torachan: arale from dr slump dressed in a penguin suit and smiling (arale penguin)
What are you currently reading?
Currently reading Kindaichi (still/of course). I'm on the third case of the second series and honestly have no memory of this one at all. (This has actually been the case with a lot of them!)

I'm also still reading Prisoner of Azkaban, though I've slacked off a bit on my lunchtime reading and I don't think I read more than a few pages this week.

Also also I am reading a physical book. (What!?) You see, all around my neighborhood are a lot of these Little Free Libraries in it and we always check them out when we walk by. So far Carla has picked up quite a few books from them, but I hadn't until last week. I picked up two books that looked interesting and I read one already (which I will talk about below) but have not yet read the other. I plan to take te one I read back today (to a different Little Library than the one I took it from, just for fun) but I decided I'd also like to try and read more of the books on my shelf so that I can leave them in these libraries when I'm done.

So to that end, I picked a book off my shelf that seemed like something I could read fast. XD It's a graphic novel called Vietnamerica by GB Tran and I think I must have read about it years ago on [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc. I've only read a bit so far, but I'm enjoying it. (Though I have found some of the lettering choices to be a bit hard to read. For some reason parts of it are done in cursive...)

What did you recently finish reading?
I finished reading my first actual book of the new year! One of the books I picked up at the aforementioned Little Library was Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). I really did not enjoy The Mindy Show and gave it up after four or five episodes (the love interest was just so annoying!) and I've never seen The Office (though it's on my list), but I really liked this book a lot! It's hilarious and a super easy read, which was just the thing I needed to get me back into (hopefully) the habit of reading things other than manga. If you like humorous autobiographies, I'd definitely recommend it.

What do you think you'll read next?
Mainly just continuing to read the things I talked about above, but I will probably give Kindaichi another break after this case and try to read something else manga-wise. Not sure what, but I have a bazillion files on my ipad, so there's a lot to choose from. :D
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Title: The Real History of the End of the World
Author: Sharan Newman
Number of Pages: 313 pages
Book Number/Goal: 17/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3.5/5

Jacket Summary: Ever since people realized that things have a beginning and an end, they have wondered if the world was fated to end. In entertaining and sharp prose, historian Sharan Newman explores the various theories of world destruction from ancient times to the present day--theories that reveal as much about human nature as they do about the predominant historical, scientific, and religious beliefs of the times.

Review: Does what it says on the tin. This was an easy read, and it was interesting seeing how so many people throughout history have felt that they were living in the end times.
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Title: The History of White People
Author: Nell Irvin Painter
Number of Pages: 496 pages
Book Number/Goal: 2/50 for 2011
My Rating: 4.5/5

Amazon Summary: Who are white people and where did they come from? Elementary questions with elusive, contradictory, and complicated answers set historian Painter's inquiry into motion. From notions of whiteness in Greek literature to the changing nature of white identity in direct response to Malcolm X and his black power successors, Painter's wide-ranging response is a who's who of racial thinkers and a synoptic guide to their work. Her commodious history of an idea accommodates Caesar; Saint Patrick, history's most famous British slave of the early medieval period; Madame de Staël; and Emerson, the philosopher king of American white race theory. Painter reviews the diverse cast in their intellectual milieus, linking them to one another across time and language barriers. Conceptions of beauty (ideals of white beauty firmly embedded in the science of race), social science research, and persistent North/South stereotypes prove relevant to defining whiteness. What we can see, the author observes, depends heavily on what our culture has trained us to look for. For the variable, changing, and often capricious definition of whiteness, Painter offers a kaleidoscopic lens.

Review: This was an interesting book, but I often felt like I was slogging through a textbook trying to read it (especially the early chapters), so I kept setting it down and it actually took me several months to finally finish. I just didn't find the writing style engaging at all, otherwise I would probably have given it five stars.

But it was interesting, and I learned a lot of things about famous people of the past (none of them good) that I didn't know before. It was also interesting to see how little anti-immigrant rhetoric has changed. A lot of things people were saying about Irish, Italian, Eastern European, Jewish, etc. immigrants is pretty much word for word what people say about Latin@ immigrants today. A lot of "oh noes, the right people aren't having enough babies and the wrong people are having too many!" and that sort of thing. Except it wasn't Those Brown People who were going to destroy the White Race, is was Those Other Inferior White People.

Also, while this book is called The History of White People, it's very US-centric. She traces things from Europe to the US, but once she gets to the US, she really never talks about whiteness elsewhere for the rest of the book.
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Title: Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Author: Lynne Truss
Number of Pages: 209 pages
Book Number/Goal: 50/50 for 2010
My Rating: 3/5

Jacket Summary: Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in email, and now "txt msgs", we have made proper punctuation an endangered species. In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. If there are only pedants left who care, then so be it. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From George Orwell shunning the semicolon, to New Yorker editor Harold Ross's epic arguments with James Thurber over commas, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.

