Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I recommend this book with reservations (see below under "bad language").

One of my book clubs chose this book to read. I assumed it was another dogs-are-great, feel-good book. And it was, but it also was different from what I expected.

In this book our narrator is Enzo, dog of racecar driver Dennis. Enzo is convinced that he's meant to be human and, while embracing the qualities that make dogs superior, he also yearns for the day he will be reborn (as he supposes) as a human and greet his master, Dennis, man-to-man. Meanwhile, Enzo tells the reader about the experiences that Dennis has during their life together. 

The back of the book describes this book in some pretty glowing terms...."The perfect book for anyone who knows that compassion isn't only for humans, and that the relationship between two souls who are meant for each other never really comes to an end" (Jodi Picoult)...."a meditation on humility and hope in the face of despair" (Wally Lamb). Hm. 

This was a very engaging book. One of the things I love about books is that, in all but the most shallow of them, the reader's interpretation can be completely subjective. The reader sees what he/she wishes to see. In this book I saw the story of a man of integrity. Dennis, while being a regular guy, was also kind of a hero, practicing loyalty, restraint, tact, endurance and honesty in the face of extreme provocation. That was really cool. There was a lot of stuff about racecar driving. There was a lot of stuff about the relationship between dog and man. That was all fine. But it was Dennis' integrity that stood out to me. I liked him. It was a sweet book.

Sex: well, yes there were references to sex. No actual sex scenes, per se. Just pieces of interludes that the dog witnessed and noted.
Bad language: too much of it. The dog had a potty mouth. He referred to his bodily functions with crude scatological terms. He used the "f" word three times. I've been thinking about all the bad language I feel I've encountered in the books I've read lately (and on Pinterest when I browse the "everything" or "popular" categories!?!). I generally try to avoid it, but am just as capable as the next person of rationalizing it as acceptable if the book is "good" enough. But the other day I noticed how easily one of those words slinks across my mental landscape when my mind is in neutral. And I didn't like it. So perhaps it's time to renew my efforts at eschewing it altogether, no matter how engaging a book is or how redeeming its message seems to be. Anyway, if you read the book, be aware of the language you'll be encountering. It's not widespread, but it's consistently there. This is why I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book as a good read.

The Diet Survivor's Handbook by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel

This was a very interesting book.

I've been convinced for many months of the idea that diets don't work. I've read several books that give basic instructions on how to eat mindfully, and it makes sense to me. Not sure it's actually good for losing weight, but pretty sure it's good for self-confidence and peace of mind.

And for the first chapter or two, this book repeated the same kind of information that I've already read about leaving diets behind, the harm they do, and how to eat mindfully. But the title claims SIXTY lessons in "Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care" and that is what this book delivers, actually. Some of the 60 lessons were derivative of each other (does that phrase make sense?), but many of them were fresh--at least to me. Every "lesson" was accompanied by a writing exercise and suggestions for application. And every lesson was followed by a pertinent quotation, some funny, some just cool. My favorite lesson was #54. 

If you are interested at all in this kind of thing, this book would be a thoughtful addition to your study of leaving diets behind. It was a quick read, worth re-reading the parts that seem most applicable to you.

Sex: no
Bad language: no