Jacoba W.'s blog

Modern Romance: An Investigation

How do we choose our romantic partners?  How has choosing a partner changed in the last 50 years? 25? Even 10 years?  What role has technology played in forming and maintaining our relationships?  And has technology had a net positive impact, or negative?  You might expect answers to these questions to come from Dr. Phil, Dan Savage or Dr. Ruth.  But Aziz Ansari?  What does he know about this sort of stuff?

Surprisingly-or not once you start reading Modern Romance- a lot! Along with sociologist Eric Klineberg, Ansari has waded through countless studies on relationships, conducted focus groups around the world and has enlisted the help of reddit for a massive online focus group. The Ansari/Klineberg team also combed through data provided to them by Match.com and OkCupid.com.  Even with all of this data on their hands there are a few limitations in regards to the content of the book.  First, it is primarily focused on heterosexual couples.  Ansari states that he felt it would require a separate book to examine the impact of modern technology on homosexual relationships-maybe we can hope for a follow up! Secondly, the people he spoke with and the data he received came mostly from the middle class.  So if you’re looking for information to land a sugar momma/daddy then this book won’t help much.

Ansari tackles all the aspects of dating from the first stage to the last. It may not come as a surprise that the way we meet has changed since the 1930s.  But did you know that 1/3 of all marriages in 1930 came from couples that lived in a 5 block radius from each other?  Today, with emerging adulthood and the internet our radius for potential partners has expanded to all corners of the world. 

Another effect technology has had on dating is time-as in: how long should I wait to respond to an electronic advance.  In the old days (read: 20 years ago) you may have gotten an answering machine the first time calling someone new.  Then it may have taken them a couple of days to get back to you and it was no big deal.  Now in the age of instant communication, we’re having crises of confidences if a text hasn’t been answered in 20 minutes.

The book isn’t all data and science-there is also a smattering of advice and little insights into Ansari’s own life.  He even included a feature from his latest Neflix feature-actual texts from people’s phones. One section even deals with the optimal type of dating profile pictures (spoiler: ladies-leave your pets outta there! Men- keep them coming!) If you are looking for your information with a side of comedy, then Modern Romance is your jam.

Armchair Travel Delights

If this isn’t the year for a summer vacation, why not have a stay-cation with these books and delight in some armchair travel to places you may never have a chance to visit otherwise.

 

 

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

Mom says, "Don't come creeping into our room at night."
They sleep with loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs.
She says, "Don't startle us when we're sleeping."
"Why not?"
"We might shoot you."
"Oh."

So begins Alexandra Fuller’s memoir Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, a memoir of her childhood in growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during civil war.  Born in England, Fuller immigrated to Rhodesia with her parents when she was a toddler.  It’s hard to imagine why her parents thought moving to Rhodesia during a civil war was a good idea, but both had ties to the continent.  Her father moved to Kenya as a young man and her mother lived in Kenya during the twilight of its empire days.  Fuller never gives the impression they were imperialists but settlers.  Fuller’s dad was often absent-fighting for “white rights” in Africa.  At home, her mom managed her depression mostly with alcohol- “We're all mad, but only I have the certificate to prove it.” 

Life was hard.  The family moved from one poor performing tobacco farm to another.  Fuller focuses on stories of family life while moving around Rhodesia with the Rhodesian Civil War framing the background.  For example, Fuller’s first school picture is include and in it she is holding an Uzi. But for every mention of the war, there’s also a tale of life in Africa.  From planting during the spring to reclaiming a farmhouse from the encroaching jungle to even the sounds, Fuller paints such a detailed picture of the landscape that you can almost feel you’re there.

For more about Fuller’s family and life in Africa read: Scribling the Cat and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.

 

Novel Novels: Not Your Average Story

 

Not every story has a clear beginning, middle and end.  Here are three that challenge the traditional definition of "novel."

 

 

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

 

The title of The Lover’s Dictionary describes exactly what is inside this novel: a story of a relationship told through alphabetical dictionary entries describing the large and small events that shape a relationship.  While the first entry describes a scene from the first meeting, the rest of the novel does not follow linearly. We learn of how the unnamed couple falls in love, events that cause tension, milestones in their relationship and vignettes about love. 

 

For example:

I, n.

