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Monthly Archive: August 2021

Monday

30

August 2021

0

COMMENTS

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People who like humorous essays and who don’t mind a lot of cursing and blue humor. Not for people looking for a lot of Parks and Recreation content.

In a nutshell:
Actor Nick Offerman shares his thoughts on this book that is part memoir, part philosophical treatise.

Worth quoting:
I spent a lot of time noting things said in the book that frustrated me, but I didn’t actually type out any quotes that stuck with me.

Why I chose it:
I was looking for a funny audio book read by the author, and I have enjoyed Offerman’s work as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, so figured I’d check it.

Review:
First things first: if you are picking this up to hear about Offerman’s time on Parks and Recreation, put it back down. Other than a few minutes spent discussing his casting on the show, and one anecdote in the very last chapter, there’s really nothing in here about his time in his arguably most famous role. To which I say – good for him. I’m fairly certain his publishers knew many people would be drawn to the book because of his work on that show, while he just wrote whatever he wanted.

That said, without what I was admittedly looking for, the book was still at times both interesting and entertaining. There is a lot in here that is funny, and also wise. But there is also so much that frustrated the hell out of me, because Offerman sounds so … ignorant. Like, a very well-meaning but out of touch elder. Some notes on this:

– When he talks about food, he says that everyone can get fresh food anywhere, and shames people for serving their kids fast food, with ZERO acknowledgment that access to fresh food isn’t universal, that it’s expensive from a cost perspective, but also that it takes loads of time to cook everything from scratch. This book is a few years old, but this take belongs in the last century, not this one.
– He values work with his hands, and I appreciate that, but he is so dismissive of work that doesn’t fit that narrow definition that it’s a bit exhausting. He also buys into that absurd idea that we all just need to ‘find work we love,’ as though every job out there is super fun if we only just find the right one. Dude, you play dress-up for a living. That’s cool. And necessary – TV and movies have helped keep me going during the nightmare of this pandemic. But there are a lot of shit jobs out there, and a lot of people do them.
– At one point he talks about the problems of marketing and consumerism, and he sounds a bit like a freshman who has just taken his first Comms 101 class.
– He talks about an interaction with the police and makes this claim: ‘don’t run,’ as though that is some how a guarantee of safety. No recognition at all that his whiteness makes his encounters with the police much less fraught.
– He briefly touches on the idea of ‘scent’, which makes me wonder if he’s one of the white celebrities who prides himself on not washing regularly.
– Finally, his commentary on women wearing make-up and getting cosmetic surgery were pretty ignorant and misogynistic. Like, first off, make-up isn’t FOR YOU dude. And for those who feel the pressure to wear make-up to impress dudes, that’s the patriarchy buddy. Same for cosmetic surgery – he talks about how his wife hasn’t had any and how it’s a shame women will do that to themselves, and yet says NOTHING about why women might feel pressured to do that. It’s just so frustrating.

I wouldn’t really recommend this to anyone, but if you already own it and are thinking of reading it, as long as your expectations aren’t too high, I’d imagine you might enjoy it.

As an aside: if you, like me, have thought of giving this to your dad for Christmas some year: don’t. I am mortified now, considering the number of times Offerman discusses various forms of sex. I do think my dad appreciates more raunchy content than my mother would like in the house, so hopefully he at least got a kick out of it. But ooof, that’ll teach me to gift a book I haven’t read.

Recommend to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
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Sunday

22

August 2021

0

COMMENTS

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Fans of Liane Moriarty-style books.

In a nutshell:
In 1947 in Cornwall, England, a very small hotel has welcomed a variety of guests for the week. At the start, we learn that a cliff-side collapse has completely destroyed the hotel, burying and killing at least some of the guests. We then return to the start of the week to learn about the guests themselves, ultimately discovering who has survived.

Worth quoting:
“You don’t want to face facts.” “Not in story books, I don’t. I face plenty between Monday and Saturday without reading about them.”

Why I chose it:
This was recommended to me during my Book Spa visit as a pretty easy read that went along with what I called my general enjoyment of ‘middle aged white lady fiction’ (e.g. the aforementioned Liane Moriarty of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers fame).

Review:
I did enjoy this book, and am happy with the recommendation, but it was probably 100 pages too long for me. There are a LOT of characters to follow (nearly two dozen), and while I appreciate that each one gets time and treatment to develop their character, it’s a lot to keep track of and frankly not all of it seemed necessary. It was a fun book, but at times reading it was a bit of a chore.

