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Reviews of Books, Movies and Music


Books


THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett.

It is old but hard to put down once you start reading it.
(Gwen)


THE WHITE TIGER by Aravind Adiga.

Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize. It is a compelling portrait of modern India, The White Tiger takes the form of letters written from a Bangalore businessman, Balram Halwai, to Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Prime Minister.


THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini.

Powerful story of two boys growing up in Afghanistan. Another great one by this author: A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS
(Jo)


Disclaimer (Steve): These are not necessarily "entertaining" readings, but are some fun books if you are in the process of figuring out how to tweak or promote some great, world-changing idea you have. But they also contain good insights if you are just trying to sell fellow workers, friends or even family members on some idea you would like them to agree with. I've already applied many of the ideas in these books to how I present things at work, how I set up my websites and even how I write up my papers for my MBA classes (once I realized my professors were simply my "customers", this stuff just fell into place!).

Made to Stick

A great book if you are trying to sell an idea or product. Written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, one a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, the other an education consultant and former researcher at Harvard Business School. They look at the key aspects of what makes some ideas and stories stick in people's minds. They boil things down to 6 key principles of simplicity that make things stick in people's memories.

Some of the cases they analyze are urban legends, because these seem to get around fast and are remembered long after they are heard. For example, have you heard about the traveling businessman who went back to his hotel room with a woman he met at the bar, only to wake up in the bathtub, full of ice, with one kidney cut out of him?

After reading it I bought a copy for an old friend of mine who is a professor teaching film studies, since selling a screenplay is the ultimate challenge. He immediately picked up on several of their ideas and has used them to tweak some of his latest proposals.

All Marketers are Liars - by Seth Godin (blog at http://sethgodin.typepad.com)

This book is interesting from a marketing perspective in that he says that spending time and effort to convince people logically is a waste of resources.

People have worldviews that change slowly, and the best way to convince them of something is to translate your product or idea into their way of looking at the world. Telling people a truthful story that matches with their way of seeing the world with what you have to say is the easiest way to get folks to pay attention, especially in these days of mass media oversaturation.

This works for commercial products, ideas and anything else in general (such as trying to get particular family members to agree to your way of thinking... )

The Myths of Innovation - by Scott Berkun

A quick, must-read for any of you engineers or techies out there! He lists and then debunks many of the favorite innovation myths we technical folks live by, for example, "The Myth of Epiphany," "The Myth of the Lone Inventor" and "People Like New Ideas."

Much of it helps describe to us technical folks why the rest of the world does not accept our proposed solutions based on their sheer genius and obvious (to us) improvement!

(I am still in the middle of reading this one, and would cite a few interesting passages from it if it was not still on my desk at work where I am reading it at lunchtime... and where several other fellow engineers have expressed interest in borrowing it from me when I am done with it.)

(Steve)


THE WHISTLING SEASON by Ivan Doig

(Loey)


INHERITANCE OF LOSS

(Priya)


SHALIMAR THE CLOWN

(Priya)


WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

(Loey)


SUITE FRANCAISE by Irene Nemirovsky

Irene Nemirovsky, a Jewish Russian who had moved to France with her parents during the Russian Revolution, wrote 2 parts of what was to be a 5-part novel about France during the German occupation in WWII. She writes about the lack of resistance and apathy of many of the French people and courage of a few during these hard times. She only completed the first two sections when she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where she died. Her young daughter managed to save the manuscripts and has just had them published in French and English. An amazing story; well-written.
(Jo )


AGATHA RAISIN AND THE QUICHE OF DEATH by Beaton.

This is an English story and those are my favorite and I think Joanne's too.
(Gwen)


LEAVE IT TO PSMITH and SOMETHING NEW, both by P. G. Wodehouse.

These are light reading, perfect for summer.
(Harlan)


THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS by Kiran Desai

Takes place in Kalimpong, a mountain village in the northeastern Himalayas near India's border with Nepal. Tells the story of two young people: Sai, an orphan girl who lives with her aloof grandfather (retired judge), and Biju, the son of the grandfather's cook, who is trying to make a life for himself as an illegal immigrant in America. Takes place in the 1980's, when there is a growing unrest on the part of the Nepali majority, who are relegated to a lesser status in this society. Really interesting book. I read the whole book from beginning to end--a rarity for me since I usually skip around or scan a lot.
(Jo)


PATRIOTS by A. J. Langguth.

