Summer Reading, 2017

Dear readers, today I’m linking to my favorite summer reading guides, and highlighting a couple of titles from each. But what I really want to know is which books you’ve moved to the top of your list this summer. What should I be reading?


Modern Mrs. Darcy

Every Wild Heart because it’s inspired by Delilah. Yes, soft-rock radio station nighttime host Delilah!

Windfall just came in for me at the library and I’m loving it so far. Frothy YA is just right for the start of summer.

When Dimple Met Rishi has popped up on a couple lists I’ve seen, and I like the premise.

Hello Sunshine, because I liked Eight Hundred Grapes.

Anything is Possible I read My Name is Lucy Barton so fast, I wonder if I’ll even pick up on the characters who carry over from that story? Should I reread Lucy Barton first?

Everyday Reading

Walkable City It seems like there are a whole host of books about urban design out there, and that this has Janssen’s stamp of approval means a lot to me.

A Mother’s Reckoning because I read Columbine, and everyone is talking about this one.I think it will be a great follow-up.

Dark Matter because I started it but got carried away with other things, and had to return it, but I liked the start.

Moon Over Manifest because it’s been on my list to read forever (I own a copy!), and it’s about time I get around to reading it.

May Reads

This month was shaping up to be a total dud. I had two weeks with the craziest schedule of commitments, and when all was said and done (plus a couple days of more Netflix than I’m comfortable admitting), I am so glad my New Year’s resolution is to read every day. My life felt out-of-whack, and I couldn’t figure out why my calendar had more wiggle room, but I still felt stressed and confused.


I wasn’t reading.

Just Read:

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, by Jancee Dunn – This is the book that brought me out of that spell. I hate the title, and I don’t use that term lightly. I think a lot of people will glance at this book and think, “I don’t hate my husband and I have kids, so this isn’t the book for me.” And it IS! Or, it might be! For a lot more people than the small amount who would go so far as to use the word hate to describe their feelings for their spouse.

Confessions of a Slacker Wife, by Muffy Mead Ferro – This book had been lingering on my to-read list for years until I found a used copy and decided to pick it up just the other day. I assumed it was a novel, but no. A delightful collection of essays from a Wyoming-based writer. I love anyone who makes their ordinary life sound beautiful.

Also, this, this, this, and this, all largely forgettable.


Confession of a Slacker Mom, by Muffy Mead Ferro – The volume I read is actually her second book, so I’m backtracking here to read the first.

Maeve’s Times, by Maeve Binchy – Wooden Nickels introduced me to Circle of Friends years and years and years ago, and oh, how I fell head over heels for Maeve. She writes these cozy novels, usually set in small towns in Ireland, and delightful is an apt description of almost all of them. If you read enough, you’ll find some of the same characters pop up here and there in other novels, which is like meeting old friends again. This is a collection of columns she wrote for the Irish Times, compiled over about 40 years. I’m reading them here and there when I have short bits of time.

Want to Read:

Pretty much anything frothy and light* for summer, especially this and this.

*It should be noted I have both Americanah and Cutting for Stone on loan from readers I respect and admire, but they might be on hold until our beach trip, during which I hope to have at least a couple of stretches of more than 30 minutes in which to fit my reading.

April Reads

Before we get into what I read in April (which, spoiler alert, was largely, meh), let’s highlight two great reading-related posts on other corners of the internet.

From GQ, How to Read a Whole Damn Book. I don’t do everything the author suggests, but I love the tone of the article. Just read a book. It’s not that hard. Stop Instagramming your book, stop trying to get to the end of something because you think you should, just read. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.

And from Everyday Reading, Janssen picked 3 books she’ll read this summer, based on her readers’ suggestions. I loved Echo when I read it last spring, and I remember seeing Ali was reading Loving My Actual Life. I ordered it right away when it came back up here, and I can’t wait to start it.


Now on to my meh month. March was full of great reads, and April left me feeling lackluster (except at the very end). Onward.

Just Read:

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson – I didn’t agree with a lot of his views on how much people were or were not to blame in a lot of cases, which meant this one wasn’t my favorite. Also, I thought it already felt a little dated, which isn’t surprising in an ever-changing field of social media.

The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines, and some guy who interviewed them and transcribed it without his questions and called it this book – It’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. A fun, quick read.

The Happiest Kids in the World, by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison – On the plus side, I learned that it is acceptable to eat chocolate sprinkles on toast and call it breakfast. On the minus side, this book seems like it was cranked out quickly because we love books about ways other cultures get life right. I wish it was more in depth, and not so general.

Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes – Without a doubt the highlight of the month for me. It’s written for middle grade students, but I’d recommend it to anyone who was a student on September 11 as well.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood – I had to plow through this one, and as I only just finished it, I’m not entirely sure what I think yet. I liked it-ish? I assumed it would be more of a page-turner, and for me, it wasn’t. I am obviously someone who loves middle grade fiction, so maybe that’s why, but I do think The Giver is a better take on dystopian futures than this one. Excited to watch the Hulu series nonetheless.

Today Will be Different, by Maria Semple – I love her. I love her writing. I want to say that no one does frazzled suburban moms better than Maria Semple, but that claim, though true, would turn off 90% of potential readers. This isn’t a mommy-book, but it is. In the same way Bernadette wasn’t, but was. I don’t know how to write about Semple’s books other than to tell you that so much of what makes her so great is in how unique her writing is. She defies categorization and writes the snarkiest, driest literature I’ve ever read. Flat out loved this one, as will anyone else who often feels pulled in a zillion directions at once.


At Home in the World, by Tsh Oxenreider – Always love hearing from Tsh. This one went on super-sale for Kindle, so I snagged it about a week ago.

My (Not So) Perfect Life, by Sophie Kinsella – She was one of the first chick lit authors who drew me back into reading in late high school and college.  I loved the Shop-a-holic books, but then her later stuff fell flat for me. This one has been fun, if formulaic, so far.

Want to Read:

Gracious, by Kelly Williams Brown – I loved Adulting, and this seems like it’s the kind of thing I love reading.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese – I’ve wanted to read this forever, and a friend just gifted me her copy, so it’s time.

March Reads

Color Outside the Lines: Delays, Bookshelves, and Cowhides

I’m obsessed with these chunky built-ins. (image)

Just Read:

Columbine, by Dave Cullen – I’m going to gush about this book longer than I have about others. It’s so good. I have a lot more questions, and I would have read 500 more pages if Cullen had written them. I was in high school when the murders at Columbine High School happened. I remember turning on the TV expecting Oprah (as any 15 year old would), and getting completely sucked in to the media coverage. Cullen was a journalist on site that day, and after years of extensive research, he gives us an incredibly detailed account of what really went on not only that day in April, but years before, and years after. Spoiler alert: the media got a lot of it wrong. As I read, I thought for sure the story of the Lutheran minister who helped one of the shooters’ parents hold a private memorial service for their son would be the story that stuck with me. And then I got to the first day of the following school year. Hundreds of parents and community members formed a human wall around the high school to protect the returning students from the media so they could have their own moment walking through the doors again. I was sobbing as I read. But that was one of the few parts that brought me to tears. This is good journalism, and while I’d love to get Cullen to answer about a million questions I still have, many as foll0w-ups to what he wrote, this book is worth reading.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas – Another one about a shooting, but this is a YA novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. It debuted at number 1 on the YA best seller list, which is a giant deal. I ordered it the next day and gobbled it up. I feel about it the way I feel about Wonder, which is to say it is nowhere near flawlessly written, but it is a book that everyone should read. I’m still turning aspects of this one over in my head and I finished about two weeks ago.

Shrill, by Lindy West -I dont’ know. It’s a collection of essays, and there are some winners. But also losers. The first couple chapters had me laughing out loud, but sometimes I found her more whiny than she was making her point.

Hungry Heart, by Jennifer Weiner – Winner. Total winner. Another series of essays, almost all fantastic, from someone who is truly a grounded, and confident person. Loved it. Recommend it, even if you’re not into her chick lit. Though, she’ll tell you to stop looking down on chick lit!

The Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney – A middle grade novel, written in verse, about a young girl escaping the horrors of Darfur. I enjoyed it, but I kept thinking, would my students?


Etiquette and Espionage, by Gail Carriger – I have done a wonderful job staying on pace for 52 books this year, but a terrible job at consciously fitting them into the Pop Sugar categories. So I’m attacking this steampunk novel because it’s part of the challenge, and because it was just sitting on the YA shelf waiting for me to pick it up. It’s definitely different, and may serve as both my first and only steampunk novel, but I can commit to finishing.

Want to Read:

In The Great Green Room, by Amy Gary – because I have read Goodnight Moon infinity times (I love it, though, it never gets old to me).

So You’ve Been Publically Shamed, by Jon Ronson – because everyone on the internet raves about it.

February Reads

Guys. My New Year’s resolution was to read every day. I have read every day. It has undoubtedly been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. There have been only 3 nights I’ve read a single page (That’s what I told myself. At least one page. Every day.) There have been a wealth of nights I have thought, “It’s just going to be a one-page night,” and I read so much more. Those people who say to start small when you’re trying to change a habit might be on to something there.

