Search Results for: before the fall

Two Additions to My 2016 Summer Reading Guide: Grunt and Before the Fall

June 23, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 18

I published my 2016 Summer Reading Guide at the end of May and will be adding more books to it throughout the summer. Here are two of my latest, though very different, additions…

Grunt, Mary RoachGrunt by Mary Roach
Nonfiction (Released June 7, 2016)
288 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (W.W. Norton) via NetGalley

Plot Summary: Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier’s most challenging adversaries—panic, exhaustion, heat, noise—and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them.” (Goodreads)

My Thoughts: Mary Roach is known for delving deep into an odd topic (like what happens to cadavers in Stiff) and using her dry (and frequently morbid) humor to share her findings in a relatable way. In Grunt, she focuses on seemingly minor issues (many of which civilians encounter in their daily lives) that wreck havoc with the military and military issues that don’t get a lot of media attention, including bird strikes, hearing loss, diarrhea prevention, flies and sleep. Though she doesn’t shy away from topics that civilians (hopefully) won’t need to concern themselves with: submarine escape, bomb safety for the undercarriages of vehicles, and flame resistant clothing.

With one chapter focusing on each topic, Grunt reads like a short story collection. And as with most short story collections, I had my winners and losers. A chapter on war-related genital injuries and reconstructive surgery was thankfully free of the heavy military and scientific jargon that caused me to glaze over in some of the other chapters…and was predictably fodder for some funny anecdotes. And, a chapter on sleep was relatable and applicable to anyone. I was less enamored with chapters on flies and odors because of the previously mentioned science and military jargon overload. Though Grunt had some hiccups, I would recommend it to people interested in the military or with an appreciation for quirky knowledge and a flair for the ridiculous (which Roach helpfully points out to the reader at every opportunity). 

Before the Fall, Noah HawleyBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
Fiction – Mystery/Thriller (Released May 31, 2016)
400 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Grand Central Publishing)

Plot Summary: A private plane carrying two important businessmen (one of whom is the Rupert Murdoch-like head of a 24 hour news network), their families, and a down-on-his-luck painter crashes off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, leaving two survivors.

My Thoughts: Before the Fall, written by the creator of the TV show Fargo, has been hyped as “the thriller of the year” by many and has appeared on a number of the traditional media’s Summer Reading Guides. While I don’t feel quite as strongly about it, it is one of only two thrillers I’ve enjoyed all year.

Opening with the plane crash, the book works backwards and forwards to tell the stories of each passenger and those close to the crash’s aftermath. As with some other books that worked for me lately (The Expatriates, Only Love Can Break Your Heart), the mystery (i.e. why the plane crashed) serves as a catalyst to explore human emotions and behavior. The crux of this story is more about the people on the plane and what today’s media can do to a tragic story than the crash itself.

Unfortunately, the ending fizzled a bit for me. In the moment, I wanted it to be more and bigger than it was. But after reflecting, the lack of razzle-dazzle fits well with the book’s overarching point about how the 24 hour news cycle pumps up stories, squeezing every last ounce of possible ratings value from them, the truth be damned. Despite the ending, Before the Fall is a good choice for anyone who likes their thrillers to go beyond standard plot twists.

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My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018

August 23, 2018 Book Lists 23

Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018

 

It’s big, buzzy book season! For those that don’t closely follow the publishing industry, Fall is traditionally when the buzziest books by the biggest name authors hit the shelves. We’ve got new books coming from Michael Lewis, Tana French, John Boyne, Barbara Kingsolver, and Kate Atkinson.

Today, I’m sharing the books I’m most excited about…from some of these big name authors and some under-the-radar ones.

As always for this year, my Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018 list is mostly made up of books from trusted sources (to find your personal trusted recommendation sources, check out this post and free downloadable template) who, in as many cases as possible, have already read the book. I did not look at a single publisher’s catalog to create this list. I’m sharing the recommendation source for each book and will specify if that source has or has not read it yet.

I use my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker (available for purchase for $11.99), to keep an ongoing eye on my most trusted recommendation sources…and have improved my reading success by 26% from last year!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

September

Foe by Iain Reid (September 4, Gallery/Scout Press)
This book was not on my radar at all (I never read Reid’s debut, I’m Thinking of Ending Things) before Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books told me that her book whisperer loved it! I’m about 25% through it and am completely intrigued. It’s got the same “what the heck is going on” vibe as The Beautiful Bureaucrat.

In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Pam Cady (Seattle bookseller and trusted recommendation source of Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books).

UPDATE: I’VE NOW READ IT AND IT WAS SUPER CREEPY IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE! I JUST HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON.

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling (September 4, MCD)
Tyler Goodson (one of my top recommendation sources) rated this debut novel 5 stars. That’s kind of all I need to know.

In Lydia Kiesling’s razor-sharp debut novel, The Golden State, we accompany Daphne, a young mother on the edge of a breakdown, as she flees her sensible but strained life in San Francisco for the high desert of Altavista with her toddler, Honey. Bucking under the weight of being a single parent―her Turkish husband is unable to return to the United States because of a “processing error”―Daphne takes refuge in a mobile home left to her by her grandparents in hopes that the quiet will bring clarity.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA).

UPDATE: I TRIED THIS ONE AND COULDN’T GET INTO THE WRITING STYLE…IT WAS WORDY AND OVERLY DESCRIPTIVE.

The Wildlands by Abby Geni (September 4, Counterpoint)
This one is a bit of a risk for me…just because it hadn’t been vetted by a trusted recommendation source. But, I’ve already read it and really liked it! It’s a totally unique book without an obvious read-alike, but has bits of Before the Fall, Where the Crawdads Sing, The Animals, and This Dark Road to Mercy.

When a Category 5 tornado ravaged Mercy, Oklahoma, no family in the small town lost more than the McClouds. Their home and farm were instantly demolished, and orphaned siblings Darlene, Jane, and Cora made media headlines. This relentless national attention and the tornado’s aftermath caused great tension with their brother, Tucker, who soon abandoned his sisters and disappeared.

On the three-year anniversary of the tornado, a cosmetics factory outside of Mercy is bombed, and the lab animals trapped within are released. Tucker reappears, injured from the blast, and seeks the help of nine-year-old Cora. Caught up in the thrall of her charismatic brother, whom she has desperately missed, Cora agrees to accompany Tucker on a cross-country mission to make war on human civilization.

Recommendation Source(s): The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview (not read) and already read by ME.

UPDATE: I REALLY LIKED THIS ONE! IT’S A UNIQUE, FAST-PACED STORY ABOUT CHILDREN THAT HAVE LOST LITERALLY EVERYTHING TRYING TO FIND THEIR WAY AGAIN. 

The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman (September 11, Ecco Books)
I’m intrigued by this one. It’s a true crime / investigative journalism / literary history mash-up. 

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.

Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time.

Recommendation Source(s): The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview (not read).

UPDATE: I TRIED THIS ONE AND FOUND THE EXECUTION LACKING. THE SECTIONS ABOUT THE CLASSIC NOVEL, LOLITA, READ LIKE A TERM PAPER AND THE SECTIONS ABOUT SALLY HORNER’S ABDUCTION WENT OFF ON TOO MANY TANGENTS.

October

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (October 2, W.W. Norton)
Michael Lewis is one of my auto-buy authors. I think he’s a master at making dry topics entertaining and breaking down complicated concepts so the layperson can understand them. However, I’m a little skittish because I haven’t loved his two most recent books (Flash Boys and The Undoing Project).

What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?

“The election happened,” remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. “And then there was radio silence.” Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.

Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author (not read).

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (October 9, Tin House)
I loved Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days (my review), and really liked her sophomore novel, Swimming Lessons (my review). Plus, her writing is generally gorgeous. 

From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them—Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she’s distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives.

But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand their lives forever.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by Rebecca Foster.

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson (October 9, Simon & Schuster)
This one came to be unsolicited from the publisher…and the multi-generational story of three women struggling with things many women struggle with sounded appealing. Plus, the two author blurbs caught my attention!

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a poignant novel about three generations of the Wise family—Evelyn, Laura, and Grace—as they hunt for contentment amid chaos of their own making.

[…] we see these women and their trials, small and large: social slights and heartbreaks; marital disappointments and infidelities; familial dysfunction; mortality. Spanning from World War II to the present, Thompson reveals a matrilineal love story that is so perfectly grounded in our time—a story of three women regressing, stalling, and yes, evolving, over decades. One of the burning questions she asks is: by serving her family, is a woman destined to repeat the mistakes of previous generations, or can she transcend the expectations of a place, and a time? Can she truly be free?

Recommendation Source(s): Blurbed by Tayari Jones (author of An American Marriage) and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (author of The Nest).

The Witch Elm by Tana French (October 9, Viking)
I haven’t read Tana French since The Secret Place (part of The Dublin Murder Squad series), which I thought was fine, but not great. But, I’m willing to give her another shot since two of my best recommendation sources rated The Witch Elm five stars…and, the fact that it’s a stand-alone novel doesn’t hurt!

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read (and rated 4 stars) by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA) and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast, The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview (not read).

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler (October 16, St. Martin’s Press)
I adored Fowler’s historical fiction novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (my review), so I wasn’t about to pass this one up!

The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by Kelly Massry and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast.

November

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (November 13, Hogarth)
Never in a million years did I expect a new John Boyne novel so soon after his masterpiece, The Heart’s Invisible Furies (my favorite book of 2017)! But, I’ll take it! Let’s see what he does with a thriller…

Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for success. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent – but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own.

Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful – but desperately lonely – older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel.

Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall…

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author.

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads (edited for length).

What Fall 2018 books are you looking forward to?

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My Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR List

November 21, 2017 Book Lists 28

Must Try Before End of 2017 TBR list

 

Throughout the year, I keep a running list of all the books I missed right when they came out, but that I want to fit in at some point during the year. I call this my Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR list.

Some of my best reading this year has come from this list (BeartownDead LettersThe Heart’s Invisible Furies)…probably because these books had been vetted by multiple readers I trust before I actually read them.

I generally devote mid/late November to mid-December to trying to find at least one more book to sneak into my Best Books of the Year list. We now have about 3 weeks until I share my Best Books of 2017. I obviously can’t read all the books on this list in that time (do you think I’m a magician?!), so I want y’alls help.

If you’ve read any of the books below, tell me which ones you think could be Best Books of the Year candidates! And, which ones I shouldn’t waste time on. And, any others you think I’d absolutely love.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

My Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR List

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber (August 1, 2017)
Recommended by Off the Shelf’s 5 Best Books I Read This Month (November)

Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge (April 4, 2017)
Recommended by Renee at It’s Book Talk and Susie at Novel Visits

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive.

