So, no fancy lists or number quotas to meet this year – just a couple dozen book club reads that will come my way, a stack of books inherited from a book club friend last year to work through, and my own little made up title collection, brought to me courtesy of you – friends who have suggested titles to add to my To Read list. If you have one to add, I’d be happy to toss it on the virtual stack! Here’s to many happy pages turned this year!
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne — my goodness. Have I missed the world of wizards and magic that much? I devoured this book and adored it as well. Loved being plopped back in the lives of HP and company.
- City of Thieves by Daniel Benioff — book club read for January. Somehow WWII continues to pop up in my reading list, and interestingly, in places that I had not previously read about – this time, Russia. I really enjoyed the way this was written and although there is some unthinkable violence within it (it is war, after all), I would recommend it. (P.S. I have not seen GoT, so I had no idea this author was connected to that phenomenon until a Google search post-book)
- The Wonder by Emma Donoghue — there were elements of this nurse’s tale that bothered me, but ultimately I would still recommend it.
- Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze — Dave Ramsey’s daughter, Rachel clearly knows her stuff. This is a good read and a great introduction to the Smart Money rules for a new generation.
- Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling — Having now watched all seasons/episodes of The Mindy Project, this was a fun listen. Audio books are not my go-to choice, but I do love listening to memoirs read by the authors – those are always enjoyable.
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman — my pick for book club coming in February and oh my word, I loved it so. Such wonderful storytelling with characters that grow on you tremendously. (finished 1/31/17)
- Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (AS) — I loved this introductory book to the MD series and look forward to more stories and adventures from this early 1900s British mystery solver.
- Lottery by Patricia Wood — this is another book with characters who crack your heart wide open and you’re a little sad to leave when the story ends. Perry L. Crandall is such a unique narrator and the way he navigates his life and his family (and his lottery winnings) is so interesting to read.
- Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything in between) by Lauren Graham — Oh my goodness. It’s no surprise after my GG binge at the end of last year that I would want to read this book, but I can’t believe how much I enjoyed it and how much I want my own copy of it (although it was very enjoyable to listen to the audio version of this in LG’s own voice, I miss seeing the pictures and she dispenses some great wisdom here in addition to anecdotes that I would love to read again someday). Honestly, great!
- We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler — Book club read for March and wowzers, the most unreliable in the most interesting way narrator I’ve encountered in a long time. I didn’t read any blurbs or book jackets before starting this, and I’m glad for that; it added to the mystery of who all the characters were and were to one another. This one opens up a lot of discussion points about family and connections. I think it will make for an interesting BC selection.
- Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles — Oh my goodness, again! I adored this book! And another solid choice for audio book listening. Not only did I get to hear SB sing and tell the stories behind her music, but she flat out bared her soul in this book and it was an honest and beautiful offering.
- Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (DRH) — Another recommended to me book that I was very excited to get my hands on and found to be a very interesting read. This memoir is not only compelling for the life story it tells, but for the inside look/bigger picture it presents on poor whites in America; it speaks volumes on the whys and hows of what happened socially and politically in 2016. (finished 3.1.17)
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — I was supposed to read this book last July for book club and just did not get it done (the first time I ever did that and still went to book club, because, hi – book club is not just about books), and I have to say, I am glad I finally got to it. Set partly in America, partly in Nigeria, there is a wealth of social commentary here, along with some intriguing characters and storylines. Also, it showcases the power of blogging, so yay for that. 😉
- The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi — (book club pick) Normally I am a huge fan of alternating narrators and while this book definitely uses that technique, it’s not my favorite use of it within this particular story. The content of the book is fascinating (about two women in Afghanistan who, according to cultural tradition, can dress and pass as males in society), and I’m very curious to discuss more at book club later this month. Also, random side note and weird once-interned-at-a-publishing-house annoyance…my copy of this had the most unrelated and misleading book covers I have ever seen. I don’t know what story they are depicting there, but it’s not the one of the actual book!
- Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (NB) – Oh, wow. I did not know what I was getting myself into with this! It’s essentially non-fiction and details the creation of the World’s Fair in Chicago during the early 1890s and the rise (& fall) of the US’s first serial killer who lived there during that time. Truth? This book taught me a ton about the WF and scared the beejeebies out of me with the other storyline. I love how they were woven together in the story-telling, but honestly I probably read this as fast as I did because it made it hard to go to sleep at night!
- Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford — not really sure this was meant to be read cover-to-cover (it’s more of a daily entry kind of book, but not an everyday one, if that makes any sense), but since it just arrived this month from Amazon, I wanted to take in the whole thing in one reading. I dogeared a ton of pages (yes, I’m that person; I also write in my books, so there’s that, too), and I plan to go back to them and the TOC as needed for little pick-me-ups and perspective bringers. As always, I enjoyed RMS’ work!
- Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly — I had been doing so well with audio books, but this one brought me up short (and confused). There is SO much incredible information, not to mention science and math and social commentary and SOOO many “characters,” that my poor listening ears got super lost. A lot. I can see why this was a best seller and can’t wait to see how the narratives are streamlined when we can rent the movie next month, but wow, I wish I had been able to hold this one in my hands and not be stuck listening to it. (finished 3.31.17)
- The Circle by Dave Eggers — After seeing a preview for the film version, I knew I had to read this book. The preview shaped my reading in an interesting way and I was surprised at how shocking parts of the book were and how much some already resonate with the world of social media today. This was a quick and very good read. Now I am very curious to see the movie to see how they actually treat the story.
- The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan — picked this one randomly off Hoopla to listen to while doing laundry, etc. around the house and quite honestly only finished it because I am stubborn. Perhaps reading it would have been better as the attempted accents by the audio narrator drove me absolutely bonkers, but the story itself wasn’t quite what I was expecting either. (finished 5.2.17)
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery — now that I’ve finally finished the three books that I started in April, I’m happy to say that this one was very much worth the read. I loved the dual narration and the semi-mystery element to how you came to know the characters and their connections. All around an enjoyable book!
- The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff — this 500 page book was so fascinating and I flew through it as much as one can fly through 500 dense pages. I loved the different styles of writing (letters, memoirs, novel, online content) used to present the story line(s) and found the whole subject matter (namely, polygamy and history, plus modern impacts) so interesting.
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhard — my aunt sent me a little stack of books (best surprise ever!) and this was part of it. A YA read, this one was quick and very good. I won’t say much so as to not spoil the plot, but dang – I would recommend it for sure for teens or adults!
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (book club pick) — I’ve been waiting months to get my hands on this book via the library’s various waitlists, and while it was certainly not a happy read (I knew that already), it was fascinating (and disturbing). I am very curious to discuss this later in the summer with my book club and equally anticipating the Hulu series based on the book.
- Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (book club pick) — different from what I’ve been reading lately, this novel set in 1961 Minnesota narrated by a 13yo boy was really good. With a page-turner mystery-style plot, there are also some intriguing characters here. Generally speaking, it was a good change of pace from some of the reading ruts I tend to land in from time to time.
- The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff (book club pick) — total coincidence to read two books by this author this month, but it happened and I enjoyed this one as well. An interesting look at transgender history and how the world has changed (and hasn’t) since the 1920s. (finished 5.27.17)
- The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (book club pick) — this was a fun trip down classic’s lane with a book/author I didn’t even know fell into that category, but it was so different from what I’ve been reading that once I got into it (first bit took me a while), I enjoyed it quite a bit.
- The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney — grabbed this from OverDrive because it happened to be available to check out and I was pretty sure I had seen the cover on To Read lists online (the story line following four grown siblings was appealing as well) and I liked it SO much. I love how seemingly side characters come out of nowhere but have true purpose and place within the novel, and yeah – definitely on the Recommend List for the year!
- The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict — a quick read, this work of fiction rocked my surface and superficial understanding of Albert Einstein quite a bit. Told from the perspective of his wife (and again, fiction, so…), it paints a very human portrait of him while also shining some light and attention (maybe some of it is real?) on Mitza’s life, abilities, and struggles. A good but at times hard read.
- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin — after a slow down in the end of June, I picked up this book club read on a Sunday morning and finished it before bed that same day. Yay, Summer! And yay for this book. I loved it. Again, different from a lot of group reads and all of the book/literature/writer references were fun (even if I didn’t know all of them), so yes – definitely a good one for a solo read or a book club choice. (finished 7.2.17)
- The Shack by Wm Paul Young — because sometimes your pastor mentions a book (now a major motion picture) in the same sermon where he shares a story about your family and so you have to read that book. I both enjoyed and struggled with this one and everything it had to say about faith, forgiveness, and the trinity.
- The Mountain between Us by Charles Martin — I had no idea “romantic thriller” was a sub genre of novels, but this book club pick self proclaimed to be such, so there ya go. An easy, quick read, this one did have some nice twists and turns without being entirely hokey romance.
- Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult — I’m not entirely sure what to say about this book other than it is powerful and difficult to read and could very well serve discussions of race and equity in our country. (finished 8.1.17)
- The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers — book club read. At times I greatly enjoyed the way this narrative was told mostly though correspondence between characters, but at others, the writing device of dragging out The Who-done-it of it all drove me crazy. Still not sure the ending was a full resolution, either.
