A Month of Favorites: Reading Outside My Comfort Zone

December 20, 2016 Blogger Events 28

A Month of Favorites
For the third year in a row, I’m participating in A Month of Favorites (hosted by Traveling with T, Estella’s Revenge, and GirlXOXO) throughout the month of December! I love “Top X” lists and that’s what this event is all about. Today, we’re talking about reading outside of your comfort zone, something I’m notoriously bad at doing. And, I really didn’t read much out of my comfort zone this year as I found myself sinking back into some trusted favorite types of books. But, there were a few areas where I branched out…

Reading Outside My Comfort Zone

Audiobooks

I tried audiobooks for the first time a couple years ago when I was training for a half marathon. I didn’t have a great experience and gave up listening to them, yet never canceled my Audible subscription. When I finally went to cancel my Audible subscription this year, I found I had 6 credits to burn. So, I just bought some random books, most of which were sports memoirs (Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard’s memoir, In the Water They Can’t See You Cry, was my first winner). Instead of listening while working out, I chose other times (while getting dressed, driving without kids, etc) and started to really enjoy them! I figured out that light nonfiction works best for me and now have an audiobook going at all times. It’s significantly increased my 2016 reading and nonfiction reading in particular.

Short Stories

Like many people, I shy away from short story collections. I find them hit and miss and have trouble getting invested in the characters in such a short time frame. Then, I read Nickolas Butler’s Beneath the Bonfire last year and my mind was opened. I resolved to read more short stories in 2016 and I did, with mixed results. Why They Run the Way They Do and The Tsar of Love and Techno were winners. But, American Housewife, Some Possible Solutions, and Children of the New World (DNF) were tougher sells. At this point, I’m still a little skittish about the short story format.

Advice Columns

I’d listened to everyone rave about Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things for years, but I was never tempted to pick it up. Advice columns? No, thank you. I was picturing the cheesy things in the back of Soap Opera Digest (or something like that) that you’d skim in the grocery store aisle. Then, I asked Twitter for a “life improvement-type” book that wasn’t too self-helpy that might be good on audio. Shannon from River City Reading kindly let me know that Tiny Beautiful Things was exactly what I was looking for. And, she was right. Hands-down my favorite audiobook of the year.

How have you read outside of your comfort zone this year?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (12/19/16)

December 19, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 20

Hosted by The Book Date.

Between repair work on our basement (from the recent plumbing flood) moving along and desperately trying to avoid getting the vicious stomach bug that caused 120 children from my son’s elementary school to be absent on Friday, I got some good reading done last week. I’m enjoying sinking into some backlist titles I’ve been wanting to read for awhile without any pressure or intention of reviewing them!

I finished reading…

The Undoing Project, Book of Unknown Americans


The Undoing Project
 by Michael Lewis (December 6, 2016)
First chapter was awesome. Then, Lewis proceeded to write a textbook. I did a lot of skimming from that point on. Such a letdown. I spelled out my thoughts in slightly more detail on Goodreads.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez (June 3, 2014)
Powerful book about the life of immigrants living in the U.S. Initially quiet, but I couldn’t put it down towards the end. Very glad I checked this off my backlist TBR.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

This is the story of a happy marriage, Ann Patchett


This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
 by Ann Patchett (December 11, 2011)
I’m about 40% in and I like it, but it’s not earth shattering. Some topics are more interesting than others. Interesting = writing and marriage. Less interesting (at least to me) = opera.

Upcoming reading plans…

After reading two backlist books, I’m going to switch to 2017 releases for a bit. I might squeeze in another backlist before the New Year if I have time.

History of Wolves, Idaho


History of Wolves
 by Emily Fridlund (January 3, 2017)
This debut novel about a young girl living a somewhat eccentric life in Minnesota has been getting some pre-publication buzz.

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (January 3, 2017)
Early reviews of this debut novel about a crime and a family have been all over the map. We’ll see where I fall.

How was your reading week?

