Hello my fellow reading friends!
It's been a quiet couple of months on the reading front for me which is pretty standard for this time of year. Here's a look at what I read in both October and November.
- A Ladder To The Sky (BOTM) // One of the things I love about being a Book Of The Month member is that I'm introduced to books and stories I might not otherwise read. Last year I read The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne and I loved it so much. When I saw he had another book this year I picked it as my selection immediately. It took me a night or two to get into this story - in the end I definitely enjoyed it even though the main character is very unlikeable - he's almost so unlikeable as to be likable. It's a story about someone who is willing to do anything to get ahead but it's not dark or heavy. I loved how Boyne used different narrators to tell the story from different points in time.
- Speak With Impact: How To Command The Room And Influence Others by Allison Shapira // I saw a friend on Instagram reference this book early last month and I ordered it to give me some additional things to think about going into a speaking event. I found it easy to read and valuable to my personal preparation for that event. She talks about speaking in both small and large groups. I can totally see myself picking this up as a reference again before other speaking engagements in the future.
- I Think You're Wrong But I'm Listening by Sarah Stewart Holland + Beth Silvers // Advance copy of a book that will be released in February 2019. I'm a long time listener to Beth and Sarah's podcast Pantsuit Politics and was excited to dive into this book. I am almost done with this book and more than anything I feel like this book is a roadmap for being a good human - not just for learning how to have compassionate and reasonable discussions around politics but for any challenging discussions. Read it.
BOOK OF THE MONTH SELECTION FOR DECEMBER
It's also time to select new books from Book Of The Month Club.
As part of their Ambassador Program I get to order from their monthly selections a bit early in order to share with you and celebrate their new releases each month. This month I selected one book:
FULL LIST OF WHAT I'VE READ IN 2018
- The Heart's Invisible Furies (BOTM) // I super, super loved this book. Just go read it. Now.
- The Woman In The Window (BOTM) // Perfect suspense book. Great beach read.
- Everyone Brave Is Forgiven // It’s been quite awhile since I underlined passages in a non-fiction book but I did a few times in this one because the language and imagery used was just so beautiful. It’s a story that will stick with me.
- The Year Of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store // Super quick read on a topic I’m interested in - how less can mean more. This book is more memoir than how-to and I was interested in her story and all the ways in which she cake to having and wanting less. Glad I read it. It’s so much more than just a story of not shopping for a year.
- Turtles All The Way Down (BOTM) // This one was a like but not love for me. I did really like some of the writing, especially towards the end, that related to the forward movement of life with mental illness. I think these kinds of stories are important and the pieces where he was writing about her self-talk/voices really resonated with me personally.
- Bel Canto (finished this one right at the end of January) // I really, really enjoyed this book. I love her writing style and I loved the way the story flowed all the way until the end. It felt super abrupt - but I guess that's how life goes sometimes too. I loved the themes of adaptation, of love, of change, of escape (literally from the life you were living one moment before), and the push and pull between relationships. Oh and it totally made me want to go to an opera.
- The Great Alone (BOTM) // I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this one last night because I just couldn't stop reading. I loved this book. I loved that Alaska + the climate was basically a character. The subject matter is challenging for sure - violence, loneliness, family issues, etc. - but the story is rich and complicated and well-told. Love these kinds of epic stories. So, so good.
- The Broken Girls (BOTM) // This book legitimately freaked me out multiple times. The kids around here all know I was reading a scary book because I kept saying “this book is scary” - ha. Loved the twists and turns - I zoomed through the last half super quick. If you are looking for a haunting style of story this one’s for you. I actually almost stopped reading it at one point but I am so glad I finished.
- An American Marriage // I read this one without knowing anything about it because it was recommended highly by a friend (and then I saw it popping up everywhere). This is an emotional, real, raw and very well written story that is different from what I've been reading lately. I love being surprised. Beautiful, compelling writing that really gets to the heart of complicated human relationships. A line I loved : "But mostly my life is good, only it's a different type of good from what I figured on." This has been the lesson of my life as well.
- The Astonishing Color Of After (BOTM) // This book started out a little hard for me to get into but once I did I ended up adoring it. Totally adoring and loving it. I loved the interplay between the present and the past, the treatment of the experience of grief, learning about Chinese/Twaianese traditions, the magic of the way she views her family memories, and the continual use of colors as descriptors for scenes and feelings. I feel like this is one that will stay with me for a long time. SO GOOD.
- The Last Equation Of Isaac Severy (BOTM) // This one took a long time to hook me - not sure if that was due to my sporadic reading this month or the story itself. I almost moved on 1/2 way through but decided to give it one more try over a weekend getaway and I was glad I did overall (but also happy to move on to the next story).
