I feel like it’s been forever since I wrote something on here. I’ve been busily trying to rid myself of all possessions I won’t be able to take with me to France. Meanwhile, I’ve also been trying to see all the beauties of California before I leave. This past weekend I got to go to the ever-amazing Yosemite National Park with a group of friends. We camped and rock climbed for two days and it pretty much made my year, although I’m still hoping to hike Half Dome before I fly out of here.

Other than that I don’t have much news to share. I’ve given away pretty much all of the books anybody would be willing to take, yet I somehow still have packed four boxes of books to store at my brother’s house. Plus, I’m shipping a box of French books and textbooks to myself in France. How’s that even possible?

As for my recent reading I’ve finished three more books and am halfway through another, so it’s time for some more reviews for you:

Book 24: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink is a book about thinking without thinking. In other words it’s about all of the little things our brain picks up and reacts to without us even realizing it’s happening. Gladwell discusses how we pick up on a person’s mood by their subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) facial expressions.  There’s a section on how we profile people based on how they look and talk without even realizing we’re doing it. He even provides a link to a Harvard study that shows whether our subconscious is racist without us knowing it. You can take the test, among others, here.

Another section discusses how autistic people lack the ability to make these split second decisions our brain makes for us. We instinctively know what someone is thinking or where we should look if there’s a loud noise to our left, but autistics have to be told these things specifically. Gladwell cites a number of studies that show just how important our subconcious is in our everyday lives.

Overall I thought the book was really interesting, although I wish there would have been more about the science or physiology of how our brain makes these instantaneous decisions for us.

Book 25: God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau

God Grew Tired of Us is an amazing book about survival under the most impossible of circumstances. Dau was one of thousands of “Lost Boys” from Sudan. His tribe was attacked by Djeballahs in the 80s and he was forced to flee his homeland in southern Sudan after losing his family. He walked for some four months to the closest neighboring nation. Along the way he nearly starved to death. He was beaten by other Djeballahs. He was nearly killed by crocodiles. After about two years of living as a refugee he was forced to move again, walking with thousands of other boys to Kenya, which was hundreds of miles away. They were forced to walk through enemy territory where some of the boys were picked off and killed.

Once in Kenya, the Lost Boys lived as refugees but they were finally able to get some schooling and build housing. Dau lived there for many years before finding out he could move to America as a refugee.

Seeing the juxtaposition of his life in Africa and his life in America made me really appreciate all of the luxuries we have here (fresh water, electricity, etc.). His reaction to this new land is worth the entire read. He and the other refugees are fascinated by small things like running water and street lights.

Dau is starring in a documentary of the Lost Boys, which won acclaim at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. He has also begun a charity to raise money to build a health clinic in his original village in Sudan. If you’re interested in Africa and the troubles in Sudan I’d recommend this book.

Book 26: A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

A Piece of Cake is a memoir that recounts the author’s early struggles, including finding her mom dead one morning when she was only 11 years old, being given to a foster home where she was then raped and beaten regularly, becoming a runaway and a prostitute, and later becoming a drug addict and alcoholic. Reading this book was difficult because I couldn’t even begin to imagine going through all the hell this girl went through, and almost all before she was even 14 years old. I don’t know how she even managed to live through it.

The book is good, although toward the end I started to feel like it was a book written for drug addicts and alcoholics in rehab. I thought maybe that’s what Brown does now and she gives this book to all the new patients so they can see that life really isn’t that bad and if she can make it through anybody can. For the most part though it was a great book and a true story of survival and recovery.