Monthly Archives: May 2018

* Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van de Vliet Oloomi

Breathlessly quoting literature in a dozen of languages, Call Me Zebra takes an Iranian-Amerian back to Spain where she spent some time in exile with her father. If you long for your college days and your lit classes, this book is for you.

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** The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

The Italian Teacher is the son of a well-known artist and never quite manages to escape his father’s charismatic exploitation of everyone around him. It’s a little sad, and more and more surprising as the boy turns into a man. Eventually he will get even, using the very art milieu that his father is so good at manipulating, and the end is certainly sweet, even if it takes a while to reach it.

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** Dollars and Sense by Dan Airely and Jeff Keisler

Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter combines psychological explanations of why we make basic and predictable mistakes about managing money with practical suggestions on how we can use that knowledge to make better choices. It’s not our imagination: we spend more when we use credit cards than with cash, we get fixated on discounts rather than prices, and we fail to save for the future. The authors give us a lively account of why (so lively it sometimes feels forced) and, the best part of the book, solutions to foil our brains using the very techniques that normally deceive us. An enjoyable way to explore our foibles.

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*** The Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy

All language lovers, read The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English. Written by an American woman who lives and teaches English in the UK, it thoroughly deconstructs the idea that one side of the Atlantic ocean somehow speaks the “proper” kind of English — and at the same time that imports into either dialect move just one way. Armed with hundreds of examples, she explores etymology, how languages change over times, the influence of regional accents and word variants, and, most interestingly, how cultural differences mold the language. Fascinating and never dry.

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*** The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

The Friend is a clever novel within a novel that apparently focuses (very movingly) on loss, grief, and love between humans and dogs, but it’s also the story of a great friendship and a woman who might lose her mind to an obsession. Excellent!

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* The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Let’s just say that Ishiguro has written many much better books than The Buried Giant. This story stars an older couple wandering about in England after the days of King Arthur with a Quixotian sidekick and a lost orphan and encounter classic trials and difficulties, all equally tedious and irrelevant. I finished it only because it was the last book on my Kindle and I had a long flight ahead of me. If you like Medieval tales, this may be the book for you.

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** And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready is the story of the author’s unplanned pregnancy (note to your women out there: contraception exists for those who don’t want to get pregnant!) and start with a rather tiresome woe-is-me description of the early days, followed by an equally tiresome description of the intense planning effort that follows — but the rest of the book I found excellent, as she describes what it feels to treated like a tiresome patient in the hospital, then a milk cow afterwards. I’m a little leery of recommending the book to moms-to-be, since it can be a little over-sensationalized, but it’s certainly much more vivid and accurate that the pabulum of pamphlets commonly found in doctors’ offices (and much better written!)

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