As Labor Day has officially come and gone, I guess we have to come to terms with the fact that summer is over (and that we can no longer wear white….). I know some people usually make a “summer reading list” beforehand, but even though I love lists I’m the type who reads where the wind blows, then makes a recap later on. AKA I may have recently reread the first three Harry Potter books in three days (how can you stop!?) but then got lost in Fitzgerald and thennnnn fell IN LOVE with Adichie. Life is so short, you know?
If you didn’t know, I’m a huge reader. Like, huge reader. I feel like I eat up a good book like some consume a fine meal (gobbling down the whole thing in one sitting, without coming up for air or small bite by small bite, saving every last flavor). I also feel like I sometimes overwhelm people with my love of books. Asking me “What have you been reading lately?” is a very loaded question…. that I love to answer. So, interwebs, thanks for asking! Here’s – in no particular order – what I read this summer:
[Did you read any of the same titles? What did you think? Have any recommendations for me?? Let’s chat!]
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’m a fan of all things Fitzgerald, and I was also a fan of this movie back in 2008. (Yes, it was strange. Yes, it had Brad Pitt. Need I say more?) This very, very short story by Fitzgerald is entertaining, but I wouldn’t say it’s his best work.
I happen to hate reading books after already seeing the movie adaptions – so maybe I’m a little biased here. Regardless, it’s a fun, quick read!
A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
One of my all-time favorite books, ever. I scored a hardcover of this book for $1 recently, so I obviously had to reread it. Again. I’ve actually never read Hosseini’s more famous The Kite Runner, so I can’t compare the two, but this one is such a raw look at life of Afghan women throughout 1960 – the early 2000s (for you non-history buffs, Afghanistan kinda sorta changed a lot in that period). Not only does Hosseini weave history into the story, making it even more fascinating, but also expertly brings together different stories to result in one, beautiful narrative. It’s a little intense in a few parts, so fair warning, but this book is hard to put down (also fair warning).
Side note: I’ve also read his more recent And The Mountains Echoed, which was good but I didn’t think on the same level as A Thousand Splendid Suns. Anyone else read both??
The Face of a Stranger, Anne Perry
I have this bad habit of buying random novels at used bookstores because 1. they’re cheap and 2. I usually need something small, light, and entertaining for flights / trips that I don’t mind getting rid of once I’m done. This usually results in me reading horrrrrrrrrible halves of novels before getting rid of them, or suffering through laughable story lines because of sheer boredom. Every now and then, I get a gem. This was the gem of all gems.
The Face of a Stranger is apparently the first in a series (of which I want to read more of!) of crime novels set in Victorian era England. Historical and a mystery? Yes please. Well written, well thought out, and well drawn out…. now I know why Anne Perry is an award winning, world renowned author. (Who, I just found out via Wikipedia, was imprisoned as a teenager for helping her best friend kill her mother!! Crazy.) This is not the mystery novel that you’ll have completely figured out by the end of chapter 1.
Americanah, Chimamanda Adichie
Pretty much stop what you’re doing right now and go get this book. Seriously. This is definitely the best thing I’ve read this year. As if I don’t already have the biggest girl crush on Adichie (how can you not?!), this book is flawless. Adichie is a genius.
It follows a Nigerian girl as she moves to America for college, and then back to Nigeria after being “Americanized” for 15 years. Not only is it a fascinating story line, but the social commentary on race, immigration, privilege, and a million other things is an educational experience that everyone should go through. Adichie holds nothing back, but does so in a way that is neither offensive or upsetting; she simply gives a realistic look from a view point that I believe is severely un-heard from.
Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Have I mentioned how much I love all things Fitzgerald? Because I do. This book is lonnnnng. Not simply in page length, but it takes a long time to get through, and it took Fitzgerald the longest to write. He thought it was his best work …I might have to disagree. Honestly, this book isn’t for the faint of heart. The first half was a struggle to get through (for me), but about halfway things started getting good and I was glad I stuck with it. Any literary critics feel different??
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Adichie
This is a great piece of historical fiction that also gives interesting insight on growing up in Nigeria. Adichie effortlessly weaves together different narratives to show various viewpoints on the Nigerian Civil War in the late 60s, as well as the rise (and fall) of Biafra. Never heard of Biafra? Give this book a read. Ever wondered about a villager’s, upper class socialite’s, and a non-native’s – among others – experience in sub-Saharan Africa? Give this book a read. I’m tired of coming up with questions, just give this book a read!
