Saturday, September 29, 2018

Best of the Bunch: September 2018

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

I had one 5-star read in September, which was far and away the best of the bunch.

Small Animals is possibly the best book I've read all year. Brooks captures perfectly what it is like to be a parent in modern-day America, how the majority of your decisions are spurred by fear — fear of what will happen to your child if you don't do everything correctly and/or fear of what others parents will say or do if they believe you aren't parenting correctly. Through the framework of her own personal experience getting charged with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" for leaving her 4-year-old alone in the car for five minutes (on a cool day, safely strapped in watching a video), she explores why our kids can't have the same independence we or our parents did even though the world is actually safer, and what it's doing to us and to our kids.

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: All Things Bright and Beautiful and After the Funeral
Five years ago I was reading: The Righteous Mind and Mrs. Dalloway
Ten years ago I was reading: Billy Budd

Monday, September 24, 2018

Ten of My Favorite Authors' Books I Still Haven’t Read

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

This is a great topic! For many of my favorite authors, I've read everything they've written to date so far, but there are plenty with backlists I haven't gotten to. Here are ten books I haven't read from authors that I love!

1. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart
I discovered the Mysterious Benedict Society series as an adult and adored it! I got the boxset, which includes this prequel, and I still haven't read it. One of my goals for the year is to read some of the unread books I own, so maybe I'll get to this before the end of the year!

2. The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty
As I said last week, I've loved two of Moriarty's books and found the rest just OK, which seems to be the consensus based on Goodreads ratings. This is the one from her backlist that I've heard mentioned the most often, so if I were going to pick one up it would probably be this.

3. King Lear by William Shakespeare
I somehow managed to read or watch all of Shakespeare's best-known plays while I was in school except for this one. It gets referenced so often and I still haven't read it! I definitely need to sit down and read it one of these days.

4. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
I've read everything John Green has had published except for this collection of Christmas stories that he co-authored. Maybe this winter I'll finally pick it up?

5. Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
I recently finished reading through all the Hercule Poirot books, and I've read a number of her standalone books and a few Tommy and Tuppence, but for some reason I never got into Miss Marple. Someday I'll make an effort to read through them.

6. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg
I've read Konisburg's three most popular books — From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The View from Saturday, and Silent to the Bone — but not any of her others. This one is the next-most popular (at least on Goodreads) and I'd be interested to check it out.

7. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
If I had to pick, Kingsolver is probably my favorite author, so you'd think I'd have read her whole oeuvre, but I've only read four of her books. I think maybe part of me is afraid that I'm going to be disappointed with her other books? This is the one that I have on my might-want-to-read list.

8. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I've been hearing about Stiefvater for years but only just picked up the Raven Cycle series this year and loved it. However, the people I follow on Goodreads were not crazy about Shiver, her first book, so if I were going to pick up anything else it would probably be this one.

9. Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
I didn't even know Hosseini had written this short book to raise money for refugees. I've read his three novels and would definitely read anything else he wrote, but in the meantime maybe I'll pick up this work.

10. Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
I've read almost everything Rowling has written except for this commencement-address-turned-book, her screenplays, and the "Pottermore Presents" works. This has high ratings and isn't very long, so I'm interested to read it!

What have your favorite authors written that you haven't read yet?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Bleak House
Five years ago I was reading: Half Broke Horses and Mrs. Dalloway
Ten years ago I was reading: Billy Budd

Monday, September 17, 2018

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR

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

Guess what? I read all the books on my summer TBR list! Woohoo!

As I've mentioned previously, I'm the kind of person who reads about one new release a year, maybe as many as five if I really push myself. This year I did set a goal to read at least three 2018 releases, but then a ton of my favorite authors released books this year and I heard about several others I wanted to read. I've already read seven 2018 releases this year, and there are six more I plan to read this fall!

1. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (Release Date: September 25)
As a Nerdfighter since 2007, I obviously put a hold on this book as soon as I heard about it. Having been Hank's proofreader back in the day, I can't help but have some skepticism going in, but a lot of people seem to be raving about the book, so I am looking forward to reading it.

2. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung (Release Date: October 2)
As a white, adoptive parent living in Oregon who made the decision not to adopt transracially, I'm very interested in Chung's memoir about being a Korean-American adoptee growing up in Oregon with a white family. I also just like reading about adoption in general and have heard great things about this book.

3. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
I'm looking forward to finally reading the third book in this series after rereading the first two. I always wondered why I'd never read the final book back in middle school, until I realized that was so long ago that the third one hadn't even been published yet!

4. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
This book has been recommended to me many times, and it's finally risen to the top of my TBR list. I've gotten the ebook from the library, so I just need to make time to read it now!

5. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (Release Date: September 18)
Apparently I heard the news too late that this, the fourth Cormoran Strike book, finally had a release date, because I'm 50th in line for it at the library. Thankfully my library just preordered another 39 copies!

6. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (Release Date: November 6)
I loved Moriarty's What Alice Forgot and Big Little Lies. I didn't love her most recent one, Truly Madly Guilty, but I'm hoping she's back on her game for this latest release.

7. The Secret Place by Tana French
I'm going on vacation soon and wanted something that would be a fast-paced read to take with me. Even though Tana French always breaks my heart, I can't help myself — I'm going to bring along the fifth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series.

8. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
This has been on my TBR list for quite a while, but earlier this year I read Pessl's Night Film on my sister's recommendation and really liked it. Then it was announced that this was one of the picks for Modern Mrs. Darcy's Book Club for fall, so I put it on hold (despite not actually being in that book club).

9. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (Release Date: October 16)
Kingsolver may just be my favorite author of all time. I was honestly most excited about her having a new book because it meant she was going on book tour, but it appears the tickets sold out before I even realized they were on sale. Womp womp.

10. What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (Release Date: October 9)
Since I adore everything Albertalli has ever written, I am of course going to pick this one up. She's amazing.

What will you be reading this fall? Any new releases?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Leviathan Wakes and Bleak House
Five years ago I was reading: How to Be a Woman
Ten years ago I was reading: Billy Budd

Saturday, September 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.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe: I really liked this memoir of the last few years of Schwalbe's mother's life and the books they discussed together. It's part reflections on reading, part Being Mortal-esque reflections on quality vs. longevity of life, and part biography of his mother's remarkable life, all of which I enjoyed.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman: This has been recommended to me for years, and I'm so glad I finally picked it up. Through the lens of one girl's medical drama, it's a comprehensive look at the importance and difficulties of crosscultural communication.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman: This was my third-ever read of this book (in preparation for actually reading the whole series this time), and I found the full-cast audio production delightful. Pullman has created a fascinating world and an immersive, action-packed plot.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: I enjoyed some of the unique concepts underpinning this world (the idea of a consciousness with many bodies, and a language without gendered pronouns rendered into English with exclusively female pronouns) but their execution wasn't quite airtight enough for me and left me with questions and frustrations. I also had trouble keeping the people and places straight, which was vital for understanding the twists and turns of the plot. Still definitely recommended for sci-fi fans, but it wasn't a favorite for me.

Talking Across the Divide: How to Communicate with People You Disagree with and Maybe Even Change the World by Justin Lee: This is a solid guide to why and how we should communicate with those we disagree with. Having worked at the intersection of the Christian community and the LGBTQ community for decades, Lee's examples lean a little too heavily in that direction and he conflates separate communities with mutually exclusive belief systems, but on the whole it's a good read.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock: This is an excellent and, dare I say, important memoir that fills a gap among existing narratives with Mock's story of being a trans woman of color growing up in poverty. Her experience differed greatly from those white, middle- to upper-class trans kids who comprise many of the stories we know and who have had access to educational resources and health care that Mock never had. Her writing style can be a bit clunky at times, but the story itself is worth the read.

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel: Yay, I finally read this! I'm probably not the target audience because I'd already typed myself in all the frameworks she covers, but if you're looking for a comprehensive yet easy-to-read introduction to the best-researched personality frameworks out there, I highly recommend this.

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel: It's an Anne Bogel kind of month! Her new release is the perfect gift for a fellow bibliophile: nothing too profound, but a sweet, slim read about life as a reader that will have you nodding or laughing in recognition.

