I endured a little bit of a reading rut in July, but I think I made up for it in August; nine books hit my nightstand last month, plus I’m adding two to the end of my August list since I’m this close to finishing them up before the month ends. (It’s not cheating; it’s rounding.)
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth. My ARC of The Things We Keep languished under a pile of books all summer long, and if my sales rep hadn’t reminded me to submit my review, I’m afraid it would have stayed there. Instead, I moved it to the top of my queue and sailed through it in a couple of days. The Things We Keep weaves together the stories of two women: Anna Forster, a 38-year-old with Alzheimer’s disease, and Eve Bennett, a new single mother and the cook at Anna’s assisted living facility. The novel tackles some tough issues – early onset Alzheimer’s, end-of-life care, bullying, single parenthood – but Sally Hepworth handles most of them with humor; the book feels lighter than it should, given the subject matter, and the bits of romance Hepworth fits into the plot aren’t distracting, but enjoyable. You’ll have to wait a bit for this one; The Things We Keep releases in January.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. If you’re trying to read more diversely this year, go ahead and add Americanah to your list. The book is fantastic literature – Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is a deft writer – but it’s also important reading given its realistic portrayal of fictional lives unfamiliar to my own. In Americanah, Adiche tells the love story of two Nigerian immigrants, but the romance isn’t nearly as interesting as Adiche’s observations on race and immigration and identity. I read this one slowly – even picking up another book about halfway through Americanah – and I’m glad I did. Jordan and I shared several lengthy conversations based on Adiche’s characters and their struggles to find a home outside their native land. Fiction can get away with subject matter that might otherwise make us uncomfortable; Americanah opened my eyes to new perspectives on immigration and race, and I’d recommend it for that reason alone.
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson. We get a lot of ARCs in the mail, but when it’s Joshilyn Jackson, the ARC automatically becomes mine. I’ve read every single one of her novels and have loved them all (though gods in Alabama is my favorite). Her latest, The Opposite of Everyone, doesn’t release until February, but never fear: The book is just as readable and relatable as her others, meaning it will be worth your wait. I love Joshilyn for her ability to write about Southern life accurately and humorously; The Opposite of Everyone is no different, though this time, Joshilyn includes elements of Hindu culture and delves into the world of exploited young girls. Somehow, she combines those elements together into a book I couldn’t put down. Joshilyn, I love you. Come to Thomasville.
French Milk by Lucy Knisley. If you’ve been following The Bookshelf this summer, you know we recently added a couple of shelves, which meant expanding and adding new sections to the shop. One such addition? Graphic novels, which I had never read before. (And since my mother asked, let me explain: “graphic novels” are comic book- style stories – not pornography.) When Chris came on board earlier this summer, he recommended we start stocking a graphic novels shelf, so with his help, we have. And you know what? I’m glad, because I finally read my first two graphic memoirs this month. French Milk is written by artist Lucy Knisley; she writes and draws about a trip to France with her mother, and although mostly, I was blown away by the medium, I also loved the story she told. I was hungry throughout the entirety of the book (illustrations of French food will do that to a person), but French Milk is also about entering adulthood for the first time. I loved this book.
Displacement by Lucy Knisley. If you wind up liking graphic novels or memoirs, it’s safe to say you won’t be able to stop at just one. I’d had so much luck with Lucy Knisley’s French Milk, I dove straight into Displacement, a graphic memoir based on her experience chaperoning her 90-year-old grandparents on a seniors cruise. I’m not sure if it’s the intimacy of the format, but I felt like I was right alongside Lucy as she watched her grandparents age and spent days caring for them aboard the cruise ship. Perhaps it’s my own personal experiences with aging grandparents, but I thought Displacement was beautifully done and heartbreakingly true to life; I’m now hooked on graphic memoirs and anxious for your recommendations. Bring them on. (And try Displacement if you’re looking for a way to ease into the genre.)
11/22/63 by Stephen King. True book confessions: I’d never read Stephen King until last month. Then I heard two separate podcasts recommend 11/22/63, which received a lot of hype when it debuted a few years ago. I figured better late than never. The good news? Stephen King is notoriously readable, and 11/22/63 was kind of a page-turner. I say “kind of,” because the bad news is? I don’t think I’m a fan. I anticipated reading a book about what might have happened had JFK never been assassinated, and instead got a 900-page time traveling love story (to which I’d recommend The Time Traveler’s Wife instead). The story was interesting, and I enjoyed the “science” behind King’s time traveling elements, but I think the immense details King provided were a turn-off for me. I like my imagination to do most of the work when I’m reading, and King eliminated that for me. If you do decide to read 11/22/63 and haven’t already, let me tell you something I wish someone had told me: You’ll be on page 534 before you’re even close to the JFK assassination (which admittedly, was heartbreaking to read).
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. If I had a dollar for every time a Christian blogger published a book, I’d be a semi-rich woman. I hesitate to read most of those books because a) they have pink flowers on the cover, and b) many of them say the same thing, just in different styles of prose. Jen Hatmaker is the exception to that rule for me, mostly because she was a writer before she was a blogger, and she’s outrageously funny. Her new book of essays, For the Love, is somehow both immensely thought-provoking and hilarious; I sneaked a copy from the store last weekend, but as soon as September hits, I’ll be buying my own copy to write in and dog-ear. Her topics run the gamut, from marriage and supper clubs to Spanx and why 20-somethings leave the church. I’ll be re-reading bits of this one, I’m sure.
The Martian by Andy Weir. Surely you've read this by now, but if you're like me and kept moving it to the bottom of your TBR stack, go ahead and put it on the top. The movie adaptation of The Martian releases next month, and you're going to want to read it first, I promise. It's a can't-put-it-down work of science fiction, which is completely out of my reading comfort zone. I'm so glad I read it, though. It's memorable and funny and ultimately, a survival story of one man's mission to Mars. You'll like this one.
Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin. I know: I should have known this book would have a lot of sex. It's in the title, for crying out loud. But the description sounded like a Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton rom-com, so I had to try it! Ally is a university professor and a single mom, and one weekend she has a brief romantic encounter with a former student. Fast forward 10 years, when her now-adult daughter brings home that same former student... as her boyfriend. Funny, right? It is, but it was missing that Guess Who's Coming to Dinner vibe I was looking for, and since I'm a bit of a prudish reader, the sex felt like... a lot. That being said, the book is funny and fast-paced, and if it your cup of tea, you'll finish it in no time. Might be a fun book club selection, too.
Currently reading: Jimmy Carter’s A Call to Action and Tessa Hadley’s The Past.