I appreciate how author Kennedy brought people together who were from different backgrounds, and explored (not directly, but through the plot) some different types of travelers and those who interact with them. There are the owners and staff at small, family-run places like this, who have their own lives outside of fulfilling the wishes and whims of people who are just passing through. There are those who are hoping to recover, either from a physical illness or from tragedy that is perhaps too difficult to be around at home. There are those looking for an adventure, or a story, and those who simply want to enjoy being somewhere new.

The book is definitely a bit dark. I mean, obviously, given the subject matter, but basically (and as the person who recommended it to me pointed out), the reader spends 400 pages sort of hoping some people die (and some people don’t). No one deserves to die under a pile of hillside, but the author has told us from the start that some of her characters will. The question is who, and are there any whose death will bring less of a tear to the reader’s eye than others? For this reader, that answer is definitely yes.

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Saturday

7

August 2021

0

COMMENTS

Assembly by Natasha Brown

Written by , Posted in Uncategorized

Five Stars

Best for:
Anyone who loves compact storytelling that manages to tell a deep and engaging tale.

In a nutshell:
The Narrator, a successful Black British woman who isn’t named, takes us through the day or two before and morning of a visit to her posh white boyfriend’s family home for a party. But that isn’t so much the point; the focus is how Narrator navigates the daily, hourly injustices she faces in this world.

Worth quoting:
“Assimilate, assimilate … Dissolve yourself into the melting pot.”

“His acceptance of me encourages theirs. His presence vouches for mine, assures them that I’m the right sort of diversity.”

Why I chose it:
Last year (pre-pandemic) I received a ‘Book Spa’ gift certificate and was just able to redeem it. It involved a discussion with a bookseller, who then pulled like TWENTY books for me to choose from, discussing why he thought I would like them. I ended up buying 15 of them. This is one of them.

Review:
I could write pages about this book. A university could use this book as the basis for a course on literature, on England, on colonialism. It’s just SO GOOD.

The Narrator is a Black woman living in London, dating a white man. Narrator is, as we learn, extremely successful in her career in finance; her boyfriend comes from money and, as far as I can tell, ‘works’ at building his legacy. He is entitled and unappealing, and I want to know exactly why Narrator chose to be with him. It’s clear why he chose to be with her. Probably not consciously, but it is there.

Narrator is dealing with success in work but with another challenge in her personal life, and that challenge seems to have crystallized her view of her life. As someone in finance she likely was already able to view things ‘logically,’ as it were, but she now seems freer to evaluate everything from a point of brutal honesty. Her white boyfriend, white ‘best friend,’ white colleagues. The parents of the white boyfriend, who clearly view the relationship as ‘just a phase.’ She herself views it that way as well.

Not a lot happens over the 100+ pages from a plot perspective, and yet I was nearly breathless as I turned each page, wanting to learn more of what author Brown felt important to share. How was Narrator feeling? What was she experiencing? How would she make decisions about her future?

The book is disappointing only in that I could have read so much more about Narrator. Brown’s ability to pack so much into so few pages is unreal, and I’ll probably read this again before the year is out.

Recommend to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Recommend to a Friend

Sunday

1

August 2021

0

COMMENTS

The Home Edit Life by Clea Shearer & Joanna Teplin

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People who like to organize all the things. People who like to look at gorgeous pictures of organized things.

In a nutshell:
Clea and Joanna of The Home Edit fame expand beyond their first book to offer tips for organizing other areas of life (there’s a section on pets!).

Worth quoting:
“For those who claim their family/roommate/partner will never get on board with an organized house, we present you with the silverware drawer. Every single person above the age of three agrees to respect an organized silverware drawer.”

Why I chose it:
I accidentally bought this when I meant to buy their first book. Happy accident indeed!

Review:
There isn’t a lot to say about this book. It’s very pretty, and some of the tips are great. But one thing I have learned from putting into action suggestions from the first book is that it can be pretty expensive. Their own branded containers cost way more than I would have expected (though very pretty!), so while the suggestions of loads of individual containers for things might make sense from an organizational perspective, it might be a bit much from a wallet perspective.

One area that people might find especially useful is the work area. As a lot of office workers are now finding themselves permanently working from home (at least some of the time), they might decide or just finally be able to afford to properly organize their home office, whatever space it is. This book has some suggestions on how to do that.

Overall, this is a mixture of how-to and coffee table book, and that’s fun.

Recommend to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Recommend to a Friend