Sunday, February 11, 2018

2017 in books

a recap (mandatory):
2010: i read 15 books.
2011: i started my book challenge with the goal of reading 25 books; i read 38.
2012: 34 books
2013: 34 books again
2014: 32 books
2015: 35 books
2016: 58 books (fluke/who have i become?)
2017: 57 books (the new normal?)


2017 broken down:

30 books written by women
27 by men

38 fiction books
19 nonfiction

11 diverse books (as in, the main character or the author is not white)

my favorite books of 2017?  milk and honey, by rupi kaur (nonfiction/memoir) and the hate u give, by angie thomas (fiction).  read this books immediately.

december: 52, 53, 54, 55, 56 and 57

so. far. behind. in. posting.  sorry, world.  here's what i read in december:

evicted, by matthew desmond (i listened to this book, which might be my favorite nonfiction book of the year.  it follows tenants and landlords in low income parts of milwaukee as a fascinating look into low income residents' lives and the real housing crisis that many face.  if you like audiobooks, the narrator of this one is fantastic.  highly highly recommend.  obama read it this year, too, so trust his recommendation if you don't trust mine. :) )

dear ijeawele, or a feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions, by chimamanda ngozi adichie (i'm now buying this book for every new mom i know.  advice on how to raise your child to be a feminist in adichie's clear and thoughtful and compelling style.  love her.)

an abundance of katherines, by john green (i love john green and i enjoyed this, but there's a reason this isn't his most famous book.  i absolutely want you to read a john green book if you haven't already, but don't start with this one.)

the light in the ruins, by chris bohjalian (listened to this, which was fine but not great.  a light read where it wasn't hard to keep the characters straight in the audiobook (which is sometimes hard for me when i listen to fiction), but i hated the narrator's fake italian accent and that almost did me in.  read this one on a beach vacay.)

a piece of the world, by christina baker kline (loved this book - really love kline's historical fiction in general.  not a tough read, but for something relatively straight forward there was some real nuance there.  made me glad i didn't live in that time and place, given the strictures around dating and the opportunities for women - there was a lot of pain this book but it was beautifully written.)

what unites us, by dan rather & elliot kirschner (dan rather's facebook posts are one of my favorite things about trump's america, and i saw him speak in houston in december; the price of admission was buying a copy of his book. there's nothing revolutionary here, but this is a beautiful little book with some fold-down-the-corner-of-the-page bits.  a quick read - would be a great gift!)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

november: 49, 50 & 51

in november i read:

the invention of wings, by sue monk kidd (i'm teaching this book during interim term at my school.  definitely worth a read - historical fiction that alternates between two narrators: a white southerner named sarah grimke (a real person who became an abolitionist and women's rights activitist) and her slave (also a real person).  my mom and sister recommended it to me and i found the story quite compelling and the book very well-written.)

homegoing, by yaa gyasi (i loved this book, which we read in the diversity book club i'm running with faculty at my school.  it tells the story of eight generations (from the 1700s to 1900s) within two branches of the same family tree; one branch lives in africa and the other begins with a family member who is sold into slavery and goes to the united states.  our book club had a great conversation about this book and i would highly recommend it.  i think we're all better off if we read books by authors with experiences and backgrounds different from our own.)

eleanor oliphant is completely fine, by gail honeyman (oh, i loved this book.  uplifting, a quick read, a really well-developed and complex main character, and i couldn't wait to see what eleanor would do next.  heart-warming, though tough to read in parts.  highly recommend!)

Monday, November 6, 2017

october: 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 & 48

this month i read (and listened to):

metamorphosis, by franz kafka (i listened to the [free] audiobook of this one - i had to read it in high school and clearly appreciated it more as an adult than i did when i was a teenager and struggling through required reading, though i missed having an english teacher to explain to me the deeper meaning behind everything that was happening.)

milk and honey, by rupi kaur (GO BUY THIS BOOK.  poetry plus drawings by the author who is incredibly talented - this really spoke to me and i tore through it.  there's a reason everyone has been talking about this book.  read it!)

incendiary, by chris cleave (this is a book that had been sitting on my shelf - and i'm trying to read things (when i have time) that are already in my house (free!  sense of accomplishment!).  i loved little bee and this was not quite little bee for me.  it's told as a letter to osama bin laden, after the narrator's husband and son were killed in a terrorist attack.  i'm glad i read it and it was really different in tone and scope than anything else i'd read, but there's a reason you've heard of cleave's other books and not this one.  it's skipable.)

