How to Understand Isreal in 60 Days or Less

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In How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, Sarah Glidden shares her thoughts and experiences on a Birthright Tour she took to Isreal. Guarded and skeptical, Sarah agrees to go on a Birthright Tour with her friend Melissa. The title is deliberately tongue in cheek and Glidden certainly knows no country can be understood after a short bus tour.

The purpose of the tours is to educate Jews from other countries about the history of Israel. Growing up with little teaching about her faith or the history of Israel, Sarah was quite skeptical. She’s got a Muslim boyfriend who worries that she’ll return a Zionist.

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At every stop, Sarah expects to hear just a bunch of propaganda. She questions everyone and everything. She is surprised to learn the complexity of the issues inherent in Isreal’s politics and history. She also winds up admitting that her tour guide and other speakers are genuinely understanding of the other side or know much more about the problems than she does.

The narrative is sincere and authentic. I did feel the book is a truthful, considerate story of an American girl’s tour of Israel. The end isn’t pat. Sarah continues to struggle with what to think about Israel and its history. I appreciated how genuine the story was. The illustrations are realistic and fitting.

My E-book

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I’ve recently uploaded an annotated ebook entitled Prairie Avenue, a historical fiction novel set in 19th century Chicago. It’s about Ned Ramsey, a boy whose parents hit financial hardship so they leave him with his wealthy aunt and uncle. The aunt is a mysterious, charismatic woman who’s shunned by the neighborhood women and adored by the neighborhood men.  I’ve edited the book by adding explanations and simplifying some language. You can get it by clicking here. Feel free to sample the opening.

I’ve lowered the price to 99¢ till February 15, 2018.

Ikigai

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Ikigai is a Japanese word that refers to the intersection of your mission, passion, profession, and vocation (see below). Héctor Garcìa and Francesc Miralles investigated a village in Okinawa which has the highest number of residents over the age of 100.

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Their secrets to longevity and quality of life are useful, but the book as a whole could easily be edited down to an article. The authors travel to Japan and interview several active, healthy centenarians but all that’s shared are a few conversations and a list of quotations along with a description of 10 common qualities of these vibrant centenarians and explanations of how they implement them into their daily lives:

  1. Never retire – always participate in meaningful, helpful activities
  2. Take it slow – no need to rush which makes people stressed.
  3. Don’t eat till you’re full – stop eating when you’re 80% full or fast a day or two a week. One trick is to eat on very small plates, perhaps the size of a saucer and don’t pile food up.
  4. Keep moving through light exercise. You don’t need to do contact sports or run an marathon. Keep it simple.
  5. Surround yourself with friends. Have several relationships so if one ends, you have back up.
  6. Smile
  7. Reconnect with nature.
  8. Give thanks.
  9. Live in the moment.
  10. Follow your ikigai.

The trouble I found with the book was the meandering. I think there were 10 qualities just because ten is a round number. In addition to information about ikigai, there’s a lot of fluff about yoga, tai chi, Csikszentmihalyi’s flow. They also add paragraphs that should have been deleted about their trip from the airport and such banalities. The ideas about flow, tai chi, etc. were from the authors and not from the Japanese elders.

I’d hoped that this would be like The Little Book of Hygge, but it lacked the wit and the tone of the book. I think I’d rather read such a book written by an insider. Someone from Japan would be able to add insights two outsiders couldn’t.

So this is a book to get from the library and skim. then go out and find that passion, make more friends, smile and eat till you’re just 80% full.

Fetch

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I want to know more about graphic novels and non-fiction, so I checked out Nichole George’s Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home. Reading this story of George’s life with her ill behaved, but loyal and interesting dog, Beija. When she was a teen, Georges got Beija from a shelter. Beija had been abused and came with a lot of sensitivities. She’d bite people who bent down to pet her. She didn’t like men, and on and on. Originally, George’s bought the dog for a boyfriend, but his mother said “no” to this gift so Beija becomes George’s dog, sometimes shared with her boyfriend while they’re together.

The story is a chronicle of George’s life as she moves in with her boyfriend, finishes high school, moves out on her own with him and continues to move in search of a home where she and her dog can find peace and understanding.

I found the book interesting and Beija and Georges interesting and likable. I did think the ending dragged a bit, but the story was entertaining and endearing.

