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✿Ring Around the Prose✿

Month

October 2016

Life updates, or something like that

A month ago I was bored out of my mind waiting for school to start. When friends said I should take advantage of the lull between work and school to explore my new home I would answer with a laugh, roll my eyes, and say, “I know, it’s great, but I just want to start school already!”

Well, grad school is finally on a roll and is taking its toll on me. Not in a “why-did-I-ever-think-I-could-do-this-??” kind of a way, more like a “wow-there’s-a-lot-of-stuff-they-want-to-cram-in-ten-short-weeks-!!” kind of way. Seriously dude, quarter systems are no joke.

So you can say it. I know you want to. No really, go ahead, you earned it. You told me so.

But before you feel the need to stage an intervention, I’m happy to report that I’ve been keeping up with my fun reading. As one of my favorite heroines says, “My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.” So despite the studying, assignment deadlines, and looming midterms (I have two next week—wish me luck!), I try to carve out at least 15-20 minutes a day to read something I don’t have to write a policy memo on.

My Econ professor sure gets it:

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-09-55-00

With nine weeks left in this year’s challenge, I have nine more books to cross off on my list. Not bad I think, not bad at all.

What have you guys been reading?

Currently reading

For my “Managing Politics and the Policy Process” course we’re required to read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s very interesting, but unfortunately falls outside the scope of my reading challenge 😦

blink

My current reading challenge book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’ve read this many, many times, and in my next book review you’ll find out why I love it so much.

What have you been reading?

Review: Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer by Una LaMarche

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): In between highbrow and lowbrow, there’s Unabrow.

As a girl, Una LaMarche was as smart as she was awkward. She was blessed with a precocious intellect, a love of all things pop culture, and eyebrows bushier than Frida Kahlo’s. Adversity made her stronger…and funnier. In Unabrow, Una shares the cringe-inducing lessons she’s learned from a life as a late bloomer, including the seven deadly sins of DIY bangs, how not to make your own jorts, and how to handle pregnancy, plucking, and the rites of passage during which your own body is your worst frenemy.

For readers who loved Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and for fans of Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, and Amy Schumer, Unabrow is the book June Cleaver would have written if she spent more time drinking and less time vacuuming.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: At times I find memoirs and personal essays a little hard to get through. The writing style and tone are sometimes better suited to a verbal telling, so after a while the words grate a little and I have to go do something else for a couple of days. I found this to be the case with Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance (it was hard not to read everything in his voice, kudos to his editor) and to some extent with Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

This was also true with Unabrow, though since the book was relatively short I powered through it. LaMarche’s collection of personal essays offer a glimpse into her colorful world. Naturally there were things I could relate to (eg., worrying about gym class back in middle school) and things that made my eyes glaze over (eg., almost every reference to the 80s), but overall it was a fun read.

My favorite chapter was probably “Death Becomes Me”, where LaMarche walks us through her (and her parents’) macabre obsession with death when she was a child. This included writing letters to both her and her sister when they were out of town in case one or both of them “didn’t make it back”. At one point they opened them out of curiosity. Their dad’s had instructions about his memorial service along with a music playlist, and their mom’s had contact information for their mortgage broker. “What a downer,” said LaMarche to her sister, “I didn’t know we would still have to pay for the house.” (55)

The familiar essay is one of my favorite genres, and I would recommend giving it a try. If you haven’t read any yet, I’d start with At Large and At Small by Anne Fadiman; it was the book that got me hooked!

Have you read Unabrow? What do you think of personal essays?

September book haul!

Holy cannoli! I think last month was my biggest book haul to date with 42 new additions to my library.

cannoli

If you haven’t been following my reading challenge this year, one thing I started to do was track the types of books I was picking up. Was I reading books by more male authors or female authors? Did I read more fiction than non-fiction? Is there a variety in the writers and the writing? After figuring out my baseline and where I stand, my goal for next year is to read more of what I’m not reading now.

Though I’m trying to be more conscious of the books I buy in an attempt to diversify my reading, I have to admit that most of my September book haul consists of books that were on sale and sounded interesting. They cover a vast array of genres, but are limited in the scope of authors. Of the books below, 16 authors are female and 12 are POC (6 WOC, 6 MOC). Yikes. I gotta do better than that.

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

  1. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  2. Colors Insulting to Nature by Cintra Wilson
  3. Secrets From the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean
  4. Nelly’s Version by Eva Figes
  5. The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
  6. Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros
  7. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
  8. Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
  9. The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
  10. Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen
  11. Havana: Autobiography of a City by Alfredo Jose Estrada
  12. The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed
  13. Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing
  14. Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis
  15. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
  16. Fugitives and Refugees by Chuck Palahniuk
  17. Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson
  18. Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui
  19. The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons by Monica Cantieni
  20. The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina Garcia
  21. El libro secreto de Frida Kahlo by F. G. Haghenbeck
  22. Emma by Jane Austen
  23. Rat Queens, Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
  24. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  25. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  26. No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe
  27. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  28. Darwin Among the Machines by George Dyson
  29. Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World by Claudia Roth Piermont
  30. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  31. The Vintage Book of Contemporary Chinese Fiction by Carolyn Choa and David Su Li-Qun
  32. To Show and To Tell by Phillip Lopate
  33. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
  34. Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin
  35. The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
  36. Fantastic Night by Stefan Zweig
  37. WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency by Micah L. Sifry
  38. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  39. Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman
  40. Feeding a Yen: Savoring Local Specialties, from Kansas City to Kuzco by Calvin Trillin
  41. Batman: Year One by Frank Miller
  42. Lumberjanes, Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson

Review: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

Rating🌴  Island collection

Long story short: One of my courses this quarter is “Economics for Policy Analysis and Management”. Since the last time I took an economics class was back in high school, I decided to prep by watching an Introduction to Microeconomics course from MIT. Though often referred to as a “dismal science”, I found it pretty exciting, and it quickly became apparent that for the most part economics is an intuitive subject; I already knew more about it than I thought I did simply by having paid attention to the world around me.

While shopping for some school textbooks at the campus bookstore I came across a used copy of Freakonomics. I had heard of it before, I had even borrowed it from a friend, but never managed to get it off the back burner. Now that my curiosity was piqued, I quickly picked it up.

Freakonomics is a great read not because it breaks down complex economic theories—though it does do that—but because its goal is simply to get you to ask more questions about the world. The various scenarios all have at least one thing in common: they were responses to curious questions.

Continue reading “Review: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner”

Hooray for a walking commute!

After three years of driving to work (in stupid, erratic traffic no less), I’m finally able to reduce my carbon footprint by walking to and from campus. In addition to it being healthy for the environment, it’s letting me sneak in more reading time (which is always a big plus).

Do any of you get to read on your way to/from work/school/other activities?

P.S. Yes, that’s henna on my hand!

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