Book Review: The Happiness Project


happinessprojectThe Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I appreciated the tone of Rubin’s writing, the depth of her research on the topic of happiness, and the overall organisation of the project, I found the read itself to be a slog. This is likely because I was already familiar with (and a little tired of) the premise through undertaking my own self-improvement projects. My friend Mako’s review of the book was so glowing that I wanted to read the book to find my excitement for self-improvement again. The truth is that whereas Rubin’s book would have been an exciting, inspiring read a year ago, I’m now the wrong audience for it. And I’m okay with that.

One quote did resonate with me: “All this thinking about fun made me realize that I had to make time for it. Too often, I’d give up fun in order to work….In fact, though, turning from one chore to another just made me feel trapped and drained….Fun is energizing.” It sure is.

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Fifty-fifty-fifty and burning all your money.


So I’m drifting on a sea of sadness and the only way I know how to get out of it is to shove this “too busy for [thing I like to do]” stupidity off the raft.

Last year I didn’t read many books or see many films, so this year I’m aiming to consume 50 of each. Throw your favourites at me in the comments.

And today I decided to add another goal onto that: I want 50 rejection letters for my writing. I’d rather get 50 acceptances, of course, but rejection means I’m submitting stories which means I’m writing stories which means I’m doing what I love. I’ll be tallying it up on my fiction page if you want to follow along.

Yesterday I finished the first draft of my story for Bloc’s show in the Edinburgh International Science Festival. As per usual, my first idea completely morphed into something else. It’s become a pattern: the first idea is the cocoon that turns into the butterfly. Or, in my case, the slipstream moth.

My Bloc pal Bram a/k/a Texture is always creating interesting, evocative stuff. He announced his new poetry video a few weeks ago but I just made the mental space to sit down and appreciate it. I was mesmerised. Tell me what you think. And please share it if you enjoy it.

Not-so-secret society.


Not-so-secret society.

My Beta Phi Mu bookmark arrived in the post today, making me an official member of the international library and information studies honour society. A friend said I should be able to show this at bookstores to get access to their secret stash.

For now, I’ll carry it around just in case.

Review: Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity


Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity
Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity by SARK
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my first exposure to SARK’s writing, aside from her posters. It was a gift from a former co-worker as I left my job at the San Francisco Public Library. At the time, I didn’t feel very gracious about the transition, and so it has taken me a while to finish reading this.

“Glad No Matter What” is primarily a book about the type of loss and change that surrounds the death of a loved one, but I could apply some of it to the loss and change I am currently experiencing as I transition to my new home. SARK’s unbridled enthusiasm and good nature bursts from every page, and it is difficult not to be cheered by her multicolored scrawls.

My favorite portion of her book was about her “emotional GPS” and how she notices negative thought patterns and reactions as she is having them, then tells herself “recalculating” as she finds a new “emotional route”. I chuckled over this, and then gave it some thought. Sometimes I feel very guilty about my negative responses to things while feeling helpless to change them. But with the emotional GPS idea, I can recalculate negative reactions into less negative responses.

I admit to skimming over some parts that were simply too spiritual for my tastes, but I remain an admirer of SARK as a creative force and a positive influence in a cynical world.

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Review: We Need to Talk about Kevin


We Need to Talk about Kevin
We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really do not know what to write about this book. On the one hand, it is a known quantity; no one starts reading it without knowing, at least in the most general sense, what it is about. On the other, it answers none of the questions the reader will have about its horrific central narrative.

Shriver is, undoubtedly, a talented writer. The story made me feel ambivalence for every single character introduced, no small feat considering how easy it would be to create a maudlin mother or monstrous son. No, in fact, every single person involved has realistic foibles, making the absence of the great “why” at the end all the more appalling.

It could happen to any one of us, here in the real world. And it has. And I’m not sure I needed to read a book about that.

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Review: The Dewey Decimal System: A Novel


The Dewey Decimal System: A Novel
The Dewey Decimal System: A Novel by Nathan Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It may be weird to say that I am a fan of dystopian near-future settings. I have a morbid fascination with bleak, sparse landscapes and crumbling infrastructure; I remain hopeful that I will never have to live in such a world, but constantly wonder what type of person I would be if I survived in one.

In “The Dewey Decimal System”, Larson creates an instantly engaging survivor as a protagonist, and a compelling city in ruins around him. Larson’s staccato, fragmented style makes this a quick and brutal read with plenty of physical and emotional carnage. I only wished for more scenes in the New York Public Library, yearning for more details of this post-apocalyptic information age that seems entirely devoid of the ‘net.

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Author and publisher Carmen Callil has withdrawn from the judging panel of the Man Booker International prize


Author and publisher Carmen Callil has withdrawn from the judging panel of the Man Booker International prize over its decision to honour Philip Roth with the £60,000 award. Dismissing the Pulitzer prize-winning author, Callil said that ‘he goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It’s as though he’s sitting on your face and you can’t breathe’.
Judge withdraws over Philip Roth’s Booker win | Books |