Reading Roundup: January 2021

 Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum This is the book I can't stop talking to people about, even two months after reading it. It's fairly short and yet still packed with all kinds of interesting insights. It tied together threads from several books I had read last year about history, media, and race relations. I highly recommend that everyone I know reads this book. The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein Wein is so good at creating complex and unique characters that are also believable people I would love to spend to with. She also does a wonderful job creating an optimistic tone throughout the book, despite the rather awful things that were happening to everyone. This was a great book to read right now when I could use some realistic hope. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia About halfway through this book I remembered that I actually don't like horror fiction. All the positive reviews I had read of this convinced me to read it,

Reading Roundup: 2020

 In 2020 I read 122 books; that's 12 more books than I read in 2019 ( see this post ). I set a goal to read one book of poetry a month, and the 11 I did read just about made up the difference (although I counted the March trilogy as one thing, so I guess I could say I really read 124 individual books). I read 27 books by men, 92 books by women, and 3 books with mixed authorship. There were a few more books with multiple authors, but if the authors were the same gender, I counted them with that gender.  I read 78 books of fiction, 33 nonfiction, and 11 poetry collections. The breakdown between fiction and nonfiction has remained pretty consistent for the last thirteen years that I've been keeping track of my reading. So has the breakdown between male and female authors. As I was counting up my totals, I started to feel a bit worried about the fact that I always read more fiction and always read more books by women. But why should I worry if I know what I like? I can still suppo

Reading Roundup: December 2020

Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe I had read one of Monroe's pieces before this book (I believe she did expand it), and had vaguely heard of the other three stories she tells. This book reflects on why she is interested in reading about crime, and why other women might be too (and why some women commit crimes). There were a lot of interesting tidbits scattered throughout the book that lead me to reflect on both the stories we tell and the stories we consume. Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella Kinsella's books have been inconsistent for me; sometimes they are really fun and tell great stories, and sometimes they just don't work. This book had a great premise that didn't ever pan out. The main character was supposed to be cute and fun. Instead, she's pretty annoying and never changes much. The book is meant to show that both she and her love interest need to change in order to be more compatible, but it seems to favor

Reading Roundup: November 2020

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart I thought I would love this book more than I did, since it's both a mystery and historical fiction (and features two female characters as the protagonists). The plot was well-paced and I was surprised at the end, but the book was still slow-going and a little boring. The ending seemed to set up a sequel, or perhaps the start of a series, with the same characters. If that does happen, I will probably read it, but I won't be waiting anxiously for it to arrive. Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center This was a nice little romance for a quiet Saturday afternoon. I don't know much about the world of firefighting and I learned a lot about it, plus I felt like both the leads were realistically drawn and fit together well. My main quibble with the book is that it uses unresolved major trauma as the underlying base for the main character's 'quirks', and that trauma is easily resolved by falling in love with the right pe

Reading Roundup: October 2020

After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America by Jessica Goudeau If you are looking for a book that will change your heart and mind, this is a good one to try. The author intersperses a history of refugee policy in the United States with the personal stories of two refugee families. The families came from very different circumstances, and those as well as the timing of their arrival in the US affected how they were received and how they have been able to adjust to life in a new country. I learned so much about the intricacies of refugee assistance, as well as the enormous difficulties faced by refugees around the world. Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade I had high hopes for this book based on the number of positive reviews I had read about it. However, reading it was a bit of a let-down. First of all, I've never really read any fan fiction and don't know much about that world, so I felt like the interspersed fan fiction interludes detracted from my enjoyme

Reading Roundup: September 2020

The Last Flight by Julie Clark This is one of the few thrillers I've read that isn't about murder and gore. It also focuses on two women, both of whom are smart and capable. The suspense in the book comes from watching them figure out how to save themselves, and I spent the whole book not knowing what happened next. If you want an exciting mystery that won't creep you out too much, this is a good one. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond This book will make you both sad and angry--which is what it should do. I was vaguely aware of the problem of affordable, stable housing, but until I read this book I didn't know the great difficulties that some people face when trying to find (and keep) a decent place to live. I also learned a lot about the intersection between stability in housing and poverty, and admit that I am privileged enough to be shocked and the relatively small amounts of money that impact people's ability to successfully m

Reading Roundup: August 2020

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson It's a little weird to read a book about a time of national crisis in which the outcome was very uncertain during another time in which the future is still quite murky. Although I've read a lot about World War II, I haven't read much about Churchill and didn't know a lot about him. I also didn't know a lot about the political intrigues and complicated maneuverings that took place during the early part of the war in Britain. Larson's writing is easy to read and this book ended up being much harder to put down than I had anticipated. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson Although I've heard praise for her writing for years, I'd never gotten around to reading anything by Woodson. This book is fairly short and the writing is spare, but she packs in a lot of meaty content to each chapter and somehow creates a compelling multi-generational saga in only two-hu