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Month: February, 2015

Book List (1) !

Here is a list of books I have read since I got here, and a couple of notes on each. I didn’t really put any summaries because if you are interested you can look it up on Amazon.  I’m thinking I’ll do this every 20 books I read. I’ve underlined the ones that I think you should DEFINITELY READ. I’ve put an asterisk by the ones I wouldn’t spend time on. The rest are somewhere in-between. Obviously this is all completely subjective and based on my own personal taste.

Also, I know I promised a baby post, but as soon as I promised that, a 2 week school break started and many of my favorite babies are off visiting family in other villages. I’ll get it done though, don’t worry!

  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Mindy Kaling ***
    • Not nearly as funny as I had hoped. Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” had me laughing out loud, and I was hoping for the same level of humor, but I was disappointed. I would suggest watching “The Mindy Project” instead of reading this book.
  • Wild Cheryl Strayed ***
    • This was ok, but not anything really memorable. If you are thinking about doing a long trail by yourself (Appalachian, Pacific Coast, etc.) read this, but otherwise, I’d choose a different book. I feel like her experience wasn’t extraordinary enough to write a book about.
  • The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi
    • If you like science fiction read this book. It was very good. If you don’t like science fiction maybe you should try again. This isn’t too geeky, it is well written, and is futuristic while remaining fairly plausible.
  • Dune Frank Herbert
    • Another sci-fi, also good. There are a bunch of sequels, and I’m about to start one, which means that the combination of the storyline and writing style made me want more! Significantly geekier and involving many more starships than The Windup Girl.
  • Native Son Richard Wright
    • An important book, but uncomfortable. Don’t read this if you are already feeling down on the world, but read it sometime.
  • Outlander Diana Gabaldon
    • One step above a “romance novel.” Fairly well written, with an ok storyline. I do not feel like I wasted my time with this book, but I don’t think it is important to read or particularly outstanding.
  • Lamb
    • A book that is funny, especially for someone who grew up in a religious family who knows a bit about the story of Jesus and the bible. If you are easily scandalized, don’t read it. But it was pretty good.
  • Monuments Men Robert M. Edsel
    • Interesting and worth reading, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of your list. There are other war books and art history books that are better. BUT if you want a combination of the two, this is the way to go!
  • 12 Years a Slave Solomon Northup
    • An important book. First-hand accounts of history, especially accounts of mistakes we have made, are always good to read. It is not an easy thing to think about, but you already knew that.
  • Everything is Illuminated
    • Highly recommended. I really enjoyed this book—the writing style is unique and the way that several storylines are wrapped together is fun to read and interesting. Touches on many important human themes as well.
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
    • I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I’d call it an exploration of humanity and relationships. You should read it if you like a lot of character development in your books.
  • Wildflower ***
    • An ok memoir. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful picture on the cover—the actual content is not nearly as dazzling. I bet that if the author had been able to interview the subject, it probably would have been a really fascinating story. As it is, it was written after the death of the subject, and it feels like the book could be cut down by about 100 pages.
  • Cane Jean Toomer
    • If you like poetry, read this book. If you like jazz, read this book. If you are interested in the Harlem Renaissance or black history, read this book. It is beautiful, and partitioned into perfectly manageable poems and short stories that you can savor all day. If you only like very literal stories, ignore the underline. You probably will not like Cane.
  • The Feminine Mystique Betty Friedan
    • I had to keep reminding myself that this was written a long time ago. In the context of the 1960s, this book was powerful and important. It is important to read due to its historical significance, and there are parts that feel very current. There are other parts, though, that feel dated, and for me it was hard to get through the whole book because of this.
  • African Friends and Money Matters David Maranz
    • Extremely useful and important read if you are living in Africa or work with Africans (refugee resettlement, international business relations etc.) I would suggest that every person who will be in Africa for any extended period of time read this. I also think that it could be useful to give to Africans who are trying to work with westerners or assimilate to western culture as it explains differences in “African” and “western” perspective. Obviously makes over-arching and general statements, but acknowledges this upfront.
  • The Jungle Upton Sinclair
    • Sad, interesting, still relevant today even though it was written about life 100 years ago.
  • The Beautiful and Damned Scott Fitzgerald
    • I enjoyed parts of this book a lot, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the author. It felt like he was trying to show off through his character’s conversations. But, as expected from Fitzgerald, the feeling of glamour, excess, and sadness of the ‘20s shines through all of it.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving
    • Beautiful, poignant, with just enough reality and just enough magic. I really loved this book. You get a lot out of it and it is a pleasure to read.
  • Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need Dave Barry ***
    • I have found Dave Barry very funny in the past, but this didn’t do much for me. Didn’t laugh out loud once.
  • 100 Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    • If you like magical realism and Latin American literature in general, you should read this. Revolution, love, banana companies, matriarchs, massacres, etc. described in a way that will dazzle your mind’s eye.
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Things I Don’t Understand

  1. The number of grown Beninese men who have Celine Dion songs set as their ring tones. This seems to diminish neither their coolness nor masculinity in the eyes of Beninese society. I always have to try really hard not to laugh as I don’t know ANYONE in the US who would now admit to having a Celine Dion ringtone even back when she riding the wave of the Titanic craze.
  2. How many adults try to touch my skin (IT FEELS THE SAME AS YOURS PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH ME WITH YOUR UNWASHED HANDS)
  3. Related to that, the disbelief in soap’s effectiveness… many people feel like washing your hands with soap is kind of stupid.
  4. Why everyone loves pate (congealed grits) so much. If you ask children’s favorite food, it is always “pate.” I mean, I love grits, but they always involve milk and/or cheese. This is just cornmeal and water.
  5. Think of the voice you would use to talk to a baby under one year old or to a pet—that high pitched, terrible voice. People love to use that voice while talking to me. Apparently I sound like that to them. WHY? When this happens, I always ask people if they have a throat problem and need me to take them to the hospital.
  6. Men commanding me to come say hi to them. Like, they will be lounging with their friends and then they see me and say “White person come here and greet me.” I think this is a method of trying to show off to their buddies. I usually respond by asking if they can’t come and greet me because their legs are too weak, which shuts them up.
  7. Little children up to the age of about 10 pooping in public and greeting you WHILE POOPING with no shame. Example- child: “Hi! How are you??” me: “Feeling awkward and disgusted because you are in the middle of defecating.” On the other hand, the granite hill behind my house is a very popular pooping place and I can see why. Who doesn’t want to poop with a view?
  8. Putting dried fish in EVERYTHING. Have a perfectly delicious peanut sauce? Some nutritious wilted greens? A delightful vinaigrette to put on bread? No you don’t, not unless you have pulverized many tiny dead fish and added them to the mixture.
  9. Racism, sexism, ageism, socioeconomic-status-ism. Of course these are also things that I don’t understand in America (although surely I participate in all of them sometimes without meaning to) but they usually manifest differently here. I’ll write a longer blog post about these soon.
  10. Finally, how is it possible that all babies here are unbelievably cute? Even though I know that there is a 50/50 chance that any baby will be a urine-soaked, I ALWAYS want to hold them. Will try to do a cute babies post sometime soon so you can be jealous of me and my baby holding. Since the birth rate here is something like 5 children per woman, they are not only adorable, they are also abundant. <3<3<3