My reading year is December-November for the sake of this list.
Obviously this year has been bananas, but my reading life is becoming increasingly delightful, pandemic notwithstanding. Once again, the incredible podcast Currently Reading bears much of the responsiblity for that. I am getting better at knowing which recommendations to listen to and quitting when a book is just not right for me, at least not for now.
Key Recommendations are starred Pink text means I read (or reread) it for book club
Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend*
The Letter by Kathryn Hughes
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas*
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie* (this is not really what I expected, but it was good)
Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison*
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik*
Queen of Nothing by Holly Black*
American Royals by Katharine McGee*
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson*
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht*
The Witch Elm by Tana French (I was sadly disappointed by this one)
The Holdout by Graham Moore*
Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens*
The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Bridgid Kemmerer*
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
A Is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich*
Poison by Sara Poole*
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo*
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer*
Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth*
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
All This I Will Give to You by Delores Redondo
The Jane Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown*
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng*
An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl*
A Good Marriage by Kimberley McCreight*
Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love by Jay and Katherine Wolf*
Strange Fruit, Vol 1 by Joel Christian Gill*
I Look Up to… Serena Williams by Anna Membrino*
I Got Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison*
Brown Sugar Babe by Charlotte Watson*
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid*
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware*
In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund*
Sonic the Hedgehog, Vol 1: Fallout! by Ian Flynn
Cari Mora by Thomas Harris
Dog Man by Dav Pilkey* (NB: words forbidden in some houses, like “stupid,” appear)
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware*
Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins*
D’Aulaires’ Book of Animals by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace*
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware*
The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher*
Timeline by Michael Crichton*
Wherever You Go, I Want You to Know… by Melissa Kruger*
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman*
Thorn by Intisar Khanani*
March: Book One by John Lewis et al*
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London*
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus*
The Unidentified:Mythical Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsession with the Unexplained by Colin Dickey*
Guys Read: Terrifying Tales edited by Jon Scieszka
The Secret History by Donna Tartt* (trigger warnings – let me know if you need more details)
Seige and Storm by Leigh Bardugo*
The Night Swim by Megan Goldin*
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton*
American Royals: Majesty by Katharine McGee*
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire* (y’all this is middle grade but it’s also an excellent primer for Greek mythology if you don’t mind the way it’s been sanitized. Level up with Edith Hamilton’s Mythology)
Guys Write for Guys Read edited by Jon Scieska
House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig*
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas*
The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
The City We Became by NK Jemisin (I liked the idea of this book, but the execution just missed me)
Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted? by Latour Rodriguez*
The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley*
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar*
Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Anna Waterhouse*
The Art of Turning: From Sin to Christ for a Joyfully Clear Conscience by Kevin DeYoung (note the lack of a star here)
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager*
The Tea Girl of Hummingbiard Lane by Lisa See* (trigger warnings galore – let me know if you need to know more)
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson*
Batman: White Knight by Sean Murphy with Matt Hollingsworth*
One by One by Ruth Ware*
Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry*
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West (so many trigger warnings I can’t issue a blanket recommendation in good conscience, but there were many reasons that this book was really really good)
I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel*
The Shadows by Alex North* (couple trigger warnings)
After a whopping one month at my new job, I have learned some things I think might be of interest to the public.
A lot of times, the “support chat” messages you get that seem automated are from real people who are tailoring their messages to your specific situation.
There’s also a very real chance that said support people aren’t just sitting around waiting for someone to call. There are tons of other things that people could be doing that are related to support.
There is a LOT to know!
As you may remember from your days in school, group projects suck. Turns out, though, that if you’re on the right team. I have an incredible pair of colleagues, and we are having a great time working hard, helping each other learn and tag-teaming tickets. I. Love. It.
Preface: Due to two factors, the first being that I did a rotten job track when I read what between Fall 2018 and January 2019, and the second being that I decided to make this post cover through November 2020, this “year’s” book is most certainly a Circa. I kind of like that, though, and have decided that from now on, my booklists will be Circa lists, which after this year means they will run December-November.
On with the show.
