Finished two fiction and two non-fiction books in April. I'm currently feeling all the love for non-fiction + memoirs right now. I'm about half-way through The Valedictorian Of Being Dead by Heather Armstrong and I'm totally looking forward to the two books I selected from Book Of The Month for May (you can see those titles below).
Here's what I read:
- Miracle Creek by Angie Kim (BOTM) | 3 stars. I really struggled with this book and I think it's probably just a personal problem with some of the subject matter surrounding autism. It's hard for me to articulate but I generally don't select books talking about Mom's + kids on the spectrum because it's already part of my daily life (and has been ever since my son was 2.5 years old). With this book I just kept having mixed feelings - about the characters, about the plot, about people trying to "fix" autistic people, etc. I'd be interested in hearing what other parents with kids on the spectrum felt about this one.
- All The You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr (BOTM) | 4 stars. I really, really liked this one. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I appreciate real life stories, but this one has really struck me for a particular reason: we live in an era where content/source material for our personal stories are able to be gathered via email and text and social media messages. Voices live on in their own words - similar to written letters of the past but also different (more immediate I guess). In this book I love reading David Carr’s words of encouragement to his daughter as she navigates early adulthood and addiction - he had a way with words that has me underlining and nodding and reflecting on my own life and relationships. So good.
- Lost And Wanted by Nell Fredenberger (BOTM) | 3.5 stars. I read this one while traveling and actually enjoyed the science mixed in with the story. I feel like I learned a little something about physics that is totally foreign to me and I liked the weaving through the story. I wanted to know how it was going to resolve itself and there were definitely parts that will stick with me.
- Wolfpack by Abby Wambach | 5 stars. This is a super quick read based on a commencement address and I loved it. Can't wait to share it with my girls.
For my May Book Of The Month selections I went with the following (adding the descriptions so you can see what these are about):
- The Buried by Peter Hessler // Drawn by a fascination with Egypt's rich history and culture, Peter Hessler moved with his wife and twin daughters to Cairo in 2011. He wanted to learn Arabic, explore Cairo's neighborhoods, and visit the legendary archaeological digs of Upper Egypt. After his years of covering China for The New Yorker, friends warned him Egypt would be a much quieter place. But not long before he arrived, the Egyptian Arab Spring had begun, and now the country was in chaos.In the midst of the revolution, Hessler often traveled to digs at Amarna and Abydos, where locals live beside the tombs of kings and courtiers, a landscape that they call simply al-Madfuna: "the Buried." He and his wife set out to master Arabic, striking up a friendship with their instructor, a cynical political sophisticate. They also befriended Peter's translator, a gay man struggling to find happiness in Egypt's homophobic culture. A different kind of friendship was formed with the neighborhood garbage collector, an illiterate but highly perceptive man named Sayyid, whose access to the trash of Cairo would be its own kind of archaeological excavation. Hessler also met a family of Chinese small-business owners in the lingerie trade; their view of the country proved a bracing counterpoint to the West's conventional wisdom. Through the lives of these and other ordinary people in a time of tragedy and heartache, and through connections between contemporary Egypt and its ancient past, Hessler creates an astonishing portrait of a country and its people. What emerges is a book of uncompromising intelligence and humanity--the story of a land in which a weak state has collapsed but its underlying society remains in many ways painfully the same. A worthy successor to works like Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon and Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines, The Buried bids fair to be recognized as one of the great books of our time.
- The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer // In 1940, Varian Fry--a Harvard educated American journalist--traveled to Marseille carrying three thousand dollars and a list of imperiled artists and writers he hoped to rescue within a few weeks. Instead, he ended up staying in France for thirteen months, working under the veil of a legitimate relief organization to procure false documents, amass emergency funds, and set up an underground railroad that led over the Pyrenees, into Spain, and finally to Lisbon, where the refugees embarked for safer ports. Among his many clients were Hannah Arendt, Franz Werfel, André Breton, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Marc Chagall.The Flight Portfolio opens at the Chagalls' ancient stone house in Gordes, France, as the novel's hero desperately tries to persuade them of the barbarism and tragedy descending on Europe. Masterfully crafted, exquisitely written, impossible to put down, this is historical fiction of the very first order, and resounding confirmation of Orringer's gifts as a novelist.
