I’m a sucker for self help books. I admit it. Mostly because I don’t think anyone can read just one and magically fix their life. I think personal growth is something we work on our whole lives, and reading books with new ideas, processes, or tools are helpful reminders to focus our time and energy where we most want to.
So if you’re a self help junkie like myself, or you know someone who is, here are the latest ones I’ve read and recommend.
Self Help Books Worth Buzzing About
Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day
By Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
I checked this book out from the library and admittedly did not pick it up until it was almost due, and there were holds on it, so I couldn’t renew it. The irony of the fact I had to speed read a book about making time is not lost on me.
Still, this book was a great read with easily digestible sections intermixed with drawings and chart examples. The authors come from technology backgrounds at Google and YouTube. While they both enjoy and appreciate technology, they recognized that it was stealing much of their time away from family and other life goals. They offered practical ways to cut back on screen time and refocus your energy.
What I learned: By implementing some of their tactics, I reduced my mindless scrolling on my phone and how I use my social media by 40%. As someone who earned her nickname of “Wi-fi” from her spouse, I know my husband was impressed with this change.
Recommended for: people looking to reduce or better manage screen time in their lives, tech gurus, business minds
The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness
By Paula Poundstone
More of an experimental memoir than a self help book, Poundstone’s book chronicles her attempts at getting fit, organized, and learning new skills. Bonus selling point: while listening to the audiobook in the breakroom, one of our library volunteers listened in while washing some toys and both of us were laughing out loud.
Candid about her moderate celebrity status, Poundstone shares real troubles and issues that are identifiable to many. Her self deprecating humor is laugh out loud at moments, and poignant at others.
What I learned: Have a sense of humor about self help. Poundstone takes both martial arts and dance classes and sees strengths and weaknesses in her abilities with both, but that doesn’t prevent her from finding happiness in the trying.
Recommended for: humor fans, humor writers, parents, anyone looking for some motivation and courage to try new experiences/skills
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
By Charles Duhigg
This book was one of my favorite reads of the year, and I probably annoyed a lot of people talking about it. Ha!
With examples covering everything from employee culture to drastic lifestyle changes, tragic accidents to court cases, Duhigg explains how habits play a key role in our lives. The book doesn’t view habits as good or bad, but they can certainly play to our successes or vices. And when you understand how habits work, you have more awareness of how to change them.
What I learned: Many of the examples shared were jaw dropping upon breakdown, especially how habits play a role in our marketing culture. Being aware of that, I felt I had more mindfulness around spending habits and company culture. I also understood what elements I needed to play if I wanted to change habits, and I reduced my fast food intake and diet using them.
Recommended for: goal setters, knowledge seekers, marketers, business minds, managers, those in customer service, teachers, coaches, mentors
An older read, but still very relevant. Tracy’s book emphasizes starting your day with the tasks that are the largest or most productive, the “frogs”. Many of us fall into productivity traps like checking emails, and we don’t get around to the larger projects we need to address in a timely fashion. Tackling the most crucial to do’s first ensure increased productivity and fulfillment.
What I learned: Eat That Frog is a short read and includes enough tips and tricks to help you re-channel your focus to make it worthwhile. While the tips didn’t seem new or unexpected, I found it to be a good reminder for anyone with procrastination problems, like myself.
Recommended for: procrastinators, office workers, writers, business minds, anyone interested in productivity boosters
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
By Eckhart Tolle
If you’ve wondered what “living in the now” means, this book explains that. Broken into definitions, explanations, examples, and questions and answers, Tolle illustrates the power of the mind to live in the present. He discusses aspects of ego, listening, subconscious, and more.
What I learned: I’ll be honest, I struggled with this read. There were parts that made me think and I did some journaling around this topic. However, this book is not for everyone, and I admittedly wandered while listening because some of the ideas are very intellectual and I am not well practiced in “the now.” But don’t let me stop you, give it a try.
Recommended for: spiritual seekers, meditation lovers, those with an interest in self awareness
With chapters broken up by the lies Hollis told herself, she goes on to portray how she challenged her own negative thinking and moved past it. Women will find Hollis’ book very identifiable as we all battle “trying to have it all.”
Hollis keeps it real, though. She does not pretend to have all the answers or have everything figured out. She advocates for therapy, faith, and family/friend support that keep her on the right track, and admits she’s still working on things. Written like a great coffee chat with your girlfriend, Hollis is honest, open, and at times very funny.
What I learned: We all spend more time in our own heads than in anyone else’s, so why not make that a pleasant place to be and stop beating yourself up. Get help where you need it, and take control back to follow your dreams.
Recommended for: entrepreneurs, parents, couples, self help book junkies, lifestyle readers, feminists
Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life
By Gary John Bishop
Here’s the self help book for people who think they don’t like self help books. With no nonsense callouts, and a dash of humor too, Bishop provides the steps you need to take to, well, unfuck yourself.
Bishop points out the realistic fact that we’re all going to die someday, and you don’t want to get there and discover you have regrets about things you had the power to change. Offering tips to help you through the mental homework, this book asks you to consider both what you’re willing and what you’re unwilling (which can be just as important) to do.
What I learned: This book focuses on the stories we tell ourselves, so part of Bishop’s plan is for us to understand where our own stories come from. By knowing why we think the way do, we can prepare for the struggles that we’ll face in trying to change it, making that change more lasting.
Recommend for: anyone, but especially those facing transitions in their lives
Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment
By August McLaughlin
Combining personal tribulations with a wealth of science to back it up, McLaughlin has created a guide for every woman. Finally, a no shame space for discussing sexual health that advocates whatever path works for you.
From the basic to the advanced, this book is written as if you’re talking with your girlfriends, but full of medically accurate information and body positive / sex positive language.
What I learned: Many women are raised to feel shame about their bodies and their sexuality. McLaughlin’s book is a welcome and much needed addition to the bookshelf. And as a former reproductive health advocate, I wish I’d had this book to refer to students and share with the women I encountered in classes.
Recommended for: all persons who identify as female, people with questions about their sexuality, fans of body positivity/sex positivity, feminists, those who work in healthcare/teach sex ed
Own Your Glow is a beautiful combination of storytelling, self help guidance, journal prompts, and practices. Song lists and inspiring quotes are also sprinkled in.
Whether it’s overcoming hardships, dealing with change, or finding the courage to pursue your dreams, Thomas writes to the reader as if she’s a personal coach and mentor for each.
What I learned: I loved Thomas’ journal prompts to ponder the lessons more fully. The book is full of self love and self care practices. It is a total confidence boosting read.
Recommended for: women in need of a pep talk, journal writers, mothers, entrepreneurs
Those are the self help books I’ve read so far this year.
What titles are on your must read list?
Here’s the deal, folks. It’s hard to be excited about being an American right now. Our country is in turmoil. Step into the world of Facebook for a minute and you’ll feel it. Our people are torn. We’re hungry for change, but it’s clear that these changes aren’t in the best interest of us all. Instead of breaking barriers, we’re building walls, literally and figuratively.
But you know what does make me feel good about being an American? (Besides our freedom of speech, right to protest, freedom of press, local and national chapters of SURJ, the ACLU, and feminists everywhere…)
I’m serious. It is a gift to live in a country where access to books from places like libraries, schools, independent book stores, chain bookstores with coffeeshops inside them, second hand stores, little free libraries, and websites with 2 day shipping are all willing to put BOOKS in your HANDS!
Have I mentioned I love reading? Because I DO.
It is a gift to have a book in your hand. Books make us think. Books make us learn. Books teach us empathy. Books allow us to walk in the shoes of a character who is different than us. Stories – whether told in person, on paper, with numbers, on TV, over the radio, by a child, or by an adult – help us make sense of our world. It is how we learn to care about one another. How we relate to the people around us.
Here is something I learned and can’t remember where. I probably read it somewhere. 😉
It takes several generations of a family to unlearn a prejudice.
Think about that. That’s multiple LIFETIMES to actively unlearn bias.
So if we don’t have a lot of interaction with folks who are different than us, we maintain the same biased views about them – their race, their culture, their religion, their way of dress, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, etc.
If we want to, we can change that. And one easy way is to pick up a book.
READ about characters who are different than you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book and had it CHANGE MY MIND about a topic.
The Cider House Rules changed my mind about abortion.
Bamboo Among the Oaks made me cry learning about Hmoob history.
The Mayflower taught me about my own ancestors’ struggles and prejudices coming to a new world while trying to pave THEIR OWN WAY.
Perhaps I’m rambling. My point is, books have power. Books teach us. And February is Black History Month, so it’s a great time to read books about Black people and by Black people. And you know, learn a thing or two.
Here’s What I’ve Been Reading:
Currently, I’m working on this audiobook I picked up from my local library. It’s called The Firebrand and the First Lady by Patricia Bell-Scott. It’s a new in-depth look at the relationship between writer, activist, and priest, Pauli Murray, and First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. The author, Bell-Scott, diligently researched archives of Murray’s and Roosevelt’s, including letters they sent back and forth for years. She studies how this unique friendship shaped many of the political projects the First Lady advocated for.
