10 Contemporary Books I’d Love to See on School Curriculums

August 28, 2018 Book Lists 19

Books I'd Love to See on School Curriculums

 

I hate to admit it, but I remember very few books I was required to read in high school and college. On the bright side though, I’ve read so many books over the past few years that I’d love to see on school curriculums! Books that address important issues, but are also just straight-up awesome books that readers can effortlessly become engrossed in.

I would’ve killed for books that fit schools’ definitions of curriculum-worthy literature, but that I also loved reading when I was in school!

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10 Contemporary Books I’d Love to See on School Curriculums

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
Because it deals with a mind-blowing number of important “issues” (i.e. marriage, race, class, incarceration, love, friendship, family, grief, fidelity, recovery) in a totally organic way…wrapped in a straight-up, engrossing story.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe (my review)
Because it shines on mental illness through a teenage character that high school age children will be able to relate to.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (my review)
Because it portrays the experience of a partially immigrant family living in a predominantly white community…and the tensions that introduces to the family dynamics. Plus, school age children dealing with the death of a sibling, sibling dynamics, parents projecting their own ambitions onto their children, and women trying to balance family and career dreams.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Grit by Angela Duckworth
To show that people have far more control over their own destinies than they think…and reinforce the most important ingredient for success.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (my review)
To show the range of emotions a single novel can evoke. Plus, a background on the Catholic Church and homosexuality in Ireland and the experience of homosexuals in general.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)
Because, like An American Marriage, it tackles a number of important topics (grief, losing a parent, faith, friendship, race, trauma, and teen pregnancy), but this time through the eyes characters that school age children can relate to.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Because it explores the power dynamics in a marriage and women balancing career and family (probably better suited to college age students).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Because Strayed is warm, relatable, and non-judgmental in her counsel and most people will find something in this book that pertains to their own life. This is the book I always wish had been around when I was in high school.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (my review)
Because it’s one of the rare books about World War II that is hopeful…and it’s based on a remarkable true story.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan
Because it’s a cautionary tale about immense pressure at a young age, depression, high achievement, social media, and teen suicide. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What contemporary books would you like to see on school curriculums?

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My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018

August 23, 2018 Book Lists 23

Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November

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

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

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

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

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author.

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

What Fall 2018 books are you looking forward to?

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What I’m Reading Now (8/20/18)

August 20, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 12

We were on vacation for part of last week and I think we’ve finally hit the point where our kids are old enough for vacations to actually be fun! For the past few years, they’ve felt like more work than fun and are definitely not relaxing for us parents. But, my kids are now 5 and 7 and they’re interested in doing some fun things that we’re also interested in (a new thing for us!).

My son is crazy about fishing. Luckily, my daughter wants to do what her brother is doing, so she’s taken up fishing too. And, we all love being on the boat. Highlight of the weekend was my son catching a small shark on his fishing rod!

And, I did manage to get some reading done, which always helps my vacation!

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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐// I was worried Where the Crawdads Sing would be a beautiful, but boring book (I’d heard Owens was known for her nature writing and lots of description usually puts me to sleep), but I couldn’t be more wrong. The writing is gorgeous, the story is propulsive, and it’s 5-star immersive. _ Kya lives alone in a shack by a North Carolina marsh, shunned and ostracized by the town residents. So, she finds her home in the nature and wildlife of the marsh. Until she gets entangled in the death of Chase Matthews, the local star quarterback and golden boy… _ P.S. I had a massive reading hangover from this one! Couldn’t get fiction to work for weeks afterwards. Always a good sign 👍 * * * * * * #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes @putnambooks #wherethecrawdadssing

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I finished reading…

 

Everything Here Is Beautiful

 

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (January 16, 2018)
I really liked this one, though it wasn’t a 5 star read for me. The dual perspectives of Lucia suffering from her mental illness (possibly schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) and her family responsible for caring for her was poignant. I felt terrible for all of them. The structure also kind of reminded me of the TV show The Affair…you’re seeing the same events from different characters’ perspectives. A good pick if you liked Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe (my review).
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

The Wildlands

 

The Wildlands by Abby Geni (September 4, 2018)
I’m over halfway through this novel about siblings who lost everything in a Category 5 tornado. It was described by the publisher as a literary thriller and I’m not sure that’s quite accurate, but I really like it anyway! I read the first half in two days, which is quick for me. And, it’s got little bits of a number of other books I liked (Before the FallWhere the Crawdads Sing, The Animals, and This Dark Road to Mercy).
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Foe Iain Reid

 

Foe by Iain Reid (September 4, 2018)
I didn’t read Reid’s best-seller, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, but Catherine at Gilmore Guide‘s book whisperer (Pam Cady, a Seattle bookseller), told her that Foe is a must-read. Since Catherine and I mostly agree on books, I’m taking Pam’s recommendation too!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading the YA hit of last year.

