Monday, December 17, 2018

Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

I only have one book left over from my fall TBR list, which is pretty good!

1. Becoming by Michelle Obama
I was very excited when I heard about this book! I've been giving myself more permission to read new releases lately if they really interest me (rather than pushing them off in favor of my current TBR list) so I put a hold on the audiobook and am looking forward to it.

2. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Goodreads had a post about short audiobooks you can get through in a few hours and several of them were books I've been wanting to read, so I decided to put holds on the audiobooks. I didn't realize this one was so short but I keep hearing it recommended and I'm looking forward to it!

3. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
This is a classic that I listened to on audio CDs in my car a long, long time ago, and I don't remember any of it. I've been wanting to reread it, and it was also on that post as a relatively short read, so I plan to get to it soon.

4. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
This is my one holdover from fall. I just never had time to get to the Kindle version I'd borrowed, so now I have a hold on the audiobook that should be coming through soon.

5. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
I mentioned a few months ago that I'd read everything John Green had published except this holiday story collection. Now that it's winter, it seems like a good time to finally read it.

6. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
I got a free copy of this book as part of a campus-wide read where I work, so I need to read it before the author comes to speak in February.

7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I'm doing a buddy read of all the Chronicles of Narnia with a friend in 2019, so I need to get through the first book by the end of January!

8. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
This is a book club read for which I'm a little nervous about my hold coming through in time. We don't usually pick books that are less than a year old, and there are so many holds on this one! But everyone raves about it so I'm very excited to finally read it.

9. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
This is another book club read for January. The theme was "Books with a country's name in the title" and I nominated My Life in France by got outvoted for this classic instead.

10. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This is next up on my original TBR list. This has the highest likelihood of getting carried over to my spring list, but we'll see — maybe I'll get to it.

What will you be reading this winter?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Sophie's Choice
Five years ago I was reading: Code Name Verity and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Saturday, December 15, 2018

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage: This is not really a memoir but literally a collection of Cleage's personal journals from 1970 to 1988. On the one hand, she's clearly a talented writer, and she shares a lot of thoughts about womanhood and race and work and being an artist. On the other hand, she also spends a lot of time talking about getting high and pining over the married men she's sleeping with, so that got a bit old.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah: This definitely lived up to the hype! Noah explores the complexity of race and class in South Africa not through the shock value of dredging up his worst memories, but in between the lines of the stories about his pranks, his friendships, his failed attempts at dating, and his complex family relationships. I laughed, I cried, and I wished it were longer.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain: I found Bourdain's insights into life in the restaurant industry to be interesting, horrifying, and entertaining, but his arrogance was grating after a while and I don't think his experiences are as universal as he made them out to be. If you were a fan of Bourdain, worked in the industry, or have lived in New York, you'll probably enjoy it more than I did.

Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward by Gemma Hartley: It's not an exaggeration to say that this book has transformed my marriage. Hartley articulated my personal experience (and that of many, many women in different-gender relationships) so perfectly that I told my husband, "I'd do almost anything to get you to read this book." He listened to the first 15 minutes, said everything suddenly clicked for him, and before I knew it I had an equal partner in the running of our daily lives. Women will appreciate it, but men need to read it.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green: I already liked this a lot the first time around, but it was even better on audio. I am deeply impressed that Hank Green wrote such an interesting, timely, fast-paced but philosophical novel, and I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: I finally read this after hearing great things about the movie, and it was pretty meh. The writing isn't great, I didn't feel invested in the lives of the characters, and the voyeuristic aspect of "OMG they're so very, very rich" got old quickly. I'd still watch the movie, though.

Glittering Images by Susan Howatch: This was a super weird book. The best way I can describe it is a Christian soap opera with a large side of someone's personal therapy sessions. I think I got the underlying message but it could have been done in a much less problematic or dramatic way.

Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones: I don't usually like short stories, but I went in with the right expectations to enjoy this. Each story is a brief window into the life of one or more black Americans living in Washington, D.C., together making up a tapestry showing the diversity of life within a single community. It's definitely more about characters than plot, but that's not a bad thing if you know what to expect going in.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Sophie's Choice
Five years ago I was reading: Red Azalea and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Monday, December 10, 2018

My Ten Most Popular Goodreads Reviews

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week it's a freebie! I use Goodreads to review all the books I read, and often when I finish a book I will look through other readers' reviews to find those who felt the same way I did about the book. I love when someone can put my own feelings about a book into words! For this week's freebie post, I decided to share which of my own reviews have received the most likes. It's always affirming when someone likes one of my reviews, particularly if my opinion was different from a lot of other readers. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who felt that way about a book and especially to know that my words resonated with someone else.

Here are the reviews, from fewest to most likes.

1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (4 likes)
Sample line: "The book is aimed at an American audience, and he includes just enough context that you can understand what's happening (like why no one blinked at a guy in his neighborhood being named Hitler) without bogging down the story in a history lesson."
5 stars: Read the whole review here.

2. The Science of Mom by Alice Callahan (4 likes)
Sample line: "She does a great job of continually reminding the reader that different families do different things with just as much success, and that no research studies will ever be perfectly crafted to prescribe exactly what your child needs."
4 stars: Read the whole review here.

3. Small Animals by Kim Brooks (4 likes)
Sample line: "Brooks doesn't exactly leave the reader with hope (you can't really say, 'Forget what other people think!' when you may face criminal charges or even lose your children for giving them more independence than someone else thinks you should) but she does offer commiseration and reassurance that yes, this really is as bananas as it seems."
5 stars: Read the whole review here.

4. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (5 likes)
Sample line: "I had to keep putting the book down because it was sickening to see just how flimsy the evidence could be that put someone on death row, just how blatant the discrimination, just how willfully ignorant the people in power could be of the mounds of evidence pointing to someone's innocence."
5 stars: Read the whole review here.

5. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (6 likes)
Sample line: "Their emotions at every moment rang true to me — they felt like the college freshmen I live and work with and remember being."
5 stars: Read the whole review here.

6. Emotional Vampires by Albert J. Bernstein (7 likes)
Sample line: "Even when it's possible to recognize people you know in the profiles he sketches (and you will), you'll probably find yourself saying every time, 'Well, they're not that extreme.'"
2 stars: Read the whole review here.

7. Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber (7 likes)
Sample line: "Her raw honesty, complete with appropriately placed curse words, is like balm on the soul of a Christian who wants to follow Jesus' example but can't figure out how to apply typical Christian platitudes to real life."
5 stars: Read the whole review here.

8. Love Does by Bob Goff (9 likes)
Sample line: "I kept thinking that this book would be better subtitled Love Does: A Story of Wealth and White Male Privilege."
1 star: Read the whole review here.

9. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo (13 likes)
Sample line: "The stories from the first book were what inspired me to actually undertake the full process in the first place; this book is more nitty-gritty for those who get stuck or, like me, just want to organize what they have left a little more neatly."
5 stars: Read the whole review here.

10. This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl (25 likes)
Sample line: I wish someone had not been content to let this ride on the coattails of John Green / The Fault in Our Stars but had instead used it as source material to write a compelling true story about a girl with cancer who brought joy to the people around her, one that people who didn't know Esther would actually read and appreciate.
1 star: Read the whole review here.

Do you review books on Goodreads?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Sophie's Choice
Five years ago I was reading: Red Azalea
Ten years ago I was reading: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Monday, December 3, 2018

Top Ten Heartwarming Books for Cold Winter Nights

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's theme is "Cozy/Wintry Reads." I know from experience that the last thing I want to do when it's gross outside is read a dark, depressing book or one that's set somewhere freezing cold. This is the time of year I want to read something sweet and heartwarming. In case you're the same, here are ten heartwarming books I recommend.

1. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
This book (a loose memoir written under a pseudonym) recounts the adventures (and misadventures) of the author as a new veterinarian in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1940s. He clearly cares about the animals he treats, even when he's poking fun at them, their hapless owners, and most of all himself.

2. All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
This is a children's book about a family of five sisters growing up in New York City in the early 1900s. The stories are simple and sweet but also provide insights into life at the time and place, particularly for a Jewish immigrant family, and there are some lovely surprises that tie it all together at the end.

3. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
The overall writing in this book is admittedly not the best (plot holes, unanswered questions, unrealistic dialogue), but I couldn't help loving it anyway because it's just so damn sweet and the sentence-level writing is beautiful. It's a love story between a boy who is blind and the girl with deformed feet whom he carries around on his back as she acts as his eyes. It sounds cheesy summarized like that, and maybe it is, but it was 100% heartwarming to read anyway.

4. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
This is another children's book (a lot of heartwarming books seem to be in that category), about a girl who's new to town and the dog who helps her make friends, land a job, and reconnect with her father. It touches briefly on some heavier topics like alcoholism, death, and mentally challenged individuals, but primarily it's a light-hearted read about overcoming prejudices and finding your community.

5. A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
This is also a dog book, though not a children's book this time. It centers on a dog who is reborn each time they die, though they retain the memories of their previous owners. If you've ever known the love and loyalty of a dog, you'll appreciate this book.

6. George by Alex Gino
This children's book tackles the experience of being a transgender child in a way that's accessible and not too heavy for children. While George's experience isn't exactly easy, she has a supportive best friend and ultimately has the opportunity to share her true identity with the world.

7. One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern
I don't want to spoil too much of the book's mystery, so I'll just say that this book is an exploration about how each of us has something special about us. It's a story of redemption (for the main character) and of helping others recognize their unique value.

8. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
You've probably heard of this by now even if you haven't read it yet. (What book lover doesn't want to read about a bookstore?) It's a sweet if predictable story of growth, tracing a bookseller's journey from lonely, cranky widow to happy family man whose bookstore is a pillar of the community.

9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
This quiet coming-of-age novel follows Francie Nolan from age 11 to age 16: the questions, the obstacles, the small pleasures, the moments of confusion and embarrassment, the life lessons, the shift in perspective over time. Although Francie grows up in poverty — which Smith neither romanticizes nor oversimplifies — it's clear that she is well loved by her family, and that makes the biggest difference.

10. What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
This is an adorable YA romance with an unlikely couple at its center — Ben has just broken up with his boyfriend and isn't ready for someone new, and Arthur has never been in a relationship and nearly ruins everything with his over-eagerness. A bit predictable and not exactly a happily ever after, it's still an adorable and sweet read.

What are your favorite heartwarming reads?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Stranger in a Strange Land and The New Jim Crow
Five years ago I was reading: The Buddha in the Attic and Roots
Ten years ago I was reading: The Complete Sherlock Holmes Vol. II

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Best of the Bunch: November 2018

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in November.

Of the 8 books I read this month, I had four 5-star reads:

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story by Martin Luther King, Jr.

March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward by Gemma Hartley

It was a good reading month! As much as I enjoyed and learned from each of these books, there was one that immediately stuck out as one of the best books I've read this year.

It's hard to overstate how valuable I found this book. It's as if Hartley has taken everything I've struggled to articulate about what goes on in my head on a daily basis and laid it all out, not just explaining what it feels like to carry the mental and emotional load in a marriage, but also figuring out how we got here and what we can do about it. Hartley is not naive or optimistic enough to say that women can solve this ourselves if we just did things differently, added another layer to our mental load. But she also admits that the way forward is not just "men need to do better." It requires an honest look by both men and women at their assumptions, ingrained beliefs, stereotypes, and personal standards. I think if this book were not seen as a "women's" book but rightly recognized as one touching on issues affecting all of us, then we might have a chance to forge the new generation of equitable relationships that Hartley envisions.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Stranger in a Strange Land and The New Jim Crow
Five years ago I was reading: The Moonstone and Roots
Ten years ago I was reading: The Complete Sherlock Holmes Vol. II

Monday, November 26, 2018

Top Ten Books about Friendship

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's theme is all about platonic (i.e., non-romantic) relationships in books. I previously shared some of my favorite male-female friendships from books, so here are some other friendships — good friendships, sad friendships, female friendships, male friendships, couple friendships, pre-arranged friendships...!

1. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
I suppose this one could have gone on my previous list, but I honestly remember very little about the characters themselves or their friendship. (I think I read this in sixth grade?) However, I feel like this book is THE classic book about dealing with the death of a friend, which is not something explored in a lot of stories.

2. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
This book includes the best depiction I've seen of how friendships among young girls can include a lot of cruelty and manipulation. Most books with young (grade school) friendships are cutesy stories geared toward that same age group, so it's rare to see a realistic portrayal of the dark side of these friendships, written for an adult audience.

3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein
This is a memorable, heartbreaking story of a to-the-death friendship between two young women during World War II. How far would you be willing to go for your friend?

4. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
This is a quiet and beautiful story of the friendship between two couples as they navigate life and academia together. The imbalances between them at various points — wealth, career success, marital strength — create real-life tensions that unfold in small, private, recognizable dramas.

5. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
My son loves Frog and Toad, so I've listened to the audio recordings of these books many, many, many times (although he's now switched to preferring the cast recording of A Year with Frog and Toad: The Musical, which I must say is quite good). Frog and Toad get on each other's nerves quite a bit, but in the end they're always there for each other.

6. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
It's only appropriate that this story of an unlikely friendship between an angel and a demon would be written by a talented duo of fantasy writers.

7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Although the plot of this book is sparked by a correspondence between a writer and one man on Guernsey, the story is much larger, about the friendships that exist among the inhabitants of this island, particularly in the face of the German occupation.

8. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
I listed this previously as an example of a male-female friendship (between John and Katherine Keeling), but of course the central friendship is between John and Owen. After their friendship survives Owen's role in the accidental death of John's mother, what can possibly break it?

9. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Lily and Snow Flower are matched to be laotong, friends for life, a match that is supposed to help each of them rise above their fate in rural 19th-century China. Can their friendship truly survive for a lifetime?

10. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Talk about an unlikely friendship: Laila is brought in as a second wife after Mariam fails to bear a child, and they initially see each other as rivals. But eventually they figure out that they may be each other's best hope to survive their abusive husband.

What other books highlight the many facets of friendship?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Stranger in a Strange Land and The New Jim Crow
Five years ago I was reading: The Moonstone and Roots
Ten years ago I was reading: The Complete Sherlock Holmes Vol. II

Monday, November 19, 2018

Ten Bookish Resources I'm Grateful For

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

In past years for the Thanksgiving freebie I have shared books that helped make me a bookworm and books I'm thankful for. Now I want to talk about other parts of the bookish world that I'm grateful for — how I get books and book recommendations and how I read more books!

1. Book clubs
Besides just being awesome opportunities to discuss a book we've all read, book clubs are great sources of book recommendations! I love when someone else in the discussion has the same likes and dislikes about the book we just read because it means we probably have similar taste, and we can stay afterwards and swap recommendations of some recent favorites.

2. Bookish blogs
For a recent TTT topic, I shared some of my favorite bookish blogs! These are a great way to get book recommendations and also find awesome book-related recommendations, like these gift ideas.

3. Bookish podcasts
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and so I have to enjoy it every week in order to want to still be subscribed. My favorite shows for book recommendations are What Should I Read Next?, For Real, and Get Booked. I also enjoy listening to the Overdue podcast discussions of books that I've just finished.

4. Goodreads
Obviously I love Goodreads for tracking my own reading and sharing my ratings and reviews, but it's also a great source of book recommendations. I like finding new people to follow who have similar literary tastes, and I've filtered my home feed to only show updates that include reviews, so I don't have the frustration of wondering, "But why did you give it 3 stars?" I also like looking through the lists to find books that are highly rated or very popular that I haven't read or books that fit a particular category I want to know more about.

5. Books app
I use the Books app on my iPhone for all my audiobook listening. When I download audiobooks from the library, I drop the files into iTunes and reclassify them as audiobooks so they pop into my Books app. Get an audiobook on CD? I rip the tracks so I can listen to them on my Books app. It keeps track of where I'm at in different books (e.g., the one I'm listening to my son and my own personal read) and lets me listen at 1.25x or 1.5x speed. I'm very grateful to have so much control over my audiobook library!

6. Interlibrary Loan
Sometimes I can't get a book in a digital format or don't want to read it that way (like a graphic novel). If my campus library doesn't have a copy, chances are that some library in their ILL system does. I almost never go to my local county library anymore, even if they have a hard copy on the shelf — why drive there when I can have the same book delivered directly to my campus library within 5 days and can walk to pick it up?

7. Libraries
This encompasses several of the other resources listed here, but I want to give libraries in general a shout-out. I spent almost no money on books despite reading 100+ books each year, and that's thanks to my libraries. Between OverDrive through my county library and hard copies at my campus library, there are few books I can't get my hands on.

8. Kindle Voyage / Kindle app
Before I got a Kindle, I did read one or two ebooks on the Books app on my phone, but my reading skyrocketed once I got a Kindle. I particularly love the newer Kindle I got a couple years ago, which makes it easier to turn pages than my previous model. I also like that it syncs with the Kindle apps on my phone and computer, so I can keep reading wherever I am. I can also brings a dozen books on vacation with me without taking up much space in my suitcase, which is amazing!

9. OverDrive
OverDrive is the primary reason I'm able to read so many books in a year. Anytime I finish a book, I can immediately send a new one to my Kindle or download a new audiobook for my phone. No waiting! And the wish list feature keeps track of the books I want to read, so I can filter by books on my wish list that are available immediately for download. It's amazing.

10. PaperBackSwap
When I can't find a book at the library, or when I love a book and decide I want to own a hard copy, it goes on my PaperBackSwap wish list. When I'm next in line and someone posts a used copy, then I can use one of my credits to have it shipped to me! The books are almost always in good condition, and all I have to do to get another credit is pay Media Mail rates to have one of my old books sent to someone. It's only like $20 a year for a membership, which is totally worth it!

What bookish resources are you grateful for?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The World According to Garp and To Sir, with Love
Five years ago I was reading: The Moonstone and Roots
Ten years ago I was reading: Dave Barry Does Japan