Coming Soon: Personalized Book Recommendations

April 4, 2017 Book Recommendations 26

Personalized Book Recommendations

Click HERE to submit a recommendation request.

My regular readers might remember a few months back when I got introspective about where I wanted to take this blog (you can get a refresher here and here if you’re interested). I mentioned that I was planning to test run a small book recommendations project around Mother’s / Father’s Days.

Personalized book recommendations are what I was referring to.

After reading the book reviews and lists on my blog, people frequently reach out to me asking for a particular type of book recommendation. Which got me thinking about about book recommendation services…

There are many book recommendation services available at the moment:

  • Amazon and Goodreads use computer algorithms to tell you what you might enjoy based on what you’ve previously purchased (Amazon) and added to your various lists (Goodreads). 
  • Book of the Month Club allows members to choose from five curated selections each month and mails you a hardcover book (incidentally, this is a great service if you like reading hardcover books and aren’t looking for personalized recommendations).
  • Some independent bookstores (i.e. Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA) also have personalized recommendation services where they mail you either a hardcover or paperback of the book they recommend for you. 

But, I keep thinking, why aren’t there more book recommendation services…

  • For people who prefer to e-read or listen to audiobooks?
  • Where humans give you a recommendation based on your personal tastes? Like the internet version of your neighborhood independent bookseller?
  • That pair personalized book recommendations with the freedom to choose your format and retailer?

So, I’m excited to announce a test run for a personalized book recommendations service from Sarah’s Book Shelves!

It will be a limited (and free) trial for the Mother’s / Father’s Day holidays (mid-April through mid-June) to gauge interest and gather your valuable feedback (via a follow-up survey).


Bonus! If you participate in the Mother’s / Father’s Day trial, you will receive a special discount if you sign-up for the paid service when it officially launches.

How Will the Trial Work?

  • Click on the Get Personalized Book Recommendations option on the Sarah’s Book Shelves menu (this option isn’t there right now, I will add it when I launch in mid-April).
  • Complete a short questionnaire about the kind of recommendation you’re looking for, and whether it’s for you or a gift.
  • I will email you 2-3 book recommendations that fit your criteria within a few days.
  • If your recommendations are for a gift, I can 1) email them directly to you so you can purchase the book(s) in whatever format you prefer OR 2) I can email the recommendations directly to your gift recipient!
  • After you receive your recommendations, I will send you a brief survey to complete. Everyone who completes a survey will be entered to win a $15 gift certificate to Amazon (which will generally cover at least one e-book or paperback).

After the test run…

I’ll review the survey and hope to launch the paid service in one of the following formats:  

  • A simple personalized book recommendation service where you can either buy one-time recommendations or a monthly subscription.
  • A premium level of Sarah’s Book Shelves content with a monthly personalized book recommendation as its key element, in addition to a few other features.

I’d love your feedback on this new endeavor. Please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (4/3/17)

April 3, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 34

A little bit about life this week…and what I’ve been watching and listening to before we get to the books.

My husband and I just finished watching OJ: Made in America, which is fantastic and full of tidbits that I’d forgotten or never knew in the first place. Next up (for me, not my husband) is Big Little Lies. Even though I hated the book, I’m planning to give the series a shot. Also, Season 4 of Southern Charm premieres this week and the Food Network is bringing back Iron Chef for a special (Iron Chef Gauntlet) on April 16. Tell me again why this show went off the air?!

I’m a few episodes into S-Town (the new podcast from the producers of Serial) and am completely hooked! It’s more like the original Serial than Season 2 was and is also a nice companion to Hillbilly Elegy (my review) in its own way. And, I’ve also been listening to a couple podcasts that focus on blogging and business tips: Brilliant Business Moms, The Strategy Hour, and The Chopped Podcast (technically for food bloggers, but much of their advice can be applied to all kinds of blogs). It’s nice to get my head out of the book blogging bubble with these new additions to my podcast queue.

Finally, I shared my commentary on the Book of the Month Club April selections…and there are more pre-releases than usual! Choices are due on Thursday, April 6.

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (March 28, 2017)
Ugh…ya’ll. This book never did really turn around for me and I’m having trouble understanding all the hype. I’m definitely in the minority on this one. Mini review to come.

