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Bonnie's Picks

Book Cover for Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Kondo, Marie
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

I normally don’t read organizational self-help books, but I noticed that this title had over 700 holds. I started hearing about it and it seemed like it was rapidly gaining cult status. I grew curious, but worried that it would be no match for the profoundly deep-seated slob inside of me.

I bypassed all the holds since this popular book is “always available” as a streaming e-audiobook on the Library’s free Hoopla app. I repeatedly listened to it on my phone and found that: a.) it has changed my life, and b.) my home actually feels more peaceful.

Ms. Kondo offers a philosophy for ordering one’s home, but her main premise is that if an item doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it. She’s coming from an animistic Shinto perspective; that means the items that aren't bringing me joy anymore (if they ever did) aren't happy just sitting there, gathering dust or being stored in the back of my closet. Belongings want to be useful, so I should get rid of them so they can be useful to someone else. Each thing I discard I should hold in my hands and thank for its work in my life, even if that means thanking it for helping me realize I don't like that sort of thing. This was most meaningful to me as I went through my books—most of which I got rid of. I held a mini-ceremony for each volume, thanking it for what it taught me and how it shaped my worldview, and then knowing that I would never read it again, released it into the world to shape someone else’s worldview.

This book goes through each category of one’s home, section by section, first covering what to get rid of, then offering guidelines for keeping good order of one’s clothes, junk drawers, papers, books, etc. Much of it went against prevailing methods I’d previously heard about, and all were fascinating. Ms. Kondo has clearly thought her methods through.
Recommended September 2015

Book Cover for Catch Me If You Can Abagnale, Frank
Catch Me If You Can

A terrific memoir by Frank Abagnale, who dropped out of school when he realized that he could make quite a living, and get the girls, by writing false checks. Because he looked so much older than his young age, he successfully posed as an airline pilot, a doctor (he was promoted to resident supervisor), a Harvard lawyer (he passed the bar!), a sociology professor at Brigham Young University, and a television script writer—all before he was 21! He managed to escape from the police and the feds over and over again, often in hilarious and daring ways. As he readily admits, he is "a man with the cojones of a billy goat." The most dramatic part of the book (for me) was his confinement in a French prison. I cannot go into the horrific details here—you wouldn’t believe me if I did—except to say that it made the solitary confinement scene in Shawshank Redemption look like a Sandals Resort. Hang on to your hat and buckle your safety belt—you’re in for a wild ride!
Recommended September 2012

Book Cover for Attachments Rowell, Rainbow

Lincoln is painfully shy and lives with his overbearing mother. His life lacks direction, he thinks a lot about his long lost high school sweetheart, and his only social activity is playing Dungeons and Dragons with old college buddies. He lands a night job at a newspaper reading employees' email, making sure they aren't using their work email for inappropriate purposes. He begins reading the flagged messages between two women he's never met, Jennifer and Beth. Absorbed in their funny, intelligent messages and affectionate friendship, he falls for Beth, and becomes wrapped up in her story despite misgivings and guilt for reading her email. Then he discovers through her email that she's developed a crush on him. She refers to him as MCG (My Cute Guy), but he doesn't know who she is or what she looks like! This delightful read should appeal to fans of quirky romantic comedies.
Recommended July 2011

Morrell, David
First Blood

This is the story of Rambo, a young Green Beret/former POW recently returned from a horrific tour in Vietnam. He travels around the American South and though he does nothing wrong, gets kicked out of every small town he visits. Sheriff Teasel, a veteran of the Korean War, tries to retain order in his community, and sees Rambo as only a vagrant long-haired hippie kid. He too drives Rambo out of town. Rambo decides enough is enough and declares war on Teasel, the local police, and the National Guard. The relationship between these two ex-soldiers, hell-bent on killing each other, becomes almost beautiful, almost filial. A brilliant psychological suspense novel with themes that remain timely, with cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on the rise.
Recommended August 2010

Book Cover for Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison Kerman, Piper
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison

Piper Kerman, a recent graduate of Smith College, was looking for adventure. She got involved with a woman who was travelling the world smuggling drugs and laundering money. After a few months, Kerman realized that the new life she inhabited was not glamorous but sordid and treacherous. She got out, severing all ties to her new “friends.” Fast forward ten years, Kerman is engaged and enjoying a high-profile job in New York City. That is, until the Feds show up at her house and charge her with drug trafficking. With the help of a top lawyer, she is sentenced to only one year—the minimum mandatory time for her offense. In the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury, Connecticut she witnesses first-hand the effects of her crime, surrounded by women whose lives and families have been torn apart by drugs. But Kerman finds something else she hadn’t expected: community, acceptance and the love of her fellow prisoners. She writes about the colorful characters she encounters in prison: a six-foot four transsexual diva who sings gospel songs every night before going to bed, big-mouthed “Eminemlettes” always looking for a fight, a nun serving time for political activism, and an ancient granny locked up for taking phone messages for a drug-dealing relative. This heartfelt memoir could be called a hagiography for the millions of prisoners trapped in a justice system that isn’t always just. Bonus: a recipe for “prison cheesecake” on page 150.
Recommended July 2010

Book Cover for The Finer Points Of Sausage Dogs McCall Smith, Alexander
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs

In his hilarious follow-up to Portuguese Irregular Verbs, the delightful McCall Smith does it again. In this latest installment, hapless German philologist and world-renowned expert in abstruse Portuguese grammar, Professor Dr von Igelfeld gets mistaken for a veterinarian with a particular expertise in sausage dogs. In an attempt to live up to the expectations of his American audience, he declares in a speech, “If a dog has short legs, we have found that the body is almost invariably close to the ground. Yet this does not prevent the sausage dog from making its way about its business with considerable despatch.” He supervises a veterinary student’s amputation of a sausage dog’s leg, then interferes, leaving the dog with only one leg. “He can roll. He will be able to get around by rolling.” Read this little novel when you need a good laugh and aren’t in the mood for something too heavy or profound.
Recommended July 2009

Book Cover for The Reluctant Communist Jenkins, Charles Robert with Jim Frederick
The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea

This is the autobiography of an American soldier who defected to North Korea during the Korean War and was a prisoner of this bizarre land for 40 years. Jenkins gives a repentant account of his desertion and the description of his time there would convince anyone that he has paid his dues several times over. He lived a nightmarish existence of never being able to trust anyone and was forced to memorize propaganda, work for almost nothing, and live under the constant watch of fake "wives" and "leaders" who observed and reported every aspect of his life. Yet strangely, Jenkins' life is nowhere near as terrible as the citizens of North Korea who starve and work themselves to death in labor camps. Eventually Jenkins married Hitomi Soga, a Japanese citizen who was kidnapped from her home country by Kim Il Sung's communist regime, for the purpose of teaching Japanese to spies. After many years the U.S. discovered that Jenkins was still alive. The Japanese government confronted North Korea and Soga was returned to her home country.
Recommended May 2008

Book Cover for God’s Middle Finger Grant, Richard
God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

This is the rollicking true adventure of a British writer with a death wish who ventures into Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountain range and mixes it up with mafiosos, Mormons, forgotten Indian tribes, and finally murderous coke-crazed Mexican hillbillies bent on hunting him for sport. Grant finds himself in a series of precarious situations and writes a well-documented, honest look at various facets of the sociology of the Sierra and his own inability to make sense of it. Grant’s account is fascinating, hilarious and thought-provoking. This rough-and-tumble read is for those seeking a great adventure who either don’t have the guts or the vacation time to enter this forbidding land themselves.
Recommended May 2008

Book Cover for A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers Guo, Xiaolu
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo, is the story of a young Chinese woman who discovers loneliness, love, and self-actualization for the first time in London. “Z,” as she calls herself, since she perceives her name as too difficult for Westerners to pronounce, is the protagonist and narrator who finds herself completely culture shocked and isolated in a country that makes no sense to her. She writes in disjointed, sometimes garbled English about her thoughts on her past in China, her feelings of being “other,” and her lover, whom she refers to as “You.” This is where Guo seems to bite off more than she can chew: her lover is not only of a different generation, culture, and language, but he is also a different sexuality. “You” is bisexual and is a sculptor of the erotic male form who seems to spend more time wallowing in depression and introspection to notice the blossoming Z in front of him. I found Z to be needy and even a tad unlikable in the beginning, but as the book progresses her English gets better, as does her understanding of her own strength, power, and identity.
Recommended December 2007