- Just kidding. I can’t come up with 33 things. I just think it’s funny when I run across blog posts with titles such as “457 must haves for your minimalist kitchen!” What does that even mean? How do they come up with those random numbers? I’ll tell you how I came up with 33: Alliteration.
- I am writing this from my porch, looking at a partially obstructed Mount Hood. Because of clouds. It’s humid, which is weird for the Pacific Northwest. Just thought you should know that.
- I have seen three deer in the past week visit our yard. I haven’t seen three deer in all 16 years we’ve lived here, so I wonder what’s up. Eric is afraid they’ll find our blueberry bushes, but so far they’re oblivious. The kittens hunker down when the deer come through to see if anything sketchy is going to go down. They clearly have no plan of attack, but in their defense, neither do the deer.
- Lists are fun! I should do this more often.
- I probably won’t.
- I have been waiting, literally, since December to read “The Good Neighbor” by Maxwell King, a biography on Mr. Rogers, via the eLibrary on my Kindle. I watched Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood as a kid and while it wasn’t one of my favorite shows (I was more of an “Electric Company” kind of girl), I didn’t mind it, either. Anyway, the writing is so repetitive and boring that I’m having a hard time getting into it. I’m about half-way done and would have ditched by now if it wasn’t about Mr. Rogers. I feel like I owe it to ol’ Fred to keep plodding along.
- This is really too bad because I’ve been in a reading slump. I haven’t been in the mood for the past couple of months and haven’t had anything to read anyway. But I am ready to get back into the game, especially since this is prime reading on the deck season. Perhaps the issue is that I don’t like nonfiction as much as I like fiction. That’s on me.
- But! I just checked out “Call the Midwife” (also on my Kindle; I prefer it to real books) and have high hopes for its entertainment value. I’ve never seen the TV show, but then again, I’m not that into TV.
- We’re watching “Stranger Things III” on Netflix. Which is TV, you are correct. Eric is not letting us binge watch so we’re only on, like, episode five. I don’t know, he’s trying to teach us patience or something.
- The end, I guess.
I started April strong on the book front, stalled in the middle, and regained my footing at the end. Lesson I keep learning: If I’m resisting reading a particular book, it’s because it’s not for me. And it’s okay to let that one go.
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvatar. This was the fourth and last book in a series, but the first one I read. Like, ever, not just in April. I must have heard good things about it because it made my “to read” list. This is one of those magic/teenager books that are popular at the moment, but you know what? The writing was good, the plot kept me interested and I didn’t seem to lose anything for coming in at the top floor instead of starting at the bottom. I’ll probably read the entire series just for something to do. (I’m no purist on my book choices. Give me entertaining any day of the week.) No regrets.
Educated by Tara Westover. (Nonfiction.) Where to even start? This book is absolutely fascinating — Westover comes from a large, devote Mormon family, was barely homeschooled, had her life endangered practically daily by her father and/or brother, was mentally abused … eventually went to BYU against the family’s wishes, where she had to learn basic things like hygiene and how to take a test, finally earing her Ph.D. after a serious bout of depression. So just, like, props to her for managing, seriously. What made this book hard to read, however, were the pages upon pages describing the messed up antics of her father. The guy is probably bipolar, but it’s infuriating to witness someone with so little regard for anyone else — who purposely puts his wife and kids in dangerous situations because he’s got a Jesus complex (and a unhealthy distrust of the government, medical care, even dance lessons). That’s abuse. I was glad to see that Westover finally escape and prosper, but damn! The cost of her education was so high. Definitely recommend.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. This was okay. It’s a book on writing and grief and dogs. No characters are named. I felt it was a bit too hyped, but eh, I made it through and it was fine. Wouldn’t necessarily recommend, but that’s more because of my personal tastes than anything else. It’s clever enough.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. (Nonfiction.) Holy shit. This book crushed my soul. It’s nonfiction and well researched, but written in story form. That made it very easy to digest. I felt like I got to know the girls who worked painting radium on watch dials to make them glow in the dark beginning in 1917 — and it was devastating to see them suffering so greatly because of company negligence. Well, beyond negligence, really — calculated cruelty. What absolutely floored me was how, after everything these women went through to bring the company to justice, radium was STILL being used and other women STILL being exploited doing THE VERY SAME WORK as late as the 1970s. (All caps because WHAT?!) I mean, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. We think that businesses/government agencies have our best interests at heart, but most do not — the bottom line means more than human life. (If you’re charging almost $1,000 for two EpiPens, then you clearly value something, but it ain’t people.) So now I’m all fired up. Definitely recommend. Because knowledge is power.
