Reading Roundup: January 2011

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

This is the book I've been talking to everyone about for the last month. It was an amazing read and I think it will go on this year's list of recommended books. I think part of the appeal is the fact that before reading it I didn't know very much about North Korea at all. Every thing in the book was new to me, and the author describes things so clearly that you feel as if things you'd never imagined were completely familiar. She also tells the stories of several different people and their disillusionment and escape from their own country. I did not expect the book to be such a page-turner; the subject doesn't seem that exciting but the way it is written really makes it compelling.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

This was a nice little break in between two more difficult, darker books. This is a nice love story about two very interesting people, but I also liked the fact that it didn't gloss over some uncomfortable contemporary realities. It was a fun book that still felt substantial.

Unbroken: An Extraordinary True Story of Courage and Survival by Laura Hillenbrand

This is another 'in' book that I've heard everyone talking about. After reading it I will agree with others who have listed it as one of their favorite books of the year. I especially liked the fact that she included the story of the protagonist's life after surviving the war rather than tying things up into a neat little ending. It enhanced the book by presenting him as a more complex individual.

Adventures of the Soul: The Best Creative Nonfiction from BYU Studies Ed. Doris Dant

I love the personal essay and thought I would love this collection. There were some pieces in it that I absolutely adored and others that I didn't really think were all that interesting. That is the nature of any anthology. I'm still thinking about some of the essays and some new insights they gave me, so I guess that is a sign of the worth of this volume.

The Outside World by Tova Mirvis

I wanted to like this book more than I did; the subject was interesting and I really liked Mirvis' other book that I have read. She is an Orthodox Jew and one of the things I like about reading her books is the chance to see how a religious person writes about her religion and culture for outsiders who don't much about it. This book raised a lot of interesting questions in my mind about my own life and my own writing, but ultimately I wasn't that impressed with it. I felt like she created many interesting characters and inner conflicts, but didn't do much with them or use them in a meaningful way. I did not feel committed to reading the book and at the end I felt myself wanting more.

Movies

Shrek Forever After

We've watched all the Shrek movies and thought they were hilarious. This one didn't seem to be all that funny and it felt a little tired. I guess it's a good thing it's the last one.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

This was also the last movie in a series and I thought it was interesting to note how different this was from the first two. It felt a little like Law and Order, since the focus is more on tying up all the loose ends from the first two movies and bringing justice to the world. I still liked it, but it wouldn't stand on its own as well as the first two.

Howl

Several reviews of this movie mentioned it's fragmented nature as a problem. It contains several different elements that don't always work together that well. I still liked it and learned a lot more about Ginsberg than I had ever known before and I thought the acting was well-done.

The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King

Until about six or seven years ago I had little interest in Tolkien, or even fantasy in general. Then I read the books and watched the movies and I feel like I can understand why they are so popular. We've been rewatching the movies since we got a projector and they are even better on the big screen. Now I can't wait until my kids are older and we can watch them all together.

Comments

SeƱora H-B said…
I also finished the Millennium Trilogy movies in January. I agree with your assessment that the 3rd movie couldn't have stood alone. Still, it was a nice way to tie up the series.

I'm a little bit interested in seeing the American versions, but I don't know how anyone can compare to the Swedish actress (I can't remember her name for the life of me).

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