Read & Rated

Book Reviews From The Road:

1. Leaving Microsoft to Change the World ~ John Wood (5/5)

This book was recommended to me by a high school teacher in Chitwan, Nepal. I caught him reading a copy written in Nepali so I asked him about it (because if you are lucky enough to catch a Nepali reading, you know it must be worth asking about!). He went on to describe this amazing tale of a man who saved the Nepali children. A few weeks later, I found this book in English and it quickly became one of my favorite books of all time. It is by far the most influential true story I’ve ever read and has inspired many of my decisions since reading. If you have a heart and/or an interest in doing good just for the sake of doing good, please read this book and become a little bit more like John Wood if you can.

2. A Long Way Gone ~ Ishmael Beah (5/5)

No one has experienced hardships like this boy. A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier is one of the most terrifying, moving and eloquently written books I’ve read recently. In Vermont, we are experiencing an increasing immigration of refugees, some who have escaped from wars in their homeland. Please read this book if you have ever been caught thinking life is hard or if you care to wear the shoes of a child who’s lost his childhood.

3. Ines of My Soul ~ Isabel Allende (4/5)

Before traveling to a new country, it is always best to enlighten yourself to the history of its people and culture. This book was given to me by my father before leaving for Bolivia. It is a beautiful and dramatic description of how the “new world” was conquered by the Spanish. I recommend this read to anyone traveling in South America. You will be left with a heart full of emotions for the indigenous people and a great appreciation for the unimaginable horrors and triumphs that these people and cities have endured.

4. The Trouble with Testosterone ~ Robert Sapolsky (2/5)

The trouble with traveling, not to take away from the testosterone, is that you can only carry a couple of books on you at a time. Once you’ve finished, you are left desperately seeking the leftovers of other travelers. Trading books is hit or miss, so I’d say this book was a bit of a miss. Scientific, yes. Clever and witty, on occasion. But overall, out dated and a bit of a rant. However, I did learn a thing or two about people with OCD and how getting your period is another result of nurture vs. nature.

5. The Last Child ~ John Hart (3.5/5)

I’ve never been scared while reading until this book. I could literally feel my skin tingling and all I wanted to do after reading was watch Disney movies in hopes of evading the nightmares. For traveling, or anytime you’re looking for a pleasure read that will take your mind far, far away, this is a great book. A quick, terrifying, page turning escape from the horrors of real life.

6. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox ~ Maggie O’Farrell (3/5)

Recommendations can be both invaluable and useless. I picked up this book because of the praise given by Audrey Niffenegger, author of one of my all time favorites, The Time Traveler’s Wife. In her words, this is “a strange, sad, and marvelously well-written novel,” and she was right on. After I few easy reads, I cherished the beauty and intelligence of O’Farrell’s prose. It is always a treat to find a truly talented author offering an unforgettable story.

7. Fifty Shades of Grey ~ EL James (1/5)

What a let down this one was. I knew this book was meant to be erotic, but honestly, I was too distracted by the horrible writing to connect with the characters. Someone get this woman a thesaurus and tell her to look up “murmur”! I would have to be very desperate to finish this trilogy.

8. Shantaram ~ Gregory Davis Roberts (5/5)

It was by pure luck that I picked up this book as I was leaving Bolivia, but for the two months that followed I savored every word. This book has definitely moved to my favorite book of all time. It’s an unfathonomable account of GDR’s time as an escaped prisoner and mafia gangster in Bombay. If you love India, read this book. If you love action, read this book. If you love to laugh and cry in the same chapter, read this book. If you love philosophy and the honest truth, then you absolutely have to read this book. Beautiful writing and brilliant story telling on every page.

9. When She Woke ~ Hillary Jordan (3/5)

I had no idea what to expect when I bought this book from the airport bookstore, but I was pleasantly surprised. In this book, Jordan takes you into the not so distant future to a time when the United States has become so politically and religiously divided that state borders are patrolled and the alliance with Canada has been lost. It’s a time when crimes are punished by melachroming – the skin of criminals is colored to represent their crime – not imprisonment. This book is about a girl named Hannah. Her skin is red, her crime is murder. It’s a clever story: bringing sci-fi, sex, adventure, and religion together in a terrifyingly believable portrait of what could happen in our society if we continue to divide over religion and politics.

10. First They Killed My Father, A daughter of Cambodia Remembers ~ Loung Ung (5/5)

A brutally honest portrayal of what life was like in Cambodia under Khmer Rouge. Ung’s account of what happened to her family during those four years is remarkable and speaks for thousands of Cambodian citizens who suffered unimaginable pain and horrors. Buy a copy of this book. Just do it. It will change your life and help Ung continue changing the lives of others.

11. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close ~ Jonathan Safran Foer (5/5)

Haven’t seen the movie, but I loved the book! I’ve never connected as well with a nine year old boy than I did through this story. I couldn’t help but fall in love with this little boy and his hilariously witty sense of humor. A clever, sad, thought-provoking story about loss, love and the meaning of family. I will be thinking about Oskar for a long time to come.

12. Lucky Child [Also titled, After They Killed My Father] ~ Loung Ung (2/5)

In her second book, Ung picks up where she left off – arriving to the Vermont as a refugee with her older brother and sister-in-la, while her surviving sister remains a peasant girl in a village in Cambodia. Telling both sides of the story, Ung explains what it was like to grow up in America versus her sister’s upbringing in rural Cambodia. While Ung recalls many events from her first book, there are some interesting new insights in this one. Not as gripping and compelling, but worth a read if you’re interested in what life is like for a refugee.

13. Currently reading: Three Junes, by Julia Glass.

Have a book recommendation for me??? I’d love to hear it!