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubinstein: This took a bit to get into because there's a lot of backstory, but ultimately it pays off with this truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tale of how a low point in Hungary's history allowed a bumbling, alcoholic hockey goalie to commit 29 robberies over the course of a decade.

Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks: This may be my favorite book of the year. Brooks captures perfectly what it is like to be a parent in modern-day America, how the majority of your decisions are spurred by fear of screwing up your kid or fear of judgment from others. She delves into history, psychology, and real-life tales of mothers (including herself) who faced criminal charges for trusting their kids with a tiny bit of independence. I read the whole thing in under 24 hours.

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane: Mathabane published this story of growing up black in apartheid South Africa while apartheid was still the law, so in his effort to show Americans why apartheid needed to end, the book is a bit bleak as it's mainly a catalog of one atrocity after another without much else thrown in. Still, he succeeds in clearly documenting why apartheid was a horrific system and how rare it was that he made it out.

City of Thieves by David Benioff: This was a pretty straightforward quest story wrapped in the setting of WWII Russia, which I find well written but predictable. My biggest complaint was that every time the narrator met a female character, he spent the following pages mentally undressing her or wondering what it would be like to sleep with her.

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

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Leviathan Wakes and Bleak House
Five years ago I was reading: How to Be a Woman
Ten years ago I was reading: The Runaway Jury

Monday, September 10, 2018

Top Ten Hidden Gems

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

This week's topic is hidden gems; I did similar lists in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Here are another ten books I haven't yet mentioned — these ones all have fewer than 5,000 ratings on Goodreads.

1. 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam
I've referenced this book many times, and I was surprised to realize that it's not that widely known. Vanderkam uses a wealth of data to help readers determine how they're spending their time, how they'd like to be spending their time, and how to close the gap.

2. American Hookup by Lisa Wade
One of my favorite books of 2017, this book hasn't gotten the press it probably should have. It's an honest and insightful read about hookup culture on college campuses, incorporating historical and sociological context while keep students' voices front and center.

3. Ask a Manager by Alison Green
This book just came out this year, so it's not surprising that it hasn't garnered many ratings yet, but it is a must-read for anyone in the workforce. It's a compilation of useful scripts for the most common and most difficult conversations you're likely to have at work.

4. Fortunately by Remy Charlip
This was one of my favorite picture books as a child, and I'm happy that my son now enjoys it as well! Our protagonist, Ned, encounters alternating good luck and bad luck in his quest to make it to a party in another state. Will he ultimately be fortunate or unfortunate?

5. How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King
The original book co-authored by Faber's mother, Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, is also a hidden gem, but I'll recommend this modern version instead. The authors provide valuable advice for problem-solving with young children and making everyday tasks less of a battle.

6. Mink River by Brian Doyle
We sadly lost Doyle to a brain tumor last year, and I was glad to have read at least one of his books before he died. In this book, Doyle doesn't just tell a single story; he immerses you in the life of a coastal Oregon town, where the different inhabitants' stories are interwoven with the stories of the ocean, the animals, the trees, and the eponymous river. It's a slow but rewarding experience.

7. Radical by Michelle Rhee
I'm not surprised this has few (and mixed) ratings given Rhee's controversial career, but I still think it's worth the read. It's both a memoir of Rhee's career in education reform and a battle cry for parents, teachers, students, and politicians to use their voices to fight for every student to have a quality education.

8. Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog
This book, which I picked up on a whim, is not necessarily the best written but has fascinating insights about our relationship with animals that I still think about five years later.

9. Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan
I believe this book is now out of print, but I got a library copy after a friend said it was one of her favorites. It's a bit of a predictable "chosen one" story, but it subverts some typical fantasy tropes and provides a good way for kids to be introduced to the idea of racism and how people's hearts and minds aren't changed overnight just because the laws change.

10. The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers
The compilation of Mister Rogers quotations inspired me to get a daily desk calendar so that I could reflect more slowly on each one individually. We could all benefit from these reminders about how to be the best kind of human, especially coming from someone who modeled everything he taught.

What hidden gems do you recommend?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Leviathan Wakes and Bleak House
Five years ago I was reading: Things Fall Apart and How to Be a Woman
Ten years ago I was reading: Generation Rx