Review: Educated

Educated Book Review - Tara WestoverTitle: Educated
Author: Tara Westover
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
Genre: Nonfiction | Memoir | Autobiography
Synopsis from HarperCollins

Review: Educated is not an easy book for me to review.  I devoured and took pause to absorb what I listened to with lots of wincing, wondering in my head ‘did that REALLY happen?’, and heart palpitations over graphic scenes. This sounds like a horror novel but it’s Westover’s true life story about growing up in a strict Mormon home ruled by abuse, mental illness, deprivation and neglect.

A paranoid father goes to the farthest extremes to protect his family from Illuminati takeover. Tucked away in rural Idaho, Westover and her siblings didn’t grow up riding bikes or going to the swimming pool with friends.  A dangerous junkyard was their playground, borrowed textbooks and stolen moments studying their education and medical attention administered based on ‘a feeling’ and homemade tinctures to heal the most severe of injuries – this was their norm and it differs greatly from the upbringing I had.

Westover details her account of trailblazing a new and unfamiliar life leaving behind her extremist family and their beliefs to attend BYU and later Harvard and Cambridge earning a Ph.D.  After a gut-wrenching upbringing I so, so admired how Westover took her deprivation and created educational opportunities having never set foot in a classroom – utterly amazing!

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Review: Shoe Dog

Shoe Dog - Phil KnightTitle: Shoe Dog
Author: Phil Knight
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Genre: Nonfiction | Memoir | Autobiography
Synopsis from Scribner

Review: I’m not a fan of memoirs, for no particular reason they just aren’t my thing, but SHOE DOG has been earning praises (and landed itself on Bill Gates top 5 books in 2016) since its release and I wanted to know what all the praise is about.

Before listening to this book if you asked me who Phil Knight is my honest answer would be ‘I don’t know’.  He co-founded a $30B business selling a shoe brand across the globe yet I couldn’t connect his name to Nike nor did I know anything about him personally or professionally – he grew up in Portland, Oregon, earned an MBA from Stanford and worked as an accountant with PwC or that he started Blue Ribbon Sports (before officially naming the company Nike) on $50 from his dad, the ‘swoosh’ logo was a $35 graphic design idea by a student and the company was on the precipice of failure for more than a decade.  Like so many entrepreneurs who are the well known confident type, Knight is a stark contrast – shy, reserved and quirky, he hugs himself when stressed and snaps rubber bands on his wrist.  His outward modesty and quirks make him such a likeable and admirable guy.

There’s no step-by-step guide to business riches here, Knight gives us insight into the numerous struggles he faced making Nike a global success – begging the banks for money repeatedly, years of debt and no cash flow, business deals, lawsuits and athlete endorsements.  You don’t have to be a business buff to get this story because it’s an honest account of Knight’s highs, lows and insecurities.

This is an excellent book for anyone and would make a really good Father’s Day gift.

What I’m Reading

The Great Alone, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, The Monk of MokhaSpring…after what feels like an endless winter I’m welcoming her with open arms.  I live in a rain forest where it rains almost daily from November until June, but the rain starts to wane in April and the sunshine returns.  Rainy days are not all bad, it’s a great reason to tuck in with a good book – a lot.  With the changing season I feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle more upbeat reads.

I want to share with you four really great books I’ve read recently that I think should be on everyone’s ‘to be read’ list.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – ‘Alaska, 1974. Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.’  Spoiler alert! I’m already calling THE GREAT ALONE the best book of 2018.  I suffered a severe book hangover for two weeks after reading this one – it was on my mind all the time.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – ‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.‘  I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK is for true crime buffs but to be upfront it’s graphic and scary but well worth reading. This book follows the East Area Rapist now known as the Golden State Killer’s gruesome rampage in California during the 1970’s & 1980’s.

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner – ‘In this exhilarating thriller inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix faces off against a charming, merciless serial killer. This is actually book two from the Unsub series, which I highly recommend reading first to get to know the main character but stands up well on its own. INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE is another book for true crime lovers but with a fictional tie-in making it an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys thrillers.

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers – ‘The true story of a young Yemeni-American man, raised in San Francisco, who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana’a by civil war.THE MONK OF MOKHA is a fascinating book for anyone who is interested in all facets of how coffee is produced.  Mokhtar Alkhanshali is on a quest to bring the best cup of coffee to San Francisco without exploiting the workers and exporting the beans from Yemen during a civil war. Coffee lovers will enjoy this one but really it’s an interesting read for everyone.

Review: The Monk of Mokha

The Monk of Mokha - Dave EggersTitle: The Monk of Mokha
Author: Dave Eggers
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Genre: Nonfiction | Biography
Synopsis from Knopf
Book provided by PRHC

Review: When you drink a cup of coffee and savour the depth of its flavour do you ever wonder what goes into that perfect cup?  The MONK OF MOKHA is a fascinating story about Mokhtar Alkhanshali’s quest to revive Yemeni coffee while navigating the Yemen civil war in 2015.

Mokhtar is a Yemeni-American who grew up in San Francisco’s rougher Tenderloin District.  He worked as a ‘lobby ambassador’ in a high end apartment building and didn’t possess the bright future in law as was hoped of him.  While working Mokhtar noticed a statue across the street of a Yemeni man drinking coffee and thus gave him the idea to bring Yemeni coffee back to life.  It’s an interesting concept because Mokhtar knows nothing of coffee nor does he drink it and Yemen was in the midst of a civil war so I was hooked wanting to find out how this man successfully brought a $16 cup of coffee to San Francisco.

The process of growing coffee is finicky.  The coffee bean itself is deeply hidden within the cherry which must be separated to get to the bean.  The cherries are hand picked because they ripen at different times and only the red ones are picked for production.  A sensible picker will yield 360 pounds of ripe cherries per day.  The beans are sent to the mills and typically processed using the more common wet method which produces consistent quality at the expense of excessive amounts of water usage.  The less favourable method, and ancient process used in Yemen, is to dry the beans for 3-6 months and hand sort to remove any imperfect beans.  This method is less reliable as an overlooked defective bean can ruin an entire batch of coffee.

Mokhtar diligently studies coffee in the shops at home and the farms and production plants abroad.  He learns quickly the workers are exploited and has an idea to bring fair financial practice to all facets of the industry.

This book is so interesting – from the details of yielding the best coffee to exporting it out of civil war ridden Yemen, to the most expensive cup of coffee served at Blue Bottle in San Francisco.  I am recommending this book to all the coffee drinkers in my life.