This is about the men who started the American Revolution but provides the real stories--the treacheries, ambitions, and driving forces--of men such as Washington, Adams, Jefferson. This tells what the history books don't.


THE LAST JUROR by John Grisham and THE RAINMAKER by John Grisham.

He is such a good writer. These are two of the very few books that I've read all the way through rather than skip through a lot of the pages and reading the ending first. Excellent writing.
(Jo)


Anything by Brian Greene

Brilliant new physicist, on subject of the cosmos and new string theory
(Marg; Paul agrees)


LOSING JULIA

About a WW1 vet in an old people's home with flashbacks. Sort of a love story but lots of humor about old age and life in general.
(Loey)


THE SCENT OF EUCALYPTUS - by Daniel Coleman

Goose Lane Editions, New Brunswick, Canada at www.gooselane.com.
This is about issues that arise when living in two cultures.


CARE OF THE SOUL, SOUL-MATES, AND THE RE-ENCHANTMENT OF EVERYDAY LIFE - all by Thomas Moore

(Marg)


EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES

(Phyllis)


THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE - by Brian Greene (brilliant physicist who writes like a poet)

This book explains the latest theory of how our universe works: "string theory" , which just might be THE grand unifying theory to explain everything. It is also a great review of earlier theories. He also wrote another one prior to Elegant Universe, but don't remember the name. Supposed to be equally brilliant.
(Marg)


THE DA VINCI CODE - by Dan Brown

Ignore the Mary Magdalene as wife of Christ idea and enjoy the complicated puzzles of the treasure hunt. I read it on Amtrak, perfect train reading. Available anywhere I should think.
(Phyllis)


THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING - by Simon Winchester

The story of the Oxford English Dictionary, surprisingly interesting and of course highly informative. I can lend this one.
(Phyllis)


HOUSE OF BLUE MANGOES

A story of village life in a southern Kerala community.
(Phyllis)


NUMBER ONE LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY - by Alexander Scott Smith

Takes place in Africa. All his books are great.
(Gwen)


LIFE IS NOT JUST HA HA HE HE

Indians living in England.
(Jean Schweers)


DON'T LET'S GO TO THE DOGS YET TONIGHT

An English girl who grew up in Africa whose parents were farmers there.
(Gwen)


DEVIL AND THE WHITE CITY

About the Chicago World Fair, nonfiction


THAT OLD ACE IN THE HOLE - by Annie Proulx

(Mugwad)


THE HERO'S WALK - by Anita Rau Badami

(Mugwad)



Movies


MONSOON WEDDING

Directed by Mira Nair. I can't believe we didn't have this on our list already. Most of you have probably seen it by now but it's worth seeing again.
(Jo)


BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM

Great story about conflicting values in an immigrant Indian family; the daughter wants to play soccer while the parents feel that this is not what young females should do.
(Jo)


BRICK LANE

About a Bangladeshi woman whose village family arranges her marriage to a man living in London. A tender story set mostly in London, filmed by a woman director, The story is filled with unexpected twists which makes it ever fascinating and unpredictable.
(from Elizabeth Hagen Smith, Kodai Class of '54)


NAMESAKE

Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding), this is a story that follows an immigrant Bengali family from Calcutta to New York City. Shows the conflict between the Indian values of the parents and the American values of the American-born children. Really interesting.
(Jo)


Movies recommended by Betty, Gwen and Margy:

50 First Dates
Ever After
Night at the Museum
Princess Bride
Golden Child
Patch Adams
Batteries Not Included
The Prestige
Papillon
Shall We Dance (Japanese original- watch first)
Shall We Dance (American remake)
Strictly Ballroom
Take the Lead
Michael
Phenomenon
World's Fastest Indian
Second Hand Lions
Glory Road
Painted Veil
Searching for Bobby Fisher
Akilah and the Bee
Freedom Writers
Million Dollar Baby
Cars
Swanky Boots
Pursuit of Happiness
March of the Penguins (watch first) and followed by
Happy Feet
Benny and Joon
What's Eating Gilbert Grape
The Illusionist
American President (chick flick)


MERRY CHRISTMAS

(Loey)


