Friday, March 21, 2014

Read // Watched

Trying out something new over here today—I've shared movie/documentary recommendations & books I've enjoyed in some link love posts in the past, but seeing similar posts from Victoria made me want to get more in-depth! So, sharing books I've recently read* and films I've enjoyed with a brief recap of each! I hope these posts show up fairly often, but unfortunately I don't get through books nearly as quickly as I used to (when I was growing up it was pretty common for me to pick up over a dozen books from the local library and return them all in 10 days for a new set! That's a whole different story, though).

Ok, maybe this one should be called "still reading". I've got a little under a hundred pages left and have been working on it since the holidays (!), but in my honest defense it's an incredibly dense, information heavy book. It really is a short history of, well, just about everything—from the start of the universe to the beginnings of biology and chemistry and physics to anecdotes on scientists and researchers of the past, from teeny-tiny atoms to our still-expanding universe. It's made me appreciate life, not the "you only live once, no regrets" kind of life but LIFE, the amazing thing that somehow animates our billions and billions of cells. If you've never read Bryson (brief humble brag: he's a native of my hometown and we share alumni status for the same high school!), this might be a lot of book to begin with, but it certainly has his signature style and cadence.

I'm going to come right out and say that science fiction-fantasy is not my genre of choice, generally speaking. I'm much more for a beautifully crafted story with an in-depth look at people, or a great piece of non-fiction (like the other three books here), but I'd been seeing American Gods around for so long I decided to give it a go. The main plot point alone is incredibly intriguing—about a battle between old gods (those of ancient mythology and tall tales from all cultures) and new (those created by what we worship now—media and celebrity and drugs and sex). I found I could barely stand to put the book down, and even took it with me on a break at work once to read outside. The only thing I found slightly lacking was that these "new gods" would be even more different in present time; the book was published in 2001, before the rise of social media and ever-present technology.

I confess: we'll call this still reading, part II. I've been making my way through it when I need a break from Bryson (specifically, when my bag calls for a lighter book). I'm sure I'll share more in-depth thoughts on the book once I'm completely finished—I'm currently about 2/3 of the way through—but right now, I have to say I'm a little unimpressed. I was eager to read it, hoping I'd see some of myself in these stories and relate to them on some level, but many are written by recovering addicts, tales of their nights wandering the streets of NYC looking for cheap heroin, and how they had to leave to get healthy. Not exactly my lifestyle here! 

Ah, another NYC-centric book, this one in a much different light. I was familiar with Patti Smith before reading, but I couldn't tell you much outside the basic facts. I found her story absolutely fascinating, in part because I have been a fan of Robert Mapplethorpe, one of her earliest and longest companions, for many years. It's hard to boil this book down to a paragraph, but if you're interested in what it was really like living in NYC in the 70's as an artist, it's a page turner. My current job is right around the corner from the Chelsea Hotel and I can't walk down those streets without thinking of Patti Smith.

Bill Cunningham New York
I'm a little behind on this one, but I finally got around to watching it a month or so ago. It's certainly lighter-hearted material than the other documentaries I've watched lately, and while it won't make you want to change your daily habits or lifestyle, you'll certainly wish you could catch his eye on the street! It was fascinating to see his process, and being a photography nerd I really enjoyed the development and decision making process that goes on after he snaps an image. It's a little heartbreaking that he no longer has his apartment above Carnegie Hall or shoots with film (I've seen him around at NYFW and he shoots digital now!) but that blue workman's jacket never changes. 

Food, Inc.
I am a firm believer that everyone should know where their food comes from. Ignorance is NOT bliss when it comes to what you're putting in your body; when I told a friend I was watching this, they said they didn't feel like eating for two days afterwards. Thankfully, I'm not exactly the target audience—I went (mostly) veggie about three years ago and have transitioned to organic and local dairy as much as possible. It's definitely a wake-up call if you haven't had one yet, and even if you have watching the film was a reaffirming reminder that we need to be more conscious about what we're eating!

This doc received a lot of hype late last year, but it took me a while to get around to watching it—I've never been crazy about zoos, so again I felt like I wasn't entirely the target audience because it seems like a no-brainer that you can't educate the public on the natural behaviors of animals by holding them in captivity! There's been a lot of negative backlash around this documentary, but I think all things should be taken with a grain of salt. Sure, there are two sides to every story, but I think it's important to remember than animals are meant for so much more than our entertainment (and if this needs reinforcing, watch Food, Inc. and then read A Short History Of Nearly Everything, too). 

I just finished this one last night! It's really similar to Food, Inc., but focused on the bottled water industry. This one was a wake-up call that I needed; I try to carry around my own water bottle as much as possible and reuse or recycle, but the numbers behind the industry are astounding. There really is nothing wrong with tap water, and while I drink it plenty when I'm at home or work, I'm really going to make an effort not to pick up bottled water when I'm out as much as possible!

All documentaries are available on Netflix.