Review: This was a pretty funny and entertaining read, and I liked that she was able to make fun of herself and admit that punctuation is always changing. The thing that actually really annoyed me was her assumption that people who care about grammar and people who use smileys are two separate groups with no overlap. XD (Also the general tone of "oh noes, the internets!" that some of it had.) I don't think it lived up to the massive hype around it, though.
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Title: The Story of My Life
Author: Helen Keller
Number of Pages: 152 pages
Book Number/Goal: 48/50 for 2010
My Rating: 2/5

Jacket Summary: For the first nineteen months of her life, Helen Keller is a normal child who laughs and plays and explores her surroundings. But a high fever robs Helen of her sight and hearing, leaving her alone in a dark, silent world. Until the day Anne Sullivan comes into her life, Helen's only means of communication are crude signs and gestures. With the help of her new teacher and friend, Helen learns to read and write. Slowly, she begins to triumph over her handicaps...

Review: Blech. What a summary! D: Anyway, I realised a couple years ago when I read Lies My Teacher Told Me that I really knew nothing about Helen Keller other than, well, basically what the summary above says. I didn't know that she was a disability rights advocat, or "a suffragist, a pacifist, an opponent of Woodrow Wilson, a radical socialist and a birth control supporter", to quote Wikipedia. So I thought I'd read up on her, and seeing she had written an autobiography, that seemed like the way to go. It's...really not. What I didn't realise, was that this was written when she was in college, so it doesn't talk about any of the awesome things she went on to do and is indeed just the same story I'd heard before. It's not a bad book, just not at all what I was looking for.
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Title: The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Different Languages?
Author: Deborah Cameron
Number of Pages: 196 pages
Book Number/Goal: 40/40 for 2010
My Rating: 3.5/5

Jacket Summary: A thriving industry of self-help manuals and popular science books has grown up in the last fifteen years, all based on the assertion that there are fundamental differences in the way that men and women use language to communicate. Whether the reason given is nature, nurture, or planet of origin, the Mars and Venus story is widely accepted. But, asks Deborah Cameron, why do so many people find it convincing? Drawing on the findings of more than thirty years of academic research, Cameron dispels the myths to tell a much more complicated--and satisfying--story, and shows how selective and inaccurate is the picture presented by many popular writers. She also demonstrates that popular asumptions about male-female miscommunication can have far-reaching consequences in many areas of life: for example, attitutes to sexual violence or discrimination in the work-place.

Review: I originally read a series of excerpts from this book online (all three are linked in this old post of mine) and really liked what Cameron had to say. I still do, but unfortunately the book doesn't feel like it really expands on those essays at all, despite being almost two-hundred pages long. Also the section on trans people, while not outright offensive, made me :-/. She consistently talks about men who want to be women and women who want to be men, etc. Anyway, I recommend the essays, but don't feel like the book really had much to add.
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Title: The English is Coming!: How One Language is Sweeping the World
Author: Leslie Dunton-Downer
Number of Pages: 352 pages
Book Number/Goal: 39/40 for 2010
My Rating: 2.5/5

Amazon Summary: English has fast become the number one language for everything from business and science, diplomacy and education, entertainment and environmentalism to socializing and beyond--virtually any human activity unfolding on a global scale. Worldwide, nonnative speakers of English now outnumber natives three to one; and in China alone, more people use English than in the United States--a remarkable feat for a language that got its start as a mongrel tongue on an island fifteen hundred years ago. Through the fascinating stories of thirty English words used and understood in nearly all corners of the globe, The English Is Coming! takes readers on an eye-opening journey across culture and commerce, war and peace, and time and space.

Review: This book was pretty disappointing. While some of the etymology/linguistics/history stuff was interesting, every time she started talking about global English (which was often, since it is what the book is about!), I started getting annoyed.

While she does say that English's dominance as a global language is not due to anything inherent in the language itself and that it could have been any language had history been different, she then goes on to talk a lot about the things that make English so easy for people to pick up and make it easy to spread rapidly and the tone is all just yay English! and yay America! and there's no critical thought or acknolwedgement of the (cultural) imperialism that made/makes English a global language. From reading this you'd think people around the world just started using English because they thought it was cool.

