“Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer

Like author Jonathan Safran Foer, I have flip-flopped for years with the idea of being vegetarian. I’ve always thought of myself as not committed enough to make the effort to look at the contents of all of my food to figure out whether I’m able to eat it. I am also really uncomfortable with making other people change their menu for me, so I usually just eat whatever is prepared. I’ve never ever thought of myself as a vegetarian, but I do go through phases where I’m disgusted with the idea of meat. When I picked up “Eating Animals” it was only because it sounded interesting, but after reading it I feel more compelled to stop eating meat than ever before.

Yes, there is much discussion of the suffering of animals in here, but Foer also talks about the environmental effects as well as the possibilities for widespread infections caused by the conditions of factory farming. These two factors are what have really compelled me to question whether eating meat is really worth the effects it is having on our world.

Foer also discusses the conscientious farmers and slaughterhouses that make eating meat seem like a viable option. Unfortunately, these “old school” farmers are being put out of business in droves by the giant factory farming operations. This alone makes this book worthwhile reading because it explains how eating locally and knowing where your food comes from can help to make informed decision about the meat we do choose to eat.

While this book gets a little tedious toward the end, I found it a good and interesting read. I was especially impressed with the first chapter of the book in which Foer explains his reasons for looking into this subject in the first place and talks about his own struggles with the decision to become a vegetarian over the years. The discussion about why we eat some animals (cows, pigs, fish, etc.) and not others (dogs, cats, etc.) was something that really stuck with me. If you’ve ever considered becoming a vegetarian, but weren’t sure why, this book may help you with that decision or push you over the edge to finally doing it.

Best,

Becca

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Published in: on December 30, 2010 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

How’d You Score That Gig?

I’ve been wanting to run away from real life for as long as I can remember, but this desire finally took a front seat in February 2007 when I quit my full-time newspaper job to become a freelance journalist. I loved writing, I just hated that I was forced to sit in a stuffy office all day to be allowed to write. So I took a huge pay cut (at first) and jumped into the great unknown. Even now, a year later I’m barely scraping by. But I’m much happier. I get outdoors more often. I’m not completely tired and stressed about deadlines every single day. And I can pick and choose my jobs. It’s not ideal from my parents’ perspective, but they’ve learned to keep that to themselves.

As it turns out, there are a number of 20 and 30-somethings out there with college degrees who seem like aimless floaters to their parents because they are following their dreams and spending their time doing something they love without the constraints of being stuck under the tyrannical work system they were meant to have joined. Today, in The Buffalo News, I read about a new book coming out, “How’d You Score That Gig,” by Alexandre Levit, and I gotta say I’m a bit scared to pick it up. If I get this book, it will only encourage me on the path I’ve been taking. Not that I mind that path, but man would I love to have some extra cash one of these days. It’s the same as me reading travel essays – do I really need more encouragement?!

But here we are. The book has been written and will be released April 15 and I will read it. It’s inevitable.

About the book: “How’d You Score That Gig” is filled with some of the most coveted jobs of my generation – graphic designer, travel writer, interior designer, entrepreneur – and how to get those jobs. There is a personality test included for those of us who want to do all of these jobs, but can’t decide on which one to pursue, and there are also more than 60 interviews with recent college grads who successfully broke into these fields.

See, it’s like crack for people like me. Seeing other people being successful in these kinds of careers only makes me believe even more that I too can be one of those people. And so I’ll go on putting off my, hopefully not inevitable, return to the “real” world …

Published in: on April 9, 2008 at 11:38 pm  Comments (1)  

How’d You Score That Gig?

I’ve been wanting to run away from real life for as long as I can remember, but this desire finally took a front seat in February 2007 when I quit my full-time newspaper job to become a freelance journalist. I loved writing, I just hated that I was forced to sit in a stuffy office all day to be allowed to write. So I took a huge pay cut (at first) and jumped into the great unknown. Even now, a year later I’m barely scraping by. But I’m much happier. I get outdoors more often. I’m not completely tired and stressed about deadlines every single day. And I can pick and choose my jobs. It’s not ideal from my parents’ perspective, but they’ve learned to keep that to themselves.

As it turns out, there are a number of 20 and 30-somethings out there with college degrees who seem like aimless floaters to their parents because they are following their dreams and spending their time doing something they love without the constraints of being stuck under the tyrannical work system they were meant to have joined. Today, in The Buffalo News, I read about a new book coming out, “How’d You Score That Gig,” by Alexandre Levit, and I gotta say I’m a bit scared to pick it up. If I get this book, it will only encourage me on the path I’ve been taking. Not that I mind that path, but man would I love to have some extra cash one of these days. It’s the same as me reading travel essays – do I really need more encouragement?!

But here we are. The book has been written and will be released April 15 and I will read it. It’s inevitable.