Ideal Bookshelf 974: Feminists

(Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf – Feminist Edition)

Just Read:

Find the Good, by Heather Lende – Short, sweet, and worth a quick read.

Deconstructing Penguins, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone – I had this on hold at the library for years, years! Not because a million people were waiting, but because there was one copy, and I’m assuming it got lost. I finally broke down and ordered it. While I didn’t agree with everything the authors taught or chose to read with their book clubs, there’s a lot of good here.

You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott – Total quick-read, page turner, in the unreliable narrator, and creepy situations genre that has taken the book-world by storm in the last couple of years. I thought it was (seriously racy) YA, but turns out, Megan Abbott is shelved in the adult sections of both the libraries I’ve visited. I swear Anne referred to it as YA in Episode 63, and I swear The Skimm called The Fever YA when they picked it as a Skimm read. Know that it follows both adult, and young adult characters, if that makes a difference in your selection.

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon – Classic YA. Completely predictable plot. So good anyway. Short chapters mean you can plow through it quickly.

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – I love, love, love Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She is equally adept at writing for kids and grown ups. This is a grown up volume, and oh-man, does Amy have a was of noticing the little things that might otherwise slip by unnoticed.

Sabbath in the Suburbs, by Mary Ann McKibben Dana – The idea of sabbath is a fave of mine. This is written by an associate pastor at a church in Northern Virginia, about her family’s experiment with Sabbath and rest. Such a quick read, and I found myself highlighting lines on almost every page.


The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon – Consensus on my bookstagram feed is that this is the better of Yoon’s two books. Loving it so far.

Want to Read:

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood – I’ve never read it and I want to watch the series on Netflix. But, of course, gotta read the book first.

Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow – I have plans to go see it (again – love this show) in D.C. this spring and it’s about time I read the original story.

January Reads


Just Read

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett – This was on so many people’s favorites for the year and I felt very meh about it.  If you asked, I’d tell you it was good, and to read it if you thought you might be interested already.  But I didn’t think the characters had much depth, and while I loved the idea of the church mothers as a chorus in the book, I didn’t think they were played up quite enough either.

Juniper, by Thomas and Kelley French – Oh my goodness gracious, this book.  I loved it.  I was nervous about reading it, having had Gooplet not too, too long ago, and indeed, I found myself SOBBING through parts of it.  But in the good, cathartic sobbing kind of way. The story is gripping, and I was surprised that I found the father’s side of it far more endearing. Highly recommend for anyone, but especially for anyone with a child.

Saving Red, by Sonya Sones – I’ve been reading her since her first book came out. This one was neither her worst nor her best, but it was a quick, mostly enjoyable YA read.


Two Naomis, by Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich, and Audrey Vernick – It had been so long since I read middle grade fiction, and this one popped up on the Nerdy Book Club’s best of 2016* list.  On my next trip to the library, it was front and center on the new arrivals shelf.  I have impossibly high standards for middle grade fiction (seriously, impossible), and this one is good. I also love how it shows diverse characters without needing to be A BOOK ABOUT DIVERSE CHARACTERS.

Far From the Tree, by Andrew Solomon – I’ve seen this book mentioned in almost all of my favorite parenting and teaching reads (side note, those two genres of books almost always overlap), so I’ve always wanted to read it.  But here’s the thing.  It’s 706 pages!  So, with any luck, you’ll see it in my “Just Read” post by the end of the year.

Want to Read

Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk, because it got a ton of buzz this year, because it just picked up a Newbery Honor, and because it was originally intended as an adult book, and somehow ended up on middle grade shelves.  All in.
*It should be noted that 2016, the year when it wasn’t my job to read middle grade fiction anymore, looks like the best year for middle grade fiction in a long, long time.  I’m eager to read almost every book linked there.


2017 Reading Challenge – The (Somewhat Annotated) Plan

In 2015 and 2016, I took the PopSugar Reading Challenge.  But really, I just read what I was going to read anyway, and looked at how the books fit, or didn’t, into the categories.  In 2017, I’m wondering whether a little bit of planning will take me a longer way.

