I’m participating in the 2016 POPSUGAR reading challenge. The list includes 40 books, and my goal is to check off just one item per book. Here’s an overview of what I read in April that fit the list (purple check marks). You can also see what I’m reading right now via the Goodreads widget to the left. I’d love to hear your book recommendations—especially if they check something off this list.
April – 2016 Reading Challenge
- A Book That’s Becoming a Movie This Year: Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places is actually slated to hit theaters in 2017, but I figured that was close enough! In the book, Violet and Finch meet atop the school bell tower where they’re both contemplating suicide. Violet is there because she misses her sister who was killed in a car accident, and Finch has an odd preoccupation with death. These two individuals who seemingly have nothing in common bond over a school project—and much more. Honestly, this book was a bit too depressing for me, but I found the characters interesting.
- A Book Recommended By A Family Member: My sister-in-law is a big fan of Mary Campisi’s books and encouraged me to read her Paradise Found. The book centers around two people who shouldn’t like each other—the wealthy playboy who’s gone blind after an accident and the less flashy but still beautiful psychologist sent in to help him regain his life. I’m betting you can *see* where this one is going! While the book was a fun read, it was too predictable for me.
- An Autobiography: Okay, so Mary Karr’s Lit is more memoir than autobiography, but I figured it was close enough for this challenge. Karr is the master of memoir these days, and this book focuses on her relationships with her parents, husband, and son as well as her alcoholism and her attempts to pull herself out of many dark psychological places. While I found Karr’s writing beautiful, the subject matter was too heavy for me this month.
- A Book About a Culture You’re Unfamiliar With: I know the Amazons are a mythical culture (maybe?), but I’m still counting Ann Fortier’s The Lost Sisterhood in this category. I didn’t know much about the Amazons, other than their “warrior woman” status. I learned quite a bit about their interconnectedness with the Trojan War. While this book takes liberties with history, it’s a fast-paced read that connects ancient history (mythstory?) with contemporary philology.
- A Book About a Road Trip: David Arnold’s Mosquitoland tells the story of a girl who does what so many other teens would like to do: She skips out on her dad and stepmother in Mississippi (a.k.a. Mosquitoland) and hops a bus. Her destination is Cleveland, her former home and where her mother is sick. Of course, along the way, she encounters an array of people who teach her about life—in lessons that aren’t very pretty or comforting. If you’re looking for a coming-of-age meets road-trip novel, this is a great pick!
- A Book That Takes Place On an Island: Emily Bleeker’s Wreckage was my favorite book read this month. The irony is the only reason I read it was because I saw it took place on an island and I knew I had to fill this category with something. I lucked out with this one! This novel focuses on picking up the pieces—on trying to move on after a tragic, traumatic event. Lillian and Dave are two people who have nothing in common except for the fact they are stranded together on an island when the plane they’re traveling on goes down in the ocean. When they’re rescued, they are thrust into the media spotlight, but neither is eager to talk about the experience. The novel discusses what happened on the island, but it emphasizes the question we hear in all the Las Vegas commercials: Does what happens on the island stay on the island?
(I couldn’t find places to fit this one in the Challenge list, but I thought it was worth including here anyway.)
- I read another “blue cover book” this month, but I already used that category and couldn’t find another place to put Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything. In the novel, Sydney feels invisible in her own family—always in the shadow of her older brother Peyton. When Peyton’s string of bad behavior lands him in prison, Sydney changes schools in an attempt to begin fresh. Although she can’t escape her family’s focus on her brother, she manages to find a group of friends who just might be what she needs to help her stand out on her own. This is the first of Dessen’s many books I’ve read. Although I know she’s widely popular, I didn’t feel as strong an emotional connection to these characters as I’ve felt in other YA books.
What was the best book you read this month?
I’m participating in the POPSUGAR reading challenge. The list includes 40 books, and my goal is to check off just one item per book. Here’s an overview of what I read in March that fit the list (blue check marks) and a couple of honorable mentions. You can also see what I’m reading right now via the Goodreads widget to the left. I’d love to hear your book recommendations—especially if they check something off this list. I’m always interested in adding to my To-Be-Read pile!
March – 2016 Reading Challenge
- A National Book Award Winner: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me is written as a letter to his son. There’s a Toni Morrison quote on the cover of this book that calls it “required reading,” and for good reason. Coates addresses race in America, from its early roots to contemporary issues right out of the newspaper, and how this construction of “race” impacts black bodies. This book makes us confront our world in a new light—a powerful read.
- A YA Bestseller: Nicola Yoon’s quick read Everything, Everything is about a girl with a rare condition that makes her allergic to EVERYTHING. She is the quintessential “bubble girl” who isn’t allowed to leave the house and rarely gets visitors. Her world includes her mother, her nurse, her online school, and her books—that is, until a new family with a teen son moves in next door. This book is a sweet coming of age tale with a nice twist in the end.