You might recall the name Pauli Murray on this blog before when I featured her in 9 Women Who Made History You Probably Didn’t Know About.
I recently finished reading A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines as part of a Big City Read initiative my town hosted (and still is) after a City Hall presentation regarding La Crosse, WI’s history as a “Sundown Town.”
A Lesson Before Dying is the fictional story of a 1940s court case where a Black man is convicted of a crime he did not commit and sentenced to death by an all white jury. While on death row, he is visited by a Black school teacher who has been asked by the man’s family to educate him so he can “die like a man.”
There are still several community book discussions on this title for my local friends, as well as several guest speakers talking about racism, the justice system, and inequality. View all the events at La Crosse Reads.
A book I read in 2 days time last year was I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi. A “Do Better Manual” for the masses, phenomenal blogger, Awesomely Luvvie, shared stories on everything from feminism, racism, social media etiquette, dating, and more. It’s your all in one, be a better person guide, as told to you by a sassy, pop culture loving, side-eye queen.
This book is a compilation of essays, making it easy for anyone to pick it up and read a few pages at a time. You don’t have to read it chronologically if you don’t want to. Every chapter has a healthy dose of love and petty judgment.
If you want a teaser, I shared an excerpt from a hilarious chapter called When Baehood Goes Bad in a challenge Luvvie gave to bloggers to share their favorite parts.
What’s next on my to read list? Part of my 2017 Reading Challenge is one book per month from A Year of Reading and March’s pick (the theme is justice) is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. “Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.”
I’m a fan of nonfiction books, so my recommendations tend to lean that way. But there are plenty of other great book lists for Black History Month. Just google suggestions. Or see what’s shelved on Goodreads.
I hope you pick up one of these titles. Or find another interesting book about Black America that catches your eye. Maybe you already have a few you love. Tell me what they are in the comments! I’m always looking for new books to read.
Happy reading everyone!
Hello Lords and Ladies,
I’ve been happily audiobooking like a fiend lately – even managing to finish 14 books so far on my Goodreads Challenge. My goal is 55.
Both reading programs challenge the reader to crack the bindings of the books they already own on their shelves. And I have a very long list.
(At this point I won’t say whether any new books have or have not been purchased in the process of this competition. But if my husband or parents are reading this, I could use another bookshelf please. Thanks.)
Another favorite book blog I enjoy is The Broke and the Bookish who host Top Ten Tuesdays, a weekly series of top ten lists around a variety of book themes. This week we’re sharing…
Top 10 Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven’t Talked About Enough
1. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
I’d been meaning to read this one for awhile. It was in my TBR pile. After watching Steve Martin hang out with Jerry Seinfeld on the show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, it made its way higher up in the stacks. And I must say it was really nice to get back into humor books and memoirs. I really enjoyed this book and how vulnerable and honest Martin was with sharing family stories and the career path he took. Biggest takeaway: Keep working. Keep following your dream.
2. The Dog Says How by Kevin Kling
Technically, this one wasn’t part of my existing bookshelf. I heard about it through an adult storytelling class I’m taking and after watching numerous videos of Kevin Kling on youtube, I knew I wanted to read his book. It did not disappoint. Equal parts humor and heart. I highly recommend it. If you don’t have time to read it, check out his storytelling on youtube and you’ll probably find you do have the time to read his book. 😉
3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I don’t normally read a lot of romance books, but after watching the movie trailer for Me Before You, I went out and bought the last copy in my city. No, I’m not joking. I had to go to 3 different places. And once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. Me Before You is more than a love story, though. It’s the story of a man dealing with quadriplegia. I really appreciated the amount of research Moyes had to have done to write so thoroughly about living with quadriplegia and what options you have in life. You will cry, but this is worth a read in my opinion.
4. Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Ketchup Clouds is a little bit of a coming of age story. The protagonist Zoe talks about the boy she likes, going to parties, all the normal things a teenage girl would share. Except that Zoe shares these moments with a death row inmate. Told through a mix of narration and letters, Zoe reveals the worst possible secret she ever could to the only person she thinks will understand.
5. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson
I’m a big fan of memoirs and biographies and this may have been my favorite one read last year. I didn’t grow up during the Kennedy era, but I visited the Kennedy Museum and library in Boston a few years ago with my parents and heard several stories from their memories as we toured the exhibits and highlights of John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Rosemary was his sister, but the public rarely heard about her. Due to preventable complications during labor, Rosemary was born with some cognitive disabilities. In a poor attempt to “fix” his daughter, Joe Kennedy consented to have Rosemary undergo a lobotomy which went horribly wrong and left Rosemary in a worse state, losing a vast amount of her speech and mobility. My parents remember Rosemary because the care facility the Kennedy’s sent her to happened to be in Jefferson, WI, the town where my family owned a restaurant. And Rosemary use to eat at our family’s restaurant with the nuns who looked after her. This book is a heartbreaking history lesson of how laws around the disabled changed and how all families have their secrets.
6. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
I loooooved Shotgun Lovesongs. And I met the author, Nickolas Butler, and interviewed him. He’s pretty spectacular and you should check him out. The book is about five high school friends who reunite at a wedding and how their relationships change. What I loved about this book so much is how poetic the writing is. One of the first characters Butler started writing about was the character who is a musician, and the book’s title is the album title of this character. It makes sense to me that the whole book is written in different points of view and done so lyrically, just like a great playlist on an album.
7. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
I love watching the Olympics whenever its on, but I’d never looked into its history. The Boys in the Boat is the story of the 1936 U.S. men’s Olympic rowing team. First off, I had no idea how strenuous rowing actually is. They make it look so graceful, yet they’re using so many muscles, rowing is the equivalent of playing four back to back basketball games. Second, and more importantly, historically this was a time of so much perseverance on every team member’s part. Surviving the depression and the war, as well as going to school and starting families. These men bonded in a unique and focused effort to give America something to be hopeful for, to be proud of. A gold medal.
8. Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
Do yourself a favor and get the audiobook for this one! Written as though famous literary characters – and pop culture ones too – are texting one another, the audiobook includes more variety with voices and you get to hear the tone of voice used. It is laugh out loud hysterical. My favorites: Jane Eyre, Hamlet, Katniss and Peeta.
9. I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
Now that Samantha Bee has her own television show, I’m incredibly sad we canceled our cable. I wouldn’t watch anything else, but I’d want to watch her show. Her memoir was surprisingly even funnier than I thought it would be. I loved her journey to finding success, it even included playing Sailor Moon for shows that took place in a mall. It all just made me so so happy.
10. Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova
Wildalone is a haunting and breathtakingly beautiful story that weaves Bulgarian legend and Greek mythology together. It tells the story of the samodivi, or “wildalones,” also known as forest witches. As a kid I was a Greek mythology nerd and of course my husband and I were married in Greece, so I love the infusion of familiar greek myths and new to me Bulgarian legends in this tale. And Zourkova’s writing is very fantastical.
That’s my top ten.
What books have you recently read and loved and wished you’d talked more about?
The end of another year means that reading challenges are wrapping up all over. For the last three years I’ve participated in the TBR (To Be Read) Pile Challenge hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader. The goal is to read 12 books off your bookshelf that have been sitting there for more than a year.
Not a bad way to save money too!
I’m proud to report I completed the challenge by finishing my book list.
My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
- Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1905)
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1965)
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (1969)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling (1999)
- Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2012)
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
- The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry (2011)
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt (2004)
- Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (2013)
- Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher (2012)
My favorite read was probably In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I hadn’t read it before and his attention to detail really makes you feel like you’re in the room with the characters. Plus, it’s based on a true crime, a despicable crime, and yet the way he writes it, the reader is drawn to the story of the killers and what happens to them.
The final two books I have to report on are:
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
I loved this book. It’s the story of a teen girl who starts writing letters to a death row inmate. And in her letters, she confesses to a crime that she got away with.
I listened to this one on audiobook and highly recommend the audio version if you’re into them. While being a YA book, it deals with a lot of serious themes such as family dynamics, first love, finding oneself, and guilt.
What’s interesting about this book is we never actually meet the death row inmate. He’s a key character as Zoe, the teen girl, tells her story to him, revealing aspects of his own crime as she reads about it. We learn about him, but we never actually meet the inmate. I thought this book was exceptionally well written and very interesting.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
On the literary end of things, Donna Tartt’s Secret History also deals with a murder.
The book opens with a group of college freshman narrator. We know a body was found beneath the snow, and that the narrator was somehow involved, but we don’t know how.
Then the book zooms back to his first days at college, making friends, scraping money together for bills, and how Richard, the narrator, gets involved with a select group of students in a greek language class.
The students in the greek class are nothing like Richard. They come from wealthy families with summer homes in Europe and wear expensive suits to class and dine at fancy restaurants multiple nights a week. But Richard does his best to fit in.
Everything has a cost. And that’s all I’ll tell you about this one.
For those of you that are looking to join up with a reading challenge in 2016, I must sadly report that Adam is not continuing the TBR Pile Challenge, but will have other reading challenges available you can check out on his blog.
