140-character book reviews

June 12, 2012 | 38 comments

I’m working on some book revisions this week and next, which means that I’ll be too caught up in the throes of ecstatic joy to be able to write much here other than Quick Takes. I will have such rock-solid confidence in the the usefulness of these efforts — I shall find myself so immersed in hope at the knowledge that, despite the fact that my literary agent has said that my last 1, 632 efforts weren’t good enough, the 1, 633rd time just might be the charm! — that I will forget all about the fun and instant gratification that come with writing for my blog.

In the meantime, let’s talk about what we’ve been reading lately. I’ve been wanting to share some good titles I’ve found recently, but haven’t had time to craft lengthy, detailed reviews. I know a lot of other folks are right there with me in terms of busy-ness, so I thought we could do a round of Twitter-inspired book reviews, where we share thoughts on recent reads in 140 characters or fewer (not counting the title itself). Here are mine:

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon:

A tour de force manual for achieving excellence at whatever work you do. Full of fresh insights. Everyone should read this.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath:

Chock full of interesting ideas. Didn’t blow me away, but lots of solid thought-starters here.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot:

It boggles the mind to consider all the data & stories Skloot sifted through to craft this true story. Informative. Heartbreaking. A++.

Unearthing Your Ten Talents: A Thomistic Guide to Spiritual Growth by Dr. Kevin Vost:

Just started reading this, but so far looks like another informative & inspiring book from Ph.D. psychologist Vost.

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell:

I didn’t think I was easily offended by profanity, but #$%^! There’s a lot of &*^%$ cursing in this #$%@! book!

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis:

Huge thanks to Simcha for recommending this campus novel. Laughed uproariously, recognized myself to an eerie extent in the main character.

The Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield:

Tragic. Gripping. Staggeringly well written. It is books like this that remind us what it is to be human.

Now, tell me about what you’ve been reading, in 140 or fewer characters! Here’s a handy character counter if you need one. I look forward to reading your reviews!


  1. Sherry

    I’m slogging through Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, supposed to be THE novel about modern Egypt. My thoughts:
    a) how could people live this way? and
    b) thank God that I don’t live in a Muslim culture.

  2. Ashley

    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green:

    Cancer, humor and romance. If you don’t tear up at some point while reading TFiOS, you’re heartless.

    I just started another of his books, An Abundance of Katherines. It’s good, but too soon to write a 140 character review.

  3. Christy

    I love your book recommendations Jen!

    The only one I’ve read is Julie and Julia-and in addition to the cursing, the unbridled self-centredness really threw me for a loop. And just when you thought she was making baby steps towards some virtue, she wrote a second book about her adultery. But I still think she is a fabulous food writer!

    • nancyo

      Agree about Julie & Julia. My summary has always been:
      “potty mouth and potty attitude” – 30 characters and nothing more to say!

  4. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    What Americans Really Want…Really by Dr. Frank I Luntz
    A summary by a noted pollster of trends in the country.

    The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely
    Great, chatty research on the findings of how and why people lie and cheat, and what we can do about it.

    Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
    A classic. Funny, British humor.

    Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28.800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn
    The title pretty much says it all.

    The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu
    Fascinating history of the telephone, movie, and computer industries, from a top-down perspective.

  5. Jeanne G.

    I just reviewed The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, but here it is in less than 140 characters:

    Pretty pictures and lots of back story! Real historical letters and photos. Great for diehard Downton Fans.

    Here’s one I’m going to write longer next week – The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn:

    Wanna know how to be a tightwad? This book has you covered. From practical to ridiculous, you’re sure to find a suggestion you can use.

  6. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. No review. The title takes up too much space.

  7. Jessica

    Just ordered the Vost book — I’m a sucker for anything Aquinas! And I’m always looking for what I’m suppose to be doing with my life… ; )

  8. JQ Tomanek

    From a man’s perspective:

    “Three Marks of Manhood” by Dilsaver: ok so far.

    “Man, the Saint” by Urteaga “The coward who has not the courage to live like a man can never be a saint.” and many more. It is like a “Imitation of Christ” on man-roids.

    “Shop as Soulcraft” by Crawford (just started, but sounds great so far).

    May still have time for Father’s Day if you hurry!

  9. Amy@Diapeepees

    Gosh, Simcha is inspiring us all. Lucky Jim. I’m with you. Reading it now. Only about a quarter of the way thru, but so far, I can’t stop laughing about Bertrand. And his yellow suit. And how he should apologize for his existence to Dixon. Just finished reading about how Dixon cuts thru all the burned sheets, which is ab. hilarious…

  10. Eva

    The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns.

    A smack in the face; we don’t do enough to live the life that Jesus wants from us.


  11. Erin

    The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
    Historical fiction about Ernest Hemingway and life in Paris with his first wife, Hadley. Gives amazing insight into 1920’s Jazz Age Paris and the explosion of “Lost Generation” writers and artists. The crumbling of their marriage is painful to read, but you walk away with a certain understanding of this larger than life man.

    Also great:
    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
    Same Kind of Different as Me
    Five Quarters of the Orange

  12. priest's wife (@byzcathwife)

    I detested the protagonist of Julie & Julia- but the book did make me read My Life in France which was a delight

    • Kimberlie

      I threw the book out about a third of the way through. Like you though, it made me check out My Life in France. Loved it.

