Reading, Lately


A quarterly accounting of what I've been reading, with short thoughts on each.


All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps
by Dave Isay

I really enjoyed this book.  It's collected from interviews in the Story Corp booths around the country.  It's ordinary people talking about the ordinary act of loving another ordinary person--which, is of course, quite extraordinary.  It makes for beautiful (if sometimes heartbreaking) reading.

If you can get your hands on the audio version, as well, it's a great compliment.  It doesn't include all the interviews that are in the book, but I did love hearing the voices for the ones it does.

Better Than Before
by Gretchen Rubin

As I read this one, I I thought that it was taking too long to get to the point.  But, this one has stuck with me, in terms of daily application.

Rubin divides people into types according to how they interact with habits and habit formation.  I generally balk at the idea that humanity can be so neatly quartiled.  But, her point with the exercise is that not everyone approaches habits form the same perspective.  And, this  was truly a helpful paradigm shift for me.

The other major takeaway was "Decide, then don't decide."  This has had daily impact for me, and I'll definitely be writing more about it in the future.

Why We Get Fat
by Gary Taubes

I read this one because Gretchen Rubin mentions it several times in her book.  It espouses a low carb lifestyle, and I didn’t become a low carb convert after reading it.  So, on that level, I suppose it wasn't particularly successful for me.  

But, the underpinning for his argument had so much great information, that I was still glad to have read it.

The Fairy Ring
by Mary Losure

What a fun and surprise this was.  I am always drawn into random true stories.  This one is a boon for any child who wishes that the adults around them would be more sensible about the existence of Fairies.  

It turns out, at the turn of the twentieth century, there were whole groups of adults who ardently believed in fairies, and were actively seeking out evidence of their existence.  This was not a matter of whimsy for them, but of science.  They were certain that they were on the cusp of the scientific developments that would reveal the fairy world to us. Foremost among them was the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  This book tells the story of how two girls got pulled into this world of fairy seekers. 

Carry On, Warrior
by Glennon Doyle Melton

I found this book very compelling.  A group of essays, some of which were previously published on Melton’s blog.  Her story is revealed in bits and pieces.  And it is a powerful story.  Her writing is beautiful, and thought provoking.  That doesn’t do it justice, so just grab a copy of this one and give it a read.

Love Warrior: A Memoir* 
by Glennon Doyle Melton

I read this one immediately after finishing Carry On, Warrior.  Unlike the essay structure of her first book, this is a narrative memoir.  It has plenty of overlap with her first book, but also offers more details and timelines.  It has received a lot of attention, including being a part of Oprah’s Book Club.  I did think it was interesting, and also well written.  I found her first book more compelling, but, had I read this one on its own, I may have been even more impressed.


Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I loved this book.  Loved it.  I read it because my 13 year old said it was her new favorite book, and I was curious what had elicited that strong a reaction.  It is well written: a fascinating story with characters so broken and complex, they feel undeniably real.  It is a book about loss, loneliness and marginalization, but it is a story about family and friendship and being human.

The Birchbark House
by Louise Erdrich

A friend gave us a copy of this recently because they had two, and she recommended it highly.  I picked it up not long after that and really enjoyed it.  It was fun to read a story set in a place I know well (Minnesota) but from such a different perspective.  I loved the cadence of this book.  It's a calming, settling thing.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
by Katarina Bivald

This was a little bit of a strange book to me.  The story is a little trite: a Sweedish woman travels to a small town in Iowa, where she is both changed by and changes its citizens.  And of course, books are at the core of that change.  Except, they're sort of not.  Kind of.  I don't know.  I'm actually fine with a pretty well-tried premise.  I just didn't think there was any particular magic in this story.  It was a just fine read for me.

Up the Down Staircase
by Bel Kauffman

This is a classic indictment of the American public education system, but I had never read it.  I found it intriguing, that, more than 50 years after it was written, we’re still chasing some of the same issues.  I don’t have a perspective from inside the education system, so I can’t speak to how much the ridiculousness she describes still goes on.  But, it was an interesting to read as an “inside account”.

Aside from its commentary on the educational system, the writing style is intriguing.  I was amazed at how much she could develop the characters, without any direct narrative at all.  The book is cobbled together from the papers that pass across a teacher’s desk: notes, student papers, school memorandum, etc.  It’s worth a read simply to see how she manages that as a literary device.

