With 27 books read in the last quarter of 2016, I’d say I’m definitely back on the reading bandwagon! I read some great books the last three months, but the majority of what I read fell in the fair-to-middling category. That is, they were decent reads. Nothing to gush about, but nothing to rant about, either. Still, I did read several books that are definitely worth ranting or raving about, as you can read below.
(Sidenote: The next edition of my newsletter “Notes from MP” goes out this Wednesday! You can subscribe here if you haven’t already. Once a month, on the first Wednesday, I send out a newsletter with an exclusive personal essay. It’s good stuff, if I do say so myself. I’d love it if you subscribed! Thank youuuuu!)
The Books I Loved
Becoming: Sex, Second Chances, and Figuring Out Who the Hell I Am by Laura Jane Williams*
Laura Jane Williams is one of my favorite writers and my best 2016 online “find” to date. She’s someone I will literally drop everything I’m doing the moment I see she’s published something new so that I can read it immediately. I was lucky enough to win a signed copy (!) of her memoir Becoming on Instagram — especially lucky since this book doesn’t have a U.S. release yet. I had hyped up this book so much in my mind that I was nervous to start it, because what if it fell short of my expectations? Luckily, it surpassed them. I devoured Becoming in less than six hours and so much of it spoke into the depths of my soul and right into my heart, even from the earliest pages. LOVE.
Farewell to the East End: The Last Days of the East End Midwives by Jennifer Worth
Worth is a fantastic memoirist and Farewell to the East End was just as good as the two previous books in the Call the Midwife trilogy. I was familiar with some of the stories due to the TV show these books inspired, but Worth explores them with greater depth than the show and it was well worth a read.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
I love all of Adichie’s writing, but what I loved most about Purple Hibiscus is how understated it was. The story was rich and vivid and came to life before my eyes, but there is so much left unsaid in this novel and that’s what stuck with me. The push-pull Kambili feels towards family and friends, religion and politics, love and hate, childhood and adulthood, the old and the new, is the undercurrent that runs throughout this novel and I loved it so.
Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
Shadows of the Workhouse is the only book in the Call the Midwife trilogy that made me cry. Again, while the stories in this book were used in the TV show’s storyline, Worth spends much longer on each one and as a result, they are much more memorable and remain distinct in my memory.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
Adapted from Adichie’s popular TED Talk, We Should All Be Feminists was a quick but incredibly worthwhile read. ABSOLUTELY we should all be feminists, and she articulates the reasons why far more eloquently than I ever could.
The Books I Liked
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
While I feel like I am just outside the target demographic for Adulting, I still found the majority of the tips in this book to be useful and practical. I may not be fresh out of college, totally clueless in the kitchen, or at my first “big girl” job, but I still am navigating my twenties the best I can and hey, I’ll take any tips I can get!
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a meticulously researched narrative non-fiction novel that tells the story of families striving towards a better life in Annawadi, a slum right outside the prospering city of Mumbai. A false accusation in a shocking tragedy sends reverberations throughout Annawadi, and the lives of those in the slum are never the same again. Because this tells the story of real events and people, there’s no satisfying conclusion at the end, and all the story threads remain loose and untidy. But the writing is powerful, and I learned much about the slums of Mumbai that I never knew before.
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
I don’t read much Young Adult anymore, but The Start of Me and You reminded me of everything I love about the genre. The character development is really good, and I love how Lord gradually progresses each relationship in the story so that it feels realistic for high school. An enjoyable read, indeed.
This Road I Ride: Sometimes It Takes Losing Everything to Find Yourself by Juliana Buhring
This Road I Ride tells the story of Buhring’s world record breaking journey of cycling across the globe, solo, in 152 days. (She even beat the previous men’s record, too!) I know nothing about cycling outside of what goes on in a spin studio, and Buhring’s journey was fascinating to read. I can only hope to have her determination and perseverance and be able to apply it towards one of my own goals, one day.
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by Blair Braverman
Braverman is a phenomenal writer and Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube was a wonderful debut. A native Californian, Braverman always felt a connection to the Great White North and ran off to Norway, Alaska, and Norway again. Each time, she confronted her fears and got a little closer to finding a place she could call home. A wonderful read with a remarkable closing chapter.
The Books I Didn’t Like
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
Amoruso drank her own Kool-Aid in #GIRLBOSS. She contradicts herself a ton in this book, relentlessly toots her own horn by reminding everyone just how successful her company is, glorifies her shoplifting days (it’s glamorous because she’s a pretty white woman?? IDK) and litters the novel with lots of empty platitudes and generalizations. Ugh.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Maze Runner is a super easy read that is poorly paced and not very well written. Plus, the main character leaves a lot to be desired considering the book would’ve been vastly improved had the story been more character-driven.
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
I had such high hopes for Reading Lolita in Tehran but man, I did NOT like this book. It was disjointed, and the pages of analytical prose about various works of literature didn’t really add anything for me, even when Nafisi was able to connect it to life in Tehran. Parts of this novel were fascinating, but not enough for me to recommend others to read.
The Books I Didn’t Finish
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
I’m not sure why I picked up A Long Way Down when I didn’t like the movie. It’s no surprise, then, that I couldn’t even get through the book version either.
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
I just couldn’t get into The Queen of the Night. The lack of quotations whenever anyone spoke threw me for a loop, and I felt like the prose was too focused on being serious for me to actually take the story itself seriously.
The Books Somewhere in the Middle
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, King Kaiser Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War by Catrine Clay, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson, Motorcycles I’ve Loved by Lily Brooks-Dalton, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen, Paris in Love by Eloisa James, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick, Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland by Ken Ilgunas, Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami