Friday, April 29, 2016

Best of the Bunch: April 2016

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

I only got through four books this month, which tells you how busy I've been. There were no 5- or 4.5-star reads this month. I did have two 4-star reads:

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

I debated about which to pick as the best of the bunch, but the one I would be most likely to recommend is...

This was a fascinating look at Mormon Fundamentalism and how the early years of Mormonism provided the roots for various fundamentalist beliefs, particularly polygamy and blood atonement. Although this book could (understandably) be viewed as a criticism of Mormonism, Krakauer says in the author's note that he originally set out to write a book about faith and religion more generally. As Krakauer points out, what's unique about Mormonism is that it came to life in the age of the printing press, so its development is much more well-documented than most faiths, and that allows it to function as a case study for what is true of many religions — for example, that its fundamentalists can trace their beliefs to the religion's own texts and doctrines, but interpreted in a way that most mainstream followers do not. I didn't love the way the book was organized, but I learned a lot from it.

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

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Top Ten Bookworm Delights

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is about book-related experiences in our life that make us happy. Here are ten of mine!

I'm in two book clubs. I used to be in four book clubs but two of them stopped meeting. I have to prevent myself from joining more book clubs because I will never have time to read what I want to read otherwise. But I love talking about books so much! Unless you read a super-popular book, it can be hard to find other people who've read the same book you just finished and want to talk about it.

2. Being asked for book recommendations
I love giving people recommendations. I prefer when they have a specific genre in mind, because otherwise I end up going, "Here are 15 of my favorite books!" because hey, I don't know which ones they've read before or what they're going to be in the mood for! Being the go-to person among my friends for recommending good books makes me super happy. More than one person has told me that books I recommend always go to the top of their to-read list!

3. People following up later about books I recommended
Even more than recommending books, I love when people already read the books I recommend and then tell me what they thought! It's nice to have that follow-up anyway, and then we can actually discuss the book (which is my favorite — see #1). Even if they didn't like it as much as I thought they would, talking about it lets me know how to better recommend books to them in the future.

4. Getting a personal book recommendation that is actually spot-on
I read a lot, and so I know that the range of books that other people love and want to recommend can fall anywhere from true love to utter hatred for me. People have such different tastes that I can be skeptical about getting recommendations from someone who doesn't know my reading style that well and just thinks I'll like what they like. That's why it's such a joy when someone personally recommends a book to me and it turns out to be one that I love!

5. Finding someone who shared my feelings (love or hate) about a book
When I finish a book that I have strong feelings about, I need the validation of knowing that I'm not the only one who feels that way. Goodreads is great for getting that validation, but even better is finding someone in person who's read the book I'm talking about and knows exactly what I mean about it.

6. Finding someone who likes the same lesser-known author I do
Do you know how excited I was the first time I found someone else who not only knew who David Eddings was but was a fan of his books? As much as I love introducing people to a great author they've never heard of, it's even better when I find someone who already shares my love for that author's work.

7. Getting my library to buy a digital copy of a book I want to read
Reading in digital formats has caused me to read way more than I did before, and I'm more likely to start a book if I can download it. When I discovered that OverDrive has a feature that allows you to recommend which books your library should have in its digital collection, it was basically life-changing. They don't buy every book I recommend (obviously), but they've bought almost 90 different books because I recommended them, which is amazing!

8. Finishing a book in the nick of time
I squeeze a lot of reading in around the rest of my life, but it's so frustrating when I only have a few pages left in a book and I have to stop reading. On the flip side, it's satisfying when I have only a few more minutes and then find myself on the last page of the book — then I can leave the world of the book behind and focus on what's next in my day without wondering about how everything ends.

9. Reading every book on a list of recommendations
It was fun to finally check off the last book on the list of classics I'd had since middle school. I haven't found another list on Goodreads or List Challenges where I've read every book, but on many the only ones missing are on my to-read list, so I'll get there eventually!

10. Fan art about reading or favorite books
Sometimes you just have to share your love of reading with the world. Some of the things on my birthday list for this year are this custom ideal bookshelf print (assuming I can confidently settle on the list of books), this Borges quote T-shirt, this "I Heart Books" T-shirt, and this Dillard quote poster. So fun!

