May 14, 2012

Book Reports & Book Giveaway

Bridge of Sighs went well, thank goodness. It took me longer than usual to get into it (I think of Richard Russo books as having a lot of dry humor, but there wasn't any for the whole first slightly-dismal chunk of the book), and I never did feel like I understood the younger Louis's character or why Sarah chose him, and there were a few sections where I thought the author got a bit swept up in the beauty of his writing and let it take over, so that I was thinking, "Okay, yes, lovely writing, well done, now let's get back to the story" or "Is he deliberately writing a character who would actually speak/write this way, or has he forgotten that this is supposed to be a real person talking?" But overall, I liked it very much, there were many good parts, and I was happy with all the nice filling-in-the-gaps details (like where you first see something through one character's eyes, but then later you get more information that spins it a different way). I'd recommend it.

Then I read This is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More, and I liked it well enough to immediately put it on my wish list because I want to OWN it. It's like three decades of psychotherapy, condensed---and better yet, written by someone funny and awesome. There were parts I thought could have stood a little FLESHING OUT: like, in the chapter on sexual issues in a relationship, he tells an anecdote about a woman who didn't want to have sex with her husband, and it turned out that this was because he couldn't stand her and was contemplating suicide to get out of the marriage. Ah ha! Well! I think that's a lesson ANYONE could apply! And the only idea for breaking addictions seems to be to...stop doing them. While he says wayyyy more about it than that, and in fact that's one of the parts I found so mind-blowing, afterward I thought to myself, "Well...but then, if that doesn't work...?" (He covers that too, but it's like "If that doesn't work, maybe you can't.") Or, sometimes I felt like he thought that because something worked for his personality/temperament, it would be the same for everyone. But mostly not, and I've found his ideas very interesting and complicated to think about (the stand-out ones for me are his thoughts on Alcoholics Anonymous and suicide), and I suspect I'll be applying a number of them over the years.

And then I've just finished The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, which I thought was really fun to read, but it will make some people want to stoke up the woodstove. It's about the return of the Messiah, and how he's treated. (Hint: second verse, same as the first.) My main objection is that the new Messiah thinks everyone should have jealousy-free sex with anyone they want to. And of course the whole book is putting the author's opinions into God's mouth and/or pants, so you'd have to think ahead of time about whether you could handle that in a fiction book. My second objection is that the story is told from many points of view, and I thought the author had a lot of trouble making the women sound like women. What I thought was the good part was the neat science-fictiony stuff about someone who isn't a regular human, and the parts about how WOULD the Messiah behave, and what would he have to be like for people come to believe that it was him, and how would the rest of the world react to the situation, and so on. And maybe the women don't quite sound like women, but each of the various storytellers does a very good job telling his/her own story. And there's quite a bit of suspense, because you know it can't end well but you don't know in what direction it's going to go poorly.

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Let's do another book giveaway. I'll buy a copy of one of these three books for one randomly-selected commenter. You can still comment without being entered, if you want; if you want to enter, mention in your comment which book you'd want to win a copy of. I'll do the drawing on Thursday the 17th. [Edited to add: I guess it'll have to be U.S. shipping addresses only. I was planning to use my Amazon Prime to ship it for free, but I think that only works in the U.S.]

Update: The winner is Amanda!

57 comments:

sarabean said...

Definitely This is How, that sounds like a thought provoking read!

S said...

If I were to be chosen, I'd like the second one "this is how...."
After 5 years of dealing with a compulsive "habit" / conversion disorder due to anxiety, I'm just now looking into therapists. I don't know what to expect would like any insight to help. When you mentioned the section on addiction, that's similar to my compulsive habit (constantly clearing my throat, hiccuping) and I'd like info into that.

Cherie Beyond said...

This is How sounds fascinating...and like something my library would never buy in a million years.

Kathy said...

It seems to be unanimous so far, I'd also like "This is how"
Thank you!

Christina said...

I would choose "This is How:" out of the 3 choices. After a lifetime of anxiety and depression issues I usually like a good self-help book.

kate said...

I would also choose "This is How," although I'm not a huge fan of self-help books. I think I may have found the last one I liked through you, though: "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)".

Dawn said...

I'm always up for an interesting self-help book, so I'd choose "This is How."

lifeofadoctorswife said...

My favorite bit: "And of course the whole book is putting the author's opinions into God's mouth and/or pants." Hee!

The "This Is How" book sounds very interesting and if I were to win a giveaway, that would be the book I'd want to win.

Courtney said...

I love to read. I would like to read them all. For the sake of choosing, I think I would pick the Bridge of Sighs but mostly because I like fiction best.

And have you read the Fifty Shade trilogy yet?

Stacie said...

If chosen I would like you to pick Swistle. There are not enough GOOD surprises in this world... :)

Diane said...

Agreeing with the chorus, I'd love to read This Is How. I love the way you've described it.

Brenna said...

I would want the Augusten Burroughs book. I own all his other books, and I have this one from the library sitting on my dresser right now, waiting to be read. (I'm savoring the anticipation for a bit).

susie said...

"...there were a few sections where I thought the author got a bit swept up in the beauty of his writing and let it take over..."

That is so perfect and hilarious. Based on your reviews and my current attention span for the above, I'm most interested in the second book, "This is How.."

Love your book reviews!

Laura Diniwilk said...

I wasn't going to enter, but I'm kind of intrigued by the book with the title that is so long I can't remember it by the time I scroll down to the comment box (I tried, twice) ;)

Christy said...

Oh, I think I'd go for the Last Testament. I love your book reviews!

Julie said...

I think I need This Is How immediately.

emily said...

I think Final Testament sounds fun to read, and I too love your book reviews, although I can never help but marvel that you have time to read at all!

Jessica said...