THE PAINTED VEIL

Takes place in China during the 1920's. Really interesting.
(Loey and Jo)


MRS. PALFRY AT THE CLAREMONT

We sisters saw this when we were together this February. Neat one.
(Betty)


MY BOLLYWOOD BRIDE

This was shown on Phyllis's flight home from India.
(Phyl)


LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE

Magical realism.
(Margy)


THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN

This is not about an Indian from India; it's about a guy in Australia making his Indian motorcycle fast enough to attempt a new record. Really good film.
(Jo)


PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION

If you enjoy Garrison Keillor, like we do in our family, you'll enjoy this light-hearted movie about the ending of this famous radio show. Good cast.
(Jo)


MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

The story of a little girl and her life as she becomes a geisha. Really interesting and wonderful photography.
(Jo)


PROOF


(Jo)


UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948), EASY LIVING, and CHRISTMAS IN JULY

Light family entertainment. These movies are by Preston Sturges, the emperor of slapstick comedy (and do NOT get the 1948 version of "Unfaithfully Yours" confused with the repulsive Dudley Moore version).
(Harlan)


THE WEEPING CAMEL

A documentary about life in Mongolia and a camel that rejects her baby - great!
(Loey)


SHIPPING NEWS

Really interesting story that takes place in Newfoundland.
(Jo)


SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER


SHAKA ZULU

Based on historical facts is the story of the rise of the powerful Zulu nation in Africa during the time that South Africa was under British control. This is a series so plan to see the DVDs over a period of time.


SHERLOCK, JR.

Buster Keaton in an old-time silent movie is hilarious! Two stories are on the one DVD and well worth an hour of laughter!


DEAR FRANKIE

A moving, subtle, captivating movie!

Added note: we saw it too and we agree---it's a great one to see. (Jo)


THE WEEPING CAMEL

A documentary about life in Mongolia and a camel that rejects her baby - great!


RACING STRIPES

This is a great movie for kids. It's about a zebra who thinks he's a racing horse.


SHADOWLANDS

A touching, tear-jerker about C.S. Lewis's late in life marriage to a New York woman. A great glimpse into Lewis's life.


KING ARTHUR

The real story behind the knights on which the legends are based. This is NOT King Arthur and the Round Table, Merlin, etc. but is created from some recently uncovered information about that period in history. An exciting movie!


SIDEWAYS

Highly recommended by Gary


LONGITUDE

A longish half documentary half movie thatis excellent in its description of the problem of measuring longitude in the 1800s.
(Loey)


AVIATOR

Obviously great as it won lots of stuff and DiCaprio is incredible.
(Loey and Gwen)


OCEAN'S TWELVE

Nah - never got to the point of the movie.
(Loey)


BUTTERFLY EFFECT

Rated well by Nikhil


SHACKLETON

A true story about an expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton's to Antarctica in 1914. An amazing story of their ship being trapped in ice, the crew of 27 camping on the ice, traveling by dog sled, and their unbelievable journey fighting for survival.
(Gwen)


THE RIVER SUTRA

An Indian story about a civil servant decides to semi-retire to run a government travelers' bungalow (very Indian concept..very cheap rooms every so many miles..mom and I used to stay in these) on the Narmada river...he meets various people and hears their stories. Excellent.
(Loey)


THE QUEEN OF THE TAMBORINE

A British story about an English woman married to upper level civil servant who goes somewhat nuts and makes her way out of it. Also good reading and humorous.
(Loey)


THE QUIET AMERICAN

Based on Graham Greene's novel.
(Marg)


IN AMERICA

Warm-hearted story about an Irish family that tries to learn how to survive in New York City.
(Jo)


THE GOLDEN BOWL

Based on Henry James' novel; beautifully done period piece.
(Marg)


BIG FISH

A wonderful fantastical story full of heart and soul, and with an actual plot (surprise surprise in today's movie world) and quirky lovable characters.
(Margy)


SECOND HAND LIONS

Another off-beat, heart-warming story full of surprises and eccentric characters.
(Margy)


LORD OF THE RINGS

The trilogy (also my favorite books of all times).
(Margy)


HARRY POTTER

All the books and movies
(Margaret Suzanne)


