2017 Reading

As I wrote in July 2017 was not a great reading year for me; and to prove that point I only read 31 books after I posted on July 27. In fact, this may be my worst reading year since 2003... I only read 76 books, down quite a bit from last year's 106, and 112 in 2015. I almost always average two books per week, but this year I just made 1.5. The reasons still remain politics, along with a big (unexpected move), and the ease with which I can now access Netflix (I'm serious! This new Comcast feature where I can use Netflix on any handheld device or TV in my house has been a bit of a time suck.). In any case, I'm adding four more books that I read since August to my top books in 2017 list, to create a Top 10.

1. Masterpiece by Elise Broach– I loved this middle grade book so much. It has art, history, thrills, friendship. I am going to have my son read it, probably next year. Slightly reminiscent of From the Mixed-Up Files…

2. Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, A Robot Named Scorch… And What It Takes to Win by Judy Dutton– Reading prep for new fall course on the afterschool hours– adding week on “fairs!”

3. The House of Spies by Dan Silva– This series is now my designated summer vacation reading. Silva has a formula now, which is enjoyable, but next time I’d appreciate more twists on that formula. Also, very long, needs tad more editing at this stage.

4. Trace by Archer Mayor– Wow, I have caught up on the Joe Gunther series (book 28!). Perhaps the best yet, setting up more characters to keep series going after Joe?

As a refresher the other six are: Killer Show, We Never Asked or Wings, American Historical Pageantry, The Lions of Little Rock, A Fall of Marigolds, and In This Grave Hour.

My top two books are both, surprisingly, middle grade fiction: The Lions of Little Rock (it stood out all year long) and Masterpiece.

For nonfiction my favorite is a book I began in 2017, but still haven't finished (it is lengthy), so look for it on my 2018 list. Given that move (to Providence) it might not surprise you that it's Mike Stanton's The Price of Providence: The Rise and Fall of Buddy Cianci, America's Most Notorious Mayor.

My Favorite Reads in 2017 (thus far)

It's been a minute since last I blogged. And since that post was about books I figured I'd do a reentry with another post on reading. I'm a bit behind my usual pace of reading this year-- and the reasons why are similar to my reasons for being bad about posting. These include: 1) obsessively reading news, especially about politics, 2) being even more politically involved, 3) teaching a lot in the spring, and 4) posting on social media, mainly Facebook and Instagram, instead (see points 1 and 2). But I miss writing short posts, so resolving to get back on track for the rest of 2017! Thus far here are my top six reads (out of 45 books) this year, listed in alphabetical order by author:

  1. Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert by John Barylick– Written by one of the lawyers involved with the case, this is a very detailed book that covers so many areas (history of lawsuits, science of fires, the way touring bands work). But it is the human tragedy that is most compelling. I appreciate the book follows things all the way through, from disaster to years later… I live less than 10 miles from where this tragedy occurred and wanted to learn more, and that I did.
  2. We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh– I had to keep reading once I started this book. It is a reminder that the world is full of such sadness, and struggle, but once in awhile things work out. A lot of issues at play here– inequality, immigration, disability, teen pregnancy– so it becomes a lot at times, but the story is beautiful and the addition of science very good.
  3. American Historical Pageantry: The Uses of Tradition in the Early Twentieth Century by David Glassberg- Such a fascinating book about a short time in American civic life, but thanks to great organizational records it can be studied and remembered. Even though the details became a bit much at times, and I would have liked to understand the later incarnations/evolutions, a very useful book.
  4. The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine- By far my favorite book read in 2017. It is technically YA, but serious themes, great characters, wonderful language, a forgotten part of history make it a worthwhile read for anyone of any age. Definitely a must read! (Set in Little Rock 1958-9)

5. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner- I can't lie, this book made me outright sob at least twice (once in public). I initially liked the historical portion more, then liked the 2011 story more, which shows I just liked the whole thing. Loved the blended stories, even if they didn't exactly line up (which I actually liked-- would have been too "pat" otherwise). I do recommend, but know it's a tearjerker.