Hillbilly Elegy

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J.D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy takes readers to Kentucky and Southwest Ohio, home of the hillbillies, the real one’s who make the Clampetts look like straight-arrows. Vance explains his family history starting with his grandparents, Mamaw and Papaw, who like many in their hometown left Kentucky in search of a more stable life starting with a well-paying job in the steel industry. Economically, the family gains security.

However, alcoholism, verbal abuse and other destructive behavior held back Vance’s family. Papaw’s drinking and Mamaw’s outlandish responses to it caused their divorce. Though his grandparents always provided J.D. and his sister with the stability their mother, a single mom with a string of boyfriends and husbands, couldn’t provide.

He shows the hillbilly culture with all its highs and lows. The loyalty and chutzpah on the one hand and the lack of structure, financial and social capital on the other. Vance is candid about his mother’s drug use and series of boyfriends and husbands, about his grandmother’s temper and outbursts, about his sister’s responsibility and life choices. All along he explains how he thought about his family and his own successes and failures.

Vance also shares research that helped him understand the sociology and psychology which had been done about his culture. He shares his thoughts on what policies could help such at-risk families and where personal responsibility or tough love are the only answers.

Vance now is a big success with a good marriage and good job in California. He struggled growing up so much so that it’s a miracle he didn’t wind up dropping out of school and dealing drugs. Many times when Vance was stuck with a bad situation he chose a great option, all things considered.

It’s a fascinating read and it belongs near the top of any policymaker’s To Be Read List. My only criticism was that the end could have moved more swiftly. The parts where he goes into statistics and research could be more concise and more graceful. These are minor points.

I just learned that Ron Howard is making a film based on Hillbilly Elegy. Vance’s life is getting better and better.

My 2018 Reading Challenge

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I’ve made up a reading challenge for myself. I have done Goodreads.com‘s challenges where I read a certain number of books per month. This time I’m adding some themes and other specifics to spice things up.

Susan’s 2018 Reading Challenge

January – read a memoir and another book that’ll help me change my outlook (i.e. achieve a resolution)

February – read a 19th century novel and a religious book (for Lent)

March – read a book written by a Russian author

April – read a play by Shakespeare and commentary in a Norton Classic edition

May – read a detective story

June – read a book of historical fiction

July – read a travel book

August – read a humorous book

September – read a book by a Japanese author

October – read something scary

November – read a book a friend has recommended

December – read a children’s book and a story or book with a Christmas theme

 

No one has to join this, but you’re free to do so.

I am curious about what sort of challenge you’d set for yourself. Share in the comment section below.

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

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Jen Campbell’s Weird Things People Say in Bookshops is a light, clever read. It’s a collection of the strange things people say and the odd questions they ask. Boy, are some people clueless.

It’s a collection of dialogs and a fun amusing read, but not something you have to read cover-to-cover.

Here’s some examples:

“CUSTOMER: Hi, I just wanted to ask: did Anne Frank ever write a sequel?
BOOKSELLER: ……..
CUSTOMER: I really enjoyed her first book.
BOOKSELLER: Her diary?
CUSTOMER: Yes, the diary.
BOOKSELLER: Her diary wasn’t fictional.
CUSTOMER: Really?
BOOKSELLER: Yes… She really dies at the end – that’s why the diary finishes. She was taken to a concentration camp.
CUSTOMER: Oh… that’s terrible.
BOOKSELLER: Yes, it was awful –
CUSTOMER: I mean, it’s such a shame, you know? She was such a good writer.”

“CUSTOMER: I read a book in the sixties. I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?”

“CUSTOMER: If I were to, say… meet the love of my life in this bookshop, what section do you think they would be standing in?”

“CUSTOMER: OK, so you want this book?
THE DAUGHTER: Yes!
CUSTOMER: Peter Pan?
THE DAUGHTER: Yes, please. Because he can fly.
CUSTOMER: Yes, he can – he’s very good at flying.
THE DAUGHTER: Why can’t I fly, daddy?
CUSTOMER: Because of evolution, sweetheart.”

“Customer: I’m looking for a book for my son. He’s six.
Bookseller: How about this one – it’s about-
Customer: Yeah, whatever, I’ll take it.”