Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover

With my daughter at Parnassus Books in Nashville

1. You interject this comment into conversations on a regular basis: "That reminds me of a book I read..."

2. And also: "Have you read..." or "You should read..."

3. You go to thrift stores just to check out the book section.

4. You shudder and grimace involuntarily when people say, "I'm not really a reader..." or "I haven't read a book since college!"

5. You would never miss your monthly book club meetings—and you actually read the books.

6. No matter where you travel, you always visit a bookstore.

7. You roll your eyes when you hear the name "Marie Kondo" because 30 books.

8. You always read the book before seeing the movie.

9. You use stacked books as part of your decor.

10. You feel anxious and sweaty if you accidentally go anywhere without something to read.

Can you relate?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

January-March 2020 Books Read

Top of the List

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: Stevenson's story of starting out as a young lawyer defending impoverished, innocent people who were unjustly convicted of crimes and sentenced to death row or to serve life sentences, including women and children. Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and every single story he tells is heartbreaking—but lots of redemptive stories, too. Everyone should read this!

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama for President. Please, oh please! My admiration for her quadrupled after reading this memoir.

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson. Total surprise! This is a book I "found" on my Kindle that I must have downloaded as part of Amazon Prime's free monthly book program. I loved this sweet, charming, and fast read! This is absolutely perfect as a lighthearted, happy ending but totally engaging book. In brief, Blix has the gift of matchmaking—of seeing people who would be perfect matches. When she meets Marnie, her nephew's fiancee, she realizes  two things: Marnie and Noah are not meant for each other, and Marnie has the same matchmaking gift. Super sweet book.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Bruce for Michelle Obama's running mate! I've loved Bruce nearly my entire life. I love him even more now. Utterly open, honest, engaging....and I watched a whole lot of Springsteen videos while reading this book. I love him. The only thing that would have made this book better is if I had listened to Bruce Springsteen  actually read it in his gloriously gravelly voice on Audible; but alas, I didn’t know this was a thing until too late. Sorta side note: Bruce Springsteen was THE BEST CONCERT ever.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. Parenting is hard. Being a boy named Claude is hard. Being a girl named Poppy is mostly wonderful. Claude or Poppy? This is a novel that tackles a tough subject with love and candor and puts us right in the midst of a wonderfully complicated family.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. I adored this debut novel, set in London amidst the bombings during WWII. Emmaline Lake accidentally finds herself working for the intimidating and terribly proper Mrs. Bird as an advice columnist for a sinking women's magazine. Emmy is gutsy and sweet and this novel just made me warm and happy, in spite of its moments of tragedy.


Thoughts on the Others

Such a Fun Age and If Only I Could Tell You: Both were engaging and definitely had good moments, but something about each one fell apart for me. Too much tragedy in the latter, and the ending was off in the former.

Snow: I really wanted to love this book but it was too dense. I don't know enough about Turkish history to truly appreciate it. Beautifully written though—and I felt triumphant and enlightened upon finishing it.

Mrs. Everything I didn't hate this book, but it super annoyed me. It felt extremely forced. Practically every Big Issue between 1950-2016 is covered in the lives of Jo and Bethie, from sexual abuse to Civil Rights to interracial marriages, the Vietnam War, women's rights, sexual identity, drugs, sex, rock and roll, rape, cancer, abortion, on and on and on. I don't mean to be flippant about ANY of these issues, and she isn't flippant about any of them, either. But tackling them all in one book? To one family? Too much happens. Way too much. I stuck with the book because the characters interested me enough to keep going.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Books Read in 2019

I read 54 books in 2019. My goal was 52, so I am definitely pleased with myself. I was on what amounted to bed rest for six weeks this summer, so I no doubt got more reading done than I would have otherwise. We'll see if I can meet that same goal this year, without being sick!

Here are all the books and my brief remarks about some of them.

Thoughts on this set:
• I loved Valencia and Valentine but I don't remember anything about it.
The Known World took me a looong time to get through. It was a book club book, but I didn't make it to that particular book club.
• I absolutely LOVED Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone. I was hesitant to read her again because I was so disappointed with subsequent books after reading the incredible The Nightingale. But this one was one of my favorites of the year.
The Music Shop was definitely worth reading.
Pachinko, Fred Rogers, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and Girls Like Us were all for book clubs. 1) Pachinko was AMAZING but took me weeks to get through. It followed several generations of a Korean family, and I learned so much about the relationships between Japanese and Koreans, as well as cultural information, throughout the book. 2) I wasn't crazy about the Fred Rogers book. It was poorly written and rather boring. 3) Tattooist was amazing. It's hard to imagine a happy story about Aushwitz, but in many ways, it was. 4) Girls Like Us is an incredibly important book, detailing the lives of girls in the commercial sex industry.
The Quintland Sisters was fascinating. I've always been a little obsessed with the Dionne Quintuplets, as they were contemporaries of my mother's. She had the Yvonne doll when she was a little girl, and I still have a pin with the name "Yvonne" inscribed on it from that doll. Really interesting story.
• Mary Oliver. Enough said.

Thoughts on this set. Ooooh, these are some of my favorites of the year.
• I don't remember a lot about The Wedding Date, The Woman in the Window, and Sometimes I Lie, but I know I really liked them.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane was absolutely stunning. The story follows one mountain girl from her impoverished childhood through her adulthood as a tea seller, and it was all fascinating and beautifully written.
The 57 Bus— WOW. This is the true story of two teenagers in San Francisco who inhabited totally different worlds: one white one who attended a private school, one black one who lived in a neighborhood with high crime. A single, impulsive event changed both their lives forever. This was an eye-opening book for me. Powerful.
An American Marriage was one of my favorite fiction books of the year. A beautifully told but heartbreaking story of race, love, and how quickly a life can be derailed.
Walking to Listen was our first book club book of the year. It was a wonderful and fascinating story of a young man who walked across the country just to hear people's stories and, of course, find himself.
Nine Perfect Strangers started wonderfully and ended horrendously. My least favorite Moriarty book.

When I look at this set, I go from one extreme to the other. There are some that were absolutely wonderful:
Evicted: nonfiction account of eight families in Milwaukee as they try to avoid eviction. Provides an incredible perspective on poverty and just how hard it is to keep from being on the streets.
Once Upon a River
Eleanor Oliphant: can't wait for the movie!
Americanah: I never wanted this one to end
Born a Crime: Trevor Noah's memoir of growing up a child of mixed parentage during apartheid in South Africa

And some that make me feel tired and frustrated:
Maid: felt inauthentic. Too many things unsaid.
The Dollmaker of Krakow: weird
Bridge of Clay: too obtuse

All the others in this set were enjoyable but not quite up to the level of stunning.

And finally...

Snowflower and the Secret Fan was a re-read for book club. I loved it the first time AND the second time. Sworn to Silence was also a book club read, and that was chilling but satisfying! I loved The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, and all the pscyhological thrillers are fun. But my favorite out of all these is Where'd You Go, Bernadette? What a weird and wonderful novel, much like Eleanor Oliphant. I love quirky characters like Bernadette and Bee, Eleanor, and  The Rosie Project's Don Tillman.

I wanted to love City of Girls and Searching for Sylvia Lee, but meh.

Top Ten Books of the Year:

1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
2 The 57 Bus: A True Story of Teenagers and a Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
3. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
4. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
5. Americanah by Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie
6. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
7. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
8. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
9. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
10. Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time by Andrew Forsthoefel

What about you? 

Linked up with Top 10 Tuesday