Reading For The Heck Of It

Gosh, I love books. I love the way they feel in my hand, the way they smell, the way they look piling up all around me as I drown amongst their pages...I really, REALLY like books.

 

Favorite genres: nonfiction (especially science), sci-fi/fantasy, classics, and children's literature.

 

Unread/unloved genres: romance and seafaring odysseys.

Learn from my mistakes

Robot Dreams - Sara Varon

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon was sold to me as being a cute little story about a dog who builds a robot so that he has a friend. I was hoping for something with The Wild Robot vibes but I actually found it to be disturbingly macabre and callous. This is a children's graphic novel and yet it explores some really dark themes (in itself not a problem but this was creepier than most). Did I mention that it was entirely wordless? I'm not certain if it's a gift or a curse that Varon possesses to entirely unnerve me without using a single, solitary word. Without giving the entire plot away (this is a very short book by the way), a dog builds himself a robot friend and the two of them are inseparable...until the robot gets rusty at the beach and the dog abandons him there. Yes, he left his very best friend behind at the beach. The next day the beach is closed for the winter and the entire area is fenced off. (That's one strict town!) So now the robot is left on the beach to rust while the dog tries to make a new friend. There are mishaps on both sides of this relationship as the robot is beset by weather, a group of boaters who partially disassemble him, and eventually a junk collector. The dog keeps making friends with those who either can't or won't stick around and he's back at square one without any friends at all. Like I said this is not sweet bedtime reading. If you're looking for a creepy existential crisis well you've hit the jackpot. If you wanted a cutesy little graphic novel you've made a horrible, horrible mistake. 1/10

 

This makes me hungry. [Source: page45]

 

 

What's Up Next: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond and The Science of Supervillains by Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg 

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

I bet the Borg Queen never got invited over for slumber parties

Gods of Night (Star Trek: Destiny #1) - David W. Mack

Star Trek Destiny #1: Gods of Night by David Mack is the first part in a trilogy which was a journey from beginning to end. Firstly, let me start by saying that when I initially ordered these I did so not realizing that they were written quite a few years ago which did cause me some confusion early on. (I bought them at a discount rate as an ebook set so I really should have put 2+2 together.) Secondly, let me give you the heads up that I didn't have (because I really went in blind, ya'll) that you need prior knowledge about The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, AND Nemesis (which is the one I had not seen (and still haven't seen)) if you want to have any hope of following along. If you haven't seen these you are going to be 1. lost and 2. very much spoiled for future events. 

 

Now that that's all out of the way let's delve into the meat and potatoes of the plot of this book. Like most books that begin a series Gods of Night really lays down a lot of foundation for future action. And there is a lot of information to get through because there is a mess load of time travel back and forth with many, many different characters. (Hint: I didn't love this.) The reader follows 4 different Starfleet crews through multiple time periods which are denoted at the start of each new chapter. You have to be paying a lot of attention and since I read these as ebooks I found it a bit more challenging. Basically, the Caeliar are chanced upon by the Columbia and her crew and found to be so much more technically advanced that there is no chance of overpowering, negotiating, or escaping. The Borg are back and instead of assimilating they have changed their mission to one of annihilation. The Federation is trying to muster up the forces to stop the Borg without any success and the crew of the Columbia are just trying to get back home. SO many characters and so little time (ha time travel pun). I didn't love this book but I did continue the series because by the time I'd gotten to the end of this segment I was too invested to stop...and I'm glad I kept going because by the third book the action was intense, guys. (Wait til you get to the end!) For Gods of Night a 6/10 but check for the reviews of Mere Mortals and Lost Souls in the coming weeks to see what I thought of those and my overall series rating. ;-)

 

Quick rundown of details:

The Columbia captained by Erika Hernandez, the Aventine captained by Ezri Dax, the Titan captained by Will Riker, and of course the Enterprise captained by Jean-Luc Picard. The aliens encountered: the Borg and the Caeliar. The times explored: too many to recount.

