Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books on My Winter TBR

This week's theme from The Broke and the Bookish people is Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR List. I love making this list every few months - not that I get everything read, but it narrows down the choices for my next read.

 The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
               by John Vaillant (nonfiction, Canadian author)

Dark Fire 
CJ Sansom (mystery series)

The Hidden Life of Trees 
Peter Wohlleben (nonfiction, library)

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI 
David Grann (audiobook, nonfiction)

Curtis Sittenfeld (book I bought)

The Woman Next Door 
Yewande Omotoso (Bailey's Prize Longlist)

Federal Bureau of Physics Vol 3: Standing on Shoulders
Simon Oliver (book I bought)

Frank Kafka (audiobook, classic)

  How to Start a Fire 
Lisa Lutz (library, favourite author)

Lady Cop Makes Trouble
Amy Stewart (mystery series)

Monday, November 27, 2017


Week 5: (Nov. 27 to Dec. 1)  Host-: Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

 New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

It's been a great Nonfiction November once again. I was sick last week and didn't get much done, but I'll finish off the month. Today it's about what new books we have discovered. I had already heard of a few of these but the good recommendation adds to the book. I think I am most looking forward to Colour Bar, to go with the Number One Ladies Detective Agency books. 
I went back to last year's post of New to My TBR and I read 4 out of the 8 I listed last year. Not only that, they were great reads: Lab Girl, When Breath Becomes Air, Shrill, and Dear Sugar.

Thanks to all the hosts for organizing this again and letting everyone share all their great nonfiction reads.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg  saw at Unruly Reader

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (paired with Island of Wings) at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest
about the 80s

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah saw a few times including NYT Notable Books 2017, and at Words And Peace   

The Family Gene by Joselin Linder at  Sophisticated Dorkiness

Colour Bar by Susan Williams from Heather at Based on a True Story
- Botswana founder

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, MD and T.J. Mitchell  from Always Doing

Sunday, November 19, 2017

BOOKS: audio mystery series update

Maggie Hope Series by Susan Elia MacNeal  books #6&7
The Queen's Accomplice 
The Paris Spy
 It is still WW2, and Maggie Hope is still earnest and perfect. She is working for SOE as a spy. The Queen's Accomplice takes place in London, with a serial killer on the loose. The Paris Spy sees Maggie heading undercover to Paris to look for her missing half-sister and lost spy Erica Calvert.
I think I've figured out what is off about Maggie. I first thought it was her earnestness, or perfection, but I think her reactions to social situations (homosexuality, women in the workplace, etc) are all prefect present day reactions, perfectly politically correct. She is so ahead of her time that is seems a tad off in 1940s wartime London.

Glass Houses - Louise Penny (audiobook) #13
I've enjoyed this series since I started listening to them from the library. I also like that Gamauche is retired and living in Three Pines full time now.

This one had a different type plot - starting with Gamauche testifying at a murder trial, and then flashbacks take us to Three Pines and the murder that occurred. It takes til the very end to discover who is on trial and who was murdered and why. The story continues in a past and present manner, slowly dropping clues and letting the reader discover what happened. Lots of art and philosophy, and symbolism, as per usual. And of course, things are not quite as they seem. Luckily all the regular characters are around, even stupid Jean-Guy, my least favourite character in these books.

Friday, November 17, 2017

BOOK: Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil

Nonfiction November book review:
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil, (6h 23 min, read by the author)

This book reads like a crazy conspiracy theory - hidden algorithms that you have no idea about are controlling your life. Your credit score, your college admissions, your insurance rates. Does it seem reasonable for companies to base rates on mathematical models? How about if you get to keep your job?

The author was a math professor who joined Wall Street and began working for hedge funds, developing algorithms for making money. After the financial crash, she recognized the damage the algorithms had wrought. Looking further, she concluded that these algorithms or models are biased against the poorest and contribute to keeping them poor.

The story of the teacher, who by all accounts was an excellent teacher (parents and principal and colleagues) who was fired based on the hidden criteria intended to weed out the poor teachers is an example O'Neil provides to support her concern about these Weapons of Math Destruction. (lol, clever title). Any time an algorithm has characteristics of opacity (those affected can't see the criteria), scale (how widely it is applied) and damage (when factors contribute to incarceration or poverty cycles) she calls them WMD.

The examples were fascinating and scary. These algorithms are why 17 year old males have crazy expensive car insurance rates, why your Facebook feed can drive you batty, and can be as extreme as deciding who to hire based on your social media followers. Deciding things by proxy - basing the individual on the group characteristics, can be what makes assumptions dangerous.

Real life examples being used to make the point, from the small to the large, make this an enjoyable read, much in the style of Malcolm Gladwell. Plus, getting to read a book written by a smart, math female was awesome.

Monday, November 13, 2017


Week 3: (Nov. 13 to 17) – Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness 
Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I was able to find several themes in my nonfiction reading in 2017 so I am being the expert in recommending some great nonfiction reads around Feminist Theory 101, Biology Topics, and Black History Month.

Feminist Theory 101 
A list called 40 New Feminist Classics You Should Read from late last year informed some of my reading. The list included fiction books as well, some I've really liked, like The Woman Upstairs.  Not all of the books below are from that list.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran - funny, memoir, and a guide to growing up female
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai - inspiring, historical
the Lumberjanes Vol 1-5 - wonderful graphic novel full of feminist references, but also fun

The Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt (audiobook) - one of several stories finally shining light on the contributions of women to space science

Shrill by Lindy West
I really enjoyed Lindy West's voice, and have since read articles by her through FB or Twitter. (see Brave Enough to Be Angry from the NYTimes) Together, the essays are also memoir-ish, but they also stand alone. I would certainly reread these again.