Two Years Ago: I was on vacation!

How was your reading week?

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Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: A 5-Star Coming of Age Story Set in Marsh Country

August 16, 2018 Southern Fiction 11

Where the Crawdads SingFiction – Literary
Released August 14, 2018
384 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Putnam)

Headline

I was worried Where the Crawdads Sing would be a beautiful, but boring book, but I couldn’t be more wrong. The writing is gorgeous, the story is propulsive, and it’s 5-star immersive.

Plot Summary

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

Why I Read It

This book came to me unsolicited from the publisher and it’s North Carolina marsh setting intrigued me (i.e. made me think of Pat Conroy just a bit).

Major Themes

The marsh, nature, living outside the grid, love, prejudice

What I Liked

  • Where the Crawdads Sing is a bit of a genre mash-up. There’s a coming of age element, a mystery, and a bit of romance that I did not expect from this book, but that totally worked for me.
  • I was completely immersed in this story from start to finish. I read it quickly and looked for every opportunity in the day to pick it up.
  • There’s a bit of a Sweet Home Alabama (the movie) feel to certain parts of the story.
  • The story is told in dual timelines…one starting in the past and working forwards and one in present day. I love how this structure kept the story moving by keeping you wondering how the characters got from point A to point Z.
  • I had somewhat muted expectations going into Where the Crawdads Sing and it defied everything I thought it would be. I knew Owens was known for her nature writing, which I thought would be beautiful, but boring. She did write beautifully about nature, animals, and marsh life, but it wasn’t boring at all. It fit with the story, conveyed what the marsh meant to Kya, and how it shaped her into who she was. And, the story was much faster-paced than I expected.

    As always, the ocean seemed angrier than the marsh. Deeper, it had more to say.

  • Not surprisingly, the marsh setting comes alive and feels like it’s own character in the story.
  • I also expected Kya to be a weird and unrelatable character…eccentric and “woo-woo.” But, Owens does a great job of letting her have thoughts and feelings that most regular teenage girls have. She just had some different layers over top as a result of her background and living alone in the marsh. She’s dealing with feeling like an outsider, prejudice from the town residents, surviving on her own, love, and heart-break. She’s incredibly likable and I was rooting for her.
  • Some plot elements should have felt cliche (they’re out of a rom-com), but they didn’t. I was totally sucked in.
  • I waited a week after finishing this book to write my review and I’m still thinking about this story. More layers keep materializing.

What I Didn’t Like

  • There were a couple plot choices at the very end that I thought were overkill. The story didn’t need them and I almost felt like the publisher might have pushed the author to add them to make the plot even more intricate.

A Defining Quote

She feels the pulse of life, he thought, because there are no layers between her and her planet.

Good for People Who Like…

Southern fiction, books with a strong sense of place, unconventional love stories, great writing, a fast-moving plot

Other Books You May Like

Another book with a fast-moving plot about a girl with a close relationship with nature:
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (my review)

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August 2018 Books to Read (and Skip)

August 14, 2018 Mini Book Reviews 22

August 2018 Books to Read

 

This August line-up is a little deceiving. It seems light (mainly because I’ll cover Where the Crawdads Sing all by itself on Thursday), but my August books were really solid overall. Also contributing to this light load is publishing’s annual August slowdown (in case you didn’t know, this is a thing)…not many new books are published during this month!

In addition to the August 2018 Books to Read in this post, I read and LOVED Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Stay tuned for my full review coming on Thursday!

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Read These

Distance HomeThe Distance Home by Paula Saunders
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: August 7, 2018)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House)

Plot Summary: In 1960’s rural South Dakota, siblings Rene and Leon both find outlets for their differentness and their sometimes stressful family life in a local ballet studio.

