On Annie's Nightstand: November 2015.

Despite the busy time of year, I managed to finish six books in November, ranging from novels to memoirs. One of my reading resolutions this year was to read more diversely, and although I think I’ve done an okay job overall, this month, I noticed – after the fact – I only had read books by female authors. I’m giving myself a pass, though, because the books ran the gamut in terms of content. They don’t quite pass my “read diversely” test, but each book certainly expanded my worldview and challenged my perceptions. And some of them were just fun, because guess what? That’s okay, too.

Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I love reading books based on customers’ recommendations, and I picked up Accidental Saints based on the review of one of our shop regulars. (Admittedly, the subtitle also caught my eye: Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Perfect.) As it turns out, Nadia Bolz-Weber, a tattooed Lutheran priest, had an upbringing somewhat similar to my own: We both were raised in the church of Christ, and she’s since become a Lutheran and embraced the liturgy and prayers of a more traditional, high worship church. Accidental Saints is her new, New York Times-bestselling memoir about the people she’s met through her church in Denver. The book offered countless thoughtful insights and also somehow pricked my conscience; Nadia is witty and humble, two of my very favorite qualities, and Accidental Saints was like a conversation with an older, wiser (funnier) friend.

The Distance from Me to You by Marina Gessner. When I’m in a reading slump, I read one of two things: a YA book or a suspense novel – either way, quick books I can sink into and get a little lost. This month, I picked up The Distance from Me to You, a newly released young adult novel by Marina Gessner (the pen name of Nina de Gramont, a popular YA writer). Like much of YA literature, The Distance from Me to You is a coming-of-age tale, this one featuring McKenna Berney, a senior in high school determined to hike the Appalachian Trail alone. Part Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, part teenage love story, The Distance from Me to You was engaging and refreshingly feminist in its leanings – less about girl-meets-boy and more girl-goes-on-adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, but I’m admittedly also baffled by the sexual content prevalent in books written for a teenage audience. If you’re in the shop, ask me if this one would be right for you or your teen.

The Clasp by Sloane CrosleyLongtime Townie readers might recognize Sloane Crosley’s name; I read her collection of essays, I Was Told There’d by Cake, earlier this year, and I left the book feeling a little disappointed. (High expectations and all that jazz.) Her new book, The Clasp, is her first foray into fiction, and this time? I was disappointment free. The Clasp was a delightful, fun book in line with Prep and Everybody Rise. Crosley’s three 29-year-old protagonists rang true-to-life, but the novel also took a pleasant turn toward the unusual and imaginative (there’s a bit of a treasure hunt in France that moves the plot speedily along). I so enjoyed The Clasp and have found myself recommending it over and over again to friends and fellow readers. Pick it up over the holidays. It’s beautiful cover makes it a perfect gift, too!

Flood Girls by Richard Fifield. Flood Girls was my advance reader copy for November; I requested it from my sales rep based first on its adorable cover design, but I was hooked after spotting a reference to A League of Their Own on the back cover. The novel, scheduled to release in February, takes place in Quinn, Montana – population 956 – and their most rebellious daughter, Rachel Flood, is back in town to make amends. Not one soul seems to be happy about Rachel’s desire for reconciliation, except Quinn’s other outcast: 11-year-old Jake, a Madonna-obsessed preteen with dreams of making it big as a fashion designer. The two make an unlikely pair, but their friendship really powers the plot, and I found myself completely wrapped up in the happenings in this small, northwestern town. I’ll be recommending this one for fans of Kitchens of the Great Midwest.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Sure, I picked this one up because I occasionally watch Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder – all ABC television shows Shonda Rhimes writes or produces. She’s an award-winning writer, but she’s also apparently an extremely shy introvert who avoided interviews and public outings. Her new book chronicles the year she spent saying “yes” to the things that scared her, things like live late night interviews and university commencement speeches. She discovered friendships she needed to change and attitudes she needed to reverse. Year of Yes wasn’t groundbreaking, but Shonda’s observations were inspiring enough to provide me with plenty of ideas for 2016 resolutions and habits. I think Year of Yes would make a great graduation gift.

You Don’t Have to Like Me by Alida NugentWhat do booksellers buy? Apparently essays on feminism and faith, which is what I purchased with my book budget this month (see also: Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey). I didn’t agree with every essay comedian Alida Nugent puts forth in this collection, but each chapter was well written, funny, bittersweet, and thoughtful, and I always love reading books that challenge me to evaluate my own beliefs. You Don’t Have to Like Me is for fans of Roxane Gay, Not That Kind of Girl, and Lena Dunham’s brand of feminism, which means 20-something book clubs? This one might be for you. 

Annie Jonesbooks, reviewsComment