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The Not-Quite States of America

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I listened to a fascinating book recently -- The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack. This book was about the United States territories. As a lover of non-fiction books, I considered this the perfect type of book for entertainment purposes because it covers a subject of which everyone is aware, but about which very few people know. However, as a book club book, it was lacking because the contents resulted in the learning of facts, rather than discussion points -- though there were a few.

Prior to reading this book, the only things I knew about the territories is that they existed, that Puerto Rico and Guam were two of them, and that my co-worker has a heck of a time at the local license branch with people understanding that her husband from Puerto Rico is able to get a driver's license.

Now I know there are five territories administered by the United States -- American Samoa (I also learned how to pronounce this), Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Vir…

Follow the Leader

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Various challenges at school have prompted my kids to do quite a lot of reading lately. It started with the local library hosting a Battle of the Books challenge for fourth graders. My son's school decided to assemble a team. As part of this challenge, he was given a list of books to read, all of which were out of his comfort zone. Prior to that time, he only liked to read non-fiction books -- Guinness record books, books about caves, Weird But True books, etc. During his preparation for the challenge, he read and re-read the five recommended books and even talked to me about them.

Later, the library hosted a Family Battle of the Books, but we were not able to participate due to travel plans. However, we decided to read one of the books -- Because of Mr. Terupt. What a good book, and good material for kids to read and process.

The book is written from the perspective of several kids in Mr. Terupt's class. Each student has some issues to work through, sometimes with family and…

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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Since this book won the Pulitzer and has been made into a movie, it is likely that most people are already familiar with it. However, I was a little late to the game on this one. The Road is a post-apocalyptic story of a father and son trying to survive. They try to beat winter by heading south while attempting to do so without being noticed by others, some of whom have turned to cannibalism to survive. It's bleak.

The manner and style of writing is unique as there are no chapter delineations, no quotation marks, no character names, and infrequent apostrophes. In that way, the style of writing mirrors the unfolding of the story -- going and going with few interruptions, going south, getting to the end, stunted conversation. Just survive. Get through. Simplify things.

I found that I moved quickly through the book, which is the opposite of what happens when the chapters are long. Instead, this had no chapters but frequent spaces or gaps in the text, which made it seem OK to stop re…

First Audiobook of the Year

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When I was in college, I could always justify spending money on books. Perhaps it was the expensive textbooks that numbed me to the cost. In any case, I decided that books were educational and I should never feel guilty about buying them or having more. The expense was justified for reasons of education, but also for reasons of comparison. The money I spent on books gave me a much better feeling than when I spent money on fast food or tchotchkes. The irony of the situation is that now that I have more money, I am reluctant to spend it on things I can get for free. In college, had I not realized there were libraries?

That preamble explains why I "read" my first audiobook of the year! The Flavia DeLuce books that were recommended to me were available for free through my library's Overdrive app. The book, A Red Herring Without Mustard, was delightful as an audiobook. In fact, I am uncertain as to whether I would have liked a print version as well. The narrator did a great …

Permission to Quit

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I reserve the right to quit a book. Yes, I have Clarissa syndrome (in early remission). This is where I trudge through a book even though it is long and dull. Sometimes, that doesn't even have to be the reason. Sometimes, I finish reading books that were not remotely similar to how I thought they would be or how they were described to me. I am slowly being cured, and I have a goal this year to quit at least 13 books. Of course, if I find all of the books to be compelling, I won't quit them. But, with as many as I start, I think 13 would be the minimum quit number.

You may have noticed that I am keeping a sidebar list of "Abandoned Books," which will help to keep me accountable for this goal. Also helping me to let is this article, which was sent to me on Twitter. I found it amusing to read about why that blogger chose to quit the books on her list (I, too, quit Ulysses once. Why do I own it?)

This post is for all of your weary readers out there. Stop torturing yours…

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

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When it comes to work, do we really want to know what our co-workers think of us? The answer for Kim Scott in her book Radical Candor is yes. This book is full of guidance on how to function as a productive team. The bottom line in successful teams for her is to care personally and to challenge directly. If you care personally without challenging directly, this will lead to what she refers to as ruinous empathy. In other words, what good is caring about someone, if you don't ever say what needs to be said? If you neither care nor challenge, you demonstrate manipulative insincerity, and people can see through that instantly. If you challenge directly without caring, you display obnoxious aggression. Nobody wants to work for or with this person.

The challenge is to attempt radical candor, which is where you care and challenge. In this way, you produce an environment that is ideal for teamwork, growth, and accomplishment. The book goes on to explain ways that this can be achieved wi…

Schooled

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When I was a kid, the term "schooled" was used to describe a situation wherein someone was handily bested by someone else. For example, when Larry Bird would make some of his pass or shot fakes and the defender would buckle his knees and fall down, Larry would "school" this individual by easily notching two points. The inference is that they were taken to school and shown how it is done -- this applies mostly to sports analogies, but it doesn't stop there.
I finished Educated by Tara Westover over a week ago, but I couldn't bring myself to summarize it. I still don't think I can summarize it very well, but this is my attempt. This book is about Tara's childhood. She grew up in rural Idaho and didn't go to school. Even the family's attempts at home schooling were described as feeble and fleeting. She had no birth certificate. There were many unhealthy and manipulative family dynamics, both in religious and basic interpersonal terms. 
Tara wa…