Books 2015

A new year and a new goal – 52 books in 52 weeks, all picked because they fit one of the categories in the below-posted list. A friend shared this link with me on New Year’s and I was instantly excited, not to mention hooked. I spent some time filling in ideas for many of the categories and figure the rest will fall into place throughout the year. Will I really accomplish this? Well, I have yet to hit a book a week since I started keeping track of titles two years ago, but I love the category prompts and am greatly anticipating many of these titles, so maybe there is hope? 

Beyond the category list (which I’ve had to expand and make up extras for because as I get closer to the goal, not everything I’m reading actually fits in a still-open spot), I’m going to keep track of the books in the order I read them along with brief notes; this is how I remember which ones I want to recommend to others and is what I typically post at the end of each December. Beyond that is yet another list of titles that I’ve found or have been recommended to me. Will they make the cut this year? Perhaps; but if not, I want to hang on to them for 2016. As for this present calendar year, well, three cheers for many happy hours of reading contained within it! 

Stack of nine books to get me started – either from the L.I.B. or our
own shelves. A couple I’ve read before, but remember next to
nothing about, but at least half are totally new.

Categories for Book Selection 
A book with more than 500 pages  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 
A classic romance  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 
A book that became a movie The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
A book published this year The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
• A book with a number in the title Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan 
A book written by someone under 30 Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
• A book with nonhuman characters  The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 2) by Rick Riordan 

A funny book  Yes Please by Amy Poehler
A book by a female author Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline 
A mystery or thriller  The Expats (a novel) by Chris Pavone 
A book with a one-word title Lila by Marilynne Robinson
A book of short stories One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak 
• A book set in a different country  The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
A nonfiction book Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by Gurmukh
• A popular author’s first book Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
A book a friend recommended A Northern Light by Jennifery Donnely
A Pulitzer Prize-winnig book  Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
A book based on a true story  Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle
A book at the bottom of your to-read list 50 Shades of Grey by EL James
A book your mom loves Wonder by R.J. Palacio
A book that scares you The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova 
A book more than 100 years old Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott 
A book based entirely on its cover Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t  Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins (not that I have ever not read an assigned book – this was one that was taught at Doane in a class I did not have to take, but I have always felt like I should read it as I took plenty of other classes from the same professor who adores TR – end rant!)
A memoir  The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
A book you can finish in a day The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
A book with antonyms in the title  Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit  The House Girl by Tara Conklin
A book that came out the year you were born  The Color Purple by Alice Walker
A book with bad reviews Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
• A trilogy The Giver series, technically four books, by Lois Lowry (see below for #1, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son) 
A book from your childhood The Giver by Lois Lowry 
A book with a love triangle 
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
A book set in the future  Delirium by Lauren Oliver
A book set in high school I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
A book with a color in the title  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 
A book that made you cry Forty Days: A Memoir of Our Time in the Desert of Childhood Cancer by Jenni DeWitt
A book with magic The Magicians by Lev Grossman 
A graphic novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel story by Ransom Riggs and art by Cassandra Jean
A book by an author you’ve never read before Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
• A book you own but have never read  Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
A book that takes place in your home town The Homecoming by M.C. Merrill
A book that was originally written in a different language The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A book set during Christmas The Christmas Train by David Baldacci 
• A book written by an author with your same initials by Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
A play Our Town by Thorton Wilder 

A banned book  American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis
A book based on or turned into a TV show Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
A book you started but never finished  Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

A second stack of books, selected in late May to get me through many of the remaining categories. Getting closer!
A second stack of books, selected in late May, to get me through many of the remaining categories. Getting closer!

The Extras: and so it begins (in late May)…I haven’t been vetting my books prior to reading lately which means slotting them into categories has gotten harder, and now I’ve run into my first can’t put it anywhere book because it doesn’t fill an blank spot. As a result, I’m adding this Extras section for any and all books that I read but that don’t “count” as one of the above list reads. Bonus? Apparently I’m going to end up with 52+ books this year! And maybe I’ll just start making up my own categories, for fun. 