My Thoughts: This debut novel is part coming of age and part dysfunctional family story…though the dysfunction is much more subtle than the outrageousness you usually find in dysfunctional family novels. It’s not about one outrageous thing that happened within the family…more about a lifetime of small slights stacked on top of each other. Again unlike many dysfunctional family novels, this family has many positive and loving characteristics in addition to the darkness and mistreatment. It’s about children not fitting in at school, parents picking favorites when a child doesn’t match their expectations, children finding excellence in their chosen escape routes, and parents having completely disparate views on the appropriate paths for their children. And, the writing is fantastic…especially for a debut. If you like beautifully written, character-driven novels, Paula Saunders (who is George Saunders’ wife!) might be your best new find. I’ll absolutely be watching what she does next.

And as Rene sat in her bed that night, looking across the hall at Leon’s closed bedroom door, she couldn’t help but wonder where all the hurt and anger went after something like that. Did it just disappear, as a person grew older, dissolving in a mist of resignation and forgetfulness? Or did it crystalize, so that you carried it with you, building layer upon layer as the years went by, each incident adding to a more solid core of pain, until you came to face the world more rock than flesh?

The Line That Held Us by David Joy
Fiction – Grit Lit (Release Date: August 14, 2018)
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Putnam)

Plot Summary: When Darl Moody enlists a friend to help him cover-up a hunting accident, it ignites a violent feud in their Appalachian community.

My Thoughts: David Joy writes gritty, Southern fiction (aka Grit Lit) set in Appalachia and I really liked his debut novel, Where All Light Tends to Go (my review). The Line That Held Us has a very similar feel to Where All Light Tends to Go…gritty, bleak, yet containing characters trying to do their best within their messed up world. It’s rare to find characters you can root for in a Grit Lit novel, but I found them here. The plot clips along and I turned the pages quickly. The ending fizzled a bit for me on the action front, but I appreciated its overall message. I should warn you that there are some graphic descriptions of a body decomposing that lots of Goodreads reviewers mentioned; however, they were as bad as I expected. If you liked Bull Mountain (my review), The Line That Held Us will be right up your alley!

The unthinkable had suddenly become one more thing a man had to do to survive.

The DNF

Ohio by Stephen MarkleyOhio by Stephen Markley (August 21, 2018)
DNF at 30%

Originally, I put Ohio down at the 7% mark, but I ended up picking it back up last week. There were long sections about the characters’ high school experience that sucked me in, but as soon as the story went somewhere else (these other places were generally pretty self-indulgent), I hated it again. After wrestling around with it for a few days, I finally decided that, if I’m going to invest my time into a 500 page novel, it shouldn’t be this hit and miss. One Goodreads reviewer said it perfectly: “This really needed to be tightened up. In places, it’s a total mess. In others, it’s brilliant.” I just thought the % mess vs. brilliant was too heavily weighted to the mess side. Ohio has gotten a lot of pre-publication buzz, but I think it’s one of those critical darlings that probably won’t resonate with many regular readers.

What’s the best book you’ve read so far this month?

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What I’m Reading Now (8/13/18)

August 13, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 15

Summer is winding down and school is starting up for my kids in a couple weeks. So, while we have some free time, I’ve been trying to knock out a bunch of un-fun errands. But, I actually got a lot done and hope to enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

After flailing around with various books last week, the book I’d been waiting for (Everything Here is Beautiful) finally came in from the library and I feel like I’m back on the reading horse!

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I finished reading…

Living Out Loud

 

Living Out Loud by Anna Quindlen (August 12, 1988)
Steadfastly top notch Anna Quindlen, a charter member of my “women who get women” club. Even though these columns (originally published in the New York Times) were published in the 1980’s, they are still incredibly relevant today.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Everything Here Is Beautiful

 

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (January 16, 2018)
I’m about 25% through this debut novel about two sisters, one with a mental illness and am really liking it! It’s the first novel to truly grab my attention in the past 2 weeks and I’m so interested to see what happens with these two sisters.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Ohio by Stephen Markley

 

Ohio by Stephen Markley (August 21, 2018)
DNF at 30%
I ended up picking this one back up last week after originally thinking I was done with it at 7%. There were long sections about the characters’ high school experience that sucked me in, but as soon as the story went somewhere else (these other places were generally pretty self-indulgent), I hated it again. After wrestling around with it for a few days, I finally decided that, if I’m going to invest my time into a 500 page novel, it shouldn’t be this hit and miss. One Goodreads reviewer said it perfectly: “This really needed to be tightened up. In places, it’s a total mess. In others, it’s brilliant.” I just thought the % mess vs. brilliant was too heavily weighted to the mess side. Ohio has gotten a lot of pre-publication buzz, but I think it’s one of those critical darlings that probably won’t resonate with many regular readers.