I’m currently reading…

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (January 17, 2017)
I’m almost finished with this one. It’s been awhile since I read a book I’d describe as “delightful,” but this one kind of is. It’s playful and whimsical and nostalgic. It’s a very New York book and Lillian is quite a New York character.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

Marlena, Julie Buntin

 by Julie Buntin (April 4, 2017)
I’ve actually already sneaked in the first chapter of this story of an ill-fated friendship…and that first chapter was GOOD! I’m looking forward to really diving in after I finish up with Lillian Boxfish.

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I was reading one of my top 3 books of 2016!

Two Years Ago: I was reading about beauty pageants and Beanie Babies.

How was your reading week?

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Book of the Month Club April 2017 Selections: What Would I Choose?

April 1, 2017 Book Recommendations 8

Book of the Month Club April 2017 Selections

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Do you want to know more about the five Book of the Month Club selections before making your choice(s) each month?

Welcome to my new monthly feature “Book of the Month Club Selections: What Would I Choose?”! Every month, I’ll provide commentary on the books that are chosen as that month’s Book of the Month Club selections and tell you which book(s) I would choose.

This month, the Book of the Month Club selections are jam-packed with sneak peeks (i.e. books that haven’t been released to the public yet)! And if you’re considering adding on one of last month’s selections, check out my thoughts on those. I can also now say that I’ve listened to The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (one of last month’s selections) and it’s a captivating story that would be perfect for fans of Jon Krakauer (and it’s my favorite audiobook of 2017 so far).

Book of the Month Club April 2017 Selections

Impossible Fortress, Jason RekulakThe Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (Released: February 7, 2017)
285 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.75
Selected By: Tyler Coates (Culture Editor at GQ)

A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

My Thoughts:
I’ve had The Impossible Fortress on my TBR list for a little while now…potentially as a candidate for my 2017 Summer Reading Guide (coming in mid-May). Kathy at Kathy Reads said it was “fun, fast, and original.  It’s that book that will warm your heart and keep you smiling.” However, Katie at Words for Worms found it an “enjoyable” book that was “based in nostalgia and not a literary heavy hitter.” Katie also didn’t think it lived up to the marketing dollars that Simon & Schuster put behind it. I’ve also heard discussions on at least one literary podcast about the fact that it’s so jam-packed with 1980’s nostalgia that it overpowers the overall story. I’ve also heard it’s a book that will appeal to gaming nerds…I’m definitely a nerd in many ways, but gaming isn’t one of them. So, my interest is wavering ever so slightly.

Startup, Doree ShafrirStartup by Doree Shafrir (Released: April 25, 2017)
304 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.03
Selected By: Glory Edim (owner of book club and newsletter Well Read Black Girl)

From veteran online journalist and BuzzFeed writer Doree Shafrir comes a hilarious debut novel that proves there are some dilemmas that no app can solve.

Mack McAllister has a $600 million dollar idea. His mindfulness app, TakeOff, is already the hottest thing in tech and he’s about to launch a new and improved version […]. Katya Pasternack is hungry for a scoop that will drive traffic. Sabrina Choe Blum just wants to stay afloat. When Mack’s bad behavior collides with Katya’s search for a salacious post, Sabrina gets caught in the middle as TakeOff goes viral for all the wrong reasons.

My Thoughts:
This debut novel caught my eye when I reviewed the spring 2017 publisher’s catalogs. Joanna Rakoff, author of one of my favorite memoirs (My Salinger Year, my review), said “if you have ever lived in New York or worked in an office, you will love this novel.” I’ve done both, so I’m thinking I’ll appreciate this book! And, it’s been compared to Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. (another NYC novel I loved) and was included in The Millions Great 2017 Book Preview. If you’re considering this one, check out some of Shafrir’s writing for Buzzfeed. Also note that Startup is not coming out until April 25, so this is a chance to get your hands on it early!

Killers of the Flower Moon, David GrannKillers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (Release Date: April 18, 2017)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.43
Selected By: Sarah Weinman (writer, editor and “Crime Lady”)

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

[…] David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. […] it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating.

My Thoughts:
I hadn’t heard of this book before seeing the Book of the Month Club April selections, but I love some good true crime, so my interest is now piqued! It’s been blurbed by Jon Krakauer and Erik Larson (whose The Devil in the White City is one of my all-time favorite nonfiction books) and Le Monde (Paris) called Grann “a worthy heir to Truman Capote.” High praise to be compared to the author of one of the first true crime books ever published, In Cold Blood. I thought I had my top 2 choices for this month all locked up until I saw this book!

American War, Omar El ArkadAmerican War by Omar El Akkad (Released: April 4, 2017)
407 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.07
Selected By: Maris Kreizman (Book of the Month Club Editorial Director)

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

My Thoughts:
American War is a dystopian war novel set in 2074, which is not really in my wheelhouse. It’s been compared to Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (which I did love) and Corman McCarthy’s The Road. El Akkad is a Canadian journalist who has covered the Afghanistan war, the Guantànamo Bay military trials, and the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt. This novel portrays a world where the red states and blue states are at war and is likely to spark political debate. Publisher’s Weekly called it “a very dark read.”

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi KoulOne Day We’ll All Be Dead by Scaachi Koul (Released: May 2, 2017)
288 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.19
Selected By: Kevin Nguyen (Digital Deputy Editor, GQ Magazine)

For readers of Mindy Kaling, Jenny Lawson and Roxane Gay, a debut collection of fierce and funny essays about growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada, “a land of ice and casual racism,” by the irreverent, hilarious cultural observer and incomparable rising star, Scaachi Koul.

My Thoughts:
Though she is a culture writer for Buzzfeed, One Day We’ll All Be Dead is Scaachi Koul’s first book. I don’t know anyone who has personally read this book yet, but I do know of some who are excited about it (Shannon at River City Reading). It was included in The Millions Great 2017 Book Preview and received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, which called it “simultaneously uproarious and affecting.” I’ve had great luck with this publisher, especially with books having to do with immigrant culture (i.e. Shelter, my review). But, I also have a hit and miss relationship with essay collections that are supposed to be funny, so while I’m definitely interested in this book, I’m going to let some other readers I trust vet it first.

What Book of the Month Club April 2017 selection(s) would I choose?

My choices this month would be Startup and Killers of the Flower Moon!

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

Join Book of the Month Club…

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

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

Sign up for a Book of the Month Club membership (pricing below)!

1-month: $5 for first month, $14.99/month if you choose to continue
3-month: $9.99 for first 3 months, $14.99/month if you choose to continue
6-month: only available as a gift
12-month: $11.99/month
(Special March Deal: get a free BOTM tote when you sign up for a 3 month membership)

*All book descriptions are from Goodreads.

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March 2017 Monthly Round-Up

March 30, 2017 Monthly Round-Ups 17

March 2017 monthly round-up

This post contains affiliate links and I will make a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

March Reading / Life

Best Books of the Month

My Favorite Book(s) of the Month

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (March 14, 2017)
Fiction, 384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (March 7, 2017)
Nonfiction, 224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

PS – last year’s Best Book of March was The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder (my review)…one of my Underrated Gems of 2016!

Best Selling Book of the Month (via my affiliate links)

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (my review)

April Releases I’m Excited About

No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts (April 4)
Somebody with a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill (April 4)
Marlena by Julie Buntin (April 4)
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (April 17)

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (April 25)

Most Popular Posts

Posts Actually Published in March
My Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2017
Four Books I Just Added to My All-Time Favorites List
Five New Books You Can Read in a Weekend

Overall Posts
Book Club Recommendations
Behind Her Eyes and THAT Ending: Spoiler Discussion
My Best All-Around Go-To Book Recommendations

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

How was your reading month?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (3/27/17)

March 27, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 30

After the stumbling block of two weeks ago, my reading is now back on track in a big way. I absolutely adored the book I read last week and have had back-to-back fantastic audiobooks. I never talk much about the audiobooks I listen to because I find that listening to them with the intent to review makes me enjoy them less, but I do occasionally mention them if they really wow me. So, you’re getting a couple of those this week.

My son’s and my March Madness brackets fell apart a bit yesterday. The only team we have left alive is Gonzaga. It was a good run while it lasted!

Hosted by The Book Date.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

The Wanderers, The Strange in the Woods

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (March 14, 2017)
I absolutely loved this book…it’s one of my favorites so far this year. It’s been compared to Station Eleven and The Martian, but I think it’s closest to being a much more subtle and philosophical version of The Martian. Review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (March 7, 2017)
This is story of “the last true hermit” is the best audiobook I’ve listened to this year. It’s strange, yet captivating and is perfect for fans of Jon Krakauer (particularly Into the Wild) and Quiet by Susan Cain (yes, I realize this is an odd pair of comparisons). It will make an appearance on my 2017 Summer Reading Guide for sure!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (March 28, 2017)
I’m about 25% through this literary thriller/coming of age novel and I like it, but it’s not blowing my mind at this point. I do feel invested in the characters, though, so am looking forward to seeing what happens to them.

