If you follow me on Goodreads, I suppose you can stop reading this post. But if I’ve learned anything from Martha Stewart, it’s the principle of synergy. [Sidenote: Everyone should watch the 2003 TV movie Martha, Inc., because it is a hidden gem of a film and Cybill Sheppherd is amazing and hysterical. I may own this on DVD…] So I’m going to go ahead and write all about the books I’ve been reading because I can. And in Martha-speak, my blog will promote my Goodreads account, which will promote my blog…
Main takeaways from what I’ve read so far this year:
- I really love nonfiction, especially memoir, historical, and psychological/spiritual. I love to learn about the world, other people, and myself, and I feel like these genres spur me toward curiosity and empathy.
- I really love fantasy. This probably should have been obvious to me, given my avid interest in Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and all the dytsopian YA series. There’s something glorious about the creativity and beauty of these worlds the authors dreamed up.
I included images/links of the books of the books worth checking out.
A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4) — George R. R. Martin
- Winter is coming. Yes, I have fallen into the Game of Thrones trap. I didn’t adore this book quite as much as the first few. It introduced some new characters that I wasn’t wild about. Books 4 and 5 occur during the same time frame, only focusing on different characters. My favorites (Dany, Jon, etc.) will be featured in Book 5, so I’m excited to start on that. However, as a late GoT convert, I learned that Martin released the first book in 1996…and it’s been 7 years since the fifth. After binge-reading the first four, I don’t know if I’ll have the patience to potentially wait years before the final installments.
Between the World and Me — Ta-Nehisi Coates
- I will just shamelessly quote my Goodreads review of this: This work is incredible, heartbreaking, challenging. I cried many times, reading Coates’ words about struggles I will never understand or experience. Toni Morrison said this book is required reading. Listen to her.
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women — Kate Moore
- This story was fascinating! Moss explored the story of young adult women recruited to paint radium onto watch faces during and beyond the WWI era. Radium caused the watches to glow in the dark and were supplied to troops fighting overseas. Despite growing knowledge of radium’s toxicity, these companies continued to use unsafe practices and kept the women’s own health information from them. As their friends began to mysteriously die and fall ill, some of these ladies fought back and got legal representation. Moore’s extensive research is evident, but instead of just relating facts, she formed these women into compelling, three-dimensional characters to root for. If you’re interested in nonfiction that dives into historical events, or books about interesting, fierce ladies you should read this.
- I didn’t love this book. It might be one that I read at the wrong time. While I didn’t particularly care for the style overall, Holleran’s descriptions of his surroundings and the streets of Washington D.C. were haunting and beautiful. It sort of trails off, which I did like, as grief is never totally resolved, and the complicated questions and wonderings are never fully answered. Maybe I liked this more than I thought. I may need to read it again.
The Whole Thing Together — Ann Brashares
- Meh. I wanted another Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-esque light, fun read. I probably should have just read that again instead.
My Absolute Darling — Gabriel Tallent
- Reading this book taught me that I can give myself permission from now on to stop reading books I don’t like. I checked it out after seeing it on all the “Best of” lists last year. I fell victim to the pretty, leafy cover art. However, I did not like this book. It should have come with a trigger warning for emotional and physical abuse and sexual violence — in the first chapter alone. I thought this would be about a spunky teenage girl named Turtle who adventured out into the wilderness, like Hatchet, but it wasn’t. I could tell it was written by a man. He wrote it in third-person narrative, which felt like a weird choice, as if he was watching the horrifying things happening to her and over-describing them in gritty detail. The only part I liked was the ending, but it wasn’t worth reading the entire thing to get there.
Where the Light Gets In: Losing My Mother Only to Find Her Again — Kimberly Williams-Paisley
- I read this beautiful memoir while traveling to visit friends in Chicago. I cried in my scratchy coach bus seat as I followed the progression of her mother’s rare form of dementia, primary progressive aphasia, and the illness’s effect on their entire family. Williams-Paisley was honest and vulnerable about how her relationship with her mom changed. It was deeply moving. And now, as I mourn the loss of my grandma who lived with dementia herself, I find comfort and kinship with all those who are coping with the ongoing grief of witnessing a loved one’s memory slip away. What I read here and what I am learning to be true is that there is joy and meaning to be found in every stage of life, especially in the lives of those who aren’t able to engage with the world in the ways they used to.
Rising Strong — Brené Brown
- Yes, I read another Brené Brown book. And I am currently reading another. I admire her, as a professional and a human. I love the way she allows (perhaps begrudgingly) the themes and truths that emerge in her research to reorient how she approaches herself and the world. I started reading this almost 2 years ago. When I picked it back up in January, my old bookmark was still tucked somewhere in the first chapter. Maybe my body or somewhere deep in my brain knew that I didn’t need it then, but I needed it now. It’s a book about the struggle and hard work of standing back up after disappointment, failure, and heartbreak. I saw myself and my story in the pages, underlining and writing notes in the margins as I read. I’ll just share one passage, and then you should go out and read this.
- “I’m slowly learning how to straddle the tension that comes with understanding that I am tough and tender, brave and afraid, strong and struggling–all of these things, all of the time. I’m working on letting go of having to be one or the other and embracing the wholeness of wholeheartedness.” (p. 250)
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania — Erik Larson
- Another historical piece from the best-selling author of The Devil in the White City. As someone whose knowledge of the history around WWI is lacking (I’m looking at you, high school teachers) I was engrossed in this work about the passenger ship Lusitania and how it fit in with the United States’ involvement in the war. The chapters switch focus between the passengers on the ship, the captain, President Wilson, Winston Churchill and British war strategists, and the German U-boat captain. Absolutely fascinating!
Coming Clean — Kimberly Rae Miller
- I discovered this memoir for free through Amazon Prime ebook reading. Miller writes about her upbringing and adult life with parents who are hoarders. I liked this much more than I expected I would. I felt for the author and her struggle between loving and adoring her parents and becoming frustrated and distant from them. Her writing brought humanity to this disorder that is easy to stereotype and make assumptions about. It’s a quick, easy read and I recommend it.
A Wrinkle in Time — Madeleine L’Engle
- In anticipation of the upcoming film adaptation, I reread this classic. What a delightful book! I forgot how interesting the characters and the story were. A quick children’s/YA read, with spiritual themes gently woven in. Love it.
Learning to Walk in the Dark — Barbara Brown Taylor
- My friend Hope sent this book to me, saying that it helped her rethink how she thinks about darkness and trying times. I haven’t read anything by Taylor, and after this book, I want to read everything she’s every written. This is one of those works that changes things. It changes how I understand things that have happened in my life, how I will approach new struggles, how I read the Bible, how I understand God, and how I understand myself. Her journey through this book follows the stages of the moon. I have always loved the moon and stars (I have a star chart), I found this connection to the lunar cycle so beautiful and a perfect illustration. This book also has one of the loveliest covers.
Let me know what books you’ve been into this year! Any recommendations? Happy reading, friends.