The Moment of everything,
This was a quick and easy read to start the New Year off. Not my normal go-to kind of book but if I’m going to read a chick-lit/romance novel than I want it to be about a book obsessed librarian who leaves her corporate soul-sucking job to run a used bookstore. I really liked this book, I wanted to be this book.
Other Rooms, Other Wonders
This was a superbly well written series of essays that all revolved around servants and relatives of an aging feudal lord in Pakistan. I don’t often love short stories, but I appreciated this collection because they all were connected by a common thread, I found many to be a fascinating look into a culture that I am not very aware of.
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
I am only vaguely aware of who Amy Schumer is and I picked up this book because I was tired of seeing it EVERYWHERE. I give it a sold C, I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it. I found about 20% of it very good, when she discusses her work and struggle to succeed as a standup comic, I also appreciated her gun control and body image stance, the rest of it was mostly people giving her oral sex and I could have totally done without that.
The Black Dog of Fate
This is a true story of the Armenian genocide. It was a brutally tough read and when I was close to the end I started having some pretty bad dreams about what I was reading. This books sheds light on a period in our history that the Turkish government has tried for decades to cover up. As tough as it was, I think everyone should get a copy of this book.
I needed some levity after my last book and I picked this up because I always like Nick Hornby, I find his writing to be so effortless and his stories to have just enough whimsy to make them fun yet believable. This book was no exception although it was rather more farfetched than some of his other stories. The one BIG problem I had with this story is that the main character is the Mother of 2 kids, age 8 & 10 but these kids have opinions and attitudes and dialogue that is WELL beyond their years. When I first started reading it I couldn’t figure out why she was bathing and putting to bed teenagers… It became very distracting to me.
The Little Paris Bookshop
This was a solid novel, I had heard many things about it beforehand, people who found it boring and too slow, others who raved and said it was their all-time favorite. I think I fell squarely in between these two camps, I liked it – if anything it makes me want to go to Paris and open a bookstore, or just go to Paris or just open a bookstore… I think it’s worth picking up but don’t drop everything and run out now.
And the Mountains Echoed
This was an excellent but emotionally draining book. It sat on my TBR shelf for a long time because I knew it was going to be heavy and I thought it would take a serious time commitment, it was heavy but it only took my 4 days to get through, it was very readable. The ending was heartbreaking and even though I really hate books that wrap everything up nice and neatly I hoped the entire time I was reading it that this would be one of those books. Spoiler alert – it was not.
Uganda Be Kidding me
After The Black Dog of fate and the Mountains Echoed I needed something light and fluffy, a story of a privileged white woman completely wrapped up in herself and unaffected by world suffering – enter Chelsea Handler. She hit the spot like an after diner mint following a very savory dinner. This book is her retelling of a 14 day African safari she went on, where she drank to excess and yelled at the wildlife, it was exactly the ridiculous palate cleanser that I needed.
I read this based on my sister’s recommendation and I was not disappointed. This was a great book. In a lighthearted and entertaining way it shed light on a very serious issue but the narrative was so compelling and easy to read that I was hooked from the first page. I had never heard of Kluge before this book but I am definitely interested in seeking out more of his writing.
This was a remarkable book, it was small (less than 200 pages) which told the story of John Harrison the English clockmaker who solved the problem of longitude. I had no idea what a giant dilemma this was for early sailors. This book was a quick and fascinating history lesson.
The Bear and the Nightingale
This is a dark Russian fairytale that I knew I would like before I even picked it up. I was so certain that I refused to start it until I bought the sequel so that I wouldn’t be left hanging when I was done. I was not wrong, I enjoyed this book immensely.
The Girl In The Tower
The second book in the Winternight trilogy. I absolutely loved it. While the Bear and the Nightingale was slow and lyrical this book was a fast wild ride, I read it in less than 2 days.
The Winter of the Witch
The concluding book of the Winternight Trilogy, I was in such a hurry to find out what happens in this story that I ordered this book as a rush on Amazon but then had to go check it out of the library before it was delivered, I had it nearly finished by the time my copy arrived.
The Five People You Met In Wawa
This hardly qualified as a book – I think it is all of 50 pages long, but I bought it on Amazon and it was published (albeit self-published). Regardless of its length is super funny, it’s a very DelCo exposition on the people that frequent your neighborhood Wawa store and it is right on point. Anyone from Delaware County (or really anywhere with a Wawa) will read this and shake their heads knowingly.
