Monday, March 20, 2017

Ten Books I Read in One Sitting

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is books that you read in one sitting. It's pretty rare for me to have enough uninterrupted hours to sit down and read a book straight through, so some of these may have been read in more than one sitting. Regardless, they're short enough that you could sit down and read them straight through. There's some overlap here with books I picked up on a whim.

1. The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
This is one of the books I picked up on a whim, in this case from the guest room bookshelf while visiting my parents one weekend. In those luxurious pre-child days I could stay in bed for another three hours to read a whole book before getting up for the day!

2. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
I listened to this the first time on audio and got through the majority of it while cleaning the apartment one evening. The second time I read it in print and read it over the course of two evenings between my son's bedtime and mine.

3. Devilish by Maureen Johnson
As I mentioned in the other post, one summer my now-husband and I stayed with his aunt in her non-air-conditioned home in New Jersey, and so I would walk to the local library for the air conditioning and stay there a good part of the day reading. This is a book I picked up to read during one of those sessions.

4. Fences by August Wilson
I don't know if I read this in one sitting the first time I read it (in high school), but I recently reread most of it during my son's afternoon nap. Plays are good for reading in one sitting since they're meant to be performed within a set amount of time.

5. for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange
I'm not saying you should read this in one sitting, as it can be pretty heavy, but it's another script for a performance where you can easily get through it in a couple hours.

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
I've talked about how I loved this so much more on rereading it as an adult, and I also couldn't put it down. I'm not sure I read it in a "sitting" so much as had it on the Kindle app on my phone and read it everywhere I went that day.

7. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
This 1000+ page book is definitely not a book you'd expect to read in one sitting, but this was another one of those hot summer days where I spent all day at the library, and so I read this cover-to-cover during the course of the day. (OK, maybe it was over two days.)

8. Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
Last summer a friend lent this to my husband, who kept it sitting out for months because he rarely reads books. When he went on vacation with our son for a couple weeks and I was looking for a new book to start, I picked this up and read it at the kitchen table over a few cups of tea.

9. Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan
This past Christmas we traveled to visit my in-laws and my husband and I both got sick, so my father-in-law took our toddler out for the day and I wrapped myself in a blanket, made a cup of tea, and spent the day reading this book I'd brought with me.

10. With Burning Hearts by Henri Nouwen
Last summer I started this book after work the day I was picking up my husband and son at the airport from their aforementioned vacation, and I read it up until I had to go get in the car to get them. When I got to the airport I was early, so I sat in my car and read until I had to go inside, then I stood by baggage claim and read until they arrived. It was that good!

Which books have you read in one sitting?

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves: I picked up this book primarily because I've been trying to get my great-grandfather's WWI memoir published, and I thought I should read *the* WWI memoir that seems to have set the standard. Overall, the book was interesting and entertaining, and it kept my attention enough to keep reading but not enough to make me eager to pick it up again each time I put it down.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine: I reread this in print and it was definitely easier to follow than in audio. I think it provides an excellent overview not only of the ubiquity of racial microaggressions but also of the toll they take on the person experiencing them. The poetic, abstract stuff was still over my head.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: This was a timely read about two sisters living in occupied France during World War I. One wants to fight back and the other wants to keep her head down, but there are consequences for both choices. I didn't LOVE this the way the rest of Goodreads appears to have loved it, but it was still a great read.

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie: This provided a bit of a change from the typical Poirot novel, as it flips back and forth from Hastings' narrative to a third-person one, and it's dealing with an apparent serial killer rather than the usual closed cast of characters. It was clever in the way of most of Christie's books, but not one of my favorites.

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie: Although I've figured out Christie's pattern for who the killer is, it doesn't make it any easier to figure out the how and why, and this was no exception. It's told from a new perspective (the first-person narration of a nurse), which is always a nice change. Good luck piecing the clues together better than I did.

Fences by August Wilson: In Troy Maxson, Wilson has managed to create a character who is both sympathetic and despicable. The story is rooted in the specific setting of a black family in 1950s Pittsburgh, but the themes about parenting and fate are universal.

The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep-Newborn to School Age by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright: Our toddler went from being a great sleeper to fighting weekend naps, needing us to lay with him until he falls asleep, and asking us in the middle of the night to come lie down in his bed. This book gave me what I was looking for, which was a collection of strategies and suggestions that we can try to help him feel more comfortable falling asleep on his own. We haven't tested them out yet, but the reviews are promising, and the book itself was easy to read, comprehensive, and reassuring, so I definitely recommend giving it a shot.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath: This isn't a foolproof guide to influence and communication, but it provided numerous memorable stories and helped get my wheels turning about ways to apply their principles in my work. Teachers, marketers, and company execs will likely find the information readily applicable.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is books we plan to read this spring. Seeing as how I'm trying to get through some long books this year and a lot of classics (which can be slow reading), I'm not sure it's realistic that I'll get through all ten of these before summer, but these are at least the next ten books on my to-read list that I'd like to read!

1. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
This is one of the books that has been on my to-read list the longest. Time to pick it up!

2. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
I'm still working my way through the Hercule Poirot books. I have this one ready to go on audio when I finally finish The Brothers Karamazov.

3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The other Dostoyevsky I'm trying to read this year!

4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
This one's also been on my to-read list for a while, and at under 200 pages it would make a good break from the super-long books I'm reading.

5. Dune by Frank Herbert
This is another from the books that have been on my to-read list the longest. Wherever there are classics that are also sci-fi, they tend to have fallen to the bottom of the pack for me.

6. If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino
I enjoyed Invisible Cities, and this sounds equally creative and fun.

7. Kindred by Octavia Butler
I keep seeing this recommended over and over. It's time I finally read it.

8. The Stand by Stephen King
I've never read any Stephen King as I don't do well with horror, but I've heard this is one that's worth reading regardless. It's also one of my 1000+ page reads for the year.

9. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
I've actually read quite a bit of Hemingway despite not being a huge fan (A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast), and yet I've missed this one classic read.

10. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Another long classic I'm going to tackle this year!

Which will you be reading this spring?

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Best of the Bunch: February 2017

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in February.

February was one of the better reading months I'd had in a while, with three 4.5-star books (two of which were rereads) and one 5-star book! That one, the best of the bunch, was...

I'd read and loved Liberated Parents, Liberated Children and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk before I actually had a kid, but I knew that I needed to revisit the tips now that I was a parent. Co-authored by the daughter of one of the original books' authors, How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen focuses on applying the core parenting principles to kids ages 2 to 7. Faber and King remind the reader frequently that even though using these strategies takes more creativity, more forethought, and more energy upfront, they're ultimately going to save you time and energy because daily tasks won't be such a battle, and everyone will also be happier. Not to mention, you're equipping your children with the tools to be able to handle their emotions and solve problems as they grow older, which is really what parenting should be about. Definitely recommended.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Top Ten Books I Liked More Than I Expected

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is books that you liked more or less than expected. I could write another full post of books I didn't like as much as I expected, but I decided this time to be positive and share books that I liked. They were easy to pick out because I tend to start my Goodreads reviews of these kinds of books with "I enjoyed this more than I expected..."

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I've mentioned this already a few times, but I expected this book to have dense prose and be all symbolic and philosophical, and it wasn't at all. It was very readable and ended up being my favorite read from January.

2. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
I had heard a lot of criticism of this book before reading it, so I was surprised to find that most of the criticism was unfounded. Yes, the book is targeted at a specific demographic, but Sandberg makes that very clear upfront, and for her specific audience I thought the book contained a lot of excellent advice, addressing systemic barriers while giving women practical things they could do to advance their career.

3. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
I read very little sci-fi and fantasy, and I'm an unrepentant world-building snob, so I was very surprised at how much I liked this book. My book club wasn't a huge fan, but I found the characters relatable and their dilemmas felt real.

4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
I'm always hesitant going into 19th century classics because they can be so dry and tedious, but this one was quite enjoyable. I wouldn't say it's a favorite — it would still be more rewarding to study and analyze than simply to read — but I found it entertaining enough to keep my attention.

5. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
This book kind of got panned by many reviewers as being too gimmicky, but I liked reading her reflections on the awkwardness of making friends as an adult. Maybe it just spoke to me at a particular time in my life. This book is the reason I initially decided to seek out a local book club (why had that never occurred to me before?) and since I'm now part of three, I guess I have Bertsche to thank.

6. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
I expected to hate this book based on what I knew about it, but I ended up finding it quite entertaining. It still has pretty terrible viewpoints on women and people of color, but at least for myself, Kerouac's ("Sal Paradise's") experiences were so utterly absurd that I couldn't help but find them funny.

7. Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Young adult books have been super hit or miss for me in recent years. (The majority of the "books I expected to like and didn't" fall under this genre.) I really thought this was going to turn into a YA cliché where the questionable male character ends up being an unquestioned love interest, but it didn't develop that way at all.

8. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Don't get me wrong — long sections of this novel were a slog, as you might expect from a 1300-page 19th century Russian novel. But I liked how the novel went back and forth between the war front and the home front, where the events start out separate and over time come to be more and more blended as characters at home became more affected by and involved in the war efforts. If you're not looking for the accomplishment of reading the whole unabridged version, I actually recommend the story in an abridged format.

9. Watchmen by Alan Moore
When I picked this up I had only read my first graphic novels the year before, and I hadn't read anything that explicitly dealt with comic book-type superheroes and villains. I appreciated the book's various themes, and it gave me a lot to think about. (Plus I could recognize how this year's Doctor Who Christmas special borrowed from the book's plot!)

10. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
I've read a lot of books in this vein that talk about how you shouldn't rely on willpower and should instead craft your environment to help you make the right choices, so I was skeptical going into this book, but McGonigal acknowledged this upfront and specified that her research was about the areas where you do still need willpower. You can set out your workout clothes the night before, get a running buddy, and incentivize yourself to complete your workout, but you still have to actually get up and out the door. I found the book helpful, practical, and applicable.

Which books surprised you for the better?

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: Wilde is talented at building suspense and heightening tension. Through Dorian Gray's life, we see that a life in pursuit of pleasure, while appealing in theory, requires a level of selfishness that will ultimately lead to being hated, paranoid, and cruel. The audio narration was well done, though I think it would be a good read in any format.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder: Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, is a complex and fascinating figure who draws guidance from Catholic liberation theology and who focuses always on helping the patient in front of him, cost-effectiveness be damned. Our book club had a great discussion from this book.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: For some reason I expected this book to be dense and esoteric, but it wasn't — it was very readable. The book was published at a time when women were caught between the generational expectations of happy housewife and working feminist. These compounding pressures, along with a 19-year-old's typical paralysis about the future, are manifested vividly through the protagonist's mental breakdown. If you haven't read this before, it's definitely worth picking up.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: This is a mixed bag (some parts drag on way too long), but there was plenty that was funny, sweet, or clever to keep me reading. If all you know of Don Quixote is his attacks on windmills, you don't even know the first quarter of his long story!

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas: This was a reread, and I enjoyed it almost as much the second time around, knowing everything that was going to happen (an impressive feat, since my first reading was driven mostly by suspense!). Haas wrote it very intentionally so that you misinterpret certain things without actually being lied to. This is still my go-to recommendation if you liked Gone Girl.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress by Alan Ball: This is a sweet, if somewhat dated, play about five bridesmaids who all dislike the bride. It has the typical combination of personal revelations, sarcastic commentary on other people, and witty remarks that you would expect in an intimately staged play like this.

How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber and Julie King: Co-authored by the daughter of one of the authors of the original How to Talk..., this was a great refresher on the parenting strategies that defuse day-to-day battles with kids and equip them to handle their emotions and solve problems as they grow older. I love that this version focuses on young children and even has a section on kids with SPD and/or autism.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand: This book feels like the antidote to the awfulness of All the Bright Places; it handles the topic of suicide much more skillfully and does not romanticize it. It speaks honestly to the process of grief and to the emotional mess that's left in the wake of someone's suicide. It's not free from YA clichés, but overall it's well done and worth a read. (Bring tissues!)

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Top Nine Literary Male-Female Friendships

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

It's a Valentine's Day theme this week, but I realized that I don't read a ton of books with romantic relationships that I'm super enthusiastic about. Last year I shared my favorite fictional couples, and I didn't want to cover the same ground. So I started thinking about non-romantic relationships between straight male and female characters, and how rare that is to find in books. I was only able to come up with nine. Here they are! Keep in mind that this list contains spoilers for some of the books pictured.

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig
Most of the book goes back and forth between their separate stories, and I was sure they were going to end up in a clichéd romance. I was happy to see they just connected over shared interests instead. Unfortunately their friendship didn't last very long...

2. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Markos and Thalia
Initially fascinated by Thalia's facial deformities, Markos quickly gets over himself and becomes lifelong friends with her. She is the reason he pursues a career in plastic surgery, but he accepts her decision not to get it done herself, even if he can't quite understand it.

3. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith: Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott
Although there's an implication that these two could pursue a romantic relationship, the most recent book ended with Robin tying the knot with her terrible fiancé. I like the two of them being able to have a strong relationship without it having to be romantic.

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: Hazel and Isaac
Before there was Augustus Waters, Hazel and Isaac were support-group friends, in the sense that they shared a disdain for their leader's corny remarks and bad grammar. And after Augustus, Hazel and Isaac still have each other to lean on.

5. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry: Dina Dalal and Ishvar & Om Darji
Although Dina initially looks down on this uncle-nephew pair, they end up becoming great friends and even stay connected after tragedy (repeatedly) strikes the men.

6. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and Hermione Granger
Despite what Rowling has said, I'm glad that Harry and Ginny ended up together, and that Harry and Hermione could just be friends.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Katniss Everdeen and Gale Hawthorne
Obviously this pair wasn't always strictly platonic (as evidenced by Team Gale supporters), but I think Collins made the right call by not having them end up together. They supported each other well as friends, at least in the beginning.

8. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: John Wheelwright and Katherine Keeling
I mentioned this book last week as one lacking in quality female characters, with the Rev. Keeling being the exception. I like that it's not presented as a weird thing that John's best friend as an adult is a married woman.

9. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: Miranda and Sal
The arc of this book involves Miranda losing and then regaining Sal as her best friend, but it's never implied (that I can remember) that they are interested in each other romantically, even though other people her age end up romantically paired up.

Who are your favorite different-gender friends?

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