"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

A few days ago a friend remarked about my rating of 3 stars for Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls on my Goodreads page. She was curious why I gave it just an average rating. Her question caused me to question my rating, which is part of the reason that I dislike giving ratings in the first place because they are so subjective. It also caused me to go back and rethink that rating, perhaps today it would earn a 3.5 or even a 4. At any rate my evaluation of the book had a lot to do with the fact that I listened to rather than read the majority of the book.

Some books just aren't as good in the audio format and this is one of them.  For one thing Jeannette Walls narrated the book herself.  Big mistake. She has a lovely voice and she knew how to sound like her grandmother. She just didn't have that something special that audiobook narrators need to successfully carry the book.  Secondly, even though the book is considered a novel, it really is a memoir with photographs.  The photos help the story which one can't see with their ears. When I switched from the audio to the actual book the reading experience was much more satisfying.

No matter what rating I handed out, Half Broke Horses is a very compelling story of Jeannette Walls grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, a no-nonsense, resourceful character. And I mean "character" to mean a person who is different and larger than life. What is so interesting about the book is the descriptions of life in the 1930s and 1940s in Arizona. My parents were young at the time. Their growing up stories were so different than my own and almost foreign compared to my children's experiences. It seems impossible that less than one hundred years ago life in America was so different than today.

I really liked Walls' book, The Glass Castle, and I appreciate learning more about her family in Half Broke Horses. It is a book club selection and will no doubt provide fodder for a good discussion which I suspect will focus more about our own parents' experiences than about Lily Casey Smith. But we'll see. Have a listen to Walls talking about the experience of writing this book.  It is helpful toward understanding even more why this book is important and valuable today. (There are no spoilers within.)

20 books in July Reading Challenge

8 / 20 books. 40% done!


  1. Tks Anne. I appreciate the update on this! You mention the impact of listening v. reading on your rating. I also find time has an impact. Sometimes I love a book when reading but a month later can't remember what I read -- so how good was it? I find myself thinking about other books again and again as I continue to think about them, my mental 'rating' goes up.
    Food for though = good read!

  2. I know what you mean, Rita. Sometimes I read a book and I'm absolutely blown away by it but a month or two later I can't even remember the title. While other books seem to stay with me forever. The Glass Castles by Walls is one of those types of books. I think of it often when I think about the root causes of homelessness or just at random times. I wonder if I will think much about this book in the months to come. I suspect I will.

  3. I found your Jeannette Walls review interesting and definitely want to go back and read Glass Castles first & then this one. Somehow I missed it when it back when it came out to a lot of praise. Interesting your note that she shouldn't have done the audio on it. hmm just goes to show ...


I look forward to your comments and interactions! Join in the conversation.