Surprise! You are not reading a Friday Five today! Remember how I wanted to compile a post every three months detailing the books I had been reading? I figured it deserved its own title. Welcome to My Shelf Life.
Books are such a huge part of my world. There is not one day that goes by without me reading—sometimes it’s for hours, other times it’s only 10 minutes before I fall asleep. Either way, I wanted my reading habit to have a stronger presence on my blog; I even created a new tab at the top of the page for easy access and a way for me to remember what I’ve been reading and what’s on my to-read list. If you click on the tab, you’ll be able to see everything I read separated into my three-month spans and you can click on any individual post to see what I had to say about each book, if anything.
These last few months have been full of reading. I think I might have set a new record—certainly an improvement compared to my FOUR books of summer. Granted, there was a pretty big move going on, but still. My first Utah winter saw 14 (well, more like 13.6) books pass my bedside table. As the world turned white outside, I sought refuge in these stories—a way to escape when all you want to do is stay in, and stay warm.
Speaking of staying warm, this is what it looks like here most mornings. Foggy, snowy, freezing. The morning “mists” make everything look like pipe cleaners.
Brrrrr! Anyway, back to the books! Here are the titles I’ve devoured since October:
14. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Jennifer Chiaverini
Like I mentioned in my Fall Reading post, Jennifer Chiaverini wrote a very popular series about quilters in Pennsylvania that I really loved. She’s most recently trying her hand at these larger historical fictions, which is great, but I think she likes showing off how much history she knows rather than focusing on her characters and story line.
13. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
This book has been all the rage, with good reason. It was the Runner-Up in Entertainment Weekly’s search for The Best YA Novel of All Time and will see its name on the big screen later this year. If you’re not familiar with the plot: Two teenagers fall in love at a Cancer Support Group. It is one of the most touching books I’ve read in a while.
12. Sonoma Rose, Jennifer Chiaverini
Ahh, Jennifer Chiaverini back at her finest. This was one of her Elm Creek Series novels I hadn’t read and I’m so glad I did.
11. Divergent, Veronica Roth
Like Fault, the Divergent Trilogy has received a lot of press—mostly for its comparisons to The Hunger Games series. The waiting list at the library was long and now I know why. This was an awesome story—strong female characters, teenagers in a futuristic world that’s in danger. Yes, it all sounds very Hunger Games-ish, but I genuinely loved it.
10. The Spymistress, Jennifer Chiaverini
Here’s my 0.6 of the count. I rarely ever…EVER…stop reading a book, much less when I’m already two-thirds of the way through it. But this was Jennifer at her worst. The storyline was so slow, the history mumbo jumbo was exhausting. I hemmed and hawed about trying to get through it and finally one night I just slammed it shut, said “life’s too short” to Joe, and went to bed. I don’t regret that decision, despite having only about 100 pages to go.
9. On Writing Well, William Zinsser
The process of writing is fascinating to me (and probably only me) and this was an interesting read on recommended steps, questions to ask yourself, how to have a sharp editing eye. In creating this blog, I wanted an outlet where I could write without thinking or too many revisions, but there are lots of times when Zinsser’s advice will come in handy.
8. The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
She’s baaaaaack! I’m just going to pretend her Casual Vacancy never happened, because this. was. fabulous. The Harry Potter books had a certain amount of suspense to them, but this was very much an adult thriller. I like never knowing who is good and bad until you reach the end. It was exciting, but I’m happier that I don’t have to swear off Rowling for life.
7. We are Water, Wally Lamb
The Summer of ’98 was an important one for two reasons. First, I met one of my closest BFFs, Jessica, at band camp. Secondly, we both read Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone. It was a defining moment in our shared love of literature and despite the hype, I hadn’t picked up a Wally Lamb novel since. I love his style and highly-developed characters. This novel, told from several points of view, had a few chapters that made me uncomfortable, but for the most part I really enjoyed it.
