Lists

This Is Your Brain On Dating: The KaliReads Guide To Dating Books

“I don’t need to read about what should come naturally,” I told my sister, after she insisted I pick up some dating books. I’d been swiping my way through the world of online dating, and my adventures, while always story-worthy, were exhausting. My sister, ever the life guru, suggested I grab some reading material on navigating the down-and-dirty jungle of the online dating world.

Those familiar with the blog know I’m an equal opportunity reader, loving mysteries and chick-lit, literary fiction, medical nonfiction, and everything in between. So why the resistance to dating books? Something in me squirmed at seeking advice about what had once come so naturally.

But it was time to admit there was nothing natural about trying to decide if someone was a potential soulmate or a potential serial killer through four photos and a 250 character bio. I needed to hit the books. Now, perhaps, more than ever.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Modern-Romance-674x1024

Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that. Ideally, though, we’re lucky, and we find our soul mate and enjoy that life-changing mother lode of happiness. But a soul mate is a very hard thing to find.
― Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance

Out of all the dating books I read, Ansari’s is the most grounded and practical. If you are looking for strategies on how to snare a man, then scroll down further, as there are other books for you on this list. But if you are looking for a dating state of the union of sorts, taking inventory of our tech-mad modern dating scene, then Ansari’s book is the one for you. Equally suitable for men and women, and a variety of ages, this is the book to read if you are thinking of dipping a toe into the dating pool. Ansari combines practical advice with research, placing himself in the role of the hilarious, super-smart, straight-shooting dating sidekick you didn’t realize you needed until you read Modern Romance.

The Manual: A True Bad Boy Explains How Men Think, Date, and Mate—and What Women Can Do to Come Out on Top by Steve Santagati

the manual

I regularly hear women complain about manly-man boyfriends who could stand to be cut down to size every now and then. How can this be done? With the ultimate power move: by using the top four male weaknesses–hair, penis size, career, and height–to keep a man’s ego in line. Any man worth his salt will take this technique in stride, remaining confident enough not to fold while you pick up some relationship power. Women who do this cleverly always come out on top.
– Steve Santagati, The Manual

This book made me laugh. It made me want to cry. Do I mean that in a good way? I have no idea. I wasn’t sure if Steve Santagati was joking when he suggested that I wear little dresses to the hardware store to find a man, but I’ll never know if his suggestions worked as I never tried them out.

Santagati offers a glimpse inside the brain of a true bad boy: himself. He’s a woman-whisperer of sorts, and is willing to offer some of his sweet nothings up for our consumption. This book is half mind-games, half-male fantasies. It’s difficult to take seriously at times, but ultimately harmless and easy to read.

Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl–A Woman’s Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship by Sherry Argov

Why Men Love Bitches

That’s the big picture, your happiness. And health. You should never care what a man thinks of you—until he demonstrates to you that he cares about making you happy. If he isn’t trying to make you happy, then send him back from “whence” he came because winning him over will have no benefit. At the end of the day, happiness, joy…and yes…your emotional stability…those comprise the only measuring stick you really need to have.
― Sherry Argov, Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl – A Woman’s Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship

If this book had a theme song, it would be “You Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive. This is the ultimate mind game book. There are some aspects of Argov’s advice that I love: don’t bend over backward for your man, keep your own life on track, and make sure your happiness is your first priority.

But despite insistence that you should be number one, most of the advice about self-care is centered around the ultimate goal of finding a man. Instead of leading a busy, happy life, Argov seems to be advocating looking busy and acting happy to bait a man on in. It didn’t work for me. If I want to call someone? I call them. I just lay my cards on the table. If you do the same, then you’ll never be able to follow the rules laid out here. But if you need some boundaries in dating and you’re not sure what that looks like, pick this one up.

It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak Into Happily Ever After by Andi Dorfman

it's not okay

Do I think I made a mistake in getting engaged? Yes. Obviously, considering it didn’t last. Do I regret it? Yes. I regret the fact that I will never get that first proposal back; that moment won’t go to my husband, but rather will always belong to my ex. But, I’ve never believed in living life free of regrets, it’s too much pressure. In fact, I regret plenty of things: the terrible bangs I had in third grade, the hideous sequined corset I wore to the prom—hell, I regret what I wore last weekend. Regrets are mistakes that we learn from. They don’t dictate the rest of our lives, they’re just little glitches, and impulsive choices we made in the moment. But it’s just that, a moment and the moment eventually passes.
― Andi Dorfman, It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Never After

This is an exposé of the Dorfman affair, aka Andi Dorfman getting engaged to Josh Murray on her season of The Bachelorette, and then it all ending after the show. Mixed in with Dorfman’s story about her season on The Bachelorette and her break-up with Josh is her advice on dating, and more importantly, picking yourself up when a relationship, marriage, or series of 3 Bumble dates that had potential just doesn’t work out for you.