* a book about friendship Good Harbor by Anita Diamant 

* a book you often recommend to others What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

* a book that comes well-recommended but you wouldn’t recommend At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

* a book you need to reread in order to fully understand a companion book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

* a book about parenting Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

* a book for book club Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

* a book by a cast member of SNL (ha – these new categories of mine are getting pretty bizarre!) Yes, You’re Pregnant, but What About Me? by Kevin Nealon

* an anniversary of…. book Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

* a book about theology Jesus & Buddha: The Parallel Sayings by Marcus Borg

* a book that inspired a movie and which you watched before you read The Hours by Micahel Cunningham

* a book you got from a Little Free Library Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

* a book you’ve already read this year Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

*the book for a movie you’d like to see The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

* an audiobook Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

* a book in a genre you want a break from Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

* a book you know you’ll read again (and again) Yoga and Body Image by Melaine Klein and Anna Guest-Jelley

* a book you received as a gift Out of the Spin Cycle by Jen Hatmaker

* a book you want to underline or quote Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child by Thich Nhat Hanh

Books in Order – 2015
1) The Expats (a novel) by Chris Pavone — this one had my head swimming and my hands turning pages quickly as I raced through it trying to get all the loose ends pieced together.
2) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery — so much about this had I forgotten! Most embarrassingly, that it is set in Canada and that it is the book that gives us the beautiful (and with which I heartedly agree) quote, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Wonderful re-read!
3) The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick — could have easily put this in the “made me laugh” and “read in a day” categories because it was so good that I couldn’t go to bed last night until I finished. Loved the slightly unreliable and mentally unstable narrator and am looking forward to watching the movie this weekend (finally!) w/ the hubs.
4) The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick — can’t help but make a comment about my quick Quick kick – two of his books in back-to-back days. They are that devourable and interesting.
5) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr — this book certainly took a lot longer to get through than my first few offerings of the year, but it was well worth the time and the read. Beautifully and intricately woven narrative and characters. Beyond good.
6) Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty — patting myself on the back for figuring out one major twist in the novel, but was still left turning pages frantically at the end, waiting to put all the pieces together. Love her characters and the way this one unfolded narratively.
7) Lila by Marilynne Robinson — had no idea I was stumbling into a series of sorts when I read this book (and it’s number 3 – whoops!) but I greatly enjoyed it and look forward to reading others (and adding them to this year’s list)!
8) The Giver by Lois Lowry — always interesting to go back to a book from when you were younger. Now I am so intrigued to read the rest of the series for the first time!
9) Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner — thought this was going to be an easy/breezy read but there was way more depth and content (in such a good way) here than anticipated, so instead it allowed me to slow down and really enjoy the characters and their stories.
10) Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by Gurmukh — I can’t believe it took me until my fourth pregnancy to discover the “Gurmukh book” but OH. MY. Now that it’s in my life, it will forever by my recommendation to all the mamas, new or repeat. So empowering. So wonderful.
11) Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little — Randomly plucked from the New Fiction shelves at the LIB and brought home primarily b/c the setting of the novel takes place, mostly, in SoDak. Was an entertaining mystery read that left me guessing through most of it. (completed Feb.7 – productive start to my reading year!)
12) The House Girl by Tara Conklin — Another random grab from the New Fiction shelf – turned out to be a page turner that I enjoyed. Love intertwining characters and story lines that cross boundaries of time and location. Put this as the “place I’d like to visit” pick because I really would like to see more places in The South.
13) Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline — joining a new book club this year and this was my first read for that group. Another cross/generation cross/narrator book which is right up my alley! Honestly had no idea about orphan trains, so this fictional read was both entertaining and eye opening.
14) Landline by Rainbow Rowell — aeieieee, I love RR’s books and this one was no exception. A quick read, with a little bit of magic and mystery and I just loved it. I have a copy, if you’d like to borrow it.
15) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — part one of the accidental trilogy I discovered in reading Lila, and I must say, I am very curious to read part two as well. Each book features a different narrator/protagonist, but all are connected, so the whole story is coming together in a fascinating way.
16) The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 2) by Rick Riordan — have to say, I read the first of this series last year and I really do enjoy them – but since I can, I need to read them closer together from here on out so I don’t forget so much. A great YA series! 
17) Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry — book two in the Giver Series which I did not know was a series until a year or so ago. Loving it but have huge desire to re-watch M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village now. 
