Opera Anecdotes by Ethan Mordden, 2/5
This collection of short stories connected to opera just barely managed to keep my attention as I read a little bit before bed every night (more for its soporific effect than for any entertainment value). It didn’t help that the connecting prose between anecdotes was awkwardly written to a peculiar degree, and I recognized very few of the featured singers and impresarios.
Why I read it: the title caught my eye while I was browsing books in the thrift store.
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman, 5/5
It took an effort to get past the cringe-worthy cover and subtitle, but this book is well-written and explores concepts that can apply to a variety of relationships besides marriage (such as between friends, family members, or people who are dating). Using common sense and many examples from his years of experience as a marriage counselor, Gary Chapman proposes that, while everyone needs to feel loved, each individual tends to recognize and express love in primarily one of five ways: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Two people with loving intentions who speak different “languages” can be left each feeling uncared for and confused as to why their expressions of love aren’t accepted as such. Chapman encourages people in relationships to notice which of the five categories their partner might belong to and adjust their own behavior accordingly. It seems to me that this could be a bit forced and awkward in some cases, especially if the other person knows you very well and notices that you start acting out of character. I think it makes more sense for everyone to learn each other’s love languages, not so that they can necessarily speak them, but so that they can appreciate love in its different forms. For example, if someone prefers to hear affirming words, they should learn to appreciate the love of a person who makes time for them or quietly does helpful things. Or if a person wants their partner to show they care by giving them gifts, they should also realize that a kind word or touch can be equally meaningful and heartfelt expressions of love.
Why I read it: One of my sisters said it was interesting and it is important to me that the people I care about feel loved.
Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1/5
Nietzsche’s opinions are as monstrous as his ego and as depressing as his life. With supreme self-confidence, he makes sweeping statements about human nature, existence, and philosophy, while generally avoiding any in-depth analysis or reasoning that might substantiate his sensational claims. His writing is so bizarre and baseless that I felt compelled to look him up on Wikipedia and try to figure out why on earth he gained so much credibility in the philosophy world. The exercise was unreassuring. It seems that Nietzsche’s primary life experiences were academic, he was socially isolated, addicted to drugs, extremely resentful of his religious upbringing and was actually residing in a mental institute when this book was published. Not exactly the sort of person you’d want to turn to for theories about life, the universe and everything. Usually, I’d try to write more specifically about the contents of this book so that I could remember it, but in this case, I’d be more than happy to forget that this particular collection of ravings even exists.
Why I read it: Recognized the title while browsing in the thrift store.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 4/5
This is a bittersweet little story, written with the refined yet melodramatic style (and casual racism) that characterizes a lot of literature from the early 1900s. Like most people, I was already familiar with the characters and story line, but I recognized very little of pop culture Tarzan in this original tale.
The edition is noteworthy because it is printed in landscape format, supposedly making it easier to read in bed. I really enjoyed the novelty, but didn’t think it was any easier to read lying down than a normal book.
Why I read it: A lovely birthday gift from one of my brothers and his family.
Basic Ridercourse by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, 5/5
This handbook has a straightforward, yet appealing layout and presents a lot of basic information about operating a motorcycle. I appreciated how it focused on safety without being patronizing about it.
Why I read it: Lent to me by friends who ride.
The Total Dirt Rider Manual by Pete Peterson and the editors of Dirt Rider, 5/5
Well-illustrated and written with a healthy dose of humor, this book seems about as helpful as it is possible for a book about something like dirt biking to be.
Why I read it: Lent me by a friend who rides, doubtless as an elaborate set-up for asking if I forgot to read the part about “not falling off the bike” when I wipe out for the first time.
Wit and Wonder: Poetry with Rhythm and Rhyme by James D. Herren, 5/5
When the author, a fellow fan of Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled, asked me out of the blue to review his newly self-published e-book of poetry, I felt a bit worried about balancing the responsibilities of being both a Very Nice Person and an Honest Book Reviewer. Thankfully, this moral dilemma was postponed to another time–I wholeheartedly love Herren’s poetry, finding it to be unpretentious, heartfelt and skillfully written. There is something in it for everyone–I kept pausing to read certain poems aloud to family members and even sent a couple screenshots to my sister on the east coast. When print copies of Wit and Wonder become available in April, I plan to buy one for my private library, as well as one for my family’s library and one to give a friend (something to look forward to, Alison B.). For those of you who aren’t quite as addicted to the smell of fresh ink as I am, the e-book is available now on Amazon through this link.
I tried to pick out a favourite poem to include in this review, but I liked too many of them to narrow it down to one. So I decided to pick out two that illustrated the range of tone and style in this collection, but they contrasted too much to appear side-by-side. So I finally narrowed it down to three (which is pretty good, given that there are 148 poems to choose from).
I juggled the bills —
and my family, and job —
all while keeping a roof on our heads,
then I threw in a dance,
and a dash of romance,
for my wife who was juggling kids.
Away with words.
Crash in a dazzling way.
Dance on the shoulders of giants.
Mock them with your brilliance.
The things I think are sometimes not
the things I think I thought I thought.
I thought I heard a dinosaur
but that was just my father’s snore.
I thought I saw a crocodile
but it was just my sister’s smile.
I thought I heard a dying cat —
my mother’s singing, only that.
I thought the world was torn apart
but that was just my brother’s fart.
I think it would be fun if you
could think of things the way I do.