What delights you as a bookworm?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ten Books That Made Me Laugh

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week it is books that make me laugh! I don't know if they will make you laugh, too, but I hope so. I've found that when other people try to recommend funny things to me I often don't think they're that funny, so I can't guarantee that my sense of humor will be the same as yours, but many of these have been cited by other people as being funny as well. Here are ten books that made me laugh.

1. Bossypants by Tina Fey
This is held up as the quintessential comedian memoir, and for good reason. I'm not a big SNL fan and I've never seen 30 Rock, but I still loved it.

2. Couplehood by Paul Reiser
The Internet tells me that this is super dated now, but whatever, I read it 10 years ago and thought it was funny then. I was about two years into my relationship with my now-husband, and it seemed like an accurate depictions of relationships to me at the time.

3. Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys by Dave Barry
I don't know if I would enjoy this as much now, but when I first read this there were passages I couldn't stop laughing at. In high school my friends and I read the section on sex out loud to make each other laugh.

4. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
This children's book is so ridiculous that I couldn't stop laughing and saying, "What?!?" out loud while listening to it.

5. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This was my introduction to both authors, and I'm not sure anything else either of them has written comes close for sheer hilarious fun.

6. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
I loved and read everything on her blog before this book came out, and then I laughed out loud throughout the whole book, even the stuff I'd already read on the blog. The one about moving with dogs is my favorite.

7. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
I read this at my aunt and uncle's house and everyone kept asking me what I was reading because I couldn't stop laughing the whole time I read it. My husband, who rarely reads, even read it because he opened it to a random page and it made him laugh out loud.

8. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Besides being a cute romance and a scarily accurate depiction of high school awkwardness, this book had tons of lines that made me laugh out loud. Sorry to all the people in the gym where I was listening to this on audiobook...

9. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
I don't love all of Jacobs' writing, but something about this book in particular was pitch-perfect for me, maybe because it so thoroughly destroyed the idea of a "literal interpretation" of the Bible through the most extreme method possible.

10. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler's observations about life, womanhood, and celebrity are just fantastic, and while not all of her humor hits the mark with me, I still laughed out loud a lot throughout this book.

What are some books that made you laugh?

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Friday, April 15, 2016

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.

Not a ton of reads this past month, as I've been working my way through A People's History of the United States.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ by Joseph Smith, Jr.: Despite the dryness of most holy texts, I've enjoyed this project of reading them for the ability to see exactly what is in these books. I had a LOT of thoughts about this read, but I will sum them up by saying that it seems like Mormons think they can convert people if they could just get them to read this book, and in my case, that definitely didn't work.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine: Using a collection of personal stories and those of people she knows, told as the second-person "you," Rankine immerses the reader in the modern-day experience of being a black woman in America. I loved the audiobook narrator but got a bit lost in the collection of video transcripts near the end. I definitely recommend this read.

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria E. Anzaldúa: I don't think I "got" what makes this book a classic, maybe because I don't speak any Spanish. There were portions of the book that were very powerful and resonant, but then it would go off in weird directions and I would have no idea what was going on. I'm glad some people have gotten a lot from this book, but I found it difficult to get through.

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondō: This was 100% what I expected and needed out of a "master class." Although we'd pared down our possessions the first time around (after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, this gave me detailed suggestions for organizing and storing those things we want to keep.

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns: This was a reread of a previous favorite for book club. I still love many of the characters and the picture the novel paints of a small Southern town at the turn of the 20th century. There was some troublesome parts I missed the first time around, though, and I don't think I realized how much the book is trying to get us inside the head of a 14-year-old boy. Still recommended, but with more caution.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer: I bumped this to the top of the list after reading The Book of Mormon. It's a fascinating look at Mormon Fundamentalism and how the early years of Mormonism provided the roots for various fundamentalist beliefs, particularly polygamy and blood atonement. Much of what is true of Mormonism is true of other religions, but as Krakauer says, this is a faith that came of age during the era of the printing press, so we can trace its development much more easily.

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

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