Me without anyone else.

3 Psychological Thrillers

Are you looking for a book that you can't put down?  One that raises the hair on your arms and doesn't leave your mind for days? Or, are you just looking for a recommendation for your Adult Summer Reading guide? One of these may be for you!

 

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Set in Stalinist Soviet Union, former war hero and current MGB agent Leo Demidov works long hours tracking down and arresting citizens suspected of political crimes.  Leo knows most of them are innocent, just as he knows he can easily be on the other side of the interrogation table.  Sent to investigate the death of a co-worker’s child, Leo is upset because he has more important work to do. His frustration levels grow when the child’s parents won’t stop insisting that their child has been murdered. In the Soviet Union in 1953 there is no crime, and certainly no murder.  Meanwhile, Leo’s jealous co-work plants seeds of doubt into their superior’s minds, and when Leo refuses to denounce his wife as a traitor, they both become targets of the State.  While on the run, Leo encounters more evidence that there is a serial killer on the loose-one that is targeting children and he is determined to put a stop to it.

This fast paced thriller will leave you on the edge of your seat. Several twists and tunrs only add to the suspense. Though the book deals with sensitive topics, they are not described in gorey detail.  Smith instead focuses on the fear the Soviet system instilled it it’s people.  Read it now before it hits the big screen this fall!

If you enjoyed Child 44, then read the series other two books- The Secret Speech and Agent 6.

 

Author Highlight- Ann Patchett

“You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say: Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.”

Ann Patchett, “The Bookstore Strikes Back”

 

You might know Ann Patchett from her bestselling novel Bel Canto. But did you know that when her hometown, Nashville TN, lost its last bookstore, Patchett and two friends decided to open their own? Named after the Greek mythological mountain home to, among other things, literature, learning, and music, Parnussus Books has proved that people still buy books. In 2011, with only a name and a business plan, Patchett set off on her book tour for State of Wonder, intending to promote the new bookstore just as much, if not more than the book. 

Before Bel Canto and even before The Patron Saint of Liars, Patchett wrote nonfiction articles for magazines.  Some well-respected ones, others not as much. Here’s where things get interesting. Patchett employed a tactic she learned while writing for fashion magazines. Because issues take three months to go to press, it is almost impossible to predict what the latest trend will be when the issue is finally out. Therefore, the editors just decide what the trend is and go with it.  Ann Patchett decided in 2011 that trend was “independent bookstores” and go with it she did.  At each appearance she hyped up bookstores and books.   As she writes about in her Atlantic article “The Bookstore Strikes Back” (also published in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage), Patchett benefited greatly from the “Colbert bump” and orders for State of Wonder soared after she appeared on The Colbert Report.

While I can go on and on about Parnussus Books, another interesting fact about Ann Patchett is her relationship with the poet and memoirist Lucy Grealy.  Patchett met Grealy when they were undergraduates at Sarah Lawrence, but didn’t really become friends with her until they moved in together while attending the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.  After Grealy’s death, Patchett wrote a memoir of their friendship called Truth and Beauty. Lyrical and haunting, Patchett reflects on the young woman they once were and how their friendship evolved over the years. 

 

Bel Canto

World renowned opera singer Roxanne Coss has just finished giving a performance honoring a Japanese CEO at the Vice President’s house in an unnamed South American country. Suddenly terrorists break in taking everyone hostage except their intended target-the President. You see, at the last minute the President stayed home to watch his favorite soap opera.  The CEO, Mr. Hosokawa is Coss’s biggest fan, he may even be in love with her, but then again, so is everyone at the gathering.  From the Russian diplomats to the teenage terrorists, Roxanne Coss has charmed them all.  The common thread is Gen, Mr. Hosokawa’s translator.  We see how the hostages spend their days and forge relationships through his conversations.  In time the hostage situation begins to seem normal for those involved-until, of course, the rescue operation occurs. Rich and imaginative, Ann Patchett knocks it out of the park.

