February 19, 2013

Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus

I’ve wanted to learn the violin for a very, very long time now but I keep talking myself out of it.  I figure I won’t be very good since I’m starting so much later in life, ok, not that much later but I’m no longer a kid.  I fear that I’ll give it up right away because I’m certain I have no natural musical talent.  So when I happened upon Guitar Zero: the science of becoming musical at any age, I thought I’d find out how someone who was about to turn 40 handled learning the guitar.  Gary Marcus, a cognitive psychologist, chronicles his experience learning an instrument as well as sharing several renowned musicians’ own experiences.  Marcus provides research findings throughout the book challenging the perception that musical talent is innate.  From self-teaching to the Dalcroze method to playing in a band with 11 year olds at a summer camp, Marcus explores a myriad of techniques in learning an instrument.  It’s a very interesting book for anyone considering, and possibly running away from, picking up an instrument.  And as my thirtieth birthday approaches, I’ll be asking for a beginner’s violin so that I can finally get over my fear and possibly bring great joy in my life at learning something new.  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

February 6, 2013

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

I believe I have found a new favorite author in Kristin Hannah.  Her intricate storytelling reminds me of Jodi Picoult as well as her ability to delve into family relationships and the complexities that come along with them.  Winter Garden is about two sisters that are nothing alike and their relationship with their cold and apathetic mother, Anya.  The eldest, Meredith, married, had kids early and stayed at home helping run the family apple orchard while Nina, a photojournalist, fled home as early as possible and has been traveling the world ever since.  The two are back under their parents’ roof when their father becomes ill.  One of his last dying wishes is for the girls to get to know their mother.  Having never been close with Anya the sisters take this promise in very different ways.  What unfolds is a beautiful and tragic story of their mother’s past.