Amazon’s 100 Books Everyone Should Read: Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Oh, look at me finishing two books in quick succession.

I’m just going to dive right into the post. SPOILERS AHEAD.

The story follows Sophie. A Haitian girl being raised by her aunt at the age of 12 when her mother sends for her from New York. You follow her to New York to marrying to returning home to the tragedy of her mother’s suicide.

I’ve owned this book a couple of years now and knew absolutely nothing about it. I didn’t know the author. I didn’t know the premise. I didn’t know the themes. The story blew me away from page one. Haiti is arguably the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and you know it immediately. But as soon as you wrap your head around Sophie’s surroundings they completely change as she heads to New York to be reunited with her mother she doesn’t know. She soon realizes how difficult her mother’s life really is. This is important because of the conversations people are having TODAY. So many people in America want to paint immigrants as criminals, worthless, and illegal. But so much more often than not, they’re just like Sophie’s mother. Working multiple jobs and supporting family back home.

But the book isn’t only about being an immigrant and trying to find where we belong. Sophie suffers from bulimia and sex phobia, as it’s described in the book, and her mother suffers from severe mental illness, ultimately leading to her suicide. Sophie seeks help in multiple ways. I’m not going to say I suffer from anything, but I know how it feels to be entirely unhappy with every aspect of life, and to feel like no one is coming through that door to help.

Those are the two things I’ve taken from this book. That we should look at immigrants just as we would anyone else, and that we all have the ability to free ourselves from things we can and cannot control. Sophie begins the story as a struggling girl and ends it as a struggling woman. It’s okay to struggle. And it’s okay to seek help when you need it.

An absolute gem of a book.

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Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read: #44 Moneyball by Michael Lewis

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Hey look, I’m not waiting months to get my 2015 reading off the ground. I actually started this book last year sometime and I would read and then not and then read. Anyway, I finished it last night and I have some things to say. Remember guys, with the books from the Amazon list I’m just telling you what I think and I’m not going to tell you detail after detail from the books. These aren’t reviews.

This was the fifth book I’ve read from the list since it was released about a year ago. I’m hoping to get a few of these under my belt before this year comes to an end. Now onto the book.

Moneyball

This book follows the 2002 Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball. Hopefully some of that sentence rings a bell. Michael Lewis followed the team to get a look inside Oakland’s unorthodox manner of building a professional baseball team. Stats like batting average and stolen bases and runs batted in (RBI) were no longer valued as they had been for all of baseball’s long history. Instead Billy Beane and his staff focused more on on-base percentage (OBP) and sabermetrics. In short, sabermetrics are the statistical study of in-game baseball activity.

During the course of the 2002 season the Oakland Athletics set an American League record of 20 consecutive wins while having the second lowest payroll in all of baseball. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

My Thoughts

Wow. Just wow. I have to admit that I saw the movie adaptation of this book long before ever picking up the book. Chances are that you have too. Brad Pitt. Jonah Hill. Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations. Yeah. Anyway, so I thought I knew a good bit about the book. Wrong. I knew nothing.

Michael Lewis tells you about the origins of sabermetrics. And how Bill James (a pioneer of sabermetrics) originally wrote for an audience that didn’t exist. No one cared about sabermetrics because they’d never heard of such a thing and figured that baseball people knew what they were doing. It tells the reader a whole lot about how the Oakland Athletics drafted players that were not on other teams’ radars or were heavily undervalued. Lewis puts you in front of these players who sometimes don’t understand why the Oakland Athletics have such interest in them (because no other team does).

But the greatest aspect of this book is how well Billy Beane is described. Billy Beane is the general manager of the A’s and the main subject of the book. See, in the movie we get to see him work his magic during the course of the 2002 season. But in the book we learn so much more. We learn about his playing career. We learn that he was drafted out of high school in the first round and expected to be a Major League outfielder in short time. We learn that he didn’t pan out and ultimately quits baseball to become a scout. The movie is only able to give you snippets of his life prior to his role as the GM.

When the book was originally released in 2003 Billy Beane was the joke of all jokes. Everyone thought he wrote the damn thing to make himself out to be some genius. To make himself out to be smarter than every executive in baseball. But that’s not what I take away from this book. I see a man passionate about his work who refuses to accept mediocrity in its execution and results. And he also didn’t write the book.

All in all, this book far exceeded my expectations. Every baseball fan should read it. I have it ranked as #18 on my list of the best books I’ve ever read. And oh by the way, sabermetrics are used by every baseball team in Major League Baseball today.

The movie is also titled Moneyball.

PS: any newcomers to my blog can check out what I thought of The Fault in Our StarsThe Diary of a Young Girl, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; also from the Amazon list.