I'd love to read This is How! You're tweets about it have me very interested:)

Bitts said...

I definitely would like to win "This Is How" because I'v aleady read "Bridge of Sighs" and the "messiah" one just sounds like it would tick me off.

vanessa said...

I think I'd go with either Last Testament or This is How, but the latter has gotten not great reviews, but I DID love Running with Scissors.
Have you read The Leftovers, by Tom Perotta? I really enjoyd that, and it seems similar.
BTW, if I hadn't already read it I would have gone w Bridge of Sighs, because Russo is awesome ;)

Nikki B said...

This Is How sounds awesome! I have really been enjoying your recent reviews - you've been helping boost my Goodreads list (or, in some cases, thankfully not).

Lisa H. said...

I would love to read the James Frey book!

Nowheymama said...

I would love to read This Is How....

And I am LOVING your book review posts.

Misty said...

I would like to read The Final Testament. And I am sure my husband would also. So!

Fun stuff.

phancymama said...

I would love to read This Is How, and I do love your book reviews!

Vegas710 (St) said...

The Final Testament sounds like it would be really fun as a choose-your-own Messiah kind of thing. Like, mine might not be too loosey-goosey about the sex but would smite all the churches or something. I think I'd like to read it to spark some fun creative thoughts.
Wow. SO I was going to say that TFT sounded good but if I win, I'd like the This is How book. However, I have convinced myself that I'd really like to win The Final Testament!
I'm still going to dig into This is How though, Burroughs has been on my to-read list for some time now.

Donna said...

Oooh, Bridge of Sighs for me, please.

And thank you for letting us all experience the delicious anticipation of being chosen as the winner.

Jenski said...

Yeah, "This is how." The shys, I have them bad. I also really enjoy your book reviews.

KP said...

Oh wow, I would LOVE "This Is How", based on your description. :)

Hairline Fracture said...

This Is How sounds like a book I'd like to own, too.

Lindsay said...

The final testament

Enjoyed your comments and I love when bits of a book stay with me for several years. It makes me not even care that I forget most of what I learn... I guess that's one of my definitions of mind-blowing, when I am like" wow, I will not soon forget this." I def want to read more Augusten Burroughs now. He totally owes you some royalties.

Suzanne said...

I was definitely going to pick This Is How but then I clicked on The Final Testament and saw it was written by James Frey and I thought "Wait, THE James Frey?" and now I want to read that one as well. But it is out of stock on Amazon and I like to make things easy for you so I'll pick This Is How because obviously I am going to win.

I LOVE your book reviews.

Emily said...

Bridge of Sighs, please.

Alicia said...

This Is how gets my vote! Totally sounds like something I may even enjoy, as well as getting a 'life lesson' from. Maybe! :)

Amanda said...

I would like This is How. Who doesn't need some humorous and condensed psychotherapy.

Kate said...

I'd definitely love to read This is How!

Gail said...

I'd like to be in the running for The Final Testament, please. I like James Frey's work, and didn't care about the scandal. At least we know he can write fiction. Thank you for the opportunity Swistle.

Saly said...

I think I'd like to read the Final Testament.

I just love your book reviews!

Shelly said...

Oh, I'm so glad you liked Bridge of Sighs! What did you think of Empire Falls? I think it's my favorite by Russo.

I am definitely interested in This is How. I've read Augusten Burrough's other books and liked them, so I am looking forward to reading This is How.

amyunicorn said...

I would be most interested in the "This is How:..." book.

-R- said...

Can I pick two books? I would like either Bridge of Sighs or This Is How. I love Richard Russo but haven't read that one, and This Is How is something totally different than I would normally read but sounds interesting.

Kinsey said...

I would love a copy of This is How--it sounds like it could be really useful!

Nicole said...

I'd love to win This Is How (is the contest open to Canadians?)

Melissa Haworth said...

sounds fun! I think I'd choose Book of Signs (unless you suggest otherwise :)

Rah said...

This is How. but I don't know if I can wait until the drawing before ordering it. thanks!

Swistle said...

Nicole- Hm, I'm not sure! Do you know if Amazon ships to Canada? I was going to have them ship directly to the winner.

Swistle said...

Shelly- I remember I really liked Empire Falls, but I read it so long ago I don't remember WHY I liked it so much! I remember though that it started me on a Richard Russo kick!

Shelly said...

Swistle - I remember Empire Falls as being very funny, but with a serious ending. Have you seen the HBO movie with Ed Harris, Paul Newman, and Joanne Woodard? It's really good.

Lorraine T. said...

The Final Testament book sounds like a good hubby/wife co-read, then discuss.

Trudee said...

I am also a Canadian who would love to win This is How. I clicked on the link you provided and read the sample they gave and thought iw was great. I should really get some more of his books from the library as I really like his style. (I have purchased things from the American Amazon site before, so I know they do ship to Canada, though I believe the shipping charge reflects it.)

Shalini said...

Ooh, This Is How, pick me!

Aoife said...

Darnit, delete the previous post! forgot to add an email...

I about jumped up with my hand in the air saying Oh oh me!! I would love This is How: ... As soon as I read your description, I went to our library's website and put in a request... in line with 32 other ppl for a book they haven't bought yet. :D

Sara said...

Oh, I'd love to enter if not too late. I can't wait to read This Is How. I own all of his books and just love him.

Email: auntie (dot) Sara (at) gmail.com

Saranel said...

This is How...if its not too late...

Emily said...

"This is How" sounds awesome! I'd love to give it a try.

Renee from GA said...

You listed several things I need to learn How to deal with. I'm looking for that book whether I win it or not :)

Amanda said...

Thank you Swistle! I received This is How yesterday and even though my library pile is yelling at me, I cracked it open this afternoon. I used to be a one book at a time girl but now I'm a total book slut.