State of Wonder

A researcher at the pharmaceutical company, Marina Singh, is sent to the Amazon to investigate the death of her colleague Anders-who was originally sent to check the progress of Dr. Annick Swenson but hasn’t been heard from for a couple of years.  Marina has mixed feelings about this trip; she’s upset about the loss of Anders, relieved to be getting away from her married boss turned lover; anxious at meeting Annick again.  Marina had once been a resident in obstetrics under Annick-until a disastrous encounter with a patient.  After arriving in Manaus, Marina has to piece together Annick’s whereabouts.  She has left few clues about where in the Amazon she is and which tribe’s fertility she is studying.  Marina is tenacious in her efforts and comes to startling conclusions as she closes in on Annick.  Patchett has the ability to make readers forget they are not actually in the Amazon.  Readers will be left in a state of wonder by the end of this novel.

 

Can't get enough of Ann Patchett? Here are some other works

Run - Struggling with single parenthood and a scandal that cost him his political career, Bernard Doyle fights his disappointment with his adopted sons' career choices before a violent event forces the members of his family to reconsider their priorities.

The Magician's Assistant - After the death of a homosexual magician, his female assistant journeys from Los Angeles to Nebraska in search of the man's hidden past and discovers his estranged family, as well as the love she has always been denied

Taft - John Nickel, an African American blues musician managing a Memphis bar, hires a white brother and sister even though he knows they mean trouble, as he pines to be reunited with his son.

What Now? - An inspirational primer based on the author's 2006 commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College discusses how to manage life's crossroads, recounts times of struggle from her own life, and celebrates the benefits of not knowing what is to come.

While You're Waiting...Yes Please

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

 

SNL star and honorary Hoosier (it’s okay to call her that, right? Is any fictional character a better example of a Hoosier than Leslie Knope?) has gifted us with a collection of biographical essays and comical observations. In them we learn about Poehler’s start in improv with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and her reoccurring role as Andy Richter’s little sister Stacy on the Late Night With Conan O’Brien Show. When recounting her rise to fame, Poehler is filled with humility and praise for those around her. While there are plenty of laugh out loud moments in the book,  a strong message of empowerment permeates throughout.  Not a self-help book, but at times it feels like Amy Poehler is your own personal cheerleader.

 

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Written by Amy Poehler’s real life BFF and fellow SNL alumna, Fey’s book is also a collection of humorous stories but also includes thoughtful observations about being a woman in charge in a field primarily dominated by men.  Through the more personal essays we see Fey’s transformation from an awkward, intelligent little girl to a writer and star of SNL.  Protip- listen to the audiobook! Fey’s delivery is priceless!

 

My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me: And Other Stories I Shouldn't Share with Acquaintances, Coworkers, Taxi drivers, Assistants, Job Interviewers, ... and Ex/Current/Future Boyfriends but Have by Hilary Winston

Hilary Winston was perusing a Los Angeles bookstore when she stumbled upon the newly published book by her ex-boyfriend. Against better judgment she picked it up to read the summary-and found it shockingly familiar.  As in it was a fictional account of her relationship with him, and fictional Hilary was referred to a number of times by an unsavory nickname.  Winston, a writer for the TV shows Community and My Name is Earl decides to write her own book-and filled it with stories of doomed relationships, awkward situations, stories about the Olive Garden, and cats.

 

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

You may recognize Kaling as Kelly from The Office or from The Mindy Project.  Is Everyone… is a tour of Kaling’s life through stories, anecdotes, lists and pictures.  Fun fact:  Kaling rose to fame after portraying Ben Affleck in an off-Broadway show titled “Matt and Ben.”  More a conversation than a memoir, Kaling’s book is quirky and pleasant and a great way to spend an afternoon.  Highlights include: “narcissistic Blackberry” photos; Irish Exits; and why do men put their shoes on so slowly?  Look for Kaling's next book Why Me later this year!

 

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloan Crosley

Sloane Crosley doesn’t work in television-though she has appeared on an episode of Gossip Girl, but her collection of essays are on par with the hilarious and talented women mentioned above.  Crosley focuses on the oddity and selfishness of adulthood.  Her essays are highly entertaining and relatable, especially for those who grew up in the late 80s/early 90s.  Highlights include: The Oregon Trail (computer game not historical event); an out of control My Little Pony Collection and despoiling a butterfly exhibit at the Natural History Museum.

While You're Waiting...The Martian

The Martian has taken the literary world by storm. It has become such a hit that the movie based off the novel will be released in November of this year.  While you're waiting for your copy of the Martian to come in, why not give one of these titles a try.

