Book Report vol.3

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan Koerner
I started reading this book while we were at the beach earlier this month. I know it's not exactly a subject matter that most would consider to be a great beach read, but I've discovered that pretty much any genre falls into the "beach read" category for me. Last year, I was sprawled on my towel reading this clunker.

This book centers on a 1970s hijacking that is still considered the longest-distance hijacking in American history. It goes into a lot of detail about earlier hijackings in the decades around the Vietnam War by disgruntled Americans. The most interesting part to me, though, was the complete and totally different mindset of the day. When someone brought up the notion of screening passengers before they boarded a plane, almost everyone scoffed at the idea. Requiring passengers to have their bags searched before boarding a plane was laughable.

Favorite excerpt:
"There were 5.1 million airline departures in the United States in 1970; even if four thousand guards were on the job around the clock, the odds of a sky marshal and a skyjacker winding up on the same flight were infinitesimal. The program was akin to placing a single sprinkler in a twenty-story office tower, in the vain hope that any fire would start right beneath it."

American Sniper by Chris Kyle
I read this book in just under three days, which I think has to be a record for me. I credit most of it to using Oyster. I downloaded the app earlier this week and this was the first book I read on it. As much as I love an actual book (and awesome book covers), it really is convenient to always have a "book" in your pocket ready to pull out in those moments when you're waiting in line or just have a few minutes to kill. Mark and I had watched this movie in theaters shortly after it came out. It was incredibly moving and we still talk about how silent and respectful the crowd was as we were filing out of the theater. I was interested in reading the story in Chris Kyle's own words. He had a very strong view and opinions - some of which I agreed with and others that I didn't. Regardless, I respected his no nonsense attitude. I think we, as a country, tip-toe around things too often in an effort to not offend anyone. Chris Kyle made it clear that he could not care less what other people thought. He had a job to do and he was going to do it well.

Favorite excerpt:
"When the Marines came in to relieve us, they found eery man in the room either slumped against a wall or collapsed on the floor, dressing wounds or just soaking in the situation. One of the Marines outside took an American flag and hoisted it over the position. Someone else played the National Anthem - I have no idea where the music came from, but the symbolism and the way it spoke to the soul was overwhelming; it remains one of my most powerful memories. Every battle-weary man rose, went to the window, and saluted. The words of the music echoed in each of us as we watched the Stars and Stripes wave literally in dawn's early light. The reminder of what we were fighting for caused tears as well as blood and sweat to run freely from all of us. I've lived the literal meaning of the "land of the free" and "home of the brave". It's not corny for me. I feel it in my heart. I feel it in my chest. Even at a ball game, when someone talks during the anthem or doesn't take off his hat, it pisses me off. I'm not one to be quiet about it, either."

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
This was another fast read that I tore through on Oyster. I was a little skeptical at first, because I had heard it was depressing. It is about a successful Harvard psychology professor who discovers she has early on-set Alzheimer's, so it's understandable where that review came from. After reading it, though, I think it was more eye-opening than depressing. When most people (including me) think Alzheimer's, they think of elderly men and women who have lost their minds and the ability to care for themselves. That's true, but there's also this whole other category of people in the peak of their lives who are experiencing early on-set Alzheimer's. Symptoms can start showing as early as 30-40 years old. Still Alice takes the focus off the harried caregiver and turns it onto the person who is experiencing the illness first-hand and is conscious enough to know what is slowly being taken away from them.

Favorite excerpt:
While a bald head and looped ribbon were seen as badges of courage and hope, her reluctant vocabulary and vanishing memories advertised mental instability and impending insanity. Those with cancer could expect to be supported by their community. Alice expected to be cast out. Even the well-intentioned and educated tended to keep a fearful distance from the mentally ill. She didn't want to become someone people avoided and feared. 

What have you read recently? Any good titles I should add to my list?

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