I have managed to maintain my voracious reading pace, due entirely to my commitment to listen to audio books during key points in my day. Primarily, I listen to books when I am alone in the car, when I am on a walk, and when I am drying my hair. Listening to books takes these otherwise boring activities and turns them into something I look forward to.
Here is a review of what I have read lately…
I’ve always been curious about this series of books, which fictionalize what it would be like if the United States was a monarchy instead of a democracy, and to my delight it delivered exactly what I hoped for. Easy. Quick. A storyline that kept me entertained without traumatizing me. This story is like a Hallmark movie, and sometimes that is exactly what you need. I was slightly annoyed that the book ends with a cliffhanger that compels you to want to read the next book. I’m not sure I will read the remaining books in the series, but it is good to know that when I need an easy book, they are waiting for me.
All My Knotted Up Life
Beth Moore is an interesting and influential figure. In the early 2000’s I participated in some of her studies, and she is a well-known figure in evangelical circles. She fell off of my radar at some point, until she resurfaced in 2021 when she left the Southern Baptist Convention. Her leaving was quite the event, and even though I hadn’t followed her career closely, I knew something was up for her to walk away from the denomination that made her a household name. All My Knotted Up Life is her memoir, and it is very well done. She writes honestly and openly about her life, sharing her history of abuse, but does so in a way that felt protective of the reader, which I appreciated. To hear her tell her story of going from teaching step aerobics to becoming the most influential women’s teacher in the SBC in her own voice is powerful and jaw-dropping at the same time. She has seen a lot, experienced a lot, and in this book she tells the truth about the ugly side of the SBC. I would not call this book scandalous or even salacious. She is open and generous, but also toes the line of discretion very carefully. In my opinion, it seems as though certain aspects were edited out or side-stepped all together. After finishing the book, I had questions. How did the actions of men in the SBC trouble her so deeply that she felt led to cut ties with the organization, but was able to maintain a relationship with her abusive father? Why did she share her experience as a woman in the church who was sold a pile of lies by men in pursuit of power, yet failed to make a concrete statement about women in the church? I think she left a lot on the editing floor, and that’s fine. I can appreciate her discretion, but I found myself hoping for a bit more.
Everything Sad Is Untrue
This is the story of a refugee boy and how he and his sister and mother left Iran and came to the United States. It provides a tragic look at the broken systems in our country while painting a beautiful picture of redemption. However, the unfolding of the story is bulky in the beginning. It took me several chapters until I figured out what the author was doing, and I wish someone would have explained it to me before I began. Basically, he educates the reader on the classic tales of 1,001 Arabian Nights in order to use that story as a framework for his own…but it takes a really long time to figure out the pattern. I stuck with the book, and by the end I was thankful I did, but the beginning is a bit of an uphill climb.
This book has been on my list for years. I finally decided to read it, and while I love Tina Fey, this book was flat. It has her signature wit and dry sense of humor, but I’m not sure there is much of a story here. Yes, you get to hear about her life and how she came up in the comedy scene, but I did not find it compelling.
The Life Council
This book could have been a pamphlet. The premise of the book is that we all have different friends who fill different roles in our life, and to be honest, I think this idea is profound. I even like the categories of friends that she names, and I found this way of thinking about friendship helpful. But dear god, the writing is cliche, the story is trite, and in the end, all I needed was the first paragraph of each chapter to get the basic idea.
Tiny Beautiful Things
I decided to read this book after seeing the series preview on Netflix. I almost didn’t finish the book, and in hindsight, maybe I should have walked away. The book is a selection of essays which were answers to an anonymous advice column called Dear Sugar. At the time the answers were published, the author was also anonymous. It is amazing what people will share under the cloak of anonymity, and this book comes with all the trigger warnings possible. While the book is wonderfully written, and the author does a great job of weaving her life into the answers and advice she offers her readers, it is a tough book. The essays are full of horrible abuse and tragedy, and a lot of the time I disagreed wholeheartedly with her advice. I felt challenged by this book, and that is not a bad thing, but I don’t think I will watch the Netflix show.
The Kingdom of Prep
Do you love J.Crew and all things related to entrepreneurship and business management? This might be a book you would enjoy. The author shares the entire history of the brand from inception to almost demise to its resurgence. I had never heard the origin story of the word “preppy,” and this book delivers a master class on retail and fashion as it shares the life story of J.Crew. This book is truly fascinating if reading about the life cycle of businesses is your jam.
Why Not Me
I went through a bit of a Mindy Kaling phase lately, watching every episode of The Mindy Project and Never Have I Ever, and her writing and sense of humor appeals to me. Why Not Me is nothing ground-breaking, but it is full of funny bits and Mindy’s characteristic quirky style. It’s a good look at what goes on behind the scenes in Hollywood from the perspective of someone who felt like an outsider.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
This is by far the best work of fiction I have read in a long time. A good friend recommended it to me, and when he said it was part fantasy, I balked. “Trust me,” he said. “It’s really, really good.” I’m so glad I trusted him because this story is epic and sweeping and creative and so magnificently written. The basic idea is a woman sells her soul to the devil, and the price she pays is that no one will remember her…until one day, someone does remember her, and the twists and turns unfold from there.
How We Learn
If you are an educator of any kind, you need to read this book. Teacher. Homeschool parent. Professor. Trainer. Corporate presenter. If you are a learner of any kind, you also need to read this book. The author has taken all of the research around how we learn and distilled it into a book that delivers the necessary nuggets without all of the back story. As with any non-fiction book, it can be a bit dry at times, but I was astounded at how wrongly we approach learning so much of the time and how our assumptions about what fosters learning are flat wrong. I wish I had read this book before I went to college, and I wish I had known these truths prior to my children starting school.
The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo
This is another book that has been on my list for a while, and I finally pulled the trigger. I knew nothing about this story going in, and I found it wildly entertaining. I enjoyed the format of the current day interview paired with the flashbacks. I knew there would be a twist, but I could not have predicted it. This would be a great beach read.
I’m Glad My Mom Died
Again, this book comes with all the trigger warnings (which seems to be a theme for this round of books…so sorry). Language. Abuse. Eating disorders. This book holds a lot of awful, but I promise it turns out okay in the end. I love hearing life stories, particularly when someone has come from a hard background, and this one takes the cake. It is hard to believe that this story is real at times, the details being so cringy and awful and unbelievable. The title of this book is satirical, but in all honesty, also very accurate given how horrible this mom was to her daughter. I think this book was more difficult than Tiny Beautiful Things because it was so focused on one person and the abuse she suffered. But in the end, I enjoyed seeing her persevere and survive and come out on the other side.