Shadow Of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This was the first book in the Cemetery of Lost Books trilogy and based on the premise and the recommendation of many people I assumed that I would love these books and bought all 3 ahead of time. Unlike the Winternight trilogy, I was completely wrong on this one. I don’t know if it was his writing style or the book hangover I still had from Katherine Arden but either way I hated this book. I got through 3/4 of it before I decided life was too short to have to keep going.
I chose this short YA book as my final pallet cleanser and it worked although it took me over a week to read this (it’s really something that could be read in an afternoon if you don’t keep putting it down and playing games on your phone every 2-3 pages). I thought this story was pretty formulaic and trite (my same reaction to Wonder) but it won a lot of awards and everyone seemed to love it so maybe it’s just me?
A Piece of the World
Christina Baker Kline
I knew that when Mom insisted that I read this book it was going to be a good one. And it was, it was an incredible read that I could not get through fast enough. It is an historical fiction account of the story behind Andrew Wythe’s famous painting ‘Cristina’s World’. I loved this book.Tran-Atlantic
This book solidified Colum McCann as one of my new most favorite authors, after I read Let the Great World Spin I didn’t think there could be anything comparable. But this book almost does it (still think Spin in the better of the two). McCann is able to weave so many seemingly different and unrelated stories into one beautifully epic tale. I love his books because where you end up is nowhere near where you begin or ever expect to find yourself.
I do not usually read war/soldiers stories and probably wouldn’t have ever picked this up if I had known what it was about. But I didn’t and by the time I figured it out I was sucked in to the story. This is a compelling book about 2 soldiers in Iraq in 2004 and the death of one of them, it read really well and I was done it before I was ready to be.
The End We Start From
This was a short and unique post-apocalyptic novel. The entire thing read like an epic poem, I liked it very much – I read it in one sitting.
The Chris Farley Show
Tom Farley Jr
An odd biography, there is nothing in this book in Chris’s own words, except in the beginning that includes a short motivation speech he once delivered about going through rehab and one letter at the end that he wrote to his parents during his last relapse. However there are no other intimate details from him personally – no letters, no conversations, no communication at all. This entire book is made up of interviews from family, friends and cast members all with their own agendas taken after his death, in hindsight which is always skewed and inaccurate. There is no denying though that the one thing this book is, is tragic. The lesson that we learn from stories like this is that you can’t save people from themselves not even amazingly funny and good people. Which is sad. This book made me sad.
This book was an emotional gut punch. The lesson here is to read the back cover of books before starting them* because even though I really liked this book it was exactly the opposite of what I needed to read after the Chris Farley book. Enjoyable but be warned it is not an easy story to get through.
(*Will never happen)
Secrets from the Vinyl Café
I had never heard of Stuart McLean or the vinyl café before picking this book up at a library sale. I am so glad that I did though, I feel like I stumbled in to a new and wonderful world. McLean is a master storyteller, akin to a Canadian, urban Garrison Keillor. He has created a motley cast of characters and weaves their stories together so well – I would love to get more of his books and if I ever decide I want to try listening to podcasts (unlikely) I would definitely check out the Vinyl Café.
America’s First Daughter
Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
This was an epic historical fiction account of Martha Jefferson Randolph – oldest daughter and confidant to Thomas Jefferson. I really enjoyed this book a lot. I liked her story as well as learning some more history about the founding of our country.
Lost City of the Monkey God
It took me awhile to get in to this book. It is the story of a group of archeologist, academics and adventures who “discover” the legendary Cuidad Blanco (The White City) deep in the Honduras rain forest. The book includes lots of history of the area, a detailed description of the first contact with the city and a harrowing account of a prehistoric disease that the author and the crew brought back with them. The end of this book makes me worry for the future of the human race. SCARY. I’m taking primordial rain forests of my bucket lists of places I want to visit.