WHALE RIDER

one of the best videos we've seen in years. It takes place among the Maori tribe in New Zealand. Paikea, who is the granddaughter of the chief, fights for her right to be the next leader of her people. The part of Paikea was played by Keisha Castle-Hughes; she was nominated for the Academy Award--the youngest person to have this honor. Good strong film for girls to see....and boys too, for that matter. Grandma Jungas would have liked this film.
(Jo & Frank)


THE STATION AGENT

This movie centers around Fin (played by Peter Dinklage), a man with dwarfism. Because he has been constantly ridiculed by others, he wants only to live in solitude and be left alone. This story tells about the unlikely bond that gradually builds between Fin and Olivia, an artist who has suffered a terrible loss, and Joe, a talkative, friendly Cuban coffee vendor. It's a really warm-hearted story, and the acting and script are great. The Station Agent won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Definitely worth seeing.
(Jo & Frank)

This is a small, independent film with a lot of heart.
(Chris)


NOWHERE IN AFRICA


EAST IS EAST AND WEST IS WEST


TOUCHING THE VOID

Would you cut the rope linking you and your climbing partner?

What if you couldn't see him at all through the blinding snowstorm, and you thought he was already dead?

And what if the weight of his body was pulling you slowly towards the cliff edge, and your own certain death?

Would you cut the rope?

That's just one of the questions that sticks in your mind for several days after you watch this documentary. It describes a climbing accident on the 21,000 ft. peak of Siula Grande in South America and the incredible survival story of both of its participants. It is filmed as a combination of live interviews and re-creations, including some of the most spectacular high-altitude mountain climbing shots I have ever seen. Although you know the outcome from the beginning, you still will find yourself wondering just how these men can possibly survive.

Definitely one of those movies that lingers in your mind for awhile... especially if you have ever climbed in the mountains!
(Steve)



Books on Tape or Disk


Dreams of My Father - by Barack Obama

In preparation for the elections, I'm listening to the autobiographies of some of the political candidates. It's neat because they are actually reading the books so you hear the story from their mouths. I particularly liked Barack Obama's Dreams of My Father.
(Priya)


Piano Tuner

(Loey)


Eventide - by Kent Haruf

...and anything else by this author is "down home" and brilliantly written. I like listening to his stories rather than reading them so recommend the CDs if you can get them. Eventide is followed by the sequel, Plainsong (a finalist for the National Book Award). Both books are about rural American life, written so compellingly that once you begin you can't put these books down! Others by Haruf: The Tie That Binds and Where You Once Belonged.
(Gwen)


This House of Sky - by Ivan Doig

About a boy growing up in Montana. THe author's memoirs are filled with humor, memorable charactes. Highly recommended.
(Gwen)


THE KITE RUNNER - by Khaled Hosseini

A riveting story you don't want to end about two boys growing up in Kabul, one the son of a prominent, wealthy man, the other the son of a servant. It takes you from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the present.


The First Ladies Detective Agency - by Alexander McCall Smith

You can get the books for his series or listen to them on tape or disk. A MUST read/listen.


EVENTIDE - by Kent Haruf

Anything by this author is delightful. He writes in a "down home" fashion--brilliantly written and wonderful to listen to. The sequel to Eventide is Plainsong. Both are about rural American life, written so compellingly that once you begin you can't put the books down (or turn off the tape). Others by this author are: The Tie That Binds and Where You Once Belonged.



Music


Bryan Rowe's Music Website

http://www.bryanrowe.net

People can sample Bryan's music and purchase CDs through the CD Baby link. His music has brought enjoyment to many people, and I imagine a number of our family may enjoy it.
(Barb)


LA LUNA - by Sarah Brightman

The soprano who starred in the original "Phantom of the Opera" in London.
(Margy)


GLADIATOR (Soundtrack)

Haunting, lovely, very very emotional.
(Margy)


SIREN - by Heather Nova

I got hooked on Heather Nova's unique voice when I bought her "Oyster" album years ago. "Siren" is a bit more mature and thoughtful, a good album to put on while spending a winter day inside working on projects. Her latest album, "South", is great roadtrip music.
(Steve)


FESTIVAL IN THE DESERT

Live recordings of the 2003 desert music festival in Mali. Musicians included Touaregs, Malians, Mauritanians, Europeans and Americans.

A great mix of traditional North African as well as more modern flavors.
(Steve)