Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Nevermore: Paco, Marlo, Stephen & Jane, and More!

Reported by Ambrea

In Nevermore this week, our readers explored a variety of work, beginning with The Narcissist Next Door by Jeffrey Kluger.  Like the Psychopath Next Door (Jon Ronson) and the Sociopath Next Door (Marth Stout), The Narcissist Next Door:  Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed—in Your World explores another personality disorder:  narcissism.  Kluger, a writer for Time magazine, takes an intimate look at narcissism and its effects on everyday life.  Including examples of actors, politicians, entertainers, business people, Kluger helps readers understand narcissism and narcissists, as well as how to deal with—and possibly neutralize—the effects of narcissism in one’s life.  Our reader said she enjoyed Kluger’s book.  Not only did it prove to be interesting and accessible, she found she especially enjoyed the examples the author gave of narcissists (such Alec Baldwin, Donald Trump, et cetera) versus non-narcissists (e.g. Tom Hanks).

Next, our readers explored It Ain’t Over…Till it’s Over:  Reinventing Your Life—and Realizing Your Dreams—Anytime, at Any Age by Marlo Thomas.  Thomas, who made some astonishing changes later in her life, has collected the stories of sixty women who reinvented their lives and started living their dreams.  While our reader found this book interesting, she noted that these women are often like the average mother, wife, daughter—most of these women had the emotional support and financial means to make a new start.  Our reader said it was a nice book, inspirational in some ways; however, she thought it was rather one-sided as it didn’t include average professional women.

Our readers also returned to space with Paco:  The Cat Who Meowed in Space by Homer Hickam.  Hickam, who also wrote the memoir Rocket Boys, recounts his first years as a NASA engineer—and his rather magical cat, Paco, who has the ability to make anyone smile.  A story about space, a story about the bond between a man and his pet, Paco was an enjoyable memoir for our Nevermore reader.  As our reader pointed out, Paco is accessible—“It’s not super science!”—because Hickam is an engineer, rather than a physicist, and he works to help his readers understand what’s happening.  It’s an interesting book with a feel-good story that sure to entertain readers who love space, and who love animals.

Our readers followed with Before Liberty by Roy Thompson.  Written in 1976, Before Liberty is one newspaper man’s endeavor to write a column on pre-Revolutionary North Carolina—one column each and every week for an entire year.  Our reader said Thompson’s book was “really interesting, because it is about everyday people,” rather than the most famous historical figures of the region.  Each chapter, which boasts a separate article written by Thompson, deals with different aspects of life in North Carolina before America became embroiled in the Revolutionary War.  For our reader, who holds genealogical links to the region, she was especially thrilled to find out more information on her ancestors—who, in some instances, were mentioned in the book—and how they lived their lives.

Last our readers explored The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and Traveling to Infinity.  The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, written by Wayne Johnston, chronicles the complicated love affair of Sheilagh Fielding and Joey Smallwood as they grow and, finally, make their way out of Newfoundland.  Smallwood, who manages to leave poverty behind and become Newfoundland’s first premier, and Fielding, a gifted writer and satirist who becomes a popular columnist, find their lives irreversibly intertwined and, for over fifty years, they struggle to find themselves and each other.  As a work of historical fiction, Johnston’s novel was quite informative about “the colony of unrequited dreams,” but it simultaneously proved to be entertaining.  However, our reader considered it a difficult novel to read because it often jumped between different points in time, confusing any attempts at chronology, and it sometimes branched into theoretical history, imagining events as they might have happened, which our reader didn’t like.

Traveling to Infinity:  My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking was a little more popular with our Nevermore readers.  Written by Jane Hawking, Traveling to Infinity was an engrossing memoir about Jane’s life with Stephen Hawking—one of the most famous scientists in the modern world, and author of A Brief History of Time—and her struggle to care for him, as well as their growing family.  Our reader called Jane’s novel “a bit of a downer,” but she said it was still very interesting to read.  Jane Hawking is a very intelligent woman, often breaking down the most complicated science to make it accessible, and she’s very informative.  Her candid story was an eye-opening opportunity to see into the life and family of one of the world’s most renowned scientists.

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