First: the how I’m reading.
Inspired by my friend Jessica who once told me that she reads NINE(!) books at once (Yes, I said NINE. Jess said that she has played around with the number, but found that NINE is her sweet spot. She is typically reading NINE books at any given time.), I’ve decided to allow myself to have THREE books going at once. According to Jessica, the benefits include: never being “stuck” because you became bored of the storyline, and the ability to “drag out” a fantastic read that you don’t want to end. My plan is to have one Book Club selection going at all times, one nonfiction selection (likely a nonprofit management book for my NEW for 2017 Professional Development Book Club) and one “personal choice.” We will see how this goes!
Next: the how I’m posting.
Rather than post each review here on the BOOKS page, I’ll post what I’m reading here. Beneath that I’ll post the books I’ve finished reading and link to the full review. Sound good? Here it goes…
Reading Not Getting Around to Finishing
What I actually AM Reading, and/or What’s Up Next on my List
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (February Bookclub)
Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson (Heard him speak at the U of A)
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (A personal goal is to read some of the Classics. I started, this one, hoped it would be like watching LOST on tv. Needless to say, I haven’t finished yet.)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (I’ve been meaning to get to this FOREVER! And does this count as a CLASSIC? I’m asking for a friend…)
What I Read in 2016
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (Book Club Selection)
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Book Club Selection)
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (Book Club Selection)
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – didn’t finish (Book Club Selection)
A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous (Book Club Selection)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
How to Read Like a Literature Professor by Thomas C. Foster
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Ordinary Grace: A Novel by William Kent Krueger
The Red Kimono by Jan Morrill
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Truly Madly Guilty by Lianne Moriarty
What I Read in 2015
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (Book Club Selection)
The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Book Club Selection)
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People (my own review) by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber
The Boys in the Boat (my own review) by Daniel James Brown (Book Club Selection)
The Light Between Oceans (my own review) by M.L. Stedman
Me and Earl & the Dying Girl (my own review) by Jesse Andrews
Norwegian by Night (my own review) by Derek Miller
This is Where I Leave You (my own review) by Jonathan Trooper
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
The Great Gatsby (my own review) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Station Eleven (my own review) by Emily St. John Mandel (Book Club Selection)
The Girl on the Train (my own review) by Paula Hawkins (Book Club Selection)
Serena (my own review) by Ron Rash (Book Club Selection)
A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison
We Were Liars (my own review) by E. Lockhart
Eleanor and Park (my own review) by Rainbow Rowell
The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope (my own review) by Rhonda Riley
It’s a new year, and that means it is time for a new reading log.
Last year I managed to read 17 books. (I know people who read 17 books within just a matter of weeks, so I realize that this is nothing to brag about!) Hoping that I can make it 18 or more this year. We’ll see how it goes!
Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-VS.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Details/Topics: Nonfiction. A compelling memoir as well as thoughtful and practical advice for the modern church. This book doesn’t try to change anyone’s deeply held religious convictions about the nature of homosexuality. Instead, it talks about how we as Christians can live out the gospel by modeling our behavior after Christ’s.
Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Details/Topics: Sunny and Maxon are extraordinary people, which is why they are perfect for each other. Until Sunny decides she would rather be ordinary.
I’ll admit I picked this book up because of the book jacket. (That, and it was in the “bargain selection” area of Barnes and Noble for $4.98.) It was a New York Times Notable Book, but it wasn’t notable to me.
“She was sitting so upright in a chair, and looking so bald, like a cartoon of an idea. Aha! A lightbulb, her neck the part you screw in, her skull the glass bulb, her brain, her soul, her generosity the filament.”
“Maxon had written down everything he had eaten for the last seventeen years. He had a resting heart rate of thirty-tow. He had a graph to indicate the wattage he had emitted in an eighty-seven mile bike ride yesterday. But he could not stop himself from dying.”
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Details/Topics: Like The Devil in the White City, two story lines play out during alternating chapters. One, following a slave girl named Josephine in the Antebellum South. The other, following a modern day attorney named Lina working for a big-time law firm on a reparations case.
Favorite Quotes: “Over the years she had learned to fold down rising emotion just as she would fold the clean bed sheets, the sheet growing smaller and tighter with each pass until all that remained of that wide wrinkled expanse of cotton was a hard closed-in square.”
My Rating: 2 out of 3 stars. After picking up this book (and putting it back down) a dozen times at Barnes and Noble, I finally decided to purchase and listen to it via Audible.com. Maybe that was the problem. It was too manic for me. Too “stream of consciousness.” I didn’t love it.
