Lost Mines and Treasures of the Pacific Northwest by Ruby El Hult, 3/5
This book, written in 1957 about events that largely took place in the late 1800s, occupies a strange middle ground both methodologically and temporally. Not only was the author’s research ability limited to the pre-Information Age resources of her time, but there was the further complication of the existence of personal accounts from living people who were within a generation or two of original events (close enough to be convincing, but not close enough to be reliable). Thus, the book is an awkward mix of fanciful hearsay and dry research that takes a few chapters to get into the spirit of. Whether entirely true or not, these stories provide interesting insight into the early history of the Pacific Northwest and the world of pioneers, pirates and prospectors.
Why I read it: The sequel, Treasure Hunting Northwest caught my eye in a used bookstore so I thought I’d better buy the original too.
Never Stop Pushing: My Life from a Wyoming Farm to the Olympic Medals Stand by Rulon Gardner with Bob Schaller, 3/5
Life is tough but Rulon Gardner is tougher. His story proves that success does not always require a fortuitous alignment of luck, talent and circumstance–success can be the prize of those who are simply too stubborn and too strong to settle for less. This book is certainly not going to win any literary awards, but it is an inspiring account of hard work and good character put to the test on an international stage.
Why I read it: my wrestler boyfriend got me excited about the story, showed me the famous Gardner vs Karelin gold medal match and lent me his well-worn copy of the book.
Crap Taxidermy by Kat Su, 3/5
Equal parts gross, funny and WTF? This small collection of images makes a fun novelty gift, but I think it’s more suited to its original website format: www.crappytaxidermy.com.
Why I read it: Came across it on Imgur and got a copy for my boyfriend’s dad (who does good taxidermy, not the crap kind).
My Fight / Your Fight by Ronda Rousey with Maria Burns Ortiz, 3/5
I’ve never been much of a Rousey fan, but there’s an undeniably voyeuristic appeal to this first-hand account of the rise of the first woman to make it big in MMA. Rousey’s work ethic, mental strength and accomplishments are inspiring and her prose is tolerable. However, written before her only two losses, the book feels premature and some of the warrior rhetoric rings a bit hollow in light of her subsequent complete disappearance from the martial arts scene.
Why I read it: A guy from the gym brought his copy in for me.
Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737) by W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill and Alfred E. Hill, 3/5
This reprint of a 1902 book contains more information than the average person would ever want to know about Stradivari and his instruments. The writing style is very dry and technical–I wish there was a glossary and more pictures (especially in color) of the instruments they describe. I did enjoy witnessing the eye for detail and nuance that the authors displayed as they discussed specific instruments, pointing out tiny differences between violins that looked identical to me. All in all, a great reference book, but not a particularly enjoyable or memorable read.
Why I read it: Dover accidentally included it in a package of other books my mom ordered and said to just keep it.
Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller, 3/5
Miller is an entertaining writer, but not a very convincing psychologist. While it is fun to read the story of how he developed a healthier approach to relationships and gradually found love at a relatively late age, I felt like he spent a lot of time answering easy questions I didn’t have while skirting around the most important, mysterious, confusing aspects of the topic. He claims to want to teach that “love is worth what it costs,” but the focus of the book is much more on how to pay the cost than the worth. For me, the real question isn’t what caused his previous relationships to fail and his current one to succeed (that is fairly obvious–turns out that authenticity and vulnerability make a better foundation than insecurity and manipulation), the big question is why did he suddenly feel compelled to make it work with someone in particular? Now that I’m thinking about it, this is the exact issue I had with the previous book on relationships I read. Perhaps one day, I’ll find a book that focuses on the why, not the how, but until then I guess I’ll just hope they are as entertaining as this one.
Why I read it: a family member recommended it to me.
The Essential Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, 3/5
Reading this collection was a fun, new experience and I loved the artwork, but the writing is atrocious–so much of it consists of characters talking to themselves so that the reader can tell what is going on, e.g. “Good thing my spider powers enable me to jump out of the way as Doctor Wombat attacks with his furry, robotic claws of death.” Perhaps this is just inherent to the medium, but I do not remember encountering a similar problem in Watchmen (the only other comic series I’ve read). Still, the corny writing and unsophisticated plots do have an undeniable charm especially, I imagine, for people who grew up reading comic books.
Why I read it: I like trying new genres of literature and my sister’s boyfriend offered to lend me his well-worn, childhood copy.