Everybody’s Son by Thrifty Umgar (June 6, 2017)
Recommended by Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books and Reading & Eating

The bestselling, critically acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The World We Found deftly explores issues of race, class, privilege, and power and asks us to consider uncomfortable moral questions in this probing, ambitious, emotionally wrenching novel of two families—one black, one white.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (June 27, 2017)
Recommended by Michelle at That’s What She Read

A generations-spanning family of psychics–both blessed and burdened by their abilities–must use their powers to save themselves from the CIA, the local mafia, and a skeptic hell-bent on discrediting them in this hilarious, tender, magical novel about the invisible forces that bind us.

The Break by Marian Keyes (September 7, 2017)
Recommended by Eva at Paperback Princess

Amy’s husband Hugh isn’t really leaving her.

At least, that’s what he promises. He is just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. For six-months Hugh will lose himself in south-east Asia, and there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.

But a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman?

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallan (June 27, 2017)
Recommended by The Readerly Podcast

A searing debut novel […] about jealousy, the unpredictable path of friendship, and the secrets kept in marriage, all set within the U.S. expat community of the Middle East during the rise of the Arab Spring.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton (August 8, 2017)
Recommended by Annie Jones at From the Front Porch Podcast

A wildly entertaining debut about a Brooklyn Heights wife and mother who has embezzled a small fortune from her children’s private school and makes a run for it, leaving behind her trust fund poet husband, his maybe-secret lover, her two daughters, and a school board who will do anything to find her. 

The Party by Elizabeth Day (August 15, 2017)
Recommended by Michaela at The Ardent Biblio and Born and Read in Chicago

A gripping story of obsession and betrayal, privilege and hypocrisy, set in the unassailable heart of the British establishment.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (October 10, 2017)
Recommended by Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books and Susie at Novel Visits

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda (November 7, 2017)
Recommended by Susie at Novel Visits

When a teen runs away from his father’s mysterious commune, he sets in motion a domino effect that will connect six characters desperate for hope and love, set across the sun-bleached canvas of Los Angeles.

Tell me, which ones should I read first?

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads (edited for length).

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My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2017

August 15, 2017 Book Lists 21

Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2017
It’s finally here…big, buzzy book season! For those that don’t closely follow the publishing industry, Fall is traditionally when the buzziest books by the biggest name authors hit the shelves. We’ve got new books coming from Celeste Ng, Nelson DeMille, Alice Hoffman, Dan Brown, Jennifer Egan, and Andy Weir.

But, a number of books from lesser known or debut authors caught me eye as well! And, a couple of those are international books hitting U.S. soil for the first time this Fall.

Last year, four of the books I picked for my Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2016 list ended up being hits for me. Let’s see if I can beat that this year!

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

September

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (September 5, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
I loved Sloan’s quirky novel about bookstores, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and now he’s writing about food! Admittedly, I can’t begin to figure out what about food this book is actually about. More power to anyone who can decipher this blurb…

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (September 12, Penguin Press)
I’ve already read this one and it’s great! Which is good news because it had big shoes to fill (Ng’s debut, Everything I Never Told You, was a huge hit and was Amazon’s Best Book of 2014…and I loved it). 

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned […]. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson (September 12, Ecco)
It’s about time for a heart-wrenching, Southern saga for me…hoping this is it! It’s been described as “To Kill a Mockingbird meets Beloved” and has gotten some eyebrow-raising blurbs (Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans called it “art of the highest order”).

Cotton County, Georgia, 1930: in a house full of secrets, two babies-one light-skinned, the other dark-are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecropper’s daughter. Accused of her rape, field hand Genus Jackson is lynched and dragged behind a truck down the Twelve-Mile Straight, the road to the nearby town. In the aftermath, the farm’s inhabitants are forced to contend with their complicity in a series of events that left a man dead and a family irrevocably fractured.

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille (September 19, Simon & Schuster)
Years ago, Nelson DeMille was one of my favorite authors…and his The Gold Coast was one of my favorite books. He’s still a solid go-to thriller writer for me and I’m looking forward to this departure from his John Corey novels.

Daniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—seems to have a pretty good life. At age thirty-five he’s living in Key West, owner of a forty-two-foot charter fishing boat, The Maine. One day, Mac is sitting in the famous Green Parrot Bar in Key West, contemplating his life, and waiting for Carlos, a hotshot Miami lawyer heavily involved with anti-Castro groups. Carlos wants to hire Mac and The Maine for a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba at the standard rate, but Mac suspects there is more to this […].

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall (September 19, Ballantine Books)
I’ve read an excerpt of this novel that has been compared Fates and Furies and The Mothers and really liked the writing! Hopefully, it can keep up it’s good start. 

A timely novel about an accusation against a beloved schoolteacher and the repercussions on his loved ones, exploring issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.

October

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (October 3, Scribner)
I’ve never read Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, but it won a bunch of awards (including the 2011 Pulitzer) and people seem to love it. So, I’m looking forward to giving her venture into historical fiction a try.

Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. […] At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life.

Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit (October 3, Harper)
The Dinner is one of my all-time favorite novels and I’ve been looking for a similar book for quite awhile. Fear has not only been compared to The Dinner, but Herman Koch himself blurbed it! 

An acclaimed German writer makes his American debut with this gripping and sophisticated thriller reminiscent of The Dinner and the early novels of Ian McEwan, about the murder of a neighbor who had been harassing a middle-class family—and the relative imprisoned for the crime.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak (October 17, Berkley Books)
This debut novel was one of the more hyped books at this year’s Book Expo event and I love “family gets back together” books (This Is Where I Leave You, anyone?!).

A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays…

The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst (October 17, Algonquin)
I’m intrigued by the Hurricane Katrina setting and it got a starred review in Kirkus

A dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, The Floating World takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina with the story of the Boisdorés, whose roots stretch back nearly to the foundation of New Orleans.

November

The Senator’s Children by Nicholas Montemarano (November 7, Tin House)
Annie B. Jones of the From the Front Porch podcast has been talking up this book for awhile now! And, since Annie is my new go-to book recommendation guru (I read Rabbit CakeStandard Deviation, and American Fire on her recommendation), that’s all I need to know! 

Sisters Betsy and Avery have never met, but they have both spent their lives under the scrutiny of prying cameras and tabloid journalists. Their father, David Christie, was a charismatic senator and promising presidential candidate until infidelity destroyed his campaign and his family’s life. In the aftermath, Betsy grieves her broken family, while Avery struggles with growing up estranged from her infamous father yet still exposed by the national spotlight.

Artemis by Andy Weir (November 14, Crown)
The author of the smash hit The Martian is back with his sophomore novel! 

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. […] Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down.

December

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughn (December 5, Atria Books)
I don’t normally read new releases in December, but this one sounds so totally up my alley that I’m going to have to break with tradition! And, Claire Fuller (author of Our Endless Numbered Days and Swimming Lessons) called it “brilliant, shocking, and gripping.” 

An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a scandal amongst Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught up in its wake.

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads (edited for length).

What Fall 2017 books are you looking forward to?

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Mini Reviews: Generation Chef by Karen Stabiner and Before the Wind by Jim Lynch

December 8, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 15

Can a mini review include not one, not two, but three quotes, thus making it look more like a full length review?! Yes, I’m going with it. There’s no other choice when the writing is as glorious as Jim Lynch’s in Before the Wind.

Generation Chef, Karen StabinerGeneration Chef by Karen Stabiner
Nonfiction – Cooking / Food (Released September 13, 2016)
288 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Avery Books)

Plot Summary: Journalist Karen Stabiner follows young chef Jonah Miller as he opens his first New York City restaurant, the East Village Spanish spot, Huertas.

My Thoughts: Generation Chef‘s look into a new restaurant’s first year of life is equal parts food and business book. I particularly loved getting a behind the scenes look at the ups and downs of an entrepreneurial restaurant venture. Running a new restaurant clearly takes courage and a steady hand and I was frighteningly nervous for Miller and his team as they approached each new milestone (applying for a liquor license, awaiting a New York Times review, etc). I realized how much I respect people who run small businesses and I’m fairly certain I couldn’t pull it off without an emotional breakdown.

Specific to the restaurant business, Generation Chef highlighted how hard a new restaurant has to work to get noticed amidst the NYC clutter. Stabiner provides illuminating color about the frenzied restaurant environment of the early 2000’s and the impact of social media. She also compares Miller and Huertas’ story with that of other famous chefs including David Chang, Stephanie Izard, April Bloomfield, and Gavin Kaysen. Generation Chef reminded me of Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, minus all the drugs and sexual angst, and is a great choice for people interested in the business side of opening a new restaurant. Plus, it made an appearance on my 2016 Books That Make Perfect Holiday Gifts List!

Before the Wind, Jim LynchBefore the Wind by Jim Lynch
Fiction (Released April 19, 2016)
306 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Knopf)

Plot Summary: Josh Johannssen and his somewhat estranged family, a sailing dynasty, reunite in an attempt to win the Pacific Northwest’s prestigious Swiftsure race.

My Thoughts: Behind the Wind is 100% up my alley and I have no idea why I’d never heard of it until Catherine at Gilmore Guide shoved it into my hands recently. It plops the dysfunctional family element of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth into a sailing environment with brilliant results.

For years, sailing bound us. We were racers, builders and cruisers. It was our family business, our sport, our drug of choice. Yet eventually, sailing blew us apart, too.

Within the first five pages, Lynch delves into the psyche of sailors and boaters in general and his writing about sailing is filled with “yes, that’s exactly how it is” moments. 

Sailboats attract the loons and geniuses among us, the romantics whose boats represent some outlaw image of themselves. We fall for these things, but what we’re slow to grasp is that it’s not the boats but rather those inexplicable moments on the water when time slows.

His sense of humor sparkles when making fun of sailing (i.e. a hilarious rant about the ridiculous sailing lingo) and when describing his family’s quirks (of which there are many), but a genuine love for both shines through it all.

Nobody forgets meeting my father. Loud, tall and meaty, he invades your space and claims the right-of-way. There is nothing moderate about him. A leader and a lout, a gentleman and an ass, he never concedes a weakness, admits a sickness or says he loves anybody. Yet the flip side is that when you please him, your body temperature climbs a degree or two.

As with many books I love, the suspense lies in what ends up happening to these characters. The questions of what made Josh’s sailing prodigy sister (Ruby) abandon the sport, what shady antics are most of the family members up to now, and what incident figuratively blew up the family decades ago drove the novel’s suspense. Lynch does go on sailing tangents fairly often, but I found them interesting because he adopts the tone of the rare tour guide that uses dry humor to make something you’re not that interested in come alive. Before the Wind is an underrated gem that you should read immediately if you’re a fan of dysfunctional family stories…and, I can’t wait to read more of Lynch’s work.

