This time of year has always meant "start" for me. Basically always. The only exception was when I was in Peru--but since the seasons were all different there, it was hard to even realize it was September. So here I am, 25 years old, and this September isn't the start of anything. I'm not buying back to school clothes, I'm not paying tuition, I'm not buying textbooks, and I am definitely not getting nervous about what's coming ahead. Instead I am watching the school buses drive by thinking, "what on earth am I going to do with all my time?"
So, I decided I need to start doing something at least sort of academic. I'm going to read more. And, to make sure that I actually do it, every time I finish a book, I'm going to write a short review here. Since this is public, it'll motivate me to make sure I don't go too long in between books. Today is September 6th. So you should be hearing a review before too long.

September 13, 2012--The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success: Pretty inspiring book. It makes you feel like you can be successful at freelance writing if you just set your mind to it. It tells you what you should do, and what things you shouldn't do. To sum up the book in a sentence, it would be "if you want to be a freelance writer, get started now and go for it!". As I was reading the book, I actually ended up submitting a couple things to magazines--because I just figured if I want to get accepted, I need to start now. I'd recommend this to anyone who is looking into freelance writing.

September 24th, 2012--Waiting for "Superman": How We Can Save America's Failing Public Schools: Truthfully, I wanted to check out the movie from the library but they only carry the book. I figured that since the book is always better than the movie, it would be better. What I didn't realize until reading the book, however, is that this book is actually based on the movie--it's supposed to be a "companion" to the movie. I wish I would have seen the movie before reading it. Anyway, so what did I think of it? It was good. I think it would be really eye-opening to someone who hasn't really studied much about this (but I just finished a master's degree where I was studying stuff about the problems with education all the time). The chapter I liked the most was one written by Eric Schwartz: CEO/cofounder of a program called Citizen Schools. It is a volunteer run program that brings professionals in the community in to teach kids about their real jobs. So, kids participate in an after-school "apprenticeship" where a rocket scientist helps kids conduct experiments, an editor helps kids put together a newspaper, or an artist teaches kids to create their own projects. The point is to help kids who normally would not have a lot of after-school learning support be able to continue learning after school hours. It seems like a great program. I want to look at how I can get involved.

October 5, 2012-- The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom. I have really enjoyed Mitch Albom's other books, so when I heard about this one, I was instantly interested. When I read a brief synopsis (that it was a story of Father Time and how people had become obsessed with time), I was even more interested. When I was in Peru, I realized how obsessed with time I am (and every American I know is). It was very eye-opening to see a society that really lacks the obsession that we have. It was a huge adjustment when I got there, and an even bigger adjustment when I got home. (I remember Camm asking me on dates for 7pm. I'd be out running errands, get home at 7:10 and be absolutely shocked that he was already there.) OK, back to the book: I'm starting a book club with some friends and I was in charge of deciding the first book. So I chose this one. Here's my review:
I think that as I continue to think about it, I'll have more insights. But first impressions: It certainly makes me think. How am I obsessed with time? Do I want more time at times? Do I want less at times? What do I fear about time? What do I like about time? In what ways does calculating time make life easier? In what ways does calculating time make life harder? How are skyscrapers and wealth a symbol of our constant quest for power? Am I constantly on that quest? How is that detrimental to my relationships? Is calculating time a method of feeling in control? How come it makes us feel out of control? Have I ever had a moment in my life when I actually wasn't thinking at all about time? What was that like? Why was that different than every other moment that I've had? I think I'll take all these questions to the discussion at the book club on the 24th.

October 22, 2012--Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me how as a sociologist I can avoid being judgmental even though what I do is study people. I told her that to me being a sociologist actually makes me less judgmental because I understand that people are given different opportunities. I fully realize that I had the opportunity to go to college and get my Master's because I was blessed with a family who understood how to help me with my homework, help me fill out college applications, brought me to different schools to visit, etc. Whereas if I'd grown up in innercity Harlem, I probably wouldn't have had the opportunities I had (even if I was a really hard worker with a really high IQ--if you don't have the opportunity, you just can't be successful). Anyway, Outliers is an entire book that backs up what I told my friend. It is the story of how the successful had the opportunity to become successful. It's a fun written book with lots of stories that kind of paint a picture of what social science is about - to the non-academic individual (so it's not going to put you to sleep even though it is nonfiction!)

November 28th, 2012--The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho: I think that it's actually a good book but I was bored during it. I read it all in one day trying to get ready for my book club. But I think it is the sort of book you should read in chunks and step back and think about. It should not be read in one day. It helped me remember to enjoy the journey but still look forward to the future. I guess it is easy to get caught up in only the journey and forget about the future or to only focus on the future and rush through the journey.

November 30th, 2012--Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: Great book about finding your inner-voice in writing. Two main take-aways for me were: 1 separate the writer from the editor inside you (write first without worrying about how it is-later the editor can come through). 2. Practice! Just like with any other talent, you have to practice a LOT. Write every day.
Two ideas that she had that I think would be fun are a "Story Circle" and a "Writing Marathon". A story circle is where you invite over a bunch a friends, sit in a circle on the floor, have a specific topic and have everyone tell a story. A writing marathon is where a group of people get together, write for 15 minutes, then read what you wrote, then write 15 more, read, write, read, etc. Keep going like that until you've done it for like 4 hours. You don't comment on each other's work. You just use it to fuel your next writing increment. Is anyone interested in doing something like that with me? I'd love to do both of those things. Let me know if you are!

December 1, 2012--Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright--What a fabulous way to start off the Christmas season! It is such a quick read (just read the whole thing during Ruby's nap), but it was so sweet! I loved the book. It's about this girl who wants to further her career in journalism but learns about true charity on the way. Fabulous, touching, sweet. And very short-so even if you don't like it you didn't "waste" any time. Great book to get you feeling the spirit of Christmas!

December 18th, 2012--Christmas Train by David Baldacci--I guess I decided to get into the cheesy Christmas stories this year. This one was cute and funny. I really loved the ending--I wasn't expecting the little twist in it. The story (briefly) is just about a journalist who decides to ride the train during the holidays and all the people he meets on the train. Good Christmas read.

December 21st, 2012--The Christmas List by Richard Evans--Out of the sappy three sappy Christmas books I've read this year, this was probably my least favorite. But it was still entertaining enough that I read the whole book rather quickly. It was about this very mean, rich man and how he has a change of heart. I guess it is your classic Scrooge story.

January 6th, 2013--The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton - I'll be honest. Didn't love it. Sure, it was entertaining. But it wasn't very thought provoking. I guess afterwards, when we discussed the "discussion questions" at the end with my book club, I started to see some things to think about. But I think if I'm going to read fiction, I like it to get me thinking more. But, yes, it was an easy (though long) entertaining read.

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