I love books like this, and I’m not afraid to show it. Is it well-written? Nah, not really. Is it urgent advice you’ll hear nowhere else? Nope. Is it juicy gossip about Nick Viall’s sexual prowess, mixed with the comeback story of a woman whose break-up was gossip fodder for the entire nation? Yes and yes. Go there and don’t be ashamed for it.

Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood

women who love too much

We may be hard-pressed to explain to family and friends how someone who is not particularly admirable or even likable can nevertheless arouse in us a thrill of anticipation and an intensity of longing never matched by what we feel for someone nicer or more presentable. It is difficult to articulate that we are enchanted by the dream of calling forth all the positive attributes–the love, caring, attention, integrity, and nobility–we are sure are lying dormant in our lover, waiting to blossom in the warmth of our love.
– Robin Norwood, Women Who Love Too Much

If all of these other books tackle the surface issues of dating: the mating rituals, the call and response preening and courting that finding a good man entail, Women Who Love Too Much goes deeper. It looks at your history, from childhood on, and examines why we date who we date. Why we try to change the people we insist on being with, even when it hasn’t worked out. Why we attach to a certain type of figure, when that type always brings the same sort of heartbreak.

Although not everything in Norwood’s book felt right on for me, Women Who Love Too Much made me realize that dating, for the most part, needed to be an inside job. Most of the dating books, like The Manual or Why Men Love Bitches, that focused on when to call or what to wear, wouldn’t serve me. I needed to tune in to me, and tune out the rest. Then everything would fall into place.

Although I’m usually the book nerdiest, in this genre, I’m totally out of my depth. If none of these dating books sound good to you, this is just the tip of the gigantic dating-book iceberg. I only explored a small handful in what is a huge genre full of all types of books. Gimme some of your faves!

Advertisements

All The Amazing Movies Based On Books Headed Your Way

Really, who needs to read when you can go watch the movie version of these books? Just kidding. I always read the book first, then go see the movie.

  1. High Rise, based on the novel by J. G. Ballard

Secure within the shell of the high-rise, like passengers on board an automatically-piloted airliner, they were free to behave in any way they wished, explore the darkest corners they could find. In many ways, the high-rise was a model of all that technology had done to make possible the expression of a truly free psychopathology.”
― J.G. Ballard, High Rise

A friend posted a link to this trailer, and I was like “Say what? Is this based on the Ballard novel that has been chilling on my Audible Wishlist forever?” I bought the audiobook and listened to this cult classic of luxury-living turned into tribalistic bloodbath. Now, crisp trailer aside, I have no idea how they will translate this book onto the big screen. Variety has seen it, and they say meh. But will I still go check this one out? You bet I will.

2.  The Girl on the Train, based on the novel by Paula Hawkins

emily blunt

Emily Blunt on the set of The Girl on the Train

Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps.
― Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

Yes, Paula Hawkins’ ever-twisty The Girl on the Train is coming to the movies! No time was wasted adapting this one. Is Emily Blunt not your perfect Rachel? She has a bit of the crazy eyes going on this picture that the role demands. If you haven’t read this hit thriller from last year yet, you still have time before the movie’s fall release date. Read my review of the novel.

3. Me Before You, based on the novel by JoJo Moyes

me before you

A sneak peek at the set of Me Before You, with Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin.

The thing about being catapulted into a whole new life–or at least, shoved up so hard against someone else’s life that you might as well have your face pressed against their window–is that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are. Or how you might seem to other people.
― Jojo Moyes, Me Before You

Thank goodness the movie gods from above have decided to adapt Jojo Moyes’ novel Me Before You. As if we all didn’t cry enough when we read the book, we can go into theatres, gather, and do a group cry together. If you haven’t read the book, pick it up and prepare to have your heart opened up in strange nooks and crannies and then smashed. This romance will give you all the feels, all the sniffles, all the tears. Emilia Clarke will play Lou, and Sam Claflin will play Will. If I read less, or replaced some of the time I spend watching The Bachelor with time watching feature films, I may have an idea of who either of those two people are. Read my review of the novel.