Trying to Save Piggy Sneed
I grabbed this book on my way out the door one morning after finishing the Lost City the night before. I needed something that was not going to make me worry about contagious antigens in sand fleas and Irving is one of my all-time favorite authors. I didn’t realize this was a book of essays until I opened it on the train. Like most collection of essays I liked some of this book. I really enjoyed the title piece and there were a few short fictional stories in there that were very “Irving” but a lot of it fell flat. There was a LONG autobiographical memoir that was 80% wrestling and 20% writing that made me glossy eyed. And the last section that was devoted to literary criticism I skipped all together.
The Light between Oceans
I’m really not sure how I feel about this book. It is the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who rescue a baby who washed ashore on their island. Assuming she was an orphan, it wasn’t until she was 4 that they met her birth mother. This book tugs the heartstrings – I felt empathy for all of the characters although I didn’t really like any of them very much. There were no winners in this book.
I needed some levity after the Light between Oceans so I picked this up and it was ok. It’s a collection of essays about Jim raising his 5 children (all under 8) in a 2 bedroom 5 story walk up in NYC. I think this book had a lot more potential to be funnier than it was. I don’t know a lot about Jim Gaffigan (except that he has 5 children) but this book didn’t inspire me to look for anything more from him.
The Rosie Project
This book got A LOT of acclaim through the book club that I follow and I’m not sure I understand what all the hype was about. I thought it was a cute, quirky albeit completely predictable novel. It read like a higher functioning Sheldon Cooper was looking to get married and his search for a “suitable wife”. I read it while I was traveling and it was the perfect mix of fluff and fun that I didn’t need to pay a lot of attention to. I liked it, I did not love it.
People of the Book
This was one of those weird books that I really liked but also struggled with. I thought the whole premise of the story was good and its Geraldine Brooks so you know it’s well written but I had a hard time getting through it. It was the length of a 1 week book that took me almost 3. In the end I am glad I stuck with it – I would definitely recommend it especially to those who love books and history.
I picked this post-apocalyptic book up in the clearance bin of my local Barnes and Noble which should have been my first clue about its content. In general I will read just about anything in this genre however this book was god awful. It was so 1 dimensional and… fluffy that I had a hard time finishing it. I did though – I slogged through to see if it redeemed itself in the end (it did not) it’s part of a trilogy that I have no interest continuing. Full disclosure I did have my Norah’s mixed up and thought this book was by Nora Efron when I first started it (insert eye roll emoji here)
What a wonderful treat after Norah Roberts! I thought this book was brilliant and very well written. It tells the story of Trevor’s upbringing in South Africa, how it was to live as a mixed race child under apartheid and how things changed once it ended. It is first and foremost a story about the relationship he had with his Mother. I was only disappointed that the story ended when he was still a young adult, I wish he had told the tale of how he managed to get out of South Africa and how he made his way to the Daily Show. I highly recommend this book.
A Gentleman in Moscow
This was an excellent novel and as of the end of reading it (8/28) by far my favorite book this year. I had heard feedback from many saying that it was slow and that a lot of people had a hard time getting in to it but I didn’t find that to be true at all. I loved it from the first page and 500 pages later I didn’t want it to end. My only complaint is that I would have liked about 50 more pages to have some closure with it.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I needed something completely different to read after finishing A Gentleman something that I couldn’t compare to that story at all. I’ve had this little novel sitting in the back of my TBR shelf for at least a year now. I liked it – I appreciated it for what it was, an intense coming of age story. I also liked that it was epistolary but as with most things that I read like this I wish I had done so 30 years ago. I feel like at this point I’m so old and jaded and so far removed from any of this being new or shocking that I just gloss over a lot of it. I would suggest reading it but then also loaning it to your 12 year old.
This book is a little bit “The Glass Castle” and a little bit “Under the Banner of Heaven” and all Tara Westover. I liked it VERY much, I read it in hours, not days. It is an autobiography of a girl who grew up in a dysfunctional home, unable to go to school or escape her family’s fundamentalism. Eventually through great personal struggle she manages to escape her family and get herself educated. It’s not a book about being Mormon, but it is – if you think you know this story already, you haven’t heard it like this. Very well written and a must read.
This was an okay book that was twice as long as it needed to be. I appreciated the fact that it taught me something. I had no knowledge of the Russian “night witches” before reading this but the book dragged on and on for me. I felt like it didn’t really get interesting until about half way through and even then I wish they had focused more on the secondary story line as opposed to the “main” story line.
