Monday, September 30, 2019

Ten Book Titles with Numbers In Them

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

For today's topic I tried really hard to find a book I'd read for every number 1-10, but apparently I've never read anything with the number seven in the title! Here's what I have instead.

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

2. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

3. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

4. The Big Four by Agatha Christie

5. Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

6. Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne

7. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

8. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

9. 10% Happier by Dan Harris

10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Have you read a book with the number seven in the title?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and The Amber Spyglass
Five years ago I was reading: The Road, I Am Malala, and Family Matters
Ten years ago I was reading: The 4-Hour Workweek

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Best of the Bunch: September 2019

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

Of the 5 books I read this month, I had one 5-star read. It was a reread, but it's my Best of the Bunch for this month!

I first read Let's Pretend This Never Happened in hard copy about 7 years ago; when my book club picked it for this month I decided to get it on audio this time. It's delightfully and hilariously read by the author, with a bonus chapter and a long rambling monologue at the very end. On both times through this book I laughed out loud repeatedly, but this time I wasn't in the confines of my home but out walking across campus while listening, and I twice had to stop the audiobook because I was laughing too hard to continue walking. It's a compilation of stories from Lawson's bizarre childhood, horrifying HR career, mismatched marriage, and other adventures involving parenting, mental illness, and taxidermied animals. I don't want to oversell it because I know not everyone has the same sense of humor, but personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and The Amber Spyglass
Five years ago I was reading: The Road, I Am Malala, and Family Matters
Ten years ago I was reading: The 4-Hour Workweek

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR

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

1. God Land by Lyz Lenz
I keep seeing this pop up in the circles I've been following for our podcast, so I'm excited to get my hands on it (and then maybe get the author on our show?).

2. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
My friend and I are still trying to finish up our buddy read of the Narnia books, so we need to finish up the last two before the end of the year!

3. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Here's the Narnia book that's up next in publication order.

4. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
This is next up on my to-read list, and it's on my "shelf of shame" of books I feel like I should have read by now, so I'm excited for my hold to come through!

5. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart
I adore the Mysterious Benedict Society books, and I was excited to hear there was another book in the series coming out. The book came out today and I'm first on the holds list, so I should be able to start reading it soon!

6. The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chah Rah
This is the last of the books I own in hard copy that I haven't read yet, so I want to finish it before the end of the year!

7. A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
One of my book clubs has the theme "cults" for October and this was the book I nominated that was selected. I'm interested to see if it's as good as I've heard!

8. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The same book club chose "alternate history" as the theme for our November/December meeting, and once again my nomination was chosen as our read for that theme. This is another one I feel like I should have read by now, so I'm excited to get to it.

9. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
My online book club picked this one for our October discussion, so I need to get started on it very soon!

10. Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele
I'm continuing to read more books about diversity, equity, and inclusion to inform my work, and this is one I've wanted to read for a while. Hoping my hold comes through soon!

What do you plan to read this fall?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and Lethal White
Five years ago I was reading: More Than Serving Tea, The Souls of Black Folk, and Family Matters
Ten years ago I was reading: Island of the Blue Dolphins

Sunday, September 15, 2019

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.

It's been kind of a light reading month, as I've spent most of my free time working on the launch of my new podcast, Blessed Are the Feminists. (Our third episode comes out today!) Hopefully now that we've gotten things rolling I can fit in some more reading time for this next month.

Severance by Ling Ma: This book seemed like it would be fascinating to analyze, but it was just meh to read, in my opinion. If you like deep, symbolic literary fiction, then this may be right up your alley. But if you're looking for something funny or action-packed or just internally coherent? I wouldn't recommend it.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: I mostly enjoyed this, and I think it's well done, but I was left with some questions and annoyances. I can see why it's popular, but it wasn't a favorite for me.