Upcoming reading plans…

The Wildlands

 

The Wildlands by Abby Geni (September 4, 2018)
I saw this literary thriller set during a Category 5 tornado in The Millions Great Second Half Book Preview and, though it hasn’t been vetted by any of my trusted recommendation sources, I was intrigued!

was reading…

One Year Ago: I read one of my very few 5 star thrillers!

Two Years Ago: I’d just finished a fun novel set in the political world.

How was your reading week?

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How to Inspire New Readers

August 9, 2018 Discussions 9

How to Inspire New Readers

 

When I first met my now sister-in-law, her reading life consisted of magazines and design books. Looking back on it, she said reading just wasn’t part of her routine and she didn’t feel like adding one more thing to her day. When I went to visit her last weekend, her nightstand was absolutely jammed with books! So, the question is…

How did she get from magazines to a nightstand stuffed with books?

Turns out it was a beach vacation. Magazines weren’t holding her interest during those long hours basking in the sun and, for convenience’s sake, she picked up a book her husband had read, Monkey Business by John Rolfe and Peter Troob. I’ve also read this one because MY husband had read it (and he probably passed it along to his brother, thus making it’s way to my sister-in-law). It’s a memoir by two ex-investment bankers exposing the ridiculousness that goes on at investment banks.

 

And, where could she possibly turn from the riveting world of investment banking?! The Crazy Rich Asians series, of course! Her favorite was China Rich Girlfriend…not so much the third installment (Rich People Problems). And, then she was hooked on books!

The Top 3 Books of Her New Reading Venture (So Far)

Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering (June 12, 2018)
A novel about a toxic love affair told from both parties’ perspectives. I’ve seen this one around, but didn’t know much about it and now I kind of want to read it! It’s my sister-in-law’s #1 book of her reading journey so far!

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (May 24, 2016)
This debut novel set in a New York City restaurant also features a toxic relationship…and some exquisite food writing. I loved it too and it was one of my favorites of 2016! Here’s my review.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (January 26, 2016)
This fictional novel about Truman Capote and his group of socialite friends (the “swans”) is the epitome of “wealthy people behaving badly,” so I’m not surprised my sister-in-law loved it (see her reading taste below). And, I did too! It was another one of my favorites of 2016 (my review)!

What She’s Learned About Her Reading Taste

  • She loves the “rich people behaving badly” genre. Is that actually a genre?! Sure, it is!
  • She’s started venturing into darker fiction (i.e. Sweetbitter) and is enjoying those so far. Y’all know I’ve got more dark and messed up novels up my sleeve for her!

Where Is She Now?

She calls reading “addictive.” She keeps a book with her at all times (and hardcovers are her format of choice). She reads all over the place…in car pool line, in doctor’s offices, and she’s texted me from her garage where she’s reading in her car until she has to relieve her babysitter (Amen!). She now officially considers herself a reader…and has the nightstand to prove it!

How To Inspire New Readers

  • Start easy. Dear God, do not give a new reader a slow book that takes work to get through! Start with something that’s easy to get engrossed in.
  • Stay in the new reader’s wheelhouse for a bit…until she can figure out what characteristics of her preferred genres especially appeal to her. Then, you can start to apply those characteristics to other genres.
  • Encourage the new reader to make reading a part of her regular routine. Find a regular time in the day or week that reading can easily fit into. For me, that’s before bed, while waiting in any sort of line, at the pool, and a little most afternoons.

And, my sister-in-law adds…

  • Do your research before you decide on a book…increasing the likelihood you’ll enjoy the book!
  • Don’t feel obligated to finish every book you start. As John Irving says, “Grown-Ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying.” And, y’all know I whole-heartedly support the DNF!

How do you inspire new readers? Or, are you one yourself?

