Book Club???

Hi blog friends! This post is going to be incredibly short, so I’ll just get to the point:

Does anyone want to do an online book club?

I’m on Goodreads, which is an awesome app for anyone who really enjoys reading and sharing their opinions. You can log the books you’ve read or want to read and can categorize them in any way that you want. It’s really spectacular. Nevertheless, every year they have a reading resolution where you can set a goal for yourself. For example, I’ve decided that over the course of 2016 I will read 15 books.

I know, I know. Fifteen books isn’t that much. But that’s my point: I want to surpass it and see how much more I can read. I have a busy schedule and it’s with a heavy heart that I say (and you know) that I haven’t been writing or reading as much recently. I used to get into bed at 9pm and read until 11pm and I would just plow through books. But now I’m in bed at 9pm and asleep by 10pm, and read maybe 50 pages a night. It’s a rough life.

Hopefully that’ll change this year, though. I thought the best way for me to commit to reading the books I’ve been wanting to read (in a more timely manner, of course) is by starting a Books and Cleverness book club. We read fifteen books over the course of the next 11 months, and I’ll write my reviews on them and we can share our opinions in the comments or you can e-mail me (my e-mail address is rachel@booksandcleverness.com).

If anyone is interested I’d be more than happy to pick some books that I’ve wanted to read or you can give me some ideas of books you want to read and we can combine them and create our own book club!

I’d just like to end this by saying even if no one wants to do a book club with me, DAMNIT, I’M DOING IT ON MY OWN!

Get ready, 2016. Books and Cleverness is gonna read aaaaall over you.

Until next time,

Rachel

P.S. Happy Anniversary Books And Cleverness!!

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The Wave – Todd Strasser : Warning! Opinions!

Hi blog friends! I’m going to start this blog by saying that I’m a total nerd. As if writing a blog about books wasn’t a huge clue to you, yes: I am a nerd. I’ve always been a literature geek, and I’ve always been super into history. Fortunately, that means I’m incredibly well-read and bitch I can school you on the goddamn Dust Bowl! Unfortunately, it means that I can’t tell you anything about physics and if you ask me for change I will need to pull out my calculator. The things you sacrifice for art.

Rachel? You might ask. Where the hell is this going? I’m glad you asked, friend. You see, a little while ago my significant other told me about a book that he loves to this day. It’s called The Wave by Todd Strasser. The book is actually based on a real life classroom experiment gone wrong. The premise is exactly the same as what happened in real life, only fictionalized to bring in the human interest side of the novel.

It’s about a history teacher that was trying to teach The Holocaust to his students, but his students couldn’t understand how the people of Germany, and the surrounding Nazis, could just blindly follow someone and do horrible things. The teacher tried to explain to them that sometimes people just get caught up and can’t find a way out. The students still couldn’t understand. To them, it makes no sense how someone can forget their morals and do what everyone else around them is doing just because it’s the hip thing to do. (Am I old for saying “hip”?)

What the teacher decided was to give his students “order”. He taught them about “strength through discipline” and gave them specific rules to follow and specific ways to address him. Mr. Ross, the history teacher, finds that this works incredibly well with his students until they start a movement in the school called “The Wave”. Anyone in the classroom that Mr. Ross is using the “strength through discipline” technique is a part of The Wave, and if you don’t join, members of The Wave get violent and cruel.

A group of people from the school newspaper see the terror in this and try to expose the true story: When there is someone or something to blindly follow, people who have incredibly strong opinions will defend it no matter the cost. The school soon sees what Mr. Ross has been doing to the students – getting them to understand how a huge sum of people could be inclined to do stupid and horrible things just because everyone else is doing it.

This is an incredibly short novel, it’s less than 150 pages, and honestly it doesn’t need to be any longer – it gets to the point very easily and anything more would just seem drawn out.

The thing that really interested me about this novel was not the historical implications or the way that the author writes about how a school could get caught up in such a thing. Instead it made me think of the modern world and how that same thing happens in so many different countries all over the world.

For example, remember back in 2011 the revolution in Egypt? There was a tyrannical dictator for 30 years, and people had had enough. A congregation of about two million people of all races, ethnicities, and religions came together in Tahrir Square to do a sit-in until President Mubarak stepped down. And you know what? He did.

But the revolution didn’t stop there. Because after that joyous occasion, different groups of people began to come into the light under the guise of wanting to better the Egyptian society. Unfortunately, the next elected president, Morsi, wanted almost complete power in Egypt (declaring himself Egypt’s “new pharaoh”) and the people that had followed him and wanted him to president to better Egypt were now stuck between a rock and a hard place: do they follow him when he’s saying to attack anyone who opposes him? Or do they fight for what they believe in?

This is the same thing. Maybe it’s in a different century, but it’s still a People that wanted a better life for themselves and their children, following someone that may not have all of the citizens best interests at heart, but promised a better life, and ended with yet another dictator stronger than the last.

If you don’t remember the revolution or if don’t know about it, I highly recommend looking into it because something like “the wave,” or the Egyptian revolution can happen at any time. The thing that matters is sticking with what you believe in and not letting anyone tell you how you should act, how you should think or what you should believe in.