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Best Debuts of 2016

December 15, 2016 Book Lists 19

Best Debuts of 2016


The past couple years have been stellar for debuts. 30% of my overall Best Books of 2014 and 20% of my Best Books of 2015 were debuts. And, I suspect that you’ll be seeing an even higher percentage of debuts on this year’s Best Books of the Year list! 

Best Debuts of 2016

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (review)
I read this dysfunctional childhood/social analysis memoir before the election. Since then, sales have taken off and controversy has swirled.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington (review)
When I first read this Southern coming-of-age story, I was thrilled that it reminded me of 2015’s My Sunshine Away. Then, I found out it was based on an actual double murder in Lynchburg, VA (Tarkington’s hometown), which added to the intrigue.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Shelter by Jung Yun (review)
I’m shocked I haven’t seen this perfectly balanced (between plot and style) dysfunctional family novel on more Best Books of 2016 lists so far.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (review)
This gritty, gorgeously written NYC foodie/restaurant novel has gotten some very mixed reviews…but it was unquestioningly a winner for me.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Girls by Emma Cline (review)
This super hyped novel was different than I expected, but the gorgeous writing won me over.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (review)
This gorgeously written novel about a young girl coming of age in a black community in California has deservedly appeared on numerous Best Books of 2016 lists. I’m firmly on this bandwagon.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
I waited awhile to read this because I was somewhat skeptical of all the hype, but it lived up to everything I’d heard. Yet, sadly, this will be the one and only work of Kalanithi we’ll get the pleasure of reading.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Youngblood by Matt Gallagher (review)
The writing and the emotional struggles of the main character made this Iraq war story shine for me.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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A Month of Favorites: Best Changes I Made This Year

December 14, 2016 Blogger Events 27

A Month of Favorites
For the third year in a row, I’m participating in A Month of Favorites (hosted by Traveling with T, Estella’s Revenge, and GirlXOXO) throughout the month of December! I love “Top X” lists and that’s what this event is all about. Today, we’re talking about reading and life improvements we made this year. Today’s topic made me stop and reflect on the past year (not something I normally do). And, I realized I made some changes that I wasn’t planning on at all, but that have worked out really well.

Best Changes I Made This Year

Reading

Used my local library
I’m embarrassed to say I just started using my library this year, mainly by checking out e-books on Overdrive. But, the library is now my preferred way to get books because they’re free, yet I don’t have any obligation to review them (like with ARCs, my other source for free books). I also like that I can sample more than the 10% of the book that Amazon allows, so I’m much more willing to take risks on books outside of my wheelhouse. 

Found my audiobook niche
I’ve had a rocky history with audiobooks…until this year when I found the type of book that works me for (lighter nonfiction) and the right times to listen (while getting ready for bed, driving without kids, and doing things around the house).

Requested fewer ARCs
Back in April, I wrote this post about my unsuccessful ARC reading. Since then, I resolved to request fewer ARCs and be more selective about those I did request. I’ll do the numbers for my end of the year stats post, but my overall reading definitely improved in the second half of the year. I enjoyed being able to free range read and jump on books other bloggers’ loved that weren’t on my pre-publication radar.

Life

Kids started to enjoy activities like coloring, Legos, etc.
Prior to this year, my kids’ (they’re 5 and 3) favorite activities were pretty much running around, screaming, and generally anything involving massive amounts of energy. While they still enjoy doing this type of stuff, they’ve also added interests I can rely on to keep them quietly entertained. While this is more of a change that came naturally, rather than one I made, I’m thrilled with its arrival!

Didn’t let the holiday season get the best of me
I’m usually a stress-case during the holiday season with too much to do, too little time, and too much on the social calendar. I decided to take the bull by the horns this year by getting the annoying tasks done early. And, it’s been a success! I’m now almost finished with the “work” and am actually enjoying the holiday season.

Picked up some new exercise habits

  • Started playing tennis again for the first time in years.
  • Worked with a trainer which resulted in improved running form…and more efficiency, faster times, and a reignited love for running.
  • Started incorporating “recovery workouts” into my weekly routine. Apparently, your body can’t process the benefits of the hard workouts unless it can recover afterwards. Though I’m backing off more than usual, my hard workouts are better than ever before.