Also when she talks about these English words that are now used in so many other languages, she often doesn't distinguish between those that are used occasionally and those that are the primary terms people use. For example, when she talks about bank, she says it's used in Japanese, and while it may be recognised and some banks may use it in their name, the word people actually use is still 銀行(ginkou). So stuff like that made me not be able to trust what she was saying about other languages as well, since she could have made similar mistakes.
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Title: Eating Animals
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Number of Pages: 341 pages
Book Number/Goal: 38/40 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: Like many others, Jonathan Safran Foer spent his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood--facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child's behalf--his casual questioning took on an urgency. So Foer set out to find answers for himself. This quest ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, amd probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong. This book is what he found. Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir, and his own detective wokrd, Eating Animals explores the many stories we use to justify our eating habits--folklore and pop culture, family traditions and national myth, apparent facts and inherent fictions--and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting.

Review: This is a really good read. I picked it up because it sounded interesting and I liked his writing in Everything Is Illuminated. I did not expect it to change my mind about what I eat, but it did. Even more than the treatment of animals (which is horrible, but on its own, probably not enough to make me want to give up tasty animals), the stuff that's in them and the environmental effects of the "farms" are what did it. I don't want all that stuff in my body.

I'm not going to go totally vegan or even totally vegetarian, but I am going to limit my meat-eating to an occasional thing. I don't think it will be hard, and I was already planning to limit meat just for financial reasons (plus already limiting dairy and eggs and red meat).
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Title: Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence
Author: Jon Pahl
Number of Pages: 257 pages
Book Number/Goal: 36/40 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: It is widely acknowledged that American culture is both exceptionally religious and exceptionally violent. Americans participate in religious communities in high numbers, yet American citizens also own guns at rates far beyond those of citizens in other industrialized nations. Since 9/11, United States scholars have understandably discussed religious violence in terms of terrorist acts, a focus that follows United States policy. Yet, according to Jon Pahl, to identify religious violence only with terrorism fails to address the long history of American violence rooted in religion throughout the country's history. In essence, Americans have found ways to consider blessed some very brutal attitudes and behaviours, both domestically and globally.

Review: This was really interesting. There are four main sections, Sacrificing Youth, Sacrificing Race, Sacrificing Gender, and Sacrificing Humans. The middle two are pretty self-explanatory (slavery/racism and sexism/homophobia, respectively). Sacrificing Humans explores the way human sacrifice is always positioned as something primitive (non-white) people do/did while ignoring the ways "modern" societies sacrifice people all the time (I especially liked the bit about Puritans and Quakers; I was totally unaware of how violent the Puritans were), and Sacrificing Youth talks about horror films. The whole thing was fascinating and definitely a good read.
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Title: God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says
Author: Michael Coogan
Number of Pages: 238 pages
Book Number/Goal: 35/40 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

Amazon Summary: Readers looking for an unbiased appraisal of what the Bible says about premarital sex, homosexuality, and polygamy can trust Coogan, a biblical scholar of the highest order. Concise, clear, and accessible to general readers, this book covers all the usual topics plus a few that may surprise. A professor of religious studies at Stonehill College and editor of the New Oxford Annotated Bible, Coogan has also taught at Harvard and Wellesley. He covers predictable ground in unpredictable ways, frankly noting, for example, the pervasive biblical assumption that women are subordinate while explaining how that reflects the Bible's foreign and ancient context. The author does not overreach the evidence to promote his own agenda, but notes the Bible's contradictions on certain issues and admits the limits of modern scholarship. Readers may be surprised to find a convincing discussion of evidence for God's own (sometimes unflattering) sexuality, in metaphor if not in fact. Coogan's reminder at the book's end that modern application of biblical texts requires interpretation and nuance is a welcome corrective to selective, literalist use.

Review: This was another one I got from the library the other day. The new non-fiction shelf had so much interesting-looking stuff! I could have gone home with a whole bag full of books just from that section, but new books are only two-week loans, so I limited it to just three. Anyway, this one stood out because of the title, and also because it has a faux-leather Bible-esque cover, so it caught my eye right away.

I have been interested in reading books about the Bible and about Christianity lately. I have a lot of issues around the Bible due to my mom, and for a long time even just thinking about reading about the Bible or Christianity was enough to stress me out and make me feel really anxious, but I think I'm starting to get to a place where I can deal?