Books I tried to read but couldn’t:
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I just … I didn’t make it very far into this book, which is too bad because I could have used a good distraction as I was sitting for hours at a time in the ICU waiting room with Eric’s family. I felt like the writing was fine and the storyline had potential, but got tripped up on the actual reading part. Not for me.
On my list:
I’ve got six on hold from the eLibrary — but it might take a while to get any of them (like, six months for some of these): The Wicked King, The Good Neighbor, Becoming (by Michelle Obama, I love her), Stardust, There There and The Invention of Wings (recently added to my list via a recommendation last month).
Which means I might just go on Amazon and buy something. Feeding the beast, but I love my Kindle so much. I think Abby has a couple of real books she wants me to read, but she won’t be home from school for a couple of weeks and I can’t wait that long. 😉 We’ll see what I settle on. There’s a long list of books that aren’t available via eLibrary that are in the running.
Now I want to hear about what you’ve been reading. Because I have plenty of room to add to my list.
Let’s start off on a tangent: How is it that February, the shortest month on the calendar, took 57 years to get through, but March was like 87 seconds? Time is a mystery, my friends.
Anyway! March was a good month on the book front. Maybe a little TOO good — my eLibrary account really came through in the past couple of weeks and I have five titles lined up at the moment. Fun fact: If you keep your Kindle on airplane mode, they can check the books back in, but they can’t technically erase them from your device. I know, that’s totally cheating, but I promise I’m cheating with a pure heart. Uh, assuming that’s possible, I guess.
Here’s what I read, in order even:
The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre. (Before you have to ask, I’m an INFJ — introvert, intuitive, feeling, judging. They say it’s the rarest of all personality types, but I assume they say that to everyone to make us all feel like we’re special unicorns.) Well, Emre isn’t joking — it IS a strange history and it’s kind of amazing that the women who created it, a mother-daughter team, had it in them to be so persistent in getting the thing published. Emre is a skeptic on the personality testing front, and I appreciated that, actually — I felt like it gave her the ability to step back from the hype. One thing I hadn’t realized until I read the book is that according to Briggs and Myers, your personality is set the day you are born and it never changes. That seems weird to me, but whatever. Anyway, it was an interesting read and good to learn that the test is loosely based on Jung’s theories but is in no way scientific. I found that comforting somehow.
Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? by Mindy Kaling. After the craziness of Emre’s book, this book was a fantastic pallet cleanser: It’s hilarious and a quick read. I’m probably the last person on earth to read it as it came out in 2011, but anyway, I recommend this one if you need a laugh.
About a Boy by Nick Hornsby. How did I JUST read this book? I haven’t seen the movie, either. It was just so sweet and funny and great. It’s like the book equivalent of a fancy donut. Recommend!
An American Marriage by Tavari Jones. I suppose it was about time for me to read something more difficult after two fun-fests. This is a great book — well written and made me think about what I take for granted being a middle aged white woman married to the same man for 23 years. There were parts that were hard to take because it was difficult to accept the injustice of it all — for Roy, wrongly accused and imprisoned, and Celestial, who has to navigate life with her husband locked away. It’s not what either of them had expected, and the outcome isn’t, either. Recommend.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I think this might have been an Abby recommendation. One of those sci-fi/fantasy stories with magic and a gang of kids out on an adventure. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the sequel.