(Also, I read Anne’s post about planning and thought it sounded wise.)
As best as I could, I picked 3 possibilities in each category PopSugar gave me, and had too much fun putting this list together over the last couple weeks of 2016.  Way too much fun.  I combed my Amazon wish list, my own bookshelves, and the titles of a ton of library books I’ve had to return before I could read them (I always take photos and keep them in an album in my phone so I remember to come back to them some day).  I left some categories completely up to Google.  And in the process, of course, my TBR list grew even longer than it already is.  And I grew so excited about where 2017 will take me in my reading life.
There are a lot of serious books on this list.  But there are also some comfort reads.  There are books for adults, for young adults, and for kids, because I read a mix of all three.  There are fiction and non-fiction books.  There are steampunk novels.  I didn’t even know what those were until I pulled this list together.  And there are Amish romances, but I’ll let you keep reading till you get to those.
I tried hard not to include duplicate authors, because although there are some whose backlists I am dying to get through, that’s not what a reading challenge is about.  There are, I believe, three or four exceptions to that self-imposed rule.
And so many of these titles have some sort of note like, “I never would have picked this up, but…” and I think that’s a great thing.
Cheers, dear readers, and of course, happy reading!
A book recommended by a librarian:
I don’t know yet, I’ll have to ask.
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A book that’s been on your TBR list too long:

Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome (Someone very special to me told me this was one of her favorite books TEN YEARS AGO.  It’s time.)
An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green (Haven’t loved anything except The Fault in our Stars, but this one sounds like my kind of thing.)
Quiet, by Susan Cain (Perhaps it will shed some light in what happens in the heads of my favorite introverts–my husband, SCL,and Cari Faye.)

