Tuesday, November 1, 2016

october: 48, 49 & 50

50 books!  who am i?

barbara the slut, by lauren holmes (this is my "first book you see in a bookstore" - i went into brazos bookstore, my local independent bookstore, and kept my eyes averted from the books until i found a saleswoman.  i told her to lead me to my "first book i see," and make it a good one.  i told her some books i'd read recently, and she showed me this one.  poof!  i had to buy it.  i would NEVER have picked up this book on my own (the cover has the word "slut" spray painted on it), but i was totally into the short stories contained within.  success!)

the muse, by jessie burton (i read this for my online bookclub - two storylines: one in london in the 1960s and one in spain in the 1930s.  two well-rendered and vivid worlds and an exciting mystery about how exactly they will come together (which of course they do).  i'd recommend it!)

before the fall, by noah hawley (the same bookclub's pick for the previous month, which i didn't do because i had other reading commitments.  a private plane crashes, and only two people survive.  why did it crash?  i'm not rushing out to recommend this to everyone i know, but it was a good vacation read - if you go away for a long weekend, this book would happily keep you company.)

7 categories left to fulfill in 2016!  eek!  gotta get back on track if i hope to finish on time! 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

september: 44, 45, 46 & 47

short reviews this month, since i'm only barely getting it in before i'm supposed to do my october books.  OOPS.

the goldfinch, by donna tarts (gorgeous prose, sweeping storyline, moved slowly in places, super long, would totally recommend it.)

underground airlines, by ben h. winters (fascinating premise (it's present day and 4 states still have slavery) + really interesting storyline (main character is a slave hunter) + well-developed dystopian world = i really liked this one.)

the man in the high castle, by philip k. dick (i'm counting this as my "science fiction novel," even though i'm not sure it is one.  it won the hugo award for science fiction/fantasy, so i've decided that's good enough for me.  watch the tv show instead of reading the book.  when's the last time you heard that?  but really - watch the show on amazon.)

the sound of gravel, by ruth wariner (this is my autobiography, even though i'm pretty sure it's a memoir.  i'm cheating a little here in september!  WAY interesting look into a mormon polygamist lifestyle in mexico.  parts are horrifying.  i sped through this - really really interesting.  read it!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

august: 41, 42 & 43

still going strong! this month i read:

the promise, by ann weisgarber (this is historical fiction, set in galveston during the 1900 hurricane, which was the deadliest hurricane in US history, killing an estimated 8,000 people.  living 45 miles from galveston made this a really interesting read for me.  not the best historical fiction i've read, as the story line around the hurricane wasn't totally compelling for me, but i really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the hurricane and the city of galveston at this time.)

elizabeth the queen, by sally bedell smith (i listened to the audiobook of this one - a common theme for the nonfiction i read, as i don't like to read nonfiction before bed! - and was totally fascinated about the life of britain's current queen.  the book was a little bit gossipy; the queen doesn't give interviews, so the book is compiled through public documents and interviews with people close to the queen.  sometimes i had to roll my eyes at the silliness of the monarchy, but for the most part i really really enjoyed this book.  i'd recommend it!)

grit, by angela duckworth (this was the second book my boss asked us to read this summer, and though i had read duckworth's academic papers that detail her findings from her research on grit, i did get some good nuggets out of this book.  definitely a worthwhile read for people who work in education!)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

july: 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 & 40

i promise i do have a life, people, but somehow this july i've surpassed (with 40 books total so far this year) my totals for all 12 months of even my best year.  a couple of these books were really excellent, and i knocked out another 5 categories in my book challenge.  this month i read:

half of a yellow sun, by chimamanda ngozi adichie (this is my "book with a protagonist who has your occupation," as one main character is a professor and another becomes a teacher partway through the novel.  i really really liked the book, despite not really knowing where it was going for the first half of the book.  i also didn't know anything about biafra, whose flag had half of a yellow sun on it (hence the title), so it was really interesting to read this book about nigeria post-independence.  adichie is a beautiful writer, and this is worth a read.)

lila, by marilynne robinson (this, plus gilead, is going to fulfill my "book and its prequel." loved this book, even more so after going to my nerdy seminar in santa fe to spend the week talking about gilead and lila with other smart and interesting people.  marilynne robinson is a brilliant writer whose books are so rich.  highly recommend!)

the worst hard time, by timothy egan (this is my "book that takes place during summer." i listened to the audiobook of this one, about the dust bowl, told through the stories of a few people who lived through it.  i learned a ton about what caused the dust bowl and how truly horrible it was in parts of the west.  tons of rich details.  history nerds: add this to your list.)

attachments, by rainbow rowell (this is my "book that's guaranteed to bring you joy," because i love rainbow rowell and this was the only one of her books i hadn't read.  i'll repeat myself: if you haven't read any rainbow rowell, you must, and you're welcome to start with this one.)

