How’s this for getting the first batch of book reviews for the year up in a timely manner? I’m back on top of my reading goals this year (80 again, as in 2016 which was the first year that I tracked this in earnest) and I’ve been trucking along this month with some great reads. This is the first time in a while that I’ve managed to avoid a complete stinker in one of these review roundups, so I hope that you’re able to find some good reads as we roll into February!
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (Nathaniel Philbrick)
For some reason late last year, as I was devouring every book in sight in the hopes of meeting my goal (I ended up falling three short, sob), I wound up reading like, all the shipwreck books in existence. It was weird and I might never get on a boat again. However, I found this accounting of the whale ship Essex so interesting. I know nothing about whaling (other than the fact that it’s horrible) and In the Heart of the Sea was able to paint a wonderfully vivid and completely heartbreaking recap of what happened to the ship. It’s incredibly well researched and written and if you can get past the cannibalism and frustrating lack of respect for nature exhibited by the subjects it’s a quick, absorbing read.
Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty)
I believe that I’ve said this before but I just find Moriarty’s work so saucy and fun. This book is no different, though it does take a bit longer to ease into than most of her work. The story follows a group of publicly functional yet privately dysfunctional adults in the wake of an “event” at a barbecue. I found the big reveal a bit of a letdown after all the telegraphing that Moriarty was doing and at some points I did find my eyeballs sliding over paragraphs hoping to get to the reveal sooner, but in all it was totally readable and the perfect escape from some of the madness going on in the world right now. And also the dishes.
Shonda! Take all my money! Take all my time on Thursday nights! Take it all! You’ve earned it, girl! I know that I am SO LATE to reading this book but I wanted it to be one of the first that I read this year and I’m so glad that I made that choice. It’s funny, smart, and inspirational. I have tried not to read books “written”* by “celebrities”** (I fear that this word isn’t right for Shonda but it’s what I’m going with right now) so I was a bit worried that I would be disappointed but, fam, I got. my. life. I loved this book in too many ways to describe. It now has a home on my desk to remind me of so many things: to keep going. To start going. To persevere. I’m here to pick up anything that Shonda puts down. Forever and ever, amen.
Branding: The Definitive Guide to the Strategy and Design of Brand Identities in Five and a Half Steps (Michael Johnson)
This book is kind of inside baseball specific to the work that I do but in case you do the kind of work that I do: I recommend! Johnson’s breakdown is smart and it’s a great refresher and deep dive into the world of branding. This bad boy also has a home on my desk.
Difficult Women (Roxane Gay)
Roxane Gay, did you hear what I said to Shonda? You can have it all, too. Difficult Women is a collection of short stories that reveals the stories of, well, difficult women. I was reminded so much of Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child when I read this because of it’s whole and layered portrayal of each story’s subject. I wouldn’t expect anything less of Gay and this was one of the books that I was looking forward to reading the most. It’s fantastic. All the stars!
Holding (Graham Norton)
Okay. Confession. Graham Norton is one of my favorite humans alive. He’s DELIGHTFUL. I honestly hope he has the best life and is always content and fulfilled because the joy he brings me…oof! Even when the guests on his talkshow are complete assholes, he’s the best. I was going to read this book anyway and be inclined to like it, is the point. Luckily, it stands on its own merits. It’s not earth-shatteringly great fiction. But it’s quite good and in the same vein as Moriarty’s work. It was a tad predictable but not enough to make it not worth reading. I loved the characters and that they weren’t forced into perfection or redemption at the end. This book was like sitting down with a nice, hot cup of chai on a rainy afternoon. Big thumbs up.
Bonus! Here are a few books that I read last year and LOVED but never got around to reviewing:
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, Autumn by Ali Smith, The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla (please go read this and let it sink in and maybe buy one for all the people in your life who can’t seem to understand why treating immigrants like dirt or even just “less than” is horrific), and the March graphic novel series by Representative John Lewis. On that last one, March really should be required reading for every child and adult in the US if not the world. And not for nothing but Trump should really not go around picking fights and disparaging civil rights heroes since he occasionally tries to pretend that he cares about minorities.
*Steps off soap box, gets back to work.*
* Readers, have you met the shade quote? That was the shade quote.
** That, too.
= Paperback • = Kindle