 

What's Up Next: Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

A nostalgia trip

Peanuts Volume Nine - Charles M. Schulz

You can't go wrong with some classic Peanuts cartoons, am I right? Peanuts Vol. 9 created by Charles Schulz (and written by Jason Cooper with illustrations by Vicki Scott and Paige Braddock) is a collection of our favorite kids and their antics. (Do you recall the sound of the incomprehensible droning of the adults in the cartoon?) This (being volume 9) is obviously one of a series of collections like this that put together some of the best of the best of the Peanuts gang. From what I can tell they don't have specific themes and it doesn't matter which order you decide to read them. This was such a trip down memory lane for me and it made me vividly recall Sunday mornings and reading the newspaper cartoons in color. If you've never experienced the hopelessness of Charlie Brown, the ingenuity of Snoopy, or the wisecracking Lucy you owe it to yourself to settle down for some lighthearted hilarity. Pick up something sweet and fun to settle down with for the weekend! 10/10

 

PS When did Marcie fall in love with Charlie Brown?! I knew about Peppermint Patty but Marcie threw me for a complete loop!

 

PPS Do kids know about the Legionnaires? Do you? Well, I suggest you do a little homework because there's a whole set of jokes about them in this volume and you'll surely be lost if you don't.

 

Gotta love Peppermint Patty. [Source: Simon & Schuster]

 

What's Up Next: Star Trek Destiny #1: Gods of Night by David Mack

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Take it or leave it? I'll leave it, thanks.

Tucker Grizzwell's Worst Week Ever - Bill Schorr, Ralph Smith

Tucker Grizzwell's Worst Week Ever by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith was borne from a comic strip and is (supposedly) aimed at children. However, I found it to be so full of word play and puns that I think it would be better suited to an adult audience. In my opinion, it was a little too densely packed with jokes to the point of being somewhat annoying and obnoxious. This wasn't marketed as a collection of comic strips but it was lacking in a coherent plot beyond the bare bones 'lesson learned' tale of a cub realizing that adults may not necessarily have all of the answers to the world's questions. 

 

Apologies for the shortness of this review but some books don't lend themselves to a lengthy analysis especially when they're so middle of the road like this one. 2/10

 

 

Sorry this isn't clearer and easier to read. :-/ [The Phoenixed Forums]

 

What's Up Next: Peanuts Vol. 9 by Charles Schulz (and others)

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Like sand through the hourglass

5 Worlds Book 1: The Sand Warrior - Boya Sun, Matt Rockefeller, Xanthe Bouma, Mark A. Siegel, Alexis Siegel

5 Worlds Book 1: The Sand Warrior by Alexis & Mark Siegel with illustrations by Boya Sun & Matt Rockefeller is the first book in a fantasy series set in a place where magic plays a distinct and politically polarizing role. In this universe, all 5 worlds in the system (different types of beings live on the different worlds) are kept in careful balance with one another until they suddenly start to die for unknown reasons. There are some that believe their only hope of survival is to light all 5 beacons (one in each world) but the Toki peoples are adamantly set against this course. Our heroine, Oona Lee, is a less than stellar student of the Sand Dancer Academy (inexpertly wielding magic sand) and suddenly she finds herself swept up in a seemingly foolhardy attempt to save the universe before time runs out. There's intrigue, danger, and a health dose of racial tension just to stir the pot. I've recommended this to quite a few kids and all of them have enjoyed it because all of those heavy topics are real and kids can spot a fake from a mile away. Additionally, I thought the art style of this book was really unique and beautiful which made it even more astounding when I discovered that the book was a collaborative effort between people living in different parts of the world. Talk about life not imitating art! 10/10 and you can look forward to my review of the second book in the series in a few days. XD

 

SO. GORGEOUS. [Check out the source for larger images: 5 Worlds Team]

 

What's Up Next: Tucker Grizzwell's Worst Week Ever by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Heavy material in a light package