- A Book Translated to English: Nancy at Practically Wise recommended I read Yoko Ogawa’s book The Housekeeper and the Professor, and I found it to be a lovely story about the nature of relationships. The housekeeper (who is never named) is hired to care for an aging but brilliant math professor (also unnamed) who has a peculiar problem. After surviving a car accident, the professor’s short-term memory is devastated; his memory “resets” after 80 minutes. Although this book is a translation and involves so much math my brain hurt at times, I found it to be profound and memorable (ironic, right?).
- A Book with a Blue Cover: Okay, so this one is a bit of a stretch since the cover of Elizabeth Strout’s novel My Name is Lucy Barton is only partially blue. I actually didn’t like this book nearly as much as I thought I would. The book focuses on a woman who is recovering from a complication arising during a simple surgical procedure. While she convalesces, her mother arrives, and as the pair talk, a complicated family history unravels. I found this book too short—too underdeveloped. In the end, I didn’t care enough for any of the characters to enjoy the book.
- A Book from the Library: If you’ve read my Challenge posts previously, I’ve mentioned that I’ve been reading books from the Michigan Notable Book list. This month, one of the books from that list that I borrowed from my local library was Adam Schuitema’s Haymaker. The book focuses on a part of my home state of Michigan that I love, the Lake Superior Shoreline in the Upper Peninsula. Schuitema depicts an isolated town where a Libertarian group decides to set up a national headquarters, moving their people and ideology into the town. Conflict arises as the outsiders and insiders negotiate to whom the town belongs. This is a great book to read during this election season—and for some great imagery of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
- A Book That’s Guaranteed to Bring You Joy: I suppose Ruth Reichl’s book Delicious! won’t bring joy to everyone, but it’s a food book—and thinking about food definitely brings me joy! Reichl depicts the story of Billie Breslin, a young woman who gets a job at a food magazine called Delicious! mostly as a result of her impeccable palate and ability to communicate with the proprietors of New York’s food businesses. After the magazine suddenly closes, Billie is the only employee to stay on. In the big, empty building, she discovers a secret that ties the food world to the events of World War II—and she has to work through her own secrets in the process. Let me just say, this book is worth the read for the food descriptions alone. The story is interesting, but it’s the food imagery that makes it a joyful read.
(I couldn’t find places to fit these in the Challenge list, but I thought they were worth including here anyway)
- After seeing the cover of Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Small Backs of Children on a post at A Reading Writer, I had to check it out. The story begins with the photo of a girl at the moment when her home and family disappear in an explosion. That photo wins critical attention, but it also gets the attention of a writer who is going through personal challenges. When the writer ends up in the hospital, her family and friends in the artist community decide that finding the girl in the photo will help the writer recover. This brief summary does very little to capture the scope of this short (just 224 pages) book. Yuknavitch challenges ideas about war, art, death, sex, and love in a book that left my head spinning. I’m honestly not sure I enjoyed this book, but its originality will stick with me for a very long time.
- A 2016 Michigan Notable Book winner, Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House was also a National Book Award finalist in 2015. Set in Detroit, The Turner House tells the story of the Turner family, all 13 kids and their parents, as they debate what to do with the family home—a possibly haunted house with an upside-down mortgage, stolen garage, and a lot of history. While I didn’t find this book to have enough of a clear plot for me to sink my teeth into, it was a good portrayal of the challenges facing many families with roots in Detroit.
What have you been reading this month? Anything you’d recommend that would help me check off some more items on the list?
Anyone hungry for milkweed pods?
I love a good food book, and Reichl’s novel Delicious! delivers on that score. Reichl is mostly known for being a food critic, so that shouldn’t be surprising. Her book opens with the most evocative descriptions of spices, from nutmeg to cardamom, as the protagonist develops her signature recipe for gingerbread. Later, the protagonist walks the streets of NYC, tasting her way from one shop to the next, from the chocolatier to the butcher to the cheese monger. I was drooling! These sensual descriptions are the strength of the book.
In Delicious! Reichl heaps mystery upon mystery about a young woman who goes to work for a food magazine (but who claims not to cook despite her amazing palate) and a secret cache of letters from World War II written to American Food forefather James Beard (this is where those milkweed pods come in). While the book is interesting, it becomes a bit overbaked for my liking. The middle of the book lagged, and I found myself wanting to speed through some pages of letters.
Overall, Reichl’s book is one to read if you like a good food book–but be prepared to come away hungry! Anyone else out there enjoy food books? I’m far from a professional chef, but I love to read about food people. Any books/authors you’d recommend?