things we lost in the fire, by mariana enriquez (this is a book of short stories - apparently this author is very popular in her native argentina but this is the first of her books to be translated into english.  if you're into latin american/south american literature, you definitely need to read this.  it was the perfect book to read on a vacation (costa rica!!) because it was very easy to pick up and put down.)

a little history of the world, by e.h. gombrich (Q gave me this book a long time ago and i've read it off and on and FINALLY finished it after (seriously) several years of reading it occasionally.  this is the translation of a book written in german in the 1930s, where the author tells the history of the world to an elementary school-aged audience.  i was totally charmed by it and would recommend it to anyone with a kid this age - it would be a perfect read-aloud before bed.  glad i read it and have it on my shelf!)

dolores claiborne, by stephen king (i listened to the audiobook of this one, on veronica's recommendation - non-scary, kind-of-creepy story told entirely by a woman who is being questioned in the murder of her employer, set in the police station questioning room.  the plot is slow-moving - as she recounts parts of her life to explain that she didn't kill this woman - but that made it perfect for an audiobook where you don't have to worry about missing something because you get distracted.  (i get distracted during audiobooks because i'm always doing other things (driving) - does this happen to other people?)  i really like stephen king's books...when they aren't scary.  a few years ago i read and loved 11/22/63, and after this one i'm definitely planning to read more.)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

september: 40, 41 and 42

more than a month behind on posting this.  gotta get my shit together!

in september, i read:

imagine me gone, by adam haslett (this was on a lot of independent bookstore lists this summer and i really liked it - intriguing story inside a family struggling with mental illness.  that makes it sound very depressing and it was not!  as far as i can remember.  since i finished it two months ago...  thumbs up, though not the best book i've ever read.)

born to run, by bruce springsteen (i listened to the audiobook of this, which springsteen reads, and i was proselytizing about it left and right in august.  i really enjoyed it.  it led me to listen to more of his music - i knew the hits but nothing beyond that - and goes down as a similar book for me to patti smith's just kids: parts of it were relevant only to super fans, but parts of it really spoke to me.  and i love a memoir.  if the only thing i get from the book is appreciation to bruce for writing 41 shots, that would be enough.  i mean, people.  bruce was #blacklivesmatter in 2001.)

spoonbenders, by daryl gregory (i read this for my book club and it's one of those books that you're enjoying as it's going - but you know there's a layer beyond the one you're reading - and then at the end it just all comes together and your mind is slightly blown about the way all the pieces fit together.  family drama plus paranormal activity...i'd recommend it!)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

august: 36, 37, 38 & 39

in august, i read:

six of crows, by leigh bardugo (this is a YA novel that i suggested for my book club...and it was not the best YA novel i've read...not sure i would recommend this to others.  six teenagers who live in a post-apocalyptic world and try to seek revenge and freedom by going on a journey.  this author has written a ton of books so she must have a pretty good following but this one wasn't quite for me.)

the dorito effect, by mark schatzker (i listened to this audiobook, about how the food industry manipulates us and promotes fake foods.  i found a lot of it really interesting - "natural flavor," for example, means nothing and is entirely artificial....in the process of getting bigger fruits and vegetables and bigger cuts of meat we have sacrificed flavor...all things i suspected but now have some research backing up.  if you're interested in food ethics i would highly recommend this!)

shadow of the lions, by christopher swann (chris is a friend of mine from atlanta!  i read his book because...how could i not.  i expected it to be pretty good - it was making a lot of "best of" southern author lists this summer, but i did not expect to love it quite as much as i did.  i would highly recommend this!  set in a southern boarding school both during the narrator's time as a student and then again when he comes back to teach.  it takes some pretty interesting twists and the writing is lovely.  two thumbs up!)

the hate u give, by angie thomas (okay, this is the best book i've read all year and if it doesn't win the printz award for best YA book then the whole thing is rigged.  highly highly recommend.  the main character is a black girl who attends a private school...and then watches her friend - a black teenage boy - get shot by police.  i LOVED the narrator's voice and the author's writing style and i found the topic incredibly important and relevant.  read this!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

july: 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 & 35

this month i read:

the fall of lisa bellow, by susan perabo (two girls go into a sandwich shop - there is a robbery gone wrong - one girl is abducted.  we see the story from the girl who is left behind.  in the summers i always try to read a few books from a list recommended to the teachers at my school by a local bookstore owner who comes on campus in the spring for this purpose.  this is one - as are chilbury ladies and this is how it always is, also read this month.  i enjoyed this book - the not knowing what has happened to the abducted girl and how it affects the whole community.  thumbs up.)

