Saturday, November 21, 2009

Predictably Irrational

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Book 45 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 13 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2008)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first learned about Predictably Irrational from reading a post on My Friend Amy's blog. This book is listed by Newsweek as one of 50 books for our time. So, Amy decided to host a collaborative project where book bloggers could choose one book on the list to read before the end of the year and give our $0.02 about whether or not we agree with Newsweek's assessment (see the reviews for the other books here). This was the book I signed up for, and for me, the short answer is YES.

Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist at MIT. His research focuses on studies that really impact each of us in our day-to-day interactions and prove that we really aren't as rational as we think we are. The book explains why we love things that are free, how marketers use decoys to get us to do exactly what they want, and why expensive medicines seem to work better than cheaper ones. Lots of pertinent societal issues are discussed with moral, ethical, and economic consequences including self-control, honesty, passion, and procrastination.

I found myself talking about this book to anyone who would listen to me this week and even read sections out loud to my husband (who agrees he must now read it!). While it might bother some, I appreciated Ariely's thoughtful commentary and extrapolations on how his data could be interpreted in other aspects of society including the home, workplace, and in Washington. I was truly enlightened as the author exposes some of the forces that influence the decisions I make everyday and I hope I will be more thoughtful in using my purchasing power, in making career decisions, and in choosing how I spend my time.

The book has conversational tone and uses sarcasm which doesn't always translate well on the printed page, in my opinion. I could have lived without the squirm-inducing chapter that discussed sexual arousal. But other than that, I think this book is really readable, thought-provoking, and would be really fun to discuss with others. I definitely recommend it, especially for those who have enjoyed Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell's books.

Click here to listen to some excerpts from the book.

Also reviewed by:
Source: Library

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fifth Business

Fifth Business (Penguin Classics) Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Book 44 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Awards: Fifth Business was selected 40th on the American Modern Library's "reader's list" of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book in a trilogy about the Canadian town of Deptford. The novel is written as a letter to the headmaster of a school where the narrator, Dunstan Ramsay, was a schoolmaster. Ramsay essentially tells the story of his life, beginning with a snowball thrown by Percy "Boy" Staunton that was meant for him. Instead, Dunny ducked and the snowball hit the pregnant wife of a local pastor that caused her to have her baby prematurely.

As time goes on, Dunstan serves in WW1, develops an obsession with saints, is drawn to the circus, and maintains his friendship with Boy, who is now wealthy and politically influential.

There is a reason this book, written in 1970, deserves to be a classic. I thought I would breeze through its 250 pages, but this is a book to savor. There were entire pages that I read multiple times and I would like to read them again with a highlighter in hand. I think the conversations Dunstan shared with a Jesuit priest were my favorite parts. The book was multi-layered and had wonderful character explorations and depth. It explored themes of spirituality, religion, morality, honesty, hard work, duty, chance, guilt, and the position we occupy in the grand role of life.

The book is a kind of mystery, but I had to follow the plot twists and turns to the very end to realize what the mystery was all about. The ending was wonderful and I will definitely be looking into the next books in this series in the future. Highly recommended for those looking for a masterfully-written adult novel with intriguing psychological and philosophical bents.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: BookMooch

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Arabella Arabella by Georgette Heyer

Originally published: 1949
Republished: August 1, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 1402219466
Price: $13.99
Pages: 312

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arabella is one of nine children, the daughter of a country vicar in rural Yorkshire. While she is certainly well-bred, she has virtually no money to her name. Her mother sends her to London to live with her godmother in the hopes that her beautiful face will capture the fancy of a wealthy bachelor who can help set Arabella and her sisters up for the rest of their lives. But Arabella's impulsive and impetuous nature, coupled with her naivete, put her in a predicament that makes her wonder whether she will ever find the right man to marry.

This Regency romance novel had humor in spades. Arabella's antics cracked me up. I also got really excited about the romance in this book. Not because I didn't know who Arabella was going to end up with. But the WAY that she ended up with him was really clever. This book has some unexpected plot twists that kept me enchanted with the story. And while the beginning of the novel went on for far too long for my taste, this is probably my favorite Heyer yet.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Publisher (Thank you Danielle at Sourcebooks!)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Girl on Legare Street

The Girl On Legare Street (Tradd Street) The Girl On Legare Street by Karen White

Publication date: November 3, 2009
Publisher: NAL Trade
ISBN: 0451227999
Pages: 336
Series: Book 2 of 4 (Tradd Street)

Book 12 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2009)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was excited to receive an advanced copy of this book since I read the first in the series, The House on Tradd Street, earlier this year with my book club. This book continues the story of Melanie Middleton, a Charleston realtor who has a gift that allows her to see and speak with ghosts. Melanie's mother Ginette, who abandoned Melanie when she was just 7 years old, has the same gift. After nearly 33 years, Melanie's mother returns to Charleston to buy her ancestral home at 33 Legare Street. But with Ginnette's return comes a ghostly presence who has a score to settle. Melanie and Ginnette are forced to work together against this evil presence to banish it forever.

Meanwhile, handsome Jack Trenholm still wants to be a part of Melanie's life, but she has her reservations. And annoying reporter Rebecca Edgerton keeps showing up at the house trying to get information about Melanie's ancestors for a piece about famous Charlestonians. Jack and Rebecca share a past and Melanie is surprised at her reaction to their relationship.

This was a really good mystery set in one of my favorite cities. I don't usually get freaked out reading books, but this one has just the right amount of spookiness and I couldn't read it too late at night. The great romantic tension kept me turning pages just as much as the mystery. As with the first book, I did find certain parts to be a little repetitive and I couldn't really figure out why everyone kept being so accommodating to Rebecca. But I enjoyed this book even more than the first one and look forward to the next book due out in 2011. This is a fun series that I definitely recommend.

Read an excerpt here.

Source: Publicist (Thank you Joy Strazza!)