Ever wonder why some people just seem to be more successful at certain activities than others? Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, seeks to discover what gives certain people an edge to success while others seem to be left behind. Gladwell looks at athletes, lawyers, major players in the computer business, and even pilots to determine what these people have in common that makes their successes less the result of being statistical outliers— possessing higher personal attributes--and more the result of when and where they were born. This book breaks down the fortune of society's major power players to show that sheer talent may not be the only thing that successful people have in common.
It's November 2004, and a group of Marines called the Lava Dogs of the First Battalion,Third Marine Regiment, stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, are about to clear a room in an abandoned home when they hear a suspicious sound. Instead of immediately shooting, which could save their lives if an enemy were in the other room, the Marines just listen. They hear something small sniffing and clicking around the old home. Before anyone can shoot, they notice what it is: a puppy. From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman is the story of what happens to a puppy who attaches himself to a group of Marines.
Grace Manning is a fifteen-year-old candy striper at a local nursing home, Hanover House, with a spunky attitude. Her life has been in a free fall since her father recently left her mother, sister, and her to build a new life with a woman from the church where he used to take his daughters every Sunday. Grace's mother doesn't quite have a stance on her beliefs about God, but church was always the place Grace and her sister Sophie went with their father. Now that their father is gone Grace has to come to terms with her religious beliefs. In God is in the Pancakes, by Robin Epstein, Grace must sort out life, love, friendship, and God.
Ryan Dooley has always been in trouble. Victim Rights, by Norah McClintock, tells of his journey from one side of the law to the other. Dooley, as he prefers to be called, had a hard life growing up. He was forced to try to care for his mother, all the while taking care of himself because no one else was able to take care of him. However, when his ex-cop uncle found him in a juvenile detention center, he offers him an ultimatum. If Dooley will stay out of trouble, his uncle will provide for him until he turns eighteen in a couple months.
The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, seeks to determine through investigative journalism exactly what goes into deciding what we should eat. Pollan explains that as omnivores, humans have such a vast variety of foods that they are able to eat—plant, animal, and even fungi--that it creates a problem within the human mind. Other species such as the koala bear only have one choice for dinner, eucalyptus leaves; because humans have so many choices, deciding what to eat can take up a large part of humans' time.
In order to investigate exactly how we have come to use the supermarkets and the industrial-style meal preparations today, Pollan looks at all of the ways in which people are able to feed themselves. He analyzes first the industrial-style food change, which starts with large farms in other parts of the country—or, in some cases, other parts of the world—and consists mostly of corn products, which leads to a meal served at your local McDonald's. Then he looks into the organic phenomena that we're seeing today, which stemmed out of early ideas about better ways to manufacture food that does not contain hormones and antibiotics that other industrial food chains add. Next, he looks at some alternative food production models, such as grass feed farms. The one that he examines most thoroughly is Polyface Farm, which is located in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Lastly, Pollan looks at the most traditional way of food production—food foraging—with which he produces an entire meal using his own skills in Berkley, California.
If you are a dog lover, you will love this book. Only dog lovers would understand giving up their free time and a good portion of their shoes, which somehow turn into chew toys, in return for the unconditional love of a pup. But really, all animal lovers can relate to this story. You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secret of Happiness by Julie Klam is a hilarious memoir about how one woman went from being single at thirty and by herself in her Manhattan apartment to working in a dog rescue, married, and parenting all with the help of Otto, a Boston Terrier rescue. From Otto, Klam learned to share her life with another living being, which led her to a completely different lifestyle.
Gabriel King is scared of everything. His many fears include spiders, loose cows, and even his best friend Frita's basement. Frita Wilson is a tough girl and she has every intention of helping Gabriel overcome his fears, especially when one of those is going to the fifth grade. The year is 1976, Frita and Gabriel have just graduated from the fourth grade, and they only have one summer to get rid of all of Gabriel's fears. The Liberation of Gabriel King, by K.L. Going, is about a boy who attempts to be brave with the help of his best friend.
The Gospel According to Larry, by Janet Tashjian, is the story of what happens when anti-commercialism meets the world of blogging. Josh Swensen is a nature-loving, hyperactive, slightly ingenious seventeen-year-old boy who spends most of his time avoiding his classmates. Josh only has one friend, Beth, a young feminist in the making. The two have been friends since they were in elementary school.
Recently, Josh and Beth have been spending a lot of time following an anti-commercialism, semi-evangelistic blog by an unknown person with a code name of Larry. Larry is against the widespread commercialism that targets everyone, especially teenagers. He only has seventy-five possessions, which he photographs periodically to show his fans. He does this in order to show his lack of attachment to material goods. Larry sends out sermons that primarily target the faults of big-business marketing schemes.
To explain my reasoning for choosing to read What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson, I must first explain a little about myself. I'm a senior in college and in the process of applying for graduate school. One day, while frantically exploring graduate programs at various schools across the U.S. and abroad, I started to worry: Will I choose the right program? What if I wasted my college years studying the wrong subjects? What am I suppose to do with my life? Well, during my craze I jokingly typed in Google, "What Should I Do with My Life?" Po Bronson's book was the first thing to pop up in my browser. I immediately searched the library's catalog to find out whether I could borrow the book, and I drove up to Porter branch that night to check it out. I never set out to review it since it was simply a pleasure read, but I feel as though others may benefit from some of the events portrayed in this book as well.
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, tells the story of one man's attempt to promote peace in the Middle East by building schools. Journalist David Oliver Relin chronicled Greg Mortenson’s life in order to encourage further support for his efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.