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My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2016

August 18, 2016 Book Lists 32

My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2016


These quarterly Most Anticipated Books lists are one of my favorite types of posts to put together because they get me excited about all the shiny, new books coming up (and, especially Fall, because that’s when a lot of the really “big” books are generally published)! But, when I look back at my Spring and Summer posts from this year, I noticed I’m really not fantastic at picking winners in advance (I ended up loving one book from my Summer preview and big, fat zero from my Spring preview)! But, this round has a good chance of breaking the pattern since it’s filled with a lot of authors I’ve loved in the past.

September

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (September 6, Viking)
I loved Towles’ debut, Rules of Civility, years ago and am interested in his sophomore effort that sounds completely different from Rules of Civility.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch (September 6, Crown)
I absolutely loved the biting social commentary in Koch’s The Dinner.

From various perspectives, Herman Koch tells the dark tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates. Thanks to M’s novel, supposedly a work of fiction, everyone seems to be linked forever, until something unexpected spins the “story” off its rails.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (September 13, Harper)
And the third book in the “I absolutely loved X’s previous book” sweepstakes (State of Wonder, in this case) !

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimeer McBride (September 20, Hogarth)
I heard good things about this book on one of the Book Riot podcasts.

A redemptive, captivating story of passion and innocence set across the bedsits of mid-1990s London, McBride holds new love under her fierce gaze, giving us all a chance to remember what it’s like to fall hard for another.

October

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt (October 4, Algonquin Books)
Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books had good things to say about this new-to-me author!

Set in the early 1970s against the specter of the Manson girls, when the peace and love movement begins to turn ugly, this is the story of a runaway teenager’s disappearance and her sister’s quest to discover the truth.

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang (October 4, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
This debut novel is getting some good buzz…

A hilarious debut novel about a wealthy but fractured Chinese immigrant family that had it all, only to lose every last cent—and about the road trip they take across America that binds them back together.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (October 4, Little Brown)
Author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Yes, please!

A genius novel from the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, about a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, forced to abandon her small ambitions when she awakes to a strange, new future unfolding.

Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner (October 11, Atria Books)
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve read Jennifer Weiner’s fiction, but I follow her on Twitter and adore her commentary on life and pop culture (particular The Bachelor franchise)…so, I’m intrigued her this collection of nonfiction essays.

Jennifer Weiner is many things: a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and “an unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister; a former rower and current cyclist; a best friend and a reality TV junkie. In her first foray into nonfiction, she takes the raw stuff of her personal life and spins into a collection of essays on modern womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Tina Fey, Fran Lebowitz, and Nora Ephron.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (October 11, Riverhead Books)
Another debut that’s getting a lot of buzz…

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

December

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis (December 6, W.W. Norton)
My all-time favorite nonfiction writer takes on the decision-making process. For the most part, Lewis could make any topic fascinating for me.

Forty years ago, Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote a series of breathtakingly original studies undoing our assumptions about the decision-making process. Their papers showed the ways in which the human mind erred, systematically, when forced to make judgments about uncertain situations.

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads.

What Fall books are you looking forward to?

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Must Read Before EOY Minis: Where All Light Tends to Go and The Nightingale

December 3, 2015 Mini Book Reviews 9

This is the time of year when I try to get to all the 2015 releases that I missed out on earlier in the year, but that I got excited about after reading other bloggers’ reviews. Here are my thoughts on two of them…

Where All Light Tends to Go, David JoyWhere All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
Fiction (Released March 3, 2015)
274 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased

Plot Summary: Jacob McNeely, son of his small North Carolina mountain town’s biggest outlaw, struggles to separate himself from the life of crime he was born into and to fight for the girl he loves (Maggie).

My Thoughts: I’ve read some great “Grit Lit” this year (Bull Mountain, The Shore, The Animals), so I knew I had to make time for David Joy’s debut novel. It’s a story about fathers and sons, loyalty, love, and trying to claw your way out of your given circumstances. The writing made me truly feel the poverty and hopelessness of the mountainous North Carolina setting and it reminded me of a more reflective version of Bull Mountain. Jacob is an anti-hero who it was easy to root for; though he’s a bad kid on the surface, he is a victim of circumstance who is, deep down, trying to do the right thing.

I also loved the Riggins & Lyla (from “Friday Night Lights”) vibe that Jacob and Maggie had going on – the notorious troublemaker with a good heart falling in love with the golden girl who will most certainly go on to better things. My only complaint was that I guessed the ending, which caused me to love the book less than I thought I would. Nevertheless, it’s going on my Books for Guys, Page Turners, and Great Books Under 300 Pages lists.

Nightingale, Kristin HannahThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Historical Fiction (Released February 3, 2015)
449 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased

Plot Summary: The story of two French sisters, timid Vianne and reckless Isabelle, and their different experiences during World War II’s Nazi occupation of France.

My Thoughts: This book has been getting tons of hype all year long…and for some reason I kept not picking it up. The premise reminded me of All the Light We Cannot See…and I didn’t get past the sample of that one.

While I did enjoy The Nightingale, it wasn’t quite as out of this world as I’d been hearing. I loved the overarching question of “what are civilians caught up in the Nazi occupation willing to do to survive?” and the badass ladies that carry this story. While I was emotionally invested in the story, I didn’t find it to be particularly unique or surprising. And, though the writing was readable and engaging, it didn’t sparkle enough to separate it from the pack of other novels I’ve enjoyed this year. This being said, it is a solid historical fiction novel worth reading…it just didn’t break the “best of the best” barrier for me.

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Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR 2015 List & Tuesday Intro (A Place We Knew Well)

September 22, 2015 Top Ten Tuesday 44

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday
 is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that asks bloggers to create Top Ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. My Fall TBR list is a combination of a few upcoming releases (but, not many at this point!), books from my “must at least try before the end of the year” list, and books for Nonfiction November.

Top Ten Books on My Fall 2015 TBR List

Top 10 Books on my Fall 2015 TBR List
Upcoming Fall Releases

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving (November 3, 2015)
I’m not too psyched by the premise of Irving’s latest novel AND the average Goodreads rating is currently only 2.92 (but, I’ve learned not to put much stock in these ratings), but Irving is on my auto-buy list, so I’ll at least give this one a shot.

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (October 13, 2015)
This is the sprawling epic debut about 1970’s New York City…that got a $2 million advance. I read the Prologue and was definitely drawn in, but am waiting for the e-book to come out to read the rest since it’s over 900 pages!

Nonfiction November

Missoula by Jon Krakauer (April 21, 2015)
I loved Krakauer’s meticulous, yet spellbinding looks at climbing Mt. Everest (Into Thin Air) and Mormon fundamentalism (Under the Banner of Heaven), so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with the topic of sexual assault on college campuses.

Speed Kings by Andy Bull (October 20, 2015)
Ever since The Boys in the Boat, I’m down with nonfiction about lesser known Olympic sports in the 1930’s! Instead of rowing, Speed Kings tells the story of four men trying to win bobsledding gold in the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics.

The Three-Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway (October 27, 2015)
More on the 1930’s Olympics front…this time destitute swimmers from Maui training against all odds in the late 1930’s and 1940’s, against the backdrop of World War II.

The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell (January 20, 2015)
More from the World War II era…”The dramatic and never-before-told story of a secret FDR-approved American internment camp in Texas during World War II, where thousands of families – many US citizens – were incarcerated.” – Goodreads

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (September 16, 2014)
This book was quite the rage during last year’s Nonfiction November and I feel like I missed the boat! Time to play catch up.

“Must At Least Try Before End of the Year” List

Did You Ever Have A Family? by Bill Clegg (September 8, 2015)
I got a copy of this debut novel about a family tragedy at BEA, but decided to wait until I could get the Kindle version to read it. Since then, every single review I’ve read has been glowing, almost making me nervous it isn’t going to live up to the hype! Fingers crossed…

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart (September 1, 2015)
Ditto Did You Ever Have A Family?

Where All the Light Tends to Go by David Joy (March 5, 2015)
I’ve had great luck with “grit lit” this year and I loved the sample of this coming of age story about a rough boy from the area around Cashiers, North Carolina.

Tuesday Intro

First Chapter First Paragraph


Every Tuesday, fellow blogger Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where bloggers share the first paragraph of the book they are currently reading or thinking about reading soon.

A Place We Knew Well, Susan Carol McCarthy


I just started this one and can’t say I’m super enthralled so far, but I’m going to give it some more time.

Plot Summary from Amazon (adapted for length)

Late October, 1962. Wes Avery, a one-time Air Force tail-gunner, is living his version of the American Dream as loving husband to Sarah, doting father to seventeen-year-old Charlotte, and owner of a successful Texaco station along central Florida’s busiest highway. But after President Kennedy announces that the Soviets have nuclear missiles in Cuba, Army convoys clog the highways and the sky fills with fighter planes. Within days, Wes’s carefully constructed life begins to unravel.
 
With heartbreaking clarity and compassion, Susan Carol McCarthy captures the shock and innocence, anxiety and fear, in those thirteen historic days, and brings vividly to life one ordinary family trying to hold center while the world around them falls apart.

Here’s the first paragraph of the Prologue (from an uncorrected proof):

10:47 a.m., Wednesday, March 11, 2009

As I wheel right into Dad’s driveway, a six-foot chain-link fence jumps up out of nowhere. I stomp on the brakes. My car heaves to a stop within inches of the padlocked gate.

Would you keep reading?

Holiday Gift Ideas for Book Lovers 2018

December 3, 2018 1

Best holiday gifts for book lovers

 

Welcome to my 2018 Holiday Gift Ideas for Book Lovers guide!

Every year, I compile a list of the books I came across that year that I think make perfect holiday gifts plus some fabulous book subscription services and some bookish goodies that aren’t actual books!

If you can’t find anything on this year’s list that’s the right match for your friend or loved one, check out my previous lists (201720162015201420132012).

The Holiday Gift Guide has a couple new elements this year:

  • Printable Cheatsheet – the Holiday Gift Guide in quick recommendations in PDF format for easy printing (great for taking to the bookstore or library!). Download for free below!
  • #1 Picks for Each Category – I highlighted my very favorite book in each category in the Guide (Go-To Recommendations, Edgy Literary Fiction, Introspective Books, Page Turners, Something Fun, For the Hobbyist, and Investigative Journalism).

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

Go-To Recommendations

These books have broad appeal and are all-around great selections for most readers.

My #1 Pick

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Fiction – Literary (Released August 14, 2018
)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When local star quarterback Chase Matthews is found dead, suspicion falls on Kya Clark (the “Marsh Girl”), who is not at all who the town residents think she is.

