Mini Book Reviews: Week 10

Sunday, October 14, 2018


Despite an unfortunate string of books I didn't particularly enjoy, I found one that set me on fire and filled me with so much creative energy I've launched not one, not two, but three projects immediately thereafter. Simply put, I'm so happy to be alive, to be a creator of things, even if they are small and unimportant. If you only have time for one, make it the best: You Must Change Your Life, by Rachel Corbett.


You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin | Rachel Corbett
I've said many, many times that I worship Rilke, but I never really wanted to read his biography for fear that he'd be of poor character and it would damage our ~spiritual~ relationship. Unfortunately, I've discovered that he was a terrible husband and an even worse father - two litmus tests for men that are very, very important to me. Somehow, I leave this book loving him even more. I'm also ready to declare a comparable allegiance to Rodin, and I really regret not having read this book prior to visiting Paris (which I did twice!), because it would have completely changed my expectations of the space. I guess I'll have to go a third time. This book is the best biography, about the most important two people, I have ever read in my life.
In 1902, Rainer Maria Rilke—then a struggling poet in Germany—went to Paris to research and write a short book about the sculptor Auguste Rodin. The two were almost polar opposites: Rilke in his twenties, delicate and unknown; Rodin in his sixties, carnal and revered. Yet they fell into an instantaneous friendship. Transporting readers to early twentieth-century Paris, Rachel Corbett’s You Must Change Your Life is a vibrant portrait of Rilke and Rodin and their circle, revealing how deeply Rodin’s ideas about art and creativity influenced Rilke’s classic Letters to a Young Poet.


You Alone Are Real To Me: Remembering Rainer Maria Rilke | Lou Andreas-Salome
To Andreas-Salome, Rilke wrote, "take me, give me a form, finish me." She was the feminine ignition behind all of his best work; it stuns me that people could know each other so intimately to write a book like this one.
Never before available in English, You Alone Are Real to Me documents the relationship between Andreas-Salomé and Rainer Maria Rilke that spanned almost 30 years. Andreas-Salomé gives an intimate account of Rilke’s poetic development from the early romantic poems to the sculpted new poems and the final breakthrough of the Elegies. From their romantic beginnings to the later twists and turns of their separate lives, Rilke appealed to Andreas-Salomé during times of crisis in his writing as well as in the intimate matters of his life. Andreas-Salomé captures both the summit and the abyss of Rilke’s creative struggle. The memoir offers a stunning portrait of Rilke, as we in the English-speaking world have never really seen him. Richly illustrated with photos, this book is an indispensable work on the author of The Duino Elegies, as well as a rich resource for the growing interest in Andreas-Salomé. Angela von der Lippe is a senior editor at W.W. Norton and holds a doctorate in German Literature and Language from Brown University.

The Seasonaires | Janna King
I don't know what compelled me to pick up and persevere through this book, but I hated it. Like the worst parts of Pretty Little Liars meets the worst part of #influencers.
For a twentysomething, there is no summer job better than being a seasonaire - No responsibilities, college is barely a thought, and you’re surrounded by glamorous, beautiful people. When life is this intoxicating and seemingly carefree, what could possibly go wrong?
Acclaimed screenwriting talent Janna King makes her fresh and thrilling debut with The Seasonaires. An idyllic Nantucket summer begins like a dream for scrappy Mia from South Boston; Presley, the gorgeous southern beauty queen; Cole, a handsome introvert; Jade, the sultry daughter of a model and music mogul; J.P., the energetic young designer; and Grant, the playful party-boy. These six are working as seasonaires - influential brand ambassadors - for the clothing line Lyndon Wyld. But like all things that look too good to be true, the darkness lurking underneath slowly rises to the surface.
Lyndon Wyld, the chic British tigress who owns the eponymous business, rules their daily life by curating their every move, which the seasonaires are obligated to post on social media for their growing throngs of followers. When corporate greed, professional rivalries and personal conflicts are mixed with sex, drugs, and the naiveté of youth, the results are explosive as the murder that will sully their catalog-perfect lives. 


Supermarket | Satoshi Azuchi, translated by Paul Warham
If you read "human drama surrounding the management of a supermarket chain" and thought "what kind of fucking drama can there be in a fucking supermarket," the answer is plenty. This is sort of a dry read (someone on goodreads called it a thriller, which is a gross exaggeration), but it has its weirdly intriguing moments. No ringing endorsement here, but a nice post-business school bit of a nostalgia. 
A modern classic of literature in Japan, Supermarket is a novel of the human drama surrounding the management of a supermarket chain at a time when the phenomenon of the supermarket, imported postwar from the US, was just taking hold in Japan.
Sincere and naive in tone, Supermarket takes us back to a simpler, kinder time, and  skillfully presents the depictions of its characters alongside a wealth of information concerning Japanese post WWII recovery and industrialization.  

How Google Works | Eric Schmidt
Read this alongside Jessica Powell's The Big Disruption for a wild time.
Both Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg came to Google as seasoned Silicon Valley business executives, but over the course of a decade they came to see the wisdom in Coach John Wooden's observation that 'it's what you learn after you know it all that counts'. As they helped grow Google from a young start-up to a global icon, they relearned everything they knew about management. How Google Works is the sum of those experiences distilled into a fun, easy-to-read primer on corporate culture, strategy, talent, decision-making, communication, innovation, and dealing with disruption.

The Fat Years | Chan Koonchung
This had all the ingredients of something I'd like: dystopian, shits on Beijing, etc. But it was badly written and basically a manifesto disguised as fiction. I'm fine with that on principle, but I just was in the mood for a juicy political dystopian and this read like a long-form, factual academic paper. Great cover, though.
Beijing, sometime in the near future: a month has gone missing from official records. No one has any memory of it, and no one can care less. Except for a small circle of friends, who will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the sinister cheerfulness and amnesia that has possessed the Chinese nation. When they kidnap a high-ranking official and force him to reveal all, what they learn - not only about their leaders, but also about their own people - stuns them to the core. It is a message that will rock the world...
Terrifying methods of cunning, deception and terror are unveiled by the truth-seekers in this thriller-expose of the Communist Party's stranglehold on China today.


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