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A book of letters:
Last Days of Summer, by Steve Kluger (Wooden Nickels read this and loved it.)
Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell (I’ve started this a zillion times and never gotten very far.)
Dear Mr. Knightly, by Katherine Reay
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An audiobook:
Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin Manuel Miranda
In the Country We Love, by Diane Guerrero (Started.  Got distracted, see below.  Need to finish.)
Harry Potter, by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale (Gooplet and I have already listened to the first 2.)
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A book written by a person of color:
Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon (My literary internet circle is obsessed with this book.  The new Eleanor and Park?  Have to read.)
Between the World and Me, by Ta Nehisi Coates
Changing my Mind, by Zadie Smith (Have been wanting to try one of hers for a while, and I think I’ll start here.  Ever since I read American Housewife, and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, I’m super into collections of essays and short stories.)
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A book with one of seasons in the title:
Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright
Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (This has nothing to do with autumn.)
The Penderwicks in Spring, by Jeanne Birdsall
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A story within a story:
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (I’ve never seen it.  I mean read it.  Both, actually.  I am living in a pop-cultural black hole here, so this is probably the one I should pick.)
The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Adieh (Honestly, this doesn’t look like something I’d reach for, but I do know a real live young adult who loved it a lot.  So maybe.  Maybe.)
Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke
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A book with multiple authors:
Two Naomis, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick (This made The Nerdy Book Club’s list of best middle grade fiction of the year, and I need more middle grade novels in my life.)
Click, by 10 authors!
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
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An espionage thriller:
(This category is so out of my comfort zone, so power to me if I actually get one read. Two possibilities is plenty–I couldn’t find a third I was truly excited about.)
The Chemist, by Stephenie Meyer (I mean, she wrote Twilight, so maybe I’ll like this?)
The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum
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A book with a cat on the cover:
Thought for sure I’d be scrambling to find something in this category that excited me, but I want to read all three of these a lot.  Pumped about that.
Maeve’s Times, by Maeve Binchy (Reading Maeve Binchy is like coming home.  I love her.)
Whittington, by Alan Armstrong
Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
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A book written by an author who uses a pseudonym:
Another category where I couldn’t get excited about a third option.  So two will do.
All the Wrong Questions Series, by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler)
The Cormoran Strike Series, by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)
Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen (Karen von Blixen-Finecke)
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A best seller in a genre you don’t usually read:
The Martian, by Andy Weir (It’s about time.)
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (I hear it has great 80s references, and that might be what pulls me through.)
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch (Every time I see this author’s name, I think of Barty Crouch, from Harry Potter. That has nothing to do with this actual book.)
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A book about a person with disability:
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison (And then I can watch the series on Netflix!)
Say What You Will, by Cammie McGovern
Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Have started it twice.  Sometimes I think that means I should leave well enough alone.  Stop trying to make it happen; it’s not going to happen.  We’ll see.)
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A book involving travel:
The Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell (Started it last year and got distracted with other books.  Gotta get back to hygge-ing these chilly months up!)
Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson  (Love his observations on the quirks of daily life.)
The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson (See above.)
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A book with a subtitle:
Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, by Mara Wilson (I love that she wrote a book.  Hand me Mara over Lauren Graham and Anna Kendrick’s books anyday.)
The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude, by Margaret Visser (Always room for more gratitude.)
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A book published in 2017:
TBD, but I do have This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel, on preorder thanks to the What Should I Read Next podcast, and heard about The Garden of Small Beginnings, by Abbi Waxman, on my beloved From the Front Porch podcast.
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A book involving mythical creature:
A Wind in the Door, by Madeline L’Engle (Pretending that this would be a new one, because I probably read it in 1994.)
Something from The Chronicles of Narnia (I have only read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I’m sure at least one of these has another mythical creature in it.  Or maybe Mr. Tumnus makes another appearance.)
City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare (BookTubers love YA lit, and they overwhelmingly love Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.  Worth a try, perhaps?)
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A book you’ve read before that always makes you smile:
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin (This book is brilliant.  Last year was the first year in 9 years I haven’t reread it, and I missed it.  And it made me realize it might be my favorite book of all time.)
The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin (I.  Love.  This.  Book.  And it’s in line with much of what I’m looking for in my life in 2017.)
My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett
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A book about food:
Only in Naples, by Katherine Wilson (Give me all the foodie memoirs; especially the ones set in Italy.)
Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl (I read her novel this summer, but I know non fiction is her sweet spot.  Pun absolutely intended.)
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A book with career advice:
The Most Important Thing, by Avi (I have this from the library.  I dream of reading all 7 stories in one sitting.  I imagine I’ll sob uncontrollably.)
Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, by Paul Bloom (In putting this post together, I sought recommendations from everywhere.  So much so that I don’t remember where this one popped up on my radar.  The author is arguing that babies are born with a sense of morality, and even the beginnings of a sense of justice.  Babies?  Really?  I’m in.)
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A book written from a nonhuman perspective:
Pax, by Sarah Pennypacker (Saw this on a lot of “Best of…” lists for 2016, so this should be good.)
A Nest for Celeste, by Henry Cole
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London (Always wish I would read more classics.)
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A steampunk novel:
Had no idea what steampunk even was, and PopSugar realized a lot of people didn’t either, so they gave us this.  All my picks come from their list.)
Etiquette and Espionage, by Gail Carriger
Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare
Spare and Found Parts, by Sarah Maria Griffin
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A book with a red spine:
Saving Red, by Sonya Sones (I don’t know if this has a red spine, but it has “red” in the title, and red on the cover, and I love Sones’ books, and I was crazy excited to see this new one.)
The Romeo and Juliet Code, by Phoebe Stone
Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton (Started this as soon as it was published and then I stalled out.  Definitely want to finish now that Glennon’s story has a new chapter.)
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A book set in the wilderness:
The Thickety, by J.A. White
The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown (Kidlit that seemed to make a lot of favorite lists in 2016)
To Stay Alive, by Skila Brown (This is a novel, told in verse, about the Donner and Reed parties, on their westward journey.  I love this period of historydeborah
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A book you loved as a child:
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls (Have not revisited this one since my fourth grade teacher read it aloud and I fell in love with it.  And I never listened during read aloud.)
The Giver, by Lois Lowry (Sigh.  Favorite.)
Matilda, by Roald Dahl (Forever and always.)
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A book written by an author from a country you’ve never visited:
Before We Visit the Goddess, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Even more so after hearing Anne tell me it’s a novel told through a series of short stories; see Episode 48.)
Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
Forty Rooms, by Olga Grushin (The idea here is that a woman’s life takes place in 40 rooms over the course of her life.  A kitchen where she learned to cook, a dorm room that was the scene of her worst break up, you get the idea.  This book follows a woman through those rooms.  Love that idea, and that perspective.)
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A book with a title that’s a characters name:
Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
Veronica Mars, by Rob Thomas
Juniper, by Kelley and Thomas French (This one is going to be tough, but the true story sounds incredibly compelling.  This couple–award winning journalists–had a daughter at 23 weeks gestation.  Shivers.)