The Martian by Andy Weir

A team of six astronauts is in the beginning stages of their mission on Mars when a dust storm unexpectedly interrupts their work on the surface of the Red Planet.  Three of the astronauts see Mark Whatney hit by debris and assume he is dead.  They can’t recover his body and save themselves so they leave him on Mars while they make the long journey back to Earth.  Unfortunately for Mark, he was only knocked unconscious and now has to figure out a way to survive on the unforgiving planet for four more years until the next mission is scheduled to arrive.  Told mostly through diary entries written by Mark, this science fiction (emphasis on science) novel is funny, suspenseful and fast-paced.  Weir is able to explain highly technical and complex processes in language that novices can understand and keep up with.  This is the ultimate novel about survival in harsh and lonely conditions.

 

 

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Robert Neville is the last man-living man that is, on Earth.  An incurable plague that somehow Robert is immune to, has taken over the planet and turned every human into a vampire.  Robert spends his days in hiding and his nights hunting down the non-living.  He teeters on the edge of sanity as he grapples with the meaning of life and survival when he is the only one of his species left.  A stressful and intense short story, I Am Legend is an essential story of survival and a testament the human drive to survive.

 

 

Twenty Thousand League Under the Sea by Jules Verne

French naturalist Dr. Aronnax begins an expedition to hunt down a sea monster but upon discovering the Nautilus- a futuristic submarine, he becomes of prisoner of its creator, Captain Nemo.  Together Dr. Arronax and Captain Nemo explore the majesties of the ocean.  A futuristic novel of many years past, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a fantastical story of exploration and survival.

 

 

 

Into the Wild Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild isn’t Science Fiction. Instead it’s the real life story of exploration and survival.  Chris McCandless was a young man who gave his possessions away and embarked on a journey into the wilds of Alaska-and whose body was found a mere four months later. Investigative reporter Jon Krakauer pieces together McCandless's journey and delivers a haunting and thought provoking account of one young man’s adventure.

While You're Waiting...The Liar

The Liar, the new book from Nora Roberts, will be released next week.  While you’re waiting for your copy to reach the hold shelf, why not try these other books about women dealing with the aftermath of their husband’s secret lives?

 

The Liar by Nora Roberts

Shelby only found out her husband married her under a false name after he went missing and was presumed dead.  Devastated, she returns to her hometown with her daughter ready to start over-in life and in love. Shelby discovers a key to a safe deposit box.  What she finds inside convinces her that not only was her marriage a lie, but the stranger she was sharing her life with is a very dangerous man.  Roberts’ expert storytelling leaves the reader on the edge of her (or his!) seat right until the very end.

 

 

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Grace is a successful New York Therapist with a beautiful family and is about to start a PR blitz for her forthcoming self-help book about relationships-and how to identify the signs women tend to ignore that lead to heartbreak.  Active in her son’s school, Grace is shocked when one of her fellow committee members, Malaga, is found murdered.  Grace’s husband, Jonathon, has always been distant emotionally and works long hours, so it took Grace awhile to realize that he was missing, and not in the Midwest for a conference like he claimed.  Tension increases as Grace (and the reader) realizes that Jonathon’s disappearance and Malaga’s death are related.  Korelitz masterfully expresses Grace’s increasing anxiety as she pieces together her husband’s secret life while her own is falling apart.

 

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The lives of three seemingly unrelated women collide when one of the women, Cecilia, finds a letter from her husband to be opened only in the event of his death.  Concerned, she reads the letter and everything she thought about her marriage begins unravel.  Meanwhile, Tess is facing her own marriage problems.  Her husband has just confessed that he and Tess’s cousin are in love.  Tess moves her young son back to her hometown to live with her mother and starts a relationship with the local school’s P.E. teacher.  Rachel, the school secretary, believes the P.E. teacher murdered her only daughter thirty years earlier. These three women’s lives collide in unexpected and disturbing turns of events.

 

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreeve

A knock on her door at 3am shatter’s Katherine Lyon’s life.  The plane her husband Jack was piloting exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing all 103 on board.  The investigation indicates a bomb-and implicates Jack as being complicit in the plot.  Katherine desperately tries to protect her daughter from shock after shock as her husband’s secret life comes to light.  Shreeve is expert at revealing game changing details at just the right moment and will leave reader’s wondering just how much they know about their loved ones.