About the book: “How’d You Score That Gig” is filled with some of the most coveted jobs of my generation – graphic designer, travel writer, interior designer, entrepreneur – and how to get those jobs. There is a personality test included for those of us who want to do all of these jobs, but can’t decide on which one to pursue, and there are also more than 60 interviews with recent college grads who successfully broke into these fields.

See, it’s like crack for people like me. Seeing other people being successful in these kinds of careers only makes me believe even more that I too can be one of those people. And so I’ll go on putting off my, hopefully not inevitable, return to the “real” world …

Published in: on April 9, 2008 at 11:38 pm  Comments (1)  

The Blind Assassin: A Many-Layered Story

As with the other books I’ve read by Margaret Atwood, the reader is kept in the dark for a good portion of The Blind Assassin. Atwood tends to tell a story layer by layer, letting the reader get to the heart of the situation slowly, as if they’re eating an artichoke. And, like an artichoke, you’re never disappointed when you finally get to the good part, but sometimes it can be a lot of work getting there. I felt like The Blind Assassin was one of those times when it was a lot of work, perhaps because I wasn’t as curious about where the story was going as I have been with her other books (Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid’s Tale).

The book opens with the death of Laura Chase, the daughter of a once-influential family in Port Ticonderoga, Canada, in 1945. We then read a chapter of a book written by Laura Chase and published post-humously by her sister, Iris (hence the cover and reviewer’s constant talk of “a novel within a novel”). From then on, the book switches back and forth between excerpted chapters of that book, The Blind Assassin, and Iris’ telling of her family’s history, the events that led up to the writing of the book, and her sister’s suicide.

The book is really interesting, but I didn’t find myself as drawn into it as I have been with other Atwood books – at least not until about 150 pages in, when we begin to see some of the layers begin to fall off more quickly. As I began to understand what was really going on, I began to get more and more curious about how the book was going to end and I found myself reading more and more quickly. But up until that point it was really hard going. Had I not read other Atwood books and understood her style of writing, I may have given up on this book after 50 pages or so. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend this as your first Atwood book (especially considering this book is more than 500 pages long!).

However, there are many things I like about this book. I liked that it was a historical novel, covering high society in Canada from about 1910 to 1947. And as with other Atwood books, I liked the social commentary, especially, in this book, about God.

For instance, on page 137 after her mother dies, Laura, age 8 at the time, begins to question God in a way she had never done before:

“In the nighttimes Laura would creep into my room and shake me awake, then climb into bed with me. She couldn’t sleep: it was because of God. Up until the funeral, she and God had been on good terms … But now she was no longer sure. She began to fret about God’s exact location. It was the Sunday-school teacher’s fault: God is everywhere, she’d said, and Laura wanted to know: was God in the sun, was God in the moon, was God in the kitchen, the bathroom, was he under the bed? … Laura didn’t want God popping out at her unexpectedly, not hard to understand considering his recent behaviour.”

I love this simplistic, child’s look at who and where God is, along with what his purpose is. Atwood recognizes this human trait of questioning God and the difficulty children sometimes have with just accepting faith because they sometimes take things too literally, especially where religion is concerned.

Atwood is a great story teller, and I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on her beautifully described scenes and wonderfully written stories, however I’d suggest starting with a different one of her books before taking on The Blind Assassin. If you insist though, be aware that it will take awhile before the plot really begins to come out. Atwood is not the type to take the plot and conk you on the head with it. Her books are very mysterious in this way and you begin to feel like a detective as you start to piece it together for yourself. My favorite part is finding out if I’ve got it right. With her books though, there’s always some last minute turn that really surprises me and sticks with me, so look out!

Published in: on April 8, 2008 at 1:43 am  Comments (3)  

The Blind Assassin: A Many-Layered Story

As with the other books I’ve read by Margaret Atwood, the reader is kept in the dark for a good portion of The Blind Assassin. Atwood tends to tell a story layer by layer, letting the reader get to the heart of the situation slowly, as if they’re eating an artichoke. And, like an artichoke, you’re never disappointed when you finally get to the good part, but sometimes it can be a lot of work getting there. I felt like The Blind Assassin was one of those times when it was a lot of work, perhaps because I wasn’t as curious about where the story was going as I have been with her other books (Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid’s Tale).

The book opens with the death of Laura Chase, the daughter of a once-influential family in Port Ticonderoga, Canada, in 1945. We then read a chapter of a book written by Laura Chase and published post-humously by her sister, Iris (hence the cover and reviewer’s constant talk of “a novel within a novel”). From then on, the book switches back and forth between excerpted chapters of that book, The Blind Assassin, and Iris’ telling of her family’s history, the events that led up to the writing of the book, and her sister’s suicide.