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami (July 29, 2008)
I’d been hearing about this memoir from the Japanese literary sensation (author of 1Q84) for years, but a chapter in Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living was what really got me interested in it. It’s about long distance running (duh), writing, solitude, triathlons, and changing the way you live your life. I adore it.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

I should probably get started on April releases, but this book I’ve had my eye on for months just came in from the library!

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
 by Kathleen Rooney (January 17, 2017)
I’m hoping this story about an 85 year-old woman who reflects on her life as she takes a walk around Manhattan in 1984 will be a new addition to my badass ladies reading category.

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I’d just finished The Nest and was starting a couple blah books.

Two Years Ago: I was reading potential books for my 2015 Summer Reading Guide.

How was your reading week?

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Five New Books You Can Read in a Weekend

March 21, 2017 Book Lists 38

New Books You Can Read in a Weekend

I’ve been on a short books kick recently and get really excited when I find tiny books that still pack a serious punch. The books on this list are all relatively new releases and are under 300 pages…short enough for you to read in a relatively plan-free weekend.

Five New Books You Can Read in a Weekend

A Separation, Katie MitamuraA Separation by Katie Kitamura
Fiction (Released February 7, 2017)
240 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Riverhead) 

A Separation has catastrophically been described as a “whodunit” (by Elle Magazine) and “the literary Gone Girl of 2017″ (by The Millions). It is NOT either of those things. It is, however, a gorgeously dark rumination on a troubled marriage. It’s most definitely a “style” book (i.e. don’t look for a fast-moving plot), but I immediately adored the narrator’s voice and tone. Kitamura, through the wife’s perspective, creates emotional tension that propels the story (much like Tender, one of my 2016 favorites). This book is not for everyone. But, try the first few pages…if the writing connects with you, then you should probably keep reading! 

What would be irrational would be to remain in this state of indecision, neither in nor out of the marriage, neither with nor free of this man. The sooner I was able to deliver myself from this situation the better, I could not remain beholden to two separate and antagonistic sets of expectation […]

All Grown Up, Jami AttenbergAll Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 

All Grown Up is a raw, compact story of a young woman (Andrea) trying to find her way in the world, but it’s taking longer than society says it should. Attenberg uses little snapshots of Andrea’s life to share her struggles with being single in New York City (a situation I could relate to from years ago) and provide “yes, that’s exactly how it is” commentary on how society treats single ladies in their thirties. Andrea’s floundering is frustrating, but also relatable and endearing. What really made All Grown Up for me was the unexpectedly funny writing. It’s snarky and filled with the type of dry, morbid humor that’s not for everyone, but is for me. All Grown Up tackles the quarter-life crisis theme in a brutally honest rather than grating way (I’m looking at you, The Futures) and is one of my favorite books of 2017 so far!

People architect new lives all the time. I know this because I never see them again once they find these new lives. They have children or they move to new cities or even just to new neighborhoods or you hate their spouse or their spouse hates you or they start working the night shift or they start training for a marathon or they stop going to bars or they start going to therapy or they realize they don’t like you anymore or they die. It happens constantly. It’s just me. I haven’t built anything new. I’m the one getting left behind.

The Roanoke Girls, Amy EngelThe Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
276 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Crown) 

The Roanoke Girls features quite possibly the most dysfunctional (although, supremely F’d up is probably more accurate) family I’ve ever encountered in fiction. It’s the kind of book that I was slightly embarrassed to be reading, but was completely unable to put down. The extent to which Engel pushed the premise of this book is preposterous (think The Flowers in the Attic on steroids mixed with a bit of Sweet Home Alabama) and the characters’ decision-making is frustrating, but I was impressed with the writing and was even able to tolerate a bit of a love story (which is rare for me). It’s a fast, if not demented and twisted, read and would make a great vacation accessory.

I’ve been back in this house for less than an hour, and already I feel like I’m losing my mind, the Roanoke reality slithering into place. Where a tornado is a bit of wind or a missing woman is simply out having fun.