So I partnered with Adam and some of my favorite book bloggers to find another reading challenge that focused on the stacks that no longer fit on my bookshelf. Here’s what they recommended.
2016 Reading Challenges
Both challenges focus on reading books you already own, but that can be actual paper copies as well as ebooks.
There is no set number you have to read, it’s up to you to decide what is manageable and what you want to achieve.
Andi and Maren are both setting goals of 100 or more! I am shooting for 24. That’s 2 books/month. So truly, go as big or as small as you want!
Another bonus, you don’t have to pick the book titles ahead. (This is helpful to me since my reading varies on my mood. I like that these challenges allow for flexibility.) I’ll be adding a page soon with my full library to list all my reading options. Feel free to share your recommendations with me in the comments too!
If you have a blog, the hosts encourage you to write reviews of the books you read and share them with the hashtags above. You can also catch them on Instagram!
The first thing you have to do is count up how many unread books are on your bookshelf…and floors and desk and bedside table.
I have a grand total of 161 unread books.
And I asked for more for Christmas!
I’ll be kicking off the challenge with my gluttonous consumption of the Outlander series. I’m working on Voyager now.
So who’s with me?
Are you participating in reading challenges in 2016?
If you did any this year, how did they go? What was your favorite read?
P.S. Need help writing a book report? Check this out! 😉
P.P.S. In case you missed it, I guest blogged at Coach Daddy last week, hanging out with my pal, Eli Pacheco! I shared 3 books, 3 songs, and 3 quotes to inspire the world! Eli is always writing honest and inspiring blog posts. He just did a great one this weekend about gratitude. Stop by and hang out with us, it’s a fun group!
Scooch in close you guys. I’ve got a
secret widely known fact to share.
I love books.
I just really like to read. All genres. All authors. I love memoirs, historical fiction, humor books, creepy thrillers, erotica novels, creative nonfiction, and YA books too.
I am, however, none too crazy about dinosaur erotica. But I researched it once.
I’ve made it through four books on my Top 10 Books to Read This Summer. I would likely be further along except for…Outlander. ‘Nuff said.
My pal, Maren, from The Worn Bookmark just posted her Summertime Madness Tag with lots of great titles you should definitely read! And she invited others to play along. So, I’m joining in! And so can you! Share your summertime madness picks in the comments or in a post of your own! Link back so I can see what’s on your must-read list!
1. Show a book with a summery cover.
I just finished reading this book about Bill Bryson’s road trip across America and it’s made me antsy to begin our own soon.
2. Pick one fictional place that would be the perfect destination for your summer vacation.
3. You’re about to go on a flight to your Summer Vacation. But you want to read a book that lasts for the whole flight, so what novella do you choose?
It’s not really a novella, but it is a collection of essays which are easily read. Laurie Notaro is one of my favorite humor authors and this is one of her best books. I would gladly chuckle through the plane ride reading this book.
4. You have a case of Summertime Sadness. What happy book do you pick up to shine a smile on your face?
Samantha Bee’s book is hilarious! I loved her no holds barred, honest writing and her description of her family. This book would definitely put a smile on my face. I mean, just look at the cover.
5. You’re sitting at the beach all alone…which fictional character would be your beach babe?
So Maren and I have the same answer here. Jamie Fraser! This Highland hottie can double as my beach blanket babe anytime!
6. To match your ice cream you want an icy cool sidekick! Which fictional sidekick do you pick?
What better sidekick than the costar of all costars? I think Judy Greer and I could be great friends and get into all kinds of shenanigans over the summer.
Your turn! What books on your summer madness list?
We’re three months in on the To Be Read Pile Challenge. How’s everybody doing?
The TBR Pile Challenge is hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader as a way to join all bibliophiles together! You select 12 books that have been gathering dust on your bookshelf for one year or longer and vow to read those books in 12 months time!
I love this challenge and how it focuses me on reading some of the books I already own. (We won’t discuss the rate at which I buy and/or borrow new ones, especially when returning from a writers conference where there’s a book fair.)
I’ve actually been ahead of the game with this year’s challenge, finishing book #5! However, I’ve been very poor in writing reviews. So to catch up for the third check-in of the year, here’s what I’ve been reading and what I thought of the books.
TBR Pile Challenge Book Reviews
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Truman Capote’s creative nonfiction book about a mass murder in Kansas has long been on my ‘to read’ list. The book has a very eerie nature, and is exceptionally well written, bouncing back and forth between the investigation of the Clutter family murders and what the killers who doing leading up to the crime night.