My Thoughts: I was worried Where the Crawdads Sing would be a beautiful, but boring book, but I couldn’t be more wrong. The writing is gorgeous, the story is propulsive, and it’s 5-star immersive. There’s a coming of age element, a mystery, and a bit of romance that I did not expect from this book, but that totally worked for me. This is probably my most recommended book of the year and will be on my Best Books of 2018 list (coming in mid- December)! Full Review

A Well-Behaved WomanA Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
Historical Fiction (Release Date: October 16, 2018)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: To save her family from financial ruin, Alva Smith finagles a marriage to the extremely wealthy, but socially shunned William K. Vanderbilt, but it doesn’t turn out to be everything she’d hoped.

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored Fowler’s 2013 novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (my review)…so, A Well-Behaved Woman had big shoes to fill. While Alva is no Zelda, she is interesting. She was a modern woman in some ways and had a sassy side. And, I liked the fact that it made me think about class, the working rich vs. the inherited money rich, and women’s roles in society and the household. Perfect for fans of historical fiction and great mother-in-law gift! Full Review

An American Marriage An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Fiction – Literary (Released February 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Roy goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit only a year and a half into their new marriage, Celestial must figure out how to cope with his absence and shape her life in the face of this massive upheaval.

My Thoughts: An American Marriage is an intimately written novel that tackles a number of weighty current issues in an organic way…and is one of my favorite novels of 2018! It’s about so many things (marriage, race, class, incarceration, love, friendship, family, grief, fidelity, recovery), but not overwhelmingly about any one of them (kind of like The Mothers). Jones handles them in a way that doesn’t make the book feel overwhelmingly like “an issue book.” And, the last quarter of the book is absolutely riveting. Full Review

Educated Tara WestoverEducated by Tara Westover
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 20, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Westover tells her story of growing up in a survivalist Mormon family who didn’t believe in public education and her journey to break the mold by getting her PhD at Cambridge University.

My Thoughts: Imagine if you had to choose between getting an education (both the traditional kind and an education about life in general) and having a relationship with your family. That’s what happened to Tara Westover. I could feel Tara’s emotional tug-of-war over her own beliefs and the blood ties of her family…it was heart-wrenching. There are many parts that are hard to read…and that I’d have found totally unbelievable had this been fiction. Perfect for fans of The Glass CastleHillbilly Elegy (my review), and/or Under the Banner of Heaven (my review)! Full Review

Loving FrankLoving Frank by Nancy Horan
Historical Fiction (Released August 7, 2007)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A novel based on the true story of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s epic affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, one of his married clients.

My Thoughts: While this story is about an epic love affair, it goes much deeper than that. It’s also about a woman’s journey to find herself in a time (the early 1900’s) when women weren’t supposed to have their own identities or interests. It’s about women’s roles in society and marriage and losing your identity through marriage and motherhood. Neither Mamah nor Wright is an entirely sympathetic character. PS – tell your gift recipient NOT to Google the real story of Frank and Mamah before you read the book…you don’t want to spoil the ending!

Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Historical Fiction (Released October 10, 2017)
369 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: In the prequel to Hoffman’s novel Practical Magic (also a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman), siblings Franny, Jet, and Vincent come of age in 1960’s New York City while trying to obey the rules of magic their parents have instilled in them…until they visit Aunt Isabelle in Boston and begin to embrace who they truly are (i.e. witches).

My Thoughts: I am not a reader who normally likes anything related to magic, paranormal, or fantasy, but The Rules of Magic was an exception. The magic is not hokey at all and makes what is ultimately a story about love and family more fun and unique. It’s also got some mystery, tragedy, a family feud, and a bit of history about the Salem witch trials and New York City. It’s an unconventional kind of historical fiction, which is my favorite kind. Perfect for your quirky aunt!

Edgy Literary Fiction

These books are a bit darker, tackle more fraught issues, or have more aggressive language, etc. than my go-to literary fiction recommendations. Read the publishers’ summaries carefully before choosing one of them for your prim and proper grandmother!

My #1 Pick

Female PersuasionThe Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer
Fiction – Literary (Released April 3, 2018)
464 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Greer is a shy college student still in love with her high school boyfriend when she meets Faith Frank, an icon of the women’s movement, who changes the trajectory of Greer’s life.

My Thoughts: Meg Wolitzer is one of my very favorite authors, so I’m not entirely surprised that The Female Persuasion is one of my few 5 star books of this year! The Female Persuasion is ultimately a story in which the characters are the stars: Greer, her boyfriend (Cory), her best friend (Zee), and Faith Frank. I was completely enmeshed in these people’s lives and the issues (gender, feminism) this book addresses fit organically around the characters’ stories without overwhelming them (like An American Marriage and The Mothers). Don’t be scared of the 464 pages…I flew through this one in just a few days! Full Review

A Ladder to the Sky A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Fiction – Literary (Released: November 13, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Maurice Swift is single-mindedly focused on becoming a world famous author (despite having trouble coming up with story ideas) and will use anything and anyone to get there.

My Thoughts: It’s much darker (I don’t mean sadder…I mean more messed up) than The Heart’s Invisible Furies. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone who loved The Heart’s Invisible Furies, but Boyne’s writing style is absolutely there and I 5 star-loved it. Maurice isn’t likable, but he’s disturbingly fascinating for sure…and he’s much like many of Herman Koch’s characters in that he’ll say incredibly unsettling things that most regular people may not even think, much less say aloud. A great pick for readers who like their stories dark and disturbing (yes, we are out there!)! Full Review

Great BelieversThe Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Fiction – Literary (Released: June 19, 2018)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A group of gay friends and their female friend (Fiona) navigate the AIDS crisis and deal with the death of one of their own in 1980’s Chicago…and decades later, Fiona sets out to Paris to find her estranged daughter and encounters the past in the process.

My Thoughts: The Great Believers is one of those “issue” book that makes the issue an organic part of the characters’ lives. It’s ultimately a gorgeous story about friendship in the face of disaster and is the kind of book you can just sink into. It’s got a little bit of The Heart’s Invisible Furies (sexuality, the AIDS crisis, characters you can root for wholeheartedly) and a little bit of A Little Life (a group of male friends facing terrible circumstances, but without the overwhelming violence), but retains its own uniqueness. This book has heart…and it’s seriously literary, but will still keep you turning the pages because you just have to find out what’s going to happen to these characters. Full Review

The WildlandsThe Wildlands by Abby Geni
Fiction – Literary (Released: September 4, 2018)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After the McCloud children lose everything in a Category 5 tornado in their hometown of Mercy, Oklahoma (thus attracting considerable media attention), their brother (Tucker) runs away leaving the three McCloud sisters to fend for themselves. He returns three years later amid further tragedy and thrusts the family into the spotlight yet again.

My Thoughts: The Wildlands is a fast-paced story about children that have lost literally everything trying to find their way again. This story touches themes far and wide…humans’ place in the ecosystem, environmental terrorism, children surviving on their own, the media spotlight, Patti Hearst-esque Stockholm syndrome, and complicated sibling relationships. It has the love of animals and nature of Where the Crawdads Sing (my review), the focus on media attention following a tragedy of Before the Fall (my review), and the family manipulation of Wiley Cash’s This Dark Road to Mercy (my review). Full Review

Us Against YouUs Against You by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
448 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Amid the wreckage of the previous winter, Beartown residents face their beloved ice hockey team being disbanded and a volatile rivalry with nearby Hed Hockey.

My Thoughts: Us Against You is the sequel to last year’s Beartown (one of my favorites of 2017) and I highly recommend you read Beartown before reading Us Against You. This time around, Beartown has lost its innocence. The story is even darker, more sinister, and more focused on the adults and the politics of sports (a very real thing). Like in Beartown, the story is about far more than hockey…friendship, rivalry, marriage, parenting, power, sexuality, and violence. I was completely engrossed in the emotion of sports, which Backman captures better than anything save Friday Night Lights (and if you’re missing FNL, these are the books for you!). Full Review

You Think It, I'll Say ItYou Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld
Fiction – Short Stories (Released April 24, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Novelist Curtis Sittenfeld’s (author of PrepAmerican Wife, and Eligible) first short story collection.

My Thoughts: Short stories are not my thing, but this collection is unquestionably 5 stars for me! The stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It are mostly about otherwise normal relationships that have a hidden element of unconventionality or an awkward incident. They’re normal situations that end up taking unexpected turns…they’re relatable, yet surprising. I was completely invested in the characters in every story, which is a rarity for me with short stories. If you’ve been hesitant to try short stories, You Think It, I’ll Say It is a perfect first collection! Full Review

Introspective Books

These books are quiet, calm, and comforting…and might lead you to ponder your life.

My #1 Pick

Tell Me More by Kelly CorriganTell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released January 9, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Corrigan’s memoir is organized around the “12 hardest things she’s learning to say,” including “No,” “I don’t know,” and “I Was Wrong.”

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored (it’s my favorite 2018 nonfiction so far!) this memoir that spoke to me in a “yes, that’s exactly how it is” way. She covers many big life issues (marriage, motherhood, illness, religion, friendship, grief, and loss) in a relatable and irreverently funny way. Corrigan is a welcome addition to my “women who get women” club (current members include Anna Quindlen, Ann Patchett, and Cheryl Strayed) and is perfect for any woman in their 30’s-50’s on your gift list! Full Review

Glitter and GlueGlitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 4, 2014)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Corrigan hadn’t given much thought to what it’s like to mother someone or quite appreciated her own mother until she stepped into the role of surrogate caring for two children who had lost their own.

My Thoughts: Corrigan’s signature brand of heartfelt, relatable, and sometimes irreverent observations about life and motherhood are on display here. If your gift recipient has already read Tell Me More, this is your pick (especially if it’s your Mom!)! BUT, if you think she’d like a book like this and hasn’t read Tell Me More, go there first. Full Review

I Am, I Am, I AmI Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
Nonfiction – Memoir / Essays (Released February 6, 2018)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: O’Farrell shares seventeen seminal moments in her life…all “near death experiences.”

My Thoughts: It took me awhile to pick up this memoir / essay collection because the whole “near-death experiences” premise struck me as a little melodramatic, but I shouldn’t have worried because they were powerful and unsettling in a way that had me riveted. Some experiences are more serious than others, but a couple of them will knock your socks off and all impart some wisdom about life. Unquestionably 5 stars!

Page Turners

These books are pretty much the opposite of the last bunch.

My #1 Pick

Witch ElmThe Witch Elm by Tana French
Fiction – Mystery (Release Date: October 9, 2018)
464 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After lucky golden boy Toby gets beaten in his apartment during a burglary, he goes to Ivy House (his ancestral home) to recover and care for his dying uncle Hugo…but, a skull is found in the trunk of a massive elm tree in the garden.

