The Month in Books: February

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Well, it’s March 12 and I’m finally posting this. Oops? February was a good month, full of theater (Bring It On: The Musical), concerts (I went to a Vanilla Ice concert, because why not?), and a fantastic library book sale. Here’s what I read last month.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism (Grady Hendrix)
This was so much fun, and Hendrix is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. It was genuinely creepy AND the ending made me cry. I don’t read a lot of horror, becasuse i feel like a lot of horror authors take themselves (or their stories?) too seriously, but this is the opposite of that. So good.

Nickel and Dimed (Barbara Ehrenreich)
This should be required reading. I would love to read an updated version. I’d like to think our systems have gotten a little better in the 17 years since Ehrenreich did her experiment, but maybe not. I’d also like to see a version where this experiment was done in rural or suburban areas.

On Beauty (Zadie Smith)
What can I say about Zadie Smith that hasn’t already been said? I didn’t like this as much as White Teeth, but it was still superb.

The Next Always (Nora Roberts)
Well, it happened. I cried at a Nora Roberts book. I’m not ashamed.She’s just SO GOOD at what she does–good enough that I can look past the fact that she really needs a copy editor and a thesaurus. It doesn’t matter. This book had romance, a casual ghost, and PUPPIES. This is a recipe for success.

Dietland (Sarai Walker)
Don’t let the cover and title fool you–this one is dark and I loved it. It made me wish I was part of a book club, because this book needs to be discussed.

Talking As Fast As I Can (Lauren Graham)
I put off reading this for a long time, because I knew I would love it and I wanted to save it. (Also, the waiting list at the library was a mile long.) This did not disappoint. Celebrity memoirs forever!

What are you reading lately?

The Month in Books: January

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January! Things sure were crazy this month. I had two back to back work trips to Orlando and Las Vegas (oh, the glamour), which meant I had lots of airplane reading time. Here’s what I read this month.

Hag-Seed (Margaret Atwood)
A modern retelling of The Tempest set in a prison literacy program and written by Margaret Atwood? Yes, please. There was a character named Krampus the Mennonite–I think that’s worth mentioning. This was a story within a story within a story. I loved everything about this. Also, the cover was gorgeous.

Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave (Jill Kargman)
I listened to a radio interview with her, and she was funny. This book, for the most part was not. It was mean-spirited. I don’t have time for humor based solely on making fun of other people.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)
Quick airplane book. This is only my second Neil Gaiman book, and it felt more like an interlude than anything else. It was fine. At times it felt a bit too precocious, a bit too much like what I would expect from a Neil Gaiman novel. At 176 pages, though, who can complain?

The Partly Cloudy Patriot (Sarah Vowell)
I read this right before the Inauguration, which felt appropriate. I want to see what she’s writing now, how she’s processing our current situation. I think what brought me the most comfort from this book was the fact that she is so unabashedly patriotic, even while being upset about where we’re going. America is bigger than the POTUS, bigger than the policies in place. This was a really good reminder of that.

Royal Wedding (Meg Cabot)
Is there anything more delightful than finding a new book in a series you loved as an 8th grader?  When I saw this, I had to grab it for my four hour plane ride to Las Vegas. Meg Cabot has such a fun writing style, and this didn’t disappoint.

The Actor and the Housewife (Shannon Hale)
Did you know it was possible to love a book where the word “icky” is used more than once? It’s true! Oh, but I loved this one. I picked it up because I loved Midnight in Austenland, and kept it on my library pile because the protagonist was Mormon, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a Mormon protagonist. Things I loved about this book: the fast-moving, unpredictable plot. The dialogue. The fact that Becky Jack isn’t afraid of standing up for what she believes in, but she never seems preachy or fake. The family and other background characters. And of course, the romance (even though it wasn’t really a romance). We need more books like this.

Packing for Mars (Mary Roach)
Well, this successfully annihilated any conception that being an astronaut was a glamorous job. Wow. The thing I love about Mary Roach is that she takes such obvious delight in what she’s writing about. She throws herself into whatever it is she is studying, and man but this woman does her homework. I also love the way she weaves in humor and sarcasm, even in the middle of a dense sentence; even in a footnote. Proof that smart is funny and you should never let anyone tamp down your excitement and joy, no matter how strange the subject of it is.

So that’s that! Let’s see what February has in store.

 

Why “Rise of the Rocket Girls” Was The Perfect First Book for 2017

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Let me start off by saying that this was not a perfect book. It over generalizes and glosses over big historical moments and gets a little too flowery at times. But honestly? I didn’t care. This book made me feel so hopeful and energized—and that’s exactly what I needed right now.

In Rise of the Rocket Girls, Nathalia Holt chronicles the history of the “human computers” that worked at the Jet Propulsion Labaratory (later a part of NASA). Most of them were women, and they worked behind the scenes doing the calculations necessary to lay the groundwork for space exploration. Her research consisted mainly of interviews with these women, so the book reads more like an oral history/creative nonfiction than a comprehensive history. It works.

One of the things that really stood out for me about this book was the way Holt describes the power structure in the computer department at JPL. Women were put in charge almost from the start, setting a precedence of mentorship and opening doors for opportunity. In short: women were in charge and they got stuff done.

Why do I think this was the perfect book to start 2017? Well, here’s a list.

  1. It shows that there’s always more to the story. When we think of the role of women in the 1950s workplace, we think of teachers, nurses, and secretaries. Even in that oppressive climate, there was room for women to do more—and they did. That seems like such an important thing to remember right now.
  2. It made me feel small. The universe is so BIG. It’s easy to forget that. We should spend more time in awe of the universe. (I know how cheesy that sounds. But seriously.)
  3. It shows the power of showing up and doing the work. I got the biggest smile on my face so many times while reading this. These women had such a specific, intricate job, and the results were rarely immediate. They could have gotten discouraged, but this book is really good at showing how the work paid off.

Does the first book you read in January set the tone for the rest of the year? Not unless you want it to. In this case, I definitely want it to. So here we go.

New Year’s Resolution: Read Lots of Books.

It’s 2017 and you know what I’m going to do this year? I’m going to read some books.

These are uncertain times. I have so many things I want to do this year, and I’m going to try my hardest to get them done. Maybe I’ll write about them. But in the meantime, I’m going to write about books. Here are my reading goals for the year.

  1. Read more nonfiction. There are just SO MANY THINGS to learn about. Now is the time. Some topics I want to explore more this year: history, space, gender, race, religion.
  2. Read lots of romances and celebrity memoirs. Why? Because I love them, and it’s important to make time for things you love.
  3. Don’t finish books that aren’t good. I have slogged through so many novels, both classic and contemporary, just for the sake of finishing them. Life’s too short to waste time on things you hate, no matter how important or buzzworthy that thing is.

Okay, 2017. Let’s do this.