- Educated : A Memoir // From the very beginning I loved the author's writing style and the way she was weaving her story. I think this is one of the best, if not the best, memoirs I've read. I want to tell you that I loved this book, but I don't know if "love" is the right word because it was a hard story to read at times - for all kinds of different reasons. What I loved about it was that it was a story of becoming - of finding yourself and your own story. There were so many times I had to stop to tell Aaron something that had happened as I was reading either because it was so crazy (either awesome or terrible or almost unbelievable). I love a book that encourages us to challenge our assumptions about the beliefs we grew up with and find ourselves within (and owning) our own individual story - whether we continue to believe or walk away or distance ourselves or reconnect. Highly recommended.
- The Girl Who Smiled Beads (received from the publisher - also available via BOTM) // Back in 2014 I heard Clemantine speak in Washington DC at a summit on girls + women in Africa which was sponsored by the ONE Campaign and Google. The event itself and the stories presented were profoundly moving and educational. When I was offered an opportunity to receive an advance copy of this book I jumped at the chance to get to go deeper into Clemantine's story and I think this book is a must read. It's a hard, raw read and one that is super important for all of us as human beings. It's a complex story of her escape from the Rwandan massage as a child and eventual arrival in the United States as a refuge. It is also so much more than that story - she intimately shares the impact of that entire experience on the way she thinks about herself, the way she views the world, and the ways she has attempted to own her own story. It is a book about becoming. Highly recommended.
- Then She Was Gone (BOTM) // I wasn't sure what I thought of this book at first and it felt a little slow at the beginning. But once it revealed a twist + then more twists, I was hooked. I liked that the narrative goes back and forth between characters - really showcasing their different motivations and personalities. It was a totally decent psychological thriller if you are into that genre I'd definitely recommend it. It would have made a good beach read.
- Circe (BOTM) // I totally wasn't sure what to expect with this book but I picked it because I've been trying to challenge myself to read things I might not normally pick up this year (different genres, voices, etc). I found this one challenging to get into initially only because I can't remember much at all of the Greek Mythology I learned back in school (little bits here + there - but there are so many names) but once I just accepted that and started to reintroduce myself (via googling names and briefly reading their stories) I was totally into this story told from Circe's point of view. I actually decided that I liked not knowing "everything" about all the different Gods + Goddesses because it helped me to be surprised when the story revealed itself. I really, really liked how this book was written. I loved that is was from her point of view - so many interwoven themes popped up throughout the book: separation, love, fear, family, magic, monsters, bravery, and the ways we each own or own story. I think this one will stick with me for awhile.
- First, We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety // I'm about half-way through this one and already know that I'm going to recommend it highly for anyone who has a history of anxiety or other mental illnesses. This book has comforted me, made me laugh, taught me lessons, and made me look at my anxiety/depression through a different lens. I may write more about this when I finish it during May but wanted to include it now because it's just so good.
- First, We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety // I'm about half-way through this one and already know that I'm going to recommend it highly for anyone who has a history of anxiety or other mental illnesses. This book has comforted me, made me laugh, taught me lessons, and made me look at my anxiety/depression through a different lens. I may write more about this when I finish it during May but wanted to include it now because it's just so good. // I pre-ordered this book and read it quickly once I received it. I didn't read any reviews before I read it and I just let it be what it was without preconceived notions (I just read some reviews so that's top of mind as I write my own). I liked the rambling style of this book. I liked the storytelling aspect. I liked simply reading about someone else who lives with anxiety and how it manifests in their own life and the ways she has found to keep moving forward in her own life. I underlined a bunch of things that made me questions assumptions I have made about myself and the ways I've approached my own journey with anxiety + depression. I have been recommending it to friends who I think would benefit from simply reading her story.
- The Mars Room (BOTM / AMAZON) // Hard to get into + hard to finish for me. Glad I read it, but not my favorite. It wasn't the subject matter but more the writing style that didn't hook me in - it felt really disjointed. I read another review where someone mentioned they would have rather had more from the main female character and I totally agreed with that. Just felt disjointed overall. That said, I have thought about this book multiple times since finishing - definitely a relevant conversation/topic in our world.
- Destination Simple // This is a short, quick read with practical information related to slowing down. I especially loved a section near the end about the idea of "tilting" vs. attempting balance. Definitely in alignment with living in + being present in different seasons of our lives. I also really liked her ideas for morning and evening rituals.
- Still Lives (BOTM / AMAZON) // Liked but not love. Definitely captivated me enough to read until the end to complete the story. I think this would make a good beach read if you are into mysteries.
- George // I read this 3rd/4th grade book for my Book Club as a follow-up to our discussion of This Is How It Always Is and because the book has been a topic of conversation in our community and around Oregon since it was listed as an Oregon Battle Of The Books book for next year. It was a great read for our small group discussion and continued to expand on our learning about transgender related issues. Anna is currently reading it as well.