What were the best changes you made this year?

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My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2017

December 13, 2016 Book Lists 50

My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2017

This post contains affiliate links.

When I posted My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2016 list a few months ago, I lamented that I hadn’t been very good at picking winners in the past (I ended up loving only one book from my Summer preview and big, fat zero from my Spring preview). Well, I’m thrilled to say that I bucked that trend with my Fall post…loving 4 out of 10 books. Cheers to hoping for an even better success rate with my winter picks!

This list does NOT include debuts, as they will get their very own post on January 3, 2017 (and there are some that I’m super excited about).

January

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian (January 10, Doubleday)
Bohjalian, author of The Guest Room (review), is one of my “I’ll read whatever he/she writes” authors and reading his seemingly annual January release is fast becoming a late December tradition for me.

[…] a spine-tingling novel of lies, loss, and buried desire – the mesmerizing story of a wife and mother who vanishes from her bed late one night.

Human Acts by Han Kang (January 17, Hogarth)
I missed Kang’s internationally bestselling novel (The Vegetarian) last year, but am intrigued by the South Korea setting of this short book.

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.
The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre.

Valley of the Gods by Alexandra Wolfe (January 17, Simon & Schuster)
This nonfiction title hits my “gossip-y business books” hot button.

In Valley of the Gods, Wolfe follows three of these upstarts who have “stopped out” of college and real life to live and work in Silicon Valley in the hopes of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk.

February

A Separation by Katie Kitamura (February 7, Riverhead Books)
I’m a sucker for books that break down the psychology of marriage and Rebecca Schinsky mentioned on Book Riot’s Holiday Recommendations podcast that she was excited about this one.

A mesmerizing, psychologically taut novel about a marriage’s end and the secrets we all carry.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (February 7, Tin House Books)
Another novel about marriage…plus, I loved Fuller’s 2015 debut, Our Endless Numbered Days (review).

Sexy and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious and complicated truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

The Brain Defense by Kevin Davis (February 28, Penguin Press)
Courtroom drama and investigation of how the brain works? Yes, please! Kate at Parchment Girl had this book on her 50 Amazing Books to get Excited About This Winter list.

Thought-provoking and brilliantly crafted, The Brain Defense marries a murder mystery complete with colorful characters and courtroom drama with a sophisticated discussion of how our legal system has changed and must continue to change as we broaden our understanding of the human mind.

Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (February 28, Little Brown)
This one is sort of my random shot in the dark. I know nothing about the author or the book, but the premise intrigued me.

Neurosurgeon Eitan Green has the perfect life–married to a beautiful police officer and father of two young boys. Then, speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, he hits someone. Seeing that the man, an African migrant, is beyond help, he flees the scene.

March

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg (March 7, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
I loved Attenberg’s 2015 novel, Saint Mazie (review), and Book Riot’s Rebecca Schinsky is already raving about her latest.

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Middlesteins comes a wickedly funny novel about a thirty-nine-year-old single, childfree woman who defies convention as she seeks connection.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (March 7, Riverhead Books)
Kerry at Entomology of a Bookworm said this dysfunctional families novel (total sucker for these too!) is “totally F’d up, yet compelling.”

The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein (March 21, Algonquin Books)
Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You (review), blurbed this novel and that’s all the convincing I need. 

[…] when Jacob’s father, Dave, found out Karen was pregnant and made it clear that fatherhood wasn’t in his plans, Karen walked out of the relationship, never telling Dave her intention was to raise their child alone. But now Jake is asking to meet his dad, and with good reason: Karen is dying.

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

What Winter 2017 books are you looking forward to?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (12/12/16)

December 12, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 29

Hosted by The Book Date.

I’m feeling super good about myself this week! For the past few years, I’ve been a total stress-case during the holiday season with too much to do, too little time, and too much on the social calendar. I decided to change things this year by getting the annoying tasks done early. I’ve now finished shopping, making the annual photo album the grandparents like to receive, and sending out holiday cards and am actually enjoying the holidays! Plus, work will begin on Monday to repair our basement from our recent flood, which means my kids will have a playroom again soon.