Details/Topics: Memoir of a young man raising his younger brother after their parents death. Auditioning for MTV’s the Real World.
“Thank you,” he says.
“I don’t know. You?”
“No, not me. Jesus.”
“Thank you, Jesus?”
“Yes, Toph, Jesus died for your Christmas fun.”
Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittman
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. (And I’m not just saying that because I’ve met the author through Arkansas Women Bloggers!)
I loved this book for several reasons, including:
- Disguised as “chapters,” this is really a series of essays. Perfect for reading in several sittings (though I read it cover to cover in about two).
- Kyran (we’re on a first name basis now :)) is so honest and real, I didn’t find myself jealous of her version of a “semi-domesticated life.” Instead, her stories inspired me to appreciate MY semi-domesticated life.
- The book was given to me by one of my favorite, crazy-smart, brutally honest friends – Sarah.
- The joy of reading Planting Dandelions doesn’t end when the book does. Kyran writes a blog by the same name.
Details/Topics: A modern take on marriage, family, and becoming an Arkansan.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars – A compelling read all the way through – until you get to the end. It fell flat.
Details/Topics: Missing child found after 4 years. The toll it takes on a marriage. Sometimes the happy ending you get isn’t the happy ending you wanted.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars – I saw this on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble years ago, set it down, then couldn’t remember the name of the book or the author when I circled back around to pick it up. I vowed to buy it if I ever stumbled upon it again. I’m glad I did. It’s not exceptionally well written. Her story of surviving the sudden and unexpected loss of her husband isn’t especially remarkable. It’s just a real story about a real person coping with a reality of life – one that we never want to face.
Details/Topics: Loss of a spouse, grief, life goes on.
Favorite Quotes: “All I know is it feels good to cry that hard. It’s like cleaning the leaves out from the gutters. If the leaves sit there too long, they weigh on the metal and hurt the house.”
“Sabbath, in the first instance, is not about worship. It is about work stoppage. It is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.”
My Rating: 1 out of 5 stars – Readable but so, so, so shallow. Not a fan.
Details/Topics: Loss of a spouse, communicating with the dead, superficial Hollywood lifeJuly 2014
MyRating: 4 out of 5 stars – I found it difficult to get “into” the story initially, but I’m so glad I kept pushing myself. The story is about much more than the mental and physical endurance required to hike the PCT.
Details/Topics: Loss of a parent. Forgiveness and acceptance of yourself.
Favorite Quotes: “I was twenty-two, the same age she was when she’d been pregnant with me. She was going to leave my life at the same moment that I came into hers, I thought. For some reason that sentence came fully formed into my head just then, temporarily blotting out the F### them prayer. I almost howled in agony. I almost choked to death on what I knew before I knew. I was going to live the rest of my life without my mother.”“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to f### every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars – This was my 2nd read of the Time Traveler’s Wife, yet it was like it was the first. I either have a really lousy memory, or there was SO MUCH more there for me this go around. I might just have to read this every summer. It’s my favorite love story ever.
Details/Topics: This is a rare blend of sci-fi and romance. It’s about love, loss, the maturing and deepening of a relationship, the “holiness” of domestic life, and free will.
Favorite Quotes: “As I stand in the elevator, dazed, I realize that a massive winning lottery ticket chunk of my future has somehow found me here in the present, and I start to laugh. I cross the lobby, and as I run down the stairs to the street I see Clare running across Washington Square, jumping and whooping, and I am near tears and I don’t know why.”“Do you worry sometimes that all the really great stuff has already happened?”
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars – A fantastic summer read!
Details/Topics: A man with a zest for living large suffers a spinal cord injury and is confined to a wheelchair. Louisa is hired to become his companion and to, hopefully, convince him to accept his new life.
favorite Quotes: “Push yourself. Don’t Settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”
My Rating: An abysmal 1 out of 5 stars
I cannot understand why this novel hit the NYT Bestseller List. There must be a lot of dark and twisty humans out there. I listened to all 19 hours and 11 minutes of this book and wish I could have it all back. I’ll give it this – a surprising plot twist halfway through kept me reading (listening) but the ending was completely unsatisfying and I absolutely loathe both characters.
Details/Topics: Dark, sick, twisted human beings who deserve each other.
Favorite Quotes: “The End.”
Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
A National Book Award Winner.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
An important book. Because the author is a journalist, I felt removed from these characters whose circumstances should break my heart. I’m sure she has to emotionally distance herself in order to remain in the trenches to get the story. Still, I would’ve liked to have felt more.
Details/Topics: Non-fiction account of several families striving for a better life in a Mumbai slum. Gender, class, corruption, economics.