Guardians of the West by David Eddings: It's always a joy for me to be back with these characters. Overall, this is a solid start to this series. It has banter, mystery, and cleverness, which is what I look for from Eddings.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta L. Hammond: I can see why my organization has made it a priority to get our staff up to speed on Zaretta Hammond's work. This is a very strong guide to culturally responsive teaching that's grounded in extensive research and brain science. I would highly recommend it for all educators.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez: This was a mostly positive mixed bag for me. I'm glad that this book exists, as it can be helpful to have a fictional narrative to break apart myths about a certain group of people. But if you already don't believe in those myths, and you just want a solid story, then I think this is fine but not terribly compelling.

How to Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook ed. by Stuart M. Matlins and Arthur J. Magida: This is actually a reference book, but I read it straight through because it's an interesting overview of all the major North American (US & Canada) religions/denominations. This would be a great starting point if you're ever invited to a service or special event by someone of another religion, or you could, like me, read it straight through to get an understanding of the diversity of beliefs and practices in the United States and Canada.

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Kindred, and House of Leaves
Five years ago I was reading: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Sister Citizen, and The Fire Next Time
Ten years ago I was reading: Sounder

Monday, September 9, 2019

Ten Books On My TBR I’m Avoiding Reading

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

This is a great topic this week! As I've mentioned before, I have a to-read list that I capped some time ago and have been working through while I put everything else on a less-obligatory-sounding "might want to read" list. It will take me some time to get through everything anyway, but there are definitely a handful of titles that are probably going to be put off a little longer than the rest. Here are some of them and the reasons why!

1. Damaged Goods by Dianna Anderson
I was actually interviewed for this book but have since changed my viewpoints on a lot of things. I stopped reading Anderson's blog after its tone became endless outrage about everything, and the criticisms I've seen of this book are in a similar vein. However, I'm still interested to see what she put together.

2. Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
Since putting this on my list, I have figured out pretty conclusively that I don't like short story collections. I also got this recommendation originally from John Green and have determined that he and I have extremely different tastes. Nonetheless, I've never read any of O'Connor's work, and I'd still like to... someday.

3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
At some point I'd like to catch up on this phenomenon, but I'm generally not a fan of high fantasy, I'm especially not a fan of long fantasy books, and I don't like starting series that are still in the process of being written. I'm sure I'll get to it eventually.

4. The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
I put this on my list because it was featured in some Entertainment Weekly article about "books you must read in your lifetime" and I was in a phase where I wanted to read all the books that were described that way. However, I've become a bit disillusioned by the genre of "philosophical classics by white men," which is how I envision this book, and I also did not really like Demian, so it's going to be a while until I tackle this one.

5. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
I don't generally pick up books involving vampires, but I put this on my list because it's well-loved by so many people. I abandoned the only other Anne Rice book I ever picked up, which doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence, but I do want to try this one because I think it's probably actually pretty good.

6. Outlander by Diana Galbadon
I haven't picked this up yet for most of the same reasons I listed for the A Song of Ice and Fire series above, plus there's a time travel element, which I like only if it's handled a very specific way.

7. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
The title of this book somehow led me to believe it was a quirky, humorous book, but it turns out it's a political satire, which is not the way I like my humor. I'm envisioning it as similar to Vanity Fair, which I did not enjoy.

8. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
This book is over 1,000 pages long, and with so many other books on the list, I am hesitant to commit that amount of time to a single one. Plus I've seen at least one review from someone I follow that was not very positive. I'm still interested in it generally, but I probably won't make an effort to start on it anytime soon.

9. Shōgun by James Clavell
Same as above — it's a long one. And I'm raising my eyebrow a little at a white guy writing an Asian saga. But then I've heard very good things, so we'll see.

10. Swann's Way by Marcel Proust
Yes, someday I will tackle Proust, but it sounds like he requires a lot of concentration, and I don't have a lot of leisure time for reading dense prose and pondering philosophy these days.

Which books have you been putting off? Do you want to make the case for me to move any of these higher on my list?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Small Animals, Kaffir Boy, and House of Leaves
Five years ago I was reading: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Stolen Lives, and White Teeth
Ten years ago I was reading: The Poisonwood Bible

Monday, September 2, 2019

Ten Books I Enjoyed That Were Outside My Comfort Zone

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

This week we're talking about books we enjoyed that were outside of our usual reading comfort zone. Back in 2016 I talked about recent reads that were outside my comfort zone, but this time I'm trying to look at the broad range of books I've read and figure out which books I've truly liked despite their being outside my usual genres. As I said in that past post, I tend to read pretty broadly, but there are definitely some genres I'm less inclined to pick up.

