The Bookshelf: Books or Movies?

The book versus the Movie

I recently (finally) watched Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I loved the book. Loved it. Can’t read enough articles about Laura Hillenbrand. The way she tells the truth with vivid detail and no commentary or judgment is stunning.

I didn’t love the movie. I know I’m way behind the times here and most people warned me that I would be disappointed. I wasn’t really disappointed, I hadn’t expected to enjoy the movie. I don’t  enjoy most movies, I’m not a movie person. While my family watches movies, I read. So, my expectations were low and the film met those low expectations. It felt like just another movie about war and POWs and trauma. It was well done with that in mind but to me, it didn’t stand out from others in the same genre. Not the way the book did.

What I loved about the book were the redemptive elements and learning about the aftermath of the war. How did these men move on? How did they heal, or not? How did they continue to relate to one another, or not? How on earth did the main character, Louie Zamperini, make it out of the war and into the rest of his life with hope? The movie left all of that out.

So read the book. Again. Forget the movie.

What about other books vs. movies? I have already made it pretty clear that I will always love the book more than the movie. Also, these are mostly fiction and I’m not a big fiction connoisseur, so no expertise here. But are there any that are reasonably decent?

I’m going to say not really. And if you disagree, please post a comment. Keep in mind here that we have no movie theater in the country. That’s right. No movie theater. So I am way, way behind. I sort of catch up on airplane rides to the US which come once every year or two so yeah, way behind.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Book, lovely, sad, surprising and a light read. Movie? Totally wrong. Got it all wrong and so messed up the ending that I couldn’t even believe it. Changed it from a unique and surprising story to a run-of-the-mill story.





Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I enjoy this movie fine enough but it just can’t capture the humor and richness of the characters the book. The pride and the prejudice just don’t come through as vividly. Plus, in the most recent version with Keira Knightley I find Darcy a bit creepy and the kissing scene sort of weirds me out. Read it.




Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Another summer read that I flew through but the movie simply can’t capture the depth of wrongness in the character’s relationship and the horrible ways they treat each other and manipulate each other.






Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden. At least in the book you learn a little bit about Somalia. In the movie you pretty much only learn about blood and shooting and see Somalis (who mostly aren’t even Somalis) popping up and getting shot down like characters in that state fair game where you have to knock down the moles that pop up.





The list could go on and on. Basically my point is this: read the book. Unless you are on an airplane.


What I’m reading this week

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (listening)



The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence by Gary Haugen Can’t recommend this highly enough. Listen to this Ted Talk and then read the book. It is about the powerful and overlooked impact of violence on the poor.


The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer, National Book Award winner this year and fascinating.

African Friends and Money Matters: Observations from Africa (Publications in Ethnography, Vol. 37) by David Maranz for organizational meetings and discussion.

The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide: A light-hearted but authoritative manual for anyone accompanying their partner on an overseas assignment by Clara Wiggins

 What are you reading (or watching)?

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To Be a Runner or Not to Be a Runner

Another super important running question here…

I run. So I self identity as ‘runner.’ This bothers my husband and we have argued about it multiple times. I run slowly, I’m not competitive. It isn’t my job. I do run 5 days a week, have entered races, read running magazines, and keep a running log.

He plays soccer 4 times a week, volleyball twice, and basketball once. He plays on organized teams who enter tournaments together, he has played in (and won) championship games, been on local television, and wears a team uniform for some of these events. But he doesn’t self identify as ‘footballer’ or ‘volleyball player.’ He says, “I play basketball.” He doesn’t say, “I am a basketball player.”

We have this debate going on in our house about whether or not I am a runner and about why I don’t just say, “I run.”

What’s the deal?


I’m adamant that I’m a runner. He disagrees. (it is all in good fun, don’t take us too seriously, we certainly don’t)

Where did this come from? I’m curious about why people who run are more likely (and passionate) about claiming their sport whereas others who participate in sports for fun, leisure, and health, don’t.


1. Are you a runner or do you run?

2. Why?

3. Do you play another sport?

4. How do you refer to yourself and that sport?

5. Where did this all come from?

Leaving and Grieving

Quick link: Leaving in a Hurry Doesn’t Mean Grieving in a Hurry

Today I’m guest posting at MaDonna Maurer’s blog, Raising TCKs, as part of her Leaving Series.

‘Nuf said. Head on that way for the story!

Phantom Voices

Quick link: Phantoms

Today I’m writing at Brain Child about the voices we moms can hear when our children are born – basically all voices. We give birth and develop these magical super powers that we might not even want but that never leave us. The ability to hear every time a kid anywhere near us says, “Mom!” and the ability to know immediately if it is our kids needing us or not.


I hear phantom voices. I’m in the bedroom and I hear “Mom” from outside and it sounds exactly like my daughter. I hear babies crying and it sounds like my babies. Except my daughter is in Kenya and I’m two countries away and the babies crying aren’t babies, they are kittens and my babies are fourteen years old now.

