The Month in Books: September 2019

    • Because Internet, Gretchen McColluch: So much fun! If you’ve ever wondered what emojis are all about, or if you’re interested to learn more about how the Internet is changing language, this in the book for you.
    • Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik: This takes some elements of Rumplestiltskin and makes an incredible story about them. What I especially loved was how the main character had so much more agency than the miller’s daughter in that fairy tale.
    • Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino: Tolentino is a wonderful essayist – these were all interesting to read and really compelling.
    • The Current, Tim Johnston: Another really compelling read – in this one, a terrible accident starts to unravel a crime from a decade ago.
    • White Tears, Hari Kunzru: Without getting into spoilers, there is a weird thing going on in this book and I kept waiting for it to get just the tiniest bit clearer and become a bit more interesting. I kept going, thinking that it would shift and I’d be more into it but it never happened.
    • The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold: (Unfinished) This really wasn’t keeping my attention. I think if you’re interested in the lives of people of the era, it would be interesting. But I was looking for something brought the women’s stories more to the forefront, and this didn’t seem to be doing that.

If you only read one, look at the first four and pick the one that most speaks to you. Better yet, if you’re up for keeping two books on the go, pick one each of the fiction and nonfiction. That’s how I read most of these – nonfiction during the day, and fiction at night. Worked out beautifully.

 

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August 2019 in Books

Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance (The Southern Reach Trilogy), Jeff VanderMeer: Less disorienting the second time through. Still weird though, and it held up on a re-read.

Paper Girls Vols. 2, 3, 4; Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson: Not sure why but I was less into these than the first volume.

Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents (Earthseed), Octavia Butler: My bookclub chose Parable of the Sower, and we had a good discussion of it. I don’t think I got anything new out of it on the re-read, but it did hold up. I re-read Parable of the Talents as well.

Record of a Spaceborn Few, Becky Chambers: I love this series. This one was a really interesting look at what a homeworld might be like if that homeworld was actually a ship, and you had to assume you’d never be able to resupply.

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, Sonali Dev: A wonderful take on Pride & Prejudice, using elements from it rather than a straight retelling.

What If This Were Enough?, Heather Havrilesky: This would be an excellent book club pick – lots to discuss in these essays.

Golden State, Ben H. Winters: Start picking at a little thread and the whole thing unravels. This was really great.

Bluebird, Bluebird, Attica Locke: Texas noir – really interesting characters and setting.

If you only read one. . . it’s hard to say which it should be. If you like mysteries and don’t mind a small element of sci-fi, Golden State. If you like reading about humans in space, Record of a Spaceborn Few. If you need a nonfiction palate cleanser, What If This Were Enough?

June 2019 in Books

French Exit, Patrick deWitt: Absurdist and dark, except not quite. Meh.

The Snow Gypsy, Lindsay Jayne Ashford: Would have been better with some cuts, I think.

Two Girls Down, Louisa Luna: Too much gratuitous male gaze. He knew he was doing it, but still. I’m here for the kickass female detective, not her supposed partner’s inability to get a grip.

Heads of the Colored People, Nafissa Thompson-Spires: A little surreal, lots going on – but lots to unpack. This was great and we had one of our best-ever book club discussions that night.

The Feather Thief, Kirk Wallace Johnson: Such a weird story! Maybe a little too heavy on the firehouse of facts approach at times, but a great little piece on the history of a niche of natural history.

Once Upon A River, Diane Setterfield: Eerie and meandering, but without tangents. It stuck with me a bit.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith: If your education in American lit skipped this, you should pick it up. Absolutely wonderful.

The Lost Man, Jane Harper: These books are so great. An incredibly isolated setting, but without the claustrophobic feeling you sometimes get from those. You don’t need to have read Harper’s others to read this, it’s a standalone novel.

If you only read one, make it The Lost Man.

May 2019 in Books

Florida, Lauren Groff: Short stories where the land is a character.

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, Craig Brown: Wasn’t my cup of tea. Also I somehow did not put it together that some of the glimpses were fictitious.

Severance, Lin Ma: Yup, a re-read already, for book club. Holds up and we had a great discussion.

Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss: Weird/glowering look at what happens when an abuser takes his family on a camping vacation with strangers.

Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, Amy Stewart: I didn’t like this one quite as much as the others, but it was still delightful.

A Closed & Common Orbit, Becky Chambers: Very fun story that picks up wiht one of the characters from A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, but isn’t really a sequel.

The Overstory, Richard Powers: I loved the writing, and the combination of a nature story with something very character driven.

If you only read one, make it The Overstory. There’s a reason why it won the Pulitzer.

March 2019 in Books

  • Commonwealth, Ann Patchett: Big focus on the people in this one, less on the plot.
  • Planetfall, Emma Newman: Slow and then a little too fast towards the end. First in a series I’m not sure I’ll continue.
  • Saladish, Ilene Rosen & Donna Gelb: Cookbook full of gorgeous salads I could tell I’d never make.
  • Race, Class, and Politics in the Capuccino City, Derek Hyra: Focused on gentrification of the Shaw/U Street corridor. Definitely pick this up if you are into city politics, there’s a big section on that.
  • From Here to Eternity, Caitlin Doughty: A look at traditions and rituals of death around the world.
  • Tell the Machine Goodnight, Katie Williams: A book about Big Happy.
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman: Happy and sad, with wonderful characters.
  • Severance, Ling Ma: A post-apocalyptic story that’s about loneliness instead of survival.
  • Design for How People Learn, Julie Dirksen: An easy-to-read guide on designing learning experiences.
  • Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi: Young adult fantasy. I liked the overall story but the YA bits were a little too melodramatic for me. (But, I do think they were fairly true to actual teenage life.)
  • The Refrigerator Monologues, Catherynne M. Valente & Annie Wu (illustrator): Linked short stories with an illustration for each. I really, really wish this had been a graphic novel!
  • Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Intense & intensely horrifying short stories.

If you only pick up one, I’d make it Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

February 2019 in Books

    • Snap, Belinda Bauer: This is a backwards mystery – you pretty quickly learn who the culprit is, most of the story is about collecting the evidence.
    • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers: Reminded me of Firefly, get on it! This was a really fun read.
    • Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator): Quick and quirky. If you’re not sure about it, Longreads has a big excerpt.
    • City of Thieves, David Benioff: Character-driven and really well-written.
    • How to Get Dressed, Alison Freer: There were a lot of tips in this that were not new to me, but it was easy to skim and I think would be a great resource for anyone who wants to dress better, but isn’t quite sure how to make their wardrobe do that for them.
    • The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri: Beautifully, beautifully written. “Lyrical” does not feel overblown here.
    • Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, Blair Braverman: For some reason, I thought this book was about something else. Still enjoyed it though!
    • The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker: You have to read this. I can’t wait to discuss with book club in a couple of days.
    • The Water Cure, Sophie Mackintosh: Fascinating. Lots of things aren’t explained, but some things are just inexplicable.

If you only read one from this list, it’s a toss-up between The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and The Silence of the Girls.

January 2019 in Books

  • Paper Girls, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang (Illustrator), Matthew Wilson (Colorist), Jared K. Fletcher (Lettering): This was great, I immediately picked up the other volumes available.
  • Word by Word, Kory Stamper: Have you ever wondered who writes dictionary entries? No? Read this anyway.
  • What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi: Short stories where the characters from the first turn up here and there in the rest.
  • The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, Imogen Hermes Gowar: I found most of the story in the last third of the book.
  • The Dreamers, Karen Thompson Walker: Super compelling undercover sci-fi. Beautifully written.
  • The Forgotten Hours, Katrin Schumann: The protagonist finds she needs to unravel a trauma from her past before she can move forward into the rest of her life.
  • Hey, Kiddo, Jarret. J. Krocoszka: That feeling when you are suddenly reading something that’s set where & when you grew up. Lovely illustrations & collages.
  • Future Home of the Living God, Louise Erdrich: Unspecified apocalyptic disaster. Echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale so brace yourself.
  • Snap, Belinda Bauer: Character-driven with a dash of police procedural.