Category: Blogger Events

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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Nonfiction November 2018: Fiction Nonfiction Book Pairings Link-Up

November 5, 2018 Blogger Events 36

Nonfiction November 2018

 

Today’s Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and me) topic is fiction/nonfiction book pairings:

It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Fiction / Nonfiction Book Pairings is my favorite topic of Nonfiction November and I keep a running list throughout the year of all my ideas for pairings. I hope y’all have just as much fun with it!

Link up your posts below and check out the plans for the rest of the month at here!

 

Fiction Nonfiction Book Pairings

 

Campus Stories Involving Basketball

My Losing Season is Pat Conroy’s (my all-time favorite author) memoir about his time playing basketball at The Citadel, the military college in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a team of underdogs and Conroy is its “mediocre point guard”…but they play with incredible heart as they wrestle with a difficult coach.

In All the Castles Burned (my review), Owen Webb, a scholarship student at the prestigious Rockcastle School (a private day school for boys) embarks on an obsessive, dangerous friendship with Carson Bly, the son of a wealthy and absent father…all against the backdrop of the Rockcastle basketball team.

What it’s Like to Go to Space

Endurance is the true story of astronaut Scott Kelly’s year he spent on the International Space Station and his bumpy journey to becoming an astronaut.

In The Wanderers (my review), Helen, Sergei, and Yoshi (the meticulously selected crew for Prime Space’s – a private space exploration company – first manned mission to Mars) go through an incredibly life-like, seventeen months-long simulation (called Eidolon) of the mission.

The Rwandan Genocide

The Girl Who Smiled Beads (my review) is the true story of six year-old Clemantine and her older sister getting separated from their family during the Rwandan genocide and spending the next six years as refugees before being granted asylum in the U.S., and in Clemantine’s case, going on to get a degree from Yale.

Small Country (which I haven’t read yet) is an “evocative coming-of-age tale, set against the backdrop of the Rwandan genocide and the civil war in Burundi, of a young boy’s childhood innocence shattered by the brutal tides of history.” (Goodreads)

Behind-the-Scenes of Reality TV

Bachelor Nation (my review) exposes the inner workings of The Bachelor franchise.

The Book of Essie (my review) AND The Favorite Sister (my review) are fictional stories set in the world of reality TV.

Sociopathic Husbands / Boyfriends

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing (my review) is Jen Waite’s memoir about her marriage to a psychopath / sociopath (Marco).

In Tell Me Lies, Lucy Albright arrives for her freshman year at Baird College in California and falls into a toxic love affair with Junior Stephen DeMarco (who made my list of Memorable Villains of Fiction).

Books Set in DC Politics That Read Like Brain Candy

From the Corner of the Oval is a quarter life crisis memoir (by Beck Dorey-Stein, one of Obama’s stenographers) set in the world of politics and is my favorite audiobook of the year so far!

In The Hopefuls (my review), young couple Matt and Beth Kelly move from New York City to Washington, D.C. for Matt’s job and must navigate marriage and friendship in the political world.

Incidentally, Tell Me Lies could also pair well with From the Corner of the Oval in a totally different way…yes, From the Corner of the Oval features another possibly sociopathic boyfriend.

What are some of your favorite Nonfiction / Fiction pairings?

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My Year of Nonfiction So Far: Nonfiction November 2018

October 30, 2018 Blogger Events 32

Nonfiction November 2018

 

Welcome to Nonfiction November 2018! I’m thrilled to be co-hosting 2018’s Nonfiction November with Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness! Nonfiction November is a month dedicated to celebrating nonfiction…we’ll talk about our favorites, trade recommendations, discuss our nonfiction reading habits, and hopefully discover some new book blogs! There will be a link-up for your posts every Monday…go here for the schedule of events and where to find the link-ups. Here’s my year of nonfiction so far…

Hop over to Sophisticated Dorkiness to link up your introductory post!

My Year of Nonfiction

So far this year, I’ve read 27 Nonfiction books (34% of my total books read), 16 of which were audiobooks. This is down 22% from this time last year’s 35 Nonfiction books, 27 of which were audiobooks. I didn’t realize I hadn’t read as much nonfiction this year until I was writing this post!

Diving into the numbers a bit, I realized I’d actually read more nonfiction books / e-books this year and listened to a lot less audiobooks. The decrease in audiobook listening is the reason my overall nonfiction reading has fallen off this year. I’ve been listening to a lot more podcasts and sometimes took a full month to get through one audiobook. Over the past few months, a bunch of audiobooks came in from the library and I learned there’s nothing like a library due date to get me to choose an audiobook over podcasts! So, my audiobook pace has picked back up lately.

Favorite Nonfiction of 2018 So Far

My Year in Nonfiction

 

Overall Favorite Nonfiction of 2018

Favorite Nonfiction Audiobook of 2018

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

Most Recommended Nonfiction of 2018

My Year in Nonfiction

 

This year, I’ve read a lot of…

“Life wisdom” essay collections, mostly written by women.

My go-to authors for these types of books are (check out my “Women Who Get Women” Authors Club post for more of these types of authors):

  • Ann Patchett
  • Anna Quindlen
  • Kelly Corrigan
  • And, even though I’ve only read one book by Maggie O’Farrell, I think she could be added to the list.

This year, I haven’t read enough…

Investigative Journalism…

But, over half of my Nonfiction November TBR list is investigative journalism, so I’m going to make up for it!

Sports…

I love sports memoirs and general nonfiction and I have one of each on my Nonfiction November TBR list!

What are your favorite Nonfiction books so far this year?

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Announcing Nonfiction November 2018! (#NonFicNov)

October 2, 2018 Blogger Events 31

Nonfiction November 2018

 

I’m thrilled to be co-hosting 2018’s Nonfiction November with Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness! Nonfiction November is a month dedicated to celebrating nonfiction…we’ll talk about our favorites, trade recommendations, discuss our nonfiction reading habits, and hopefully discover some new book blogs! There will be a link-up for your posts every Monday…see below for the schedule of events and where to find the link-ups.

Personally, I tend to push nonfiction to the back burner in favor of the shiny, new fiction releases, so I always appreciate this month of re-focus on a genre I love, but tend to ignore sometimes. 

Hope to see you in November!

Nonfiction November Schedule of Events

Week 1 (Oct. 29 to Nov. 2)

Your Year in Nonfiction So Far (Hosted by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness)
Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Week 2 (Nov. 5 to Nov. 9)

Nonfiction / Fiction Book Pairing (Hosted by Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves)
This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Week 3 (Nov. 12 to Nov. 16)

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Hosted by Julie at Julz Reads)
Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Week 4 (Nov. 19 to Nov. 23)

Reads Like Fiction (Hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?)
Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

Week 5 (Nov. 26 to Nov. 30)

New to my TBR (Hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey)
It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Instagram Challenge

This year we’ll also be bringing back an Instagram photo challenge for Nonfiction November, co-hosted by Kim (@kimthedork) and Leann (@Shelf_Aware_). Check out the prompts below! If you’re interested in participating in Nonfiction November but don’t have a blog, feel free to join us on Instagram and Litsy using the hashtag #NonficNov.

Find all the hosts that are on Instagram: @sarahsbookshelves, @kimthedork, @shelf_aware_, and @doingdewey!

Nonfiction November 2018 Instagram Prompts

Possibilities for my Nonfiction November Reading List

I know I won’t get to all of these, but I like starting with lots of options to accommodate mood reading and DNF’s!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (January 1, 1994)
A writing guide by a legendary writer who I’ve yet to read

American Radical by Tamer Elnoury (October 23, 2017)
The memoir from an undercover Muslim American FBI agent

Bad Blood by John Carreyou (May 21, 2018)
The true story of the rise and fall of Theranos, a Silicon Valley biotech startup

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (October 2, 2018)
Lewis goes behind the scenes of the U.S. government following the 2016 election

Driven by Julie Heldman (August 22, 2018)
The memoir of a 1960’s tennis star and the emotional abuse she took from her mother

Dopesick by Beth Macy (August 7, 2018)
An investigation into America’s struggle with the opioid crisis

Big Game by Mark Leibovich (September 4, 2018)
Political writer Leibovich switches gears to go deep inside the NFL…with extensive access to Tom Brady

How to Be Married by Jo Piazza (August 18, 2017)
Novelist Piazza (Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win) tries her hand at nonfiction with her exploration of marriage

What are you thinking about reading for Nonfiction November?
Does anyone have any thoughts on the books on my list?
Which books should I kick to the top?

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The Best Changes I Made in 2017

December 15, 2017 Blogger Events 32

Best Changes I Made in 2017


My family went through a lot of change this year and much of my mental space and emotional energy was focused on that. My other outlets had to slide in where they could, so I wasn’t focused on intentionally adding more change to the situation. But, more change did find me.

I’m going to focus on three major changes, all of which I didn’t really intend to make this year, but came about accidentally / out of necessity. One is blogging-related, one is reading-related, and one is neither, but all of them are long-term and on-going.

Linking up with A Month of Favorites hosted by Traveling with TEstella’s Revenge, and GirlXOXO.

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

Listened to Online Business-Related Podcasts

This year, I started listening to some online business-related podcasts (The Strategy Hour, Brilliant Business Mom, The Chopped Podcast, Simple Pin Podcast, and Online Marketing Made Easy) and they completely changed my thinking about this blog. For a long time, I’ve had vague ideas of shifting from blog to business, but I didn’t have a consistent business-focused mentality about it. These podcasts helped me shift my thinking from “hobby” to “business (even a small one).” 

There are certain things that many online businesses (including blogs) do as a matter of course, but that book bloggers don’t do for some reason. These podcasts have helped me see that I can and should do this stuff. I’ve already implemented a number of simple tips from these podcasts and have been plotting how to tackle some bigger ones.

I’ll be sharing more about what to expect from Sarah’s Book Shelves in 2018 in a later post, but a lot of it stems from pairing this with my next change…

Figured out How to Pick Better Books

Since starting this blog, I’ve chosen what books to read by combing publishers’ catalogs and various “Most Anticipated Books of X Season” lists, which give you the book’s premise, the publishers’ selling points, and author blurbs (those quotes from well known authors that are on the cover of new books…endorsements, if you will).

I finally realized this system has not been serving me well! The early information I was using to make decisions came from the very people who want to sell as many books as possible (i.e. publishers). So, of course they’re going to slap “THE thriller of 2017”-type labels on books that may or may not be very good. I don’t blame them (it’s their job to create hype), but I don’t have to listen to them.

So, I started thinking about a new system for picking books. Many of my favorite books of 2017 were recommended to me by trusted sources and weren’t on my radar during all that catalog combing. I realized the source of the recommendation is way more important than the book itself.

Over the last few months, I tracked all my recommendation sources and numerically figured out who gives me the best (and worst) ones. I’ll be using this system to pick books moving forward (and I hope you’ll join me!) and integrating this theme into everything I do on the blog next year, including…

  • My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2018 list (coming on December 26) will mostly be books from trusted sources who, in as many cases as possible, have already read the book. For the first time ever, I did not look at a single publisher’s catalog to create this list.
  • A tool to help you figure out which Best Books of the Year lists are most compatible with your reading taste (coming on December 19).
  • I’m working on a Reading Tracker that will enable you to easily figure out who your go-to and no-go recommendation sources are throughout the year (plus, a bunch of other good stuff)…which will be available for sale in January.

Started Exercising for Longevity

This last change was forced upon me when I threw out my back in February, but I learned some valuable lessons that will serve me well over the long-term.

Up until Winter 2017, I ran a lot (including occasional races) and did Sprint Triathlons. Throwing out my back forced me to drastically cut back my exercising and I haven’t competed in a race since Thanksgiving 2016. The long recovery and endless hours of physical therapy since then have taught me how to exercise for longevity…and that longevity should be my goal now that I’m approaching 40.

What does this actually mean?

  • Don’t go all-out every workout. I should go hard about 2 days a week and convert some of my weekly workouts into recovery workouts at an easier pace.
  • Spend more time on recovery. For me, this includes foam rolling, recovery yoga (I love Jasyoga’s videos), sleep, and stretching.
  • Increase the strength training, cut back on the cardio (which is hard on my joints). I’m now strength training 4 days/week and doing cardio 2 days/week rather than the reverse. And, my strength work is heavily focused on glutes, hips, and core to protect my lower back.
  • Appreciate the ability to just go for a run…at whatever speed feels good to me that day.
  • Listen to my body. If something hurts, stop whatever I’m doing. If I’m really dragging, take some rest. My body is probably telling me something.

What were the best changes you made this year?

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Nonfiction November 2017 Mini Reviews and New Additions to my TBR

November 28, 2017 Blogger Events 16

Nonfiction November 2017


Another Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Julz at Julz Reads, and me) is in the books! And, it was a good one. I read/listened to eight books and only two were stinkers (and, I was shocked about one of them).

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).

2017 Nonfiction November Mini Reviews

After the Eclipse by Sarah PerryAfter the Eclipse by Sarah Perry
Nonfiction – True Crime/Memoir (Released September 26, 2017)
371 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Plot Summary: Perry’s mother was murdered when she was 12 years old…and Perry was in the house when it happened. Years later, she tries to find out who her mother was and who killed her.

My Thoughts: After the Eclipse is part true crime with a little The Glass Castle thrown in. Sarah grew up poor with an absentee father and had a close bond with her mother. The publisher’s blurb says the book is about Sarah getting to learn more about her mother following her death, but I thought it was more about finding peace in the aftermath of the murder and closure (i.e. finding out who killed her). It’s an incredibly powerful story with multiple eye-widening moments, but the story dragged a bit through the middle (between the murder and its immediate aftermath and finally finding the killer).

Black Dahlia Red Rose Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Marie Eatwell
Nonfiction – True Crime / Investigative Journalism (Released October 10, 2017)
368 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

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

Plot Summary: Eatwell investigates the famous and still unsolved 1947 Black Dahlia murder (young, aspiring starlet Elizabeth Short was found virtually bisected on a residential sidewalk in Los Angeles) and poses a theory about who the murderer was based on evidence that was suppressed at the time.

My Thoughts: The Black Dahlia murder occurred during a time when Los Angeles was rampant with corruption (including in the LAPD) and gangsters. And, this vivid setting and culture is very much a part of the murder and the book, making Black Dahlia, Red Rose feel like more than just a true crime “genre” book. The case itself is fascinating, as is the corruption that went on at the time and the re-examination of the evidence now…but, I did get bogged down in details a bit through the middle when the focus turned to corruption in the LAPD. If you liked In Cold Blood or American Fire, I think you’ll like this one!

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie SpenceDear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released September 26, 2017)
256 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Flatiron Books)

Plot Summary: Spence, a public librarian, shares her “love letters and break-up notes” to her favorite books, as well as musings and rants about various aspects of her reading life…plus, a whole section of book recommendation lists.

My Thoughts: I recently tried reading My Life with Bob (the New York Times Book Review editor’s memoir of her reading life) and DNF’d it during the first half because it talked too much about esoteric books and got intellectually snobby one too many times. Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the anti-My Life with Bob! You’ve probably heard of most of the books she discusses and even read a few…and there’s no intellectual snobbery here. Spence is relatable, funny, and often snarky. The chapters are short and it’s a great book to pick up when you need something light and easy. Also – it will explode your TBR list…consider yourself warned.

Forty AutumnsForty Autumns by Nina Millner by Nina Willner
Nonfiction – History/Memoir (Released October 4, 2016)
416 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: William Morrow)

Plot Summary: Willner, an ex-U.S. intelligence officer covering East Germany, tells the true story of her family being separated by the Berlin Wall and their experience living in Communist East Germany.

My Thoughts: Forty Autumns was my favorite book of Nonfiction November! It’s a look at communism and East Germany through the lens of one family’s experience. I learned a ton about life behind the Iron Curtain (a topic I’ve been fascinated with ever since seeing the East German women’s swim team dominate the 1988 Seoul Olympics) and the gut-wrenching fear and oppression the East Germans faced. I recently paired it with Georgia Hunter’s novel, We Were the Lucky Ones, in a Fiction / Nonfiction Pairing post. They’re similar stories about families fractured by war and an oppressive regime, just different countries and different wars. Like Hunter’s novel, Forty Autumns is highly readable despite it’s serious topic and touches the emotional heart-strings while giving you a history lesson.

How Reading Changed My Life by Anna QuindlenHow Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released January 1, 1998)
96 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Ballantine Books)

Plot Summary: Quindlen’s thoughts on her reading life and books she’s loved.

My Thoughts: This memoir was kind of all over the place and didn’t feel much like the Anna Quindlen I know and love. Some parts (personal memories of growing up a bookworm) were warm and relatable (typical Quindlen), while others read like an academic term paper. The silver lining is that it’s chock full of amazing, famous quotes about books and reading. I never thought I’d be recommending you skip an Anna Quindlen, but I am.

Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell HochschildStrangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Nonfiction – Politics (Released August 16, 2016)
351 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it

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

Plot Summary: Liberal sociologist Hochschild went deep into Louisiana Bayou country to get to know some of the people who politically identify with the Tea Party.

My Thoughts: I’m really glad I read Strangers in Their Own Land, but it was different than I expected. It does delve into the reasons these particular people support the Tea Party (and hate the idea of government intervention and support, though they theoretically could benefit from it), but a large chunk of the book is about the environmental pollution of this area of Louisiana. The environmental piece was interesting reading, but I thought was a bit overdone given it was somewhat of a tangent. A logical “next book” if you liked Hillbilly Elegy.

Happiness Project by Gretchen RubinThe Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Nonfiction – Life Improvement (Released December 29, 2009)
301 Pages (Audio: 10 hours, 15 minutes)
Bottom Line: Read it / Listen to it
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Harper)

Plot Summary: Rubin dedicated a year of her life to focusing on the things that matter…thus her “Happiness Project.”

My Thoughts: The Happiness Project is a relatable exploration of figuring out what makes you happy and how to focus on those things in your daily life (her motto is basically sleep, workout, declutter…in my words). It’s filled with actionable, manageable, common sense tips that are easy to integrate into your life, but that we often forget to focus on (i.e. get more sleep). Plus, she throws in memorable quotes to keep you on track (i.e. “sleep is the new sex”, “take pleasure in an atmosphere of growth”). Sometimes she comes across as a “happiness bully” (her words) and I think she could drive me nuts to have as a friend, but overall it’s a great tool to help you hit reset on on your life.

UnbelievableUnbelievable by Katy Tur by Katy Tur
Nonfiction – Politics (Released September 12, 2017)
301 Pages (Audio: 7 hours, 46 minutes)
Bottom Line: Skip it

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Dey Street Books)

Plot Summary: NBC News Correspondent Tur’s behind the scenes look at what it was like to cover Donald Trump’s political campaign.

My Thoughts: I’m always interested in the behind-the-scenes dirt from political campaigns…from either party…and you’d think the dirt from the Trump campaign would be exceptionally entertaining (maybe not the right word, but close enough). But, funnily enough, I don’t feel like I learned anything new from this book. Maybe because so much has already been reported by the media along the way or tweeted about by Trump himself, but I felt like Unbelievable was a re-hash of things I already knew…except maybe getting a better appreciation for the perpetual exhaustion of those involved in political campaigns.

New Nonfiction to My TBR

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts (November 1, 1987)
Recommended by Melissa Firman…this one caught my eye because she paired it with The Heart’s Invisible Furies (my review) in her fiction / nonfiction book pairings.

Shilts tells the heroic stories of individuals in science and politics, public health and the gay community, who struggled to alert the nation to the enormity of the danger it faced.

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy (January 25, 2015)
Recommended by Kazan at Always Doing (via my comments section).

Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of murder in America–why it happens and how the plague of killings might yet be stopped.

Grocery by Michael Ruhlman (May 16, 2017)
Recommended by Joann at Lakeside Musing.

Cookbook author and food writer Ruhlman explores the evolution of the American grocery store and how it has affected what we eat. The author uses two of his Midwestern hometown grocery chains, Heinen’s and Fazio’s, and his memories of his father’s love of food and grocery shopping as the foundation for this engaging narrative.

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan (March 5, 2013)
Recommended by Tara at Running N Reading.

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history (the Manhattan Project).

On Writing by Stephen King (June 27, 2017)
Recommended by my friend and author of the fantastic book We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter (along with a number of other people in the comments section of my Books about Reading and Writing post).

On Writing begins with King’s childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade and culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King’s overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery.

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

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Nonfiction November 2017: Fiction / Nonfiction Pairings Round-Up

November 10, 2017 Blogger Events 10

Nonfiction November 2017


I was thrilled to host this week’s Nonfiction November topic: fiction/nonfiction book pairings:

It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Pairings like this are one of the best ways for me to find new books to add to my TBR and I hope you all found some great new-to-you books this week!

Your Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings

Next week, Sophisticated Dorkiness will be hosting Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert:
Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
Join us and hashtag your social media posts with #nonficnov!

 

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Nonfiction November 2017: Fiction Nonfiction Book Pairings Link-Up

November 6, 2017 Blogger Events 40

Nonfiction November 2017


Today’s Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Julz at Julz Reads, and me) topic is fiction/nonfiction book pairings:

It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Fiction / Nonfiction Book Pairings is my favorite topic of Nonfiction November and I keep a running list throughout the year of all my ideas for pairings. I hope y’all have just as much fun with it!

Link up your posts below and check out the plans for the rest of the month at here! I’ll be posting a round-up of everyone’s posts on Friday.

Fiction Nonfiction Book Pairings

The Shooter’s Mother’s Perspective of a Mass Shooting

Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold’s mother (Sue) shares her struggle following the shooting and Dylan’s suicide in her poignant memoir, A Mother’s Reckoning.

Jodi Picoult’s novel, Nineteen Minutes, centers around a mass school shooting in a small, New Hampshire town. Chapters are told from various characters’ perspectives, including the mother of the shooter’s. 

On Caring for a Terminally Ill Parent

Dan Marshall’s memoir, Home is Burning (my review), chronicles his journey caring for his ALS-stricken father in hilariously inappropriate detail and with heart-wrenching emotion. 

In Anna Quindlen’s One True Thing (my review), an up-and-coming New York journalist returns home to care for her cancer-stricken mother and comes to understand her much better in the process.

A Family’s Struggle to Survive Massive Wartime Oppression

Forty Autumns tells the story of the author’s East German family’s experience living behind the Iron Curtain…and their heart-breaking separation from their daughter, Hanna, who escaped.

Georgia Hunter’s novel, We Were the Lucky Ones (author interview), is inspired by the true story of her Polish Jewish family, who was split apart during World War II. PS – We Were the Lucky Ones was nominated for a 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Debuts – if you read and loved this book, vote here now!

Beneath the Surface of Seemingly Perfect Teenagers

What Made Maddy Run is the heart-breaking story of a seemingly perfect (if you looked at her Instagram account) teenager who commits suicide during her freshman year on the Penn State track team. This is a must-read for parents of young athletes. And, the book Maddy had with her when she died was…

Reconstructing Amelia (my review) is the fictional story of an over-achieving teenage girl who apparently jumps to her death from her school after getting caught cheating. 

The Intensity of Youth Sports

Friday Night Lights profiles the incredible intensity of high school football in Texas. Plus, it inspired my all-time favorite TV show of the same name!

Beartown (my review) is Fredrick Backman’s fictional story of elite youth ice hockey in Sweden…and the fallout of all that intensity. 

Incidentally, there is another nonfiction book that I’m dying to pair with Beartown, but telling you what it is would spoil one of Beartown‘s central plot elements. Those of you that have read Beartown can probably guess the mystery nonfiction book…

Inside the Lonely Psyche of a Pro Tennis Player

Andre Agassi’s memoir, Open, chronicles his lonely childhood playing tennis under the tutelage of his overbearing father and his continued loneliness on the pro tour.

The main character of Trophy Son (my review), Douglas Brunt’s fictional story about a young tennis star, seems suspiciously similar to Agassi, down to the Greek father.

What are some of your favorite Nonfiction / Fiction pairings?

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Nonfiction November 2017: My Year of Nonfiction So Far

October 29, 2017 Blogger Events 25

Nonfiction November 2017

 

Welcome to Nonfiction November 2017! I’m thrilled to be co-hosting again this year along with Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and Julz at Julz Reads. Nonfiction November is my favorite reading event of the year and I always welcome the change of pace from reading lots of new fiction releases all year long…and never more so than this year! So, here’s my year of nonfiction so far…

Hop over to Julz Reads to link up your introductory post!

My Year of Nonfiction

So far this year, I’ve read 35 Nonfiction books (37% of my total books read), 27 of which were audiobooks. Audiobooks seem to have almost single-handedly (well, 77%) saved my nonfiction reading this year!

Most of my nonfiction reading this year has been memoirs or essays with some investigative journalism, sports books, and life improvement thrown in.

Favorite Nonfiction of 2017 So Far

Stranger in the Woods, Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake, Born a Crime

It’s a tie between…

Most Recommended Nonfiction Book of 2017

It’s a tie between…

This year, I haven’t read enough…

Narrative Nonfiction, which is my favorite type of nonfiction! 

And, the reason I haven’t read much of it this year is that narrative nonfiction doesn’t work quite as well for me on audio as other types of lighter nonfiction. And, so much of my nonfiction reading so far this year has been on audio.

This year, I’m hoping to…

  • Reading more nonfiction in book form (rather than audio)
  • Read more narrative nonfiction
  • Get a change of pace from reading mostly new fiction releases this year
  • Discover new-to-me blogs
  • Start making my Nonfiction TBR for 2018!

What are your favorite Nonfiction books so far this year?

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Nonfiction November 2017 is coming soon!

October 3, 2017 Blogger Events 18

Nonfiction November 2017

 

I’m thrilled to be co-hosting 2017’s Nonfiction November with Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Julie at Julz Reads, and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness! Nonfiction November is a month dedicated to celebrating nonfiction…we’ll talk about our favorites, trade recommendations, discuss our nonfiction reading habits, and hopefully discover some new book blogs!

Personally, I tend to push nonfiction to the back burner in favor of the shiny, new fiction releases, so I always appreciate this month of re-focus on a genre I love, but tend to ignore sometimes. And, after this year of Fall fiction, I’ve been especially itching for a change of pace!

Hope to see you in November!

Nonfiction November Schedule of Events

Week 1 (Oct. 30 to Nov. 3)

Introductions and Your Nonfiction Year So Far (Hosted by Julie at Julz Reads)
Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Week 2 (Nov. 6 to Nov. 10)

Nonfiction / Fiction Book Pairing (Hosted by Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves)
Pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Week 3 (Nov. 13 to Nov. 17)

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Hosted by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness)
Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Week 4 (Nov. 20 to Nov. 24)

Nonfiction Favorites (Hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey)
We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

Week 5 (Nov. 27 to Dec. 1)

New to my TBR Hosted by (Lory at Emerald City Book Review)
It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Nonfiction Book Swap Sign-Ups  

This year, we’ll be bringing back the nonfiction book swap!  If you sign up for this swap, you’re committing to sending your swap partner at least one nonfiction book (or more if you want), mailed/ordered in time to arrive by the end of November. You can send books yourself or order them and have them sent directly to your partner. Katie suggests The Book Depository as a great way to send books internationally if you and your partner are in different countries. Sign-ups will be open until Nov 3rd and Katie will do her best to have partner info to everyone by Nov 5th. Sign-up here:

Possibilities for my Nonfiction November Reading List

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (January 1, 1994)
A writing guide by a legendary writer who I’ve yet to read

Forty Autumns by Nina Willner (October 4, 2016)
The story of a family caught on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall

How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen (August 1, 1998)
A tiny “reading life” memoir by an author I’m trying to read as much of as possible

My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul (June 13, 2017)
Another “reading life” memoir…

Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild (August 16, 2016)
The book frequently mentioned as the logical next read if you liked Hillbilly Elegy

Ranger Games by Ben Blum (September 12, 2017)
An Army Ranger holds up a bank…the question is “why?”

Red Notice by Bill Browder (February 3, 2015)
A real-life “political thriller” about an American financier in Russia tangling with the Kremlin

The Futilitarians by Anne Gisleson (August 22, 2017)
A grief memoir

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (May 2, 2017)
The story of the girls who worked in the radium factories during WWI…with detrimental consequences

What are you thinking about reading for Nonfiction November? Does anyone have any thoughts on the books on my list? Which books should I kick to the top?

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