My Thoughts: I consider Tana French a “mystery” author, but The Witch Elm doesn’t start out with a “mystery” feel. It’s more of a family drama / mystery hybrid, which I knew was absolutely up my alley once I aligned my expectations. It’s a mystery with a level of complexity and character development generally uncharacteristic of the genre. It’s a slow build, but I wanted to find out what happened and to enmesh myself with this flawed family. Full Review

Red NoticeRed Notice by Bill Browder
Nonfiction – Business (Released February 3, 2015)
380 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story Browder’s experience as one of the first foreign investors in Russia after the fall of Communism and widespread privatization.

My Thoughts: You might think the premise of Red Notice sounds boring. Let me assure you…it’s not. It’s a financial thriller (if there is such a thing) that reads like fiction and kept me quickly turning the pages…while giving a fascinating picture of Russian culture in the Post-Communism era. During the course of his investing, Browder made a ton of money, partnered with billionaire Edmond Safra, angered some oligarchs via his anti-corruption battles, showed some serious guts, and ended up in a knockdown, drag-out battle with Putin and the Russian regime. Think a cross between Michael Lewis, Dominick Dunne, and the TV show Billions. Great Dad gift!

Banker's WifeThe Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger
Fiction – Thriller (Released July 3, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When a private plane carrying a Swiss banker and his wealthy client goes off the radar, his wife is left to piece together the shady dealings Swiss United Bank was involved in.

My Thoughts: Despite it’s unfortunately domestic sounding title (really…can publishers try for at least one thriller without “Wife” or “Girl” in the title?!!), The Banker’s Wife is more of a conspiracy / financial thriller. It’s purely plot driven (so much so that I forgot to highlight passages to share in this post!) and will keep you turning the pages. Plus, there are characters who resemble real life people enough to make you wonder! Full Review

The Wife by Alafair BurkeThe Wife by Alafair Burke
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released January 23, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After Angela is plucked out of the Hamptons by her marriage to NYU professor and media personality Jason Powell, two women accuse Jason of misconduct and Angela has to figure out how to protect the most important thing in her life.

My Thoughts: The Wife is part domestic thriller / part legal thriller and is the first domestic thriller I haven’t DNF’d in ages! I read it in a day and a half at the beach and it’s absolutely perfect for that setting. The ending was mostly surprising, yet not outlandish, which is a must for me to like a thriller. I recommend skipping the Prologue, as I thought it gave away too much. Bonus: it deals with a timely topic.

Something Fun

These books are your brain candy. They read easy, but their stories still have great depth.

My #1 Pick

From the Corner of the OvalFrom the Corner of the Ovalby Beck Dorey-Stein
Memoir (Released July 10, 2018)
330 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Dorey-Stein gets a job as a White House stenographer in the Obama administration from an ad on Craig’s List…and embarks on some transformative years of her life.

My Thoughts: This quarter life crisis memoir set in the world of politics might be my favorite audiobook of the year! It’s like listening to your fun friend who happens to have a job in the White House with access to the President give you all the very best anecdotes (plus, a good dose of her love life) over a glass of wine! It’s fun, snarky, and heart-felt and Beck is the rare “DC creature” who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Great pick for college age or early 20’s women! 

Bachelor NationBachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Nonfiction (Released March 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Kaufman, a L.A. Times reporter who covered The Bachelor franchise until ABC shut down her access because they weren’t pleased with what she was writing about the show, exposes the inner workings of The Bachelor franchise.

My Thoughts: In Bachelor NationKaufman investigates The Bachelor‘s cultural place in America, how producers get contestants to give them good TV, how and why contestants think they fall in love over such a short period of time, and what happens to the couples after the show ends. Beware if you want to preserve the fairytale because you’ll for sure be watching the show differently after reading it. PS – Bachelor Nation would make a great pairing with The Book of Essie! Full Review

Calypso David SedarisCalypso by David Sedaris
Nonfiction – Memoir/Essays (Released May 29, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Sedaris’ latest essay collection focusing on middle age.

My Thoughts: David Sedaris is generally known for his dark humor and his ability to make readers sob and laugh hysterically on the same page. Personally, I didn’t cry or laugh hysterically while reading Calypso, but I did chuckle and get sad and appreciate the crap out of his dark humor. I love how Sedaris says things that most people probably think, but are too scared to say out loud. And, though I read this one in print, Sedaris is fabulous on audio! Great pick for anyone entering middle age. Full Review

Charlotte Walsh Likes to WinCharlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: July 24, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Charlotte Walsh leaves her high powered job as COO of a Silicon Valley tech darling to run for Senate in her home state of Pennsylvania, she’s forced to confront the impact on her marriage, her sanity, and her past.

My Thoughts: I’ve been loving books about substantial topics that read easy this summer and I can now add Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win to that list! Though it reads easy enough for the beach, it’s full of astute commentary on women in politics, women in business, managing your image in public life, marriage, motherhood, and gender roles. But, it also has snappy dialogue, a badass sister-in-law (Kara), and a Friday Night Lights name-check (the easiest way to my heart). An excellent choice for fans of The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close! Full Review

I'll Be There For YouI’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller
Nonfiction – Television (Released October 23, 2018)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Yep, you guessed it…a behind-the-scenes history of Friends.

My Thoughts: This book is one big ball of 90’s nostalgia and, upon finishing it, I immediately started binge-watching Friends on Netflix. Not only do you get all the cute anecdotes you’d expect from this book, but there’s some interesting discussion about some ways the show is problematic when viewed through today’s cultural lens. An easy read and a no-brainer stocking stuffer for fans of Friends!

Book of EssieThe Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released June 12, 2018)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When the youngest daughter (Essie) of a evangelical reality TV family becomes pregnant and realizes her mother is working with their show’s producers to come up with the best way to spin it for the show, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

My Thoughts: The Book of Essie is the type of brain candy I love…a story about weighty topics that reads quickly and easily. The first line will grab you immediately and I was dying to find out how all this was going to turn out. Bonus: you get an interesting behind-the-scenes look at reality TV and image management in the media spotlight. Great pick for fans of reality TV! Full Review

For the Hobbyist

Books for people that are into specific things…in this case, football, space, White House history, espionage, golf and life improvement.

My #1 Pick

Big Game Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich
Nonfiction – Sports (Released September 4, 2018)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Political writer Leibovich switches gears to go deep inside the NFL…with extensive access to Tom Brady and the Patriots.

My Thoughts: Mark Leibovich is the Chief National Correspondent for The New York Times Magazine focusing on politics and is known for his dry, sarcastic writing style and his propensity to make fun of self-important big-shots. The targets are self-important NFL owners (and there are some eccentric personalities in this bunch) and Commissioner Roger Goodell. It’s full of funny anecdotes about all the looney-tune personalities and hoopla surrounding the game…and doesn’t dig into the actual X’s and O’s of football too much, which I found infinitely more interesting. 

Endurance by Scott KellyEndurance by Scott Kelly
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released October 17, 2017)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of Kelly’s year he spent on the International Space Station and his bumpy journey to becoming an astronaut.

My Thoughts: During his somewhat trouble-making youth, Scott Kelly read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff and immediately decided he wanted to be a test pilot…eventually leading to his career as an astronaut. Life on the International Space Station is fascinating to hear about, particularly how long periods in space affect the human body, and Kelly’s path to becoming an astronaut is motivational, particularly for people that are floundering in their youth. A great pick for fans of The Martian. Full Review

The ResidenceThe Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
Nonfiction – Presidential History (Released August 7, 2015)
281 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A portrait of life in the White House for the first families told from the perspective of the residence service staff.

My Thoughts: I love a good behind-the-scenes of anything Presidential book, especially the ones that don’t really get into politics…and I’ve read a lot of them. The household service staff brings a unique viewpoint, since they see the first families at their most unguarded. Perfect if you’re interested in the inner workings of the White House (especially if you liked Ronald Kessler’s books, In the President’s Secret Service and The First Family Detail)!

American RadicalAmerican Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury
Nonfiction – War (Released October 23, 2017)
364 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Written under a pseudonym for the author’s safety, this is his story of working undercover for an elite counterterrorism unit following 9/11.

My Thoughts: Elnoury made a career change from going undercover in the drug world to undercover in the terrorism world. And, his story is absolutely chilling. It illuminates terrorism plots that were thankfully thwarted and characters who are the worst of the worst. But, the most interesting part about it for me was the exploration of Elnoury’s version of Islam and how he feels about those that practice the radicalized version of his religion. And, I wondered if the terrorists in this book read it and recognized themselves in it…and what that means for Elnoury’s safety. Great pick fans of cloak and dagger.

Tiger WoodsTiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
Nonfiction – Sports (Released March 27, 2018)
512 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The new biography of the ex-World #1 golfer, including his fall from grace.

My Thoughts: You’ve probably heard much of the scoop in this book before (especially if you’re a golf fan), but mostly in little snippets over the course of his whole career. Benedict and Keteyian put all this together to paint a complete picture of Tiger as a person and an athlete. I found myself psycho-analyzing him right along with the authors. It’s a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of an elite athlete in the limelight who has been trained as a machine…and sorely under-trained as a whole person. PS – Bill Simmons, one of my favorite sports writers/podcasters, loved this book and read it in a few sittings. Another great Dad gift!

Tools of TitansTools of Titans by Tim Ferris
Nonfiction – Business/Productivity (Released December 6, 2016)
707 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Ferris took the highlights from his interviews with the top people in various fields (he’s all over the map with this…business, sports, entertainment, thinkers, etc) and organized them into Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise sections.

My Thoughts: This one is a chunkster, but it’s fascinating, extremely helpful, and easy to read in little snippets. There are absolutely some parts that may not interest you, but it’s very easy to skim or skip certain parts entirely. I highlighted tons and adopted a number of new routines from the book in my life. Would make a great gift for anyone looking for a little life improvement!

Investigative Journalism

Uncovering the secrets behind major news stories…I find these books make great Dad gifts!

My #1 Pick

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamaraI’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Nonfiction – True Crime (Release Date: February 27, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: McNamara, previously a true crime writer and blogger at TrueCrimeDiary.com, investigated the unsolved crimes of a 1970’s-80’s serial rapist (approximately 45 rapes per the FBI’s Wanted poster) and murderer (approximately 12 murders per the FBI’s Wanted poster) that she dubbed the Golden State Killer (also known as the EAR for East Area Rapist).

My Thoughts: The best true crime books put themselves on another tier by telling the story in a compelling, engrossing way and avoiding getting bogged down in overly dry details. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark does just that. The story is just as much about McNamara and her investigation as it is about the Golden State Killer, who came to dominate her life before she died unexpectedly while writing this book. And, ex-cop Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested soon after the book was published. Warning: do not read at night if you want a good night’s sleep!