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A book set during wartime:
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (I’ve started this one before, but oh, do I struggle with any book that takes longer than about 3 days to read.  But, oh, how I love the movie, in all its grandeur.)
The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
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A book with an unreliable narrator:
This is going to come across snootier than I mean it to sound, but I have read all the Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Luckiest Girl Alive, insert title with “Girl” in it here that are so popular right now.  So I went in a different direction with this category.
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess (I don’t know if I can stomach this one, but I’ve always wanted to try the tale.)
Wuthering Heights, by Charlotte Bronte
Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk (Shudders just thinking about it.)
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A book with pictures:
The Man in the Ceiling, by Jules Feiffer
Lumberjanes, vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy, by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen (Going with a graphic novel is to be expected here, and this is the series everyone was talking about last summer.)
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A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you:
Ghost, by Jason Reynolds (There is a whole lotta drama about this publishing of this book, that I didn’t realize was happening.)
You Can’t Touch My Hair, by Phoebe Robinson (Yes, I know it’s a series of essays, and thus, she is not really a character.  But I want to read it, and this is my list, so.)
The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata (I loved Kira, Kira, and then never read any of her other titles.  This is a past National Book Award winner, so perhaps the next place to go?)
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A book about an interesting woman:
The Sound of Gravel, by Ruth Wariner (In addition to a fascination with Amish culture, see below, I am endlessly intrigued by Mormons and their faith.)
It’s What I Do, by Lynsey Addario (Was eyeing this when it came out, and, like so many other books, it slipped off my radar.  Note to self: read this!)
A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard
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A book set in two time periods:
The Muse, by Jessie Burton
The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton (I’m not entirely sure, but I think all of her books switch between two time periods.  And I’ve been meaning to read one of hers.  She’s one of those authors that Target pretty much discovered, which I think is awesome. Anything that gets people reading is a great thing.  This was her book that sold like hotcakes there.)
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg (I’m not sure this is a true dual timeline novel, but then again, the category doesn’t say a dual timeline novel, does it?  I’ve always wanted to read this tale of life in the south, even more so after I heard someone gush about the way Fannie Flagg writes about food.)
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A book with a month or day of the week in title:
The Wednesday Sisters, by Meg Waite Clayton
Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George
The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim
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A book set in a hotel:
Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia
A Room with a View, by E.M. Forster
The Inn at Rose Harbor, by Debbie Macomber (Have never read any of hers and I have a friend who is devouring them.  This looks like such a perfect, frothy, summer read.  Though my life’s dream is to own a bookstore with SCL, running an inn sure sounds charming too, no?)
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A book written by someone you admire:
Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier (This woman took the Babysitters Club Books and turned them into such high-quality graphic novels.  My admiration for her is through the roof.)
A Circle of Quiet, by Madeline L’Engle (Madeline L’Engle, I mean, come on!)
I Thought it Was Just Me, by Brene Brown (I don’t know if I admire Brene Brown, because I’ve never read anything of hers.  A whole lot of the internet admires her, though.  I somehow missed this title, and it sounds like it’s for me.)
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A book becoming movie in 2017:
Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers (Have read the first, but the movie is supposed to be based on more than just that piece of Travers’ series.)
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (Loved the Patchett I read this summer.  Bring on more!)
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A book set around a holiday not Christmas:
A lot of what I could find here were mysteries and romance novels.  I don’t really read those, though I’m not opposed to picking up a bodice ripper.  Stay tuned to see where I get with this category.
The Children of Noisy Village, by Astrid Lindgren (Okay, so, yes, it takes place during Christmas, but also, New Year’s, so I’m counting it as another holiday entirely.)
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The first book in series you haven’t read before:
Still Life, by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Gamache Series)
In the Woods, by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad Series)
Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series)
A book you bought on trip:
I don’t usually buy books on trips.  Stay tuned.
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A book recommended by an author you love:
What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell (Recommended by Gretchen Rubin on What Should I Read Next, and here.)
Our Town, by Thorton Wilder (R.J. Palacio works this play into her book, Wonder, and she says she thinks every high school should have to put it on.  I don’t need a stronger recommendation than that.)
First Light by Charles Baxter  (Jodi Picoult recommends it here.)
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A bestseller from 2016:
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub
Tell Me Three Things, by Julie Buxbaum
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A book with a family member term in title:
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
Confessions of a Slacker Wife, by Muffy Mead Ferro
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A book that takes place over a character’s life span:
Up a Road, Slowly, by Irene Hunt (In my on-going quest to attack and cross things off of every list ever written, I want to read all the Newbery winners.  And this is one that has just never appealed to me.  So 2017, you’re my year!)
Hitty, Her First 100 Years, by Rachel Field (see above comment)
The Social Animal, by David Brooks
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A book about an immigrant or refugee:
The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez
Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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A book from a genre/sub genre you’ve never heard of:
Okay, so I have heard of this genre.  But I’ve never read anything in it, and thinking about it makes me go, “Wait, what?”  Amish.  Romance.  Yep.  That’s a thing.  How romantic is Amish romance?  Growing up I read one Danielle Steel novel, and one Nora Roberts.  And that’s all the romance I’ve seen.  But Amish culture fascinates me and I have so many questions (and assumptions) about this genre.  So don’t judge me dear readers, but damnit, I’m reading one.  Maybe three!  I imagine I’ll be cracking up the whole time.  Or maybe I’ll love them and never read anything else ever again.  Here are a few that Goodreads deems acceptable.
The Thorn, by Beverly Lewis (I can’t even with that cover.)
The Choice, by Suzanne Woods Fisher
An Amish Buggy Ride, by Sarah Price
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A book with an eccentric character:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz (This made the rounds years ago, when it came out, and I never picked it up.  Rereading the description makes me think there are serious echoes of Holes here, and that’s an all-time fave.)
The Children, by Ann Leary
Look Me in the Eye, by John Elder Robison (This is a memoir, so he’s not exactly a character, but I’ve wanted to read this since it came out…..nine years ago.  Robison was always quirky growing up, and it wasn’t till he was 40 that he was diagnosed with Aspergers.)
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A book that’s more than 800 pages:
Let’s be serious.  I doubt I need even more than one book in this category.
Far From the Tree, by Andrew Solomon
Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
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A book you got from a used book sale:
Island House, by Nancy Thayer
The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann D. Wyss
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A book that’s been mentioned in another book:
All of these are mentioned in The End of Your Life Book Club, which I love, love, loved.  I’d love to make my way through all the books mentioned.
The Color of Water, by James McBride
Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (I started this book, and it is so stunningly beautiful.  But it’s slow, pretty writing, which doesn’t make for fast reading, so I dropped it.  Need to come back.)
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A book about a difficult topic:
Columbine, by Dave Cullen (Heard about this on an episode of Sorta Awesome, and apparently the story a lot of us know from watching the news unfold in real time, is not the truth of what happened at Columbine.  I’m intrigued.)
The Girls Who Went Away, by Ann Fessler
Global Mom, by Melissa Dalton Bradford
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A book based on mythology:
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, by Rick Riordan (Norse gods!  My people!)
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman (Also, have you seen this?  I couldn’t figure out an empty category in which to place it, so I’ll just leave it here for you.)
The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood (Love the idea here; telling the story of the Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective.)
All pictures are from Amazon

