Posts By: Sarah Dickinson

12 New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2018

December 17, 2018 Annual "Best Books" Lists 5

new-to-me authors

 

I love discovering a new-to-me author who has an extensive backlist to dig into! Though I’m late to the party on these authors, I’ve already fit in a second book by 4 of them (Maggie O’Farrell, Camille Pagan, Jo Piazza, and Tayari Jones)!

There are more lighter books and thrillers on this list than I normally read, so I’m thrilled to find some new authors that work for me in those genres.

This list does NOT include debut authors…since I already honored them in my Best Debuts of 2018 list.

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!).

12 New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2018

Elliot Ackerman (Waiting for EdenMy Review)
Waiting for Eden was my #1 book of 2018. I loved his spare, but powerful writing style and his 2017 novel, Dark at the Crossing, is calling my name.

Alafair Burke (The Wife, My Review)
Y’all know I’ve been frustrated by thrillers with outlandish plot twists and I was thrilled to find that The Wife was a compelling, straight-up thriller with no gimmicks. And, she has a new book (The Better Sister) coming out in April 2019!

Katherine Center (How to Walk AwayMy Review)
I didn’t think I was going to like How to Walk Away because it’s completely out of my wheelhouse, but it was a nice surprise! And, just like Alafair Burke, Center has a new book (Things You Save in a Fire) coming out in August 2019!

Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and LifeMy Review)
Can y’all believe I’m just now getting to Anne Lamott?! I thought she’d be serious since she writes with a bit of a religious lens, but she’s super relatable and funny! I’ve got the audio of her memoir about her son’s first year of life (Operating Instructions) on pre-order from Libro.fm.

Laura Lippman (SunburnMy Review)
I’m always excited to find a new thriller author I like since I’m so picky about them, but I loved the noir, “who can you trust?” vibe of Sunburn. And, she’s got an extensive backlist for me to dig into.

Rebecca Makkai (The Great BelieversMy Review
I know Makkai is kind of a critical darling, especially for her short stories, but I’d never read her before. You can bet I’ll read her again, though…since The Great Believers was one of my Best Books of 2018!

Maggie O’Farrell (I Am, I Am, I Am)
Like with Tayari Jones, I made sure to fit in a second Maggie O’Farrell book (This Must Be the Place) just recently…and loved it! And, I still have Instructions for a Heatwave on my TBR list.

Camille Pagan (Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties)
2018 was a good year for finding excellent “smart Brain Candy” authors and Camille Pagan is one of those. Thanks to Ashley Spivey for putting her on my radar and I fit in one of her backlist novels (Forever is the Worst Long Time) this year as well.

Jo Piazza (Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, My Review)
Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books has been telling me to read Piazza’s Fitness Junkie ever since it came out. I haven’t gotten to that one yet, but did love Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win and am currently listening to her memoir about her first year of marriage, How to Be Married.

Tayari Jones (An American MarriageMy Review)
Just like Oprah, I loved Jones’ runaway hit An American Marriage. I fit in one of her backlist titles, Silver Sparrow, just recently and I think I loved it just as much as An American Marriage!

Iain Reid (FoeMy Review)
I missed Reid’s debut novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, but Foe had a compelling sense of creepiness and “what is going on?”-ness. I also just noticed Reid has written two memoirs.

Jean Thompson (A Cloud in the Shape of a GirlMy Review)
Thompson was nominated for the National Book Award for The Year We Left Home, but I was late to the party. Her latest novel snuck up on me, despite it’s bleakness, which isn’t for everyone.

What new-to-you authors did you read this year?

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Best Books of 2018

December 13, 2018 Annual "Best Books" Lists 8

Best Books of 2018

 

Last year, I had no trouble picking an obvious #1 book of the year (The Heart’s Invisible Furies)…because:

This year, I had more trouble picking my #1 book. And, not because it was significantly less good than The Heart’s Invisible Furies, but more because my overall 2018 reading was SO much better than last year (I attribute this to tracking my best and worst recommendation sources using my Rock Your Reading Tracker)! There was just more competition for the top spot. I actually considered over half of my top 10 as candidates for my #1 book of the year.

The reason I picked Waiting for Eden is that it’s the book that affected me the most. I even re-read/re-skimmed it for an upcoming guest podcast discussion (more on that later) and it affected me just as much the second  time around. It’s not a book for everyone (you have to be okay with getting metaphorically punched in the stomach multiple times), but if you you’re comfortable with the gut-punching, then definitely give it a try.

This year, I’m not only sharing my own favorite books, but I’m also sharing the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group members’ favorites! You can join the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group (where I share my unfiltered thoughts, sneak peeks of blog posts and members’ trade book recommendations amongst each other) by supporting the blog at the $3/month level on Patreon (more details here).

Finally, I’ve brought back the high school yearbook-style “Superlatives” from previous years (2017201620152014)!

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!).

