Being a political science major, I barely have time to read everything for all of my classes, let alone read a book for fun. I missed it, so I binge-read anything I could get my hands on during the holiday break to the point where I was told by my parents that I “read too much.” I’ve always loved reading. I like the idea of transporting yourself to a world entirely different than your own rather than watching someone else’s creation come to life on a screen. I can escape anywhere with books. And its basically the same thing as watching Netflix except you don’t loathe yourself after three hours. I will literally read anything as long as it’s well done. Everything from sappy romance novels to memoirs to alien invasion stories populate my shelf. So hopefully if you find yourself looking to pick up a book in your spare time, you can find one here that might pique your interest.
1) Ghost Riders of Baghdad by Daniel A. Sjursen
I got this book as a present from my boyfriend as the author is actually a professor of his, and it is the best written piece I have read about the United States’ war in Iraq. Sjursen, a West Point graduate, describes his time as a second lieutenant in Iraq during the famed Surge and the hardships that he and his men endured. In an honest bridging of the gap between the military and civilian populations, Sjursen considers who signs up for service, and what the military gains and loses in having a volunteer army with a predominant government that treats soldiers like political pawns. Speaking from his experience, he doesn’t write politically, but with a genuine desire to share the consequences of his choices and his superiors, the stories of those he lost, and the soldiers’ side of the story that the mass media refused to tell. Furthermore, Sjursen strives to give the public context in a way that was never given to them during the involvement, and explain the difficulties of reentering a society that does not understand the effects of war. He speaks at length about the Iraqi people, his translator, and the true winners and losers of the war. What results is a candid and forthright account of the “myth of the Surge” and an aching feeling that we all, as Americans, should do more to understand the consequences of military deployment.
2) A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Marguerite Caine is the daughter of genius physicists that focus on the multiverse theory. You’ve probably all heard of it – there are infinite universes that exist where everything that could happen does. There’s a dimension where the Nazis won, and one where I wore a green shirt today instead of a sweater. Any decision you could possibly make comes to fruition in a thousand different universes. Marguerite’s parents, along with their two grad students/basically adopted sons, discover a way to jump across dimensions with a device called the Firebird. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered and Paul (one of the grad students) has destroyed the research and jumped into another universe, Marguerite and her friend go after him to bring him to justice. Finding herself in a world where the Russian czars never fell, or as a posh member of the London upper class, she must navigate the lives of each version of herself. On her journeys through the difference dimensions, Marguerite sees something different in each version of Paul that she meets and begins to doubt her vengeance and anger, eventually uncovering a conspiracy that threatens every version of herself and her family, everywhere.
The technology behind the book definitely doesn’t exist, but it raises incredible and complex questions about inter-dimension travel. Only consciousness is transported, so when Marguerite travels to another dimension, her consciousness inhabits the body of that dimension’s version of Marguerite. Any decision she makes, the Marguerite that she has taken over must deal with the consequences once she jumps to another dimension. But if Marguerite isn’t reminded by the Firebird of her mission, her consciousness will become dormant as the real consciousness of that version regains control. Marguerite considers the ethics of taking over another self’s body, or about the implications of trapped consciousness while she tries to save herself and bring down her father’s killer.
3) Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I absolutely adore Amy Poehler after watching all of Parks & Recreation in about three weeks’ time. She is an incredibly funny and strong actress, and a fantastic role model for women. In her book she is refreshingly honest about her rise to fame and her views about the world she’s come to experience. A graduate of Boston College, Amy describes her experience as a participant in improv groups and living off campus – it’s always great to hear someone famous struggled through the same lines at Mac that you do. But she also talks about how incredibly hard she worked to be where she is today. She dispels the myth that people get their “big break” by running into actors on the street and pitching them a movie idea. Hard work, lots of sacrifice, and conviction brought her a long way.
After reading Yes Please, I appreciated so much more Poehler’s speech in Parks & Rec where she called the media out on asking female candidates sexist questions about their clothes, how they act, and being away from their children. Leslie Knope and Amy Poehler have become almost inseparable in my eyes. My favorite part of her writing, though, would likely have to be her writing about her friends and cast mates in her Saturday Night Live years, especially when she lists some of the ridiculous pranks the cast played on each other.