Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “non-fiction”

lyndamk #cbr4 review #29: Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna by Adam Zamoyski

Between balls, dalliances, hunts, and eating, it is a wonder the leaders at the Congress of Vienna had any time to negotiate the future of Europe. It makes the politicians dealing with the fiscal cliff seem like a bunch of stodgy old monks. Read more at my blog …

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #07: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

I’ve watched exactly one full episode of Katie – the Katie Couric show.   I heard that Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess was going to be on an episode, so I had to watch it. Brené Brown happened to be the main guest on the same show and she made such an impression on me that I immediately convinced my boyfriend to buy me her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.

Sdaringgreatlyblogo, I took a little break from my usual fiction books to read this research-based, self-help type of book. It took me a little longer than usual to get through it – not because I wasn’t interested, but because I had to keep stopping to make notes on post-its and discuss things that I found interesting with my boyfriend. He hasn’t read the book himself yet, but he probably knows what half of it says already from me! So, this book just had to jump the queue in my ever growing, waiting-to-be-reviewed book list.

I think virtually everyone can see themselves and others in at least parts of this book somewhere. I found meaning in so many sections of it, that I did something I’ve never done before – I bought it for someone else before I even finished reading it (two people actually, with the help of my boyfriend). I also recommended it to others – and still do.

This isn’t a touchy-feely self-help book. Brené Brown is always referring to her research, in a way that the scientific mind in me appreciates, but she still makes it very accessible to non-researchers by relating it to every-day people and situations, including many from her own life. For a short version of her style and some of the topics covered in Daring Greatly, check out the video of her very popular 2010 TEDxHouston talk, The Power of Vulnerability , which she performed before writing this book.

review continued at Loopy Ker’s Life

Sophia’s CBR4 Review #27: “Wallflower at the Orgy” by Nora Ephron

I’m prWallflower at the Orgyetty sure Wallflower at the Orgy (1980) by Nora Ephron was another one of those books I just stumbled upon while browsing my library’s kindle book selection. I liked When Harry Met Sally, so my general impression of Nora Ephron was favorable, and the title of this book sounded both exciting (orgy) and relatable (wallflower). I decided to give it a try.

The book consists of a series of essays written by Nora Ephron in 1968 and 1969. Although there were a couple of interesting essays that caught my attention, I don’t think I would have even finished this book if it weren’t so short. The main problem was that many of the subjects felt dated, and without more contemporary explanation of the context of the time and the people, it didn’t work for me. Then throw in a couple of obscure character subjects and some uncomfortably dated rape jokes and I pretty much lost interest.

Read the rest of my review here.

lyndamk #cbr4 review #28: The United Nations by Sven Bernhard Gareis

If when you think of the UN all you think about are black helicopters or Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust, then this probably a book you should put on your list. At least read the introduction. Please. Read more at my blog …

lyndamk #cbr4 review #27: The Match by Beth Whitehouse

A well-researched book on savior siblings.  I definitely recommend if you are interested in issues of medical ethics. Read more at my blog …

Siege’s #CBR4 #45: The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

In which Siege decides she should stop reading books about the current conflict in Iraq, since they only serve to make her feel terrible.

ElCicco #CBR4 Review #51: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo


Katherine Boo is a journalist who has won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and various writing awards, including the 2012 National Book Award for non-fiction for Behind the Beautiful Forevers. For this work, she spent 4 years gathering information on the slums of Mumbai, particularly the Annawadi slum near the airport. Her question in approaching this research was, “What is the infrastructure of opportunity in this society?” Boo has frequently covered poverty and the attempt to rise above it in her highly regarded research. Far from a dry, tedious study of poverty and opportunity, Behind the Beautiful Forevers reads like a novel. Through her extensive interviews with residents of Annawadi and access to public records such as police, hospital and education records, Boo paints a detailed picture of the rise and fall of particular families and individuals against the backdrop of government corruption and a booming Indian economy that goes bust in 2008. In the e-book form, readers can also see short videos of Annawadi and its residents.

A few families and individuals dominate Boo’s research. The Husains are at the heart of the story. They are a Muslim family and therefore part of a minority, and the fact that they have become successful trash pickers makes them the object of envy and resentment. Eldest son Abdul (a teen) more or less runs the family business alongside his mother Zehrunisa. Abdul is a quiet young man without many friends, but as we discover throughout the story, he wants to be a good person and do the right thing. He understands that his family’s success could be the cause of trouble for them if they are not careful. Their neighbor Fatima or “One-leg” is a disabled woman married to an alcoholic. Her disability makes her an object of derision, and Fatima resents the way her neighbors treat her. Desiring to be valued, she takes in a variety of lovers but is mocked all the more by her neighbors for this. Asha is a savvy, ambitious woman who aspires to become the slum lord and then to move beyond the slum to the “over-city.” She tries to use the corrupt governing system to help herself and her family. Among the residents of Annawadi, Asha is recognized as the person who can get things done or make problems go away. She has important contacts among the police and in her political party. When an argument erupts between Fatima and the Husains, trouble rains down upon both families. Boo then exposes the corruption among the police, in the judicial system and in the hospitals that deal with the poor. As Boo writes, “The Indian criminal justice system was a market like garbage …. Innocence and guilt could be bought and sold like a kilo of polyurethane bags.”

Boo shows readers that the slum-dwellers are hard working and ingenious at finding ways to make money and at trying to rise up in conditions that militate against such success and mobility. Their very poverty, however, prevents them from working together to collectively improve their lot and leads to fierce competition. In some cases this competition leads to self-destruction and in others, it leads to improving your own situation only at the expense of others’ well being. Asha creates a non-profit that filters money away from legitimate programs and into her own pocket. She says, “How can anyone say I am doing the wrong when the big people did all the papers — when the big people say that it’s right?” Abdul, who wants to be a good person says, “I tell [Allah] I cannot be better because of how the world is.” In her afterward, Boo addresses what outsiders see as indifference toward suffering in the slums. She writes that the seeming indifference toward suffering and death, particularly among children, “… had a good deal to do with conditions that sabotaged their innate capacity for moral action.”

In Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Boo treats the residents of Annawadi with respect and compassion and gives readers a new perspective on poverty and the poor — a perspective that many politicians and policy makers in the West would benefit from considering.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #45: Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost & Gail Steketee

*Audiobook Review*

I love watching Hoarders.  I am seriously addicted to it.  The more disgusting the hoard, the more fascinated I become.  I just don’t understand what drives a person to value 20-year-old unread newspapers more than their family members.  People on Hoarders have had their homes condemned, been forced to move to homeless shelters, or even had their children taken away by Child Protective Services.  When I saw there was a book about hoarding, I knew I had to read it.

Stuff does a good job explaining the reasons why people become hoarders.  They tend to have had an unhappy childhood, and many of the hoarders lost a loved one in a traumatic fashion.  They hold onto possessions because they can’t seem to hold on to people.  They seem to be perfectionists who would rather do nothing than risk doing something wrong, and they seem incapable of making decisions.

I am generally a messy person.  I don’t hoard dead animals, and I throw the trash away, but I definitely get overwhelmed trying to clean my house.  Between my ADD and my perfectionism, sometimes it seems an impossible task.  Lately I discovered the blog, “Unfuck Your Habitat” which has helped me get on track with my cleaning, but I continue to watch Hoarders and think, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

4/5 Stars.

Malin’s #CBR4 Reviews # 94-99: I’m nearly done with a double Cannonball, you guys!

So in the middle of October, I once again took part in the 24-hour Read-a-thon, and I’ve obviously been reading (and re-reading) books since then, but I’ve been falling behind on my blogging. So here’s a big catch-up post, and hopefully, within the week, I will have read and blogged a double Cannonball. I only set out to do a single one this year, and as a result, it seems that completing twice the amount became less of a chore.

94. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle. I suspect I would have loved this more when I was younger. 4 stars.

95. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. The first book I’ve read of hers. It won’t be the last. 4 stars.

96. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I know it’s been reviewed so well, so many times on here, and I have no idea why I didn’t pick it up before. 5 stars. By far the funniest book I read this year.

97. A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long. Yet another historical romance,  surprising no one, I’m sure. “The one with the hot vicar” as Mrs. Julien dubbed it. 4 stars.

98. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. Unquestionably one of the most anticipated books of the year for me, this turned out to be something completely different from what I’d expected. 4 stars.

99. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. So is it wrong that I was more charmed by the film? The 14-year-olds I teach, love it, though. 3.5 stars.


Caitlin’s CBR4 #51: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

My penultimate post is of a series of essays talking about the ups and downs of being a lady. I found it very funny, a little bit dirty, but still entertaining.

You can read my review here.

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