4. She Who Brings Gifts, based on M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All The Gifts

girl w: all the gifts

Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, and Glenn Close filming She Who Brings Gifts.

“You can’t save people from the world. There’s nowhere else to take them.”
― M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts

Uhm, could the little Sennia Nanua be a more amazing Melanie? Talk about perfect casting for the little gal who single-handedly brings humanity to all zombies as she innocently explains how she wants feels hungry for her teacher, but she really doesn’t want to eat her because she loves her. Awww.

the girl with all the gifts

Sennia Nanua as sweet little zombie Melanie.

I’m not sure why they changed the title on this one though. To me, The Girl with All the Gifts has an oomph that She Who Brings Gifts lacks… Not to mention it brings a whole who vs. whom issue into the situation! Was it to separate the movie from last year’s The Gift? I’m not sure. Call it whatever you want–I’m excited about this zombie thriller.

5. Alice + Freda Forever, based on the book by Alexis Coe

alice and freda forever bigger!

Some of the great artwork from Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis.

“In the mind of the public, she seemed endowed with an almost supernatural power to commit heinous acts, no matter the time or place.”
― Alexis Coe, Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis

I’m cheating a bit with this one, as I don’t know if it’s actually being filmed yet or the project is just in the works. I loved Alice + Freda Forever, Alexis Coe’s true story of a lesbian romance and murder in 1890’s Memphis. A movie adaptation of this true crime/historical nonfiction book has quite a bit of potential. The book takes place at a memorable turning point in history, with haunting drawings and snippets of primary source material. Acclaimed director Jennifer Kent, of The Babadook, is tied to the project. I can only imagine what life she could bring to this already rich and tragic tale. Read my review.

What movie adaptations are you dreaming about for this year? When will we see The Goldfinch? What about A Little Life? How would all those plays from Fates and Furies be acted out? Readers, we can only dream…

Kali’s 10 Best Brackish Books of 2015

bestof2015

Alright, here it is. A best books list. I was going to do a traditional best books list, including all the books, but I haven’t even finished A Little Life. I got to the part after all is revealed where a weak Jude must be scooped out of his chair by Willem after a wonderful dinner with friends. Jude peeks back to the hearty laughter and gives a pathetic little wave. And I was just like, “I’m going to put this aside for a bit.” I set it aside, and didn’t pick it back up.

Clearly there’s a type of book I love most. If you’re a reader of the blog, you’ve caught on to that. A guy at work exclaimed the other day, “You have a fascination with criminals!” And maybe I do. I like my books a little salty, a little lurid, enveloped in a whole lot of darkness with a few well-deserved twists. That means that most of my faves fall somewhere between literary fiction and thriller, walking a tightrope of noir and psychological horror. Some were released in other countries before this year, but it’s a blog, and I make up my own rules.

Without further ado:

  1. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh eileenThis book has all the things I hold dear to my heart. A slightly unhinged narrator. A wacky alcoholic family member. A boy’s home for adolescent offenders. A beautiful woman with dishonorable motives. And a bunch of raw nervous energy. You can read my original review.
  2. The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango the-truth-and-other-lies-9781476795553_hr The Truth and Other Lies is bitingly funny. Its cool narrator, a man taking credit for his wife’s blockbuster novels, steers the plot headlong into disaster. My original review.
  3. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
    head full of ghostsI see this one becoming a cult classic, if anything published by William Morrow and nominated for a Goodreads Reader’s Choice Award could ever be considered cult. The one word used to describe this horror novel is meta. This is a horror novel fully aware of horror novels, and films, and all the better for it. My review.
  4. Disclaimer by Renee Knight disclaimer I absolutely loved the premise of this one so much I had to go out and get a copy. A woman picks up a book and begins to read the story of her life. She notices the disclaimer in the front, that one that ensures the story isn’t based on true events, is crossed out. Who wrote the book? How did it get to her? My review.
  5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins the girl on the train Unless you were living under a rock this year, you are familiar with this one. It was a runaway hit, hailed as this year’s Hitchcock-ian Gone Girl. Rachel watches an ideal couple each morning from the commuter train. When the wife of the couple shows up missing on the news, Rachel places herself into the investigation. Read my original review.
  6. Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates black chalk This is a bit of a cheat, as I had a copy of this last year. Random House UK released this in 2014, but it was released in the US this year by Picador with a beautiful new cover. Black Chalk brings a psychological Hunger Games to Oxford University. Six incredibly close friends agree to a game run by the mysterious ‘game soc’ club at their school. The game becomes more involved, taking over their lives, as the students begin to lose control. My review.
  7. The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi The Water Knife Let’s throw a little bit of near-future climate fiction on here, shall we? The Water Knife is brilliant because it pushes what is happening now just a bit farther, and magnifies it into something shocking. States are battling for water rights, and water knives slip through the night to bomb water plants and kill the right people, ensuring powerful cities stay wet. If you like drinking water, read this book. My review.
  8. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby bone gap And also we’ll add a tad of magical realism to the list. Bone Gap is a bright and crisp and beautiful young adult novel. I haven’t reviewed it because I’m just not sure what to make of it. As a lover of straight-shooting mysteries and thrillers, its more fantastical elements disappointed me. But does that mean I still don’t think about its lovable, well-crafted characters? Its charming little town? No, of course not. A part of me may always be in Bone Gap.
  9. Missoula by Jon Kraukauer missoula This isn’t even fiction. This is an exposé of the rape culture on America’s college campuses, with a focus on Missoula, Montana. It is shocking, and an absolute must-read. My original review.
  10. The Cartel by Don Winslow the cartel How many ways can people die in one book? Books about cartels love to explore this question. I became weary of all the descriptions of death, but at the same time understood it was part of the rough and angry territory of a sprawling epic of the Mexican drug war. Proceed at your own caution–the characters here are masterfully crafted, but also masterfully executed. My original review at the Manhattan Book Review.

Cuddle up with a cat and a comforter, cozy up with some cocoa and your Kindle. You’ve got a lot of books to get through. Happy reading!

Happy Thanksgiving! Here Are Some Books I’m Grateful For Today…

turkey

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Thanksgiving means one thing, and that is gluttony. No, just kidding! Thanksgiving means gratitude. I wanted to take some time to appreciate a few books out of the many on my shelves I’m grateful for. These are random, and there is no order!

  1. , said the shotgun to the head. by Saul Williams — My first of many totally brilliant live encounters with the endlessly talented Williams was a reading of this poem at the now defunct Jack London Square Barnes and Noble in Oakland. At that time, around the book’s release ten years ago, I new I loved Saul because of his brilliant work in the 1998 film Slam. I had yet to discover just how far down the Saul Williams rabbit hole I would go, becoming fully immersed in his spoken word, written words, and music. This book, and that reading of it, were my gateway drug. He stood in front of that small audience and read with such force, his presence and voice booming, and totally rocked my world. I ended up buying two copies of the poem, which is visually striking as well as lyrically beautiful, and pasting them up on my apartment wall like wallpaper.
  2. All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld — I reviewed this strong, unapologetic novel of a strong, unapologetic woman living alone on a British island farm with a dog for the San Francisco Book Review, so check out my full review there. A stranger stumbles into her life, a monster looms perilously in her fields, and her past rumbles quickly towards her. Books rarely make me cry. Sappy books never make me cry, I just don’t feed into emotional-seeking that way. But the power and raw inexplicable feeling of humanness burnt into the end of Jake’s story, those mistakes we make for no reason at all that hurt us so much–her aching portrayal of this brought me to tears.
  3. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard — I’m taking a Shakespeare class right now, in which I read Hamlet, from which this play stems. I’m embarrassed to say I was much more familiar with Stoppard’s play than Shakespeare’s up until this point. I’m looking forward to reading it again, now that I’ve studied Hamlet more. This is a humorous and strange retelling of Hamlet with a focus on these two minor characters. It is a great exercise in world-building, reminding us that each story we read is a narrow lens shining on a very small aspect of a story in a wide, imaginary world.
  4. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus — Yes, I went there! I dropped some chick-lit on this list. Why? Because it gets people reading. Because not all good books are great literature. And because it takes on some serious subjects: the lengths women are expected to go to for other women in our society, demands of capitalism upon the individual worker today, the privileges of the rich. By the end of the book, when Nan lays it down to the nanny cam, try not to feel exhilarated for overworked women everywhere! I dare you.
  5. “Trauma Plate” by Adam Johnson — This is a short story, and the link is the short story itself. This may be cheating, but this is my list and I’m making up my own rules! I’m not going to comment on it too much here, and I’m not seeking any sort of debate on current issues. If you haven’t read it, read it. Great science fiction mirrors the bizarre social norms of our day, exaggerating them so we can see how strange they are. Great science fiction points out our blind spots. This is a great blind spot.

