Yikes! We’re already halfway through the year. I’m sure you don’t need me to say, “Where is the time going?” I know you feel it too.
I didn’t set any big reading goals this year, but I sort of informally decided to try to read what was already on my shelves. I’ve done that so far, with the exception of a few advanced reader copies.
When my dad was here a few months ago, we got to talking about how many unread books were on my shelf. (I counted about 20-30.) He said, “Oh! You could finish those in a month.” I wish. He grossly overestimated how many books I read. Usually, I read about 30 books/year, but 2017 has been a slow year. I’m at 12 books in about 6 months. But you know what? That’s ok. No matter how many books I read in a year, I always wish it was more. So I’m satisfied with this list so far.
Today, I’m sharing quick reviews of what I’ve read this year and linking up with Anne Bogel’s Quick Lit.
1. My Name is Lucy Barton: My friend Melissa finished reading this book while she was here visiting, and she handed it off to me before she left. (I can always count on Melissa for great recommendations, and she’s super generous about passing her used copies on to me.) This was my first experience reading Elizabeth Strout, and she’s no slouch; a Pulitzer winner, after all. And I really did think the writing was excellent. The story is quite sad and melancholy, and even a little disturbing at times. What struck me about it was that the writing is very sparse; there is no extraneous detail. As Lucy Barton recalls events from her life, she often shares the bare minimum and leaves you wondering what actually happened. But that allows Strout to include a lot of stories, each interwoven just slightly. It left me wanting more. At the same time, it’s a phenomenal case study in clear and consistent voice. (I’m so curious to read more of Strout’s novels and see how the writing and voice compare.)
2. Essentialism: I started reading Essentialism a long time ago, right before we moved to Michigan. I’ve wanted to pick it up and finish ever since, and I finally made that a priority. It’s a good book to read at the beginning of the year or any time you’re looking for a reset. I found the few few chapters to be really challenging and even paradigm-shifting, but the second half of the book really dropped off for me. Most of the examples and ideas focus on the business world, and I found it difficult to make connections to my own life as a stay-at-home mom. I also think that the book could be a whole lot shorter, ironically. Still, a worthwhile read.
3. Bel Canto: I’m only on the third chapter, but I’m hooked. Ann Patchett is a phenomenal writer, and there are sentences and phrases that are sticking with me. And the concept is so interesting: a Japanese business man travels to Brazil to hear a private concert from an opera star, and they are all taken hostage by a group of rebels. With the hostage situation, I was a little nervous this would be too intense or violent for my taste, but not so thus far. Can’t wait to dig in more.
4. The Storied Life of A.J. Firky: This was another delightful book with a good mix of happy and sad. I’d say it’s about the unexpected relationships that come into our lives and how they change us over time. Not to mention, books and a bookstore play a prominent role in this story, so it’s ideal for book lovers (and, frankly, literary snobs). It’s a quick and easy read that I really enjoyed.
5. The One-in-a-Million Boy: I loved this story. It’s a wonderful mix of happy and sad. It reminded me of A Man Called Ove, in that it made me both laugh out loud and cry, and that a lot of the story is about how meaningful connections and friendships can develop among people from different generations. And indeed, those friendships are essential to understanding other human beings, and they enrich our lives and communities in meaningful ways. I also feel like this is a new genre of books: stories about people with special needs (usually the Autism spectrum) and their quirky behaviors, and how those turn out to be enriching. I’m thinking about The Rosie Project, Mockingbird, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and now this one as well. (Do you know of others? Please share them!) But what I loved most about this book, perhaps, was the writing. It is not overly poetic or romantic; it’s straightforward, but it’s still beautiful. It’s concise, but packs a punch. There were several phrases and sentences that I highlighted and came back to just because they struck me. Phenomenal.
6. At Home in the World: I’ve been reading Tsh’s blog for years—long before she published her first book! But somehow, this is the first of her books that I’ve read. (I’ve checked both of the others out from the library but always had to return them before I got to them.) This is a wonderful memoir. Because of our budget, Evan’s work schedule, and three small children, we aren’t doing much traveling these days. I picked up this book thinking, “Great! I’ll live vicariously through Tsh and her family.” But this book was about much more than living vicariously through someone as they travel the globe. It is about how we reconcile a love of home with a love for travel, and how our restless feet can be a blessing whether we’re stuck in one place or not. Tsh touches on the truth revealed by seeing the world and by putting down roots. (If you read The Art of Simple, I think you’ll find her writing here familiar, but also better than what you’d encounter in a run of the mill blog post.)
7. A Family Shaped by Grace: I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy of this book. It was different than I expected, in both good and bad ways. I knew tiny bits of Gary’s story—how he was an alcoholic from a long line of alcoholics, but has been sober for decades and changed his family’s legacy. I found I wanted a bit more of that story; I think it would have made the book more compelling. That said, I found the book to be convicting, and full of practical, straightforward advice. There’s one thing, in particular, I can’t stop thinking about, and it’s bringing a lot of healing to my motherhood journey. But that’s a whole other blog post.
8. Chasing Slow: I really enjoyed this book. I love Erin’s blog; the way she writes about family, creativity, and life at home really resonated with me. This book was no exception. I especially appreciated her honesty and vulnerability in this book: she talks about her husband’s brain tumor, their bankruptcy, and more with candor. My word of the year is “dwell,” and this book was a perfect fit.
I also read a slew of home decor books while we waited to get into our new house. (Frankly, they skew my reading total a bit, because they were super image-heavy!) My favorite was Design Sponge at Home.
What I’m Reading Now: Shalom Sistas by Osheta Moore, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.
I’d love to hear what you’ve read so far this year and what you’ve got on the docket!