Sunny Side Up - Matthew Holm, Jennifer L. Holm

Sunny is looking forward to her awesome summer vacation going to the beach with her best friend...and then she gets sent off to stay with her grandfather at his retirement community in Florida. What Sunny views as a punishment is actually her family trying to shield her from her brother's trip to rehab. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm looks at substance abuse from the viewpoint of a younger sibling which is rather refreshing and ultimately important when a child is trying to find books that relate to themselves. (I don't know anyone with a picture perfect childhood so it's a good idea if children's literature reflects that.) The references to substance abuse are rather oblique for the majority of the book so it's not heavy handed in the slightest. For the most part, we see Sunny acting pretty snotty as she comes to terms with the fact her summer is not going to be anything like she had planned but intermixed with that is a healthy dose of fear, anxiety, and shame. Remember she has no idea what has caused her family to send her away but she think she must have done something terribly wrong. (Also, her grandfather is the mack daddy of the retirement community and it's hilarious.) She does manage to make a friend of commensurate age though and the two of them develop a mutual interest in superheroes and comics. 

 

It's hard to say where the author lands in terms of keeping family secrets (they experienced something similar to Sunny in reality) but what the reader does see is Sunny learning about the difficulty of maintaining secret identities as she gets into reading comics. By the end, she is told what has happened with her brother and the reader (if they hadn't already figured it out) sees all the puzzle pieces fall into place. Because the reader is seeing everything through the eyes of Sunny the reading experience is quite different from some of the realistic fiction on this topic that I've read before. I think from that standpoint this is quite a unique and important book especially for children who have experienced this and are feeling quite alone and isolated. In fact, at the end they tacked on a bit about talking to someone if you know a family member is struggling with substance abuse. If you're creating a booklist for your students and you're looking for material that touches on substance abuse and/or family dynamics you could do a lot worse than picking Sunny Side Up. 8/10

 

The illustrations reminded me of Sunday newspaper comic strips. [Source: Scholastic]

 

What's Up Next: 5 Worlds Book 1: The Sand Warrior by Alexis & Mark Siegel and illustrations by Boya Sun & Matt Rockefeller

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Child detective on the case

Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training - Joris Chamblain, Aurelie Neyret

Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training is a middle grade graphic novel by Joris Chamblain with illustrations by Aurélie Neyret. The reader follows a little girl named Cici (obviously) who has designs to be a detective and writer hence the writing of her journal (the book flip flops between narrative style and journal style) which is chock full of her observational notes. She lives alone with her mother who she has a strained relationship with (and they haven't even hit the troubled teen years!). Next door is an older woman who is an acclaimed mystery writer and the motivator of Cici's interests. The plot contains solvable (and believable) mysteries for a child detective/writer and are full of imaginative characters. [A/N: The book is divided into sections with discrete (somewhat overlapping) mysteries.] Chamberlain explores but ultimately doesn't solve the mystery of the relationship between the mother and daughter (series teaser?). There's no explanation given (or mention of) the father's absence or why Cici has such a reticence to sharing or even experiencing her feelings. The more I dwell on it the more complex I realize this story line actually is which I think is great in a middle grade novel.


Picking up this particular graphic novel was a roll of the dice for me but I ended up absolutely loving it. The book seems to be set up as the start of a series which I wouldn't be mad about at all. I haven't seen any buzz over this title online as yet but I highly encourage you to pick this one up especially if you've been wanting to dip your toe into the graphic novel pool. The illustrations are GORGEOUS. 10/10

 

I'd love to have some prints of this artist's work. [Source: GramUnion]

 

What's Up Next: Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

What kind of superpower do you have?