- One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus — Considering the size of this one, it was a relatively quick read. At times the “you’ll never believe what happened” voice of the narrator starting out new journal entries was grating and I am still confused by several of the conflicting messages here, but I guess this was an interesting take on pioneer/plains living. It certainly gave me things to think about, even in regards to the current political/racial climate in this country.
- LAMB, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore — book club read. I don’t really laugh out loud at books, but I definitely appreciated the humor/satire of this one, and, as one friend pointed out, it really does have some sweetness to it. As always, curious to hear what others have to say when we gather to discuss. (finished 8.28.17)
- About a Boy by Nick Hornby — (book club read) Huh. I enjoyed this and went through it quite quickly, but wasn’t so pleased with some of the character “developments” at the very end.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — this YA debut novel is instantly at the top of my must read asap books list, along with Hillbilly Elegy and Small Great Things, in terms of current (and of course the historical that got us here) race relations in our country. Incredible narrator. Insightful perspective.
- Commonwealth by Ann Patchett — I really enjoyed this one, and especially appreciated that it took over half the book for the all the bits and pieces to start to come together; sometimes that can be annoying, but in this case, it was a beautiful, subtle, ahhhhhhh, so there it is…… moment. Looking forward to reading more by AP.
- Spiritual Graffiti: Finding My Path by MC Yogi — a memoir by one of my favorite musicians and yes, I have indeed taken a yoga class/concert from him thanks to Wanderlust last year in CO! This was a quick and great read, to learn more about his life and what first brought him to the mat and the mic. It was fun to find the Easter Eggs within the text that linked to his songs that I know so well.
- Yoga Nidra by Richard Miller — a short text but dense with knowledge, information, and guidance good for anyone wanting to learn more about Yoga Nidra both for their own practice and for the sake of guiding others.
- Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller — Holy wow. This was a good read. I loved how suspenseful it was but not in a cloying or annoying way, and how the whole story came together, eventually, was just fantastic. Family and romantic relationships, and twists and turns, and just so good. (finished 9-29-17)
- O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (book club read) — A friend picked this for SBC right after I got back from my mini-retreat in Red Cloud, a place near and dear to Cather’s heart, so I loved reading this book again. It’s been since grad school and I had forgotten just enough to make it super interesting, plus now that I live smack dab in the land in which she writes about so beautifully, it really was a different experience than as a seminar student.
- The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines — we went for a few years without cable, so I’m pretty well behind on almost all the Fixer Upper craze, but the ones that I have seen, I’ve enjoyed, so reading this story of how that all came to be was fun and fast.
- Rook by Sharon Cameron — normally I really enjoy YA reads but this one drove me nuts. Not enough actual backstory to make sense, plus it took over 100 pages to get even remotely into the thing (I kept reading because I am stubborn like that), and then the whole “who should we trust” + ridiculous romance drama just didn’t do it for me. So there. It’s on my list of reads, not to-reads.
- These is my Words by Nancy E. Turner — maybe because I am in Little House mode with HD, I really really enjoyed this pioneer woman’s diary-style account of life in another territory from a similar time. A bit more honest and harsh than a kid’s novel version of life as such, but definitely a good read.
- The Untherered Soul by Michael A. Singer — been wanting to read this for a few years and finally decided to just listen to it on Hoopla and wow – so incredibly good and on point with my Yoga Nidra studies and so on. However, not the best for an audiobook because it is short but dense and I wanted very much to have my own copy in hand so I could be underlining and dog-earring like crazy!
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan — a friend told me these books are both funny and addictive and she wasn’t wrong! Once I got past trying to figure out EVERY single character and their connection/family (you eventually get the hang of it all, and who the main players really are), I got totally sucked in and enjoyed this socialite read very much.
- China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan — I happened to get my hands on Kwan’s second book in this series right away and sped through it. Much easier to keep track of all the characters this time and another fun read. (Finish 10.28.17)
- My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (book club pick) — Just as I loved Ove, I enjoyed this Backman book very much as well. The friend who picked this for BC warned me that the start was slow, which I found as well, but after 100 pages, it went really quickly. I’m sure I need to read this one again someday, however, because the crossovers and stories are so complex in a way that I know I missed things. Perhaps many things!
To Read (if you happen to have a copy of any of these I could borrow, yes please!):
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Bright Before Us by Katie Arnold-Ratliff
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich (MAW)
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro (RO)
Iscariot by Tosca Lee (VB)
Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi (DRH)
Century Trilogy by Ken Follet (holy big books!) (AKT)
Mozart in the Jungle