18) Messenger by Lois Lowry — flying through these books b/c 1) they are SO good 2) they are written for young adults 3) can’t wait to see what happens in Book Four
19) Son by Lois Lowry — the last book in the series took me a wee bit longer than the first three but totally worth it. Loved how much the story stood on its own as well as tied in everything from the entire series and gave the quartet a feeling of finality. SO good. Still can’t believe I didn’t know this was a series until recently! (finished March 2) 
20) Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan — took me longer than anticipated to get into this book, but once I did, I was very much in and enjoyed the variety of narrative voice/style and the story itself. 
21) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arther Golden — pretty sure this book has been on my shelves since before I was married and yet I’ve never read it because I didn’t think I could get into it. Wrong! So good, I couldn’t put it down. So I’m 15ish years late to the party (it was originally published in 97. Crazy.), but if you are too, read it!!
22) One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by BJ Novak — I may have laughed harder at the acknowledgements and “Discussion Questions” than the stories, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t enjoyable. I loved the way characters and bits from one story would subtly appear in another later on in the book. A great collection!
23) Attachments by Rainbow Rowell — it’s official! I have now read all of RR’s books (ending w/ her first) and loved every one, too. I should have known better to start this right after supper last night because then I had to stay up until I finished it. Can’t wait for what she does next! 
24) Delirium by Lauren Oliver — aaaaaaand I am officially over the whole YA doomsday genre. (completed 3.30.15)
25) The Homecoming by M.C. Merrill — Whoa. I was only 10 at the time of Tammy Haas’ murder so honestly, I remember very little of this in real time. Based on true events but fictionalized, this book was a mind game to read because of knowing/remembering very little from what was in the news/talked about at the time or in the years after, so I had a hard time knowing what might be real and what might be speculation within the text. All told, the book paints a much different picture of the Yankton I knew as a kid, or even how I know it now, but it certainly made me think. 
26) I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson — Thanks to the beauty of social media, I’m now helping start another book club and this was selected as the first read for that group and Oh. My. I adored it. Flat out, adored. The narrators, the imagery, the descriptions of real life in such a dramatic and teen ager sort of way without being overdone or annoying….SO GOOD! And squeeeeeeeeee! I’m HALF-WAY!!! (4.8.15)
27) Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman — back-to-back book club reads this week and I was super excited to read this one because I’ve been wanting to read it ever since B & I started watching the Netflix version of it last year. Love the show and still do, but (spoiler alert) this book is really not like the over-the-top drama you get with the show. It is such a fascinating memoir, though, and really makes a person think about not only the prison system but also the justice system at large and how we could be doing SO much better as a society to approach reform and corrections in a better way. Bonus for my book list? This totally fits a category I had left to fill! 
28) 50 Shades of Grey by EL James — when this came out a few years ago, I did want to read it, but since then my interest dwindled hence the category selected for this book now that I have finally read it. My response? There’s not much, beyond the obvious, that happens in 500 pages, and I could get super snotty about the language/word choices used, but instead I’ll just say this book is what it is: not complete garbage but not literary amazingness either. 
29) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins — Bummer. Sometimes you request and wait for a book, super excited because it is super popular and everyone wants to read it, and then you finally get your hands on a copy only to have it turn out to be meh. It’s OK and some things surprise you, but others do not and by the end, you’re left wondering what all the hype was about. In other words, this is not one I’d highly recommend. I liked the compelling narrative style of different voices/times, but I kept waiting for more Oomph. 
30) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova — OK, so not Stephen-King-Scary (I haven’t read anything like that since high school and don’t care to again b/c my imagination is overly active and I don’t sleep enough as it is, thank you very much!), but focused on Dracula and super creepy in places, so I’m counting it as the scary book of the bunch. Also terrifying? It was 909 (909!) pages long! I liked the book a lot, though, and found it entertaining in its multi-layeredness, even if some of the historical bits got a bit dense. Side note: Brilliant Husband suggested I also do a count of pages read for all of these books. Totally going to do that! (Date completed 4.23.15)
31) The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe — Written by a man who stays connected to his dying mother (pancreatic cancer) through the shared love for books, this is another book club read for the year. Some poignant lines about connections and life and, obviously, the importance of reading, that I greatly enjoyed in the book. Some of the discussion of the books read and even the lifestyle of the family over the years was a bit out of touch for me, but the relationship between the two of them and how he found a way to support and listen to his mother through their book talks was touching. 
32) Yes Please by Amy Poehler — knew going in that I was probably going to love this book and from page one, I was both laughing and loving it like crazy. So funny. So full of Truth. So smart. Only qualm is that the book is printed on a high-gloss paper and is 329 pages of entertaining words and very nice pictures, so it is a bit of a beast to hold. I guess the bonus here is a good book + an arm workout. 

33) Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya — technically put this in the cover category doc(and it is an intriguing cover that compliments the storyline), but that is because there is no category in the list for books written by someone you know in real life! Julie and I went to grad school at UNL together and now she has published her first novel! At first I was totally distracted by the fact that I knew the author of the book I was reading, but it did not take long for the fascinating and oh-so-broken characters of the novel to pull me in and make me think of nothing else but their big dreams, falsified presentations of reality, and my crazy desire to see them succeed. The back-and-forth narrative style between the husband and wife is really intriguing, too. Not split between chapters like so many books do, but it gives the reader great insight into their two personalities and also forces the reader to sort out all the truths and misconceptions, much as we do in real life. So good! Great read!

34) Forty Days: A Memoir of Our Time in the Desert of Childhood Cancer by Jenni DeWitt — Jenni (with an I!) came to speak to our MOPS group this spring and at the meeting, I happened to win a copy of her book that details her family’s experiences of having a child (a 2yo, at the time) diagnosed with leukemia. She was a very engaging, honest speaker, and her memoir gives a chronological and emotional look at what she felt in her heart as her son was diagnosed and treated. The part that got me the most was her commentary on writing (on her Caring Bridge site) and how looking for the funny/good things during each day to write about helped her focus on gratitude which would ultimately help sustain her through the hospitalization.

35) Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle — having to make some changes and adjustments to my planned list above for several of these categories, especially as people hand me or recommend other books for me to read that don’t quite fit a hole I have or overlap one I’ve already slotted. This is one of those books I was gladly willing to make space for, though, because it was so eye- and heart-opening, talking so much about kinship, compassion, and connection. And as much as it broke my heart, it  made me laugh out loud, too. Wonderful book about Homeboy Industries and gangs in L.A., even though that might seem like strange subject matter to call wonderful.

36) Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf — considering this book is under 200 pages, it’s pretty lame that it took me over a week to finish the darn thing. Well, a week and ten years, that is! This is the book I have tried so.many.times to read but have never made it beyond the first dozen pages or so. Finally, thanks to this category challenge and the double-accountability requirement of asking my poor book club to read it along with me, I not only started but also finished!!! Overall reaction? Hard as hell to read. The narrative style is dense and flat-out confusing. But there are beautiful moments and lines/descriptions that made it possible to keep plugging along with it, so yay for that. Also, I now really want to watch The Hours again which is what inspired me to read this book in the first place, over a decade ago.

37) Good Harbor by Anita Diamant — picked up this book because The Red Tent is one of my top-ten all-time favorite books, and having now read two great novels dealing with female friendships and relationships and connection by her, I’m pretty sure I want to be Anita Diamant’s friend. Her insight into the world and workings of women is so spot on, so well done.

38) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel story by Ransom Riggs and art by Cassandra Jean — Dang, that was a quick and engaging read. Now I need to know/read more/the rest of the story. Didn’t realize it wasn’t going to be a complete tale, otherwise I would have looked for the rest of it when I was at the library.

39) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho — wowowowowow is all I can say to this book. Adored it. Instant spot on my Top Ten of all-time books. One I can’t wait to read again and again. Am I gushing here? Why, yes I am because there is so much good in this book about how we view our selves, our dreams, and our interactions with others. I can’t believe I haven’t read this prior to now. If you haven’t yet, either, get your hands on a copy today!

