Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 Quarter 1 BOOKS

Whoa. Guys, I read TWENTY books January-March of 2017. This pace will not continue, because I've only read 2 so far in Q2. I'm going to play around with different ways of talking books---and I'd love your feedback on what works and doesn't. This time I'm going to review all the 3-5 star books I read and just list out the others (reviews upon request).

The WOW! These are the must-reads. READ THEM. Winter 2017 was an unusually good book season! I don't usually have more than a couple of Wow! books.

Born a Crime (Trevor Noah): So well-written, emotional and informative. There were funny undertones but this wasn't a typical comedic memoir. I learned so much about the history of apartheid in South Africa and was blown away by his depiction of his family relationships.

Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson): I mentioned this one before, but it should be required reading. I admit that capital punishment hasn't really been on my radar as a cause, but reading these incredibly moving stories brought it front and center. The inherent racism, ableism and classism in the criminal justice system guarantee that those with the least will bear the brunt of our "war on crime".

The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver): I can't believe I've never read this before! Its amazing! Its actually my first Kingsolver, and I'm awed at her descriptive passages. While the stories of the missionary family are fascinating, the main character of this book is the Congo, and she really brings it to life.

Exit West (Mohsin Hamid): This was an unexpected favorite. I love how matter-of-fact the protagonists were in their relationship---she really took the "foreign" (and thus "fearsome") aspect out of our young Middle Eastern characters so they were instantly relatable. And I was definitely not prepared for the way we approach the refugee crisis issue by mixing realistic depictions of a war-torn  city whimsically with fantasy elements.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikrey(Gabrielle Zevin): Heart-warming. My favorite kind of story in which random strangers find what they need in each other. And books! 

The Good Books I enjoyed reading or that stayed with me for a while.

Maybe in Another Life (Taylor Jenkins Reid): Chick-lit done (mostly) right and with a cool "Sliding Doors" twist.

The High Mountains of Portugal (Yann Martel): This was truly bizarre but I liked it. Its actually a collection of a few stories in completely different styles, but with an underlying theme (men dealing, or not, with grief).

Today Will be Different (Maria Semple): I related somewhat to that feeling of ennui and desire for self-improvement (obvi), though the ending was unsatisfying.

Truly, Madly, Guilty (Liane Moriarty): This one started off SO GOOD and really engaging. I won't spoil it.

The Mothers (Brit Bennett): The story of the main character was engaging, though the whole conceit of "The Mothers" left me cold.

The Girl Who Saved the King of Scotland and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonnason): I found these funny. I like his wry, humorous style, and they were both pretty good (if far-fetched) stories. I also learned a lot about history and politics. "Hundred-Year-Old Man" was a bit Forrest-Gump-esque and I overall liked it less, but maybe because it was the second one I read and his style was starting to wear on me.

Dark Matter (Blake Crouch): The concept this is based on is mind-blowing. I recommend it for that alone. The execution...could be better.

Here I Am (Jonathan Safran Foer): It took me SO LONG to get into this and I nearly abandoned it until a small anecdote hooked me into the theme. I greatly disliked the main character, and the  pornographic inserts in the beginning added NOTHING to the story. Yet...the theme...really stuck with me. Middle-aged ennui and the overwhelming desire to feel alive and be in the moment. Definitely something I relate to. I also love how he weaved one of the most fascinating parables I've ever heard (Abraham and Isaac) throughout---I've been awed by that story and how it embodied the concept of faith since I first read it many years ago.

My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry (Fredrick Backman): Weird and interesting. Not for everyone---but I enjoyed it. If you're expecting another "Man Called Ove", you'll be disappointed, but I'm a sucker for a precocious, outcast kid finding connections in unexpected places.

The Meh Self-explanatory? These are mostly not TERRIBLE, but forgettable.

Vinegar Girl (Anne Tyler), Amy and Isabelle (Elizabeth Strout), The Intersection (Brad Windhauser), The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Heidi W. Durrow), The Messenger (Lois Lowry), Son (Louis Lowry)


  1. I just started Foer this week, despite my desire not to read books over 400 pages. The fact that I'm 100 pages in suggests that I'll finish it but, yeah, I'm not loving it...

  2. That's a lot of books! I've finally started keeping a list of biiks I want to read, so this will help. My PCP recommended a bunch the last time I saw her, including Just Mercy and My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry.

  3. I'm impressed! I have about 50 books on my to-read list, and your list has added more. There's never enough time when there are so many books!

  4. 20 books is super impressive! I have been keeping the pace of one per week this year which I am proud of but it feels somewhat intense. I don't think I've ever done 20 in three months. I looooove Just Mercy--if you ever have a chance to see Bryan Stevenson, go. I'm sure he'll be speaking in your city at some point. I've seen him three times and I have cried (and been inspired) every time. I also recently read Exit West and the Mothers. I loved them both. I think the Mothers is very impressive for a first novel and I'm looking forward to reading her future novels. Exit West was just beautifully conceived and executed.