Rachel Reviews: Non-Fiction

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I’ve been accidentally reading quite a bit of non-fiction in the past couple of months, so here are some thoughts on four newish real-life releases (and one not-so-new at all).

Bright LightsBright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl’s Guide to Why It Often Sucks in the City, or, Who Are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? by Jen Lancaster

Jen Lancaster’s self-effacing wit and sardonic outlook on life might not be for everyone – but she’s pretty much my perfect kind of narrator. Lancaster’s written seven memoirs (with an eighth on the way), so start with Bitter Is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office before embarking on your reading binge. Either you’ll thank me for your new literary friend or hope I never give you a…

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Staff Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

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One Flew Over

Reviewed by Rachel

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of those books that I think everyone’s at least heard of – if not read themselves. It’s a familiar story, with both substantial literary themes and characters that have transcended the confines of the novel. It’s both a difficult read and an easy story to follow. And I honestly did not think that I was going to love the book as much as I did. It wasn’t an assigned title in high school or college, yet I’ve had a copy since the eleventh grade. Reading it now, though, with almost ten more years of life (and literary) experience, just underscored how much is packed into Ken Kesey’s rather short work of prose. And with just a scant fifteen pages of introduction by the author and various Wikipedia pages to whet my thirst, I’m left with the nagging thought: would…

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Staff Review: Orange Is the New Black – Piper Kerman

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Orange is the NewReviewed by Rachel

Let me start by saying that I love Netflix’s adaptation of Orange Is the New Black – I LOVE it. As such, I was totally onboard for more of my favorite thirty-something Brooklynite WASP Piper and her highs and lows (and woes) during a fifteen-month stint at a women’s correctional facility. The show has microcosmic drama – Cliques! Fiancés! Babies! – and macrocosmic sociopolitical commentary – Race! Class! Gender! Sexuality! Power! Authority! Each character is fully fleshed out and, even though we’re experiencing this probably off-limits (and potentially off-putting) world of women in prison, it doesn’t feel like Piper has to be there to hold our hand. Litchfield’s insular world and all its people are so real that we feel just as invested in Taystee’s heartbreaking struggle to find (and hold onto) a maternal figure as we do rooting for Piper to navigate the ups and downs…

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Staff Review: Coraline – Neil Gaiman

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coralineReviewed by Rachel

By all accounts, Neil Gaiman’s children’s book Coraline is a strange and creepy piece of fiction. It features another set of parents for its protagonist, Coraline Jones, who live through the hallway behind the door that goes nowhere. Copies of her next door neighbors, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, perform nightly for an audience of talking dogs. And everyone she meets while in this other world has black buttons sewn into their eyes. As Coraline explores this other space, she has to use her wits and cunning to out-smart her other mother and rescue her real parents before black buttons are sewn into her eyes.

But Coraline is written as a strong female character who is brave for taking on her other mother, and braver still for doing it while fully understanding the consequences should she lose. This braveness permeates the whole of the novel, and cements…

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Review: Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

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ffn Reviewed by Rachel

Fast Food Nation, a journalistic exploration into fast food – or what author Eric Schlosser terms the “dark side of the all-american meal” – turned 13 this year… and its age is showing. There’s no doubt in my mind that the book was a first of its kind, or that the information about which Schlosser writes is interesting (because it is), but the way in which Schlosser presents his argument is lacking and weakens the entire narrative as a whole.

I went into this book with almost no expectations, and the only real information I knew about the story was that I owned a copy – which means I’d had enough interest to purchase the book rather than just read it – and it was shorter than most of my other unread non-fiction – which promised a relatively short read. With that said, I found the…

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