Yes Please by Amy Poehler | book review

  • Title: Yes Please
  • Published: 2014
  • Author: Amy Poehler
  • Original language: English
  • Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Humor

Yes Please is a fun, funny, smart autobiography about the personal and professional life of Amy Poehler. You might know her from Saturday Night Live, Parks and Rec or, why not, as the mom from Mean Girls (hehe). The point is, she is a famous comedienne and actress, who wrote a lovely book about herself.

I watched a few episodes of Parks and Rec and checked out a few SNL sketches, but I knew basically nothing about Amy Poehler when I started this book. I’m going to be honest and say that the first thing that grabbed my attention was the book cover: simple, eye-catching colors and a short, to the point title. Speaking of, the title is a phrase that Poeher explains she likes to use in her personal life, because it “sounds powerful and concise”(in her words).  I think it’s an awesome and intriguing choice for an autobiography title.

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The Color Purple by Alice Walker | review

  • Title: The Color Purple
  • Published: 1982
  • Author: Alice Walker
  • Original language: English
  • Genre: Fiction, Epistolary Novel

The famous 1982 epistolary novel by Alice Walker has been read, reviewed, studied by many. Today, I am joining the crowd and I will try to write a short personal review.

IMG_0042In a few words, The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, the protagonist, and her sister, Nettie, and all the people they encounter throughout the 30 years they live apart from each other. Celie starts by writing letters to God, and then to Nettie, once she finds out that her unloving and abusing husband was hiding Nettie’s letters from her. Nettie doesn’t receive Celie’s letters, but she keep writing to her, in this way the story being unveiled from the two perspectives in an unique way.

My thoughts:

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He Wanted the Moon by Mimi Baird | review

  • Title: He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him
  • Published: February 17th 2015
  • Author: Mimi Baird
  • Original language: English
  • Genre: Non-fiction, Biography
  • More info about the book
  • Author bio

9780804137478

Mimi Baird was in her fifties when she received a package from a distant relative. Inside, she discovered her father’s whole life: the manuscript of the book he intended to publish about his experience as a doctor and a mental facility patient. Mimi Baird never really knew her father, Harvard-educated Dr Perry Baird, since he disappeared from her life when she was 6. Her mother refused to talk about the issue, and the little girl grew up feeling something was missing from her life. She was curious to know her father, but there was no one to talk to. Dr Perry Baird died when his daughter was 21.

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Underground by Haruki Murakami | review

  • Title: Underground
  • Published: 1997
  • Author: Haruki Murakami
  • Original language: Japanese
  • Genre: Non-fiction

In spite of the perpetrators’ intentions, the Tokyo gas attack left only twelve people dead, but thousands were injured and many suffered serious after-effects. Murakami interviews the victims to try and establish precisely what happened on the subway that day. He also interviews members and ex-members of the doomsdays cult responsible, in the hope that they might be able to explain the reason for the attack and how it was that their guru instilled such devotion in his followers. (source: goodreads.com)

Context:

In 1984, Shoko Asahara started a cult known as Aum Shinrikyo (translates to ‘Supreme Truth’). His studies of Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism made him believe that he was ‘the enlightened one’, the only one after Buddha, and that the world would end soon. He soon gathered young followers who were willing to give up all their fortune to Asahara. In 1995, there were about 40.000 followers. Shoko Asahara used the money he (the cult) gathered from followers (there was also an entry fee) and from the businesses they run to make sarin, a poison gas that affects the nerves and muscles. Sarin was first used in 1930 by Nazi scientists, and it since became a chemical weapon.

On March 20, 1995, five selected Aum members released sarin gas on three Tokyo subway lines, from packages they punctured with the tips of umbrellas, and walked away. The liquid in the packages quickly turned into gas, and commuters started to feel ill. Most of them recount runny nose and eyes. Several passengers noticed the punctured bags and thought that was the cause of the smell and their ill state, but they didn’t know what was in them. The subway staff didn’t know how to deal with the situation, as they would carry out the bags containing the sarin, and wipe the floor of the subway with newspaper and let the train continue on its route. Twelve people died that day, but a lot more suffered from side-effects. Murakami interviewed 35 victims of the gas attack and 9 members and ex-members of Aum, in hope of capturing the event from the different perspectives: those powerfully affected, those who easily escaped but still had some affter-effects; Aum members who believe the attack was justifiable and those who still find it hard to believe it was Aum’s hand who did this.