El Deafo - Cece Bell

El Deafo by Cece Bell is the autobiographical account of the author as a little girl after she contracted meningitis and became deaf. First point in this book's favor: The illustrations are absolutely delightful. If you were a fan of the Arthur cartoon growing up then you'll love her artistic style as it's very reminiscent of that. (The characters are all rabbits.) She focuses primarily on her experiences using the different hearing aid devices that she had growing up and how isolated it made her feel. Bell doesn't shy away from exploring her shame and 'otherness' in comparison to her family and friends which I think is refreshing in a middle grade book. The way that Cece ultimately copes with the changes and difficulties that she's experiencing is by creating an alternate persona where she uses her deafness as a superpower. (Check the picture below for an example.) I personally really loved the references of such classics as Batman (with Adam West) and one of my faves M*A*S*H. I don't know that younger readers will appreciate that as much but I thought it was a great touch. Included at the end of El Deafo is a little informational blurb about Deaf culture so if parents are reading with their kids (or teachers with their students) it makes a really awesome learning tool. I loved that kids are getting to see a character using a hearing device in a medium that is easily digestible and conveys the message that no matter what our abilities we are all 'super' in our own ways. 9/10

 

An example of the art writing style. [Source: Goodreads]

 

 

If you don't follow me on social media you may have been surprised/confused when I started posting a new review every day this week. I did this because I didn't want to play catch-up like I did earlier this year with books I've finished but not yet reviewed. However, I'm not seeing a ton of engagement in these posts so I want to get your opinion. Are you enjoying the more frequent posts or do you prefer once a week and you don't care when they go up? Please comment below with your thoughts! :-)

 

What's Up Next: Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training by Joris Chamblain with illustrations by Aurélie Neyret. 

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

The acting bug

So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y'all Don't Even Know - Retta

So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y'all Don't Even Know by Retta is a memoir written in essay form (seems to be the popular format these days). [A/N: If you're unfamiliar with Retta, she played the character of Donna Meagle on Parks & Recreation.]  This book is written more like a friend talking than anything else. While I was reading, I kept wishing that I'd chosen to consume this in audiobook format instead because I think it suits that medium better. (Honestly, I found this book a bit tedious and I'd like to blame it on the written formatting.) Retta covers the gamut from her childhood and what it was like being raised as an immigrant to this country (her family is from Liberia) to her career as an actress being continually put into a box by Hollywood. After reading Amy Poehler's memoir it's impossible for me not to compare the two and this in no way comes close to the awesomeness of that book. It was funny and I especially enjoyed her views on what it's like being a plus sized woman of color working as an actress in Hollywood but it didn't blow me away like Yes, Please. A solid 5/10. 

 

What's Up Next: El Deafo by Cece Bell

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

When the rubric fails you

The Ghost in the Mirror (Lewis Barnavelt) - John Bellairs;Brad Strickland

The Ghost in the Mirror is another story in the Lewis Barnavelt series by John Bellairs (subsequently completed by Brad Strickland). This is also another story featuring Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmerman which again begs the question why this was called the Lewis Barnavelt series... At any rate, the reader follows Rose Rita & Mrs. Zimmerman as they travel back in time in the hopes of righting a 'great wrong' and thereby restoring the magical powers that Mrs. Z lost in the previous book (The Figure in the Shadows if you're not caught up). This was a much darker narrative with threatened human sacrifice and something akin to voodoo magic. However, the narrative was just another cookie cutter format with absolutely no surprises. It honestly felt like he had a little rubric that he was following for his stories and he just plugged in details like 'Rose Rita & Mrs. Z main characters' + '19th century era' + 'dark magic' and hoping for a good result. I was disappointed especially as this book didn't even have the benefit of illustrations sprinkled throughout like the other installments in the series. (Yes, this is the last in this series that I'm going to read.) This was lukewarm at best and honestly I'm happy to have finished my time with these characters (especially Rose Rita). 1/10

 

Source: Amazon

 

What's Up Next: So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y'all Don't Even Know by Retta