First, a list of all the books I finished since about September 2018, some with notes:
Heidi by Joanna Spyri – Precious and sweet and strong. Don’t let the Shirley Temple movie trick you into thinking this is an insignificant or cutesy story.
The Cruel Princeby Holly Black – This is typically how I like my YA – fantastical or dystopian, edgy, and not too sexy, with at least one strong female character.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – I did not like this as much as I thought I would…
I, Juan de Parejaby Elizabeth Borton de Trevino – Incredible historical fiction worth lingering over and savoring. It’s later middle-grade fiction, but it’s a worthy read no matter how old you get to be.
Behold Here’s Poison by Georgette Heyer – This year I became a Georgette Heyer fan, but it was not because of this book. This book nearly prevented me from reading any more of her work. It was like if a classic Agatha Christie was redone by the people who turned The Silver Chalice into this dreadful film.
The Tempestby William Shakespeare – Not only did my fourth graders read every word of this and act in a shortened (but with 100% Shakespeare-authored lines) version, but they LOVED it. It brought new life for me to a play that I’ve loved since that classic Wishbone episode.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – I liked it more than I expected but less than I’d hoped. Usually, I really enjoy Moriarty, but this one did not get good reviews. I didn’t think it was as bad as all that, but it was not great.
The House of Silkby Anthony Horowitz – Horowitz is the only person with permission from Conan Doyle’s estate to write authorized additions to the Sherlock Holmes canon, and for good reason. This fits seamlessly and meaningfully into said canon.
The Huntressby Kate Quinn – This is a runner up for my favorites list. It’s gripping, thrilling, and a bit horrifying – the Huntress is a Nazi serial killer who’s a woman and has disappeared in the post-war chaos. To say more would be a bit unhelpful.
The Road Back to Youby Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile – A great intro to the world of the enneagram, especially for people of the Christian faith. I love going deeper into the enneagram with Typology (Cron’s podcast) and The Enneagram Journey (Stabile’s podcast).
Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge – Part of the fun of this well-done Christian romance novel (closed door, not that anything questionable is going on behind the door anyway in this novel) is figuring out which parts of the plot are inspired by which Austen novel. This is an update, but not to any one specific novel like Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility (which I loved) or Curtis Sittenfeld’s Pride & Prejudice modernization Eligible (which wasn’t my jam). Utterly delightful.
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas – What if Sherlock Holmes was actually a woman pretending to be a man in order to use her gifts for the public good but not encroach on cultural norms?
A Curse So Dark and Lonelyby Brigid Kemmerer – My favorite book of Circa 2019. I nearly devoured it whole on a plane to NYC. It’s a creatively brilliant, vibrant reimagining of Beauty and the Beast. Bonus fact: The heroine has cerebral palsy.
Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg – I snort-laughed my way through this one in one sitting. A perfect gift for an English major of any age.
Recursionby Black Crouch – Crouch does it again. This is brilliant speculative fiction that is well-conceived sci-fi that deeply delves into what it means to be human and what it means to be ourselves.
The Grand Sophyby Georgette Heyer – Heyer shines when she’s writing regency romances. Her heroines, like the eponymous Sophy in this case, are saucier than Austen’s heroines, but not unbelievably so. Think more along the lines of Charlotte Bronte. This is where I dove deeeeep.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – I don’t even know what I can say about this that wouldn’t make it sound except: favorite non-Horowitz take on Sherlock Holmes – better than both Elementary and Sherlock.
The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – Fave Georgette Heyer to date. Prime yourself for the story by reading this explanation of the term “Corinthian” – it’s not entirely different
Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mahew Whalen – A bride disappears a few days before her wedding. Why?
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory – Fun, rom-com, fairly open-door.
Lock Every Doorby Riley Sager – A gripping thriller I tore through in less than a day.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – This didn’t get great reviews, but I don’t really understand why. Maybe because I wrote a paper about its inspiration, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, I recognized most of Ware’s allusions to the original and really appreciated this update. Well done, I say.
Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich – How many Stephanie Plum novels will I read? Probably about the number Janet Evanovich writes.