The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel LevyThe Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released March 14, 2017)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House) 

I immediately fell for the writing in this searing memoir of self-examination by a current New Yorker staff writer (also a native of my current town). Levy takes a brutally raw and honest look at her life including love, massive loss, and bad decisions. Her style is rambling – covering topics from crafting her career as a professional writer to gardening to covering the Caster Semenya story (the South African runner who was gender-tested at the 2009 Berlin World Championships) to her views on marriage in general and gay marriage specifically (she’s a lesbian) to infidelity to Mike Huckabee to late-in-life pregnancy – but it flows seamlessly. It’s a risky thing to market a book as “for readers of Cheryl Strayed” and, while I’m not putting Levy on equal footing with the giant, the comparison is not unfounded.

People have been telling me since I was a little girl that I was too fervent, too forceful, too much. I thought I had harnessed the power of my own strength and greed and love in a life that could contain it. But it has exploded.

Woman Next Door, Yewande OmotosoThe Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Fiction (Released February 7, 2017)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Picador) 

The Woman Next Door was a fantastic surprise for me…and it’s likely to end up on my Underrated Gems of 2017 list. It’s like Grumpy Old Men crossed with Desperate Housewives set in South Africa and involving race. The story kicks off with snarky humor before taking a more contemplative turn. Two next door neighbors (Marion and Hortensia) can’t stand each other and are constantly plotting how to figuratively take the other one down, yet The Woman Next Door ends up being a story about friendship and regret and a lesson in how you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Plus, the writing shines!

It wasn’t like Marion to give away such easy points but, while she was being generous, it was Hortensia’s aim to collect. Their rivalry was infamous enough for the other committee women to hang back and watch the show. It was known that the two women shared hedge and hatred and they pruned both with a vim that belied their ages.

What great books have you read in a weekend?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (3/20/17)

March 20, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 28

Hosted by The Book Date.

My late February / early March reading streak has finally hit a roadblock. And, a book by an author who has only ever received 5 stars from me did it. Couldn’t be more shocked.

It’s been a big basketball week in our house. This is the first year my son has cared about March Madness (or basketball at all)…but, he’s now obsessed. He did his own bracket in my husband’s office pool and helped me with my picks (he correctly picked the Villanova AND Louisville upsets and so far has me leading The Ladies Bracket with my high school buds for the first time ever!).

I’d also like to thank Julianne from Outlandish Lit for very thoughtfully helping me tweak my social media follow buttons. I’m old (in tech expertise terms) and don’t know much about coding, so I was so relieved to get some help from someone in the know. I now have links to my Pinterest and Instagram accounts on the blog, so follow me over there! Also, check out Julianne’s blog, Outlandish Lit, if you haven’t already!

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

The Rules Do Not Apply, The Hearts of Men 

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy (March 14, 2017)
I really enjoyed this raw, brutally honest memoir. It’s been marketed as “for fans of Cheryl Strayed,” which is a pretty unattainable bar, but the comparison in this case is not entirely unfounded.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler (March 7, 2017)
I had high hopes for Butler’s third book after loving Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire. Sadly, I couldn’t connect to these characters and there were a lot of seemingly random elements that never came together into a coherent whole for me.

I’m currently reading…

The Wanderers, Meg Howrey

The Wanderers
 by Meg Howrey (March 14, 2017)
I’m about 25% through this novel about a group of astronauts training for the first mission to Mars. It’s been billed as “Station Eleven meets The Martian” (both books I loved) and, so far, is the most unique book I’ve read all year. I’m loving it even though I don’t have any special interest in space.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

The Arrangement, Sarah Dunn

The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn (March 21, 2017)
I was looking for a fun read to include in my Summer Reading Guide, but only made it 10% through this story about a couple who tries an open marriage before getting annoyed with the characters and turned off by the hints of Liane Moriarty-esque Mommy politics.

Upcoming reading plans…

Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
 by Hannah Tinti (March 28, 2017)
This story about a father and a daughter, which has been billed as a literary thriller and a coming of age novel, has been getting some pre-publication buzz and sounds right up my alley.

I was reading…

One Year Ago: An online defensive driving course was seriously cutting into my reading time.

Two Years Ago: Not loving Hausfrau put me in the minority.

How was your reading week?

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Four Books I Just Added to My All-Time Favorites List

March 16, 2017 Book Lists 33

Four Books I Just Added to My All-time favorites list
Ever since I started Sarah’s Book Shelves, I’ve had a list of my All-Time Favorite Books sitting on my menu bar (under Book Lists). I haven’t added a single new book to this list since I started blogging. Or, removed one. But, in theory, I do believe that my All-Time Favorites list can and should evolve over time.