40) American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis — I’m very much against the idea of censorship, so the banning of books is clearly a practice with which I disagree. That being said, however, it did not take more than 50 pages to see why people would react/revolt against this novel (and then another 350 pages of having my stomach turn and wondering if I was doing some harm to my own humanity by continuing to read the book). That being said, however, shows me just how effective the narrative is here because the POV and narrator’s voice make the reader feel nuts. Totally, totally nuts. (Complete 6.6.15)

41) Me Before You by JoJo Moyes — I do not care if I just fudged the definition of an antonym by slotting this book where I did (pulling the preggers brain card, if I did). It’s getting so close to the end and I really don’t want to make up a bunch of categories before I finish the ones with which I began this journey! Defensiveness about my reading quest aside, this book was wonderful. Book club selection, read in a day-and-a-half but not because it was simple, GOOD. Deals with the topic of assisted suicide and therefore raises a lot of issues/topics for thought, and is done in a distinct and enveloping narrative voice.

42) Wonder by R.J. Palacio — My mom is a youth services librarian (and former elementary teacher), so this Jr. Fiction pick is most appropriate for the category she gets to determine. It reminds me a lot of Out of Mind by Sharon Draper (read last year) and Loser by Jerry Spinelli (so.darn.good.) — books that certainly every teacher should read, but really every parent because they each speak to the nature of understanding kids who are viewed/labeled as “different”; I think each one also shows how we can help our kids be accepting of others while also overcoming the challenges/labels/big emotions that come as simply part of growing up. I love the layered story-telling/narrative voices in this book; they provide a great variety of perspective into the world of August Pullman.

43) The Color Purple by Alice Walker — I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started this book. I know it is a classic. I know it’s also been considered a banned book. I even know it has a movie version (starting Oprah). But I had no idea how many issues or how much time its storyline would cover, and I found that I greatly enjoyed the book and its written-in-letter style. This book and I may be the same age, but clearly it is much wiser than just our years.

44) What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty — when you suddenly find yourself in two book clubs, you suddenly find yourself explaining every other book (or so it feels like) as one you read for book club! But it’s true – this is another book club read and another extra book that just didn’t quite fit into one of my original categories. I’m so happy to have reread it though and was pleasantly surprised by just how much I did not remember. Wonderfully told story of a woman who wakes up from a fall without the last ten years of her memory. Entertaining and thought-provoking. And still my favorite Moriarty book and still a book I will recommend to others, often!

45) The Christmas Train by David Baldacci — Hmmm. An “off-norm” novel by a NYT bestselling author, which perhaps explains it, but maybe not. Not a fan. Writing and plot were often too obvious and ploying, and it took much longer to read than it should have because it was slow to get into it. Apparently his other books are better? (Complete 6.22.15)

46) A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly — Lots of folks recommend lots of books to me to read, so while I can’t remember exactly who suggested this one, thanks, Friend, for the good read! This is a YA novel that uses a real-life murder from the early 1900s as its starting point, sort of. I realize that’s not a helpful description, but the concept and the narrative style are a little hard to explain because they are enjoyably unique.

47) Our Town by Thorton Wilder — the synchronicity of this book list is getting thick. I picked this play to read because it came up as a recommendation on Facebook, right after I read Wonder, which mentions the play quite a bit. I’ve seen it preformed years ago, but have never read it, to my remembering, anyway. So I read it and come to find out it is set in the Northeast just after the 1900, just like A Northern Light. Fascinating. And an excellent play, too.

48) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen — no idea how long it has been since I last read this, but I must have matured a bit in that time because I got so much more out of this reading than ever before (comprehension and literary meaning and so forth). I’m not afraid to admit that this might be in part to being a huge fan of Downton Abbey – I understand that those stories are set 100 years apart, but somehow DA has helped me grasp British society life so much better than in the past!

49) The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah — book club read for end of July that I really, really enjoyed. WWII tale of two sisters in France, and told in such a way that you don’t really know who the modern day (ok, 1995, but still) narrator actually is, so there is a good amount of suspense that drives the plot and you really do have to wait for the very end for all the pieces to come together. Great book!

