This year, I set a goal to read 45 books. I’ve been tracking my progress on Goodreads, and this weekend, I finished my forty-first book of 2015. I gave myself a pat on the back and moved on to the next book on my bedside table.
Back in July, I updated you on what I had been reading. Since then, I’ve laughed and cried my way through 14 books. These books have been a life raft during difficult times. They have even been an escape from grief and sadness, and for that, I am forever grateful to the authors of each of these stories. Books may teach and inspire us, but they also take us away—sometimes when we need to be anywhere than where we are.
My 14 books are a mix, some easy “chick lit,” others moving classics. Here’s what’s kept my mind buzzing… Hopefully, one (or more) of them will answer the question of “what should I read next?”
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon – Another Outlander book? Yes, of course! This book focuses on John Grey, a secondary character in the early Outlander books, and is filled with military maneuvers and a mystery to solve. Verdict: Not my favorite of the Lord John books (not enough Jamie Fraser!) but a must-read for any fan of this popular series.
Mislaid by Nell Zink – I can’t remember where I heard about this book, and I am so glad I found it. Mislaid is the story of identity, told through the lens of a Southern family. It’s a well-written, engaging story, and I found that it stayed with me for some time after I turned the last page. Verdict: Add it to your to-read list.
Bossypants by Tina Fey; Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling –I started a run of reading memoirs of female comedians last year beginning with Amy Poehler’s Yes Please (which I really liked). Kaling and Fey are other comic superstars whose books have been bestsellers, and they are why audio books are addictive: with the author as narrator, the reader benefits from hearing their words just as they intended. Plus, these are funny ladies, and they have a lot to say. I enjoyed the behind the scene peeks of life on their television shows, and especially appreciated Kaling’s chapter about confidence in Why Not Me? Verdict: Put these books on your to-read list if you need a giggle or are dreaming of a career in comedy. Start with Fey’s book; if it’s for you, move on to Kaling.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald – In this award-winning book, Macdonald weaves together the story of TH White, a falconer and novelist, with her journey to raise a hawk named Mabel and to find her way through her grief over her father’s death. I was reading this book when my mother passed away in August, and found comfort in Macdonald’s sadness. It’s a compelling, quiet read, and one of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year. Verdict: Add it to your to-read list.
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham – A book by Lorelai Gilmore? I’m in! Well, Lauren Graham, the actress who played Lorelai on the “Gilmore Girls,” is the real author of this sweet story about a young actress’ efforts to make it big. You’ll wonder, like I did, how much of the novel was fiction and how much was based upon Graham’s road to TV stardom. Verdict: Pack this one in your beach bag, or snuggle up on the sofa to read it during a snowstorm.
Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin – I can usually find something positive in every book, but not this one. Frivolous and silly, Primates of Park Avenue is an “anthropological study” of women who live on the Upper East Side of New York City. According to the book, these women are rich, addicted to exercise, and consumed with worry about what everyone thinks of them. The author falls victim to the Alpha Female of the group, and the story sounds way too much like high school. Verdict: I don’t recommend this book—unless, of course, you live and have lived on the Upper East Side. Then, read it to find out if you know the people the author is writing about.
The Martian by Andy Weir – My Book Club selected this bestseller, and we’re going to see the movie based upon it later this month. The best part of our discussion about The Martian was when one of our members who works in the astronomy field brought out a globe of Mars so we could trace the journey across the planet that the main character takes in the books. Verdict: This is a great read for anyone interested in space, with dreams, as a kid (like me), of becoming an astronaut someday.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – This classic was one of my Book Club’s 2015 picks. I was surprised to get to my 40s never having read it. The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of family moving across the US during the Depression, and is very sad. Its very real—and often hopeless—depiction of extreme poverty and loss captures a desolate time in American history. Beautifully, beautifully written, this book got under my skin. Verdict: Read it when you time to commit to this story (and then follow it with something light).
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – A singular voice, Jenny Lawson has super stardom status in the blogging world, thanks to her website, The Bloggess. I saw her speak at a conference a few years ago and fell in love with her hilarious and deeply honest take on life. Both of her books are bestsellers, and I understand why. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened features stories about Lawson’s childhood in Texas, her love of taxidermy, and her years spent in corporate human resources. I’m not sure there’s another book out there like Furiously Happy; in it, Lawson manages to make mental illness funny while simultaneously educating her readers about what it’s like to live with anxiety, depression, and other disorders. I highly recommend Furiously Happy for anyone seeking to understand mental illness and those with mental illness looking for a kindred spirit. For both books, I suggest getting the audio version; Lawson narrates both and includes bonus material. Verdict: Read them both!
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene – Here’s another classic I hadn’t read until this year. This one, my friends, is sad. It’s about lost love and forgiveness, and its prose draws you in, even as the characters are cruel and hurtful to one another. I loved The End of the Affair, but it’s not for the reader looking to be cheered up. As Graham writes, “Pain is easy to write. In pain we’re all happily individual. But what can one write about happiness?” Verdict: Read it.
The Bride by Julie Garwood – A friend gave this book to me as a present. The Bride is her favorite book, and she hoped I would enjoy it as much as she does. I love these kinds of gifts! The Bride is a romance novel, a lá Outlander: it takes place in Scotland, there’s a forced marriage and lots of chemistry between the two main leads. I read it in less than 24 hours! Verdict: Another one to pack in your beach bag, or snuggle up with on the sofa to read during a snowstorm.
One of my tricks for making it through so many books this year has been to read two books (sometimes three) at once: one via Audible on my commute to work and the other on the Kindle app on my phone or (gasp!) via a good old-fashioned, actual printed book. Currently, I’m reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Lauren Hillenbrand. Unbroken is my audio book, and I estimate it will be done in about a week, shorter if I hit traffic. Earlier this year, I had tried reading Unbroken in paperback but couldn’t get into it; the audio book, however, is terrific.
What’s next on my reading list? A Little Life, Wild, Purity…So many books, so little time!
What’s the best book you’ve read this year so far?
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Loved Unbroken! So hard but really great. See the movie when you are finished!