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My Favorite Nonfiction Audiobooks

August 7, 2018 Audiobooks 21

Favorite Nonfiction Audiobooks

 

Audiobooks are a relatively new addition to my reading life, but they’ve enabled me to read 25-30 more books each of the past two years…so, they’re a welcome addition! And, it seems many other readers are figuring out how to work audiobooks into their reading lives as well because audiobooks is the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry.

I initially didn’t think audiobooks worked for me because I tried listening to fiction while exercising and had trouble following the stories. Once I tried listening to nonfiction (generally lighter nonfiction) at other times of day (while driving, getting dressed and ready for bed, doing chores, etc), I was off to the races with audiobooks! So, I thought I’d share my favorite nonfiction audiobooks! And, if you’ve had trouble concentrating on audiobooks, I’d highly recommend trying some light nonfiction before giving up entirely!

And, I’ll continue to update this list as I find more great nonfiction audiobooks!

Latest Addition (September 6, 2018)

The Residence The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
Nonfiction (Released August 7, 2015)
10 Hours and 16 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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

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

The List

Memoirs

Beautiful, Terrible ThingA Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite
Memoir (Released July 11, 2017)
6 Hours and 41 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Waite’s story of her marriage to a psychopath / sociopath (Marco).
My Thoughts: There’s cheating and then there’s cheating as part of a pattern of psychotic or sociopathic behavior. Jen discovers her husband is cheating on her soon after having their first child. Then, she discovers a whole web of lies and starts to realize he’s not the man he seemed. I listened to this book on audio and was absolutely riveted…I ignored new podcasts to listen, something I don’t normally do. Jen chronicles her slow process of realization and recover, which definitely made me wonder if some people I know are also sociopaths. 

A Mother's ReckoningA Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold
Memoir (Released February 15, 2016)
11 Hours and 31 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold’s mother (Sue) shares her struggle following the shooting and Dylan’s suicide in this poignant memoir.

My Thoughts: I was initially skeptical of this one (would she just try to excuse her son’s actions?) and, while she did search for a “why?”, there was much more to this extremely complex story. I was riveted.

Born a Crime by Trevor NoahBorn A Crime by Trevor Noah
Memoir (Released November 15, 2016)
8 Hours and 44 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s memoir about growing up as a mixed race child in apartheid South Africa.

My Thoughts: Born A Crime is technically a celebrity memoir, but it’s actually not that at all. It is a heartfelt, funny, sad, and warm story about growing up as an outcast in an incredibly oppressive place.

Daring to DriveDaring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif
Memoir (Released June 13, 2017)
10 Hours and 17 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: al-Sharif started the campaign for women to drive in Saudi Arabia and this book is the story of her life as well as a stark portrayal of the oppression women face in Saudi Arabia.

My Thoughts: This is one eye-opening, heart-breaking read and is perfect for anyone who loved The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (my review).

Gift from the SeaGift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Memoir (Released 1955)
2 Hours and 26 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Lindbergh reflects on motherhood and being a woman during her solo vacation in a beach house.

My Thoughts: My Mom gave me this slim book when I was pregnant with my first child seven years ago and it didn’t make much of an impact on me. But, Will Schwalbe made me want to try it again in his Books for Living. The second time, it spoke directly to my core…maybe because I had seven years of motherhood under my belt by then. A must read for every woman trying to balance being a mother with maintaining their own identity.

Glitter and GlueGlitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Memoir (Released February 4, 2014)
5 Hours and 38 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Corrigan’s shares her realizations about motherhood and her own mother while serving as somewhat of a surrogate mother to two Australian children who had lost their own mother.

My Thoughts: While Glitter and Glue didn’t blow me away quite as much as the first memoir I read by her (Tell Me More), I still relished sinking back into Corrigan’s signature brand of heartfelt, relatable, and sometimes irreverent observations about life and motherhood. Corrigan hadn’t given much thought to what it’s like to mother someone or quite appreciated her mother until she stepped into the role of surrogate caring for two children who had lost their own. If you like women’s life observations-type writing (think Anna Quindlen, Cheryl Strayed), Kelly Corrigan should be next on your list!

Lots of Candles Plenty of CakeLots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Memoir (Released April 24, 2012)
7 Hours and 7 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
Anna Quindlen talks about her experience as a woman in her own life and applies it to women everywhere.
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 has such a grounded, practical outlook on life that really puts things in perspective and this book would have made my overall Best Books of 2017 list had it been published that year!

