship and couldn't be because Obama Sr. had wives scattered all over the place. However, I didn't realize it was as over and done as quickly as it was.

I got the book out of the library so that I could specifically learn about President Obama and his life while he was growing up. I wanted to learn more about his coming of age - his awakening so to speak - and this book did not disappoint in that regards. I learned about Obama's life in Indonesia and in Hawai'i while he was at Punahou School and it was absolutely fascinating. He also looked at his years at Occidental College and at Columbia and while he was community organizing in Chicago. I was very impressed by Maraniss' research style - he based the biography on interviews with the people that were involved with him, letters and journals. Maraniss also did a wonderful job pointing out the differences between Obama's actual biography and what he recorded in his memoir because there were some definite inaccuracies.

This is a book that all should read and add this to their library.

Monday, November 12, 2012

First episode in a Long Time!

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      "That's where I Come In" by

Codie Prevost

      "Faded Taillights" by

Bill Hudson

      "Quiet Room" by the

Tokyo Pop Stars



    gets woman new kidney.

6 year old

    delivers her sister.


    arrested for hitting EMT.


    names her twins Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.


    is tracking smoking in movies watched by your kids.


    at high altitudes will impact the babies' development.

Good bacteria

    during pregnancy will ward off eczema.

Check out this episode!

New podcast

For show notes, pleae head here.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

IQ84 by Haruki Marukami

I have been wanting to read this book for ages; however, whenever I would go to the library to get it out, there would be no copies. Until this month. IQ84 is a play on words. "Q", pronounced "cue" in Japanese is the word for 9, so the word actually ends up being 1984. It was published in Japan in three volumes but in one volume in the United States. At over 800 pages, give yourselves a lot of time in reading this book because not only is it long, it is well worth the time and very engrossing.

The bulk of the narrative takes place in Tokyo, Japan during a fictional 1984. In the very first pages, we are introduced to Aomame, a young woman whose name literally means "peas" ("edamame" means soybeans so I figured that this was some type of bean). Aomame is a young woman that is riding in a taxi on the freeway in heavy traffic and, while in the cab, on her way to her assignments, hears a particularly uncommon symphony on the radio. When the taxi gets caught in a traffic jam that seemingly isn't moving, the driver suggests that Auomame leave the car, walk down an escape staircase though, doing so could alter reality. In spite of that warning, Aomame opts to take the walk, exits the car and goes down the staircase. Aimame begins to notice little differences about the world around her: the policemen are equipped with semi-automatic guns. There are two moons. There are major news stories that she doesn't remember ever occurring even though it's part of her job to remember those things.

We are also introduced to Tengo, a writer and cram school teacher whose enterprising editor asks that he rewrite a promising but awkwardly written manuscript originally written by a mysterious 17 year old girl. Tengo learns about the commune where the author was from and her family and becomes obsessed with finding out more about the commune and who could possibly have helped the girl to write her narrative.

I Quickly fell under the spell of this author. The narrative voice - a third person, viewing from the outside - was eerily detached (making for a wonderfully creepy tone) and the cults that were involved added an additional level. The plot in this narrative was revealed layer by layer, almost as if one were pulling back the layers of an onion. The theme of authoritarianism and the flight from it played a tremendous role in this novel and I really enjoyed how Murakami handled it - it's obvious that he despises authoritarianism because it stifles creativity and breeds other horrors upon its participants. What I didn't like is that the book seems to just peter out at some point without coming to a grand moral of the story - like 1984 by George Orwell did (well duh, Big Brother is BAD!!!). That being said, I think I am going to try another book by this author to see if he should be on my list of authors that I might recommend to a certain reader.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

If you liked The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, you will want to read this dystopian novel, which has won a number of awards in th...