It’s so, so, so good. But it’s also heartbreaking. Colson Whitehead is a writing master.
It’s so, so, so good. But it’s also heartbreaking. Colson Whitehead is a writing master.
I’m woefully behind on my monthly reading posts, and I have no excuse except that I’ve been busy (and happily) reading. Here’s how the second half of July shook out.
The Line That Held Us by David Joy
Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Cute rom-com that reads fast and funny. I read it in an afternoon, and I almost never do that.
I have to admit that I wouldn’t have picked this up if a trusted friend hadn’t recommended it. I’m glad she did. Read it if you like Sophie Kinsella books. Liking Tom Hanks is 100% optional.
The Body Lies by Jo Baker
This book is totally in my wheelhouse because it features all my favorite book tropes: Teachers, private school, secrets, rain, England.
This isn’t a thriller, though. It’s a thoughtful examination of consent and sexual politics. It also demonstrates the lengths people will go to in order to excuse a badly behaved man.
The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
I adore self-help that’s based on research. This one goes overboard for Adler at times, but I really loved the message. If you worry excessively about what other people think of you, check this one out. You’ll learn how to set boundaries in your own mind.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Guess what? Every decision we make is based on totally irrational thinking. The good news is that most of us act pretty predictably in our irrationality.
This book helped me think more about how marketing works.
A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson
Cool Swedes ride bicycles, drink coffee, and hang out in cool cafes. I would read this book for that alone. But there’s also a slow-burning mystery here that allows the author to explore family dynamics in a very thoughtful way. The structure is interesting, too. I liked the shifting perspectives.
I think my favorite for the second half of July was A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson.
August is almost done, but I hope you’ve had plenty of good reading. I’ll be back soon with my August reads.
I’m grateful to be on sabbatical this semester, which is giving me plenty of time to read for work and for fun!
I’ve finally hit my summer reading groove, and that means I’m reveling in all this time for reading. I’ve started a few books I didn’t finish, but for the most part, I’ve read some good stuff. Here’s what I read in the first half of the month:
The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths
A moody Gothic-inspired suspense novel about Claire Cassidy, an English teacher, who discovers that someone has been leaving notes for her in her journal. When people around her turn up murdered, Claire knows that she is somehow connected to the murderer. I love the shifting viewpoints, especially because each character interprets events and each other in very different ways. It’s an atmospheric thriller that reminded me a lot of Denisa Mina’s Alex Morrow series.
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
This was such a compelling and difficult read. Two girls in India meet and forge a beautiful friendship. After Savitha leaves India because of a horrible crime committed against her, Poornima is forced to marry an indifferent husband and live with his cruel family. When her living situation becomes untenable, Poornima decides she must save herself and find Savitha. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but I will say this is a book about human trafficking. It’s not easy to read, but the characters are so real and courageous and strong that I’m glad I spent time with them.
Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
The first half of the book was an interesting look at all the ways we can be “nudged” by a variety of factors and still believe we are making rational decisions. The second would have resonated more for me if I had been looking for guidance on investing, getting a mortgage, or advising congress on healthcare restructuring. I do think the first half is a good starting point for learning about behavioral economics.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Sometimes you miss out on reading a much-hyped book. This is one I’ve had on my shelf for years, but I’d never gotten around to reading it. Patchett is a glorious writer, as usual, but this wasn’t my favorite of hers. It’s about a group of important people in an unnamed South American country who are gathered to hear an opera singer perform. All goes well until the audience is taken hostage by a guerrilla army.
The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell
If you feel like people are more self-centered than ever before, your perception isn’t wrong. Twenge and Campbell point out all the ways the trait of narcissism is encouraged in our culture. It won’t make you feel any better, but it will help identify ways we can all stop building and rewarding narcissism. (Hint: Stop telling kids they are “princesses” or that they are “special.”)
This book was written in 2009, so some of the references are pretty dated. The authors talk a lot about MySpace, which is kind of funny now. They also dropped a few fat-phobic comments that revealed more about the authors than the subject matter. Still, it’s worth reading.