- The Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir Of Family And Culture In Crisis // One of my goals in reading generally is to read a variety of voices. I've heard of this book over the last few years and picked up the paperback version recently at Costco. As someone who places value on owning our individual stories, I really appreciated reading JD's recounting of his life experience so far growing up in Kentucky and Ohio. I especially liked some of the pieces towards the end when he talked a bit more about his perspective as an adult related to his own childhood trauma and how that informed some of the things he faced in his relationships as an adult. I found the book overall to be insightful and a good starting place for beginning to scratch the surface of understanding more about the struggle/story of poverty and class in America. Also, please note that when reading something along these lines I don't automatically assume that this is the experience of all people living in this area.
- Calypso (BOTM / Amazon) // Amazingly enough this was my first time reading David Sedaris. Not sure exactly why because I am definitively aware of who he is - I think maybe it’s because I don’t often read “funny” books (a gross, totally incomplete description of his stories). That said, I completely enjoyed this book and his writing style and can’t believe I have basically ignored his books up to this point. Real life stories about everyday life are a part of my passion - I will definitively read more from him soon. I laughed out loud, my heart ached, and I was captivated.
- The Book Of Essie (BOTM / Amazon) // Devoured this book in a 24 hour period while traveling this past month and really enjoyed the story: interesting and captivating.
- Crazy Rich Asians // Fun, silly, quick read. At the end you will likely want to get the next two books in the series to continue the story.
- The Female Persuasion // I enjoyed it but felt like I had to force myself to finish it - I did want to know how it ended. I generally like this kind of story that spans a longer period of time where you get to see the characters develop and grow via the passage of time. I liked the themes of female mentorship and friendship and changes that we don't anticipate.
- The Last Time I Lied (BOTM / Amazon) // Super quick, page turner, and super enjoyable. Put aside anything that seems "not quit right" (I had some questions - ha) and just enjoy it for the fun read that it is.
- Something In The Water // I was definitely into this one and devoured it quickly over the last couple of days. The story was all over the place + you might have to suspend disbelief at some points, but still enjoyable. I thought a lot about "unreliable" narrators as I was reading this one and I really did want to know how it was all going to end (was she just not very smart, unreliable, or some strange combination of both - ha). If you enjoy disliking the main character you might like this one (someone mentioned that on an Amazon review and it totally resonated for me).
- The Outsider // I haven't read a lot of Stephen King over the years but I decided to try this new one out (his book "On Writing" is one of the best books about writing generally that I have read) just for some variety in my reading. I worried that it would be way too scary (it wasn't) and there were moments/parts where I was totally into it and others when I wasn't and felt like I was slogging along. I did feel like I had to push myself through to the end and kept waiting for there to be some additional, satisfying twist (there isn't). Solid read.
- The Glass Castle // I started this one and am about 1/2 way through.
- The Glass Castle // Finished this one (I had read about 1/2 of it in July). A hard but important memoir about growing up with very unconventional/dysfunctional parents and the resiliency of children.
- China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems // Finished these two quickly for my book club (we read Crazy Rich Asians last month). This series isn't the kind of book I'm generally drawn to but I did want to know how it all ended and wanted to be able to chat with my friends about it at our book club dinner. I think these would be great vacation reads or for a time when you wanted something that wasn't complicated.
- Brave Love: Making Space For You To Be You by Lisa Leonard (coming June 2019 - preorder available on Amazon) // I was given early access to this book from the publisher with an invitation to write an endorsement. I've known Lisa for many years and was honored that she would give me the opportunity to read her book. I loved reading her story which was so much about allowing ourselves permission to be who we truly are - embracing all of it.
- The Arrangement // I read this one for my for my local Book Club this month (September). It was a super quick read (I read it while camping for Dave Matthews Band) and I liked it overall and know it will prove to be a great book club discussion. You know, from the cover, that their arrangement isn't going to work out but I was interested in reading how it all played out. The couple also has an autistic son so I was interested in seeing how he was portrayed as well.
- Cross Her Heart (BOTM) // This book started super slow and then it shifted. The second half kept my interest but when I was done I definitely felt like I was ready to take a break from this genre for awhile (suspense) - just feel like I'm craving something more. Overall just okay.
- Florida by Lauren Groff // This is the first short story book I've read probably since college (at least since I can remember) and I really loved it. For some reason at this point in time the short format really worked for me. I love her writing style. I loved the richness of the characters. I loved the theme of "connection" that seemed to link a lot of the stories (both connection + disconnection). Super happy I picked this up when I visited Parnassus books in Nashville on my last visit.
- Beartown // This book is for my local Book Club in October but I couldn't stop myself once I started this month. This will definitely be one of the best books I read this year. The story and the way he wrote the story was nuanced and human and real and complicated. Definite trigger warning regarding sexual assault. He also now has a follow-up book out called Us Against You (I downloaded it to read on my Kindle).