50) At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen — maybe I’m just tired and fussy after a long weekend of travel, or maybe it is because I read two WWII books in a row (and liked the other one so much), but yes, I made up a snarky category in my Extras list for this title. It wasn’t horrible; I can see how others would like it and give it 4 stars, but I wouldn’t do the same. 2 maybe. Although I appreciated the growth and change in the novel’s protagonist, there was a great deal of plot and character development that felt simplified and rushed throughout the book.

51) Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — my third war-related novel in a row (and in less than a two-week time frame). Totally different than the WWII novels and yet not, as the before and after as well as the isolation, fear, and despair were universal in all three. This was my “under 30” pick based on the author’s age at publication, and it was a good one, even though I would hardly call it an easy read. The rotating POV chapters as well as the flash backs/forwards between the early and late 1960s was all very well done.

52) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee — this is my third, if not fourth, go at TKAM, and while an avid-reader friend recently told me she had never read the novel because her high school and college instructors said it was over-rated (gasp! what?!), I enjoyed it just as much this time as any other. Read this to prepare myself for the newly published first draft/follow-up Go Set a Watchman which I’ll be reading next. Excited and nervous to see what it offers!

53) Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee — ended up putting this as my “book with bad reviews” which is not entirely fair or true. There is a lot praise circulating for this “new” book by Harper Lee, but there are also a lot of questions, criticism, and literary scandal surrounding it as well. Honestly? I was not a fan. If this is a first draft of Mockingbird, I’m glad it was not what originally made it to publication. If it is a follow-up, it is a confusing and rather world-shaking read for faithful fans of the original. My take is that Atticus is not the only character who reads entirely different from one book to the next, and there is a great deal about both race and even women’s rights here that made my stomach turn (which is perhaps the point). So maybe I’m fudging this category a bit because of my own response, but I think there are certainly mixed reviews/opinions on what Watchman really offers.

54) Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins — this one took me a long time (an honest week instead of a day or few), but not because it was a bad read, just an intense one (but in an amusing way, if that makes any sense). Now I need a Doane alum (or 5!) to explain to me everything Purden explained to them when he taught this book. I’m not sure what I would have gotten out of it at 18-yrs-old, but at 33, I found it to be pretty intriguing.

55) The Magicians by Lev Grossman — picked for category-filling, this was OK at times and infuriating at others (big skips in time/big plot holes/frustrating and waffling protagonist). Part HP and part CoN, a fair amount of this read just like the other books but with a college-aged perspective of drinking, swearing, and hooking up. OK, fine, but also meh in terms of quality of storyline. It is the first of a three-book series and while I liked just enough parts of this to be curious to read the others, or at least the next one, I won’t be in any rush to do so.

56) Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott — Saved this sweet little Jr. Fic. 6622592-Mfor last in the category challenge because the last 10-ish have been a bit of a slog and I needed something light and easy to “end” on here. Enjoyed this story of orphaned Rose, gone to live with extended family, and this line not only jumped out at me while reading, but also sums up a bit of what reading is for making my own soul content: “A happy soul in a healthy body makes the best sort of beauty for man or woman.” While I doubt I’ll add much more to the list for the calendar year, I will continue to keep track and will post again in December, but for now…WOOOHOOO! I did it! All 52 books (plus four extras)! And in just seven months and one week instead of a whole year. Now I can perhaps get to the business of nesting and having this baby, eh?! (Date completed, 8-8-15)

57) Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor — although the humor here went a little too far into flat-out teasing at times, this was an enjoyable, a-typical parenting book read, and some parts really did make me laugh out loud because the truth can be very, very funny sometimes.

58) Love Anthony by Lisa Genova — my first read of a Genova book and I’m intrigued to pick up others now. This one was beautiful. It was heartfelt (and gut wrenching at times) and nicely interwoven into an interesting and quick-to-read narrative. While it centers on a young boy with autism, sort of, it is so much more about the heart and how we find/see/feel love in general. So good!

59) Yes, You’re Pregnant, but What About Me? by Kevin Nealon — didn’t actually get this all read before I had Truman, but still funny/relevant to my life this fall. And hey – I actually finished a book post-baby. Giving myself some mad props for that!

60) Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward — book club read for October and in honor of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. This novel was fascinating and full of description, and I am really looking forward to discussing it with others because there was a great deal of depth/imagery/allusion here, too. (60 books! 60!! Completed 9.25.15).

