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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guest Book Review - Two Fantastic Reads from 2011

Now that I've got this year back up and going, I'm looking for weekly guest posters again!  But I'm also expanding what I'm looking for.  I'm still looking for DIY bloggers, but I'm also looking for bloggers who would be interested in doing a book review.  I've been an avid reader all my life, but over the last year I feel I've neglected that NEED...filling up all my time with other projects.  So one of my goals for this year is to rediscover and nourish that part of me.  Regular book reviews from me and from guests will help that!  :)
If you're interested in guesting, see my guest posting page here.
And so, to kick of my book reviews, I have Kimberly here today to share two of her favorite reads from 2011.  Take it away, Kimberly!

2011 was a great year for readers, in areas of fiction and nonfiction alike. In fact it was such a good year for books that you might be hard pressed to settle on any one book from the best-of lists from last year. If that’s the case, I have two great books to recommend. 

The Paris Wife
If you’re a fan of American fiction from the 1920’s, then you’ll love this book. Paula McLain’s novel The Paris Wife chronicles the life of Ernest Hemingway’s wife, Hadley Hemingway, during the couple’s stint in Paris in the 1920’s. It’s a time when her husband was at the peak of his creative power and influence, holding court at Parisian cafes among the likes of Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. In fact, The Paris Wife reads almost like a version of Hemingway’s book about those years, A Moveable Feast, but told from Hadley’s perspective. The novel focuses mostly on the ups and downs of the relationship between Hadley and Ernest, who first met in Chicago and quickly fell in love, got married and moved to Paris to start a new life. Hadley, a woman in her twenties at the time, becomes immediately swept away by the dynamics between Ernest and his literary round table in Paris. But the exoticism of living among powerful writers soon loses its appeal for Hadley as she becomes privy to the darker tendencies of the group, particularly in her own husband.

 It takes a moment to acclimate oneself to the atmosphere and time of the book, but once you do so, I guarantee you’ll be hooked. Critics who reviewed the book praised it as much for the originality and beauty of the story as they did for the thorough research that went into it. Though most of the dialogue and smaller details are fictional, Paula McLain went to great lengths to try to capture as accurate depiction of Hadley Hemingway’s persona as was possible. If you’re looking for new  fiction to read, I would strongly recommend this novel.

Thinking, Fast and Slow
On the nonfiction side of things there is Thinking, Fast and Slow, a fascinating book by Dr. Daniel Khaneman that tackles a rather ambitious subject: human thought. But Dr. Khaneman has some rather impressive credentials to support his ability to write such a book. In 2002 he won the Nobel Peace Prize in economics, as he has devoted the entirety of his professional life to studying the eccentricities and abnormalities of human thought and rationalization.

The book itself proposes that we think about things using two mechanisms of thought, which Dr. Khaneman simply labels Systems 1 and 2. We use System 1 at all times to take in and process the information around us. It’s the kind of instinctual, intuitive sense in us that allows us to go on autopilot about certain things like getting dressed in the morning and holding a conversation about the weather. We use system 2 to perform highly concentrated thinking, such as when someone asks you to multiply 547 by 22—it’s something that makes our brains stop thinking about everything else so we can focus on the task at hand. The book explains the nuances of each system, explaining that we normally operate on system 1 and only bring ourselves to operate on system when it’s absolutely necessary. In other words, Dr. Khaneman contends that we have very lazy brains.

One of the most surprising things about Thinking, Fast and Slow is the ease with which it reads. I fully expected to read an academic text about the human brain when I start the book, but instead I found the pleasant and patient voice of Dr. Khaneman explaining huge concepts through simple diagrams, anecdotes, and exercises. If you want to better understand the mind, this book is for you.

This is a guest post by Kimberly Wilson. Kimberly is from accredited online colleges, she writes on topics including career, education, student life, college life, home improvement, time management etc.
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