Biology Books
I often read science books, skewing toward physics and space, but this year I found some great biological based nonfiction. I Contain Multitudes and Lab Girl were among my favourite reads of the year. 
I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong (audiobook) - all about microbes

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren - well-written memoir of being a female scientist, but really, applicable to all working women
Crows: Encounters With the Wise Guys of the Avian World by Candace Savage - brief but enlightening look at those crazy smart crows

Complications by Atul Gawande (audiobook)
I remember long ago reading a Michael Crichton nonfictionbook about his time as an intern, Five Patients, and really liking the insider view of life in an ER room. Gawande's book reminds me of that book, and I definitely want to read more by Gawande, like Better, Being Mortal, and The Checklist Manifesto. Very readable, and informative. 

Black History Month
The March books are must reads.  I wasn't aware of a lot of this history (I am Canadian, in my defence) and the hullabaloo around John Lewis in January during the inauguration was what first brought them to my attention. 
March 1,2, and 3 by John Lewis - fabulous graphic novel about the Civil Rights fight in the 1960s. 
The Souls of Black Folk - WEB DuBois (audiobook) - hard to believe this was written over 100 years ago, not enough has changed

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nahisi Coates (audiobook)
Excellent essays regarding race relations in the United States. I saw Coates on The Daily Show and knew I wanted to listen to this book.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Doing Dewey, one of the hosts of Nonfiction November, posted some mini reviews of nonfiction books, which reminded me that I still have some NF books I'd like to review on my blog. If Monday's theme was Book Pairings, finding fiction and nonfiction that go together, these three books I read this year have absolutely, absolutely nothing in common.

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite (6 h 41 min, audiobook, read by the author)

A woman, after the fact, discovers she had married a sociopath. This memoir recounts how they got together, how it all fell apart, and what she learned about her awful husband.The structure is good with back and forth, present and past.

In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke (YA Sync free audiobook)

Irene Gut was a young Polish girl during the German invasion of Poland who manages to save a number of Jews. The depravity, and the slight hope, in humanity that Holocaust books always have is certainly here.  Not everyone was as dedicated to the German ideas, as Irene ends up working for a German major who, because of his love for her, lets a lot of things slide in the house.  If you liked The Hiding Place, I'd recommend this one as well.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli, 96 pages

Apparently, this was a best seller in Italy, which just goes to show how different Europe is from North America. I teach physics, but I teach high school, Newtonian physics and modern physics is presented in the book. The ideas are interesting, bit also pretty high level and abstract. As usual, when I read quantum physics articles, I kind of understand it as I go, but couldn't explain any of it, or replicate any information within about two minutes of finishing. That said, it is short, and not indepth, and quite interesting.

Monday, November 6, 2017

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Fiction + Nonfiction pairing

Week 2: (Nov. 6 to 10) – Sarah @ Sarah’s Book Shelves 
Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Great topic - I love looking for books that fit the pairing idea and I was pretty literal. My guideline was to pick books I've read this year if I can. The nonfiction are all from this year, and I was able to match a couple with fiction reads from this year.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo and Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

The nonfiction Behind the Beautiful Forevers and the fictional Family Matters go very well together as a look at life in India. It probably should have been A Fine Balance by Mistry, but I read both of these books this year so it seemed too perfect. The narrative voice in Katherine Boo's book is perfect for people who don't like nonfiction as she wrote it like a story, but it was all based on interviews and observations in a slum area of Mumbai. Family Matters is set a little earlier, but has Mistry's wonderful style and writing, following a family and the trials and tribulations of surviving in India with very little. Both were excellent books. 


Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World by Rachel Swaby
Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins

I actually read these two books very close together and was rewarded as they really go well together! I started with the nonfiction Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - And the World. It was exactly as described - short biographies highlighting the life and contribution to science of some great women. It included everyone you've never heard of, but no Marie Curie as she is always the first woman scientist named. It was inspiring and humbling to realize how few I'm familiar with.
Finding Wonders is classified as fiction, mostly because it is written in blank verse, but all the information in it was factual and I remembered the girls from the Headstrong book. The ability to summarize and detail in blank verse all the information about Mary Anning, Maria Merian, and Maria Mitchell was remarkable. One of my favourite books of the year.

The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Trial that Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray 
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Two books both about an early 1900s murder in Ontario, one fiction and one nonfiction. It's been a long time since I've read Alias Grace, but I liked it at the time, and it is timely as a movie has been recently made. The Massey Murder was my this year read and it was a great look as all aspects of the history of the time. Two great Canadian books!



A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold (audiobook) and 
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver or Nostradamus by Douglas Coupland

School shootings is a harrowing topic. I've previously read the fiction books by Lionel Shriver and Douglas Coupland and so in this, my nonfiction reading year, I tried A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan Klebold, a Columbine shooter. There is nothing easy about any of these books, and reading Klebold's account was heart-breaking. But understanding what happened in horrific events can help, hopefully, prevent future incidents. The discussion about depression and suicide is always important as we learn more about brain behaviour.