Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

Summer readin’, had me a blaaaast…

Only a few more hours before my summer ‘vacation’ officially comes to an end, so I thought I’d let you know a bit more about what has occupied my free time these last six weeks: books. Between recommendations from friends and my compulsive Amazon-browsing (check out my wish-list!), I managed to consume the following in record time:

  1. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. I’d been meaning to read this book since chancing upon an excerpt as part of the required reading for my ‘Happiness’ course senior year; I even bought it for a friend (Ms.Insulin) before I read it, knowing it would be a fantastic read – and it didn’t disappoint. Bourdain’s written voice sounds loud in this text: reading the book is like holding his hand while he spins you around his chaotic world, all the while whispering disgusting truths about the dirt under the not-so-metaphorical kitchen sink.
  2. Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture by Mario Salvadori. I picked up this book on a whim, while browsing the library shelves. While the author does editorialize a bit too much, going on about the importance of the ‘Architect’ and ‘Engineer’, it was a worthwhile read, if only to introduce me to some principles of building I’m sure to encounter in this year’s Structures class. It makes understanding loads relatively easy…though I might suggest revising his shear diagrams and perhaps updating the text to incorporate newer structural ‘marvels,’ like the Burj Dubai.
  3. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right,  Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin. Without a doubt my favorite read of the summer, and not only because I saw myself in the author’s shoes, albeit a few years younger and without a law degree (though my parents might suggest that my propensity to argue ought to’ve led to the former instead of the architectural studies that await me). As we drove up to New Haven, Rubin reminded me of the things I’d learned in Paris – to lighten up, to read what I want (be it kidlit or books on medical anomalies), to take a chance on doing something new (bikram yoga?), among other things. I’m going to buy this book and keep it on my shelf, for those times when studio gets between me and life, and Ms.Insulin isn’t there to set me straight.
  4. Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin Rooney Doland. A quick read, if you go straight through, and a good guide, if you take your time to apply the principles Doland proposes. I didn’t have a desk to unclutter, but her tips on keeping travel-sized shampoos for guests and having groceries delivered are jotted down in my iPhone.
  5. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert. Recommended by Poohbear, I was a bit skeptical of this read because I’m no where close to being married, and a bit wary of my friends who have, and certainly did not want convincing otherwise. I was happily surprised. If you disregard the cheesy ending, the book is an interesting sociological/anthropological survey of marriage in Eastern and Western cultures. My most interesting take-away: why do we, in the Western world, place such a burden on our significant others, by first giving them that title, and then expecting them to be not only our best friend, but our perfect lover, business partner and child-rearing teammate, when the East acknowledges that it takes a village to not only raise a child, but sustain a union?
  6. The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home by Pico Iyer. I will admit it now: I did not finish this book. Gretchen Rubin tells me I will be okay. I tried, I really did, but after a while, Iyer’s excessive descriptions of chaos and the alienating feeling of being country-less, well, alienated me as a reader. As a literary proposition, the book’s writing style matches the author’s intent: to convey the disorder that results in a too-global community, the loss of identity in the vagrant soul comes through every brand-laden shopping experience and self-defining national experiment. So, a success?
  7. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I read this tome in one day, Scout’s honor. I did nothing else that day, but I finished it all in one go. Set in a universe somewhere between Tolkein and Rowling, the story is compelling in spite of its first-person narrative (something I’ve never been fond of), and I’m looking forward to hearing what happens next in this series. Gripes? A first novel, sure, but Rothfuss tries a bit too hard to create a unique universe. His invented language and sometimes over-capitalization (referring to the local university as the  University reads like a fan-fiction writer’s habit) took away from the archetypal story of a young boy who overcomes personal tragedy to harness his God-given talents.
  8. The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. I’m right-smack-dab in the middle of this one, and Bryson is as good as ever. I probably look like a fool, because I can’t help but whisper this book to myself, checking Bryson’s citations of differences in Northern and Southern pronunciation for myself. At this point, I can’t say what kind of American accent I have, only that I certainly have an American accent.

With the exception of The Mother Tongue, which I purchased because it was on sale for only $7 (an unbelievable price for a hardback book), the rest of these literary adventures would not have been possible without the generosity of my local library – nothing like reading to your heart’s content without a paying a penny for that pleasure! Unless you’re me, and want to hold on to the books for far longer than the library intended…oops.

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Go Bulldogs!

As you can probably guess (and some of my dear readers found out in person), I’m going to Yale this fall! Things have been a bit crazy in Brownie-land, as I’ve had to find roommates and housing, once again from a few hundred miles away, all while trying to sort through my massive amounts of stuff.

I never realized how many things I’ve accumulated over the past five years. After getting back to the US two weeks ago, I’ve spent a lot of my free time going through boxes I’d packed and left in my room after coming back from Tech, trying to combine my ‘old life’ with my more recent life (i.e. stuff from Paris), all while trying to figure out what parts of this past will be accompanying me into my near future (i.e. packing for Yale).

In some ways, I’ve been culling more than packing the last few days. While in Paris I started to read about the minimalist movement, things like the 100 Things Challenge, and while I don’t think I can live with only 100 things (depending on what you qualify as a ‘thing’), I’ve been trying to weed through my excessive wardrobe and book collection. Things I don’t need are going to Goodwill or the library, and I’ve managed to fill a giant bag 4′ tall of clothes…and still, I have three boxes, packed to the brim with architecture books, that will make their way to Yale in July.

How much is too much? How much is enough? Having lived out of two suitcases for seven months, I know that I don’t need more than one pair of jeans, two pairs of leggings, a handful of sweaters, shirts and dresses, one pair of boots and one pair of sandals to last me a while. That said, I didn’t go out that often, didn’t have special occasions for which I needed to dress up that often, didn’t have work, didn’t have jury presentations, no weddings…so my 12 pairs of shoes are justified in my American wardrobe, right? And as far as books go…they’re the most difficult thing for me to let go: I could give away my fiction titles, because I usually don’t reread them, but there’s a sentimental attachment to The Little Princess that has me hesitating to put it in the ‘Library’ bin.

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