the handmaid's tale, by margaret atwood (this is my "classic from the 20th century" because i get to define "classic" however i want.  i remember reading this in college, probably, but it had been so long that i didn't remember much of the plot.  from the queen of dystopian literature, this is a must read if you missed it along the way.  parts were totally creepy.)

excellent sheep, by william deresiewicz (this was one i had to read for work; the author's premise is that the quest for the ivy leagues leads kids to become sheep - fitting into a cookie cutter model of a college applicant - and the ones who make it to the ivy leagues are just the most excellent of the sheep.  he has a lot of suggestions of how to change the college admissions game and how that might affect what students are able to do in college.  if you have a kid in middle school or high school, you might find this a useful read.)

the serpent king, by jeff zentner (oh, i love a YA novel.  this author is the new john green - great characters, compelling storyline, and i got a little teary in the middle.  i really liked this book, set in rural tennessee and now i have 9 months or so to wait until his second novel is scheduled to come out.)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
—Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

june: 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 & 33

i read 8 books this month (absurd!  this is what quasi-vacation and lots of travel and then real vacation will do for you! oh, and audiobooks.  audiobooks help), but only three books fulfilled categories in the reading challenge.  must recommit myself to reading books outside my normal comfort zone!

the unlikely pilgrimage of harold fry, by rachel joyce (this is my "book about a road trip" and it was recommended by a friend who is also doing the reading challenge.  this was okay, but not transformative.  an easy read.  if i was from england i think i would have enjoyed the details of all the small towns he travels through on his "pilgrimage," but as i'm not those were a little lost on me.)

missoula: rape and the justice system in a college town, by jon krakauer (this is such. an. important. book. and everyone should read it.  particularly as i think about my role in helping young men and women get ready for college, the importance of this topic is huge and the book is quite well done.  i have so much to say on this topic - how in the past 50 years we have evolved from "she may say no, but she doesn't mean it" to "no means no," which is what i was taught and was revolutionary at the time, to affirmative consent, a phrase that i hadn't even heard two years ago and now we talk about with our students.  what i liked about this book was that some of the examples that krakauer gives are so black and white that right and wrong is clear to everyone, i would think.  there is a lot of gray in sexual assaults - and he does dwell in that gray for parts of the books - but he also talks about the horrible black and white cases.  this is a must read.)

gathering blue, by lois lowry (i've moved some things around on my list to maximize the number of categories i can fill, and this is now my "book about a culture you're unfamiliar with." this is a dystopian young adult novel that i listened to - i don't normally listen to fiction, but young adult fiction is pretty easy to follow - and very much enjoyed.  if you liked the giver, you should read this.)

fallen land, by taylor brown (this is my "book set in your home state" - though it takes place in virginia and georgia, too - and is a civil war tragedy that totally captivated me.  if you like historical fiction, this is worth picking up.)

beautiful ruins, by jess walter (i read this while traveling, and it is the perfect summer read (a quick read that has some substance)! amazon describes it as "the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962...and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later," which is a lot better than whatever the back cover gave as the description - which almost made me not want to read it. it has vivid characters and was a totally enjoyable read.)

the lone ranger and tonto fistfight in heaven, by sherman alexie (i like sherman alexie, but i do not like short stories - no time to get to know the characters before you have to move on to new ones - so this book was fine and all, but i wasn't hurrying to pick it up and read more.  read the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian instead.)

whiteout, by ken follett (read this is in the winter - it was an odd book to read in the summer.  it's christmas eve!  a virus has escaped a lab!  then a huge snowstorm hits!  characters converge on a remote estate!  it's that kind of book and i enjoy that kind of book.  different from the other ken follett books i'd read, but i'd recommend it if you like an action-packed plot that is ready-made for the big screen.)

the versions of us, by laura barnett (this was our book club's pick for this month, and it's a sliding doors-type book with three versions in the life of a woman and her husband (in one version)/the guy who got away (in a second version)/a man she meets occasionally but has no relationship with (in a third version).  it was a little confusing, keeping the versions separate as i read, and while short chapters kept the plot moving along, i wasn't rushing to finish this one.)

(25 of 40 categories in the challenge filled thus far!)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

"but aren't all great quests folly?  el dorado and the fountain of youth and the search for intelligent life in the cosmos - we know what's out there.  it's what isn't that truly compels us.  technology may have shrunk the epic journey to a couple of short car rides and regional jet lags - four states and twelve hundred miles traversed in an afternoon - but true quests aren't measure in time or distance anyway, so much as in hope.  there are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope of the serendipitous savant - sail for asia and stumble on america - and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along."
--from pg. 284 of  beautiful ruins, by jess walter