Anyway, I enjoyed this book. It was a pretty quick, easy read, and looked at various topics related to sex and gender, including homosexuality, marriage, abortion, divorce, etc. As the Amazon summary notes, he doesn't handpick verses to hold up one view or another, but lays out all the verses related to each topic, acknowledging contradictions and such. (I also found it interesting because a lot of liberal Christians are all about how Jesus wouldn't be down with this or that judginess, but Jesus was pretty damn judgey himself, sometimes even more so than the Old Testament.)
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Title: Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity
Author: José Esteban Muñoz
Number of Pages: 222 pages
Book Number/Goal: 34/40 for 2010
My Rating: 2/5

Jacket Summary: The LGBT agenda has for too long been dominated by pragmatic issues like same-sex marriage and gays in the military. It has been stifled by this myopic focus on the present, which is short-sighted and assimilationist. In a startling repudiation of what the LGBT movement has held dear, Muñoz contends that queerness is instead a futurity-bound phenomenon, a "not yet here" that critically engages pragmatic presentism.

Review: I picked this up off the new-books shelf at the library because the title caught my eye, but was really disappointed in it. Since he is explicitly critiquing the current LGBT movement, I had hopes that his "queer" wasn't a synonym for gay men as it (and LGBT, really) so often is. Alas, while there are a handful of lesbians here and there and an aside about a trans friend, this book is totally about gay men, mainly pre-AIDS gay male culture and art.

I could have rolled with that if the book had otherwise been interesting, but the academic language made it difficult for me to read, plus the whole thing lacked cohesion and just felt more like a collection of essays about this art/period he liked rather than something that was building towards a whole. Also, mainly he talked about what he liked about queer movements in the past, and what I had picked up the book hoping for was a critique of the current LGBT movement. But other than saying he doesn't like it, he doesn't really go into it at all.
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Title: Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science
Author: Carol Kaesuk Yoon
Number of Pages: 344 pages
Book Number/Goal: 31/40 for 2010
My Rating: 4/5

Jacket Summary: In Naming Nature, Yoon takes us on a guided tour of science's brilliant, if sometimes misguided, attempts to order and name the overwhelming diversity of earth's living things. We follow a trail of scattered clues that reveals taxonomy's real origins in humanity's distant past. Yoon's journey brings us from New Guinea tribesmen who call a giant bird a mammal to the trials and tribulations of patients with a curious form of brain damage that causes them to be unable to distinguish among living things. Finally, Yoon shows us how the reclaiming of taxonomy will rekindle humanity's dwindling connection with wild nature.

Review: I did not previously have any interest in taxonomy before picking this up, or really much interest in nature at all. But I happened to see it on the shelf at the library and it sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did, because it really is interesting and written in a very engaging way. One thing that bugged me, though, was that she went on and on and on about how wonderful Carl Linneaus was and I would have liked for her to at least touch on the fact that not only did he order plants and animals, but also humans (with whites at the top, natch).
torachan: arale from dr slump dressed in a penguin suit and smiling (arale penguin)
Title: Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference
Author: Cordelia Fine
Number of Pages: 338 pages
Book Number/Goal: 30/40 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology, Cordelia Fine debunks the myth of hardwired differences between men's and women's brains, unraveling the evidence behind such claims as men's brains aren't wired for empathy and women's brains aren't made to fix cars. She then goes one step further, offering a very different explanation of the dissimilarities between men's and women's behavior. Instead of a "male brain" and a "female brain", Fine gives us a glimpse of plastic, mutable minds that are continuously influenced by cultural assumptions about gender.

Review: This book does a really good job at shooting down all the evolutionary psychology crap that is so popular, as well as showing how ev-psych is basically a backlash against feminism. She also debunks the whole "but we tried to raise our kids in a gender-neutral environment and my daughter still likes Disney princesses so it must be in her genes!" thing by showing how near-inescapable gender socialisation is and how early it begins. It's a really easy to read book, which is always a plus for me, as I tend to get bogged down by a lot of non-fiction.

My main complaint is that this is really a book about white heterosexual people. There were many times when I was reading and I thought "your argument is good, but it could be so much better if you mentioned this or that". For example, when she talks about ev-psych guys who write books about how men are just hardwired to not be able to cook a meal or take care of a baby or remember the milk at the grocery store, so it's only right that their wives should do those things instead (their ladybrains are so much better suited to it!), she rarely brought up the fact that non-heterosexual (or even non-heteronormative) couples exist or that other cultures do X differently. Like, even if there hasn't been a study on children raised by gay couples (which surely there has; there's been studies on everything!), she could at least bring up the fact that gay couples with children exist and seem to be able to take care of babies just fine (also there are single fathers). It felt like she was really missing an opportunity to make her points even better.

Still, I really enjoyed this overall and highly recommend it.
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Title: Rapture Ready!: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture
Author: Daniel Radosh
Number of Pages: 308 pages
Book Number/Goal: 28/40 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: What does it mean when a band is judged by how hard they pray rather than how hard they rock? Would Jesus buy "Jesus junk" or wear "witness wear"? What do Christian skate parks, raves, and romance novels say about evangelicalism--and America? Daniel Radosh went searching for the answers and reached some surprising conclusions.