6. I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, Nujood Ali
I love receiving reading suggestions from friends and family. I trust you guys to tell me what’s up, to give me the scoop and to not lead me astray. My dad mailed me a few books last month and this was one of them. I hadn’t heard of it, but was curious. Then, one freezing night, I drew a warm bath, grabbed this book….and one hour and some very pruned toes later…I finished it. Such a quick read, but a fascinating tale of a child bride and how she fought her husband, her culture and her past. A highly recommend a side of bubbles with this story.
5. We Were There, Allen Childs
You know I’ve read a lot about the Kennedy assassination, but this one was completely in a league of its own. It’s written by the doctors who were in Parkland Hospital’s ER and Trauma Room 1 on that fateful day. The doctors who called the President’s death and who later attended Lee Harvey Oswald. Some things I found extra interesting: A young Latino couple arrived at the ER shortly after JFK—the woman in labor. Secret Service hijacked their car and used it to transport LBJ back to Air Force One. Never knew that. I also never knew that all of the doctors attending to JFK called his neck wound an exit wound, confirming the conspiracy of a second shooter from that infamous grassy knoll. A lot of medical terminology I didn’t understand, but this was still a great read.
4. Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
The Malcolm Gladwell bandwagon is a large one and this was my first foray into his non-fiction empire. His stories of success defy most of our thoughts on the subject—that people are not just lucky. That talent and hard work will not always confirm accomplishment. It’s about opportunity and seizing the right ones. His examples include: Bill Gates, Canadian Hockey Teams, Chinese Math Geniuses and The Beatles. At this point in my reading, I started emailing myself quotes to remember, so I’ll leave you with this one: “To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success…with a society that provides opportunities for all. The world could be so much richer that the world we have settled for.”
3. A Devil to Play, Jasper Rees
This book is a must for the horn community and somehow my mom picked up on this before I did! This Rees fellow is a British journalist who played the horn in high school. During a mid-life crisis, he decides he’s going to brush off the attic dust and practice again with a performance at the British Horn Society’s festival concert as a goal. His piece of choice? Mozart’s Third Horn Concerto—music dear to my heart ever since I played it at my Peabody audition. Some of the historical sections reminded me of studying for my orals, but I love the anecdotes from horn players around the world. People we know, people who have taught both me and Joe. It was also nice to be reminded that the horn playing community is one that’s kind and welcoming. And damn funny.
2, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
You’ll notice that I try to read a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, but this has got to be my most controversial pick in a long time. Ms. Sandberg is the COO of Facebook, she’s worked at Google, she’s worked in DC in high government positions. Girlfriend has gotten around the corporate ladder, which she would love for you to re-think as a jungle gym. I never would classify myself as a feminist, but she claims being one is anyone who wants equality. I found myself enjoying some sections and hating others, even telling Joe at one point that reading her words was starting to fill me with rage. But, there were some truths in it…about women in the workplace and their ability to have their cake (job) and eat it too (family). Truths about how our culture raises daughters v. sons. She questions why women feel pressure to mute their accomplishments. Why we sacrifice being liked for being successful. Here’s a quote I, again, emailed myself: “We all want the same thing (whether we go to work, or we work at home): To feel comfortable with our choices and to feel validated by those around us.” #truth If you’re a woman, a mom, a daughter, a man, a boss, an employee–I’d still recommend this book. You’ll learn *something,* even if you’re mad doing it.
1. Insurgent, Veronica Roth
And, finally, just under the gun! This is the second book in the Divergent Trilogy and it’s just as good, if not better than, the first. In fact, I reread the last chapter three times Monday night just to make sure I got everything. Pretty intense and I can’t wait to finish out the trilogy soon without waiting for the library, thanks to Bryan and Robbi playing Santa.
As much as I have loved spending these cold months with a book in hand, I don’t plan on reading this much over the next three months. I hope to dedicate most of my time to some other projects and get outside as the world around me thaws. But, you know I’ve always got a list going of books I want to read. Here are a few now in the queue:
Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival – Jennifer Chiaverini (I *will* stop reading if this is a repeat of Spymistress!)
In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt (a library waiting list nightmare, but I’m patient)
A Feast for Crows – George R. R. Martin
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (…..I will, I swear)
Allegiant – Veronica Roth
Happier at Home – Gretchen Rubin