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Welcome to Books R Us, a recommended reading blog from InfoSoup librarians and users and home to A Year of Listening Dangerously, the 2014 InfoSoup Reading Challenge! Find a great book to read next, add your own reviews, and check out our book related resources such as NoveList and BookLetters.


Living on the Edge

Author: Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl needed to change her life. Her mother, the anchor of her world, died when she was in her early twenties. She'd married for love and yet she couldn't remian faithful to her vows. She decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, which she read about. She embarked on her journey without proper training, knowledge, or gear. Through all of her struggles and hardhships she grew stronger and foumd what she had been searching for. 

This book speaks to my own fears that I am not strong enough to face my everyday trials. After finishing this book I am inspired to try things that are hard, things that I feel I'm not strong enough to do. This memoir was inspirational.

Author: Jeanne Nolan

Jeanne Nolan knew she wanted to change the world, so she joined a commune, where people lived in harmony with nature. After becoming a parent, the rules of the commune no longer rang true so she left and returned to her parent's suburban home near Chicago. Adjusting to life after the commune was difficult. Jeanne turned to the skills she had learned as an organic gardener and gained a position to design and grow the organic garden of the Lincoln Park Zoo. She also started the "Organic Gardener", a business that helps suburban families plan, plant and maintain organic gardens.

This author is part of the movement that is sweeping across the country to grow your own food. I found her story facinating, moving, and fun to read. The information about gardening was very educational. You definately want to put his book on your reading list before you plant your next garden!

Author: Jon Krakauer

Every once in a while, I like a real, true adventure story.  Into Thin Air is exactly that- a story of survival in the highest place on earth- Mt. Everest.  I had no former knowledge of mountain climbing or the troubles with traveling to higher altitudes.  It was all fascinating to me.  I will admit that there are so many names (many of them foreign) and locations and climbing terms that I often had trouble knowing exactly what was going on.  That did not stop me from reading and enjoying the book, though!  The book is written by one of the climbers of an expedition that went up Everest in 1996.  His job was to go as a writer and document the many aspects of climbing this mountain 5.5 miles into the sky.  Climbing Everest is very dangerous and this expedition became not just a quest to the top, but a quest to survive.  I don't want to add any spoilers, so I will leave it at that.  If you like true stories of adventure this would be a great pick. 

Author: Peter Hessler

Peter Hessler's account of his 2-year stint with the Peace Corps in Fulong, a city of 200,000 in Sichuan China is a gem. Thanks to him, we catch a glimpse of a China rarely studied. Far from the coast, near the 3-Gorge Dam, Fulong seldom sees a waiguoren, a foreigner. Hessler is as curious of the Chinese as they are of him and despite the frequent insults he must put up with from strangers on the streets, he is given rare insights into his students and teachers' ways of thinking. "Their" China is no more monolithic than "our" United States". As many expats, Hessler confronts his own pre-conceived notions and feels compelled to defend his country. Willing to commit to learning not only Mandarin Chinese but also its written form as well as the Sichuanese dialect, the author paints a lyrical and evocative picture of this area by the Yangtze with its people brutalized by Mao's capricious campaigns yet still able to give the man credit for "Liberation".

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Author: Robin Mather

After losing her job and getting a divorce, Mather moves into a tiny cottage on a small lake in Michigan with her dog and parrot. The book chronicles her journey of trying to support herself on just $40 a week, mostly by buying and bartering for local foods and services. Each chapter ends with a collection of recipes made with foods of the season. As the year comes to a close, Mather's spirit is opening up to a world that isn't so alone but, instead, is one that is filled with laughter, friendship and the kindness of neighbors.

Lily's Daughter

Author: Susan Gerstein

This is a gripping story of Gerstein's childhood during the Nazi occupation of Hungary, of huddling in a coal basement with the neighbors while bombs dropped overhead, and not know what was going to happen next.  Throughout all the horror, there are also tales of heroism, including a tenant who ran to the front to find a doctor for a seriously ill Susan, who nearly succumed to pneumonia, and would have, if not for the bravery of that man.  Written from the viewpoint of young Susan, who was born in 1940, the book is hard to put down.  It's one thing to read the story in a history book, it's quite another to feel what Susan felt as she huddled in that coal basement for months, waiting to die, and knowing that her grandparents were probably already dead, despite the adults trying to soothe her worries.  I highly recommend this book.  It's a treasure.

Author: Rachel Held Evans

It's official. I'm over this genre. Authors that do some quirky experiment for a year need to pack up their things and go away- and please bring your television counterpart "reality tv" with you.... 

Held Evans has a quick writing pace, which I like. But, it wasnt quick enough---- Confession, I couldn't finish this book, so can I review it? I can no longer bring myself to waste my time finishing books I'm not into, so this book is getting returned unfinished (I have cooking, cleaning & not writing about it to do).

I recently read, and really enjoyed, Evolving in Monkeytown. So, this follow-up snoozer about her cooking and manners class was especially disappointing. A bit too mundane and not compelling enough to finish.

Author: Richard Logan

If you're looking to read a story of surviving at sea, read Unbroken. Alone : Orphaned on the Ocean is not very well written, twice as long of a book as it needs to be (the author wants to remind us about the toughness of Wisconsonites every few pages), and, oddly, kind of boring.

The true story of Tere Duperrault's ocean survival after her family is murdered on a sailing yacht was news to me. The background on their killer was sad, and I am glad to know more about this history. There really is very little focus on her time on the float (which was disappointing as that had been the reason I was compelled to read this book). I can see how it was therapeutic for Duperrault to co-author this book, but a newspaper article on the story would have been enough for me.

Author: Laura Schroff

This book shares the true story of a woman who, when asked for spare change by a young panhandler in New York City, first passes him by, as she usually does.  But the story begins when she turns around, goes back to him, and offers to buy him a meal at a nearby McDonald's.  The serendipity of that one moment becomes life-changing for both the woman and the young boy she returns to.  I loved reading this book...feeling the depth of our true capability to change lives by making small decisions...makes me feel all the more optimistic about the power of love, and the invisible threads that connect us all, and drive us to help our fellow man.

Title: I'm Down
Author: Mishna Wolff

A fast paced memoir about a white girl growing up in a poor black neighborhood. It's less about race than classes. The story focuses one her relationship with her dad who had custody of the author & her sister. It is similar to The Glass Castle but the mom comes off normal (which begs the question why she didn't have custody). Well-written and funny but emotional.