Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Catch-up #1: Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, A Survival Guide for Life by Grylls, Tomorrow We Die by Grady

I had such a fantastic reading month in September that my sidebar has been taunting me for ages. Yes, true, I am under no obligation to write about every book I read (I do skip a book if I feel like there's nothing to say and the book in question is from my personal library). But, the whole point of blogging is to keep a record of what I've read and my thoughts about each of those books so I'm going to do some catch-up posts. The following were either recently purchased or on my home shelves. I absolutely loved and highly recommend all three.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - I just found out I'm not the only person in America who missed out on reading and discussing Of Mice and Men in school, yesterday! Whew! Good to know.

Short version of the storyline, lacking spoilers: Two friends travel around working odd jobs together. Lennie is intellectually challenged; George watches out for his friend. When they end up in trouble -- which invariably happens because Lennie has difficulty understanding boundaries and doesn't know his own strength -- George takes charge of their escape. When Lennie does something so horrific their lives are both put in danger, what will George do?

I love Steinbeck. For such a small book, Of Mice and Men certainly packs a wallop. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. I wish I'd read it in a group setting. When I closed the book, I was dying to discuss the moral dilemma.

I love Bear Grylls and have been thinking, "I need to read one of his books" for quite a while. So, when I indulged in some stress shopping in September I went in search of a book by Grylls. Any title would do -- and since I was looking at a discount website I took what was available.

A Survival Guide for Life by Bear Grylls is about achieving your goals, with focus on paying attention to what makes you happy, maintaining enthusiasm, dealing with adversity, working on strength of character -- really great advice. The author refers to the book as "self help" within its text. I'm not generally a fan of self-help because I've found the majority of such books are not particularly helpful or their effects are short-lived. However, I do love books on positive thinking and have several favorites that I periodically reread when I need an upper.

A Survival Guide for Life definitely falls into the "uppers worth rereading" category. Although much of Grylls' advice is common sense or already in practice here, there is still plenty to think about and his infectious can-do attitude just can't be beat. I haven't yet talked my youngest into reading the book because he's been reading business books recommended by his father while working on his second degree but I think there are aspects to A Survival Guide for Life that are particularly relevant to young people on the verge of entering the work force so I hope he'll find the time to read the book soon. In the meantime, I may even give it a second go. A Survival Guide for Life is definitely a book I plan to reread repeatedly. And, I would especially recommend it for those who need a little mental boost. It would also make a fabulous graduation gift. Bear Grylls is truly an inspiration.

I've already talked about Tomorrow We Die by Shawn Grady a bit, here, but without describing the storyline.

Jonathan Trestle is a paramedic working for a private ambulance service. When he's called to a cardiac arrest, he manages to revive the patient, an unkempt man who may have overdosed. Before the patient slips back into unconsciousness, he hands Jonathan a note and tells him to give it to Martin. Of course, Jonathan has no idea who Martin is.

There is so much going on in this book that I realize now why I didn't post a synopsis, before. First, there's the patient with the note. Jonathan tracks down the patient and goes in search of Martin. There's an old girlfriend Jonathan keeps running into; they have a lot of baggage but the mutual attraction is still there. His alcoholic dad is fading. Jonathan has flashbacks to his mother's death. And, when the ambulance company gets after Jonathan for not meeting the city's standard response time because there aren't enough ambulances to cover the quantity of calls coming in, he stumbles across a corporate cover-up that puts his life (and the lives of several other people) in danger.

I have a feeling there's more that I've forgotten but the bottom line is that Tomorrow We Die is action-packed, well paced and the pages absolutely flew. I loved this book. My only problem with it was that it could be a little too descriptive. But, that's something you just have to be prepared for when you're reading a book written by a paramedic. The things they see are not pretty. I'm currently reading Bringing Out the Dead by Joe Connelly (yet another novel written by a paramedic) and it is equally stomach-turning, at times, but I love this stuff. Tomorrow We Die was definitely the most exciting novel I've read by a paramedic, so far. We'll see how the next one goes.

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  1. You're definitely not the only one not to have read Of Mice and Men in school...I didn't either! And I still haven't read it. I haven't read ANY Steinbeck actually..ever. Really need to fix that. Debi's been wanting me to read that book forever. It's one of those books that's always frightened me for some reason that falls into the "I'm too dumb for this book" category even though I know I'm not. I really should dedicate a month to reading books that I've put off for that reason!

    1. Better and better. I think you would like it for the moral dilemma, Chris. I do love Steinbeck, though, so I might be biased. Nice thing about it: it's short! You are certainly not too dumb. Sheesh.

      I think a book you might enjoy is the one to the right of this comment: Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming. It's about living with an abusive father, learning how to act in whatever way would make him most invisible or pretend to be calm/bland enough not to stir up his father's wrath and how he emerged a person who is strong a creative (and well-paid) and really quite happy, now. It only covers a particular year during which he confronts his father, learns a bit about his family's history and processes it all. Excellent book.

  2. I can still remember reading Of Mice and Men in high school - and watching the movie which was, as always, not as good as the book - but I also remember the class discussion was - typical of my high school - nowhere near as awesome as it could have been. The book has such wonderful, mature themes, but we of course talked about none of it.

    1. That's something that didn't occur to me - what little lit discussion I can recall from school was not memorable. It was more of a "teacher calling on whoever looks most disinterested, asking questions to see if s/he read the book" thing. Don't you think it would be wonderful for an online readalong or for group discussion? Such terrific themes, I agree. There's so much to discuss. I might bring it up at my F2F group, next week.


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