…Well, that was my rambling way of saying that this book is frickin’ awesome. It’s very short, it’s to the point, but the message is incredibly strong. Humans are prone to faults, that’s just a fact. But the important thing is to realize that even though we can be clique-y and often way too stubborn in our beliefs, that doesn’t mean we have to be mean or cruel to people to get that point across. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have brains, and use our words instead of taking radical action.

History is always doomed to repeat itself if we don’t first understand how it comes to be in the first place.

Alright. It’s time for me to grab a piece of chocolate and read Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons – AKA  I’m going to get into bed and never come out again until I find out what the damn ending is.

Until next time, friends!

Rachel

email: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling Review

Well, I officially suck at consistency. It’s been almost two months since my last post, and the only thing I can say is: blame it on the holiday season? Please?

Today I’m going to give you a little bit of insight into my actual human life and not just my blog life: I am a person with a lot of anxieties. Unfortunately, I’m also the type of person who will have a panic attack and think, you know what I should do? Watch a serial killer documentary. Probably not the best idea, but how else am I supposed to know how to get away with murder?

My family and my boyfriend are always so helpful, though. In December my boyfriend told me I should stop reading Holocaust memoirs and read something a little more uplifting. Good job, boyfriend. Good job.

So I put down the book and we went to Barnes and Noble to pick out books together. I bought a few books including Yes Please by Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? I remember talking to you guys about Mindy Kaling’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and telling you how awesome it was. So when I found out (way too late in the game, I might add) that Mindy had written a new book, I was stoked and could not wait to get home to read it.

I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Not because it wasn’t a funny book, or an entertaining book, but because I thought that now that Mindy Kaling is a little more famous than before, she tried to pander a bit to her audience, but ended up doing it in a bad way.

I’ll explain:

Since her first book was released she has been a role model to women and girls of all ages, of all sizes and shapes, and of all colors. Kaling openly admits to being a size 10 in both of her books, and in the first one she makes a big deal about being content with how you look. Personally, I thought that was an incredible message to send out to people. As a woman who is bigger, myself, I see and feel the pressure every day for women to look a certain way. There isn’t just pressure towards bigger, curvier women to be smaller, there’s also pressure towards skinny and less curvy women to be slightly bigger – to be a Victoria’s Secret Model. Everyone wants to make the perfect potion to make themselves look a certain way: add a pinch of C-cup boobs, a sprinkle of the perfect tan, a dash of a toned and flat stomach, a half a cup of flawless skin, and an eye of newt.

But to be frank, all of that is complete bullshit. There’s so much pressure in everything you do: jobs, relationships with other people, goals, there’s even pressure when you drive (screw you guy behind me – I’m going 5 miles over the speed limit, get off my butt). The only thing you can do to help yourself is tune them out. Do what you think is right. Be proud of how you look. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. Every BODY is different, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not because we need to be the same, it’s because we’re SUPPOSED to be different.

But I digress… In Mindy Kaling’s second book she kind of does a 180 from her original opinions. I don’t think she means to, I actually think she’s trying to convey a better message. But here’s what happened:

Kaling tries to say that she’s a real person too and sometimes doesn’t love the way she looks. That’s an awesome message, I agree. It’s important for people to understand that those thoughts and feelings are completely normal. But then she goes on to tell a story: A magazine or website or something of that nature put her on a list of the most beautiful curvy and bigger women in Hollywood. Again, that’s awesome. Except that Kaling then says that she looked through the list and saw people twice her size and thought, “why am I on a list with these heifers?” What a horrible thing to say.

I understand that she’s a comedian and was just making a joke. But why would you spend your career trying to be a role model for plus size women and then bad mouth them at the same time? That’s not right. And while I love Mindy, I think she’s hilarious, a phenomenal writer, and a really great role model, I also think she should’ve left that part out of the book.

We all say things we don’t necessarily mean, or say things that might sound a little bit cruel without meaning it to, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to tell people to love their body and stop shaming each other for how they look and then call them a “heifer” – that’s just mean.

I feel like the majority of the book was written to get people to look at her as a regular human, but she just went about it the wrong way. I completely understand telling your audience that even the most confident person will still look in the mirror and want to change something. What I don’t understand is giving your audience that message, and then adding to their insecurities by telling them that if they’re bigger than a size ten it’s okay to make fun of other people and call them fat.

And look, as I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE Mindy. I think she’s awesome. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll always agree with what she says.

SOOO, after that long rant, I would like to point out some things I thought were awesome in the book:

  • Kaling talking about her anxieties. This was helpful since, as I mentioned before, I’ve been having a lot of panic attacks recently.
  • Kaling discussing her thoughts on marriage, love, sex, and friendship. A lot of celebrities don’t delve into their personal relationships as much as she did and I thought that was an amazing way to feel closer to your audience and for the audience to feel closer to her.
  • Learning her keys to success.
  • How to make it in Hollywood! (Spoiler: no one knows the answer. It’s all about luck)
  • Her time with President Obama.

I very much recommend reading this book, I just suggest you take what she says at face value and not idolize her and take what she says as gospel. Because everyone is different, and no one should feel like they’re being made fun of for how they look.

Hopefully I’ll be writing more soon. I have about 10 different blog ideas that I’m super excited to write about. So stay tuned!

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com