The Circle*
by Dave Eggers

I'm already a bit of a luddite by nature, but this book gave me even more to consider about my relationship with technology.  It's the 1984 for our day.  It considers not only how technology changes our lives, but also our relationships with one another. 

I found this book fascinating.  I’ve never given a lot of weight to the virtual privacy arguments, but this book gave me pause.  My favorite thing about it is how well it points out that every connivence we accept from technology comes with a cost.  Since reading this one, I've found myself reflecting often about how I'm using technology, and whether or not I'm willing to pay the price it exacts from me.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

This one was just plain fun. It wasn’t hard hitting, thought provoking or heavy.  It’s a fun story, written in a fun style, and it was fun to read.  Simple as that.  I enjoyed it.

The Girl in the Blue Coat
by Monica Hesse 

If you type "The Girl in the" into Amazon's book section, it'll come up with a dozen titles to finish that thought.  Same if you search for World War II Amsterdam coming of age story.  I don't know.  There was nothing particularly wrong with it.  I guess it just has a high hurdle to overcome for me, since it just feels so very done from the beginning.  It was another I would put in the just fine category.

Dipping Into

Steve always has 20 books he's in the middle of.  He'll pick up a book, read a bit, then put it down and read in another.  This makes me crazy.  I have no idea how he does it.  But, I'm trying to make room in my literary life to try out this "nibbling" approach.  For books that lend themselves well to it, I'll allowing myself to read for a bit, then put it down and come back to it when I'm curious again.

Trail of Hope
by Norman Davies

The Anders army is a crazy story that I'd love to understand more about.  Some 325,000 Poles were deported to the Soviet Union at the beginning of World War II.  Many of them were men, but there were women and children in their number as well.  Their trek, which eventually spanned three continents, was literally the stuff of epics.  I've enjoyed thumbing through this book, which is more like a dense scrapbook, with meticulous descriptions and beautiful photographs.  Just writing about it is making me want to pick it up again.

Dr. Seuss & Co. Go to War
by Andre Shiffrin

I stumbled across this book while wandering in the library at my children's school, though it is not a children's Dr. Seuss.  I love books that make me say, "I never knew that  . . ." and this book did that, over and over again.  I had know idea that Dr. Seuss drew political cartoons, nor that they employed characters that looked strikingly similar to his children's books.  I had no idea that he had served in the military in World War II.  This was all a complete revelation to me.  I've enjoyed leafing through this at his different cartoons.  It makes me want to look into Dr. Seuss Goes to War as well.

Reading Right Now

The Teenage Brain
by Frances E. Jensen

There are more teenagers living in my house than any other age segment.  It seemed like a good idea to get inside their brains a bit.  I'm about half way through this book, and have found it terribly informative so far.  It's a little heavier on the medical descriptions of how and what.  But, I do appreciate that I don't feel like I'm just being handed generalizations.  I love the specific study findings Jensen sites.  I've shared quite a bit of this with my teenagers (and even their friends) as I'm learning it.  They find it fascinating as well (or, at least, they humor me as though they do).

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians
by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is a pretty big deal at our house.  There are not many authors that we own every single thing they've ever published, but he is one of them.  My children do not go even a day before scheming how to get his latest releases.  Add to that, the fact that he was here in Warsaw recently for a book signing, and this was the inevitable next read aloud.  It has been very popular so far.  It's a fun story.

Going Postal
by Terry Pratchett

I actually started this one because Brandon Sanderson mentioned it when he was here in Warsaw.  I haven't read any Terry Prattchett, but have been curious to give him a try.  I was grateful for a suggestion of where to start.

So far I am enjoying it immensely.  The writing is smart and hilarious.  I'm excited to see where it goes.  To be completely honest, this post took me so long to write because I kept stealing away to read this book. And, that's exactly where I'm headed back to now. . .

*You should know this about me.  I am a complete prude when it comes to my reading choices.  I generally will not read a book with much swearing, sex or violence.  I don't think less of someone else who does.  It's just not what I want to read.  So, the books I mention here will usually be PG, or maybe in the PG-13 range (at least, in my estimate).  But, I did read a few in the last few months that had more language or sex than I usually tolerate.  I've noted those, in case you're similarly wary of that sort of thing.

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