I’m the type of person that has to let a book sit with me for awhile before I truly know if it will be a lasting favorite. With some books, I love them when I read them, but they eventually fade from memory. With others, I continue to think about them and recommend them to others long after I’ve read them.

It’s this second category of books that has a shot at making my All-Time Favorites list…eventually (the most recently read book on this list is Tiny Beautiful Things 8 months ago). The books I just added to my All-Time Favorites list have a couple of things in common:

  • Gorgeous and/or “yes, that’s exactly how it is” writing
  • Parts that bothered some people (The Dinner‘s slow start, My Sunshine Away‘s long Hurricane Katrina tangent, and The Wife‘s dreariness)…but totally worked for me
  • Books that I frequently recommend to others

Four Books I Just Added to My All-Time Favorites List


My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (my review)
My Sunshine Away is a book that floored me with its gorgeous writing, endeared me to its nameless narrator, had me anxiously wondering who raped Lindy Simpson, and took me home with its teenager in the late 1990’s setting. It was one of my favorite books of 2015 and I’ve been recommending it like crazy since.

The Dinner by Herman Koch (my review)
I read this book 2 years ago and its still one of the books I recommend most to people looking for a juicy book club selection. Koch’s sometimes cringe-worthy writing style reads as refreshing to me and this novel has the perfect balance of scathing social commentary, discussable issues, and a perfectly pace plot. 

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Recently, I’ve had a fast growing love for short books that leave a huge impression. The Wife is the first book that comes to mind when I think about these types of books. And, it was the right book for me at the right time…addressing issues like the expectations of the role of the wife in society and balancing family and career in “yes, that’s exactly how it is” statement after “yes, that’s exactly how it is” statement.


Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
I was hugely hesitant about reading this book. Advice columns? Ugh. But, I hadn’t experienced Cheryl Strayed’s advice columns. This is a book I wish I’d had next to my bedside table in high school (ok, fine, college too) and I believe is the book to read when your life isn’t going exactly like you’s hoped.

PS – I did remove a couple books (Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand) from my All-Time Favorites list. They were favorites of mine at the time (and still get a fair amount of love from me), but have, like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, faded a bit from memory over time.

What books are on your all-time favorites list and when was the last time you bestowed a book with all-time favorite status?

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My Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2017

March 14, 2017 Book Lists 26

Most Anticipated Books Spring 2017

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You may notice that my most anticipated books of Spring 2017 list leans toward the lighter side. I like to spend April and May trying to find spell-binding books to be included in my annual Summer Reading Guide, which means I’m seeking out books that aren’t overly difficult to read, yet still smart (aka brain candy). Here’s what’s caught my eye…


No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell (April 4, Ecco)
This debut novel had me at The Great Gatsby, plus Elle Magazine included it in its list of 25 Most Anticipated Books by Women for 2017.

The Great Gatsby brilliantly recast in the contemporary South: a powerful first novel about an extended African-American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream.

Somebody with a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill (April 4, Pantheon Books)
Though I’ve never read Gaitskill before, I heard great things about her novel, The Mare, and I tend to love authors pontificating on life (i.e. Pat Conroy, Ann Patchett).

[…] a searingly intelligent book of essays on matters literary, social, cultural, and personal.

Marlena by Julie Buntin (April 4, 2017, Henry Holt)
The Millions called this debut “an important story about addiction and poverty in middle America” in their 2017 Great Book Preview. But, the fact that Stephanie Danler (author of Sweetbitter, one of my favorite books of 2016) called it “lacerating” sealed the deal for me.

An electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades.

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (April 25, Random House)
My Name Is Lucy Barton (my review) was one of my favorite books of 2016, so I’m naturally going to read its companion piece!

Written in tandem with My Name Is Lucy Barton and drawing on the small-town characters evoked there, these pages reverberate with the themes of love, loss, and hope that have drawn millions of readers to Strout’s work.

Startup by Doree Shafrir (April 25, Little Brown)
The Millions included this debut in its 2017 Great Book Preview and Kirkus called it a “page-turning pleasure that packs a punch” in its starred review.

A hilarious debut novel by a BuzzFeed culture writer about the difficulties of real life connection in the heart of New York City’s tech world.