1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The combination of "fantasy" and "over 600 pages" is generally enough to steer me in the opposite direction, but this book managed to suck me in and then was incredibly rewarding of my patience. Since reading this I've found that I have a taste for "low" fantasy (set in our world with other-wordly elements) over "high" fantasy (set in a made-from-scratch other world), but I'm still not keen to pick up much in this genre and definitely not if it requires a time investment. This, though? This was stellar.

2. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
I find a lot of literary fiction to be good but not great; I usually enjoy the read but it doesn't stick with me. I also tend not to be a big fan of books without much plot. (I really did not like Mrs. Dalloway.) Yet I found so much to love in this quiet story about the lives and friendship of two couples, and I'm glad to have picked this up.

3. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
I stay far, far away from horror as an HSP, but I gave this one a go after it was recommended by a friend. There were definitely a few horrifying moments, and one scene I had to skim over, but on the whole this was a well-written, intriguing, satisfying book, and I'm so glad I didn't miss out on it!

4. How to Be Successful without Hurting Men's Feelings by Sarah Cooper
There are a lot of these tongue-in-cheek humor books out there, and they're amusing to flip through for 90 seconds in a bookstore, but I rarely want to sit down and read one, and when I do I generally find that the humor gets old very quickly. This one, though, I had put a hold on (via ebook) when I first heard about it, so I read the whole thing on my phone one afternoon and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Cooper manages to maintain the sarcastic "advice" tone throughout while delivering a pitch-perfect takedown of sexism, harassment, and double standards for women in the workplace.

5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I don't read much in the way of true crime (see above re: my sensitive nature) but I could see after reading this why it's considered a classic; it's extremely well written. I'm still not sure how I feel about the "nonfiction novel" as a category, but I'm glad to have read this nonetheless.

6. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
I read very little science fiction, partly because I'm a world-building snob and partly because a lot of it has, shall we say, problematic angles. (I'll spare you my rant on Leviathan Wakes right now.) At first I thought there would be too much to keep track of in this book, but once I got my head around the book's universe, I genuinely enjoyed everything from the explorations around gender to the characters' high-stakes political dilemmas.

7. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
I don't read much fantasy, and I especially don't read YA fantasy, because the percentage of books I've enjoyed in this genre is minuscule compared to those I've suffered through. It was only because I kept seeing this enthusiastically recommended all over the blogosphere that I picked it up, and then I managed to get two men in their 30s hooked on the series as well. It's just so good, particularly on audiobook.

8. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
There are very few books referred to as "sagas" that I've actually enjoyed, but this was one of them. (Maybe because it manages to stay within a single character's lifetime so it doesn't jump around quite as much as "multi-generational" sagas.) It was immersive and heart-wrenching and unpredictable and so damn good.

9. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I have a weird thing about time travel plots, but after reading this I realized that I only dislike plots with voluntary time travel, where a character is intentionally going back in time to change something. Henry's time travel is involuntary, and he's not able to change anything that's already happened, so that alleviated my time travel-related anxiety. I'm also not a big fan of literary fiction with love stories because there are so many ways they can be done poorly, but somehow this book managed to hit exactly the right spot for me.

10. Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
I very rarely pick up anything that could be considered a "celebrity memoir" because 1) I just don't follow celebrities closely enough to know who most of them are and 2) the ones I've read have been hit or miss. Wilson's memoir was interesting, though, because although it was undoubtedly her celebrity that got the book published (and she does have some fun stories from the set of Matilda), it's really a fantastic, beautiful memoir that's just about life, and surprisingly I found her life very relatable.

What is your reading comfort zone, and what's outside of it?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Kaffir Boy and Reading People
Five years ago I was reading: The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, Someone Knows My Name, and White Teeth
Ten years ago I was reading: The Poisonwood Bible