Truman Capote spent much time with the killers while they were imprisoned and in limbo with court appeal processes. It’s very likely they thought he was a friend considering how much trust he gained and how he helped with their case. That makes the title of this book all the creepier to me.
For fans of suspense novels, true crime, and creative nonfiction, I highly recommend this book. I was on edge as the gory details unfolded and we learned more and more about the killers’ early lives, odd jobs, and how they befriended one another. The writing is so good, you almost root for them. And that’s what I found so interesting. When all we know in a murder case is who did it, it’s easy to write off the killer as a menace. But when you know more about their life and the troubles they overcame, does it make you understand more, even if you still accuse?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
After In Cold Blood, I needed something a bit lighter, so I dove into book 3 of the Harry Potter series.
Don’t shun me, I haven’t read the series yet. I’ve been slowly savoring it, reading one a year or so. But this title may make me speed up a bit. It has by far been my favorite and I enjoyed the first two.
In Harry’s third year at Hogwarts School, his life is in danger not just from “He Who Shall Not Be Named” but also from the most notorious prisoner in Azkaban, Sirius Black. And when you’re a teenager, it’s equally annoying that the biggest snob in school, Draco Malfoy, is picking on you and your friends.
Exceptional colorful characters and an action packed plot, I really enjoyed this one. There were so many characters coming into play throughout the book, but I loved every minute. Plus they’re distinct enough that it’s easy to distinguish who’s who. Made me really want to read book 4 right away.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
The Jungle was always a title on the classics list we could choose from in school, so I was well familiar with the nature of its subject – the horrendous working conditions of early factories. It’s known for launching the creation and reform of many labor laws and unions. It rivals Uncle Tom’s Cabin for how much political influence it had!
I wanted to enjoy this book. And I did, parts of it. The book follows an immigrant family as they adapt to American ways and try to find work in the worst of conditions. The first half of the book I liked, and learned a lot about the life expectancy and injuries that happened in our workplace before labor rights acts. So many men and women died of blood disease from infections that began at work.
And this book will really make you want to be a vegetarian. It’s pretty disturbing. Sure, you’d expect that from a slaughterhouse, but it’s really the rats crawling over the meat that did me in. *shudder*
I would recommend this book for historical purposes or for those who like to read a classic now and again. But be forewarned, it gets very long, and I wouldn’t say the book has a happy ending. After awhile, it was difficult to read about so much trauma in one family, though I’m absolutely sure it was common for immigrant workers and even in families today.
Have you read any of these?
Are you doing the TBR Pile Challenge? If so, how’s it going?
It can never hurt to add more titles. What are you reading right now?
So when I spotted The Broke and the Bookish‘s Top Ten Tuesday theme of ten books I’d love to read with my book club, I had to share my suggestions. Be sure to swing by their post and check out other book club suggestions too!
In my group, we have 11 members and meet once a month, with December being a holiday party in which we each wrap a book we read in the past year to giveaway. It works out nicely that each member gets to pick the book for the month they host book club. This year we also each picked a genre so we’d end up with a wide variety of kinds of books. Should be a fun year!
Since book recommendations are always something I love, in addition to my dream list, I’m sharing the titles my book club has selected for this year so far.
Historical Fiction: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Mystery: Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James
Autobiography/Memoir: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life by Sophia Loren
Nonfiction: The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Sci-fi: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (my pick)
Classic: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
But if they ever let me choose ALL the books we read in a year…
Top 10 Books I’d Love to Read in My Book Club
1. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The story of two women – Nao, a teenage girl who feels she has nothing to live for and Ruth, a novelist living across the ocean who finds a lunchbox with a secret history inside. Now, these women’s stories are about to entwine.
2. Child Star by Shirley Temple Black
I grew up watching Shirley Temple films, so I’ve always wanted to read this book. Sadly, it’s out of print, but you can get used copies on Amazon. This is her story about becoming a rising star during the depression era.
3. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
We’ve already read quite a few war books in my club, but none that focus so much on the women’s perspective. Almost 75,000 women were recruited to work in Manhattan Project’s secret cities on a variety of tasks that aided WWII.
4. The Never List by Koethi Zan
Sarah and Jennifer are two friends who make one bad judgement call and spend the next three years held captive by sadist men. Ten years later, when Sarah’s abductor is up for parole, she decides to confront her phobias, and faces fears she didn’t know existed beneath the surface.
5. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Phones no longer ring. The internet stops working. News reports have ended. People live indoors and stay there. One look at what’s outside and they will never be the same again.
6. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Jenna Metcalf is searching for her mom. Her mom that has been gone for over a decade. She scours what little information is left behind and partners up with both a medium and a private investigator.
7. The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival by Carine McCandless
Most are familiar with the story of Chris McCandless, the boy who left home to live off the land. His story of the nomadic life was made famous as the subject of Jon Krakauer’s book, Into the Wild. Now, twenty years later, Chris’s sister, Carine, shares intimate details about her brother’s journey and their family.
8. Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
Author Suki Kim shares her experiences of teaching English in North Korea. It’s a mysterious world where her letters are censored, yet she adores the enthusiasm of her students. A unique glimpse at a culture we rarely get to peek into.
9. See How Small by Scott Blackwood
A brutal murder leaves three girls dead in an ice cream shop. The remainder of the story follows the townspeople as they try to make sense and move on from the travesty. But it also follows the three girls, whose spirits also check in on the townspeople.
10. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The hottest new title in Young Adult novels. A chance encounter on the school roof throws Theodore – who thinks only of death – into Violet’s world, where she lives in the future – planning for life after graduation. How will these polar opposites shape one another?
Have you read any of these titles? What did you think?
What books would you pick for your book club to read?
With December here, the 2014 To Be Read Pile Challenge is coming to a close. This is my favorite reading challenge as it stresses reading books you already own. Like so many writers, I have a book buying problem. I love bookstores and even when I’m shopping in a place like Target, I have to peruse the book aisles. I just love books!
What that leads to is multiple shelves of books that I haven’t read yet because I’m always buying more or renting some from the library or listening to ones on audiobook.
The To Be Read Pile Challenge focuses on reading 12 books that have been sitting on your shelf for more than a year in one year’s time. You’re also allowed to pick 2 alternates in case one of the books you choose is impossible to get through.
This year I read all my 12 and one alternate! (And I just looked at my Goodreads shelves – I read 40 books total this year! Hoping to finish the two in my sidebar before 2015 as well.)
What were the final 2 books I completed for the TBR Pile?
Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
I hate to admit I did not really like this one. But here’s the honest scoop. I think Jen Lancaster is a great writer! She is funny and witty and has a great writer’s voice.
I think the problem for me was that I could not identify with her in this book. Bitter is the New Black is Jen’s memoir about having it all – six figure salary, name brand clothes, posh apartment, all the witty comebacks and snide comments one can muster. Then she loses everything, and has to learn how to budget, shop less, and live less extravagantly.
I didn’t grow up or ever achieve a six figure lifestyle, so I’ll be honest and say the most bitter person in this book, was ME, the reader. I had a poor attitude reading Jen’s story because I couldn’t handle her complaining about loss when it seemed she didn’t appreciate what she had for so long.
Bitter party of one! I admit I wasn’t in a mindset to appreciate this book like I could. Sorry Jen!
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Bookworms will love this paranormal read by Deborah Harkness! Diana Bishop is a researcher at Oxford, who haphazardly uncovers a book that is filled with all the secrets of the magic world – vampires, demons, and witches. Now, all those creatures are showing up in the library and everywhere else Diana roams.
With the help of a tall, dark and handsome vampire named Matthew, Diana must discover the secrets of the book before the others do.
I liked this one. It’s an interesting spin on how the worlds of paranormal creatures intertwine. And there’s a historical element to it because Diana is descendant from Elizabeth Bishop of the Salem Witch Trials.
Anyone read the next one in this series?
I want to know what your favorite book(s) you read this year was!
When I look back at my list, I had books that I hated (One Thousand White Women), I had a few classics I completed (Anne of Green Gables, Mansfield Park, Rebecca), and I had books I loved (The Night Circus, Official Book Club Selection, Love With a Chance of Drowning).
But my favorite book I read this year was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
A young adult novel by genre, this book is phenomenal for any audience. It won the National Book Award – and BONUS* it’s one of the most banned books of all time! (Shhh – it talks about masturbation. hehehehe)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the story of Junior, an American Indian growing up on a reservation who takes a risk and attends the all white school in the next town.
I learned so much from this book. I think it should be required reading for students. It talks about race – yes – but it does it from the voice of a high school student – with honesty about both sides.
It talks about poverty and the downward spirals that poverty fosters – alcoholism, abuse, depression. Still, Junior is able to show us these things with some sense of humor and humility.
Get the book if you can. I read this one via audiobook which I loved, because the author reads it and I so appreciate hearing any story about a different culture in the voice of a native speaker, but if you get the book there are really fun cartoon drawings in it because that’s how Junior makes sense of his world, through drawing.
I cannot speak highly enough about this book. I didn’t want it to end. It was so good. And I learned so much.