6.In this Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear- I love the Maisie Dobbs series and try to read the latest installment as soon as it is out (this one I had to wait a bit to get from library as others clearly feel the same way!). Did not disappoint-- and this even made me cry. Can't wait to see what WWII brings for Maisie; I am sure many important adventures.

You can see all the books I've read in 2017 here.


The Best Books I Read in 2016

As I have for the past few years, I kept track of the books (only the books, not magazines!) I read in 2016. I read slightly more than my average of two books per week this year, partly because I am doing a lot of "work" reading. So out of 106 books here are my Top 11 (in the order I read them), complete with the little review I wrote on my "Reading List" section. Note this is dominated by fiction (only two non-fiction), and female authors (seven women). 1.Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead– Definitely my favorite book of 2016 thus far. So captures the angst of relationships in middle school and budding romance, fused with modern technology. Tackles complicated issues while giving the kids agency and complexity, which I love. Highly recommend for adult and young readers! And, and, and.

2.Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly– I’ve been clear about my Veronica Mars love, and this book (what will clearly be a series) is very reminiscent of the TV series, movie, and book series. But it’s also different– a male “Veronica,” no Logan, etc. But a town with lots and lots of secrets, a class divide, an enduring mysterious crime, and kids who are too smart by half. It’s a quick, witty read with teenage angst and romance thrown in for good measure. Don’t miss it. [I love mystery series.]

3. This Side of Providence by Rachel M. Harper– A haunting, lyrical, multi-faceted look at poverty, addiction, immigration, education, and more. Hit home for me in many ways, especially with the Providence location and my volunteer CASA work. It’s also written by a Wheeler grad (where my son is at school), but I would love this book anyway. I am still thinking about it.

4. Dark Road Home by Anna Carlisle– The first in a new series. The bed news is that it just came out this week and I read it in less than 12 hours, and now I likely have to wait a bit for the next installment! Interesting characters, setting, motivation. I’m excited to see where it will go. If you had any interest in the TV series “The Family,” note you will really enjoy this. Compelling stuff. [I also liked latest installments in Kate Burkholder, Cork O'Corcoran, and Joe Guenther series this year, but didn't include them on this list.]

5. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg– It is an actual shanda that I had never before read this amazing history (based on girls’ diaries) of girls and their bodies. I love the organization of this book, its focus on everyday life, and it’s insights that resonate today. Would love to know Brumberg’s take on the role of social media now– both as a cultural mirror AND as a diary– in young girls’ lives today.

6. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy– Wow, I LOVED this book. I had to stay up late to finish it after I began it that day. It’s been a long time since I have done that. About loving yourself, body, complicated role of pageants in small towns. But it’s also the story of friendship, romance, and more. Highly recommend.

7.  The Black Widow by Dan Silva– Gulped it down in less than 24 hours. A big move toward new action and possibilities– and eerie with real world ramifications. If only we had real life Allons, which I hope we actually do. Had to wait awhile to start a new book after because I was still lost in this novel.

8. The Dread Line by Bruce DeSilva– So good. Gobbled it down so quickly. So many different, interesting threads. Movement forward in all directions. Can’t wait for next Liam Mulligan novel!

9. Sweetbitter by Stephani Danler– Wow. This novel engaged all my senses. I wish I had read it sooner– believe the hype. It is such a specific moment in time and in age.

10. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond– This book is the real deal– well-researched, compelling writing, important issue. I love the last lines in the Prologue: “Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly all of them have a landlord.” (5) It is a little depressing (though by all means this should NOT deter you from reading and facing the subject), and at times the chronology feels off, but it is an important book. I will continue to think about stable poverty vs. grinding poverty.

11. Livia Lone by Barry Eisler– A more than worthy successor to the Rain series– loved this new character and the Then-Now technique. Very much looking forward to the follow-up and seeing what becomes of some old friends.

I ended the year with some great books, which was very nice. I just bought this necklace (on my other addiction, Zulily) that captures how I have always, and continue to feel, about reading.

"She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live."

My older son just started reading his first chapter book and I just get so excited for him knowing the worlds he will see through reading...