theft by finding, by david sedaris (it took me a little while to warm up to literally entries from david sedaris's diary, but i did warm up to them and by the end i was reveling in the behind the scenes version of his life.  like, he published a book and continued to help people remodel their homes because he needed the money.  he worked as a seasonal fruit picker in california in his 20s!  you get to see him fall in love with hugh, which is adorable.  you get to read about the random conversations he overhears in the ihop where he writes daily for 9 years.  i was totally entertained.  be prepared, though, for this to be very different from the rest of his books.)

slow days, fast company, by eve babitz (are you single and in your 30s?  GO BUY THIS BOOK.  i already have four people for whom i will be purchasing this for christmas.  hilarious and so true to life - even though she's writing from los angeles high society in the 1960s.)

the chilbury ladies' choir, by jennifer ryan (did you like the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society?  you will like this book exactly that much.  which is to say, it will not be the best book you read this year but you'll like it just fine.  i enjoyed that the book is told in diary entries and letters.)

this is how it always is, by laurie frankel (the story of the raising of a transgender child.  sweet, sad, funny, anxiety-producing.  highly recommend, though parts of the dialogue felt a little too perfectly scripted.)

dear life, by alice munro (i wanted to read this because it seems like to be an educated american you ought to have read some alice munro.  except her stories are all so SAD.  beautiful writing, and i see why she's won the nobel prize, but i think this may be the only book of hers that i read.)

masterminds & wingmen, by rosalind wiseman (if you have a son or teach boys, you must read this book!  she's brilliant and gives excellent advice.  i recommended it to the parents that i work with in my back-to-school email.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

june: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 & 28

summer vacation = lots of reading!

hamlet's blackberry, by william powers (i have been proselytizing about this book since i finished it; it's the authors thoughts on technology, along with seven great thinkers (plato, seneca, shakespeare, and others) talking about technology in their time period and how people reacted to it.  in plato's era, the big technology was writing down your ideas on a scroll and reading from it, as opposed to memorizing it.  in shakespeare's, they had invented little erasable tablets, so there was the idea of revising your thoughts.  i loved hearing how people across thousands of years have responded to technological changes - often in very similar ways - and thinking about how attached we are to our phones.  great to read as i embarked on summer and had much more time to just mess around thoughtlessly on my phone.)

shrill, by lindy west (i listened to this audiobook - body-positive, humorous, moving.  i was into it.  she got a smidge shrill (ha) for me at one point, but i still really liked it.  i hadn't realized that i knew this author - i listened to the book at the recommendation of my cousin, laura - but then realized i'd heard at least one story on a this american life episode, and had enjoyed it.  thumbs up!)

hillbilly elegy, by j.d. vance (so everyone was talking about this after the election - a book to read to understand trump's america...or something.  it got SO much press.  i listened to this audiobook on a long car ride, and i was intrigued by the story of vance's life.  i found some of it unsurprising, having grown up in rural appalachia myself, and maybe he did help me understand trump's america a little more.  but i wasn't blown away by it and i was surprised by how much press it had gotten.  glad i read it / but at the same time it wasn't revolutionary.)

vertigo, by joanna walsh (this was a pick i got in my monthly book subscription from a local independent bookstore.  a book of short stories - fine - nothing exceptional - good reading while on vacation and i was only able to read in snippets.)

the uncommon reader, by alan bennett (kate lent this to me - a fictional imagining of what would happen if queen elizabeth fell so in love with reading that she couldn't rule.  i was vaguely entertained but not blown away.  both this and vertigo were short and quickly finished.)

a gentleman in moscow, by amor towles (i read this for two book clubs (thanks, book clubs, for picking the same book and making my life easier).  it's a character study, really, of a man on house arrest in a hotel in moscow starting in the 1920s.  not much happens, which frustrated me, but perhaps i should have expected it since he can't leave the hotel.  my friends either loved it for how richly he and the hotel were depicted it...or they were slightly bored like i was.  i have to admit that i can still easily walk the halls of this hotel in my mind, but i wasn't as blown away by it as i wanted to be.  this book has gotten a ton of press this year, and our librarian at school said it was the best book she read this year.  so maybe i expected too much?)

modern romance, by aziz ansari (every person who has ever online dated MUST read this book.  so good.  so true.  it was really interesting to hear the research behind what i've experienced in real life.  i listened to this audiobook, too, and loved having ansari read it to me!)