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Fun from start to finish

Mary B: An untold story of Pride and Prejudice - Katherine K. Chen

I'm fairly sure that I've mentioned before that there are two books that I reread every single year and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of them. So it was kind of a no-brainer that I picked up Mary B. by Katherine J. Chen as it follows that story (with a little before and after) from the perspective of the middle daughter, Mary. The book focuses on what the author calls the 'forgotten Bennet sister' and follows her personal evolution beginning from her childhood and giving readers a glimpse into what happened with the Bennet, Bingley, and Darcy families after the last page of Pride and Prejudice was turned. This book was a surprise for me in a lot of ways. Firstly, I loved it. I felt like I was reading a trashy romance novel that had gotten mixed together with the classic book of the early 18th century. While I agree that it's a bit out-of-the-box in terms of what certain characters would and wouldn't do I didn't care in the least if someone did or said something 'out of character'. I knew going in that this was Chen's vision and it was bound to be different from Austen's. Secondly, this book was entertaining from start to finish and had me giggling uncontrollably at all of the spicy content. (This book is so spicy, ya'll.) Turns out Mary is headstrong, outspoken, non-traditional, and dare I say the most intelligent Bennet sister.  This book is a love letter to anyone who ever felt like they didn't belong or maybe wasn't enough. YOU ARE. If Mary can buck tradition and kick some major butt in the process then you can too. Also, it's clear Chen had a bee in her bonnet about how Mary was treated and overlooked in terms of character development by Austen in the original book. She certainly took care of that with Mary B.. 10/10

 

A/N: I'm not generally a fan of romance novels but there's something about the world that Austen crafted that makes me especially susceptible. I take comfort in the fact that I'm definitely not alone if her books are still being re-imagined. :-P

 

What's Up Next: The Ghost in the Mirror by John Bellairs & completed by Brad Strickland

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Historical figures: Awesome ladies edition

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation - Cokie Roberts

This book was just what was needed to pull me out of a reading slump. Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts is an account of the women who supported and helped shape the development of the democratic government in the United States. While I initially thought that this would yield minimal new information considering how heavily this period of time was covered during my schooldays I discovered just how wrong (and ignorant) I was especially in regards to the women. I realized that it had never occurred to me to wonder just how long the absences of these women's husbands were during the creation of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution (including the Articles of the Confederation), and the U.S. government as a whole. Not to mention how absolutely strong-willed and informed these women were about the affairs of state (which was beneficial as they passed on the latest news to their husbands through extensive letter writing). Best couple award goes to George and Martha Washington who were the most well-adjusted and steadfast couple of the lot. Martha went everywhere George went including Valley Forge where she was instrumental in keeping the morale of the men up (and getting them to stay at all) as well as organizing other women into organized sewing groups to keep the troops clothed. Favorite woman of the many discussed was hands down Abigail Adams who not only had the keenest mind but also the sharpest tongue. She had no problem telling John where to go and letting him know that just because he was away didn't mean that the romance in their relationship needed to suffer. In fact, theirs was the most strained relationship of all as John was in high demand and for the majority of their marriage they were separated as he worked tirelessly in his work as a member of the Continental Congress and then later as the Vice President. If you, like me, love reading about confident women and relish learning new things about a slice of history you thought you had thoroughly mapped then I must point you in the direction of Founding Mothers. 10/10

 

PS Benjamin Franklin was the worst.

 

What's Up Next: Mary B. by Katherine J. Chen

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

It would be hard to sit in a chair if your legs faced backwards

Only Human - Sylvain Neuvel

Believe it or not, this is my second time writing this particular post. The first one which was ready for publishing was accidentally deleted in its entirety by yours truly. Well, I guess after this many years I was due a massively huge screw up. IT WAS SUCH A LONG POST, GUYS. I'm afraid this is going to be missing some essential points as a consequence but I'll do my best to recreate what I hardly recall writing (even though it was earlier this week).