What was the best book(s) you read in 2014?
What titles will you be putting on your 2015 To Read Pile list?
Exciting news! Adam from Roof Beam Reader has kicked off the sign up for the 6th annual To Be Read Pile Challenge this 2015, so be sure to create your must read list and sign up!
Happy Weekend Everyone! Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and settle in. I’ve got your reading assignments right here!
Tickle Your Funny Bone
I highly suggest you all meet and follow my writers group facilitator, Heidi Blanke! I just convinced Heidi to start blogging, so please give her a warm welcome. You won’t be sorry as she is an excellent writer and always adds a good dose of humor to her work! Check out To Sleep……..Not!
Got a fear of flying? All those who wanderlust – no matter your preferred method of transportation – should check out She’s a Maineiac’s I’ll Take 30 Bags of Tiny Pretzels Please. Beware the monster on the wing of the plane. 😉
The fabulous Kait Nolan shared Morgan Freeman…on helium in this week’s Three Awesome Things.
Writing Resources and Posts to Make You Think
Tiffany Lawson Inman guest posted at Writers in the Storm with Want to Write Like a Bestseller? Write Naked First! The woman behind the Twitter account @NakedEditor, Tiffany offers advice on writing emotion, dialogue, and active setting.
Also on Writers in the Storm, Kait Nolan, self-publishing maven and ROW80 founder, shared 10 Reasons Why You Should Know How to Format Ebooks. It is a wealth of information with in depth tips and I for one really appreciated this post because she made digital formatting not seem so freakin’ scary. 🙂
Triple times the love – Writers in the Storm has had some awsome-sauce posts lately. Margie Lawson guest blogged Write the Hard Stuff – Facial Expressions. That is tricky! Thanks Margie, for the tips!
Kristen Lamb wrote an amazing post about “empathetic correctness” and what it could mean for writers. You must read Something Wicked This Way Comes & Why Writers Could Be In Great Danger. Very thought provoking and I’ve wondered the same thing myself.
Bob Mayer shared The 1 Thing Authors Need to Consider referring to Amazon and Hachette. Quality post with thought provoking questions about the nature of the writing industry.
What about educating those around you? Caitlin Kelly wrote The 12 Things You Should Never Say to a Writer.
What are your favorite books you’ve read? Deanne Schultz took her list and created The Top Five Ingredients of a Great Book.
G. G. Andrew also discusses What Good Books Do and takes us along for the ride!
Telling it like it is, Susie Lindau brings us Why Blog? And What the Heck is a Writers Platform? Happy 3 year blogiversary, Susie!
Jenny Hansen brought up a great point in her post, Do You Know How to Edit and Proofread? There is a difference you know.
Tawna Fenske compiled some amazing reader photos from the release of her new book in The Week You All Became Booksellers.
Do genre definitions confuse you? Marcy Kennedy to the rescue with A Crash Course in Thriller Sub-Genres.
Share a post of your own!
What’s on your must read list this weekend?
I recently started reading Sarah Silverman’s memoir, The Bedwetter.
It’s pretty amazing.
I had never read any books written by stand up comics before. I’ve read a ton of humor authors, including finally Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck – so people can stop shaming me about never having read any Nora Ephron. Challenge accepted.
I love listening to Sarah’s story. She’s brutally honest about the things she dealt with as a kid and how they shaped her sense of humor. True to the title, Sarah was, in fact, a bedwetter long into elementary school. She saw numerous doctors and spent years with a hypnotist, but still had to wait it out until she, and mostly her bladder, grew.
As a young comic, Sarah took risks. She’s known for telling vulgar jokes that often involve bowel movements or racism. But she’s also a hard working comedian. She spent hours at open mic nights whether she was slated to go on or not, just on the off chance someone else didn’t show and she could step in. She worked in comedy clubs, where she met some of her heroes and was able to network and be inspired.
And when she did make it big, she didn’t lose her childish enthusiasm for the work she gets to do. She reminds her peers and staff that they get to be a part of something creative.
Sarah inspired me to enjoy some stand up comedy this weekend. Here are some of my favorite bits to help kick off your monday!
Early Sarah Silverman Stand-up:
Maria Bamford on Coworker Feuds
The Fabulous Tig Notaro (who I get to see speak at BlogHer!!!) – No Moleste!
Sneak Peek from Jim Gaffigan’s new show, Obsessed – Seafood
Eddie Gossling – I Am Not a Rocket Scientist
and finally…my college friend, Joann Schinderle, who is doing in stand-up in Portland, OR!
What made you laugh this weekend?