30/30: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock


Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Matthew Quick
YA
Trigger Warnings: Suicide/Depression

Summary

In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was–that I couldn’t stick around–and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

Maybe one day he’ll believe that being different is okay, important even.

But not today.

Continue reading

29/30 Book Review: Leave Me


Leave Me
Gayle Forman
Fiction

Summary

Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.

Surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: she packs a bag and leaves. But, as is often the case, once we get where we’re going we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves.

Target Audience

I’m obviously not the target audience for this novel, but I’ve read several of Forman’s YA novels, and I was curious to see how she tackled the adult audience. Also, as I’ve moved on from college and begun to establish my identity as an adult woman, I’ve become fascinated with studying the (real or fictional) stories of women in many stages of life. I think that doing so makes me more prepared for life transitions and helps me identify what I want out of my life.

And Leave Me addresses a common problem for women: feeling overworked and underappreciated. Most women don’t resort to literally running away from their homes, but they rebel in other ways. I’m scared of that feeling. I’m scared of feeling trapped by what should be a dream. I think maybe a lot of young women are.

So, how does Leave Me handle that nightmare Continue reading

28/30 Book Review: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science


Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science
Mary Roach
Nonfiction/Journalism/Science

Summary

In Bonk, the best-selling author of Stiff turns her outrageous curiosity and insight on the most alluring scientific subject of all: sex. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Why doesn’t Viagra help women-or, for that matter, pandas? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Mary Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm-two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth-can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to make the bedroom a more satisfying place.

Less taboo than you might think

Let’s just get this out of the way–it’s a book how sex works and what science knows about sex. It’s not erotica. Yes, it talks about erections and orgasm and arousal and all kinds of body parts. But it’s quite tasteful, for the most part. Any adult could read this book and not feel guilty. Continue reading

27/30 Book Review: When Nobody Was Watching


When Nobody Was Watching
Carli Lloyd with Wayne Coffey
Nonfiction/Memoir

Summary

In 2015, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won its first FIFA championship in sixteen years, culminating in an epic final game that electrified soccer fans around the world. It featured a gutsy, brilliant performance by team captain and midfielder Carli Lloyd, who made history that day, scoring a hat trick—three goals in one game—during the first sixteen minutes.

But there was a time when Carli Continue reading

26/30 Book Review: Eat and Run


Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman
Nonfiction/Running

Summary

For nearly two decades, Scott Jurek has been a dominant force—and darling—in the grueling and growing sport of ultrarunning. Until recently he held the American 24-hour record and he was one of the elite runners profiled in the runaway bestseller Born to Run.

In Eat and Run, Jurek opens up about his life and career as a champion athlete with a plant-based diet and inspires runners at every level. From his Midwestern childhood hunting, fishing, and cooking for his meat-and-potatoes family to his slow transition to ultrarunning and veganism, Scott’s story shows the power of an iron will and blows apart the stereotypes of what athletes should eat to fuel optimal performance. Full of stories of competition as well as science and practical advice—including his own recipes—Eat and Run will motivate readers and expand their food horizons.

Ultrarunning Education

2017 is my year of intense ultrarunning education. I’ve become suddenly obsessed with this sport, and I have a lot to catch up on. I was introduced to the ultrarunning community through YouTube, so I knew about today’s top competitive runners before I learned about some of the greats like Scott Jurek and Dean Karnazes. But I’m catching up!

I enjoyed Jurek’s back and forth narrative of discovering running, finding his rhythm, and competing at top levels. When you see elite ultrarunners, it can be difficult to imagine the journey they’ve taken, from their first run to record-breaking feats. This book is a good reality check, an examination of the gradual improvement that leads to such astonishing performances.

Jurek talks a lot about his nutrition, especially his transition from meat and potatoes to full veganism. Perhaps that transition is a revelation for some runners, but I think many of today’s runners will be more familiar with the benefits of healthier options. That may be a reflection of the changes Jurek and others introduced, combined with general societal awareness.

Conclusion

Great read if you’re a runner or you love stories about sports psychology. Ultrarunning is a uniquely challenging mental endeavor.

24/30 Book Review: Upstairs at the White House


Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies
J.B. West with Mary Lynn Kotz
Nonfiction/memoir

Summary

J. B. West, chief usher of the White House, directed the operations and maintenance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—and coordinated its daily life—at the request of the president and his family. He directed state functions; planned parties, weddings and funerals, gardens and playgrounds, and extensive renovations; and, with a large staff, supervised every activity in the presidential home. For twenty-eight years, first as assistant to the chief usher, then as chief usher, he witnessed national crises and triumphs, and interacted daily with six consecutive presidents and first ladies, as well as their parents, children and grandchildren, and houseguests—including friends, relatives, and heads of state.

J. B. West, whom Jackie Kennedy called “one of the most extraordinary men I have ever met,” provides an absorbing, one-of-a-kind history of life among the first ladies. Alive with anecdotes ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt’s fascinating political strategies to Jackie Kennedy’s tragic loss and the personal struggles of Pat Nixon, Upstairs at the White House is a rich account of a slice of American history that usually remains behind closed doors.

Old and Relevant

Upstairs at the White House was first published in 1973, but it’s still a fascinating read. It’s surprising readable even if you don’t know/care much about history and politics. You’ll learn a lot about how the White House functions and you’ll probably laugh at surprising antics of the staff and executive families.

West is a consummate professional throughout the book, careful not show favoritism or reveal any serious indiscretions. He is an archetypal butler, clever, competent, and occasionally inscrutable. The breadth of his responsibilities at the White House is breath-taking and it seems a wonder that such a huge organization continues to function with such grace.

A highly recommended read for nearly anyone.