Alright, I’m off to work! Enjoy your day, all!

Obligatory Halloween Post!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Let’s talk about books before I dress up like a mouse and get my squeak on.

For the past few years, I’ve started the wonderful tradition of reading a classic horror novel each year leading up to this wickedest of holidays. This is an especially delightful tradition if you follow these simple steps: 1) curl up next to a crackling fireplace with your horror novel, 2) make sure to stock up on your Halloween candy, 3) don’t forget the apple cider.

I started this two years ago, with Stephen King’s The Shining. Doctor Sleep, The Shining‘s sequel, was about to be released. The timing was perfect. This book is an absolute must for horror novel lovers.

the shining

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”

–Stephen King, The Shining

Last year, I went for Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House. This was, dare I say it, better than The Shining. It was horribly, dastardly scary. And if you are a cover geek, seriously google image search The Shining and The Haunting of Hill House. Both books have had incredible covers through the years.

the haunting of hill house

This house, which seemed somehow to have formed itself, flying together into its own powerful pattern under the hands of its builders, fitting itself into its own construction of lines and angles, reared its great head back against the sky without concession to humanity. It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope.

― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

And this year, I’m reading Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. Stephen King has referred to it as one of the best of the supernatural wave of horror that also carried The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby (uhm, why are horror movies always more famous than the novels they are adapted from?). I’m not impressed yet, I’m not even sure what is going on. But I have high hopes.

ghost story

The mind was a trap–it was a cage that slammed down over you.

― Peter Straub, Ghost Story

None of these, I have to say, compare to the scariest book I read this year. That was Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me, about her relationship with serial killer Ted Bundy. Rule, a true crime author who passed away this year, worked long nights at a suicide prevention hotline alone with Bundy in 1971. They stayed in touch after the job, and Rule eventually came to realize Bundy may be a suspect in the killings she was writing about. The coincidence is a writer’s dream and nightmare all bundled into one.

I unfortunately finished this book, which included descriptions of the Chi Omega murders at Florida State University, just before it was announced there was a prowler on the loose who had been breaking into women’s apartments in my complex in Scottsdale. The combo of Ted Bundy in my mind and a prowler on the streets did not make for well-rested nights. Luckily, they caught the prowler and with doors and windows locked, I moved on to my next read.

stranger beside me

Just be careful,” a Seattle homicide detective warned. “Maybe we’d better know where to find your dental records in case we need to identify you.”
I laughed, but the words were jarring; the black humor that would surround Ted Bundy evermore begun.

― Ann Rule, The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy The Shocking Inside Story

Time for me to put on my whiskers, dear readers. Remember, if it is a part of someone’s culture, it’s not a costume! And save some candy for the kids!

Wherever you go, there you are

I’ve been missing in action for about a week, with good reason. This weekend, I moved from the beautiful Bay Area, California to Scottsdale, Arizona.

2014 in review – thanks for reading!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

2014: My Year in Reading

I’m sad to say I haven’t yet reached my goal of reading all the books in the world, and I haven’t yet taught my cats how to read. I most certainly didn’t come close to reading all the books published in 2014. But I read a lot of great books this year. And others talked about the ones I haven’t yet gotten to, or passed over.

Kalireads.com is on Facebook!

That’s right, I’ve made a Facebook page for you to show your love for the blog.

I’ll be sharing posts from the blog as well as other book related musings and links, so show some love and like the page!

We can add Kalireads.com on Facebook to the many other ways you can connect with me online.

On Twitter...

Tumblr (couldn’t get any embeds to work despite best efforts, if you know how, please let me know!)…

kalireads.com on tumblr : Photo

Goodreads

my to-read shelf:
Kali's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (to-read shelf)

And finally, Instagram

Now, let’s get off the internet and read some books, eh?

Want More Serial? Five Other True Crime Cases To Keep You Up At Night

Can’t wait until the next episode of podcast Serial comes out? Here are five other true crime cases, where false convictions, unclear motives, and uncaught killers keep the rivers of justice flowing dark and murky. Hop on in, the water’s fine!