What’s on my list:
After about four months of waiting, Educated by Tara Westover has finally come my way via the eLibrary. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and am looking forward to reading it.
I’ve also got The Friend by Sigrid Nunez and The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin lined up. I’m currently reading The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, but it’s the fourth in a series and, while all accounts point to this one being a stand-alone (whatever that means), I’ll probably end up reading the entire series just for something to do. More sci-fi/fantasy/kids on a magical adventure. I don’t mind.
Your turn: Whatcha reading?
I generally get most of my reading material from our county library — or, actually, the eLibrary, where books are shared between several small counties. This means that the waiting list for a book can be six months or more (hello, Becoming by Michelle Obama). I’ve learned that, as soon as a book becomes available, to go into my browser and immediately place another book on hold. And also that purchasing books this year is going to be necessary if I ever want to actually read anything.
Saturday morning, I received an email I’d been waiting for: That The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre was ready for checkout. I went to the library website, got the book loaded on my Kindle, and began perusing the ongoing list of books I keep in my planner so I could add another to my holds list (I can reserve up to six. Boring).
I typed in About a Boy by Nick Hornby (been meaning to read that one for a while) and was shocked that it was immediately available. I’ve never had that happen before. Downloading that one, I decided to try Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling. ALSO AVAILABLE, WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?!
Okay, fine, how about The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King? Well, another six month waiting list there, but I was really feeling almost … it was an abundance of riches, really, to be able to check out three books at once. I guess I should browse more often.
(I’m only part of the way through Myers Briggs, and it’s fascinating. That’s another post for another time, though. I need to actually read it first before I start spouting off.)
My reading this year has been sparser than I’d like it to be. I spent most of January waiting for books to become available before deciding to just purchase a few (you’d think that, as someone whose livelihood depends on people purchasing a newspaper that I’d be more generous with my book dollars. Well, this could be the year for that, the way it’s all going with long library waits).
But here’s what I have managed to read so far:
Mirage by Somaiya Daud. I purchased this one after hearing Daud speak on public radio. She seemed like someone I’d like to have coffee with. And I really enjoyed it. It’s sci-fi and romance and, ultimately, a book about oppression. First in a series, apparently (which came as a shock when I read the last page and was like OH HELL NO THIS CANNOT BE THE END. It’s not. But now I have to wait a long time to find out what happens, boo). Recommend!
The Gospel of Trees: A Memoire by Apricot Irving. I also purchased this one after it was recommended to me by a friend. This is a memoire and, as such, it’s sometimes difficult to read because Irving is so open and honest. She’s the daughter of missionary parents and spent the bulk of her childhood in Haiti. It’s fascinating and difficult all at once. Plus she’s now an Oregonian. Also recommend.
Trainspotting by Irving West. I’m sad that I purchased this one. I just had a hard time with it for a variety of reasons: It’s mostly written in Scottish dialect, which was difficult for my brain to get used to (I kept trying to translate it into American English at first; eventually I got the hang of it and just read as best I could as written); these guys are junkies and make really terrible decisions, and I have limited patience for that; and it’s pretty graphic / there’s a lot of swearing (which I actually don’t care about, to be honest — words are just words — but it started to wear me down after reading the C word for the 8,000 time in 20 pages). I came away from this just really glad to have made the life decisions I’ve made. I can’t necessarily recommend this one. I’m okay with having read it but wow, that was hard.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I checked this one out from the eLibrary. This is a book set in the 1970s and 1980s, about a family who moves to Alaska from Washington. I really enjoyed it — great storyline, great writing — but I had to put it down periodically because the father is so abusive and crazy and that was difficult to digest sometimes. I wish I’d have purchased this one instead of “Trainspotting,” though, because this is one I’d like to read again … later. Recommend.