2016 Reading Challenge, an Update

Dear readers, it’s reading week.  Which will likely last well beyond a Monday-Friday’s worth of blog posts.  Books are the best.  Cheers.

You know the deal.  PopSugar posts a reading challenge each year, and I count myself in.  I check in with you all halfway through the year to let you know how I’m doing, and then again at the end of the year.  More on my 2017 reading goals tomorrow.  Here’s how I finished up 2016.   How I didn’t read a single dystopian novel is beyond me.

Penguin English Library.

A book based on a fairy tale

A National Book Award winner – Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo (well, it’s a finalist)

A YA Bestseller – With Malice, by Eileen Cook

A book you haven’t read since high school

A book set in your home state

A book translated to English – My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

A romance set in the future – Happily Ever After, by Kiera Cass

A book set in Europe – Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan

A book that’s under 150 pages

A New York Times bestseller – The Gift of Failure, by Jessica Lahey

A book that’s becoming a movie this year

A book recommended by someone you just met

A self-improvement book –Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes

A book you can finish in a day – Tales from the Back Row, by Amy Odell

A book written by a celebrity – I Feel Bad About my Neck, by Nora Ephron

A political memoir – Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance (well, it’s sort of, unintentionally political right now)

A book at least 100 years older than you

A book that’s more than 600 pages

A book from Oprah’s Book Club – Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton

A science-fiction novel

A book recommended by a family member – Accidental Saints, by Nadia Bolz Weber (recommended by my Pops)

A graphic novel – Dare to Disappoint, by Ozge Samanci

A book that is published in 2016 – When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalinithi

A book with a protagonist who has your occupation – American Housewife, by Helen Ellis

A book that takes place during summer – Summerlost, by Allie Condie

A book and its prequel

A murder mystery – Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

A book written by a comedian – You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein

A dystopian novel

A book with a blue cover – After I Do, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

A book of poetry – Booked, by Kwame Alexander

The first book you see in a bookstore – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

A classic from the 20th century – Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne

A book from the library – My Year of Running Dangerously, by Tom Foreman

An autobiography – Life in Motion, by Misty Copeland

A book about a road trip – Love that Boy, by Ron Fournier

A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with – A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park

A satirical book – A Window Opens, by Susan Egan (not true satire, but it pokes some fun at suburban life in all the right places)

A book that takes place on an island – The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin

A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy – Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo

And the stuff I’ve read that doesn’t fit these categories:
Eight Hundred Grapes, by Laura Dave; Peace, Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson; Stella by Starlight, by Sharon Draper; Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton; Small Victories, by Anne Lamott; George, by Alex Gino; I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron; Sparkly Green Earrings, by Melanie Shankle; Little Victories, by Jason Gay; Maybe in Another Life, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult; The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler; Grace, not Perfection, by Emily Ley; My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Stroud; The Light of the World, by Elizabeth Alexander; This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett; The History of Great Things, by Elizabeth Crane; Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist; The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion;  Delicious, by Ruth Reichl; Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight; Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull; Keep Me Posted, by Lisa Beazley; A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd



November and December Reads

These past two months, I was in a complete reading rut.  I used to stress that I’d never touch a book again, or that less reading meant I was watching too much TV, but now I don’t worry as much.  I always come back to books.