My Year of Running DangerouslyMy Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman
Memoir (Released October 6, 2015)
6 Hours and 27 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
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.
My Thoughts:
Not only is this memoir about an impressive running feat, but it’s a sweet story of a father and daughter connecting over a shared hobby.

Tiny Beautiful ThingsTiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Memoir (Released July 10, 2012)
9 Hours and 41 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
A compilation of columns from Strayed’s time as the Dear Sugar advice columnist for The Rumpus.

My Thoughts: Strayed blends empathy, truth, bluntness, and humor to form a perfect blend of “yes, that’s exactly how it is” observations about life and useful, non-judgmental advice about how to live it. I’m generally not an advice column type of person, but this audiobook (read by the author) earned 5 stars from me!

Who Thought This Was a Good IdeaWho Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco
Memoir (Released March 21, 2017)
5 Hours and 58 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
The behind-the-scenes memoir by President Obama’s former Deputy Chief of Staff.
My Thoughts: 
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is technically a political memoir, but it really doesn’t include any politics. It’s more a juicy, behind-the-scenes look at working in the White House and on Obama’s campaign trail sprinkled with tips on making the most of your career…all told through the voice of someone you’d love to grab a glass of wine with!

Investigative Journalism

False ReportA False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong
True Crime – (Released February 6, 2018)
10 Hours and 6 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
The true story of a woman (Marie) who was charged with lying about a rape and the detectives who were responsible for her case.

My Thoughts: A False Report is excellent true crime mixed in with a bit of history of rape investigation and would make a great companion read to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (my review).

Mockingbird Next DoorThe Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
General Nonfiction (Released July 15, 2014)
8 Hours and 11 Minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills was improbably accepted by famously private Harper and Alice Lee when she visited Monroeville, AL for a story and ended up living next door to them.
My Thoughts:
This story is as much about Mills’ journey to friendship with the Lees as it as about Lee herself. As I was listening, I almost felt like I was in To Kill A Mockingbird. For a real treat, pair with Episode 172 of From the Front Porch podcast about Annie Jones’ visit to Monroeville and a breakdown of what’s happened with Harper Lee’s estate since she passed away.

Stranger in the WoodsThe Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
General Nonfiction (Released March 7, 2017)
6 Hours and 19 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: The true story about Christopher Knight, the man who lived alone in the Maine forest for 27 years before finally being arrested for stealing food and essentials from nearby vacation homes.

My Thoughts: This story is strange, but completely captivating. It’s like a mash-up between a wilderness story and a study of the introverted personality trait and came extremely close to making my overall Best Books of 2017 list.

What Made Maddy RunWhat Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan
General Nonfiction – Sports (Released August 1, 2017)
7 Hours and 36 Minutes
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: The 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.

My Thoughts: This story is absolutely heart-breaking, but is a must-read for parents of young athletes…and, really, parents of all high-achieving young girls in the social media age.

What are your favorite nonfiction audiobooks?

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What I’m Reading Now (8/6/18)

August 6, 2018 It's Monday! What are you reading? 23

Last week, I mentioned I was having a bit of a hangover from Where the Crawdads Sing…and I’m now confident that I’m definitely having a hangover! I sampled a number of books last week and none really grabbed me. So, I reverted to an old favorite while I wait for some library holds to come in.

Also, I was a guest on a book podcast! I joined Laura Yamin on her podcast, What To Read Next (not to be confused with Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next?), and we talked about my all-time favorite books (talk about a hard question!), my auto-buy authors, what I think you should read now, a book I didn’t like, and some debut authors I’m keeping an eye on. This is the first time I’ve ever been on a podcast and listening to myself was no easy thing! I was cringing at all the “ums” in there…just thinking about what my high school teachers would think! I’ll have to tighten that up for next time…

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

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Book of the Month picks are due today if you haven’t gotten yours in already (check out my commentary on all the posts)!