And a book I didn’t finish:
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfeg. I’m grateful that I checked this one out from the eLibrary because it made it easier for me to decide to peace out after 85 pages. I finish everything, but I could not finish this one: There are no redeeming characters and the plot is basically this narcissist who drugs herself into oblivion. But even BEFORE she started her year of sleep, she was not someone I wanted to spend any time with. There are no words to describe how much I hated this book … and how pissed I am that I wasted my life on those 85 pages. I picked it up, incidentally, because it was in the top 10 of multiple “must reads of 2018” lists. If there’s anyone out there who has read it and actually liked it, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Why is this book so highly recommended? I honestly have no idea.
I regret posting a partial list of the books I’d read through May 22 HERE, just because now it seems a little anticlimactic. Although no I don’t because I was really excited to share what I’d read.
One of my goals this year was to never be without a book, and I mostly succeeded. I only read two all of December because I was waiting for the eLibrary to come through and I went through a dry spell in February for reasons I no longer remember. I used to write down all titles I’d read on a bookmark and move it from book to book, but now I keep a running list in my journal. I read one “real” book all year (Abby’s copy of “Dreams from my Father”) and the rest were on my Kindle. Kinda hard to go the ol’ bookmark route with that routine solidly in place.
(And I know, real books are great. My girls and Eric are real book fans and we do our part for the local bookstore. I just prefer my Kindle — I like having my entire collection in my backpack. It’s one of my anxiety coping methods, so …)
Anyway, here’s the first half of my book list, to review:
- A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (second in a series of three and fantastic)
- Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham (entertaining)
- Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson (reread; heartbreaking and wonderful)
- Renegades by Marissa Meyer (love this author)
- Heartless by Marissa Meyer
- Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama (eye-opening!)
- All Those Things We Never Said by Mark Levy (don’t bother)
- Wolf by Wolf and Blood by Blood by Ryan Graudin (SO GOOD)
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (wonderful, one of the best all year)
- Iron by Iron by Ryan Graudin (novella, also great)
- Cinder and Scarlet and Cress and Winter, all by Marissa Meyer (rereads, totally entertaining)
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (loved)
- The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (cute)
- Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (amazing)
Since May 22, I’ve read:
- Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell
- Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (both rereads, two favorites of mine)
- Persuasion by Jane Austen (lost count how many times I’ve read this one. It’s my favorite Austen)
- The Fates Divide by Veronica Ross (Carve the Mark II; even better than the first one)
- Dreams of Running by Mara Fields (my best friend in high school, really great — she tackles ALL the issues)
- A Reaper at the Gate by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes series)
- The Wrath and the Dawn, and The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh (both were really great)
- The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (wasn’t sure I’d like this one at first but found it entertaining enough)
- The Leavers by Lisa Ko (seriously great)
- One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (also seriously great)
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG? This book was amazing; Abby recommendation)
- The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg (don’t bother)
- Harry Potter — the entire series (rereads, still in love)
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (so great)
- Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (nope)
- Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass IIV; I’ve put COUNTLESS hours into this series so I was damn well gonna finish it!)
- Archenemies by Marissa Mayer (Renegades II; great)
- Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine by Gail Honeyman (one of my favorites this year)
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (another favorite and an Abby recommendation)
It turns out that I read 44 books this year, and while I’d kind of like to crank another one out before the year ends to make it an even (odd?) 45 so my OCD calms down, I’m going to take a breath and let it go. And P.S., I was going to keep track of pages read, but it turns out I don’t care. I’m more interested in the stories.
Most of these were checked out from our county’s eLibrary. A few I enjoyed so much that I purchased them AND any subsequent sequels. I’ve also learned that the books available on Amazon Prime are lacking as far as I’m concerned.
I’ve got a new list of books I’d like to read in 2019. I looked up best book lists on Goodreads and fell into a couple of “best book” articles (one from Time Magazine, I think?). I’ve got more nonfiction on my list for the coming year; we’ll see how I do with that. My whole life is nonfiction, so I prefer the break that comes from reading fiction.
What were the best books you read this year? I got a little space still on my 2019 list. 😉