The book is really interesting, but I didn’t find myself as drawn into it as I have been with other Atwood books – at least not until about 150 pages in, when we begin to see some of the layers begin to fall off more quickly. As I began to understand what was really going on, I began to get more and more curious about how the book was going to end and I found myself reading more and more quickly. But up until that point it was really hard going. Had I not read other Atwood books and understood her style of writing, I may have given up on this book after 50 pages or so. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend this as your first Atwood book (especially considering this book is more than 500 pages long!).

However, there are many things I like about this book. I liked that it was a historical novel, covering high society in Canada from about 1910 to 1947. And as with other Atwood books, I liked the social commentary, especially, in this book, about God.

For instance, on page 137 after her mother dies, Laura, age 8 at the time, begins to question God in a way she had never done before:

“In the nighttimes Laura would creep into my room and shake me awake, then climb into bed with me. She couldn’t sleep: it was because of God. Up until the funeral, she and God had been on good terms … But now she was no longer sure. She began to fret about God’s exact location. It was the Sunday-school teacher’s fault: God is everywhere, she’d said, and Laura wanted to know: was God in the sun, was God in the moon, was God in the kitchen, the bathroom, was he under the bed? … Laura didn’t want God popping out at her unexpectedly, not hard to understand considering his recent behaviour.”

I love this simplistic, child’s look at who and where God is, along with what his purpose is. Atwood recognizes this human trait of questioning God and the difficulty children sometimes have with just accepting faith because they sometimes take things too literally, especially where religion is concerned.

Atwood is a great story teller, and I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on her beautifully described scenes and wonderfully written stories, however I’d suggest starting with a different one of her books before taking on The Blind Assassin. If you insist though, be aware that it will take awhile before the plot really begins to come out. Atwood is not the type to take the plot and conk you on the head with it. Her books are very mysterious in this way and you begin to feel like a detective as you start to piece it together for yourself. My favorite part is finding out if I’ve got it right. With her books though, there’s always some last minute turn that really surprises me and sticks with me, so look out!

Published in: on April 8, 2008 at 1:43 am  Comments (2)  

Authors paying out-of-pocket for book tours

It used to be almost expected that a new author would go on tour with his or her book as a way to get the word out and promote the book. Publishing houses often paid for this considering they were getting the major money out of the deal, but it seems like today more and more authors are looking for creative ways to promote their books without having to go on tour.

Part of the reason is that if you aren’t already famous, your publishing house won’t pony up the cash for you to go on tour. For them it’s a matter of making money on their return, and, although it pains me to say it, they’re right. I’ve been to quite a few book signings and the lesser known authors definitely are lacking in crowds. Little to no crowd equals small sales at the end of the signing.

Some authors are doing internet tours. Others phone in to book club meetings or create a blog to raise awareness about their book and their goings-on. But there are those who still want a real connection with their audience (and there are those of us who crave those opportunities), such as Michael Steers and Stanley Trollip, who write under the pen name of Michael Stanley and will be taking an international book tour using money from their own pockets.

On April 1, the two authors released their first book, A Carrion Death, but if their book tour does well, they may indeed be seen more often. And maybe their next book tour will be paid for by their publishers. I’m not a huge fan of murder mystery or detective novels, but I think I might just buy this one to show my support. To learn more about the tour or the book, visit the authors’ Web site here.

Authors paying out-of-pocket for book tours

It used to be almost expected that a new author would go on tour with his or her book as a way to get the word out and promote the book. Publishing houses often paid for this considering they were getting the major money out of the deal, but it seems like today more and more authors are looking for creative ways to promote their books without having to go on tour.

Part of the reason is that if you aren’t already famous, your publishing house won’t pony up the cash for you to go on tour. For them it’s a matter of making money on their return, and, although it pains me to say it, they’re right. I’ve been to quite a few book signings and the lesser known authors definitely are lacking in crowds. Little to no crowd equals small sales at the end of the signing.

Some authors are doing internet tours. Others phone in to book club meetings or create a blog to raise awareness about their book and their goings-on. But there are those who still want a real connection with their audience (and there are those of us who crave those opportunities), such as Michael Steers and Stanley Trollip, who write under the pen name of Michael Stanley and will be taking an international book tour using money from their own pockets.

On April 1, the two authors released their first book, A Carrion Death, but if their book tour does well, they may indeed be seen more often. And maybe their next book tour will be paid for by their publishers. I’m not a huge fan of murder mystery or detective novels, but I think I might just buy this one to show my support. To learn more about the tour or the book, visit the authors’ Web site here.

Mountain Climber, Author Coming to Town

As a novice rock climber and outdoorswoman, I am constantly looking for opportunities to learn more about safety and skills for outdoor activities. And, when I can afford it, I buy books about my favorite activities to help me on this quest. When I don’t have money the books just end up on my Amazon wishlist, like Duane Raleigh’s Knots and Ropes for Climbers, which has been on my wishlist for over a year.