While You're Waiting...Pioneer Girl

Pioneer GirlThose of us who read the Little House on the Prairie Series as children have been eagerly awaiting Laura Ingalls Wilder’s posthumous autobiography Pioneer Girl.  The unedited, previously unpublished draft of the autobiography was originally written in 1929 served as the foundation for the Little House series after it was rejected for publication.  A columnist and editor, Wilder wrote about the 16 years her family moved through the mid-West, heavily describing the land and the work.  Unfortunately, the wait for this fantastic annotated autobiography is long, so here are some read alikes the work through while you’re waiting.

 

Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This compilation contains over 140 articles that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote from 1911-1929 and mostly published in Farmers Week.  They describe life on a Missouri Farm and of a much simpler life.  If what drew you to Prairie Girl was the nonfiction writing of Wilder; then Little House in the Ozarks  is sure to please.

 

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

Ultra educated but unemployed, Lee Lien returns home to help her Vietnamese immigrant parents run their restaurant.  Fascinated since childhood by her mother’s broach, Lee imagined it once belonged to Laura Ingalls Wilder-left in Saigon by Wilder’s daughter, Rose.  One day, Lee’s brother disappears suddenly, with a cryptic message attached to the broach. Lee begins to wonder, and then obsess over if there’s any truth to her fantasy.  Her clues lead her to interesting parallels between Laura and Rose and her and her own mother.  If you’re interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder in a less academic sense, this engaging and character driven novel will delight.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game...

Both the American League and National Leauge Championship Series start October 10th. Whether you're disappointed your favorite team is no longer in contention for the World Series or you just can't get enough of October baseball, these films are for you!

 

Field of Dreams "If you build it, he will come." An Iowa corn farmer Ray Kinsella hears this voice in his field one day and interprets it to mean he should build a baseball field on his farm. Once built, the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other 1919 Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the World Series appear.  He continues to hear voices, each time leading Ray to a different era of baseball and one step closer to his estranged father. 

42 This is the story of Jackie Robinson, recruited from the Negro Leagues to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945 and his historic 1947 rookie season where he broke the race barrier in Major League Baseball.

 Sandlot DVD image

The Sandlot This coming of age movie is about Scotty Smalls a new kid in the neighborhood and struggling to make friends.  After embarrassing himself in an improvised game of baseball, Scotty turns to his stepfather to teach him how to play, goes back to the sandlot to show his new skill, is befriended by the team and goes on a series of adventures with them.


Angels in the Outfield  Roger wants two things from life: to live with a real family instead of in a foster home and for the California Angels to finally win the pennant even though they are the worst team in the division.  One day some angels appear at a game to help Roger make this happen-but only Roger can see them and believes in them! Will the Angels win the pennant? Ya gotta believe!

Moneyball DVD image


Moneyball The true story of Oakland A's manager Billy Beane's sucessful attempt to build a winning baseball team by using computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.

 

 

A League of their Own This is a fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.  Set during World War II when a shortage of men threatens to shut down major league baseball, one major league owner convinces others to finance a woman's league.

Rookie of the Year  After his broken arm heals in an unexpected fashion, 12 year old little leaguer Henry finds that he now has the ability to pitch with incredible force. Signed by the Cubs and heading to the National League Championship game, Henry faces many challenges as a kid playing in the majors and playing alongside his heroes.

 

The Bad News Bears DVD

 

The Bad News Bears A down on his luck ex-Major Leaguer agrees to coach a ragtag little league team, whips them into shape, and takes on their nemisis in a super competitive Californian little leauge. 



Major League The Cleveland Indian's new owner wants to move the team but the only way out of the stadium contract is poor attendence. She assembles the worst baseball players and hopes for a losing season, but when the players catch wind of her plan they start winning just to spite her.

Bull Durham DVD


Bull Durham Minor Leaguer "Crash" Davis is sent to the Durham Bulls to help train up coming pitcher "Nuke" LaLoosh in the way of baseball and life.  The situation is even more complicated when Annie gets thrown into the mix.  Annie and Crash each help to shape Nuke into a major league pitcher.



 

 


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