The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda
I love books with unreliable and unlikable narrators. Jane Harris may be the most unreliable, unlikable narrator I’ve ever encountered. She’s truly horrible. For that reason, I absolutely loved this book. It was the perfect amount of campy without being corny. It’s a great beach reach–if you don’t mind hanging out with someone you’ll loathe. Jane knows just how to keep you on the hook, never revealing too much, and always making you wonder if maybe she really is the victim.
My favorite book for the first half of the month is Girls Burn Brighter.
I have a reading vacation coming up, so here’s hoping the rest of July will be filled with sun and books.
Here’s Amazon’s description:
“The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society.”
I have no real definition of a “summer read.” Whatever I happen to read is a summer read to me. But I do find that in the summer, I read a wider variety of genres. I hop from one to the other and back again, which feels like a far richer experience.
Here’s what I read in June:
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Arthur Less, an author of limited renown, receives an invitation to his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. Instead of going, he decides to accept every other invitation he’s received. While traveling the world, he turns fifty and figures out his life isn’t over yet. This novel is gentle, charming, and satisfying.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
College friends meet up for a New Year’s getaway at a remote estate in Scotland in the midst of a storm. Like any good homage to Agatha Christie, one friend ends up dead. Which person is the victim? Who is the killer? An intriguing locked-room mystery with plenty of cold weather to counteract the summer heat.
The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters
I checked this book out of the library because I thought it was something else, but I ended up reading it anyway. Childhood friends meet up as adults (for New Year’s–I’m sensing an accidental theme in my reading). When Will doesn’t show up, other three friends remember that he once told them he was going to murder three people and nobody would ever know it was him. They start digging and discover that maybe Will has already killed twice. They have to stop him before he gets to three. Of course, nothing is quite as it seems.
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
This book is terrifying. I’m glad I read it, though, and not just because Lewis is an incredible reporter and writer. It’s a great resource for learning about what U.S. federal government agencies do. (Answer: a whole lot.) The Trump administration, in typical fashion, has either filled agencies with unqualified people who are destroying years of important work (either by design or by incompetence), or the departments are just languishing with nobody at the helm. It turns out that I can still be surprised by how many ways the Trump administration is destroying America.
Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly
Billed as a psychological suspense novel, Stone Mothers is about a woman who is still reckoning with decisions she made as a teenager. Told from different voices in different time periods, the narrative weaves threads of a mystery into a larger commentary about mental health treatment.
The Remains of the Day by Kizuo Ishiguro
I read this years ago, but I decided to re-read it after seeing it on a list of summer reading for AP English. I’m not sure I would have appreciated this as a teenager. It’s quietly brilliant because it’s so contemplative. As a high school reader, I would have been too focused on finding the plot. It’s a lovely portrait of a middle-aged man, Stevens, taking a motoring trip to visit a former friend while he reflects on his life as a butler and his work supporting a so-called great man.
My favorite book of June was, hands-down, The Remains of the Day.
Happy Reading in July!
I’m on full-on summer reading mode, which means I binge on psychological thrillers.
I’m currently reading The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters. It’s sufficiently plot-twisty with an original story line, which is saying a lot. When you read a lot of thrillers, they start to blend together. I particularly like the shifting narrators and time periods in this one.
From the publisher:
“What if your childhood friend turned out to be a serial killer? After fifteen years apart, a group of friends discover that one of them might be resurrecting a game from their past. This time with deadly consequences.”
I only sort of remember when the Chernobyl tragedy happened. Seeing it come to life in HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries is definitely going to give me nightmares. But it’s still worth watching.
I’m off to find good books to supplement my viewing experience.
In the meantime, my favorite book about radioactivity is The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French. It’s tender, warm, and funny. In fact, I may re-read it as an antidote to the relentless bleakness of Soviet bureaucracy in Chernobyl.
From the publisher:
“Marylou Ahearn is going to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs. In 1953, the good doctor gave her a radioactive cocktail without her consent, and Marylou has been plotting her revenge ever since. When she discovers his whereabouts in Florida, she hightails it to Tallahassee, moves in down the block from where he resides with his daughter, Caroline, and begins the tricky work of insinuating herself into his life. But she has no idea what a nest of yellow jackets she’s stumbled into. Spriggs is senile, his daughter’s on the verge of collapse, and his grandchildren are a mess of oddballs, leaving Marylou wondering whether she’s really meant to ruin their lives … or fix them.”