August Book of the Month selections are here! We’ve got some chick-lity romance (not really my thing), books involving music (again not my thing), a Grit Lit that I’m about halfway through now, a police procedural, and a story about a complicated female friendship. And, shockingly, I’m not skipping this month! _ I’ve got commentary on all the selections (including my personal thoughts on the one I’m reading) AND my ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB JUDGES to help you choose the right book for your reading taste. LINKS IN PROFILE #affiliate * * * * * * #bookofthemonth #bookofthemonthclub #botm #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookgram #amreading #bookworms #instabooks #instabook #booktalk #booklovers #booklover #bibliophile #biblio #bookaddict #bookaddiction #badassbookbabes @bookofthemonth @davidjoy_author @chiquinhapeebles

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I finished reading…

what I'm reading now

 

The Line That Held Us by David Joy (August 14, 2018)
I liked this one, but the ending fizzled a bit for me. Prior to the ending, it was going to be a solid 4 star Grit Lit. I’m debating on whether dock a half star for the ending, but it’s not super straightforward (which I will explain more in an upcoming mini review).
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite (July 11, 2017) – Audiobook
Waite’s memoir about her marriage to a sociopath had me riveted…I ignored a bunch of podcasts to keep listening (and I normally pause my audiobook to listen to the podcasts as soon as they drop) and was definitely thinking about people I know in real life who could be sociopaths based on their behavior.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Living Out Loud

 

Living Out Loud by Anna Quindlen (1994)
Y’all know I adore Anna Quindlen, so after sampling a couple books with no luck, I decided to revert to my old standby. Living Out Loud is a collection of her New York Times columns about life, particularly for women, and it’s just what I need right now! I’m almost halfway through…
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

what I'm reading now

 

These DNF’s are a little different than my usual. They’re both super long books (almost 500 pages each) and I have to REALLY love a book to make those 500 pages worth it. Both these books were okay and I probably would’ve continued reading if they were shorter…and I haven’t abandoned them for good. I’ve just put them down for now until other readers I trust vet them for me.

Ohio by Stephen Markley (August 21, 2018)
Possible DNF at 7%
Loved the first chapter, but hated the second chapter, which was told from a different character’s perspective. The character was obnoxious and the writing was pretentious.

The Air We Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles (August 7, 2018)
Possible DNF at 9%
I was kind of interested in the childhood friendship between a wealthy sugar heiress and her kitchen girl, but I wasn’t completely drawn in. I wonder if I’d feel differently once I got past the childhood stage…I’m hoping someone will tell me!

Upcoming reading plans…

Everything Here Is Beautiful

 

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (January 16, 2018)
This debut novel about two sisters, one with a mental illness, comes highly recommended by a number of readers I trust (Susie, Tara, Nicole Bonia, and Jan Belisle) and I’m finally at the top of the library hold list!  

was reading…

One Year Ago: I was starting a pretty good reading streak!

Two Years Ago: I’d just finished Megan Abbott’s fantastically dark gymnastics novel.

How was your reading week?

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July 2018 Monthly Round-Up

August 3, 2018 Monthly Round-Ups 19

July 2018 Monthly Round-Up

 

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!).

My July reading was great…but, oddly enough, not because of books actually published in July. I read a couple of August releases this month that were fantastic…and a couple books that have been on my TBR since earlier this year.

I read 9 books this month…a lot for me! I finished a couple books I’d been reading over a longer period of time and also finally had some good reading time. It feels great to be back in the groove!

Winners

Losers

DNF’s

Best-Selling Book (via my affiliate links)

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (my review) – thrilled to see lots of readers are putting this one in their beach bags!

Announcements

July Quality and Recommendation Sources

Reading Quality

July 2018

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 67% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 89%

2018 Year-to-Date (through July)

  • % Successful Books Attempted (includes DNF’s) = 58% (above my 43% success rate from 2017)
  • % Successful Books Finished (does not include DNFs) = 84%

Successful Recommendation Sources

If you’re interested in tracking these types of stats, my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker does all the heavy lifting for you! Enter your book details and it automatically compiles everything into Summary Charts in real time! Go here for more details.

August Releases I’m Excited About

The Distance Home by Paula Saunders (August 7)
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (August 14)
The Line That Held Us by David Joy (August 14)

Ohio by Stephen Markley (August 21)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in July
The Ultimate Guide to Celebrity Book Clubs
Book of the Month July 2018 Selections: What Book Should You Choose?

What I’m Reading Now (7/16/18)

Overall Posts
Best Books of 2018 So Far
Am I the Only One Who Didn’t Love Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?
Book Club Recommendations

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

How was your reading month?

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