Excellent. This book was a hands down excellent read. I hesitated to even pick it up because my knowledge of Greek mythology is… well… slim to say the least but it didn’t matter. Any background info you needed for this story was all included and in a much more enjoyable and readable way than you learned in high school. I loved this book and unlike the last book that I read felt it could easily have been twice as long as it was. Assassination Vacation
This was a small book inspired by Sarah’s obsession with presidential assassinations. In it she travels to every site, every museum, and every expert on the first 3 presidential assassinations (Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley). I found this book both fascinating and really boring all at the same time. I appreciate Vowell’s dry sarcastic writing style but after a while I just didn’t care anymore.
I want to start off by saying that I liked this book, but I’m not sure that it deserves all of the hype that it has received. To me if felt like if Oprah had called up Alex Haley and asked him to rewrite Roots but geared toward her book club readers it would have been this story. There are some tough and raw sections but overall it seemed somewhat banal and the ending was… wrong.
The Secret Wife of Arron Burr
Susan Halloway Scott
I picked this up after seeing Hamilton and wanting to know more about Aaron Burr. I give this book a solid B-/C+, the story was interesting but MUCH too long and the entire thing finished before their dual. My main desire was to find out what happened after all that but it ended up being a footnote in this 500+ page book. I would like very much to read something else since it seems that that’s where it got interesting – there’s some international travel, some shady business, the formation of a western frontier militia that got him tried for treason and a late in life marriage to a wealthy New York widow who tossed him out and delivered their final divorce papers the day he died, in a boarding house – penniless. I want to read that story!
After slogging through the last two books this was a pure delight. I always enjoy David Sedaris but this might have been the first book of his I read where I enjoyed ALL the essays. I think this is one of his best collections, I read the entire thing in 24 hours and it was exactly what I needed to get the taste of the American Revolution and slavery out of my mouth.
The End of the Affair
I picked this up because I wanted to read a classic and I was interested in Graham Greene ever since John Irving went on and on about him in Piggy Sneed that I read earlier this year. I thought this book was just okay, I didn’t hate it but I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters, I think his intention was to illicit a strong emotional reaction and I didn’t get that at all, maybe I’m dead inside?
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Well, this book confirms that I am not dead inside. What a tragic and well-crafted book. This is a true story of life in the slums of Mumbai, it is a heart wrenching and upsetting read. This book will stay with me for a long time.
I needed a little levity after Mumbai slum life so I picked this up, it’s been sitting in my TBR pile forever. I vaguely remember reading Running with Scissors years ago but I could not recall if I liked it or not. Either way, this book was good, I spent the first part comparing him too much to David Sedaris which was probably unfair – in a way he is a much more relatable (and relatably flawed) than Sedaris. Once I stopped the comparison and just enjoyed his stories for what they are I liked it much better. It was a nice pallet cleanser after my last book.
Oh, this book! I loved this book, it was the story of the 1986 fire that destroyed the LA public library but it was also a 300 page love letter to libraries everywhere. For those of you who think that the library has become irrelevant or a waste of the taxpayers money you should read this book.
The Last Town On Earth
Meh, this was a book I blindly pulled out of my TBR pile that I have no recollection of purchasing (probably in a library sale) I wanted a novel that didn’t make me think too much and I liked the premise of this book – set in the logging camps of the early 1900’s, this book takes place during the great influenza outbreak of 1918. The town has quarantined itself against the flu and this decision to protect itself ultimatly leads to its destruction. I liked but didn’t love this story, I thought it was somewhat lackluster and 3 books from now I probably won’t remember it at all.
Full disclosure I’ve gotten exactly halfway through this book and I don’t really have a desire to go back and continue. I think I actually liked Michele better before listening to this book (I’ve had it playing in the car on road trips) I find her a little bit too anal and self-serving for me. This was a disappointment.
The Feather Thief
Kirk Wallace Johnson
I am also not finished this book yet either although this one I know I definitely will get to the end of. This is a true story of a man so obsessed with rare bird feathers he breaks in to the British Natural History museum to steel them, this is a fascinating look at all things bird related from women’s fashion to fly fishing tiers. I can’t wait to read more of this book.
2 thoughts on “2019: A Year in Books”
I would highly recommend your listening to “Born a Crime.” Trevor Noah reads it, and it is fabulous even after having already read it.
I have heard that!