Sunday, August 30, 2020

Best of the Bunch: August 2020

Best of the Bunch header

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

Of the 10 books I read this month, I had one 5-star read, which makes it the Best of the Bunch!

I wasn't a huge fan of Ng's first book, and I was worried after the hype around Little Fires Everywhere that it would also let me down, but it did not! I found it a compelling read with many layers that would be phenomenal to discuss with a book group. As someone who, like Elena Richardson, feels most comfortable playing by the rules, I appreciated how Ng showcased the ways that most people actually have a strong moral compass — even if it looks vastly different from person to person — but they will bend their own rules when they feel justified or when they feel they have no choice. The themes of motherhood, privilege, and the trouble with colorblindness were also well woven into this novel, even if I had quibbles with the way the adoption process was portrayed. I'm glad to have finally read this one, and I think these characters will stick with me for a while.

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: Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, The Book of Unknown Americans, and How to Be a Perfect Stranger
Five years ago I was reading: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, A General Theory of Love, Still Alice, and Brain on Fire
Ten years ago I was reading: Reading Lolita in Tehran
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Saturday, August 15, 2020

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.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann: This is a fascinating and horrifying true crime story from a century ago. I wasn't quite as riveted as I've been by some narrative nonfiction, but overall it was a well written book with an important lesson about yet another way that white America controlled and decimated an entire people.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander: This was a reread for book club (my recommendation). It was interesting to hear the (very long) introduction to the 10th anniversary edition this time around, about the things that have changed and those that haven't over the past 10 years. I'm encouraged by how many people have read this book or, just recently, are picking it up for the first time, though I'm not sure how far we've gotten on the path to dismantling the system.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera: I love the intention behind this book and the way that it showcases the complicated and problematic nature of white feminism. I think that's important for anyone who hasn't thought about those things before! But y'all, the writing was rough. I kept getting distracted from the story by everything that didn't make sense. I needed the novel to work as a novel, in addition to a lesson on feminism.

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene: Before reading this book, I watched some videos Greene had done outlining his method of collaborative problem solving, and I didn't feel like they were particular useful. I thought, though, that the book was clearly written and generally realistic about how these conversations are likely to go. If you're not already making space for listening to your kids talk about their frustrations and challenges without imposing solutions, this lays out exactly how to go about it.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson: This was my Best of the Bunch for July. Watson manages to cover a lot of ground in not a very long book, and she does it at a level that's accessible for young adults. As time goes on, Jade finds ways to speak up for herself in her friendship, at her school, and with her mentor. It's an empowering read that doesn't downplay the realities of Jade's life.

Lovely War by Julie Berry: I was skeptical about this at first, both the outer frame of Greek gods telling a story and the initial chapters of what seems to be a straightforward, sappy love story set amid World War I. But then we're introduced to more characters (in both the outer and inner frames) and the complexity of the tale deepens. This is not just a love story; it's a well-researched historical novel about World War I, including the horrific realities of life in the trenches and the frightening racism faced by African American soldiers.

Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School ed. by Mica Pollock: This is a collection of about 60 essays offering suggestions at both the theoretical and practical levels for being antiracist educators. There are essays by people from a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds (including white educators) and each one takes only a few minutes to read, so it's easy to imagine that someone could read one essay per day or per week and then use the prompts at the end of each essay to develop actionable plans to apply to their classroom immediately.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney: I ended up enjoying this more than I expected to, for a book that's literally just a woman taking a walk through New York City on New Year's Eve and thinking back over her life. Despite the frequent recommendations, I don't know if I would have picked this up if my book club hadn't chosen "a book set in a single day" as the month's theme, but I'm glad I did!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Guardians of the West and Severance
Five years ago I was reading: Mr. Popper's Penguins, Madame Bovary, The Girl with All the Gifts, and Nervous Conditions
Ten years ago I was reading: The Lost Symbol

Monday, August 10, 2020

Ten Books I Loved but Never Reviewed

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

I've reviewed almost every book I've read since I started using Goodreads in 2013 (except picture books I've read with my son). However, there are some favorite books that I read before 2013 and haven't reread since then, so I don't have reviews for them! Several of these are on my "want-to-reread" shelf, so maybe someday I'll post a full review once I get the chance to revisit them.

1. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
I read this in high school and loved it, but I haven't reread it since. Kingsolver is one of my favorite writers, though I haven't been as big a fan of her most recent works. This is an older one, though, and I hope I still enjoy it as much as I did in high school. I have a physical copy now, so I just need to get around to rereading it!

2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
This is one that I read in middle school and haven't revisited, though I did finally watch the movie. Now I have so many books on my to-read list that it's harder for me to invest the time in a thousand-pager like this, especially one I've already read!

3. Matilda by Roald Dahl
I did reread this as an adult, but it was right before I started using Goodreads. I think I actually did review it on the site I used previously that shut down and took all my reviews with it. (Still raging about that, 7 years later...)

4. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
This is another one I read as a kid and then reread as an adult, but before I switched to Goodreads. When my son is old enough I want him to read this, so maybe we can read it together and then I'll review it, but I love it so much that it's one of the ones I'm afraid to give him too soon and ruin it for him!

5. Polgara the Sorceress by David Eddings
I reread the Belgariad and Malloreon series via audiobook the past couple years, which I enjoyed a lot, but I didn't feel compelled to revisit the prequels as well, so I don't have reviews of them. Maybe someday!

6. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
This is one I read in middle school and have been saying forever that I want to reread, and I finally have my hands on the audiobook and will hopefully listen to it later this month!

7. Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
This is a book that I recommend frequently to people interested in learning more about the Fertility Awareness Method, but I don't have a review of it; it's another one I read in the year before I started using Goodreads. To be honest, I probably won't ever reread it, so I probably won't ever review it either.

8. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Apparently I read all my favorite books in the year before I started using Goodreads?? I was actually surprised to see I didn't have a review of this one because I remember reviewing it, but again, that must have been on the now-defunct site instead. Maybe one of my book clubs will pick this one sometime and I'll have a reason to reread it.

9. Torn by Justin Lee
This is another one that I recommend frequently but which I read shortly before switching to Goodreads. Lee, a gay Christian, uses his own experience to try to bridge the gap between non-affirming Christians and the secular LGBTQ+ community. He manages to be remarkably compassionate toward the people who tried to "turn him straight" out of concern for his eternal soul, which is why this is a good go-to book for Christians who are tentatively interested in learning more about the LGBTQ+ community.

10. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
I read this one about a decade ago, so several years before I started using Goodreads. Then I lent my copy to someone who lost it and I haven't gotten around to getting another copy. I enjoyed it but I would have to reread it to feel like I could write a review of it.

Which favorite books have you not reviewed?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Opening Up, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Guardians of the West, and White Fragility
Five years ago I was reading: Mr. Popper's Penguins, Madame Bovary, The Princess Bride, and Nervous Conditions
Ten years ago I was reading: Love, Stargirl

Monday, August 3, 2020

Ten Books I've Read with Colors in the Title

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

I appreciate that every so often we get one of these topics that give me a bit of a brain break. They don't necessarily turn up as many recommendations because they don't require that you liked the books in question or even have anything to say about them, but they are fun to compile! Here are ten books I've read that represent ten different colors in their titles.

1. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

2. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

3. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

4. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

5. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

7. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

8. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

9. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

10. Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol

Which books have you read with colorful titles?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Getting the Love You Want, Imperium, and White Fragility
Five years ago I was reading: Sarah, Plain and Tall, Okay for Now, The Princess Bride, and Nervous Conditions
Ten years ago I was reading: Love, Stargirl