I love looking at what others are reading and talking about why those books are engaging and worthy of reading. If I lived in an area where the books clubs were something other than a cookie swap for the older generation, I’d be all over it. Maybe I should be all over it. Truth is, cookies and grandmas sounds pretty damned good right now, as I write this. Semi-rural, small town ‘Merica doesn’t always produce the best opportunities for thriving book clubs. When the kids were little, I was doing my bi-monthly trip to the public library to return and let the kids load up on books, and I almost peed my pants once when I saw that the monthly reading for the book club was Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I looked at the librarian and said, “Wow, you guys are going seriously dicey this month. How are the ladies going to get past chapter one in the kitchen when he explains why he knew he wanted to be a chef?” The librarian smirked at me, rather wryly I’ll add, stating, “It was time to shake things up a bit.” Ya think?!?! I still kick myself for not going that month.
Reading is a favorite pastime of mine, and I finally broke down and got a subscription to Audible. Given the amount of time I spend in the car, I figured it was time way better spent listening to the books I want to read whilest I continue to rack up thousands and thousands of miles on my car as I travel throughout northern New England this ski season.
We all have our favorite genres when it comes to reading. Truthfully, I read everything from serious academia to smut, and all the glory in-between. I’m not 100% sure I have a favorite genre since I will read anything that sounds interesting. Quick anecdote about my smut: A few summers ago a friend of mine introduced me to one of her colleagues, telling me, “You’ll love him – he’s just like you. Reads a ton.” Well, at the time, I was reading smut. Of course the conversation ventured to reading, and he asked what I was currently reading. I figured I could default to the prior book I had read, which was Sand Castle Girls by Chris Bohjalian, and he would likely raise his eyebrows, thinking, “Such a chick book,” to which I would say, “It’s a bit like historical fiction about the Armenian Genocide,” to which he would look surprised. However, typical me, I decided to go balls to the wall, and when he asked what I was reading, I challenged him with a deadpan look in the eye, commenting, “Motorcycle porn.” The shock that crossed his face, which he desperately, yet failingly, tried to hide, was so worth the moment. I coyly stated, “I like to mix it up every once in a while.”
Since November, I’ve enjoyed everything from food to history to humor to poignancy, and loved every moment. Check out my reading list below. Each book is linked to Amazon, if for no other reason than I own a Kindle. I’ve actually read more books than this, but some weren’t worthy of putting in here. It’s not that I didn’t like them, but rather, they didn’t penetrate into my being the way these books below did.
Want to make it so you never buy anything processed ever again? Yeah, read this. Holy moly, there were points when I almost gagged. The Introduction alone is a shocker (well, not really when you sit back and really think about it), that will just leave you shaking your head. There are whole chapters on Kraft and Coca-Cola (surprise)… the book makes you never want to go through the middle aisles of the grocery store. Ever. Again. There were points when I said to myself, “I’m just going to eat dirt.” The subtitle How the Food Giants Hooked Us is no lie. You will be astounded at some of information in this text, and also realize how duped you’ve been into believing some of the food stuff you love is all a complete, twisted chemical joke.
Truth be told, I still love me a Diet Coke every so often. Not gonna lie.
Please, please, please read this book before you go see the movie. I’ve not yet seen the movie because I adored this book so much, I do not want the movie to ruin it for me. Everyone has said the movie is wonderful, but none of them have read the book. If you don’t know the premise of this text: “The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space…Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.” – Amazon.com
I’d argue this text takes you back before WWII, showing bits of history hardly known to most about the challenges African Americans, especially women, faced. But the nuisances of this book – how it weaves history into the lives, families, and careers of these brilliant women – is something I can’t fathom Hollywood, no matter how well casted the film is, will manage to capture. These women were dynamos of their time and history, and this book will take you through so much more than the space race. It will take you into the inner weavings of of what defines classy ladies, true grit, sheer inner strength, and real brains.
Why, oh why, do you ask is this on my list? I am a teacher who works with middle school kids, and in a time when iPads, computers, and cell phones drive the Christmas List, my co-teacher and I always feel it is an important text so we all remember the true spirit of Christmas. No one really wants to be weighed down by all the chains as Marley was. I know it’s 11 months before this next Christmas, but, a classic is always a classic.
I cannot tell you how much a LOVED this book; truthfully, I am so much happier I listened to it – I listened to the version narrated by George Newbern – because hearing Ove’s thoughts was priceless! While I’m sure I could have read it with the same intent, the narrator of this audio version nailed it, in my humble opinion.
Ove is your proverbial cantankerous old fart who seemingly hates everyone and everything – people have titles, not names such as the fat, stupid IT guy, kinda thing. He might be your neighbor from Hell, if you lived next to him. But his subtle transformation after a chance meeting with the young couple who plow over his mailbox because the husband has no idea how to back up a U-Haul (which he finds a huge statement on this man’s generation), is utterly delightful. Like all of us – cranky or perky, young or old – he has a story, one wrought with poignancy, that gives him his lovable stubbornness. And like all of us, he’s not too far gone to give up on. A real story of the human nature, friendship, and family.
I am notorious for being painfully behind the popular bandwagon (except with shoes), and then I realize I am not the only one. If you have not read The Alchemist, drop whatever it is you’re doing right now and read this book today. It’s audio version, dreamily narrated by Jeremy Irons, is only four hours, and so worth your time. Almost life changing POV kinda thing.
So chipper away if you’ve read this and are thinking, “Hey, dingbat, this story is old news.” I’m going to say no. This might be one of those books I reread each year. When we’re told that treasure awaits, likely we all think, “Ooooo, gold!” How about the treasures within? When we follow our heart in search of our dreams, there is nothing we cannot achieve. (I think I just made a double negative).
Honestly, I read this because 1) the title was so intriguing, and 2) it got such rave reviews. Hey, isn’t that what throws you into a book sometimes? And the other truth is that I love a good book cover – sometimes, you can judge a book by it’s cover. The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is one of those books that weaves familiar notions readers of canonical literature all seem to know in with new characters who are growing up in a “new American art form” aka plagiarism – there’s intense irony in this chapter once you’re in the book. In the quest to find himself, the narrator – himself a writer – manages to weave a life of tangled lies, and comes out telling a wildly inventive, yet oddly true story of the lies of his life.
It’s a love story, a tale of truth and lies, a coming of age story, a tale of pain and privilege, and it’s characters are both funny and pitiful all at the same time. This book just sucks you in.
I’m wondering how in green Earth I’ve never heard of this until now. It’s been described as a modern-day Alice in Wonderland, given Milo’s entrance into an imaginary world where he needs to rescue Rhyme and Reason out of the Mountains of Ignorance. If you love language, you will cherish this book! The puns, the irony, the double entendres, and the flat out humor because of it all will keep you reading well into the night – I was literally (and we’ve had this discussion, I fully understand this term) laughing out loud as read this “children’s” book.
Even though it was written in 1961, this text holds almost painful truth to today’s younger generation and their level of “boredom”, yet it rings true with many lessons for readers of all ages. Imagination is a wonderful, amazing, captivating, curious thing, isn’t it?
What are you reading? Tell us in the comments! Now go out and snuggle up with a cup of tea and a great book! HAPPY READING!
Book thumbnail image credit