Review: I originally heard about this book from a review by [livejournal.com profile] esorlehcar, which I can't find now, and I immediately wanted to read it (which of course meant it went on my wishlist and I didn't get it for ages). A lot of the stuff he talks about in the book is after my time, but even so, a lot of this is so familiar to me. I was never the super Christian kid, the one who's all into the Bible and excited about God (though I knew quite a few who were), but I did grow up in this sort of environment and it was really interesting reading about it from an outsider's perspective.


Somewhat relatedly, does anyone have any recs for books about the Bible or about Christianity (modern Christianity more than historical) that are not "Christian books" but more examining stuff or looking at the Bible from a historical perspective, etc?
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Title: Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide
Author: Andrea Smith
Number of Pages: 245 pages
Book Number/Goal: 13/30 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

In this book, Smith examines how colonialism is tied to sexual violence and how that lense can be used to examine what has been done and is still being done to Native Americans, especially Native American women. This covers not just what we generally think of as sexual violence, but also cultural appropriation, environmental damage, and population control. It's a really excellent book and while it wasn't written in a casual manner, I found the language pretty easy to follow most of the time.


If anyone wants my copy, please let me know. (US only, sorry. Shipping outside the US is too expensive for me.) Taken!
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Title: Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century
Author: Graham Robb
Number of Pages: 342 pages
Book Number/Goal: 11/30 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

This is a really, really excellent book about the history of queer sexuality. What I loved most about it was how thoroughly it debunks the myth that no one identified as queer before the medicalisation of homosexuality. They may not have used the same words we use today, but there were people who knew they were different, men who preferred men and women who preferred women. It wasn't solely about physical acts.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in queer history. Or, you know, really anyone at all. It was a very easy read, too. I didn't feel like I had to struggle through academic language (always a fear of mine when reading non-fiction).

[personal profile] damned_colonial has a more detailed review here.
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Title: My Lobotomy
Author: Howard Dully
Number of Pages: 272 pages
Book Number/Goal: 9/30 for 2010
My Rating: 3.5/5

In 1960 at age twelve, Howard was given a lobotomy for reasons that basically boiled down to his step-mother didn't like him and Dr Walter Freeman really loved giving people lobotomies (he did about 3500 total).

It's a pretty horrifying story and the behaviour of the doctor, the step-mother, and Howard's father, who just went along with everything, was totally reprehensible. It's very much not pleasant reading.

It's also not pleasant reading because Howard is just not a sympathetic character. I have sympathy for him because no one deserves what was done to him, but the people he describes himself being at each point over the years and the person he is as the author telling the story are just not very likable.
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Title: Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare
Author: Dorothy Roberts
Number of Pages: 341 pages
Book Number/Goal: 4/50 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

This is an excellent analysis of the US child welfare system and how ridiculously broken it is. While the general view of foster care is that children are only taken from their families when they are abused or grossly neglected, the truth is that many children (especially black children) are taken from their families for no reason other than that they are poor.

And because regardless of how true it is for individual cases, as a whole, biological parents are coded as black and foster parents are coded as white, so the government is willing to spend tons of money on foster parents (for example, in California, not only foster parents, but also parents who adopt through the state get paid monthly for each child until they turn eighteen, plus the children can go to any UC or Cal State school for free), but is unwilling to instead spend that money on helping poor families so that their kids aren't taken from them in the first place simply because they had too small an apartment or couldn't afford a babysitter or had no food in the house or were homeless.

The book lays out how the current system ends up harming not just children by taking them away (often unnecessarily) from their families but the black community in general, and the unconsious racism that drives the decisions to favor placing children in foster care and terminating parental rights rather than working to keep families together.


Mooch from BookMooch.
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Title: When I Was Puerto Rican
Author: Esmeralda Santiago
Number of Pages: 274 pages
Book Number/Goal: 3/50 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

This is Esmeralda Santiago's memoir of growing up in Puerto Rico and moving to New York at age thirteen. It ends with her about to start high school and I assume the second of her three memoirs picks up from there. I'm eager to read it. I'm sure it will be as well-written and engaging as this was.
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Title: I Am America (And So Can You!)
Author: Stephen Colbert
Number of Pages: 228 pages
Book Number/Goal: 2/50 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

It's Stephen Colbert! In book form! This is totally hilarious and I especially loved his margin notes, which often answer questions in the main body of text or give a summary of a paragraph or just otherwise comment on stuff.


That said, wow, this is only my second book this year? Really? Gah.

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