As always, Adichie does an amazing job of writing realistically yet eloquently (I told you, serious girl crush over here).
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
Let me just say that I think more people should read this book …but also that I don’t think this book is for everyone. Narrated by a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, it gives a fresh view of minorities, poverty, and hope. It’s almost Cisneros’ memoir, but not quite her memoir. Written in short chapters that vary from poems to short stories to simple observations, it seemingly has no rhythm. Like I said, not for everyone. But it gives a perspective on life that I think more of us should think about and wrestle with.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
Let me just say this book was so fun. Frightening and confusing and terrifying and fun. It’s like a child’s fantasy book for grownups – as the narrator is a grown man recounting his mystic childhood, but also as it has the suspense of a good story you loved as a child mixed with deeper themes and commentary on life. Once you get 3/4 of the way through, you won’t be able to put it down until you finish!
Side note: I’ve also heard the audio book is really great! I read the physical copy, but my friends who recommended it to me listened to it and loved it; as I was reading it, I kept thinking it would make a great story to have told to you.
If You Feel Too Much, Jamie Tworkowski
Jamie has such an honest way with words – his ability to show an authentic outlook on life with poetic beauty is so rare. I’ve been a fan of his since stumbling upon his original piece – that went on to turn into a movement and then into a non-profit – “To Write Love On Her Arms”. Don’t take my word for it, go read it right now. It never fails to give me goosebumps. A memoir / collection of blogs and short essays on life, this book is flat out amazing. So amazing I finished it within 24 hours of it arriving on my doorstep AND dedicated a whole blog to it. It’s full of short chapters and relatable thoughts (aka anyone can read it and everyone should read it).
The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus
I loved the heart behind this book – everyone is creative, and our best creative work is the life we are living. He talks about what creativity really is, how we are all creative due to our Creator, and how to life that out practically today.
This book reads like a sermon (surprising, as a pastor wrote it) – which can be good and bad. Its chapters have tangents and stories and random, little nuggets of gold. But they also tends to wander along, with no clear direction, finally making its main and final point at the end. I guess, you could say, like the stereotypical work of a creative… Overall, something I would suggest picking up! Especially if you grew up in the church feeling like you simply “weren’t the creative type”.
We Should All be Feminists, Chimamanda Adichie
This is basically the published script of Adichie’s TEDx talk by the same name. So, disappointing if you’ve already seen the talk and were expecting to get to read more of her genius (me), but amazing if you haven’t yet heard her viewpoints and ideas…
All joking aside, I loved it even when I’ve seen said talk multiple times. Pick up a copy (it won’t take you long to read!) or go listen to her words online. Let Adichie explain her take on feminism and convince you, as I whole-heartedly agree, that we should all be feminists. You might just be surprised.
I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), Brene Brown
I love that I can put this book on here because it means I finally finished it!!! My book club has been going through this book for what seems like e v e r.
If you’ve never heard of Brene Brown, go watch some of her TED talks – they’re life changing. This book is all about shame, and although incredibly informative, eye-opening, and applicable, it’s also incredibly dense. I love that Brown breaks up her research with individual stories and takes time to really explain her findings, but it’s still incredibly dense. I would definitely suggest it and encourage people to give it a read – just a fair warning that it’ll be a time commitment.
**This deals with Brown’s research on women and shame. I feel like some of it could apply to men as well, but I’m not a man so I’m not going to promise anything. Spoiler alert: she talks in the last chapter about embarking on researching men and shame. So, gentlemen, wait your turn**
Yes Please, Amy Poehler
Amy is spunky, ambitious, a feminist, and not afraid to be herself – all things I’m a fan of. Her quirky memoir is fun, but as I’m not too well versed in the comedy scene a lot of the references were over my head or not impressive (If you are a SNL fanatic, you’ll probably disagree with me). I liked getting to see her outlook on life, appreciated the encouragement she offers, and definitely loved her viewpoints as a woman working in a male dominated industry. Maybe it’s simply the age gap / season of life, but I highly enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? much more (mother-of-two Amy versus single-and-sassy Mindy). Next on my list is Tina Fey’s Bossypants and then my trifecta of Hollywood power women will be complete!