I finished reading…

We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter


We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (February 14, 2017)
I have a tendency to get bogged down in WWII books and did not feel that way at all about this one! The story is fast-moving and hopeful, despite the heavy topic, and it’s one heck of a story. It would be a great choice for fans of The Nightingale. Keep this debut on your radar for February!
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Undoing Project, Michael Lewis


The Undoing Project
 by Michael Lewis (December 6, 2016)
I’m almost halfway through. Bang-up first chapter including a Charles Barkley quote, which I welcome at any time, but am getting bogged down in the biographical information about the two psychologists and their non-real world experiments. I’m doing more skimming than I’d like.

Upcoming reading plans…

It’s the time of year when I treat myself to a few backlist goodies that have been on my TBR forever! Which of these do you recommend I read?

Empire Falls, Every Last One, Book of Unknown Americans, Devil All the Time, This is the story of a happy marriage


Empire Falls
 by Richard Russo (May 8, 2001)
I’m a sucker for stories about small, blue-collar communities. On the downside, I have a dismal record with Pulitzer Prize winners. Regardless, I’ve been meaning to try this legendary author for awhile now.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (April 13, 2010)
I recently read my first Anna Quindlen (Miller’s Valley) thanks to Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books and this is where she pointed me next.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez (June 3, 2014)
The fact that I’m still seeing a fair number of people reading, reviewing, and talking about this book two years after publication makes me think I need to make time for it.

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollack (July 12, 2011)
I love Grit Lit, but haven’t read as much of it as I’d like to this year. I hear this guy’s the king, yet I couldn’t get into his latest novel, The Heavenly Table. But, people I trust swear The Devil All the Time is much better, so I might give it a shot.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (December 11, 2011)
Ever since reading Commonwealth, I’ve been on an Ann Patchett high. So, I need to get to this collection of memoir-style essays.

How was your reading week?

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

December 8, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2016

December 6, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 24

New-To-Me Authors I read in 2016
Today, I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) and A Month of Favorites (hosted by Traveling with T, Estella’s Revenge, and GirlXOXO). My list does NOT include debut authors… since I will honor them in an upcoming Best Debuts of 2016 list.

Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2016

Ramona Ausubel (Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty)
Her commentary on the habits of the wealthy made this summer read shine.

Jennifer Close (The Hopefuls)
She won me over with her hilarious skewering of douche-y DC politicos.

Delia Ephron (Siracusa)
Though I’ve loved her movies, I had never read any of her books…until Siracusa became my favorite book of summer 2016.

Kent Haruf (Our Souls at Night)
I’m sad that the first book of his that I read was also his last (he’s since passed away), but thankful that he left behind a solid backlist.

Janice Y.K. Lee (The Expatriates)
Lee hit my hot button of running thin threads of darkness through an otherwise light story.

Jim Lynch (Before the Wind)
Lynch brilliantly plopped a classic dysfunctional family novel into the world of sailing…which provides endless fodder for social commentary. Thankfully, he’s got a backlist waiting for me!

Anthony Marra (The Tsar of Love and Techno)
Marra’s writing and delightfully subversive tone made this short story collection sing.

Susan Perabo (Why They Run the Way They Do)
This underrated gem of a short story collection has that whole “darkness simmering just beneath the surface of mundane life” thing going on. And, Perabo has a novel (The Fall of Lisa Bellow) coming out in March 2017!

Anna Quindlen (Miller’s Valley)
Why did I wait so long?! Catherine, thank you for pushing me! Ms. Quindlen, thank you for having such an extensive backlist waiting for me!

Rufi Thorpe (Dear Fang, With Love)
What an endearing heroine in Vera! And, I’ve got my eye on Thorpe’s previous novel, The Girls from Corona del Mar.

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

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (12/5/16)

December 5, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 27

Hosted by The Book Date.