Bad BloodBad Blood by John Carreyrou
Nonfiction – Business / Investigative Journalism (Released May 21, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of the Silicon Valley biotech startup, Theranos.

My Thoughts: My favorite types of business books are the explosive, behind-the-scenes tell-all kinds and Bad Blood fits the bill. Though I did get lost in some of the science and engineering details, I was fascinated / horrified at the arrogance of Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’s young CEO who viewed herself as the next Steve Jobs, and the lengths Theranos went to to create a “unicorn” whether or not they actually had a viable product. This one will make a great Dad gift!

Fifth Risk The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
Nonfiction – Government (Released October 2, 2018)
219 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Lewis dives deep into the inner workings of murky government agencies (Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, etc) to explore the obscure risks the government grapple with every day.

My Thoughts: Michael Lewis is a master at making boring, tedious information sound absolutely fascinating and he did it again with The Fifth Risk. He shines a light on these obscure people with extremely important and interesting, but relatively unknown jobs within the federal government. He exposes risks that regular citizens probably never consider, but that the federal government works to mitigate every day (i.e. risks to the electrical grid). And, he investigates the Trump transition (or lack thereof). I should also mention that it’s clear what side of the political aisle Michael Lewis identifies with…and he writes from that perspective.

Mockingbird Next DoorThe Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
General Nonfiction (Released July 15, 2014)
278 Pages

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Summary: Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills was improbably accepted by famously private Harper and Alice Lee when she visited Monroeville, AL for a story and ended up living next door to them.

My Thoughts: This story is as much about Mills’ journey to friendship with the Lees as it as about Lee herself. As I was listening, I almost felt like I was in To Kill A Mockingbird. For a real treat, pair with Episode 172 of From the Front Porch podcast about Annie Jones’ visit to Monroeville and a breakdown of what’s happened with Harper Lee’s estate since she passed away. Perfect for literature buffs!

Bookish Subscriptions

Hard Copy Book Subscriptions

Book of the Month
Affiliate Link: Purchase
The gift that keeps on giving for book lovers! On the first of every month, members get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want. Book of the Month will mail your chosen hardcover book (along with any extras you ordered) to your house for free. 

Shelf Subscription (from The Bookshelf, an independent bookstore in Thomasville, GA)
Annie Jones, the owner of The Bookshelf, is also the co-host of From the Front Porch podcast and one of my very best book recommendation sources. For the Shelf Subscription, you choose The Bookshelf staffer whose taste best matches yours (there’s descriptions and a fun quiz on the website to help you!) and you get a surprise hardcover in the mail every month. You don’t have the choice of Book of the Month, but I’ve preferred The Shelf Subscription’s picks lately! Perfect for readers interested in supporting independent bookstores!

Audiobook Subscriptions

Audible (Amazon’s audiobook service)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
For $14.95 per month, members get one audiobook and two Audible Originals each month. Members get discounts on audiobooks you purchase above the credits that come with your plan. You can also upgrade your subscription to get more than one audiobook a month. Make sure to tell your gift recipient to download the Audible app on their smartphone.

Libro.fm (independent bookstore audiobook service)
Affiliate Link: Purchase
For about $15 per month, you can get a 1, 3, 6, or 12 month subscription that includes one audiobook per month. The big difference between from Audible is, with Libro.fm, you select which independent bookstore you’d like to purchase from. So, you can support your favorite independent bookstore even when you’re buying audiobooks! Just like with Audible, make sure to tell your gift recipient to download the Libro.fm app on their smartphone.

Bookish Gifts

The NEW Kindle Paperwhite (the latest Kindle upgrade)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Paperwhite is my very favorite way to read books and I’ve been using it for years! But, the new version is waterproof (hooray because I love to read on a pool float!) AND has 2x the storage of the previous version. A new Kindle pre-loaded with a couple carefully chosen books makes a fantastic gift!

Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Headphones 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

My husband got me these for Christmas last year (after a few years of begging!) and they’re a must-have for anyone who likes to read in peace and quiet…even in public places. I use mine on airplanes, in the nail salon, in coffee shops, and also around my own house to drown out the kid chaos. You can also actually play music and podcasts on them, but let’s face it…we like the noise canceling feature best!

Comfy Throw Blanket

Every reader loves to curl up on the couch with a good book and a comfy throw blanket is a must for the winter months! I just ordered these two from Amazon (one for myself and one as a gift): Catalonia Cable Knit Sherpa Throw and Cable Knit Throw with Faux Fur Reverse Knitted Cozy Blanket.

The “Rock Your Reading” Tracker

I built this Excel spreadsheet that helps you track your reading and automatically compiles all your reading stats into summary charts for super high volume readers. Get more details here.

Books > People T Shirt

Snarky reading T shirts for the introverted bookworm: Books > People and Book Hangover.

Happy Holidays!

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The Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2018 (including book recommendations)

November 27, 2018 Gift Guides 20

Best holiday gifts for book lovers

 

Welcome to my 2018 Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers guide!

Every year, I compile a list of the books I came across that year that I think make perfect holiday gifts plus some fabulous book subscription services and some bookish goodies that aren’t actual books!

If you can’t find anything on this year’s list that’s the right match for your friend or loved one, check out my previous lists (201720162015201420132012).

The Holiday Gift Guide has a couple new elements this year:

  • Printable Cheatsheet – the Holiday Gift Guide in quick recommendations in PDF format for easy printing (great for taking to the bookstore or library!). Download for free below!
  • #1 Picks for Each Category – I highlighted my very favorite book in each category in the Guide (Go-To Recommendations, Edgy Literary Fiction, Introspective Books, Page Turners, Something Fun, For the Hobbyist, and Investigative Journalism).

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

Go-To Recommendations

These books have broad appeal and are all-around great selections for most readers.

My #1 Pick

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Fiction – Literary (Released August 14, 2018
)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When local star quarterback Chase Matthews is found dead, suspicion falls on Kya Clark (the “Marsh Girl”), who is not at all who the town residents think she is.

My Thoughts: I was worried Where the Crawdads Sing would be a beautiful, but boring book, but I couldn’t be more wrong. The writing is gorgeous, the story is propulsive, and it’s 5-star immersive. There’s a coming of age element, a mystery, and a bit of romance that I did not expect from this book, but that totally worked for me. This is probably my most recommended book of the year and will be on my Best Books of 2018 list (coming in mid- December)! Full Review

A Well-Behaved WomanA Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
Historical Fiction (Release Date: October 16, 2018)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: To save her family from financial ruin, Alva Smith finagles a marriage to the extremely wealthy, but socially shunned William K. Vanderbilt, but it doesn’t turn out to be everything she’d hoped.

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored Fowler’s 2013 novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (my review)…so, A Well-Behaved Woman had big shoes to fill. While Alva is no Zelda, she is interesting. She was a modern woman in some ways and had a sassy side. And, I liked the fact that it made me think about class, the working rich vs. the inherited money rich, and women’s roles in society and the household. Perfect for fans of historical fiction and great mother-in-law gift! Full Review

An American Marriage An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Fiction – Literary (Released February 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Roy goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit only a year and a half into their new marriage, Celestial must figure out how to cope with his absence and shape her life in the face of this massive upheaval.

My Thoughts: An American Marriage is an intimately written novel that tackles a number of weighty current issues in an organic way…and is one of my favorite novels of 2018! It’s about so many things (marriage, race, class, incarceration, love, friendship, family, grief, fidelity, recovery), but not overwhelmingly about any one of them (kind of like The Mothers). Jones handles them in a way that doesn’t make the book feel overwhelmingly like “an issue book.” And, the last quarter of the book is absolutely riveting. Full Review.

Educated Tara WestoverEducated by Tara Westover
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 20, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Westover tells her story of growing up in a survivalist Mormon family who didn’t believe in public education and her journey to break the mold by getting her PhD at Cambridge University.

My Thoughts: Imagine if you had to choose between getting an education (both the traditional kind and an education about life in general) and having a relationship with your family. That’s what happened to Tara Westover. I could feel Tara’s emotional tug-of-war over her own beliefs and the blood ties of her family…it was heart-wrenching. There are many parts that are hard to read…and that I’d have found totally unbelievable had this been fiction. Perfect for fans of The Glass CastleHillbilly Elegy (my review), and/or Under the Banner of Heaven (my review)! Full Review

Loving FrankLoving Frank by Nancy Horan
Historical Fiction (Released August 7, 2007)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A novel based on the true story of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s epic affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, one of his married clients.

My Thoughts: While this story is about an epic love affair, it goes much deeper than that. It’s also about a woman’s journey to find herself in a time (the early 1900’s) when women weren’t supposed to have their own identities or interests. It’s about women’s roles in society and marriage and losing your identity through marriage and motherhood. Neither Mamah nor Wright is an entirely sympathetic character. PS – tell your gift recipient NOT to Google the real story of Frank and Mamah before you read the book…you don’t want to spoil the ending!

Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Historical Fiction (Released October 10, 2017)
369 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: In the prequel to Hoffman’s novel Practical Magic (also a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman), siblings Franny, Jet, and Vincent come of age in 1960’s New York City while trying to obey the rules of magic their parents have instilled in them…until they visit Aunt Isabelle in Boston and begin to embrace who they truly are (i.e. witches).

My Thoughts: I am not a reader who normally likes anything related to magic, paranormal, or fantasy, but The Rules of Magic was an exception. The magic is not hokey at all and makes what is ultimately a story about love and family more fun and unique. It’s also got some mystery, tragedy, a family feud, and a bit of history about the Salem witch trials and New York City. It’s an unconventional kind of historical fiction, which is my favorite kind. Perfect for your quirky aunt!

Edgy Literary Fiction

These books are a bit darker, tackle more fraught issues, or have more aggressive language, etc. than my go-to literary fiction recommendations. Read the publishers’ summaries carefully before choosing one of them for your prim and proper grandmother!

My #1 Pick

Female PersuasionThe Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer
Fiction – Literary (Released April 3, 2018)
464 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Greer is a shy college student still in love with her high school boyfriend when she meets Faith Frank, an icon of the women’s movement, who changes the trajectory of Greer’s life.

My Thoughts: Meg Wolitzer is one of my very favorite authors, so I’m not entirely surprised that The Female Persuasion is one of my few 5 star books of this year! The Female Persuasion is ultimately a story in which the characters are the stars: Greer, her boyfriend (Cory), her best friend (Zee), and Faith Frank. I was completely enmeshed in these people’s lives and the issues (gender, feminism) this book addresses fit organically around the characters’ stories without overwhelming them (like An American Marriage and The Mothers). Don’t be scared of the 464 pages…I flew through this one in just a few days! Full Review

A Ladder to the Sky A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Fiction – Literary (Released: November 13, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Maurice Swift is single-mindedly focused on becoming a world famous author (despite having trouble coming up with story ideas) and will use anything and anyone to get there.

My Thoughts: It’s much darker (I don’t mean sadder…I mean more messed up) than The Heart’s Invisible Furies. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone who loved The Heart’s Invisible Furies, but Boyne’s writing style is absolutely there and I 5 star-loved it. Maurice isn’t likable, but he’s disturbingly fascinating for sure…and he’s much like many of Herman Koch’s characters in that he’ll say incredibly unsettling things that most regular people may not even think, much less say aloud. A great pick for readers who like their stories dark and disturbing (yes, we are out there!)! Full Review

Great BelieversThe Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Fiction – Literary (Released: June 19, 2018)
432 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A group of gay friends and their female friend (Fiona) navigate the AIDS crisis and deal with the death of one of their own in 1980’s Chicago…and decades later, Fiona sets out to Paris to find her estranged daughter and encounters the past in the process.

My Thoughts: The Great Believers is one of those “issue” book that makes the issue an organic part of the characters’ lives. It’s ultimately a gorgeous story about friendship in the face of disaster and is the kind of book you can just sink into. It’s got a little bit of The Heart’s Invisible Furies (sexuality, the AIDS crisis, characters you can root for wholeheartedly) and a little bit of A Little Life (a group of male friends facing terrible circumstances, but without the overwhelming violence), but retains its own uniqueness. This book has heart…and it’s seriously literary, but will still keep you turning the pages because you just have to find out what’s going to happen to these characters. Full Review

The WildlandsThe Wildlands by Abby Geni
Fiction – Literary (Released: September 4, 2018)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After the McCloud children lose everything in a Category 5 tornado in their hometown of Mercy, Oklahoma (thus attracting considerable media attention), their brother (Tucker) runs away leaving the three McCloud sisters to fend for themselves. He returns three years later amid further tragedy and thrusts the family into the spotlight yet again.

My Thoughts: The Wildlands is a fast-paced story about children that have lost literally everything trying to find their way again. This story touches themes far and wide…humans’ place in the ecosystem, environmental terrorism, children surviving on their own, the media spotlight, Patti Hearst-esque Stockholm syndrome, and complicated sibling relationships. It has the love of animals and nature of Where the Crawdads Sing (my review), the focus on media attention following a tragedy of Before the Fall (my review), and the family manipulation of Wiley Cash’s This Dark Road to Mercy (my review). Full Review

Us Against YouUs Against You by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
448 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Amid the wreckage of the previous winter, Beartown residents face their beloved ice hockey team being disbanded and a volatile rivalry with nearby Hed Hockey.

My Thoughts: Us Against You is the sequel to last year’s Beartown (one of my favorites of 2017) and I highly recommend you read Beartown before reading Us Against You. This time around, Beartown has lost its innocence. The story is even darker, more sinister, and more focused on the adults and the politics of sports (a very real thing). Like in Beartown, the story is about far more than hockey…friendship, rivalry, marriage, parenting, power, sexuality, and violence. I was completely engrossed in the emotion of sports, which Backman captures better than anything save Friday Night Lights (and if you’re missing FNL, these are the books for you!). Full Review.

You Think It, I'll Say ItYou Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld
Fiction – Short Stories (Released April 24, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Novelist Curtis Sittenfeld’s (author of PrepAmerican Wife, and Eligible) first short story collection.

My Thoughts: Short stories are not my thing, but this collection is unquestionably 5 stars for me! The stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It are mostly about otherwise normal relationships that have a hidden element of unconventionality or an awkward incident. They’re normal situations that end up taking unexpected turns…they’re relatable, yet surprising. I was completely invested in the characters in every story, which is a rarity for me with short stories. If you’ve been hesitant to try short stories, You Think It, I’ll Say It is a perfect first collection! Full Review

Introspective Books

These books are quiet, calm, and comforting…and might lead you to ponder your life.

My #1 Pick

Tell Me More by Kelly CorriganTell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released January 9, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Corrigan’s memoir is organized around the “12 hardest things she’s learning to say,” including “No,” “I don’t know,” and “I Was Wrong.”

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored (it’s my favorite 2018 nonfiction so far!) this memoir that spoke to me in a “yes, that’s exactly how it is” way. She covers many big life issues (marriage, motherhood, illness, religion, friendship, grief, and loss) in a relatable and irreverently funny way. Corrigan is a welcome addition to my “women who get women” club (current members include Anna Quindlen, Ann Patchett, and Cheryl Strayed) and is perfect for any woman in their 30’s-50’s on your gift list! Full Review

Glitter and GlueGlitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 4, 2014)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Corrigan hadn’t given much thought to what it’s like to mother someone or quite appreciated her own mother until she stepped into the role of surrogate caring for two children who had lost their own.

My Thoughts: Corrigan’s signature brand of heartfelt, relatable, and sometimes irreverent observations about life and motherhood are on display here. If your gift recipient has already read Tell Me More, this is your pick (especially if it’s your Mom!)! BUT, if you think she’d like a book like this and hasn’t read Tell Me More, go there first. Full Review

I Am, I Am, I AmI Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
Nonfiction – Memoir / Essays (Released February 6, 2018)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: O’Farrell shares seventeen seminal moments in her life…all “near death experiences.”

My Thoughts: It took me awhile to pick up this memoir / essay collection because the whole “near-death experiences” premise struck me as a little melodramatic, but I shouldn’t have worried because they were powerful and unsettling in a way that had me riveted. Some experiences are more serious than others, but a couple of them will knock your socks off and all impart some wisdom about life. Unquestionably 5 stars!

Page Turners

These books are pretty much the opposite of the last bunch.

My #1 Pick

Witch ElmThe Witch Elm by Tana French
Fiction – Mystery (Release Date: October 9, 2018)
464 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After lucky golden boy Toby gets beaten in his apartment during a burglary, he goes to Ivy House (his ancestral home) to recover and care for his dying uncle Hugo…but, a skull is found in the trunk of a massive elm tree in the garden.

My Thoughts: I consider Tana French a “mystery” author, but The Witch Elm doesn’t start out with a “mystery” feel. It’s more of a family drama / mystery hybrid, which I knew was absolutely up my alley once I aligned my expectations. It’s a mystery with a level of complexity and character development generally uncharacteristic of the genre. It’s a slow build, but I wanted to find out what happened and to enmesh myself with this flawed family. Full Review

Red NoticeRed Notice by Bill Browder
Nonfiction – Business (Released February 3, 2015)
380 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story Browder’s experience as one of the first foreign investors in Russia after the fall of Communism and widespread privatization.

My Thoughts: You might think the premise of Red Notice sounds boring. Let me assure you…it’s not. It’s a financial thriller (if there is such a thing) that reads like fiction and kept me quickly turning the pages…while giving a fascinating picture of Russian culture in the Post-Communism era. During the course of his investing, Browder made a ton of money, partnered with billionaire Edmond Safra, angered some oligarchs via his anti-corruption battles, showed some serious guts, and ended up in a knockdown, drag-out battle with Putin and the Russian regime. Think a cross between Michael Lewis, Dominick Dunne, and the TV show Billions. Great Dad gift!

Banker's WifeThe Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger
Fiction – Thriller (Released July 3, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When a private plane carrying a Swiss banker and his wealthy client goes off the radar, his wife is left to piece together the shady dealings Swiss United Bank was involved in.

My Thoughts: Despite it’s unfortunately domestic sounding title (really…can publishers try for at least one thriller without “Wife” or “Girl” in the title?!!), The Banker’s Wife is more of a conspiracy / financial thriller. It’s purely plot driven (so much so that I forgot to highlight passages to share in this post!) and will keep you turning the pages. Plus, there are characters who resemble real life people enough to make you wonder! Full Review

The Wife by Alafair BurkeThe Wife by Alafair Burke
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released January 23, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After Angela is plucked out of the Hamptons by her marriage to NYU professor and media personality Jason Powell, two women accuse Jason of misconduct and Angela has to figure out how to protect the most important thing in her life.

My Thoughts: The Wife is part domestic thriller / part legal thriller and is the first domestic thriller I haven’t DNF’d in ages! I read it in a day and a half at the beach and it’s absolutely perfect for that setting. The ending was mostly surprising, yet not outlandish, which is a must for me to like a thriller. I recommend skipping the Prologue, as I thought it gave away too much. Bonus: it deals with a timely topic.

Something Fun

These books are your brain candy. They read easy, but their stories still have great depth.

My #1 Pick

From the Corner of the OvalFrom the Corner of the Ovalby Beck Dorey-Stein
Memoir (Released July 10, 2018)
330 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Dorey-Stein gets a job as a White House stenographer in the Obama administration from an ad on Craig’s List…and embarks on some transformative years of her life.

My Thoughts: This quarter life crisis memoir set in the world of politics might be my favorite audiobook of the year! It’s like listening to your fun friend who happens to have a job in the White House with access to the President give you all the very best anecdotes (plus, a good dose of her love life) over a glass of wine! It’s fun, snarky, and heart-felt and Beck is the rare “DC creature” who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Great pick for college age or early 20’s women! 

Bachelor NationBachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Nonfiction (Released March 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Kaufman, a L.A. Times reporter who covered The Bachelor franchise until ABC shut down her access because they weren’t pleased with what she was writing about the show, exposes the inner workings of The Bachelor franchise.

My Thoughts: In Bachelor NationKaufman investigates The Bachelor‘s cultural place in America, how producers get contestants to give them good TV, how and why contestants think they fall in love over such a short period of time, and what happens to the couples after the show ends. Beware if you want to preserve the fairytale because you’ll for sure be watching the show differently after reading it. PS – Bachelor Nation would make a great pairing with The Book of Essie! Full Review

Calypso David SedarisCalypso by David Sedaris
Nonfiction – Memoir/Essays (Released May 29, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Sedaris’ latest essay collection focusing on middle age.

My Thoughts: David Sedaris is generally known for his dark humor and his ability to make readers sob and laugh hysterically on the same page. Personally, I didn’t cry or laugh hysterically while reading Calypso, but I did chuckle and get sad and appreciate the crap out of his dark humor. I love how Sedaris says things that most people probably think, but are too scared to say out loud. And, though I read this one in print, Sedaris is fabulous on audio! Great pick for anyone entering middle age. Full Review

Charlotte Walsh Likes to WinCharlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: July 24, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Charlotte Walsh leaves her high powered job as COO of a Silicon Valley tech darling to run for Senate in her home state of Pennsylvania, she’s forced to confront the impact on her marriage, her sanity, and her past.

My Thoughts: I’ve been loving books about substantial topics that read easy this summer and I can now add Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win to that list! Though it reads easy enough for the beach, it’s full of astute commentary on women in politics, women in business, managing your image in public life, marriage, motherhood, and gender roles. But, it also has snappy dialogue, a badass sister-in-law (Kara), and a Friday Night Lights name-check (the easiest way to my heart). An excellent choice for fans of The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close! Full Review

I'll Be There For YouI’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller
Nonfiction – Television (Released October 23, 2018)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Yep, you guessed it…a behind-the-scenes history of Friends.

My Thoughts: This book is one big ball of 90’s nostalgia and, upon finishing it, I immediately started binge-watching Friends on Netflix. Not only do you get all the cute anecdotes you’d expect from this book, but there’s some interesting discussion about some ways the show is problematic when viewed through today’s cultural lens. An easy read and a no-brainer stocking stuffer for fans of Friends!

Book of EssieThe Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released June 12, 2018)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When the youngest daughter (Essie) of a evangelical reality TV family becomes pregnant and realizes her mother is working with their show’s producers to come up with the best way to spin it for the show, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

My Thoughts: The Book of Essie is the type of brain candy I love…a story about weighty topics that reads quickly and easily. The first line will grab you immediately and I was dying to find out how all this was going to turn out. Bonus: you get an interesting behind-the-scenes look at reality TV and image management in the media spotlight. Great pick for fans of reality TV! Full Review

For the Hobbyist

Books for people that are into specific things…in this case, football, space, White House history, espionage, golf and life improvement.

My #1 Pick

Big Game Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich
Nonfiction – Sports (Released September 4, 2018)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Political writer Leibovich switches gears to go deep inside the NFL…with extensive access to Tom Brady and the Patriots.

My Thoughts: Mark Leibovich is the Chief National Correspondent for The New York Times Magazine focusing on politics and is known for his dry, sarcastic writing style and his propensity to make fun of self-important big-shots. The targets are self-important NFL owners (and there are some eccentric personalities in this bunch) and Commissioner Roger Goodell. It’s full of funny anecdotes about all the looney-tune personalities and hoopla surrounding the game…and doesn’t dig into the actual X’s and O’s of football too much, which I found infinitely more interesting. 

Endurance by Scott KellyEndurance by Scott Kelly
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released October 17, 2017)
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of Kelly’s year he spent on the International Space Station and his bumpy journey to becoming an astronaut.

My Thoughts: During his somewhat trouble-making youth, Scott Kelly read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff and immediately decided he wanted to be a test pilot…eventually leading to his career as an astronaut. Life on the International Space Station is fascinating to hear about, particularly how long periods in space affect the human body, and Kelly’s path to becoming an astronaut is motivational, particularly for people that are floundering in their youth. A great pick for fans of The Martian. Full Review

The ResidenceThe Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
Nonfiction – Presidential History (Released August 7, 2015)
281 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A portrait of life in the White House for the first families told from the perspective of the residence service staff.

My Thoughts: I love a good behind-the-scenes of anything Presidential book, especially the ones that don’t really get into politics…and I’ve read a lot of them. The household service staff brings a unique viewpoint, since they see the first families at their most unguarded. Perfect if you’re interested in the inner workings of the White House (especially if you liked Ronald Kessler’s books, In the President’s Secret Service and The First Family Detail)!

American RadicalAmerican Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury
Nonfiction – War (Released October 23, 2017)
364 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Written under a pseudonym for the author’s safety, this is his story of working undercover for an elite counterterrorism unit following 9/11.

My Thoughts: Elnoury made a career change from going undercover in the drug world to undercover in the terrorism world. And, his story is absolutely chilling. It illuminates terrorism plots that were thankfully thwarted and characters who are the worst of the worst. But, the most interesting part about it for me was the exploration of Elnoury’s version of Islam and how he feels about those that practice the radicalized version of his religion. And, I wondered if the terrorists in this book read it and recognized themselves in it…and what that means for Elnoury’s safety. Great pick fans of cloak and dagger.

Tiger WoodsTiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
Nonfiction – Sports (Released March 27, 2018)
512 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The new biography of the ex-World #1 golfer, including his fall from grace.

My Thoughts: You’ve probably heard much of the scoop in this book before (especially if you’re a golf fan), but mostly in little snippets over the course of his whole career. Benedict and Keteyian put all this together to paint a complete picture of Tiger as a person and an athlete. I found myself psycho-analyzing him right along with the authors. It’s a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of an elite athlete in the limelight who has been trained as a machine…and sorely under-trained as a whole person. PS – Bill Simmons, one of my favorite sports writers/podcasters, loved this book and read it in a few sittings. Another great Dad gift!

Tools of TitansTools of Titans by Tim Ferris
Nonfiction – Business/Productivity (Released December 6, 2016)
707 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Ferris took the highlights from his interviews with the top people in various fields (he’s all over the map with this…business, sports, entertainment, thinkers, etc) and organized them into Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise sections.

My Thoughts: This one is a chunkster, but it’s fascinating, extremely helpful, and easy to read in little snippets. There are absolutely some parts that may not interest you, but it’s very easy to skim or skip certain parts entirely. I highlighted tons and adopted a number of new routines from the book in my life. Would make a great gift for anyone looking for a little life improvement!

Investigative Journalism

Uncovering the secrets behind major news stories…I find these books make great Dad gifts!

My #1 Pick

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamaraI’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Nonfiction – True Crime (Release Date: February 27, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: McNamara, previously a true crime writer and blogger at TrueCrimeDiary.com, investigated the unsolved crimes of a 1970’s-80’s serial rapist (approximately 45 rapes per the FBI’s Wanted poster) and murderer (approximately 12 murders per the FBI’s Wanted poster) that she dubbed the Golden State Killer (also known as the EAR for East Area Rapist).

My Thoughts: The best true crime books put themselves on another tier by telling the story in a compelling, engrossing way and avoiding getting bogged down in overly dry details. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark does just that. The story is just as much about McNamara and her investigation as it is about the Golden State Killer, who came to dominate her life before she died unexpectedly while writing this book. And, ex-cop Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested soon after the book was published. Warning: do not read at night if you want a good night’s sleep!

Bad BloodBad Blood by John Carreyrou
Nonfiction – Business / Investigative Journalism (Released May 21, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of the Silicon Valley biotech startup, Theranos.

My Thoughts: My favorite types of business books are the explosive, behind-the-scenes tell-all kinds and Bad Blood fits the bill. Though I did get lost in some of the science and engineering details, I was fascinated / horrified at the arrogance of Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’s young CEO who viewed herself as the next Steve Jobs, and the lengths Theranos went to to create a “unicorn” whether or not they actually had a viable product. This one will make a great Dad gift!

Fifth Risk The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
Nonfiction – Government (Released October 2, 2018)
219 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Lewis dives deep into the inner workings of murky government agencies (Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, etc) to explore the obscure risks the government grapple with every day.

My Thoughts: Michael Lewis is a master at making boring, tedious information sound absolutely fascinating and he did it again with The Fifth Risk. He shines a light on these obscure people with extremely important and interesting, but relatively unknown jobs within the federal government. He exposes risks that regular citizens probably never consider, but that the federal government works to mitigate every day (i.e. risks to the electrical grid). And, he investigates the Trump transition (or lack thereof). I should also mention that it’s clear what side of the political aisle Michael Lewis identifies with…and he writes from that perspective.

Mockingbird Next DoorThe Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
General Nonfiction (Released July 15, 2014)
278 Pages

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Summary: Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills was improbably accepted by famously private Harper and Alice Lee when she visited Monroeville, AL for a story and ended up living next door to them.

My Thoughts: This story is as much about Mills’ journey to friendship with the Lees as it as about Lee herself. As I was listening, I almost felt like I was in To Kill A Mockingbird. For a real treat, pair with Episode 172 of From the Front Porch podcast about Annie Jones’ visit to Monroeville and a breakdown of what’s happened with Harper Lee’s estate since she passed away. Perfect for literature buffs!

Bookish Subscriptions

Hard Copy Book Subscriptions

Book of the Month
Affiliate Link: Purchase
The gift that keeps on giving for book lovers! On the first of every month, members get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want. Book of the Month will mail your chosen hardcover book (along with any extras you ordered) to your house for free. 

Shelf Subscription (from The Bookshelf, an independent bookstore in Thomasville, GA)
Annie Jones, the owner of The Bookshelf, is also the co-host of From the Front Porch podcast and one of my very best book recommendation sources. For the Shelf Subscription, you choose The Bookshelf staffer whose taste best matches yours (there’s descriptions and a fun quiz on the website to help you!) and you get a surprise hardcover in the mail every month. You don’t have the choice of Book of the Month, but I’ve preferred The Shelf Subscription’s picks lately! Perfect for readers interested in supporting independent bookstores!

Audiobook Subscriptions

Audible (Amazon’s audiobook service)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
For $14.95 per month, members get one audiobook and two Audible Originals each month. Members get discounts on audiobooks you purchase above the credits that come with your plan. You can also upgrade your subscription to get more than one audiobook a month. Make sure to tell your gift recipient to download the Audible app on their smartphone.

Libro.fm (independent bookstore audiobook service)
Affiliate Link: Purchase
For about $15 per month, you can get a 1, 3, 6, or 12 month subscription that includes one audiobook per month. The big difference between from Audible is, with Libro.fm, you select which independent bookstore you’d like to purchase from. So, you can support your favorite independent bookstore even when you’re buying audiobooks! Just like with Audible, make sure to tell your gift recipient to download the Libro.fm app on their smartphone.

Bookish Gifts

The NEW Kindle Paperwhite (the latest Kindle upgrade)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Paperwhite is my very favorite way to read books and I’ve been using it for years! But, the new version is waterproof (hooray because I love to read on a pool float!) AND has 2x the storage of the previous version. A new Kindle pre-loaded with a couple carefully chosen books makes a fantastic gift!

Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Headphones 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

My husband got me these for Christmas last year (after a few years of begging!) and they’re a must-have for anyone who likes to read in peace and quiet…even in public places. I use mine on airplanes, in the nail salon, in coffee shops, and also around my own house to drown out the kid chaos. You can also actually play music and podcasts on them, but let’s face it…we like the noise canceling feature best!

Comfy Throw Blanket

Every reader loves to curl up on the couch with a good book and a comfy throw blanket is a must for the winter months! I just ordered these two from Amazon (one for myself and one as a gift): Catalonia Cable Knit Sherpa Throw and Cable Knit Throw with Faux Fur Reverse Knitted Cozy Blanket.

The “Rock Your Reading” Tracker

I built this Excel spreadsheet that helps you track your reading and automatically compiles all your reading stats into summary charts for super high volume readers. Get more details here.

Books > People T Shirt

Snarky reading T shirts for the introverted bookworm: Books > People and Book Hangover.

Happy Holidays!

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