61) Jesus & Buddha: The Parallel Sayings by Marcus Borg — borrowed this from a friend almost a year ago, it seems, and finally got around to reading it. Even though the actual text is brief, there is obviously much to take in, consider, and continue thinking about with a book like this. Above all else? Compassion. Compassion is everything; I would agree.

62) The Hours by Michael Cunningham — when I read Mrs. Dalloway, because after seeing The Hours years ago, I had no idea the movie was based on an actual book, too. But a friend loaned me this, as well, and although the shock of the ending would have been much different to read without knowing about it coming, this was still an impressive read. The way the three primary subjects’ stories intertwine and the way they all mirror Mrs. Dalloway itself is incredible, if not a bit of a marvel, for how did Cunningham do/get away with that?

63) Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier — this has been on my To Read list for years, so was quite pleased to find it a Little Free Library over the summer and to learn that it wasn’t a terribly huge or complicated volume. That said, I was a bit surprised that the back of the book described it as a “sensual awakening” once I actually read it, but sensuality of that time versus now being different makes sense. Good read. Made me curious to see more of the artist’s work for sure.

64) Me Before You by JoJo Moyes — totally on my Everyone Should Read list for this year and I chose to read it again within this calendar year for two reasons: sequel came out at the end of September and my other book club is reading MBY for this month, and after our last two gatherings for books that I read earlier this year and thought I would remember enough to discuss but didn’t, I wanted to refresh my brain w/ this one. So good. So much better, even, on the second time, to see how the story comes together.

65) The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky — completely forgot about the twist in this book (this was a re-read for book club) until I came across a certain character’s name; remembering made for an interesting albeit intense journey through the rest of the book. Still want to see the movie.

66) Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng — I don’t often do audiobooks but for this one I had to in order to get it done in time for book club. Holy confusing! This book jumps POV and time a ton and that’s not always easy to follow when listening (and when you aren’t accustomed to listening to books). That said, the book gave me a fair amount to think about, especially in terms of parenting and what we put on our kids from our own hopes and dreams.

67) Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll — That’s it. I am done. No more books that claim to be anything like Gone Girl or Girl on the Train. I am sick of this twisted-girl-genre. I’m not even saying that Luckiest Girl was a bad book, but clearly I’ve had enough.

68) Yoga and Body Image by Melaine Klein and Anna Guest-Jelley — this collection of twenty-five essays dealing with the various issues and manifestations of body image in yoga and how yoga helps one accept body image concerns is SO good. Every yoga teacher and practitioner should read it. Actually, every one should read it.

69) Out of the Spin Cycle by Jen Hatmaker — technically a devotional but I read it like a collection of essays and enjoyed many of the mama stories and reminders; extra special read because it was given to me by a friend earlier this year and I instantly thought of another friend I’d like to share it with now that I’m done. ❤

70) Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child by Thich Nhat Hanh — been wanting to read one of his books forever and this was a great one to learn how to connect the body and the breathe and the thoughts. (Completed Dec. 29, 2015)

70!!!!! I MADE IT TO 70!!!!!!!!! 

Want to Read List (Oy, me. The fonts and spacing have become a complete mess since I switched blog platforms – please be patient with me as I work to (maybe? eventually?) make it look nice again! 

Home by Marilynne Robinson
The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister 
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (not at lib)
This One is Mine by Maria Semple (not at lib)
Serena by Ron Rash (not at lib)
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

What Came from the Stars by Gary Schmidt
The Birth House by Ami McKay
Hidden Wives by Claire Avery (not at lib) 
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
Abide with Me by Sabin Willett
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Give Me Everything You Have by James Lasdun
Her by Christa Parravani
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
The Night Gwen Stacy Died 
Law Man
Loving Frank
Higher Calling (true story)
Cutting for Stone
A Reliable Wife 
We Are Not Ourselves
The Meaning of Names by Karen Shoemaker 
Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino
Top Recommendations (in no particular order*)
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (*OK, I lied – this one was a Tops of Tops this year because this author is one of my tops)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Yoga and Body Image by Melaine Klein and Anna Guest-Jelley
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