COMPLETE LIST OF WHAT I'VE READ IN 2019
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (BOTM / Amazon) | Totally enjoyed this super-fast-to-read thriller. A great way to start out the new year.
- There There by Tommy Orange (local book club book for January) | This was a brutal book but an important read in terms of exposing ourselves to different voices - in this case Native Americans. There were lots of places I wished I would have underlined and I might just go back in and read it again for those words. It was a little confusing to follow the characters as it went back and forth - I definitely found myself flipping back to previous chapters to make sure I remembered whose perspective I was reading. Read it.
- Verity by Colleen Hoover | Super satisfying thriller. Started it one evening and finished the next morning. Just read it.
- The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith | Finally had a chance to start this series (written by JK Rowling under a pen name) and I totally enjoyed it. Detective mystery that kept me interested.
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown | 5 stars. There is nothing else to say besides this: this is an important book that should be read by everyone. Stories matter, especially of those who have been and continue to be marginalized in our society.
- The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai | 5 stars. I loved this book. I loved the weaving of the two different time periods (1980's during the AIDS crisis in Chicago + 2015) and I loved how the author posed questions about love, friendship, memories, stories (and who gets to tell them), imperfect people (everyone), and the passage of time. It was heartbreaking and rich and beautifully written.
- The Winter Sister by Megan Collins (BOTM) | 3 stars. A fast ready but one that was really just "okay" for me. The characters, the story, the whole thing - it was just not quite there. I've read so many better thrillers over the last few years.
- A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum (BOTM) | 5 stars. Loved it. Go read it. Three generations of Palestinian-American women's stories of daily life, courage, family, expectations, faith, etc. Really enjoyed the storytelling and how it all unfolded. So many times as I turned the page I kept thinking to myself how the stories of these women continue today here in the US and around the world. So, so different than my life experience. This is why I read.
- The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani | 3.5 stars // Picked it up because it was included in the New York Time's 10 best books of 2018 (others I've read from that list included "There, There" and "The Great Believers" which were both really good). This book was a super quick read - read it over the course of one day - and it was interesting but not awesome. Some pieces felt disjointed - I kept waiting for the author to go deeper into the story.
- Maid by Stephanie Land | 3.5 stars. As an advocate for telling your story, I generally appreciate memoirs like this that detail how lives are lived because I believe there are always things to be learned from people's experiences. While reading her story I had a wide variety of thoughts running through my head regarding poverty, single-parenthood (a piece I have lived + was thankful every single day that I had a job to support myself and my children), the way the "system" works, as well as thoughts about people I have interacted with throughout my life. From that standpoint, I'm glad I read it (and it was a super quick read).
- Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson (BOTM) | 3 stars. I found this to be a satisfying thriller. It's totally possible that I wasn't paying close enough attention while I was reading it (meaning I wasn't trying to figure out what was going to happen) but I definitely enjoyed it. Aaron read this on our vacation and also enjoyed it. Definitely good for a beach read.
- Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens | 4 stars. Beautiful writing that I definitely think will stay with me for awhile. My local book club read this last month and I missed the meeting because I wanted to read it myself before having a conversation and the early part of my month was just too full to make time.
- Daisy Jones + The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid | 4 stars. I initially resisted this title as I was thinking I wasn’t interested in a story about rock & roll but people kept talking about it and then my book club picked it and down the path I went. I am so glad I went down that path! I definitely had a hard time remembering that it was fiction. I kept wanting to look up the band online to listen to their music and see their faces and read what had been written about them. That’s basically how well written and clever this book is. Beyond that, I loved the entire format for how she told the story and I loved the themes of love and loss and addiction and honesty and passion. So good. Highly recommended.
- Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton | 4 stars. Read this on vacation and loved the imagery. I'll definitely consider reading the new book she's coming out with that tells the story of Beatriz Perez: When We Left Cuba.
- The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith | 3 stars. This is the second book in the Cormoran Strike series and I didn't like it as much as the first one but it's a solid mystery with characters returning and their stories continuing. I like reading these ones on my Kindle on vacation. I'll definitely keep reading the series.