Top Five Friday: Nonfiction Favorites

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but when I come across something from that genre that I like, I tend to get really attached to it. Usually, if I’m going the nonfiction route, I read memoirs, but sometimes I enjoy reading informational books if the topic is one I’m interested in and the writer’s style is approachable. So this Friday, I present my Top Five Nonfiction Favorites.

 france 1. My Life in France by Julia Child. I didn’t know anything much about Julia Child until I read Julie and Julia and watched the movie. I thought Meryl Streep did such a great job in that movie that I decided to give My Life in France a try, and I am SO glad I did. I can see why Julie Powell, after spending a year cooking and immersing herself in Julia-lore, started thinking of Julia child as her own personal fairy godmother. In her memoirs, Julia’s voice is friendly and conversational, and she spends lots of time talking about one of my favorite things – food! Reading this book made me wish I could go to France with Julia as my tour guide. She would have known the best restaurants, the best markets, and the best places for sightseeing. Her life with Paul Child was fascinating, and you get a good look at their years in one of the many places they lived abroad in this memoir.
 stiff 2. Stiff by Mary Roach. For someone who does not enjoy blood and guts books, this seems like a surprising choice for my list. This book is all about human cadavers – Roach takes a good look at what happens to our bodies after we die and the various ways that human cadavers find a new life in death. To research her book, Roach gets up close and personal with cadavers who are being used as crash-test dummies, test subjects for experimenting with new types of body armor, or practice models for plastic surgery seminars. Roach talks about grave robbers and cannibals and, in her search for the different ways that our bodies keep going once we’ve left them behind, she explores some of the philosophical reasons why people feel the way they do about what happens to their earthly remains. I was really surprised by how funny this book was – it’s an interesting topic for sure.
 orange 3. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. People have been telling me for months that I’ve got to watch this series on Netflix. Well, I finished the book last week and started the series afterward. I’ve got to say, keeping in mind I’ve only seen three episodes, I like the book better than the show. This is Kerman’s story about her year in federal prison following her conviction on drug charges. She goes to jail over a decade after committing her crime, and her story is a really interesting mix of coming to terms with her culpability, forging relationships with her fellow inmates, and trying to survive life in prison without getting left behind by her family and friends outside. The Los Angeles Times did a great job of pinpointing one of the most interesting things about it: “This book is impossible to put down because Kerman could be you. Or your best friend. Or your daughter.”
 part of the pride 4. Part of the Pride by Kevin Richardson. I have a fascination with big cats, so I thought this was a great book! Kevin Richardson grew up in South Africa, and even from childhood, he knew he would work with animals. He talks about his unsettled years as a teenager and how he transitioned into working with some of Africa’s biggest predators. He is extremely controversial among animal behaviorists because he breaks almost all of the established rules about working with wild animals, but his book is not intended to be a how-to guide to owning a pet lion. He freely admits that he doesn’t recommend his methods to anyone else, and he includes one particularly frightening story about what happened to him once when he forgot himself and tried to make a particularly fierce lion he calls Tsavo do something that the lion did not want to do. His experience with Tsavo is scary, but incidents like that are outnumbered by the truly amazing stories of interacting with his lion “brothers” Napoleon and Tau, teaching the lioness Meg to swim, and raising the hyena Bongo from a cub. He currently owns a Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa, where he educates visitors about wild species preservation and fundraises to help prevent habitat loss, hunting, and illegal trade. It’s a really interesting read, and the pictures are incredible.
adulting 5. Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown. I’ve already written all about this book, but it really was a fun read. I felt like I picked up several helpful tips, and I laughed a lot. I particularly loved her charts and illustrations.

Beth, it just occurred to me that you loaned me 3 out of these five books. You have excellent taste. Xo.

Happy Friday!

Top Five Friday: Movie Adaptations

I found out a few weeks ago that a movie adaptation of The Giver is coming out in August. I remember really liking The Giver when we read it in school, and I’m excited to see the movie. Since it’s been so long, unless I reread it before I see the movie, I probably won’t have any kind of opinion on how good the adaptation is. This got me thinking about my favorite movies that are based on books (of which there are dozens, but this is Top Five Friday, not Everything I Ever Loved Friday).

much ado 1. Much Ado about Nothing: This is such a great play, and Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branaugh are absolutely amazing as Beatrice and Benedick. If you can overlook a very weird performance by Keanu Reeves as Don John, the whole cast is great. My favorite monologue of any Shakespeare play is Benedick’s speech when he finds out Beatrice is in love with him. If you’ve never seen it, you can watch the scene on YouTube.
 mice and men  2. Of Mice and Men: I saw this movie for the first time in sixth grade, and I remember sobbing loudly through the last twenty minutes while my classmates all gave me weird looks and wondered what was wrong with me. John Malkovich is the PERFECT Lenny. It’s his voice I hear in my head now as I reread the book. I just want to give him a big hug. When my students watched this movie, it was always funny for me to sit back and wait for them to realize that George was Gary Sinise. I think the longest I ever waited for someone to ask, “Hey, is that Lieutenant Dan?” was about 10 minutes.
 order  3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: I’m a huge fan of the HP books, but this book really rubbed me the wrong way. I thought emo, teenage angst Harry was incredibly annoying. So I was surprised by how much enjoyed the movie, and then I realized that most of Harry’s “nobody understands what I’m going through” nonsense came from internal monologues in the books – unless the director wanted to punish us with a lot of voice-overs and sad violin music, that all had to go in the movie. Harry still had some anger issues, but I had much more patience with them when I wasn’t reading about them constantly. Also, the scene where Harry & Co. basically destroy an entire floor of the Ministry of Magic was pretty awesome, even if I didn’t remember them wreaking quite as much havoc in the book.
 pride  4. Pride and Prejudice: I’m sure Jane Austen purists everywhere would be grabbing their torch and pitchforks to see this one on the list, but I adore it. I feel like you get a much clearer picture of how far apart Lizzy and Darcy really are on the class scale from this version. The Bennet house, the Bennet girls’ dresses and the ball at the ball at Meryton look a little shabby and really country when you compare them to Pemberley, Caroline Bingley’s gowns, and the ball at Netherfield. I don’t think you get that distinction with the BBC adaptation. This movie is beautiful to look at, it has a great cast, and I think it’s true to the spirit of the book.
 julie  5. Julie and Julia: Even though the movie has the same title as the book by Julie Powell, the movie is actually based on the book Julia and Julia and Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France. Amy Adams (who I love) manages to bring some likability to Julie’s character, and Meryl Streep is at her most adorable as Julia Child. Watching this movie makes me HUNGRY. There is food in almost every scene. It also makes me want to try some recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.


Happy Friday!