So when I heard Arlene Blum is coming to Sacramento in a couple of weeks I couldn’t hold in my excitement. Blum led the first women’s climbing expedition of Annapurna and later wrote a book about the experience. More recently she wrote Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, a memoir that follows Blum from her childhood in Chicago to some of the world’s most challenging peaks. I’ve put both of her books on hold at the library and hope to be able to read at least one before I see her in person.

If you’re interested in hearing Blum speak here are the details:

Arlene Blum will appear at Sacramento State University in the University Library Gallery at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, 2008. The event is free and will be followed by a reception.

Published in: on April 2, 2008 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mountain Climber, Author Coming to Town

As a novice rock climber and outdoorswoman, I am constantly looking for opportunities to learn more about safety and skills for outdoor activities. And, when I can afford it, I buy books about my favorite activities to help me on this quest. When I don’t have money the books just end up on my Amazon wishlist, like Duane Raleigh’s Knots and Ropes for Climbers, which has been on my wishlist for over a year.

So when I heard Arlene Blum is coming to Sacramento in a couple of weeks I couldn’t hold in my excitement. Blum led the first women’s climbing expedition of Annapurna and later wrote a book about the experience. More recently she wrote Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, a memoir that follows Blum from her childhood in Chicago to some of the world’s most challenging peaks. I’ve put both of her books on hold at the library and hope to be able to read at least one before I see her in person.

If you’re interested in hearing Blum speak here are the details:

Arlene Blum will appear at Sacramento State University in the University Library Gallery at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, 2008. The event is free and will be followed by a reception.

Published in: on April 2, 2008 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

A story of women in Afghanistan

It is difficult to write a review about A Thousand Splendid Suns without wanting to make comparisons to Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, The Kite Runner, even though the two books are mutually exclusive. One doesn’t have to have read The Kite Runner to understand A Thousand Splendid Suns, and in fact the two books are quite different.

The similarities lie in the way the story is told, in that Hosseini begins the story in an Afghanistan very unlike the one we read about in the newspapers today. A Thousand Splendid Suns begins in the 60’s with Mariam, a harami, the illegitimate child of a rich man. Her father is never able to fully claim her and when her mother dies she is forced into an arranged marriage that will move her far away from her father and enable him to forget the shame that lies in her very being. Mariam is moved to Kabul, where she is treated kindly at first by her new husband. However, he is very strict, expecting her to where Burqa long before the Taliban comes to power and makes it mandatory for all women.

In the book we see Afghanistan transformed from a very modern city, where women are treated as equals with (most) men. It then goes through the period where Afghanistan is at war with Russia, and the story changes from Mariam to Laila. Laila is only 14 when her friends have all moved from her childhood neighborhood to escape the war. Just as her family is preparing to leave themselves, their home is shelled and both of her parents are killed. She is rescued by Rasheed, Mariam’s husband, and forever after their lives are entwined.

Once the book reaches this point it takes on a much quicker pace, switching back and forth from Mariam to Laila, telling the story of their life together from each of their perspectives, which eventually becomes one and the same. Once the Taliban takes over we see a stark contrast between the Afghanistan of before and the Afghanistan of today.

“They want us to operate in burqa,” the doctor explained, motioning with her head to the nurse at the door. “She keeps watch. She sees them coming, I cover.”

She said this in a pragmatic, almost indifferent, tone, and Mariam understood that this was a woman far past outrage. Here was a woman, she thought, who had understood that she was lucky to even be working, that there was always something, something else, that they could take away.

Reading this book was difficult for me as it was told from the perspective of women. I could almost tangibly feel their anger mounting. They try everything humanly possible to get away from the horrible situation, but they are always betrayed.

Mariam thinks back to that long-ago morning when Mammy had said to her, “Like a compass needle pointing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that Mariam.”

For them, these experiences really put their lives into perspective. They realize they really don’t have any other option. And their husband helps them to see that, always pointing out that without him they’d be out on the street or dead because neither is able to work, nor are they able to be in public without a male companion without risking being severely beaten.

Mariam heard the answer in his laugh: that in the eyes of the Taliban, being a communist and the leader of the dreaded KHAD made Najibullah only slightly more contemptible than a woman.

If you are interested in Afghanistan, it’s culture and it’s people, both before and after the last 20 years of conflict, I highly recommend Hosseini’s books. He tells the stories of normal people, and he tells it with a balanced hand I don’t think would be possible by westerners who probably wouldn’t be able to write without showing their outrage by such treatment of women.

Other blog reviews of this book:
Maw’s Books
ReadingAdventures

Published in: on March 17, 2008 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment