Category: Book Lists

7 Books To Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

January 16, 2018 Book Lists 11

Books to Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

We’re three weeks into the new year and you’ve probably made your New Year’s resolutions. And you’ve probably been pretty good about keeping them…so far. But, we’re heading into the period when people tend to fall off the wagon.

These books will keep you motivated and give you a bit of the science behind some common New Year’s resolutions. Plus, they’re all great on audio.

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

7 Books To Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

If you’re trying to cut down on screen-time…

Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi (September 5, 2017)
The host of the Note to Self podcast (which is awesome, by the way!) explores the connection between boredom (aka the opportunity for your mind to wander) and creativity. Hint: it involves unplugging from your phone and social media for periods of time. The science she shares about what excessive smartphone use is doing to our brains is fascinating and scary. And, she includes easy tips to help manage your smartphone use. Bonus: Pair Bored and Brilliant with Ann Patchett’s What Now?, a commencement speech, which covers unplugging a bit more anecdotally.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you’re looking to start or keep a new habit…

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (March 17, 2015)
In Better Than Before, “happiness guru” Gretchen Rubin teaches you the best way for YOU to start and keep new habits. She accounts for different personality types using her Four Tendencies (Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels) and shares practical, actionable tips for each type of person to establish lasting habits. I found this book more useful and less preachy than The Happiness Project and it was great on audio!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you’re chasing a big-time goal…

Grit by Angela Duckworth (May 3, 2016)
Duckworth uses examples from the military, sports, education, and business to illustrate how perseverance (rather than talent) is the best predictor of success. The primary message seems like common sense, but Duckworth supports it with entertaining real life examples and multiple studies. It reinforced to me that you have far more control over your destiny than you think. And, it’s super applicable to parenting.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you’re trying to pick up running (or any other sport) after a period of inactivity…

My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman (October 6, 2015)
After CNN Correspondent Tom Foreman’s daughter challenges him to train for a marathon with her, he ends up running 3 marathons, 4 half marathons, and an ultra-marathon in one year. This is a story of an impressive running feat (prior to Foreman’s year of races, he hadn’t run since he was much younger) and incredibly motivating for anyone that’s getting into running.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you’re a budding entrepreneur…

Originals by Adam M. Grant (February 2, 2016)
This combination economic / social analysis, business how-to guide, and “life lessons” book is a must-read for anyone interested in entrepreneurship and contains tons of Malcolm Gladwell-esque data analysis. In that sense, it’s far more engaging than your average business book. It also has a strangely motivating quality, which left me wanting to try out a new idea for the blog…and having a better understanding of how to go about it. 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you want to understand yourself (and those around you) better…

Reading People by Anne Bogel (September 19, 2017)
This primer on the major personality type frameworks (including Meyers-BriggsEnneagramStrengthsFinder, and the 5 Love Languages) is an approachable place to start if you’re interested in personality types and how to apply personality types to your own life in an actionable way. It doesn’t go deep into any of these types, but it’s a good overview that can help you decide where you might like to go deep. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

If you want to prioritize your life…

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight (December 29, 2015)
The subtitle of this book says it all: “How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do.” It teaches you, in a witty way, how to de-clutter your life (rather than your house, a la Marie Kondo) and spend more time and energy doing the things that are most important to you. Bonus: pair it with Episode 79 of the Sorta Awesome podcast, entitled The Awesome Freedom of the Don’t Do List.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What are your 2018 New Year’s resolutions? Do you have any favorite books to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions?

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10 New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

January 9, 2018 Book Lists 30

New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

What reader doesn’t love discovering new authors? Many of the best books I read last year were by authors new to me and I can’t wait to dig into some of their backlists!

This list does NOT include debut authors…since I already honored them in my Best Debuts of 2017 list.

10 New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2017

John Boyne (The Heart’s Invisible Furies, My Review)
My hands down #1 book of the year! And, now I’d like to read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Kelly Corrigan (Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say)
This book is actually coming out today! But, I read it in 2017 and now I’d like to read Glitter and Glue.

Laurie Frankel (This Is How It Always Is, My Review)
Another one of my Best Books of 2017. I’ve never heard of any of her previous novels, but I’d love for someone to vet them for me!

David Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon, My Review)
Grann’s investigative story about the Osage indian tribe won all kinds of awards last year. And, I’ve been hearing great things about his previous book, The Lost City of Z, so now I’d like to read that.

Katherine Heiny (Standard Deviation, My Review)
Standard Deviation was one of my Best Debuts of 2017 (it’s her debut novel), but Heiny had previously published a short story collection (Single, Carefree, Mellow) that I now want to read.

Dennis Lehane (Since We Fell, My Review
If you’re a regular reader, you know how skittish I am about thrillers. The ones that usually work for me are always “the different kind of thrillers,” and that’s what Since We Fell is. The first part reads like an exploration of a marriage and the second half feels more like a traditional thriller.

Jardine Libaire (White Fur, My Review)
White Fur definitely isn’t for everyone, but it may have been the most gorgeous writing (and hottest love story!) I’ve read all year. I hadn’t heard of any of her previous books, but I’m now itching to check them out.

Taylor Jenkins Reid (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, My Review)
It took a LOT of people raving about this one to get me to pick it up and I’m so glad I did. Yet another favorite of 2017 and I’m hesitantly considering trying something from her backlist. I only say hesitantly because I hear this book is a departure from her previous work.

Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project, Better Than Before)
I listened to both these books on audio and, going a bit contrarian here, but I liked Better Than Before better than The Happiness Project (she’s a little less grating and more practical). Now, I want to listen to The Four Tendencies.

Graham Swift (Mothering Sunday, My Review)
This tiny, unique book completely surprised me. And, Swift has an extensive backlist!

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

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Eight 2017 Books I Missed

January 2, 2018 Book Lists 32

2017 Books I Missed

There’s never enough time to get to all the books you mean to in a year…especially after adding even more books from various Best Books of 2017 lists to my TBR! But, y’all know my 2017 wasn’t the best reading year. I normally have trouble narrowing this list to just ten books, but this year I was hard pressed to come up with eight. 

The good news is that I actually managed to read 6 (60%) books from last year’s 2016 Books I Missed list! I’m hoping I’ll be able to do the same this year.

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

Eight 2017 Books I Missed

American Radical by Tamer Elnoury (October 23, 2017)
This memoir from an undercover, Muslin American FBI agent fighting terror comes highly recommended by Renee at It’s Book Talk. She called it “the most fascinating book she’s read in a long time” and said it “reads like a page-turning novel.” I’ve always been fascinated by the FBI and anything undercover, so I’m definitely looking forward to this one even if I don’t get to it until Nonfiction November 2018!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge (April 4, 2017)
This plane crash / survival page turner got almost no press last year, but a couple of my Go-To Bloggers (Renee at It’s Book Talk and Susie at Novel Visits) raved about it. I’m planning to read it as a potential for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Eveningland: Stories by Michael Knight (March 7, 2017)
This collection of short stories set in Mobile, Alabama right before a major hurricane comes recommended from Rebecca Schinsky on Book Riot’s All the Books podcast and from Kelly at the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (July 25, 2017)
Liberty Hardy called this page turner about a mother and son caught in a zoo during while a tragedy unfolds “the most stressful book she’d ever read.” It was also an August Book of the Month selection, which is one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources. Another book I’m hoping will be a potential for my 2018 Summer Reading Guide.

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Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly (October 10, 2017)
I actually sampled this series of “micro-memoirs” (some are just a few sentences long) when it came highly recommended from Annie Jones of From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources), but the book is so short, there wasn’t actually anything to sample other than the intro pages. It jumped back on my radar when I saw it on Leigh Kramer’s Best Nonfiction of 2017 list.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (September 19, 2017)
Susie at Novel Visits said this investigative story into a growing population of people that can’t retire, so they roam the country living out of RVs and working various jobs was surprising and fascinating. Since then, Tara at Running N Reading and Joann at Lakeside Musing have said good things about it. I’m hoping to read it during Nonfiction November 2018 if not before.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (July 11, 2017)
It’s been awhile since I read Joshilyn Jackson (Someone Else’s Love Story), but her latest comes highly recommended from Modern Mrs. Darcy and I’ve been hearing great things about it from tons of others as well. I’m finally nearing the top of the library hold list, so will hopefully read it soon!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (January 10, 2017)
Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books told me I should read this Civil War-era story about a young mother who murders her own child while her husband is away at war back when it came out, but I’m skittish about historical fiction, so I never got around to it. I also don’t think I really understood the premise, which does sound enticing to me. Then, I recently heard it discussed on The Readerly Report Podcast, which put it back on my radar (and alerted me to its short length!), and I now have it on hold at the library.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What 2017 books did you miss? And, which ones do you realistically think you’ll get around to reading?

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My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2018

December 26, 2017 Book Lists 29

Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2018

It’s a new year with new books…and, a new method for picking books for me!

After many of my 2017 Most Anticipated Books flopped, I re-evaluated my system for picking books. Previously, I’d comb the publishers’ catalogs and Preview lists from various bookish media sources looking for books that appealed to me. But, all I had to go on was the description of the book and marketing material provided by the publisher. There are precious little unbiased opinions out there months before a book is published.

I realized this system wasn’t serving me well and was leading me to waste time with a lot of books that didn’t pan out. So, I’ve changed things up this year…and it will hopefully benefit you too!

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

Finally, I’ve already read two of the books on this list myself and can personally vouch for them!

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


Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates (January 9, Picador)
You know how I always rave about the 2014 novel, Black Chalk (my review)?! Well, Grist Mill Road is Yates’s sophomore novel. I’ve already read this one and the bottom line is that, despite some structural elements that bothered me, I couldn’t put it down. A dark, twisty, coming of age story about friendship.

The year is 1982, the setting an Edenic hamlet some 90 miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends—Patrick, Matthew and Hannah— are bound together by a single, terrible, and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves could never have predicted, the three meet again–with even more devastating results.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and I’ve already read the book

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan (January 9, Random House)
This memoir absolutely spoke to me in a “yes, that’s exactly how it is” kind of way. It’s funny, relatable, and covers all kinds of big life issues including marriage, motherhood, illness, and religion…yet, it’s a light, easy read. This might be for you if you loved Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake or This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.

In channeling the characteristically streetwise, ever-relatable voice that has defined Corrigan’s work, Tell Me More is a meaningful, touching take on the power of the right words at the right moment to change everything.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Annie Jones on From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources) and me

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (January 9, Putnam)
This is not a book that would naturally appeal to me (psychics?! No, thanks!), but the good reports from trusted sources are piling up and my recent enjoyment of The Rules of Magic (another book with magical elements) has made me more open to these themes I don’t normally go for. I just started it and am enjoying it so far. 

If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

Their prophecies inform their next five decades.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Renee at It’s Book Talk (trusted book blogger), Susie at Novel Visits (trusted book blogger), and Michael Kindness (co-host of the now defunct Books on the Nightstand podcast)

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin (January 16, Delacorte Press)
Melanie Benjamin wrote The Swans of Fifth Avenue (my review), one of my favorite books of 2016 and very best of the Brain Candy. This is all I needed to know to grab this book immediately…but, a trusted book blogger has also read it already. So, we’ve got some icing on the cake!

An intimate portrait of the close friendship and powerful creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars: Frances Marion and Mary Pickford.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by Susie at Novel Visits (trusted book blogger)


Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August by Oliver Hilmes (February 6, Other Press)
I have a slight (OK, massive) obsession with the Olympics and became fascinated with the 1936 Olympics in particular after reading The Boys in the Boat. This was the “Nazi Olympics” and it was used by Hitler’s regime as a propaganda tool. I’m certain the events of this story are fascinating and I hope the book about them proves to be too!

A lively account of the 1936 Olympics told through the voices and stories of those who witnessed it, from an award-winning historian and biographer.

Recommendation Source(s): Published by Other Press (the publisher who brought me Quicksand, one of my favorite books of 2017)

The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson (February 6, Touchstone)
I love novels about dysfunctional families and literary suspense (though, I hear this one is a slower burn). Plus, this novel is getting fantastic reviews from regular readers on Goodreads.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller comes a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths.

Recommendation Source(s): Susie at Novel Visits (trusted book blogger) via her 2018 Winter Preview (not yet read)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (February 6, Algonquin Books)
I love a good marriage drama and this one is getting great reviews from regular readers on Goodreads. I’ve heard you want to go into this one as blind as possible.

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read and loved by Nicole Bonia (host of The Readerly Report Podcast), published by one of my Go-To Imprints

Sunburn by Laura Lippman (February 20, William Morrow)
Lippman is a new-to-me author and I’m always a little skeptical of psychological thrillers. But, Annie Jones (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources) said it was “a different kind of thriller,” which are the kinds that generally appeal to me.

New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder. . .

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Annie Jones on From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources)


Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman (March 6, Dutton)
I should probably be embarrassed to admit that this is one of the books I’m most excited about for 2018, but I’m truly not! Amy Kaufman has covered The Bachelor for the LA Times for years and I’ve been following her on Twitter for awhile now. I’ll be listening to this on audio the very second it’s released!

The first definitive, unauthorized, behind-the-scenes cultural history of the Bachelor franchise, America’s favorite guilty pleasure.

Recommendation Source(s): Honestly, I don’t even need a recommendation source for this one. I’d read it even if people said it was terrible. But, Annie Jones on From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Bookish Media Sources) has already read it, so there!

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (March 6, Flatiron Books)
I love the focus on female friendship coupled with the India setting. Plus, the Goodreads reviews from regular readers are outstanding. Plus, it’s a debut, which I’m always eager to try.

A searing, electrifying debut novel set in India and America, about a once-in-a-lifetime friendship between two girls who are driven apart but never stop trying to find one another again.

Recommendation Source(s): Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot’s All the Books podcast) on Instagram (has not yet read the book), published by one of my Go-To Imprints.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian (March 13, Doubleday)
Bohjalian’s page turners always have an unique element that makes them stand out from the sea of run-of-the-mill thrillers out there. I hear the main character in this one may not be especially likable (which doesn’t bother me, but does bother some readers).

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room, a powerful story about the ways an entire life can change in one night: A flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man – and no idea what happened.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author

Tangerine by Christine Mangan (March 27, Ecco)
I like the 1950’s Morocco setting and the reports of extreme tension in this friendship. Plus, it’s another debut.

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Recommendation Source(s): Liberty Hardy via Book Riot’s 101 2018 Books list (unclear whether she’s read the book yet).

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

What Winter 2018 books are you looking forward to?

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Six 2017 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Eight That Didn’t

December 8, 2017 Book Lists 37

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 2017 Books that Deserved the Hype list landed mostly in the awards and marketing dollars from publishers categories.

Sadly, I said a big, fat “UGH” when I finished compiling my 2017 Books that Deserved the Hype list. There were so many more books that didn’t deserve the hype than those that did. My trust in the traditional media and publishers for book recommendations is waning fast. I’ll be delving into this a bit more (numerically!) in 2018, but suffice it to say that the books that caught my eye this year were generally not the ones that the serious literary critics and publishers thought everyone should / would love.

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

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Six 2017 Books That Deserved the Hype

2017 Books that Deserved Hype

Anything Is Possible
 by Elizabeth Strout (mini review)
New York Times 100 Notable Book of the YearEsquire Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar Best Book of 2017

Beartown by Fredrick Backman (review)
Amazon Best Book of 2017, tons of regular reader buzz

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (review)
O MagazineEsquire Magazine and Refinery 29 Best Book of 2017

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (review)
Goodreads Choice Award Winner for FictionBook of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, 5 Week New York Times Bestseller (combined print and e-book), tons of regular reader buzz, and AmazonEsquire MagazineHarper’s BazaarPop Sugar, and Refinery29 Best Book of 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
O Magazine and Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017, Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Debut and Young Adult, #1 New York Times Bestseller, National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Literature

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid (review)
Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, tons of regular reader buzz

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

…and Eight That Didn’t

2017 Books That Didn't Deserve Hype

Behind Her Eyes
 by Sarah Pinborough (spoiler discussion)

Accolades: Massive pre-publication hype (i.e. #WTFthatending hashtag campaign), Book of the Month Book of the Year NomineePop Sugar Best Book of 2017
My Take: Completely outlandish ending and a ridiculous key to the story (see spoiler discussion for more details).

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (review)
Accolades: Tons of regular reader buzz, Book of the Month selection

My Take: Kind of cheesy in rom-com way and a major piece of the ending felt like a cop-out.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Accolades: Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2017, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017, and AmazonO Magazine, New York TimesEsquire Magazine, Time MagazineHarper’s Bazaar Best Book of 2017
My Take: I certainly appreciated parts of this book (i.e. the writing), but the story petered out by the end and overall I was left with a “meh” feeling.

Final Girls by Riley Sager
Accolades: Stephen King called it the “first great thriller of 2017”, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, and Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017
My Take: The ending was outlandish and completely jumped the shark, which is the death-knell of thrillers for me.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (review)
Accolades: National Book Award Winner for Fiction, Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2017, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, and Publisher’s WeeklyWashington Post, New York Times, Time MagazinePop SugarRefinery29 Best Book of 2017
My Take: I could objectively see the elements that have the critics falling all over themselves. But, something didn’t quite connect with me, I kept zoning out while reading, and I was never dying to pick it up. Also, the ghost element absolutely did not work for me.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas (review)
Accolades: Kirkus Best Debut of 2017, tons of pre-publication buzz
My Take: The inclusion of “stories within the story” (in this case, Joan’s own writing) added at least a hundred unnecessary pages to an already overly long book and pulled me out of the central story.

What We Loseby Zinzi Clemmons (review)
Accolades: Kirkus Best Debut of 2017 and Esquire MagazineElle MagazineHarper’s BazaarRefinery29 Best Book of 2017
My Take: Written in vignettes that felt jumpy, preventing me from focusing on the story.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (review)
Accolades: Tons of pre-publication and regular reader buzz
My Take: The last part of the book is a Choose Your Own Adventure story…except it’s a fake one. Enough said.

And, those are just the books I actually finished. I abandoned (i.e. DNF’d)… 

All of these books were nominated for or received literary awards and/or appeared on numerous “Best Books of 2017” lists from publications like KirkusNew York Times, Time MagazinePop Sugar, and Refinery29.

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

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My Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR List

November 21, 2017 Book Lists 28

Must Try Before End of 2017 TBR list


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

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

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

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

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

My Must Try Before the End of 2017 TBR List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me, which ones should I read first?

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

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5 Types of Books to Read When You’re Super Busy

November 16, 2017 Book Lists 13

5 Types of Books to Read When You're Super Busy

I recently asked y’all on Facebook what your biggest reading problem is these days. One reader talked about having trouble “finding consistent time to read” and said “if a book doesn’t hook me right away, I have a hard time sticking with it until it gets going.” Man, can I ever relate to this! This has been my overwhelming reading issue all year long.

Whether you’re juggling a million holiday commitments and prep activities, trying to fit in reading wherever you can while caring for young children, working a demanding job, or are just going through life events that take up significant mental space, it can sometimes be hard to focus on reading even though you want to. And, even though escaping into a book might be just what your brain needs to de-stress.

In a post earlier this year, I talked about different ways to keep reading when life gets crazy. What I didn’t cover in that post was selecting the right types of books to read when you’re super busy. If I’ve learned anything from my reading this year, it’s that choosing the types of books your brain and emotions can handle at any given moment is critical to successful reading. Sometimes what works won’t be the serious, award-winning novels and that’s okay.

Here are 5 types of books to read when you’re super busy…

Fiction that Grabs You from the Very First Page

These types of books hook you immediately and keep you frantically turning the pages because you must find out what happens right. this. very. instant. These are the books that you can’t put down and force you to put other things aside because you just have to keep reading.

Recent Examples:

Engaging, Easy to Read Novels

While these books aren’t grippingly frantic like the pure page-turners of the previous category, they are still easy to sink into. They have engaging storylines and the language doesn’t require a lot of concentration (i.e. they “read easy”…which is key for reading through life chaos). These books definitely don’t feel like slogs even though some do deal with serious topics.

Recent Examples:

Essay Collections

Essay collections are totally underrated! Each essay can stand on it’s own, so you can easily pick up and put down the collections without losing your place in the story. These types of books also work great for me on audio, which is a great substitute when you don’t have a lot of time to read.

Recent Examples:

Light and/or Juicy Memoirs

Similar to essay collections, you don’t generally have to keep track of intricate storylines in these light memoirs. Plus, you’re probably getting some juicy gossip or mind-blowing “truth is stranger than fiction”-type stories. These tend to also be audio winners for me!

Recent Examples:

Re-Reads of Old Favorites

Re-reading old favorites can be incredibly comforting. And, you probably remember the general plot if not the details, meaning you don’t have to concentrate quite as hard!

Recent Examples: Honestly, I haven’t re-read a book in a few years. But, prior to that, I re-read one Pat Conroy novel (he’s an old favorite author for me) every year.

Do you ever feel so busy that you can’t concentrate on a book? What are your favorite types of books to read when you’re super busy?

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Nonfiction November 2017: Be the Expert…Books about the Reading and Writing Life

November 14, 2017 Book Lists 30

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:

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).

It’s not surprising that some of my very favorite authors (Pat Conroy, Anna Quindlen, Ann Patchett) have books on this list. What bookworm doesn’t want to delve into the reading and writing life of their favorite authors…and snag some great book recommendations as a bonus?! There’s something comforting about reading your favorite author’s thoughts about how reading fits into their lives…and realizing they’re echoing your own.

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

books about the reading and writing life

Books about the Reading and Writing Life That I Love

A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy (my review)
A collection of Pat Conroy’s writings on books, reading, writing, and life (including letters addressed to his readers)…and his final book published (posthumously). Plus, you get his unfiltered thoughts on various books and authors (he loved Game of Thrones…not Infinite Jest).

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe (my review)
Schwalbe’s collection of essays featuring individual books and how they impacted his life…ranging from serious classics to dark thrillers to children’s books. I added a couple books discussed here to my TBR!

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
A librarian’s letters to the books in her life…both the ones she loves and the ones she hates. And, tons of recommendation lists. PS – it’s really funny.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (my review)
This memoir/essay collection is about much more than the reading and writing life, but both are covered extensively. Anna Quindlen has a grounded, practical outlook and just gets life. Listening to this on audio felt a bit like a therapy session.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
Are you surprised Conroy is popping up again? Here he talks about his reading life and the books and people that shaped it.

The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett
A very slim memoir in which one of my favorite authors counsels aspiring writers that the key to the castle is simply putting in the work. Not such a bad piece of advice for life in general.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (my review)
Like Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, this essay collection covers lots more than just reading and writing. The Getaway Car is included in this collection and you get to hear the story behind Parnassus Books among other goodies.

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami
Yep, this memoir is about running. But, it’s also about writing and the two are inextricably linked for Murakami.

Books about the Reading and Writing Life That Are On My TBR

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
I think this is Lamott’s version of Patchett’s The Getaway Car and Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. I’m hoping to fit it in this month.

What are your favorite books about reading and/or writing?

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6 Book Titles I Love…and 5 I Hate

October 24, 2017 Book Lists 19

Book Titles I Love...and Hate


I’ve got to admit…I’m not a huge book title person. I rarely buy a book solely based on the title (but, I know lots of people do this), and the few times I have, it hasn’t turned out well (see The People We Hate at the Wedding).

Book titles are more likely to go unnoticed by me unless I can’t stand them…or, on the good side, they make me laugh. So, today you’re getting both book titles I love…and hate!

Here’s a little book publishing tidbit for you. Did you know authors have very little say about the title of their book? They can throw their title choice into the ring, but the publisher’s marketing team generally has the final say (many publishing contracts specifically state this). And, the title is often determined by marketing research and what the publisher’s title committee thinks will sell. I had no idea about this until very recently. So, don’t blame the authors for the “hate” section of this list!

Linking up with The Broke and the Bookish.
This post contains affiliate links.

Six Book Titles I Love

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Because I now can actually remember the date of JFK’s assassination.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
Because it’s the perfect title for this book…intriguing and perfectly encapsulates Noah’s history.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck by Sarah Knight
Because it’s sarcastic, witty and cheeky.

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder
Because who hasn’t hated those people at the wedding?! PS – I also kind of hated the 27% of this book that I read, but the title is still awesome.

Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims
I haven’t read this book, nor do I have any idea what it’s about. I just saw it on Instagram last week and burst out laughing at the title. And, suspect I’ll probably relate to the protagonist.

You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg
This is the only book title that’s ever given me goosebumps. It’s what the race announcer says to every single Ironman triathlon finisher as he or she crosses the finish line (“Sarah Dickinson, you are an Ironman” – this will be the only time I ever see or hear that phrase, I can assure you!).

…and Five Book Titles I Hate

A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy (my review)
Y’all know how much it pains me to have Conroy on this list, but I’m sorry, this title is just cheesy.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
I never got how this title had anything to do with the story other than using the main character’s name.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (my review)
I adored this book. 5 stars. The title is cheesy, while the book is decidedly not.

One True Thing by Anna Quindlen (my review)
Another cheesy title for an Anna Quindlen book that I loved. This one sounds like a YA romance novel. Who’s on her publisher’s titling committee?! She deserves better.

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington (my review)
Another book I adored and another cheesy title. I understand it refers to a Neil Young song that plays a role in the book, but it’s not a huge role and doesn’t relate much to what the book is really about. Plus, it’s way too long.

What are some of your favorite and least favorite book titles?

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Backlist Beauties: The Best Backlist Books I’ve Read in 2017 So Far

October 10, 2017 Book Lists 20

Since my Fall reading has been so lackluster, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the best backlist books I’ve read in 2017 so far. When new releases aren’t working for you…dive into the backlist for some relief!

I always say I’m going to make more time for backlist titles and, every year, I don’t follow through. My goal is to read enough additional backlist titles by the end of the year to warrant another Backlist Beauties post!

This post contains affiliate links.

The Best Backlist Books I’ve Read in 2017 So Far

Books for Living by Will SchwalbeBooks for Living by Will Schwalbe
Nonfiction – Essays (Released December 27, 2016)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Knopf)

Plot Summary: The author of The End of Your Life Book Club‘s collection of essays featuring individual books and how they impacted his life.

My Thoughts: Each chapter of this introspective collection focuses on one book and how it impacted and contributed to Schwalbe’s life. He covers classics (Stuart Little), nonfiction (The Importance Of Living), serious books (A Little Life), and lighter fare (The Girl on the Train). I certainly hadn’t read all the books he discusses, but I related to many of his points about life. And, I’m now in the process of reading a couple books Schwalbe talked about in Books for Living (What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott). This book would be a fantastic gift for serious readers or someone who is reflecting a bit on life. 

Reading is a respite from the relentlessness of technology, but it’s not only that. It’s how I reset and recharge. It’s how I escape, but it’s also how I engage. And reading should spur further engagement.

Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter by Blake Crouch
Fiction – Thriller / Sci-Fi (Released July 26, 2016)
354 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Crown)

Plot Summary: After college physics professor Jason Dessen is abducted at gunpoint one night, he awakens in another world.

My Thoughts: Despite the hype, I avoided this book for quite awhile because I’m decidedly NOT into sci-fi. But, Dark Matter is sci-fi like The Martian (my review) is sci-fi (i.e. it has broad appeal). There’s definitely some science in it, but the story is deeply human and is more about life choices than the science. The story begins with a “WTF is going on here” vibe reminiscent of The Beautiful Bureaucrat (my review). I had no idea what was going on for awhile, but could not stop reading. Dark Matter is a page-turner in the purest sense…with an action-level on par with an episode of 24

No one tells you it’s all about to change, to be taken away. There’s no proximity alert, no indication that you’re standing on the precipice. And maybe that’s what makes tragedy so tragic. Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you’re least expecting it. No time to flinch or brace.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam HaslettImagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Fiction (Released May 3, 2016)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Little, Brown)

Plot Summary: A multi-generational family saga of the impact of depression and mental illness on a family.

My Thoughts: Incredibly sad, but poignant, this 2016 National Book Award Long-Lister is beautifully written and captures the frustration, resentment, and crushing sense of responsibility and worry that come with having a family member who suffers from mental illness. While extended sections from Michael’s perspective are hard to read and nonsensical at times with long tangents on esoteric music, they serve a distinct purpose (allowing the reader inside mind of someone suffering from depression). And, the second half flows beautifully toward the inevitable, yet still drama-filled conclusion.

There is no getting better. There is love I cannot bear, which has kept me from drifting entirely loose. There are the medicines I can take that flood my mind without discrimination, slowing the monster, moving the struggle underwater, where I then must live in the murk. But there is no killing the beast. Since I was a young man, it has hunted me. And it will hunt me until I am dead. The older I become, the closer it gets.

Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake by Anna QuindlenLots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released April 24, 2012)
182 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Random House)

Plot Summary: A combination memoir/essay collection covering marriage, girlfriends, motherhood, faith, loss, work, and much more!

My Thoughts: Listening to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake was like seeing a therapist and falls into the same category as Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. Quindlen just has such a grounded, practical outlook on life that really puts things in perspective for me. Highly recommend for anyone craving a “life wisdom” type read!

Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward: We are good parents, not so they will be loving enough to stay with us, but so they will be strong enough to leave us.

Mothering Sunday by Graham SwiftMothering Sunday by Graham Swift
Historical Fiction (Released April 26, 2016)
177 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Knopf)

Plot Summary: While the staff of British estates has time off for Mothering Sunday of 1924 (a Protestant and Catholic religious holiday that was somewhat of a precursor to our current secular Mother’s Day), Jane (a maid) and Paul (an heir to the neighboring estate) meet to continue their illicit affair.

My Thoughts: Mothering Sunday is a technically a romance, but is so unconventional that I hesitate to call it a romance at all (maybe also because I’m not a romance fan). It’s a quiet, gorgeously written story about the evolution of a woman (Jane) from the Mothering Sunday tryst with her illicit lover to late in her life. The story is unique, yet not weird and I could say the same about Swift’s writing style. Mothering Sunday reminded me a bit of Brian Morton’s Florence Gordon (my review) and would be an excellent choice for fans of Downton Abbey.

It was called “relaxation,” she thought, a word that did not commonly enter a maid’s vocabulary. She had many words, by now, that did not enter a maid’s vocabulary. Even the word “vocabulary.” She gathered them up like one of those nest-building birds outside. And was she even a maid any more, stretched here on his bed? And was he even a “master”? It was the magic, the perfect politics of nakedness. More than relaxation: peace.

One True Thing by Anna QuindlenOne True Thing by Anna Quindlen
Fiction (August 30, 1994)
315 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Random House)

Plot Summary: Ellen Gulden returns home from her prestigious job as a New York City journalist to care for her mother as she’s dying of cancer…only to be accused her mercy killing.

My Thoughts: I’m a bit late to the Anna Quindlen party, but she’s fast becoming a go-to author for me whenever I’m craving some “life lessons/perspective” in my reading. She just gets life…especially marriage, motherhood, and women’s work/life balance. One True Thing explores the relationship between Ellen (an ambitious career woman) and her mother (a Stepford-style stay-at-home mother) and their efforts to understand each other as people before it’s too late. This novel is heartfelt, sad, moving, and thought-provoking and reminded me a bit of My Name is Lucy Barton (a novel about a mother and daughter getting to know each other during a hospital stay) and Home is Burning (a memoir about children serving as caregivers for their parents). 

But in the end what was important was not that we had so misunderstood one another, but that we had so misunderstood her, this woman who had made us who we were while we barely noticed it.

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