 

Today I'm going to be reviewing Only Human which is the third and final book in The Themis Files trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel. If you've forgotten (or never knew in the first place) this series began with Dr. Rose Franklin who found a giant robot hand when she was a little girl and from that moment a series of events led to a giant robot (definitely of alien origins) being pieced together. Things spiraled out of control pretty quickly after that especially once other governments outside of the U.S. discovered that this behemoth could be piloted and used as a weapon. Moreover, raising this robot from the depths of the earth alerted the alien race which left it here and prompted their return to reclaim their property with mass genocide being the result. Cut to Only Human which opens years after the conclusion of Waking Gods with 2 pilots inside huge robots killing civilians in a war being waged between the U.S. and Russia while thousands of others are being held in interment camps because of impure bloodlines (sound familiar?). (This is where the dystopian tag on this post comes in by the way.) Meanwhile on a distant planet called Ekt, Rose and her team (Vincent, Eva, & the General) are trying to acclimate/come up with an escape plan back to earth. They are essentially refugees on this world which is wildly different from anything they've ever known. The parts where Neuvel focused on describing the planet, its people, and their customs were by far my favorites of this book, ya'll. So original and engrossing. The most distinguishing factor of the Ekt (besides their backwards facing legs) is that they have a strict policy of governmental non-interference which forbids them from any further action against or for the people of planet earth (even though they were the cause of its current state of awful). This is sci-fi political angst at its finest. 

 

If I had to rank the books in this series it would be 1, 3, and then 2. A lot of the magic from the first book came from the total originality of the plotline and Neuvel's descriptive capabilities. A lot of that was lost in the second book which in my opinion was super dry. He got a lot of that oomph back with this book though. Taken as a whole, it's an excellent series and I wouldn't say no to checking out more of his work in the future. 7/10 for Only Human.

 

[A/N: To catch up with the first two books check out my posts on Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods.] 

 

What's Up Next: Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Batman is how old?!

The Science of Superheroes - Robert E. Weinberg, Lois H. Gresh

What an absolutely FUN read The Science of Superheroes turned out to be! Lois H. Gresh & Robert E. Weinberg took several big name superheroes like Superman, Batman, The Flash, Ant Man, Aquaman, and the X-Men (just to name a few) and discussed in-depth their powers, origin stories, narrative continuity, and whether there was any basis in scientific fact for their superpowers. There were great recommendations both throughout the book and in the footnotes (ya'll know I love a book with excellent footnotes). They also went to great lengths to give a detailed, thorough history of comics in general which made this an altogether well-rounded and researched book. (I've read some so-called 'scientific' nonfiction that couldn't hold a candle to the amount of work that Gresh & Weinberg obviously put in for this book.) Another huge bonus was the extensive appendix which also included biographies and q&a responses with several popular 'current' writers of comics. (Am I gushing? I can't help it that I love a good set of biographical facts organized in an orderly fashion.) At any rate, whether you're a pop culture fan, comic aficionado, superhero movie nerd, or really into researched footnotes this is sure to fit the bill and be an excellent choice for a cozy autumn evening. 10/10

 

PS I had made a note after reading this that I hoped they made one for comic book villains...and they did! If you're interested the title is The Science of Supervillains. XD

 

What's Up Next: Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans & Ronald Searle

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

The argument for palliative care

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End - Atul Gawande

"...our decision making in medicine has failed so spectacularly that we have reached the point of actively inflicting harm on patients rather than confronting the subject of mortality. ...you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer." - pg 178

 