Conviction by Denise Mina – Imagine you’re a true crime podcast junkie and a podcast you’re listening to unexpectedly overlaps with your life history. That’s exactly what happens in Conviction.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – A wildly popular fanfic writer (who reimagines her favorite novels – which smack of Harry Potter – as a long-term love story between the sorta Harry and the sorta Draco) goes to college. It’s fun and sweet, but for me did not live up to the hype.
Mama Day by Gloria Naylor – One of my favorite books of all time. On this reread (for book club), I cried. Again.
Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark – My favorite true crime podcasters went and wrote a very profound book! I recommend tackling 1-2 chapters at a time, and with something soothing like a glass of wine or a cup of tea in hand.
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith – I always love Cormoran Strike books. Every time they’re great. This one is no exception.
The Wicked King by Holly Black – A second book in a series is usually (deservedly) referred to as a sophomore slump. We can all think of the few exceptions because they are so unusual. This book fits in that category, in fact, I liked it better than its predecessor.
The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz – This middle grade fiction novel would be clever and creative if it had been written for adults, especially the sort who’ve read The Canterbury Tales or know a lot about the history of Christianity; instead it was weird and most likely would be confusing to a kid. If your child in the target age range wants to read it, I suggest a read along and that you have a lot of discussions.
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan – Oh, this is good fun. This is a “memoir” of the early life and young adulthood of a lady in the age of naturalists who was instrumental in the research of dragons. There’s a little taste of emerging steampunk, but mostly follows the traditions and conventions of Western Europe (esp. England) and thereby has a strong feminist streak, in the best possible sense.
The Lager Queen of Minnesotaby J. Ryan Stradahl – My #2 book of the year. I just loved it so much. The end was utterly fitting. The only reader I wouldn’t recommend it to is one with moral or personal reasons to abhor or eschew alcohol.
Celine by Peter Heller – A loaner from my bookish fairy godmother, this book was a slow burn for me. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t gripped by it. It’s the story of an ill and aging uppercrust New England brahmin who spends her time doing art and solving mysteries, usually related to family matters (like helping adoptees find their biological parents).
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth – This was a fun read, a mystery told from multiple vantage points. Yeah, we definitely have the mystery going on, and you definitely want to get to the bottom of it, but also featured prominently is the disconnect that can grow between people as a result of different expectations, different personalities, and
Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend – Phenomenal world-building. Delightful characters. If you’re a Harry Potter fan who wants some elements of the Potterverse in a new series, but done differently, this is an excellent choice.
Inheritanceby Dani Shapiro – Another loaner from my aforementioned bookish fairy godmother, this one was another huge winner of my reading year – probably book #3 if I had to choose a #3. This memoir about finding out the father who raised her isn’t biologically related to her is masterfully done and really leans into questions of identity, parenthood, genetics, and grief.
Here are the books I haven’t finished yet but intend to:
IT by Stephen King – I had planned to finish this 1153-page behemoth by the end of the year, and then I went and lost track of it for like a month. Maybe by February? (I happened started a new job in that month, and there’s no way I’m taking this heavy beast on the train with me, even if it is deliciously well-written and fascinating.)
Shrill by Lindy West – This memoir is brave and sad and funny and hard. I love so much of West’s body positivity and fat acceptance, but the chapter about her abortion broke my heart.
Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend – This worthy sequel to Nevermooris fresh off the presses; I’m hoping to finish it this weekend.
Co-Laborers, Co-Heirs: A Family Conversation edited by Brittany Smith and Doug Serven – This is an incredibly important book for the PCA (and others wrestling with similar things) about the way the Church regards women and the roles we ought to play as church members. I am so grateful for this one, and for the ability to take it a couple of chapters at a time, thoughtfully and without rushing.
A brief reminder: Affiliate links throughout – meaning I make a lil change if you purchase after clicking through.
In honor of my 35th birthday, I’m going to tell you, gentle reader, 35 random facts. After 35 years, my brain is full of them. So here they are, in no particular order. [A couple of these contain affiliate links.]
The teddy bear was orginially inspired by and named after President Teddy Roosevelt.