 My thoughts on the book:

In my naivity, I never heard of the Tokyo Gas Attack, this book being my first contact with the event. After reading Murakami’s book, I looked more into the whole affair and I was shocked, for many reasons. It is hard to understand how a group of people or a single person believe they can decide on other people’s lives, and not suffer from some mental illness. But then again, cults are not something new to the face of the Earth, and we all know how easy it has been over the course of history for large groups of people to be manipulated in assuming certain beliefs (the examples are too many, and all around us). The point of the book isn’t to judge, it is to present to the reader several points of view. I also don’t believe that it’s necessarily intended for the reader to form an opinion at the end of the book (although it’s impossible not to), but to realize the impact of the gas attack and realize the media usually manipulates reality too. Most of the Aum members interviewed had no idea of such attack, more so, they explain how many of the things that the media tells us about them was false. They weren’t all yes men, they weren’t all blindly following the leader. Some, if not most of them had doubts about the beliefs of the cult and some practices, and they questioned them on several occasions. They were not brain washed. Not all of them, at least.

Another media flaw was that they failed to elaborate what actually happened, and eventually they ‘forgot’ about it. Murakami believes that people have to remember what happened and Japanese people have to aknowledge the incident, not just let the authorities deal with it. It is an ugly memory, but it’s also part of their history.

I find Murakami’s book to be moving and heartbreaking, as the testimonies recount so many horrific stories. What I love about the book is that more than teaching us about the 1995 gas attack, it depicts the Japanese culture and the common Tokyo commuter. You, as the reader, learn about their values, their views on life and their routine. It’s an interesting look inside the Japanese people.

From my point of view, Murakami reached the goal he intended with writing this book. It was a difficult experience,reading this book, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot from reading Underground. I would recommend it to everyone.

4/5 stars

Have you read it? What are your thoughts?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho | review

  • Title: The Alchemist
  • Published: 1988
  • Author: Paulo Coelho
  • Original language: Portuguese
  • Genre: Fiction

The Plot:

The Alchemist tells the story of Santiago, a naive shepherd boy, who has a recurring dream in which he is told that there is a treasure burried near the Egiptian pyramids. After a gypsy fortune teller convinces him that he indeed needs to travel to the pyramids and find the treasure, Santiago sells his sheep to an old man. The old man is Melchizedek, the King of Salem. He reads Santiago’s mind, encourages him to go on the journey – in order to pursue his Personal Legend – and gives him Urim and Thummim, two stones that have the power to help the boy.

Shortly after the start of the journey, Santiago, in its naivity, is fooled by a thief. He manages to find work at a crystal shop, becoming close with the merchant and helping him considerably with its bussiness. Santiago’s plan is to make enough money to return home, but after eleven months of working at the crystal merchant’s shop, he heads towards the Pyramids. He has to go through several challenges, only to reach the end of his journey and realize that all this time, the treasure was at home, burried right under the sycamore tree he passed by every day as a shepherd boy.

My Thoughts:

The Alchemist has been praised for its story and writing style for a long time, and it’s still a popular book among the common reader. If you stop and ask a random passerby on the street, they probably will at least have heard of the book. I read a few Coelho books in the past, but the only one that I genuinely enjoyed was The Devil and Miss Prym. I could say that I had high expectations of The Alchemist, but unfortunately this book isn’t my cup of tea. I can understand why so many people love the book, but the story and style is not for me. Maybe Coelho’s style was better enjoyed by my younger self, but at this moment in my life, I find it sappy at times, and filled with cliches.

There is, of course, a spiritual message in this story. It’s a moral tale of how we sometimes don’t appreciate and don’t notice what we have right in front of us. There is also the theme of following one’s purpose in life – or fate, but sometimes being distracted by other events happening around us. For example, the crystal merchant has a dream of going to Mecca, but even when he has the money to do so, he decides not to. Why? Maybe being a successful crystal merchant is his purpose after all! Or maybe he is just an ordinary man who doesn’t follow his Personal Legend.

As the story continues, we see Santiago pass through several steps in his way to maturity. The final objective of the book is not wheather or not the shepherd boy finds the treasure, it’s about his initiation journey, a recurring topic in literature. What he learned from books while studying for priesthood is no longer of use in the real world, so Santiago has to find ways to survive and guide himself through the desert, to the Pyramids.

It’s a beautiful story, filled with different meanings and symbols, who can be enjoyed as a light read. I am not denying its value. Unfortunately, for me it was unsatisfying, as these types of stories don’t captivate me anymore.

My rating: 2/5 stars

Have you read the book? Did you enjoy it? Share your thoughts in the comments!