Club Hillman

Unless you went to Pitt, you have no idea what the title means. Without going into detail about it, I’ll explain that this page is for the books I read during service.

I’m hoping to make a serious dent in the classics, but definitely not opposed to trashy but extremely entertaining fiction.  Any guesses as to the first one?

As of April 2011, haven’t started anything yet. Still studying Thai too much and catching up on things from PST. I’ve got a few suggestions and a huge file that’s been passed around the PCVs. It’s got 900 Kindle files on it, life is good.

May 5th, 2011: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
The third book in the series, definitely worth checking out. I hadn’t gotten around to finishing out the series until I by chance found in on the top shelf, hidden in the PC library (you can’t hide stuff like that from a tall person, don’t even try). I really like Stieg Larsson’s writing. It’s very analytic in a way, almost like a journalist writing a really long column that turned into a novel. The second remains my favorite, but I can’t believe I won’t be getting any new ones. I love reading series of novels and knowing that an unfinished manuscript is waiting in the possession of Larsson’s still living long time partner leaves me itching for more. Definitely worth the read, check it out and disappear into the cold world of Swedish politics.

May 17th, 2011: The Accidental Billionaires
This book is the basis for the Facebook movie that came out recently, The Social Network. I was surprised by how much I liked the movie, so I figured I would check out the book. It was definitely an easy read, I would suggest it if you’re interested in the players that surround Mark Zuckerberg as he created ‘the social networking site that has since revolutionized communication around the world.’  Don’t bother buying it though, a find at your local library kind of summer read.

May 29th, 2011: Outliers
If you have never gotten a chance to read a Malcom Gladwell book, do it and do it now. Well that is if you like thought-provoking non-fiction that makes you reconsider many cultural norms we have as Americans/society. This is my second of his that I’ve read and it only leaves me wanting more (which I thankfully have). This particular book of his is about the story of success and debunking the idea that it’s based solely on an individuals skills and talents. Gladwell covers topics like opportunities (with Bill Gates, the Beatles, Bill Joy, and Chris Langan) and the cultural legacies (explaining why southerners continue to uphold a ‘culture of honor’) that stem from them. My favorite part is when he delves into the idea of the rice paddy, the obscene amount of hard work it requires, and how it translates to why Asians are better at Math than Western countries. In dealing with the concept of hard work, Gladwell asserts the idea how many more Bill Gates and Beatles we would have if we eliminated summer break to have students continually honing their craft (learning). I can also personally suggest his book Blink (which I liked a bit more) and hope to make my way through The Tipping Point soon.

June 11th, 2011: Nickel and Dimed
It was a pretty interesting read, but not exactly up to date, the Barbara Ehrenreich went ‘undercover’ as a low wage worker about ten years ago. She works as a waitress in Florida, Wal-Mart associate in Minnesota, and a maid in Maine. Ehrenreich was trying to prove that it’s possible to survive on the income of minimum wage. The most interesting part that I liked was how she points out when you work by the hour, you’re literally selling your life away. Time exists by the hours you’re working, which you’re only counting down until your shift ends, and the hours you savor when you’re not at work, until you go right back into work again.

June 19th, 2011: Zeitoun
In a word: phenomenal. I’ve fallen in love with David Eggers’ writing style. Following the story of one family’s experience with Hurricane Katrina, I learned so much about the storm, the city, the people, and the terrible, unimaginable things that happened after devolving into real chaos. It starts off slow, setting everything up for the reader, but once it captures you, the effect continues to reverberate throughout after you’ve finished. Zeitoun inspired me to want to know more about Katrina and much, much more of Eggers.

August 13th, 2011: The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius
His first book, David Eggers writes a slightly exaggerated memoir of both of his parents’ deaths (within a month of each other, both cancer) and the subsequent raising of his 9-year-old brother. He was 22 at the time. At times hilarious, many times smart, other times I wanted the rambling to be over. I definitely shouldn’t have spread it out over such a long time because towards the end I just wanted to finish it rather than enjoying it for what it is: definitely sad but hilarious, and also quite genius.

September 1st, 2011: The Help
The Help did exactly what a good book is supposed to do: it made me stop to think about my current circumstances, those in the book, how the world has changed and so on. Set in 1960s Mississippi, it tells the story of two black women and one white one. In a time and place where the lines between race were believed in, it made me stop and think how differently my life is as a minority in Thailand. Needless to say, I’m treated a lot differently then the minorities in America, especially in the past. It’s a pretty good and easy book to read, especially if you’re interested in the topic. I’m going to check out the movie to see if it holds up.

September 2nd, 2011: The Hunger Games
Though technically a young adult book, I had difficulty with some of the more gruesome parts.  The setting is a time and place that North America has descended into a tough place called Panem and gladiator style ‘Hunger Games’ occur once a year to ‘celebrate’ how far they’ve come. Someone told me once if I liked Harry Potter, I would like this book too. While I wouldn’t say it measures up to the awesomeness that is Harry (in both English and Thai), it’s another quick read (I finished it in less than 12 hours) and I’m thinking of reading the whole series this weekend.

September 2nd, 2011: Catching Fire
Or Hunger Games 2.0 as Jeff says and I couldn’t agree more. Where the first one went right, I couldn’t help but feel for the first three-fourths of the book it was mostly repeating itself. The ending was fairly predictable and set up an easy follow-up. This might be a case of reading the series back to back syndrome and I’m going to try to force myself to not read the third one.

September 3rd, 2011: Mockingjay
Clearly I didn’t succeed in no finishing the series. It was ok, but I’m not sure I would suggest to someone who has a lot on their plate and many other options in reading. Call me cheesy, but mostly I just wanted to know who the main character married at the end of her struggles.

September 15th, 2011: Split
As someone who would want to bring up any child I bring into the world in a non-conventional way, this book was a fantastic account of what it was like to spend a childhood that way. The beginning of the book was definitely more interesting as the author chronicles living in a commune and then driving across the country living out of a mail truck and my sense of adventure was enlightened, my travel bug worked up into a frenzy. As she grew up she got more angst-y and I grew bored and struggled to finish it. Definitely one of those, ‘only read it if you’re interested in the subject matter’ books.

September 23rd-30th, 2011: Sookie Stackhouse series
Whatever, I jumped on the vampire train. I’m a fan of True Blood and when the series ended, I decided I’d give the first Southern Vampire Mysteries a shot. As you can see, I got a bit addicted and actually finished all eleven fairly quickly. It’s not fantastically complex literature, but as a fan of the show and of the idea of supernatural/fantasy existing in the world around us, I enjoyed the escapism from the village. Writing this almost a month later, I couldn’t tell you which one is my favorite, but if you’ve got some time on your hands and you like to daydream about Alexander Skarsgard like I do (and I really do), give the series a shot.

October 15th, 2011: Freakonomics
After all that fiction, I was ready for some good ol’ fashioned facts and figures. Or at least the idea of it. So many great ideas, things that conventional economists and journalists couldn’t think of staying inside their box. The most controversial thing they put forth: the forty percent crime decrease in the 1990s was due to Roe v. Wade forbidding the government from outlawing abortion. It really got my mind thinking about the effects of policies and/or decisions in ways that we never considered before. Like what’s in a name? I enjoyed that section as well. I fully suggest checking this book out if you haven’t done so already.

November 6th, 2011: The Sex Lives of Cannibals
I think this book should be required reading for every South East Asian serving Peace Corps Volunteer. The book chronicles the two years the author spent with his girlfriend while she worked in a NGO on a remote Pacific island. Though life on Kiribati sounds much rougher than Central Thailand, so much of it is so familiar and found myself nodding my head and laughing out loud often. Even if you’re not crazy to move to the other side of the world, this book is worth the read and fast-moving as well. Now if only I could get my hands on the second one…

November 20th, 2011: Glass Castle
Awesome book. A memoir and a worthwhile one of the author’s childhood with her loony parents. The older I get, the happier I am that I was stuck with my Mom. I felt myself shivering after hearing about a West Virginia winter without heat or consistent food source. It’s fast, it’s interesting, it’ll make you count your lucky stars.

November 21st, 2011: I’m a Stranger Here Myself
Holy Cow I love Bill Bryson. If I could recreate my life to shape someone elses, I would be sorely tempted to do so with him. This book is a collection of his columns upon his return to America after spending twenty years in England. I read it in bits and pieces when I needed a little taste of Americana and Thai craziness would be getting to me. And then I’d be reminded that Americans are pretty strange too. My favorite part is when he says something to the effect of, It’s not that I don’t like America and think it’s a great place, I’m just over it. I’m over a country.

May 2012: Update
Oofta it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. While I have been reading, the past couple of months have set me on a ‘start a book, but don’t finish it’ infection which has never affected me before. I feel weird reviewing books that I haven’t finished, hence the lack of postings on this page.

I have read Hunger Games a few more times and I think it’s safe to say I’m a little obsessed. It started when the movie was coming out and I wanted to reread them before the movie/had lots of time on the night buses. Then I read them two more times after that. Reading it again has helped me pick up the different themes throughout the book, make comparisons to past historical occurrences/trends, and the responsibility we have for future generations. Katniss as a main character is more badass and realistic than most female protagonists available for young girls in both books and television. Any future child of mine will be reading this over Twilight. I’m going to try to challenge myself more (and actually read adult books) now though and I’m starting with Phillip Roth’s The Plot Against America. I also just bought a Kindle as a birthday present to myself to make it easier to read then my little Itouch and acquired a 9GB file from a friend that is sure to have lots of options. Happy reading!

May 13th, 2012: Deadlocked
The newest addition to the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries was pretty good. Since I read the previous ones in a large chunk, I was a little confused with what was going on in some of the background stuff forgetting what happened in which book. As expected, this took me less than twenty-four hours to complete and isn’t too high up on the difficulty scale, but that’s not why I read it. For some light summer reading (or desire to escape rural Thailand), this book (and series) is ideal. If you’re into vampires, witches, fairies, and the like.

May 18th, 2012: The Plot Against America
This was my first Phillip Roth novel and it was a doozie. Does the word doozie often get used with Roth? I hope so. Jeff told me once that Roth writes just one page a day, editing and tweaking until it’s packed such a punch you feel like you need to read it twice just to get the whole meaning, in a good way. This particular stage is set in an alternative history in that Charles Lindbergh wins over Roosevelt’s bid for a third term. The web that is spun following that event is the plot of this novel that left me reeling. Roth had me believing The Plot Against America was fact and I clung to the post-script notes to bring me back to what I knew to be reality. I will be reading this book again.

June 29th, 2012: Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella
The first two stories I read on my Kindle. Short, sweet, and made me go on a Disney movie rampage. As there isn’t much to them (the versions I read are the free ones from Amazon’s classics page), I didn’t form much of an opinion about them except that is was nice to read some of the tales I’ve heard since I was small.

July 7th, 2012: The Godfather
This was a reread, but every bit as awesome. This is one of the few books I felt like was done justice on the screen (or Don Vito would have made an offer they couldn’t refuse) with minor, but understandable changes. The thing that I learned most from the book in comparison is the delicacies of the mafia culture and how something so small can make not only waves, but of tidal proportion. Mario Puzo is a phenomenal writer of genius levels and I would heartily suggest everyone to read The Godfather or any other novel of his.

July 11th, 2012: My Name Lon, You Like Me?
Found this in a used bookshop on Koh Chang. It tells the story of one Isaan girl who goes to work as a bargirl and then prostitute in Bangkok, Pattaya, and beyond. It both broke my heart and infuriated me. Reading about how different Thailand was and how far it’s come in a short period of time give me so much hope for its future though. The grammar and organization wasn’t the best, but the story is worth telling. And spreading.

July 14th, 2012: The Blind Side
For parents of young men that are not interesting in reading, but football, this is a story for them. Or anyone really. I’m only a casual football fan and feel like I learned more about the strategy of the game than in the past 24 years of my life. Lewis presented it in a fascinating way so that the information could be accessible to all levels of football fans. Knowing the movie was waiting in the wings didn’t hurt my inspiration to read the book either, though there were some definite changes that made it more feel-goodey.

July 16th, 2012: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea.
I’ve loved Chelsea Handler since discovering her show on E! Network. She’s crass, swears far worse than a sailor, awkward, and totally inappropriate. My hero. This book read like a splat of her brain from her past adventures, most of which I was shaking my head, but laughing at her throughout. An easy and fun read, definitely a good one for the beach.

July 17th, 2012: Bridget Jones’ Diary
A modern version of Pride and Prejudice and a chuckler of a read. A lot of the time I was rolling my eyes on how ridiculous Bridget would be about things like her weight, getting out of bed in the morning, and her overall lack of serious adult tendencies, but I was cheering for her throughout in spite of these things. Another good summer read and another movie waiting in the wings for me. Colin Firth AND Hugh Grant.

2 thoughts on “Club Hillman

  1. Unlike you (so far), I have worked my way through about 12 books since arriving in January. I have reviewed them on my blog if you wanna take a look and decide if any seem worth your while. There are a few that I would definitely recommend … let me know if you’d like the suggestions 🙂 glad things are going well at site!

  2. Pingback: Friday Five « Erin Flew the Coop

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