You know I love this. via Happy Monday. Hope you have a good week. xo:

Just Read:

You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein – Loved it.  Flat out, loved it.  Don’t know that anyone not born in the 80s would feel the same, but I was, and I loved this.  Also, anyone who includes a chapter about attending their first barre class in so much (hysterically accurate) detail wins.

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult – Oh, Jodi.  My first Jodi was My Sister’s Keeper.  I read it when it came out in 2004.  I hit Jodi right when she hit her stride.  Where Disney had The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, Jodi was on a roll with My Sister’s Keeper, Vanishing Acts, The Tenth Circle, and Nineteen Minutes.  I eagerly awaited the release of each novel, and in between, I went back and read her earlier books.  And then, I kept reading the new one each year, but they lacked that same “can’t put it down” feeling that those others held for me.  Until this one.  It’s so relevant.  It’s so well-done.  I’m calling it my fiction read-alike to Hillbilly Elegy, and it’s making me want to read this, this, this and this, too.


Counting Thyme, by Melanie Conklin – This one came recommended by my aunt.  It’s a middle grade novel about a sister who moves across the country to New York so her younger brother can participate in a medical trial for kids with Neuroblastoma, a horrifying cancer about which my aunt knows far too much.  When she was telling me about it, I wanted to read it first because of the family connection, and second, because I realized I hadn’t read a middle grade novel in ages.  I’m enjoying it.

Want to Read:

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett – Just came in for me at the library, and I know I’ll need to get started because they’ll want to keep it moving.  Can’t wait.

Mrs. Bixby’s Last Day, by John David Anderson – I’m a sucker for a teacher story, and this one sounds like it will tug at my heart.

(image/shelf goals)

October Reads


Just Read:

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance – As a rule, I do not discuss politics.  Ever.  So all I’ll say is Appalachia, and the people who live there, have gotten a lot of attention lately, for reasons both political and not.  This book was fascinating.  A look into a culture that has been around for quite some time, and is often misrepresented and misunderstood.  I love the way Vance writes honestly about his family and his hometown.  He doesn’t apologize for his family, nor does he try to sugar-coat them.  It’s his story, so of course, I can’t paint broad strokes and say I now understand all about the hillbillies of Appalachia, but Vance’s story is a great one.

Someone Could Get Hurt, by Drew Magary – If you haven’t read Magary’s annotated guide to the Williams Sonoma catalog (it comes out every holiday season), you are missing out.  Magary is hysterical.  He says the things we’re all thinking, excessive expletives included, and wouldn’t dare say out loud.  Thank goodness someone is speaking these truths.  I attacked this one, a couple chapters at a time, before bed over about a week.  And there were multiple times I feared I would wake my husband because I was laughing so loud.

The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler – This is like The Happiness Project (a favorite of mine) with a family twist.  I loved this book.  Feiler’s writing is honest, and most important for a book like this, it’s not preachy.  I guarantee if you read it, you’ll find one or two ideas you want to bring into your own family.  That said, I’m a big-picture person, and took away a couple of over-arching ideas that make me warm and fuzzy inside.  First of all, families (and the dynamics associated with them) are always changing and it’s supposed to be that way.  Move with the cheese, anyone?  And second, families should be safe spaces.  You don’t have to get everything right, you just have to be loving, and try your best.  I would put a copy of this book in just about anyone’s hands.


The Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell – This title screams my name.  I’m a total sucker for books where people try things for a year, and I am absolutely taken with Scandinavian culture.

Want to Read:

Modern Love, by Aziz Ansari – I’ve started and stopped Parks and Rec about a zillion times, and that was the extent of my knowledge of Aziz Ansari for a while.  But this summer, my husband and I watched and adored Master of None, and I recently listened to his podcast on Freakonomics.  I don’t mean to sound unintelligent here, dear readers, but he’s much deeper than I gave him credit for.  (Did I think he was true to Tom Haverford?  Do I really not know how TV works?)  Excited to get my hands on this one.