Favorite Quotes: “…and maybe because of the boiling April sun, he thought about water and ice. Water and ice were made of the same thing. He thought most people were made of the same thing, too. He himself was probably a little different from the corrupt people around him. Ice was distinct from – and in his view, better than – what it was made of. He wanted to be better than what he was made of. In Mumbai’s dirty water, he wanted to be ice. He wanted to have ideals.”
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Beautiful sentences on every page. And one heck of a sentence that is a page and a half long! (Seriously! Page 138-139)
Details/topics: Holding on to hope amidst the horrors of war.
“Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.” “We wear clothes, and speak, and create civilizations, and believe we are more than wolves. But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.”
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My Rating: An enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars.
What is it about YA fiction? I seriously believe that the books written for teens and tweens are often superior to anything out there for adults. Maybe I’m just immature. But the conversation between the “kids” in this book has more feeling, depth, humor and realism than perhaps any other book I’ve read.
Details/Topics: Teenagers with cancer meet in a support group and fall in love.
Favorite Quotes: “The world is not a wish-granting factory.” “You are so busy being YOU that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.” “Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always listdepression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.” I started 2013 on a crazy reading jag. I figuratively “inhaled” 2 books in 2 days. It was invigorating. And, hoping to cultivate my renewed interest in reading, and inspired by Julie at EggsandHerbs.com and Helene to keep track of what I read in a year, decided to create this page.So here I will keep a running list of what I’m currently reading, followed by a summary of the books I’ve finished this year. I’ll give my personal rating, list the topics that were explored (if only as a way to remind me of the details of the book, you know, because I’m going to read so many this year!) and the overall theme. If its really good, I’ll inevitably write a full-on post and link to it. Here goes . . .
Divergent by Veronica Roth
My Rating: 2.5 out of 3 stars
I should’ve loved this since I’ve been on such a Dystopian kick. We listened to this on our way to Dallas for Thanksgiving. I found it a bit dry. I didn’t think they would EVER get out of the training, fighting each other, simulation. It was too much for me. I think the movie will be great.
Details/Topics: Teens are divided according to dominant character traits in Dystopian Chicago. Beatriz has multiple strong traits and is therefore “divergent,” which is a dangerous thing to be.
Favorite Quotes: “Sometimes the best way to help someone is just to be near them.”September 2013
My Rating: Details/Topics: Grace, death and resurrection, God constantly coming TO us and making us NEWFavorite Quotes: Oh so many! Seriously, nearly every page contains highlights. Here are some of my faves:
- “But then at 2 a.m. I was startled awake with what can only be described as a bitch slap from the Holy Spirit.”
- “It’s about how God continues to reach into the graves we dig or ourselves and pull us out, giving us new life, in ways both dramatic and small.”
- “This is exactly, when it comes down to it, why most people do not belive in grace. It is f#%ing offensive.”
Do yourself a favor. Take 20 minutes to watch this, the first time I met/heard Nadia.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reading the book jacket synopsis, I thought Every Third Thought would be somewhat mystical and mysterious. Not so. And if you’re looking for an intriguing STORY, this isn’t it either. The “page-turner” quality of this book comes from Barth’s brilliant sentences, not storyline. And, like life itself, it is the hum-drum, everyday routine of life that lulls us into that comfortable space in our relationships. This book packed a surprising (to me) emotional punch.
Details/Topics: meta-fiction, narrates the fictional story of the writing of the book itself
I’ve finally learned to give myself permission to NOT finish a book that doesn’t grab me. In the past, I would torture myself and drag out reading the book (sometimes for close to a year!) telling myself I “had to finish” it before I started another. What ended up happening is I wouldn’t read anything at all!So In August I started reading The Human Stain by Phillip Roth. It just didn’t grab me. Perhaps I’m meant to read it at another time, in another frame of mind. I’ll hang onto it and revisit it.8/3/13
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
My Dystopian novel jag continues. I cannot explain my recent fascination. Maybe it has something to do with the popularity of The Hunger Games? Ha!In the not so distant future, Jessie lives in a world plagued by MDS (Maternal Death Syndrome.) An idealist, who wants her life to have meaning, she volunteers for an important mission. Her parents, understandably, resist.Details/Topics: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Idealism, biological warfareFavorite Quote: “I put the dress on and in doing that I’d put on another body. A light, twirling, dancing body. And after me, someone else could wear the dress. And someone else,. And they would all have a sense of that, the light twirling dancing body. But of course they would be themselves as well. I was thinking, if that much can be passed on in just a dress, how much of every living person lives on after they die? Feeds into everyone else, in different ways, through what they’ve said, and done, and made. ” 7/13/13