  13. Lindsay @ Lindsay Loves

    Avalon High, by Meg Cabot:

    Great for Arthurian legend buffs, loads of fun for YA readers. A bit of magic and a bit of romance add up to a lot of fun and surprises.

    The Possibilities of Sainthood, by Donna Freitas:

    Finally, a realistic Catholic teen girl! Maybe not the best role model, but she makes good choices in the end. Are you ready to be a saint?

  14. Peggy

    I recently finished Now I Walk on Death Row by Dale Recinella – Wonderful!
    (A Wall Street Lawyer keeps asking himself “Did Jesus really mean what He said?” The answers, combined with a lot of prayer and discernment, led him to downsize and change everything about his life. Incredibly inspiring.

    Now reading Born to Rise by Deborah Kenny – she is the founder and CEO of Harlem Village Academies – this is a story of children and teachers reaching their highest potential (from the book jacket).

  15. Rachel

    Let Dons Delight by Ronald Knox:
    From 1588 to 1938 it traces the dire effects of the Reformation on English religious thought. Hilarious, and possibly my favorite book ever. A crime it’s out of print.

  16. Annette Paulsen

    The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

    Insidious, mysterious, ancient: how cancer and its treatments have been viewed and modified over time. Frightening, inspiring and awesome.

  17. Jason

    Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace –

    Looooong. But so crazy it must be genius. Tragic and hilarious, often in the same paragraph.

  18. mary

    My Life with the Saints by James Martin, SJ

    A witty and beautifully written memoir about a Jesuit priest’s relationship with some amazing friends…the saints of the Catholic Church!

    The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen

    A diary Henri wrote during the darkest point in his life. Each entry gives such clarity, faith, hope & strength. It has helped me tremendously during my low times!

    The Hand of God by Bernard Nathanson

    A autobiography telling how and why Bernard became one of the countrys leading abortion doctors in the 60’s & 70’s…and why & how he He saw the Hand of God reach out & convert his once darkened heart! Very very powerful…all should read!

  19. Pat Johnson

    Great ideas. Thanks Jen. I’m reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. For all introverts, you’ll be saying “YES! YES”! when research confirms what we introverts have known all along. If you’re at all intrigued, there is a great TED video on it.

  20. Catholic Lawyer & Novelist

    I think every writer and blogger should read this one: Word Painting A Guide to Writing More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan. It’ll make you cringe at your own mistakes but also help you writer better.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Yes!!!! I absolutely love that book. Highly recommend it too.

  21. Sarah Webber

    The Complete Works of Raymond Chandler
    How did I live this long without reading these amazing works?! So well written.

  22. Mary

    The Harbinger: The ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future by Jonathan Cahn

    REALLY interesting heavily footnoted “fiction”? that ties together Is. 9:10 prophecy and America pre- and post- 9/11. A compelling read!

  23. Sue

    Modern Sex, Liberation and Its Discontents by Myron Magnet – an eye opening book about the effect of the sexual revolution and radical feminism on the culture. Every parent and concerned adult should read this book.

  24. Deborah

    A Good and Perfect Gift by Amy Julia Becker. Her daughter is diagnosed at birth with Down syndrome. AJ Becker considers her faith and expectations for her family. Thought-provoking.

  25. Kimberlie

    The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton. Clever, funny, intriguing and just plain interesting! Now I know the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.

    In the School of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Jacques Philippe. Great book for anyone interested in learning more about how to become sensitive to the “motions” of the Holy Spirit. You will be inspired.

    The Lost Art of House Cleaning by Jan M. Doughtery. Realized I never really cleaned my house properly. Tried “The PATH” on my kitchen. It’s never shined or looked this clean. Now for the rest of the house!

  26. Eva

    OOh, I forgot; Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hillary Mantel.

    Who would have thought you could develop a soft spot for Thomas Cromwell??

    • Gina

      I’ve read those too, and loved them. The soft spot is definitely starting to wear off by the end of book two, though . . . 🙂

  27. Jeannine

    Cleaning House by Kay Wills Wyma

    Teach your serve-me kids to be skilled and capable, proud of their accomplishments. No enabling! Banish entitlement. Witty. Recommended.

  28. Jeannine

    God Knows Your Name by Catherine Campbell

    Captivating. Meticulously researched biblical accounts paired thematically with modern true stories. Draws scripture deeply into the heart.

  29. Jeannine

    Compassion: Living in the Spirit of St. Francis by Ilia Delio, OSF

    Elucidates St. Francis’s radical compassion. Lower oneself, exalt others, to unify the global community. Intellectual. Philosophical.

  30. KyCat

    I’m reading From Sea to Shining Sea by James Alexander Thom. It is a historical fiction of the Clark family. George Rogers Clark and William Clark (of Lewis and Clark) are noted standouts in this family of 10 children but the entire story is filled with interesting historical details.

  31. Gina

    I love this idea! I may steal it. (But if I do I’ll credit you, so I guess it’s more borrowing?)

  32. Kimberly.

    New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
    Made to be digested in small bits, a great read for Adoration. I love how Merton breaks into prayer mid-chapter.

    The Complete Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
    Mystery without suspense, with the bumbling Fr Brown providing theological gems in true Chestertonian style, kept me laughing and intrigued.

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