The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris (May 2, Little Brown)
I’ve never read Ferris, though his last novel (To Rise Again at a Decent Hour) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I like my short stories fairly dark, so this collection sounds right up my alley.

Full of the keenly observed, mordant wit that characterizes his beloved, award-winning novels, the stories in The Dinner Party are about people searching for answers in the aftermath of life’s emotional fissures–those abrupt, sometimes violent, moments that change lives forever.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko (May 2, Algonquin Books)
This debut novel has already won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice, and is one of the most anticipated debuts of th year. Plus, there’s a blurb from Ann Patchett, one of my favorite authors.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal (May 2, Picador)
I’ve had great luck with stories about immigrants trying to fit in in the United States (Shelter, Everything I Never Told You, and The Book of Unknown Americans) and with this particular publisher (Shelter, The Woman Next Door).

A humorous and tender multi-generational novel about immigrants and outsiders—those trying to find their place in American society and within their own families.

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki (May 9, Little Brown)
Lepucki’s (author of 2014’s California) latest novel has been called “darkly comic, twisty and tense”…music to my ears!

A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California.

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan (May 9, Bloomsbury USA)
I’ve recently been on the hunt for a satisfying thriller (I’m decidedly not satisfied by so many of them) and this one gets bonus points for this one being true crime.

The international sensation that sold half a million copies in France: a chilling work of true-crime literature about a friendship gone terrifyingly toxic and the very nature of reality.

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (May 16, Flatiron Books)
This true crime memoir has been recommended for fans of In Cold Blood, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Serial, and Making A Murderer. Talk about an all-star line-up! Also, Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You (review), called it a “marvel.”

An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth.

Trophy Son by Douglas Brunt (May 30, St. Martin’s Press)
I really enjoyed Brunt’s novel about Wall Street excess, Ghosts of Manhattan (my review), and am a huge tennis fan. So, I’m intrigued by what Brunt will do with pro tennis excess!

Written with an insider knowledge of the tennis circuit, Trophy Son explores a young man striving to find balance in his life, navigating moral compromises, performance-enhancing drugs, and the elusive lure of wealth and celebrity.

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

What Spring 2017 books are you looking forward to?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (3/13/17)

March 13, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 29

Hosted by The Book Date.

I spent last week trying to settle down and get our household in order following a rough week. Thankfully, my heart rate is finally settling into a non-racing pace and my hot reading streak continues.

I’m continuing to rehab my injured back and was thrilled to finally be able to go for a couple very slow and short jogs last week. Baby steps, ya’ll. Weirdly, I discovered the treadmill is much harder on my back than running outdoors. If anyone has any actual insight into this, I’d love to hear it! And, my foam roller and Jasyoga “Lower Back Love” video have both continued to be my best friends (in addition to my Physical Therapist, of course).

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I finished reading…

The Woman Next Door, The Fall of Lisa Bellow

The Woman Next Door
 by Yewande Omotoso (February 7, 2017)

I was so pleasantly surprised by this novel! It started out with a dose of snarky humor and ended on a more introspective note. And, it was a more substantial book than I’d expected going in.
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The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo (March 14, 2017)
I liked Perabo’s first full length novel, but not as much as I loved her short story collection, Why They Run the Way They Do (my review). I’ll warn anyone thinking about reading it that the publisher’s blurb creates unrealistic expectations (shocker!) by calling it “suspenseful.” The suspense is more in the emotional sense rather than the page-turning sense…as the story focuses on the psychological impact of being the one left behind in an abduction on a middle school girl and her family.
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I’m currently reading…

The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy (March 14, 2017)
I’m just over halfway through this memoir by a staff writer at The New Yorker (who also happens to originally be from my town). I love her voice and this woman has lived quite an interesting life.
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Upcoming reading plans…

The Hearts of Men, Nickolas Butler

The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler (March 7, 2017)
Prior to The Hearts of Men, Nickolas Butler had published two books in his career (Shotgun Lovesongs, Beneath the Bonfire) and I rated both 5 stars. He’s one of my rising stars to watch who could end up becoming an all-time favorite author. I’m hoping his latest novel about two boys that become friends at Boy Scout camp continues the 5 star streak.

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I didn’t love a book that ended up becoming a critical darling.

Two Years Ago: I was reading one of my favorite books of 2015 and one I’m still recommending often.

How was your reading week?

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