I wanted to start with that quote from today's book because it struck me as being so shocking in its simplicity and yet it completely blindsided me with its poignancy. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande is at heart a discussion of the ups and downs of treating the elderly through a variety of means whether that means aggressive medicine, nursing homes, assisted living, or hospice. It's obvious that the author has a great admiration for palliative care and a belief that all doctors/clinicians should be trained and proactive to deliver the best care for their patients. In essence, asking practical questions about what trade-offs patients are willing to make for ensuring good days ahead are key to excellent palliative care (for any age). He stresses that instead of simply giving all the options for care at the outset of a diagnosis doctors should instead ask a set of pertinent questions to get at what their patient really wants to have a good quality of life. This is relevant (and necessary) for patients whether they be elderly, terminally ill, or disabled. Gawande clearly knows his stuff (he is a doctor after all) and he was thorough in his research for this book as he interviewed across many disciplines to see what is being done by various agencies in the care of the elderly and dying. Apparently there is no one accepted method of care except to ask, listen, and respect the wishes of patients. According to Gawande, there is "...a still unresolved argument about what the function of medicine really is - what, in other words, we should and should not be paying for doctors to do." (pg 187) Hospice is not just an option for those who are looking for end of life help or to speed up death but is an excellent choice to make good days out of one's remaining life. My verdict: Very informative book that I kept picking up with great alacrity and I will definitely read more of his writing. 10/10

 

I'll leave you with this final quote to chew over:

 

"At root, the debate is about what we fear most - the mistake of prolonging suffering or the mistake of shortening valued life. All the same, I fear what happens when we expand the terrain of medical practice to include actively assisting people with speeding their death." - pg 244  

 

What's Up Next: The Science of Superheroes by Lois H. Gresh & Robert E. Weinberg

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Raw, unfiltered, and achingly honest

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a posthumous memoir/biography from a man who was both in the prime of his life and the beginning of what promised to be an illustrious career as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. The terminal lung cancer which was already making its way through his spinal column wasn't part of the plan...and yet Paul chose to meet this challenge head-on as a way to understand and learn how the inevitability of death can be explored by those shepherding the way. How does the mind and brain (seen as two separate entities here) play a role in this? He first approached this topic through the lens of literature which he had always been interested in (hence the beginning of the book which would eventually be published after his death) but he then moved on to his direct experience as a doctor and then as a patient. Paul was interested in the bigger picture of what exactly death means and he kept trying to parse it out by asking, "Where did biology, morality, literature, and philosophy intersect?" (pg 41). He didn't shy away from the ugly underbelly of cancer treatment and how it's seen from both a medical professional's standpoint (best practices, proven remedies, etc) and the one receiving the care (uncertainty, despair, anger, and frustration to name a few). Facing mortality and asking the tough questions are the overarching themes of When Breath Becomes Air but this is also a quiet story about a man coming to terms with the fact his life was about to end. I don't want to give away all of the details because I really think you should read this one if you never read another book about death (although why stop here?). I didn't know if I'd be able to continue it at several points (there were tears) because it mirrors so much of what my dear friend, Jessica, went through during her battle with cancer. But I am happy that I persevered. 10/10

 

This quote blew my mind because I feel I'm constantly justifying to people why I do the work that I do even though some of it doesn't compensate me at all (the blog) and the one that does is probably never going to make me financially solvent (children's librarian). Looking at the bigger picture is hard if you are cutting out the crucial bits like death which comes for us all.

Indeed, this is how 99 percent of people select their jobs: pay, work, environment, house. But that's the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job - not a calling. - pg 68-69

If I remember correctly this was a quote from Paul's wife and I think it perfectly encapsulates why this is such an important book. It's why I've read and reviewed so many books around this topic over the past year. 

Paul confronted death - examined it, wrestled with it, accepted it - as a physician and a patient. He wanted to help people understand death and face their mortality. Paul's decision not to avert his eyes from death epitomizes a fortitude we don't celebrate enough in our death-avoidant culture. - pg 215

Side note of interest (at least to me): Lucy, Paul's widow, found love again with a recently widowed father of two...who's spouse also wrote a book about her journey of dying. That book is The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs and yes it's totally going on my TRL.

 

What's Up Next: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Currently reading

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs Jones
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks
Star Trek: The Classic Episodes by James Blish
Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson
Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans, Ronald Searle
Elfquest Archives, Vol. 1 by Wendy Pini, Richard Pini
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel by Hank Green
Calypso by David Sedaris
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden