Friday Five

Five Books for 2012

The Hunger Games Series
I didn’t like this series the first time around when I read it in 2011. You can see that in the poorly maintained book section page. Somewhere along the way of rereading it before our Mid-service conference when I planned to see the movie version with other PCVs, I fell in love. Not ‘rock my world Harry Potter obsessive’ love, but somewhere a few notches below. It quickly became my fall-back read when I would want a short little tryst into reading until I would find half the day gone as I would reread one of the books once again. It broadened my perspective and I tried a few other dystopia, futuristic young adult series (Matched and Divergent) that I enjoyed. I must say though, the first cut is the deepest.

Sense and Sensibility
Oh Jane, you’re just not in my life enough. As with any period novels, I had a few minor troubles with some of the words, but Austen’s story tickled my brain and kept me satisfied imagining my way out of rural Thailand. I knew the general direction of Sense and Sensibility well from my Mom’s and my love for the movie version, but I liked the book even more. I was surprised how much difference there was with the original story, but that’s what always happens when Hollywood gets involved. I think Emma will be next.

Shantaram
Is there any other way to say: a 900 page epic? An escaped Australian convict flees to India becomes a slum doctor, falls in love, is thrown in jail, rises through the ranks of a mob family and goes to war. A fascinating saga just in broad terms, but what really hooked me in to finish was the stories within the story. Getting a ‘bear hug’ and the lessons learned from seemingly simple situations and people. This book forced me to sit back and digest things about my life and the world during and after finishing it. A sequel is scheduled for release in May. I look forward to the feast.

Unaccustomed Earth
A collection of short stories by Indian author, Jhumpa Lahiri, I found amongst Jeff’s things when I hid out for the week at his house. I got so invested in all of the characters, their lives, and relationships, each one had me hoping for more when I turned the last page. I especially enjoyed the last and longest story, which twisted me back to Thailand. I really look forward to exploring more from Lahiri.

The Plot Against America
This was my first Phillip Roth novel and it left me craving for me. Another sort of dystopia/alternate reality type of novel in that Charles Lindbergh wins over Roosevelt’s bid for a third term. Each page is so dense, you feel like you have to reread paragraphs to make sure you caught everything, but not in a ‘I don’t know what’s going on in this book’ kind of way. The only question now is, which of his do I read next?

I’m a Proud Mama

For my birthday, I like to treat myself. Usually several times over. At surviving nearly a quarter century and another eight months left in Thailand, I thought it was prudent to get myself a readin’ machine. Or in other words, a Kindle.

It’s cheaper if you buy the kind that displays advertisements instead of the different backgrounds as in old Kindles. I don’t really notice the ads at all.

Before I came to Thailand, I decided to invest in an Ipod Touch instead of a Kindle because I thought it was more functional. Not only could I install the Kindle app on to the Touch, but I could use the internet, listen to music, and more. I’m really glad that I did purchase it and have read quite a few books on it. Especially at meetings conducted in Thai where I could just slip it out of my purse (and people think I’m on my phone, a more accepted form of distraction for Thais).

What the world looks like from a Kindle

However it was after hanging out with some voracious readers in Chiang Mai that I realized reading on the Itouch was slowing me down from devouring new titles and something had to be done about it. Since I couldn’t expect Laurie Ann West Memorial Library to start shipping books to rural Thailand, I decided to go the route of my fellow PCVs and buy myself a Kindle for my 24th birthday.

It’s a lot smaller than I was expecting

Now that things have finally slowed down, I can satisfy my itch to read now that I’ve finally received my long-awaited Kindle, sent in my most recent care package from Amurigah. Just in the nick of time, right before I start vacation and traveling. So far I’ve only read a few short stories on it (the original Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella) because of my busy schedule, but I know this week I’ll be diving into my first long-term e-bibliophile relationship.

I also made myself this cover to indulge my DIY urges. Can you recognize the pattern on the fabric?

Outside

Inside

Standing up on its own

I realize the case looks far from professional, but it makes me a little prouder to pick up my Kindle knowing that I didn’t pay $30 for an outer shell. And if you guessed my sheets as the pattern, you are correct. In every set of Thai sheets comes cases for two head and two body pillows. I decided I wouldn’t buy the body pillows leaving the extra cases to use for material in my little projects. Making the case was incredibly easy only needing some fabric, cardboard, elastic, some fabric glue, and maybe an hour of your life.

I’m off to finish Alice in Wonderland

I’m really glad I bought a Kindle. It’s really easy to use and made it possible for me to enjoy reading again, even in the middle of rural Thailand. I can’t wait to start a long novel again.

For some ideas on how to make a Kindle case, here are some of the ones I looked at:
http://clearlytangled.blogspot.com/2011/06/kindle-case-tutorial.html
http://www.budgetingwiththebushmans.com/2012/04/diy-free-kindle-cover.html 
http://handmademommy.blogspot.com/2010/03/geek-chic-ebook-lover.html

Friday Five

Top Books Read of 2011 (in no particular order, though I wish the list were a lot longer, see the rest here)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
The third book in the series, I was both glad and depressed to finish. Rumor is that Stieg Larsson had planned ten books for the Millennium series, but we’ll never know for sure what he had in mind. Though the second remains my favorite, this book made the list for the year because it really took me out of Thailand and immersed into the chilly, brisk streets of Stockholm. When coming up for air, I’d had to blink a few times to remember where I was. I love that feeling.

Sigh, Stieg Larsson

Outliers
I mean, it’s Malcom Gladwell, of course it’s going to be awesome. He explores the idea of the ‘self-made’ man and really how many people and series of events it takes for that to come together. 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.

Now with the correct photo cover, Malcolm Gladwell

Zeitoun
Thank you Jeff Jackson for you are the one that introduced me to David Eggers. Through one family’s eyes, I began to understand the disaster that Katrina was both physically and emotionally to the city of New Orleans and its inhabitants. I learned so much about the storm, the city, the people, and the terrible, unimaginable things that happened after devolving into real chaos. This is a must read.

Dave Eggers

Freakonomics
I liked how much this book made me think. The guys that wrote this book took the ‘if a butterfly flaps his wings on one continent, it causes an earthquake on another’ concept and sprinted with it. And I ate it up. Not that I just believed everything they offered, but it changed my perspective of cause/(or what we think is the cause of an) effect.

Steven B. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Glass Castle
A memoir and a worthwhile one of the author’s childhood with her loony parents. There were times that I wanted to jump through the pages and just strangle her parents for the things they did to their kids. Somehow though, they all managed to still love one another through their differences and that’s what made this such a worthwhile read this year. That and it made me appreciate my Mom a lot more.

Jeannette Walls