As soon as my twins were born I developed a powerful sense of hearing. My husband did not develop this, which makes me think it may have been in the medication I received post-surgery. At first it felt like a super power, my sense of hearing was so strong I could identify which twin was crying before my husband was even aware they were making noise. But this quickly deteriorated into the realization that, as with Spider Man, so with motherhood: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Sure, my new hearing capabilities were powerful but they meant I woke up in the middle of the night. Over and over and over. A baby cried, whimpered, coughed, rolled over, sniffled, snorted, shifted, breathed unusually heavily. I heard it from way down the hall. Since there were two babies making all these nighttime noises, I heard a lot. I didn’t sleep a lot.

Click here to read more: Phantoms

The Bookshelf: Expatriate Books

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Some expatriate reads this week. Two helpful books, two memoirs, and two novels.

The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide: A light-hearted but authoritative manual for anyone accompanying their partner on an overseas assignment. By Clara Wiggins

This book is the most practical book I have read for handling a transition into a life abroad. Clara is a seasoned expatriate and a Third Culture Kid herself but she doesn’t rely on solely her own experiences. The book is peppered with wisdom and insight and tips from (mostly) women across the globe. She includes chapters on moving with pets, same-sex expatriate couples, leaving in a crisis, building friendships and much, much more. Each chapter ends with checklists or bullet-points to remember and extensive lists of further resources. Clara’s voice is down-to-earth throughout and the anecdotes she uses to illustrate her points fit perfectly. This is a book I wish I had when we first moved overseas (especially because I’m the kind of dork who loves checklists!) You can click through here, the ad on the sidebar, or find Clara at Expat Partner Survival. Also I received a complimentary copy of this book but the views are my own.

Raising Global Nomads: Parenting Abroad in an On-Demand World
by Robin Pascoe

I first read this book a couple of years ago and found it a useful addendum to Third Culture Kids. Robin brings the discussion of raising kids abroad into the internet age and addresses things like increasing pressure on families to engage with people everywhere they have lived and left. It brings a freshness and another perspective to the book that so many of us have come to love and rely on.



The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Marten Troost

There are loads of expatriate memoirs out there and I love many of them. This was simply the one I noticed again first on my bookshelf. Probably because of the title, which honestly has little to do with the content but is sort of the king click-bait of book titles. I really enjoyed this book. Could be his descriptions of the heat and the sleepy, droopy small island life. Or the image burned into my mind of his first swim in the seemingly paradise-like water, only to find himself surrounded by floating baby diapers. And their dark and goopy contents.

For a light-hearted look at a small place (I can appreciate living in this kind of smallness), this book was fun. A good summer read, perhaps.

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik

A book about Paris by Adam Gopnik? Yes, please! Part memoir and part reflections on Paris as a city, this is a beautiful book. He talks about why French man can’t throw (soccer, ahem, football), Parisian cuisine, French customer service and an unfortunate toaster encounter, his attempts at joining a fitness club, and raising his child abroad, taking him to the carousal in the park on the weekends.

You can finish this book and feel a little more cultured and a little more understood. One of my all-time favorite expat quotes is from this book:

“There is also the odd knowledge, at once comforting and scary, that whatever is going on outside, you are without a predisposed opinion on it, that you have had a kind of operation, removing your instant reflexive sides-taking instinct…And the slightly amused, removed feeling always breaks down as you realize that you really don’t want to be so lofty and Olympian—or rather, that being lofty and Olympian carries within it, by tradition and precedent, the habit of wishing you could be down there in the plain, taking sides. Even the gods, actually looking down from Olympus in amusement, kept hurtling down to get laid or slug somebody.”

Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo

I’ve read this a few times and contrary to what the title might imply, it is not a religious book though one of the characters has a (twisted) faith motivation. The focus is Sudan and it covers a wide variety of characters and situations. The first time it took me a while to get into it but soon I couldn’t put it down and after reading it, I was driven to find out about the real-life characters and the situation in Sudan. One of the most fascinating characters is (I think) loosely based on an actual woman. She comes to Sudan with religious fervor and ideas and winds up married to a local rebel leader and becomes completely absorbed by the culture and the conflict. I still have her final scene ringing in my mind. You’ll have to read it to have the same scene burned into your memory. Well worth it.


Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

I bought this at the Sheraton in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Sheraton has pretty limited book selection at the little kiosk but I love book shopping in African bookstores. They sell my kinds of books, like this one. Books about the places I’ve been and the people I’ve known. If you can’t find me in Nairobi someday, I’m no doubt buried in the stacks at the Yaya Center. Sweetness in the Belly crosses between Ethiopia and Europe. It is evocative and intense and beautiful and I like that it offers this perspective of living abroad – not just the westerner moving east but the easterner moving west, or the southerner moving north.

What I’m Reading This Week

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans (listening)

The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly (listening)


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