Best Books of 2018

My #1 Book of 2018

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman (my review)
Most Emotionally Gut-Wrenching

Best First Chapter
Biggest Punch in a Tiny Package
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Rest of My Favorites

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (review)
Most Memorable Villain
Best Non-Sequel Follow-Up Book (to The Heart’s Invisible Furies, my favorite book of last year)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (review)
Most Readable “Issue” Book

Best New-To-Me Author
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
Premise I Didn’t Expect to Work, But Totally Did
Best Bookend Essays (Opening and Closing)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan (review)
Best New Addition to my “Women Who Get Women” Club

Book I Most Related To
Most Recommended (tie)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Ensembleby Aja Gabel
Most Gorgeously Written Debut

Best Ensemble Cast
The Book I Almost Didn’t Read
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (review)
Best Character-Driven Novel

Most Deserving of its Hype
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (my review)
Best Book If You Want to Read A Little Life, But Are Avoiding It Because of the Relentless Abuse

Best “Issue” Book
Book With the Most Heart
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (review)
Best Debut

Best Southern Novel
Best Coming of Age Story
Most Recommended (tie)

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You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld (review)
Best Short Story Collection

Most Perfect Collection for New Short Story Readers
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The Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group’s Best Books of 2018

Not surprisingly, many of my Facebook Group’s favorites of they year lined up with mine! And, a number of the books that almost made my list did make m Facebook Group’s list! We’re all sharing recommendations in the Facebook Group, so you’d expect to see a lot of overlap.

Get access to the Sarah’s Book Shelves Facebook Group by supporting the blog for $3/month on Patreon (more details here)!

Top Books (2 votes each)

  • Educated by Tara Westover (my review)
    I loved this one too…it just didn’t make my top 10!
  • Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
    I sampled this one, but ended up not reading it.
  • The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya (my review)
    I really liked this one, though it’s a hard read. Just didn’t make my top 10.

Others Mentioned

More Best Books of 2018

Eight 2017 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t
Best Debuts of 2018
Most Underrated Gems of 2018

What were your favorite books of 2018?

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Most Underrated Gems of 2018

December 11, 2018 Annual "Best Books" Lists 16

Underrated Gems of 2018

 

My Best Books of 2018 list is coming on Thursday, but in the meantime, I wanted to give some love to books I really enjoyed, but that didn’t get much attention from regular readers and bloggers.

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

Most Underrated Gems of 2018

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson (my review)
I loved how Thompson wrote about women’s roles in marriage and in the home in this book…and particularly how she talked about the differences in viewpoints between generations. Though she’s been nominated for a National Book Award in the past, this novel didn’t get much attention. But, a few other bloggers I trust did really like it (but not many even read it!). 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

All the Castles Burned by Michael Nye (my review)
I actually can’t think of a single other blogger I follow who read this book. But, it’s a campus novel about a toxic male friendship with some basketball thrown in. Easy reading, but dark. Right up my alley…I included it in my 2018 Summer Reading Guide.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza (my review)
This brain candy novel was one of my favorite summer books! It’s easy reading, but smart and contains astute observations on women in politics. I feel like Piazza got a lot more attention for her previous book, Fitness Junkie, but this one is not to be missed!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Foe by Iain Reid (my review)
Reid’s sophomore novel is sort of Sci-Fi, but not quite (maybe Sci-Fi Lite?)…but, it’s also a rumination on marriage, which I love. It was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in the Horror category (huh?!), but it finished in the bottom third of the voting, which tells me not many people read it. But, more should because it had me on the edge of my seat in a creepy, quiet way.

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Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead (my review)
I think I did see this one on one Best Books of 2018 list, but it was fairly divisive among readers I know. Some didn’t like the vignette format, some didn’t like the ending, and some didn’t like Laura’s voice (or that we didn’t hear much from Emma). But, it totally worked for me!

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The Distance Home by Paula Saunders (my review)
You’d think this book would’ve gotten more attention since Paula Saunders is George Saunders’ wife at least. But, no. The writing was gorgeous, but I only know of two other bloggers who even read it.

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The Wildlands by Abby Geni (my review)
I saw this genre mash-up around #bookstagram a little bit when it was published, but not nearly as much as I would have expected! It’s a totally unique book and doesn’t really fit into one genre…but that’s what I love about it!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard (my review)
This novel had the feel of a scaled down A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe. I included it on my 2018 Summer Reading Guide and Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy did too…other than that, I really didn’t see it around anywhere.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman (my review)
I’m pretty sure I know why this book isn’t getting widespread attention. It’s hard, emotionally gut-punching…and those types of books aren’t for everyone. But, it affected me more than any other book I read this year. It’s outstanding in a very small number of pages. I’m actually re-reading parts of it right now for a book club discussion and it’s hitting me just as hard the second time around.

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Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan (my thoughts)
Pagan is like a lighter, more sarcastic version of Anna Quindlen. And this book is an easy and fun, but not silly read with small threads of darkness running underneath. I thought more people would’ve appreciated her pointed talk about marriage, divorce, and aging for women.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What are your favorite underrated gems of 2018?

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What I’m Reading Now (12/10/18)

December 10, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 19

Kicking off an awesome week! And, do you know why it’s an awesome week?! Because I’ve finished my least favorite holiday chores: most of the Christmas shopping, ordering Christmas cards, and making the annual family photo album that my husband likes to open on Christmas morning. Anne Bogel shared an article called “Want  to Enjoy More of Your Holiday Season? Remove These 10 Things” in her “Links I Love” post on Friday…and, it really resonated with me. I used to love the holidays…and now I find myself stressed out every year. 

Let me rant for one quick second…sending holiday cards is a relic from the days before social media. When you had no idea what your long distance friends and family’s kids looked like from year to year. Now that we have social media, we see these pictures all the time. Why do we need to spend a ton of time and money taking/finding (because I never actually set up a holiday card photo shoot…I just use snapshots I’ve taken throughout the year) the perfect picture(s), updating all your addresses, and sending out a bunch of cards to everyone you’ve ever known in your life when you can see all that and more on Instagram?! I just feel like it’s gotten  out of hand…but, you can’t not send them because then you’ll seem rude. Sigh…

I’m continuing with my Best Books of 2018 lists this week…look out for Most Underrated Gems of 2018 on Tuesday and Best Books of 2018 on Thursday!

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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!).

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It’s only December 6, but I’m starting my Best Books of 2018 lists! I’m not reading anymore 2018 releases, so I thought why not get the ball rolling? _ I love debuts and have always made an effort to read a lot of them…and I generally have great luck with them! This year’s list has lots of nonfiction on it (way more than normal for me)…and I’m thrilled to be able to honor Where the Crawdads Sing since it was tragically left off of the Goodreads Choice Awards Debut nominee list! LINK IN PROFILE WITH FULL LIST _ What are your favorite debuts of 2018? * * * * * #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #igreads #booksofinstagram #badassbookbabes @meghanmacleanweir @aakopf @authordeliaowens @putnambooks @beckdoreystein

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I finished reading…

This Must Be the Place

 

This Must Be the Placeby Maggie O’Farrell (May 17, 2016)
I had a few quibbles with some minor plot points, but I loved it! It feels like an epic, but reads easily. And, I’m discovering that I love Maggie O’Farrell’s writing in general. It’s going on my new character-driven novels I couldn’t put down list!
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I’m currently reading…

Silver Sparrow

 

Silver Sparrowby Tayari Jones (January 1, 2011)
I grabbed this one from the library on a whim. Y’all know I loved An American Marriage (my review) and I always like to try the backlist of new-to-me authors I fall in love with. It has a very similar feel to An American Marriage and also takes place in Atlanta…but this is the story of a man with two families and daughters the same age. One is aware of the other, but not vice versa. I’m about 80% through and sh*t’s about to hit the fan! I’m pretty surprised to say this, but I think Silver Sparrow is equally as good as An American Marriage!
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Upcoming reading plans…

Continuing my annual end of year backlist reading…

Olive Kitteridge

 

Olive Kitteridgeby Elizabeth Strout (March 25, 2008)
DNF at 28%
OK, I’m zero for two on Pulitzer Prize winning novels (the other one is All the Light We Cannot See…sorry y’all, I couldn’t even get through the sample!). I felt like I spent the first third of every chapter orienting myself to the characters, placing them in the broader context of their relationships to Olive, and figuring out their roles in the town…by the time I got invested in their stories, they were over and she’d moved on to the next one.

Upcoming reading plans…

Continuing my annual end of year backlist reading…

Kind Worth Killing

 

The Kind Worth Killingby Peter Swanson (March 25, 2008)
Ashley Spivey (of #SpiveysClub Facebook Group) has been raving about this psychological thriller for ages and I’m thinking it’s just what I need after a string of literary fiction novels.

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading a novel I didn’t think I’d like, but ended up loving!

Two Years Ago: I read my first Anna Quindlen novel, kicking off a new auto-buy author.

How was your reading week?

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Best Debuts of 2018

December 6, 2018 Annual "Best Books" Lists 15

Best Debuts of 2018

 

I’ve always felt strongly about reading debut novels…I love to support these authors and I’ve traditionally had great luck with the debut novels I’ve read.

Last year, two out of eight of my Best Debuts of 2017 also made my overall Best Books of 2017 list. 

I haven’t completely finalized my Best Books of 2018 list, but one of these debuts will for sure make it and a couple others are on the bubble. 

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

I made a grave mistake with this post…

Where the Crawdads Sing

 

Y’all, I can’t believe I did what I’m about to tell you I did. I have no idea how this happened or what came over me, but I omitted one of my MOST favorite debuts of the year from this list…Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (my glowing review). Not only did I forget to include it here, but I DID include it in my Instagram picture for this post that’s going up later this afternoon. And not only that…but, in my caption for that post, I called out Goodreads for “tragically” leaving Where the Crawdads Sing off their Best Debuts nominee list for the Goodreads Choice Awards. Pot, meet kettle.

I kind of feel like I should send Delia Owens flowers or something. Delia, if by some off chance you’re reading this, I’m SO SO sorry. I loved your book and you’ll see it on another, even better, list soon.

And, if you haven’t read this one yet, it’s my #1 Go-To Recommendation on my 2018 Holiday Gift Guide!

On to the rest of the list…

Best Debuts of 2018

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou (my review)
Though I got 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” despite the absence of a viable product.
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Educated by Tara Westover (my review)
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. This one is topping a bunch of Best Books of 2018 lists!

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From the Corner of the Ovalby Beck Dorey-Stein (my review)
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!

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (my review)
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. It’s up there with The Stranger Beside Me (but not quite approaching In Cold Blood) in the true crime genre for me. Doesn’t hurt that a suspect in the attacks was arrested soon after the book was published.

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Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead (my review)
The key to loving Laura & Emma is loving Laura’s voice and the writing style (which I obviously did). Laura is offbeat, but likable and funny in an awkward way (she reminded me of a less damaged version of Eleanor Oliphant).

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Tangerine by Christine Mangan (my review)
The story of a fraught, obsessive friendship and all the wreckage it leaves behind. It’s kind of a page turner, but not in the traditional sense. It’s taut with emotional and psychological tension…my kind of “thriller.”

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The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (my review)
The Book of Essie is the type of brain candy I love…a story about weighty topics that reads quickly and easily. Bonus: you get an interesting behind-the-scenes look at reality TV and image management in the media spotlight.

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The Ensembleby Aja Gabel
I almost skipped this book and I’m so relieved I didn’t! It’s about a musical quartet (which I’m not interested in at all…hence the “almost” skip) and is one of those character-driven novels that I couldn’t put down. It’s all about the simmering dynamics of this group and it explores the implications of having an essentially business relationship that supersedes all other relationships in these characters’ lives. And, the writing is drop dead gorgeous…especially for a debut.

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What are your favorite debuts of 2018?

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Eight 2018 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t

December 4, 2018 Book Lists 40

It’s hard to define what makes a book “hyped.” Does this mean a book was nominated for or won awards? Was being breathlessly chattered about in the book blogging world? Was getting big marketing dollars or a huge advance from its publisher? Was on many “most anticipated books of X” lists? Had glowing early reviews? Based on an author’s previous work? Everyone in your real life was reading and loving it? My 2018 Books that Deserved the Hype list is a mixed bag of all these ways to garner hype.

I’m so happy about the spread of this year’s post…I actually had trouble coming up with a decent list of books that didn’t deserve the hype! This is a welcome turnaround from last year, when I had six books that deserved the hype and eight that didn’t. Could it be that tracking my recommendation sources (using my Rock Your Reading Tracker) and trying to pick books that have been read by at least one of them did the trick?!

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!).

Eight 2018 Books That Deserved the Hype

2018 Books That Deserved the Hype

 

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (my review)
Follow-up to one of the most beloved books of last year (The Heart’s Invisible Furies), Book of the Month pick, good book blogger buzz

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
Oprah Book Club pick, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018Library Reads, O MagazineTime Magazine, Bustle, and Southern Living Best Book of 2018Book of the Month pick, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou (my review)
Amazon Best Book of 2018, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

I’ll Be Gone in the Darkby Michelle McNamara (my review)
Tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz…and, obviously the publicity from arresting a suspect months after the book was published!

The Book of Essie by Meghan McLean Weir (my review)
Book of the Month selection, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Beloved author, massive publisher marketing dollars, Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2018New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018, tons of book blogger buzz

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (my review)
Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2018New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018, New York Times 10 Best Books of 2018, tons of book blogger buzz

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (my review)
Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, Southern Living Best Book of 2018, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

You’ll be hearing more about most of these books later, so no commentary just yet!

…and Five That Didn’t

2018 Books That Deserved the Hype

 

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Accolades: Massive pre-publication hype (first release from actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s Hogarth imprint), Washington Post Best Book of 2018, tons of book blogger buzz
My Take: I DNF’d at 29% because nothing was happening…and it was far too long a book for nothing to happen and the writing to be mediocre.

Circe by Madeline Miller (my review)
Accolades: Good book blogger buzz; Book of the Month selection; Library Reads, Bustle, and Time Magazine Best Book of 2018

My Take: A total slog…too many characters, too many tangential stories, and I felt like I was reading a high school mythology guide.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (my review)
Accolades: Publisher hype, Bustle Best Book of 2018, good book blogger hype
My Take: I felt really distant from the story and kept zoning out while reading it.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Accolades: Beloved author (The Nightingale), Book of the Month selection, massive pre-publication hype, Amazon and Library Reads Best Book of 2018, tons of book blogger and regular reader hype
My Take: I DNF’d at 37% because I was bored and I couldn’t take anymore of the main character’s spinelessness.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Accolades: Massive pre-publication hype, NYT bestseller, Book of the Month selection, massive book blogger and regular reader buzz
My Take: I DND’d at 32% because it seemed like just another run-of-the-mill thriller.

What books do you think deserved their hype this year? Which ones do you think didn’t?

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What I’m Reading Now (12/3/18)

December 3, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 11

Well, the holidays are in full swing! My husband has a Clark Griswold side to him and began decorating our house the day after Thanksgiving. I’m sure our neighbors love the projectile lights we have flashing on our house! But, the best part for me is he genuinely enjoys doing it and takes all that work off my hands. Win-win.

End of the year posts are going to start popping up on the blog this week! Stay tuned for my 2018 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Those That Didn’t list tomorrow and Best Debuts of 2018 list on Thursday. AND…I’ve been working on something big for the past few months (big for this blog, anyway!) and I’m going to be able to tell you about it soon…hopefully in the next few weeks! If you subscribe to my email list, you already know what I’m talking about!

New on the blog

  • Annual Holiday Gift Guide – I’ve got book recommendations in 7 categories, my favorite bookish subscription services, and bookish gifts that aren’t books!
  • 2019 Rock Your Reading Tracker – I used my “Rock Your Reading Tracker” this year to track all my reading stats in real time and figure out who my best recommendation sources are…and, my reading QUALITY improved 42% from last year! The new and improved 2019 tracker is now available for $14.99…get more details here!

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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!).

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Have you recovered from the Black Friday / Double Whammy yet?! I hope you’ve still got a bit of shopping left in you because my annual Holiday Gift Guide is here! LINK IN PROFILE ⠀ _⠀ ⠀ I’ve got books in 7 categories:⠀ * Go-To Recommendations⠀ * Edgy Literary Fiction⠀ * Introspective Books (i.e. life wisdom type memoirs)⠀ * Page Turners⠀ * Something Fun (your brain candy)⠀ * For the Hobbyist⠀ * Investigative Journalism⠀ _⠀ ⠀ What books are you hoping to see under the tree this year?⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ *⠀ #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #igreads #booksofinstagram #badassbookbabes #giftsforbooklovers #bookishgifts #giftidea

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I finished reading…

The Ensemble

 

The Ensembleby Aja Gabel (May 15, 2018)
5 star character-driven novel I got completely engrossed in! I really didn’t think I’d like this one and have had the ARC sitting around since May! I cannot believe I almost missed it. Mini review coming.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

This Must Be the Place

 

This Must Be the Placeby Maggie O’Farrell (May 17, 2016)
I’m almost done with this family / marital drama and I’m loving it! It feels like an epic, but reads easily. And, I’m discovering that I love Maggie O’Farrell’s writing in general. I have a few quibbles with minor plot points, but I’m so glad I went back to her fiction!
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Continuing my annual end of year backlist reading…

Olive Kitteridge

 

Olive Kitteridgeby Elizabeth Strout (March 25, 2008)
Can y’all believe I haven’t read this Pulitzer Prize winner…especially since I loved Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton (my review) and Anything is Possible (my quick thoughts)?! Well, now I have something motivating me to fit it in…Strout has a new book coming out in September 2019 called Olive, Again, so I have to be prepared!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read a novel that’s a must read if you like demented characters.

Two Years Ago: I took the week off.

How was your reading week?

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Book of the Month December 2018 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

November 30, 2018 Book Recommendations 14

Book of the Month December 2018 Selections

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links, but I’m also a paying customer.

 

Welcome to my monthly feature “Book of the Month Selections: What Book Should You Choose?”! Every month, I provide commentary on the books that are chosen as that month’s Book of the Month selections that will hopefully help you choose your pick, and tell you which book(s) I’m going to choose. AND, I provide you with the most up to date version of my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges with free, downloadable template (below).

After almost a year into Book of the Month‘s new judging structure, I’m detecting some trends. They’ve been choosing books from previous Book of the Month authors (John Boyne, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanan, Jasmine Guillory, Sarah Pinborough, Riley Sager, etc.). They seem to pick at least one psychological thriller every month…and generally a light read as well. We’ve seen less literary fiction and far less nonfiction this year, which I really miss. 

Choose the best Book of the Month selection for you every time!

Check out my fun new tool to help you pick the best Book of the Month selection for your taste: my Ultimate Guide to the Book of the Month Judges and free, downloadable template to help you find your go-to BOTM judge!

Book of the Month December 2018 Selections

An Anonymous GirlAn Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Release Date: January 8, 2019

384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29 on 1,798 ratings
Selected By: Riley Sager (Author of Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied)

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. 

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

My Thoughts:
From the ladies of The Wife Between Us fame comes their sophomore novel, the premise of which sounds a little like Wendy Walker’s All is Not Forgotten (my spoiler discussion). Kaytee Cobb of the Currently Reading Podcast said it’s “Super readable, much less predictable than their first novel and far more twisty, this sophomore thriller by Hendricks and Pekkanen is weird and crazy.” Goodreads reviewers said it was unputdownable, is told from dual points of view (Jessica and the psychiatrist), is full of dislikable characters, the twists are more subtle (a few select reviewers did say it was slow), and is better than The Wife Between Us. They also recommend going in blind, which I plan to do. I DNF’d The Wife Between Us, but this one sounds more up my alley, so I’m planning to give it a try.

One Day in DecemberOne Day in December by Josie Silver
Released: October 16, 2018

416 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.1 on 6,950 ratings
Selected By: Erica de Leon (BOTM Readers Committee)

A love story about what happens after you meet, or rather, don’t meet the one.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

My Thoughts:
This is a light, rom-com style story…and those usually aren’t up my alley. But, I’m planning to give this one a try because three of my most trusted recommendation sources loved it! Gayle Weiswasser, co-host of The Readerly Report podcast, said it has a “cheesy premise,” but it was a “thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing book with a surprising amount of heft.” Renee at It’s Book Talk said she “read this in one sitting, laughing, crying and in the end slowing down because I didn’t want it to end. And, Jan (one of my blog readers) said “This book is all about fate, timing, and star-crossed love, told with a side of humor and a lot of heart. You’re not a romance reader? Neither am I! But this book melted my non-romance reading heart into a puddle.”

Far FieldThe Far Field by Madhuri Vijay
Release Date: January 15, 2019
448 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.17 on 12 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

In the wake of her mother’s death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir’s politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.

My Thoughts:
Vijay’s debut novel is said to examine “Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.” It sounds like a hefty, serious book. It’s being compared to Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and has gotten blurbs from Anthony Marra (author of The Tsar of Love and Techno) and Ben Fountain (author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). Goodreads reviewers said the writing is gorgeous, excellent character development, the pace is somewhat slow, and the story is moving.

No ExitNo Exit by Taylor Adams
Release Date: January 15, 2019
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.2 on 10.048 ratings
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

A brilliant, edgy thriller about four strangers, a blizzard, a kidnapped child, and a determined young woman desperate to unmask and outwit a vicious psychopath.

A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do?

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside, are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

My Thoughts:
No Exit is a mystery / thriller and the Goodreads reviewers are saying all the things you generally hear about mysteries and thrillers…”the twists left me breathless”, “unputdownable”, “will keep you up at night”, etc. A few reviewers were frustrated by the ridiculousness of Darby’s lack of preparation for snow in that area of the country and some unrealistic plot scenarios. Reviewers did warn of bad language and graphic violence. No Exit is said to be for fans of Karin Slaughter and Harlan Coben…and the film rights have been purchased by 20th Century Fox.

Severance by Ling MaSeverance by Ling Ma
Released: August 14, 2018
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.93 on 2,579 ratings
Selected By: Brianna Goodman (Book of the Month Editorial Team)

An offbeat office novel turns apocalyptic satire as a young woman transforms from orphan to worker bee to survivor.

My Thoughts:
I’ve been seeing this debut novel popping up on some high profile Best Books of 2018 lists (Kirkus, New York Times 100 Notable Books). Jaclyn Krupi (a trusted recommendation source) said it’s “a very clever, humane satire about the global economy, the meaningless nature of contemporary life, consumption and survival. A recent past dystopia where an epidemic sweeps the world, this book questions consumerism, connection and life itself and it’s completely brilliant.” Tyler Goodson (one of my best recommendation sources) rated it 5 stars and said “what happens when nostalgia becomes a disease? I’m not sure how Ling Ma has written a novel about this question that is so smart and funny, but also so horrifying. I’m in awe.” Goodreads reviewers said it’s a post-apocalyptic anti-capitalist office satire, resonates with millennials, and is told in fragments. Some mentioned not liking the ending and some reviewers said the story was slow.

What Book of the Month Club December 2018 selection(s) will I choose?

I’m choosing An Anonymous Girl and One Day in December…both books that are out of my comfort zone, but I’m choosing based on the strength of reviews from trusted sources. 

Make your Book of the Month selections by Thursday, December 6th.

What book will you choose this month?

This Month’s Special Deals

GIFT DEAL: When you give a Book of the Month subscription as a gift this season, you’ll get a gift for yourself: one free month! We have 3-, 6-, and 12-month subscription plans available for purchase. Purchase here!

NEW MEMBER DEAL: New members can get their first book for just $5. Use code NICE2MEETU.

ANNUAL PAYMENT DEAL: BOTM is now a monthly subscription service. However, given that some members preferred paying upfront, they are now offering a 12-month option. Members who sign up for 12 months will pay $149.99/year. That’s $12.50/book, instead of the standard price of $14.99/month.

How to Join Book of the Month…

Book of the Month is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month, you can get a hardcover book for generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). Book of the Month will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

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Nonfiction Mini Reviews (Nonfiction November 2018) and New Additions to my TBR

November 29, 2018 Blogger Events 11

Nonfiction November 2018

 

Another Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and me) is in the books! And, it was an awesome one. I read/listened to eight books and only one was a stinker. And, my favorite book of Nonfiction November was Dopesick by Beth Macy!

I usually use Nonfiction November to create my Nonfiction TBR for the coming year and I found some great books to get that started!

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!).

Nonfiction mini reviews

2018 Nonfiction November Mini Reviews

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich
Nonfiction – Sports (Released September 4, 2018)
400 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Penguin Press)

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 the author of This Town (my review), a look at the cultural landscape in Washington, D.C. I didn’t love This Town…but, I did love Leibovich’s dry, sarcastic writing style and his propensity to make fun of self-important big-shots. And, he does all that in Big Game…but, the targets are now self-important NFL owners (and there are some seriously eccentric personalities in this bunch) and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Leibovich covers concussions, Deflategate, owner/player/Commissioner dynamics, and more. 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 appreciated. There’s a big focus on the Patriots and my favorite person in the book is Tom Brady’s Dad…who seems like a down-to-earth guy who is flummoxed by his son’s somewhat woo-woo lifestyle. If you liked Jeanne Marie Laskas’ Concussion (my review), you’ll like this one!

“You guys are cattle and we’re the ranchers,” the late Dallas Cowboys president Tex Schramm once told Hall of Fame offensive lineman Gene Upshaw during a collective bargaining negotiation. It is an oft-quoted line that encapsulates the whole setup. Players get prodded, milked for all they’re worth, sold off, put out to pasture, and slaughtered. Implicit also here is that the cattle’s time is fleeting, like Not for Long football careers. “And ranchers can always get more cattle” is how Schramm’s quote concludes.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released January 1, 1994)
237 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Anchor)

Plot Summary: Lamott’s guide to writing well and living the writing life…based on writing workshops she taught.

My Thoughts: This was my maiden voyage with Anne Lamott and I had some pre-conceived notions about her because she often writes about faith. I thought she’d be wise and heartfelt…and serious. But, she totally surprised me with that last one! She’s relatable and funny…even irreverently funny, which I loved. I don’t have any grand writing ambitions, but I suspect this book would be invaluable to anyone who does. And, in her writing advice, I see many of the things I love to see in the books I read. Her overall message is: listen to your characters, they’ll show you the way. Sometimes she does get overly philosophical about “art,” but I loved it overall and would love to read more by her.

Your work as a writer, when you are giving everything you have to your characters and to your readers, will periodically make you feel like the single parent of a three-year-old, who is, by turns, wonderful, willful, terrible, crazed, and adoring. Toddlers can make you feel as if you have violated some archaic law in their personal Koran and you should die, infidel. Other times they’ll reach out and touch you like adoring grandparents on their deathbeds, trying to memorize your face with their fingers.

Dopesick by Beth Macy
Nonfiction – Investigative Journalism (Released August 7, 2018)
384 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Little, Brown)

Plot Summary: Beth Macy investigates America’s decades long opioid crisis, which is rampant in both rural and suburban areas in Central Appalachia.

My Thoughts: This book scared me sh*tless…there’s really no other way to say it. I knew America had an opioid crisis on its hands, but I had no idea how pervasive it was and that many people originally got addicted via doctor-prescribed painkillers. This book opened my eyes…and, as a parent, got me hoping that this trend will die a hard death by the time my children are old enough to encounter this stuff. Macy chronicles the many levels of failure in dealing with the opioid crisis…from drug companies, to law enforcement, to public policy makers, to doctors. It’s like the cigarette atrocity of this generation. Dopesick is a must read for parents…along with What Made Maddy Run, Girls & Sex, and Missoula…and is a good companion read for Hillbilly Elegy.

He remembered a dislocated coal miner from Grundy, Virginia, confessing that OxyContin had become more important to him than his family, his church, and his children. “It became my god,” the man said.

Driven by Julie Heldman
Nonfiction – Sports Memoir (Released August 22, 2018)
446 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Author (Self-Published)

Plot Summary: The memoir of Julie Heldman, a top-ranked pro tennis player in the 1960’s – 70’s and the daughter of Gladys Heldman, a legendary figure behind-the-scenes of the tennis world (she founded World Tennis magazine and was partially responsible for the formation of the Virginia Slims women’s tour, the precursor to today’s WTA).

My Thoughts: I’m a huge tennis fan, which is why I gave this self-published memoir a shot. There was a ton of fascinating tennis history in this book…the battle for equal treatment of women on the pro tour, the personalities of legendary players from that time (ex: Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert), and the politics surrounding pros and amateurs. Driven also focuses on Julie’s relationship with her mother (Gladys) and Julie’s eventual battle with mental illness. Famous and beloved in the tennis world, Gladys was a bit of a Mommie Dearest behind closed doors. While somewhat interesting, Heldman beats a dead horse for close to 500 pages (an outrageous length for this book). Driven is desperately in need of an editor…to cut repetitions, to craft story arcs, and to improve the writing (some sections felt like she’d copied directly from her childhood diaries). The tennis history is what kept me reading, so unless you’re an avid tennis fan, there’s probably not much in here to make it worth wading through the muck.

I grew up in a family where the youngest and most demanding child was the world’s largest tennis magazine.

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
Nonfiction (Released October 2, 2018)
219 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: W.W. Norton)

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

My Thoughts: Michael Lewis is a master at making boring, tedious information sound fascinating and he did it again with The Fifth Risk. He shines a light on obscure people with 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. the electrical grid). And, he investigates the Trump transition (or lack thereof). There is an incredible amount of information packed into just over 200 pages…so much that the book felt like a brain dump at times. Despite being fascinated by almost everything he shared, I’m still unclear what his overall purpose is: is he trying to educate U.S. citizens about all the things government does for them / saves them from? Trying to expose Trump’s non-existent / unorganized transition? Figure out the biggest risks in government? Publicly recognize unsung government heroes? He seemed to have all these purposes at various times. Mostly, I took from it that I had no idea what certain parts of the government do…and now I know a little more. Also, it’s clear what side of the political aisle Michael Lewis identifies with…and he writes from that perspective.

Another way of putting this is: the risk we should most fear is not the risk we easily imagine. It is the risk that we don’t. Which brought us to the fifth risk. […] The fifth risk did not put him at risk of revealing classified information. “Project management,” was all he said.

Audiobooks

American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury
Nonfiction – War (Released October 23, 2017)
9 Hours, 42 Minutes
Bottom Line: Read it
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Dutton)

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.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
Nonfiction – Business / Investigative Journalism (Released May 21, 2018)
11 Hours, 37 Minutes
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Knopf)

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 (DisneyWar by James B. Stewart, Those Guys Have All the Fun by James Andrew Miller, and House of Cards by William Cohen) 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” despite the absence of a viable product. This one will make a great “Dad” gift for the holidays!

New Nonfiction to My TBR

Silence in the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge (November 21, 2017)
Recommended by Reading with Jade (it was her favorite nonfiction read so far this year)…this one caught my eye because I loved Quiet by Susan Cain (my thoughts) and I’ve become more and more interested in introversion as I’ve gotten older. 

A transformative account of an experience that is essential for our sanity and our happiness.

Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert Ressler and Tom Schachtman (May 1, 1992)
Recommended by Kazan at Always Doing…I love true crime and this by two guys that track serial killers.

The man who coined the term “serial killer”, Ressler is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes who combines observation and a knowledge of psychopathic personalities to draw profiles of unknown perpetrators that are astonishingly accurate descriptions based on various aspects of the crime itself.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (October 21, 2014)
Recommended by Tina at TBR, etc…I’ve obviously been hearing about this book for ages from many people, but Tina’s Instagram post was what really made me want to read it.

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott (May 1, 1993)
Recommended by Sarah K, one of my blog readers (via my comments section)…I love honest accounts of motherhood and loved my first Anne Lamott this month (Bird by Bird).

The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott’s account of her son Sam’s first year.

Dead Girls by Alice Bolin (June 26, 2018)
Recommended by Kelly at Stacked…she paired this one with Sadie by Courtney Summers, which I liked, in her Fiction / Nonfiction pairings post. More for my true crime TBR list, which is getting longer every minute.

A collection of poignant, perceptive essays that expertly blends the personal and political in an exploration of American culture through the lens of our obsession with dead women.

This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Phillips (October 16, 2018)
Recommended by Susie at Novel Visits…I’m all for a juicy celebrity memoir, especially one that’s great on audio!

A memoir by the beloved comedic actress known for her roles on Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, and Cougar Town who has become “the breakout star on Instagram stories…imagine I Love Lucy mixed with a modern lifestyle guru.”

The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber (April 15, 2013)
Recommended by Tina at TBR, etc.…more for my true crime TBR!

After his December 2003 arrest, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was quickly dubbed “The Angel of Death” by the media. But Cullen was no mercy killer, nor was he a simple monster. He was a favorite son, husband, beloved father, best friend, and celebrated caregiver. Implicated in the deaths of as many as 300 patients, he was also perhaps the most prolific serial killer in American history.

What was your favorite read and top TBR add of Nonfiction November?

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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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