Brain Candy by Garth Sundem

Date of Publication: 2010, Three Rivers Press

Number of Pages: 266

Synopsis (from back cover): Tastier than a Twizzler yet more protein-packed than a spinach smoothie, Brain Candy is guaranteed to entertain your brain – even as it reveals hundreds of secrets behind what’s driving that electric noodle inside your skull.

These delicious and nutritious pages are packed with bits of bite-sized goodness swiped from the bleeding edge of brain science (including the reason why reading these words is changing your hippocampus at this very moment!). Shelved alongside these succulent neurological nuggets are challenging puzzles and paradoxes, fiendish personality quizzes and genius testers, and a grab bag of recurring treats including Eye Hacks, Algebraic Eight-Ball, iDread, Wild Kingdom, and Logic of Illogic.

Review: This is one of those books that never gets old, no matter how many times you read it. It also has an almost magical ability to make you feel either really dumb or really smart. I found out things that made my various and very weird idiosyncracies seem justified. Did you know that my fear of teenagers actually has a name? It’s called ephebiphobia. And I’m right in thinking that my boyfriend has the handwriting of a serial killer…he matches up well with the Zodiac Killer. And it seems my hours spent daydreaming are actually making me smarter! There are personality tests (I found out that I’m an intelligent, incredibly introverted, absurdly liberal neurotic), intelligence tests (despite the aforementioned personality test that proved my intelligence, I also seem to have a slight case of dementia), puzzles, eye teasers, incredible brain facts, and hundreds of other tidbits that altogether make for hours of kind of depression, often hilarious, and always enlightening fun.

Rating: 10/10


Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly Ex-Sorority Girl’s Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who Are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? By Jen Lancaster

Date of Publication: 2007, New American Library

Number of Pages: 380

Synopsis: Jen Lancaster hates to burst your happy little bubble, but life in the big city isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Contrary to what you see on TV and in the movies, most urbanites aren’t party-hopping in slinky dresses and strappy stilettos. But lucky for us, Lancaster knows how to make the life of the lower crust mercilessly funny and infinitely entertaining.

Whether she’s reporting rude neighbors to Homeland Security, harboring a crush on her grocery store, or fighting – and losing – the Battle of the StairMaster, Lancaster explores how silly, strange, and not so fabulous real city living can be. And if anyone doesn’t like it, they can kiss her big, fat, pink, puffy down parka. ~Blurb from back cover

Review: I bought this book based solely on the description you see above. As a person who is unhappy living in the suburbs and fantasizes about moving back to the city, I thought this book would give me an un-romanticized glimpse into city living. I was definitely not disappointed. Jen Lancaster puts city living into perspective, and does so hilariously. I found myself laughing out loud many times while I was reading, much to the discomfort and confusion of my boyfriend, and I think that anyone who has ever lived in an urban environment will do the same. She deals with noisy neighbors (my particular pet peeve), confusing mass transit systems, the soul-crushing search for that perfect apartment, and city vermin of all types. Even the passages that seem to deal with nothing more than her many irrational fears have the ability to make even the most neurotic person feel normal.

There were a few things about the book that bothered me, however. Lancaster is about as foul-mouthed as the most outrageous guest on Jerry Springer, and the constant swearing can get a bit tiring. She’s also a conservative Republican, and her tirades against liberals can be hard for someone as left-winged as I am. But these are really issues of personal taste. Lancaster presents herself undoubtedly as she really is, and to me, that is the most admirable thing about this book. She’s unapologetic and a little crazy, but that’s why her life is interesting enough to be put in books.

Rating: 8.5/10