I took last week off from this post to share my Books that Make Perfect Holiday Gifts 2016 list, but you can check out what I read in my November Monthly Round-Up.

Our house is still a disaster zone from the flood, but we did find out that work will begin this week on repairing the basement and upper floor walls and ceilings. And, the best news is that the main and upstairs floors won’t have to be redone for awhile, so we won’t have to temporarily relocate. So, there is light at the end of the tunnel! On the reading front, I spent the last two weeks sneaking in a final few 2016 releases before moving onto my annual December backlist TBR reading and 2017 releases. I’ll also be participating in some of the A Month of Favorites events through the end of December.

I finished reading…

Miller's Valley, Anna Quindlen


Miller’s Valley
 by Anna Quindlen (April 5, 2016)

Believe it or not, this is my first foray into Anna Quindlen – thanks to Catherine at Gilmore Guide for giving me the push! This quiet, uncomplicated, yet satisfying coming of age/family saga and story of small-town life reminded me of a less hard-hitting version of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth with a touch of girl power for good measure. The writing was chock full of wise observations about life, filling my notes with passages labeled “so true.” Miller’s Valley would also make a great holiday gift for mothers, mother-in-laws, grandmothers, aunts, etc.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter


We Were the Lucky Ones
by Georgia Hunter (February 14, 2017)

I’m jumping the gun a bit here, but that’s because the author of this debut novel is a friend of mine from college! The book is based on the true story of Hunter’s Polish Jewish family’s efforts to reunite after being separated during World War II. I’m only 25% in so far, but the story has already gotten incredibly intense and I’m invested in the fates of these people.
Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Undoing Project, Michael Lewis


The Undoing Project
 by Michael Lewis (December 6, 2016)

I’m a huge Michael Lewis fan, so of course I have to squeeze his latest book into my 2016 reading (this will probably be the last 2016 release I read this year). This time around, he’s focusing on two Israeli psychologists (Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky), whose research into the human decision-making process drove much of today’s behavioral economics field (which I’ve been delving into on audio a fair amount this year).

How was your reading week?

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A Month of Favorites: Five 2016 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t

December 2, 2016 Blogger Events 54

A Month of Favorites
This post contains affiliate links.

For the third year in a row, I’m participating in A Month of Favorites (hosted by Traveling with T, Estella’s Revenge, and GirlXOXO) throughout the month of December! I love “Top X” lists and that’s what this event is all about. Today, we’re talking about hyped books, which is one of my favorite lists to put together every year.

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? I landed on any and all of these for this post.

Sadly, when I was compiling the first draft of this list (which included well over five books for each category), I came up with considerably more books that didn’t deserve the hype than those that did. Based on how my reading has felt all year, this doesn’t surprise me. This isn’t to say I haven’t read some great books this year, just that they weren’t necessarily the ones I expected them to be. 

Five 2016 Books That Deserved the Hype

2016 Books That Deserved the Hype

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (review)

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (review)

The Girls by Emma Cline (review)

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (review)

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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

…and Five That Didn’t

2016 Books that didn't deserve the hype


American Housewife by Helen Ellis (review)

Books that are billed as “laugh out loud” rarely live up to the hype for me and that was the case with this short story collection. However, I suspect some others would put this one in the top half of this post.  

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon (review)
I’m not sure if this book was actually hyped or if I’d just hyped it in my own head because I loved Lawhon’s debut, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress (review), so much. Sadly, I was bored with this one and turned off by a focus on romance.

Some Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips (review)
I’m not sure this short story collection was overly hyped in the broader world, but the small corner of the book blogging Internet I hang out in was anxiously awaiting Phillips’ follow-up to The Beautiful Bureaucrat (review). Bureaucrat was completely bizarre, but I got the point and loved the weirdness; while most of the stories in Some Possible Solutions left me scratching my head.

The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang 
This debut novel was one of the most hyped books of Fall, but I was completely annoyed with the characters and their conversations. I bailed at 24%.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota 
This British novel was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, but I felt like I was watching the story with a hazy view from high above, rather thank sinking into it. I bailed at 12%.

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

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