It’s “octopuses,” not “octopi,” because “octopus” comes from the Greek, not the Latin. #knowyourdeadlanguageroots (also per a friend who is rather obsessed with octopuses).
Extra dry champagne is sweeter than brut champagne.
“Rocky Mountain oysters” and “prairie orders” are “polite” ways to say “bull testicles.” They serve them at nice restaurants here in Colorado.
Anyone who creates a Target Circle account can get 1% back for all Target purchases.
The average number of arms possessed by a human on earth is < 2. Still, there are more human arms than people on the earth. (Just think about it.)
Despite the fact that she won Oscars in 1969 and 1978, among MANY other appearances and awards across the years, Dame Maggie Smith blames Downton Abbey for a fame that makes going out in public tricky business for her.
Sleep apnea can significantly impact your brain functioning. Get that snoring checked and get you an ASV or CPAP or something.
Endometriosis occurs across race, ethnicity, and nationality, in an estimated 10% of women.
It takes an average of 7-10 years from the onset of symptoms to accurate diagnosis of endometriosis.
Surprising brands that now carry up to at least size 24:
Early on in WW2, the USSR trained dogs to be suicide bombers. The idea was that the dogs, strapped with bombs, would run under the German tanks and blow them up. But they trained the dogs using their own tanks, so guess which ones the dogs ran under in the canine unit’s first battle. (For more, check out this article.)
Pink used to be the “boy” color and blue the “girl” color. (See?)
Juan de Pareja started life in the early 1600s as a biracial slave. He was inherited by the acclaimed portraitist Diego Velazquez. He became a painter in his own right, and was eventually freed by Velazquez and became part of his paid studio staff. There is an excellent, Newberry Award-winning middle grade novel about Pareja.
The name “Lauren” is from Latin and means “a crown of laurel leaves.”
According to ancient Greek myth, the first laurel tree was originally a nymph named Daphne who had the unfortunate luck to catch the eye of Apollo in one of his rapacious moods. He chased her when she refused him, and as she ran through the woods, she called out to the river god who was her father for deliverance. His solution? Turn her into a tree. Apollo was a sore loser and made her leaves his symbol of triumph and victory, which is why Olympic and military victors were crowned with them in the Greek and Roman cultures. He would so have not survived the #MeToo era.
There is a little bit of all three primary colors in every naturally-occurring color. (per an artist-cum-teacher friend of mine)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ran around with Marie Antoinette in her home, and he thought she was very nice because she was so kind to him when he slipped on the slick marble floors and fell.
Michelle McNamara (Patton Oswald’s late wife) played a significant role in the catching of the Golden State Killer because she rebranded him as that. He’d previously been known by a variety of names: Visalia Ransacker, East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker. By pulling all these different monikers together under one encapuslating (and catchy) title, she brought to public attention the full scope of his evil.
Originally, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, and I & II Chronicles were just Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The I & II come from them being so long they didn’t each fit onto a single scroll.
We all know about Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, but there are currently three other reigning popes: Pope Tawadros II of the Oriental Orthodox Church (a.k.a. the Coptic Orthodox Church), Pope Peter III of the Palmarian Catholic Church, and His Divine Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria Theodore II of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Y’all, I love to read. I read all kinds of books. I listen to Currently Reading and What Should I Read Next?. I have a rather massive library. But The Lager Queen of Minnesota is SO good and has completely sucked me in. Is it overdue at the library because I got a late jump on it? Yes. Does it have a massive waitlist and am I screwing them all over by keeping it? *Cringe.* Yes. Is that stopping me? NOT AT ALL.
As a beer lover with a homebrewing husband, this book is especially fascinating, but I have it on good authority (*cough*ANNEBOGLEonCURRENTLYREADING*cough*) that one does not need to love beer to fall in love with this book. Currently Reading even has a minisode interviewing the author.
So what do you need to know?
It’s not all about beer. There are also pies. And relationships. And Arby’s.
Strong female characters dominate the interwoven narratives.
The writing is fantastic, and so is the character development. I care about every single character in this book, and that’s saying something.
I’ll come back and post a follow up when I finish – hopefully in the next couple days or JeffCo Libraries will be taking alllllll my change.