Winter 2016/2017 Books

Shades of Grey (Shades of Grey #1)Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant. Funny, absurd, utterly sane sociopolitical satire. Makes you think and pause and is so full of light-hearted complexity, you can't help but savour each sentence.
The Red GardenThe Red Garden by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clear, transporting prose. Reminds me of the film The Fountain —the same eternal, dreamlike story of loss and love and life and unfulfilled longing. The fairy tale echoes and flawed characters make you wonder how much of these common story threads those around us live without realizing. How much of our lives are fated by the woven strands of our ancestors; their mistakes, their blood, their bravery, their bland resignation? How much of our thoughts are haunted by their legacy? How can we find peace in this short, short life?

Best read in one sitting.
The Elegance of the HedgehogThe Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll warn you, this book has a bland start. I was given it at Christmas '08, and I've tried to read it at least 3 times. Finally brought it on vacation, and once I was over the initial dry, philsophical hump I found a rhythm.

You can definitely tell there is a lyricism missing from the original French. I haven't read many translated books, but this one is still well done, and because I've studied the language some of the peculiar phrasings flow a little easier for me.

A suicidal 12-yo genius and a secretly autodidactic concierge... both with great repressed longing and desire to be understood and yet cynical about life's cruelty and banal inhabitants. I did find some of the soliloquies a little high-brow... waxing philosophic for paragraphs, or chapters can get a little tedious. But each thought from either character is a poignant observation of humanity. Many thoughts worth considering.

I would recommend reading in a calm and quiet span of days, during which you have the space to consider loftier thoughts on life and death.
Red-Hot Monogamy: Making Your Marriage SizzleRed-Hot Monogamy: Making Your Marriage Sizzle by Bill Farrel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's dated (2006), but an honest, frank and practical book to make sure you never get stuck in a rut. Relationships required faceted connection: mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. Worth reading no matter how young/old your marriage.
The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really LiveThe Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live by Sarah Susanka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The mark of cultural application: when a book is written 20 years ago and isn't out-of-date.

The author was clever, innovative, and didn't just identify a problem, but offered solutions. I think any renter or homeowner needs to read, simply to open their mind and blow the roof off pre-conceived notions of "home" and "house wish lists".

Why do we want mansions? Who's going to clean all that space? And who even says that a mansion will feel like home?

Better that we have a cozy space that is comfortable and inviting, to ourselves and to our quests. Better that our space is defined by quality rather than quantity, that it reflects how we live.

What a refreshing argument that homes should be designed with flexible, multi-purpose rooms. And they don't fall into the paradox of doing many things poorly. A spare room can be both an office and guest bedroom. And a media room. An exercise room. A crafts room. Why not?! Why do we need single purpose rooms, which only collect more clutter and dust?
The Pocket Universal Principles of Design: 150 Essential Tools for Architects, Artists, Designers, Developers, Engineers, Inventors, and MakersThe Pocket Universal Principles of Design: 150 Essential Tools for Architects, Artists, Designers, Developers, Engineers, Inventors, and Makers by William Lidwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic and short read that will have you flipping back to refresh. Simple concepts like the 80/20 Rule and chunking information are defined, expanded, and practically applied. It's these kinds of tactical collections that make you approach problems in a fresh way. Would recommend before starting something new.