After I ate my weight in turkey and green bean casserole last week, I found myself in a conversation with my brother-in-law about this blog. He asked, "Do you ever read any books that dudes would like?" Thus, inspiring a fun blog post!
Although anyone can like anything, do anything, be anything <insert politically correct preamble HERE>, I could walk into the library right now and divide it up into: books primarily only chicks would like, books primarily only dudes would like, and books EVERYONE would like! I like to think that more and more books are are falling into that third category, as both authors and readers expand their horizons.
However, today I'd like to share some titles from my growing list of books that DUDES would definitely like. This list is ONLY compiled from the books I have read, so *please* feel free to comment with books that dudes like that I need to read!
Science Fiction -
Have Space Suit - Will Travel by Robert Heinlein (the book my dad read to Vicky and me when we were youngins.
The Martian by Andy Weir (so good, so universal - especially for those not usually into sci-fi)
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (everyone must read!)
Funny Stuff (who doesn't like funny stuff?)
Sh*t my Dad Says AND I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern (both super hilarious. Wrap these up and put them under the tree for anyone you know who is a male or a female or anywhere on the gender spectrum.)
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak (especially fun for fans of The Office) (My favorite story is where he rips on John Grisham.)
Home is Burning by Dan Marshall (which was a memoir and both hilarious and sad, like life.)
ANYTHING JOHN GRISHAM (I like it when people rip on John Grisham, but I also *like* John Grisham. The Street Lawyer was a particular favorite, even though it has been a million years since I've read it.)
Sports Books -
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger (Jeff's favorite book. He had me read it soon into our relationship, so now he owes me a reading of my favorite book! Ha!)
Kimberly's Favorite Book -
I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak (Great for all of the genders as well as all of the ages 15+)
Shane by Jack Schaefer (I actually took a Western Novels course in college, and really enjoyed it! I should add some more Western novels into the fold of my regular reading.) ("Paw, can you whip Shane?")
Books with MURDER-
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (Although I don't think I could watch the movie. I can't watch anything these days, it seems. Actual visuals of murder and whatever else disgust me.) (I'm such a girl.)
Nonfiction Books about History -
Sorry, I've got nothing. I like to live in the now.
I will stop my list there. Add to it! What are some great universal reads??
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
I find graphic novels to be great fun if the subject matter appeals to me. This particular graphic novel was all about FOOD, so the subject matter definitely appealed! This was a lighthearted memoir that completely hit the spot on my sick day - between trips to heave my guts out. I felt only slightly more grown up than I did in junior high and high school, spending my sick days with Betty and Veronica.
My only complaint about Relish is that I finished it too quickly and could've gone for a few more chapters. I really enjoyed learning about Lucy and her wonderful foodie family. I'll definitely have to get my hands on her other books. Five stars!
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
One of the reasons I read - anything, even a light book like Relish - is to better understand the world and the viewpoints of the people who populate the world. While I'll never understand what it's like to be a black man in America, I want to better understand that viewpoint - so I was excited to read this man's letter to his teenage son about what it means to be black in America.
To be honest, I could spin around in circles a little bit. As in, "Look at the white girl thinking she's doing the right thing by reading one book about race! She's going to change the world by understanding viewpoints! Everyone applaud the white girl." To that end, i could've just read the book and kept it to myself. But then I miss the chance to recommend the book. See? Circles? I'm chasing my tail.
So - I'll land on my default position of not taking myself too seriously and hoping that my six blog readers know where I'm coming from.
I recommend this book. It helps shed some light on, for example, why one picture of a black kid hugging a white police officer does not equal "hope."
I did struggle with the format, as it is pretty much just a huge long letter with few breaks. That, along with the complex content, had me doing a lot of re-reading. It's basically like you have a guy sitting at your kitchen table explaining to you the realities of being black in America and he doesn't stop for a drink or to go to bathroom and you're just sitting there, trying to understand, sipping your pumpkin spice latte like the basic white girl you are. But when he wraps up his monologue, you feel slightly less clueless. So that's something.
I'm finishing up the new book by the author of my VERY FAVORITE BOOK! Have a great week!
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Premise: A majorly depressed 20-something plans for a year of sleeping with a little help from her friends – tons and tons of pills prescribed by a questionable shrink.
Lately I feel like my body has been telling me to rest up a bit – and I’m listening. I’ve been running at 100% here lately and I know that will only amp up with the holidays quickly approaching. So, I made a conscious decision to chill out for a week or two, primarily this weekend when I had no kids or husband around the house. Therefore, I thought this book might be a fun part of my relaxing weekend!
I admit, this book kept me extremely entertained, almost akin to not being able to look away from a car accident. While I can understand the desire to go back to bed and not get up for a long, long time – I’ve been there – this book horrified me. The main character is completely out of touch with anything and everything. Much of this book is jaw dropping, not in the plot but the musings of the character. It gets pretty raw, profane, psychotic, odd….
The writing is good, but I’m not sure I came away with anything other than, wow, that was a really jacked up book. Initially the book made me want to sleep, but by the end, I was inspired to get up and get a few things done. Bring on the holidays!
Pair with: Animal crackers, the snack the protagonist favored between naps.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Premise: A penniless family ventures to the sticks of Alaska after being willed some land in “The Great Alone” in hopes that dad’s PTSD will subside.
I really do like Kristin Hannah. She’s a phenomenal storyteller, and this was certainly a gripping tale set against a beautiful Alaskan setting. I can see why the library can’t keep the book on the shelf.
Suspension of disbelief, though, am I right? For me, this novel contained just a few too many opportunities for me to snap the book closed and exclaim, “Okay, but that would NEVER happen!” I’ll play along a time or two and then eventually I get frustrated. I start to wonder if all of her killed-off characters will rise from the dead and have a dance party.
Additionally, while Hannah invests in character development for some of her characters, others remain one-note. One-note characters, in my opinion, also can bring predictability to a plot. Spoiler: her jerk dad never stops being a jerk, even when the family arrives in Alaska, where they have to live off the land, winter lasts for 10 months, and daylight lasts for 10 minutes. I’d add a half of a star back, though, for some more unpredictable twists – especially in the second half of the book.
Overall, I’d rate this book as 3.5 out of 5 stars. Solid, but maybe a hair overrated.
Pair with: Salmon. If you’re a salmon fan like me, you will definitely be craving a nice slab of fresh salmon by the time you reach the end. Maple glaze? Dill sauce? Your call.
Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Premise: Two physician besties are forced to dredge up past “issues” when an ex-boyfriend moves back into town.
This was my electronic book for the week, and I primarily chose it for the title. Fitting for the blog, duh!
I really enjoyed all of the medical scenes peppered throughout the book. Working for a healthcare system the last three years has certainly increased my interest in this subject, and I felt like the author handled it perfectly – not too gory, but plenty of detail, and just enough.
I’m also a fan of books that toggle back and forth between time periods and/or character viewpoint. Queen of Hearts jumped between 1999 and present day, as well as between the two main characters. I know some readers tend to get confused with constant jumping, but I think you should be okay with this book if you are in the SUPER-SAVVY-READER category like I am.
Still, this novel hit me at the three star level. Good, but I’ll probably forget about it after a few months. A few of the lines were pretty funny, but just as many came off as trying too hard to be funny. Additionally, I was a little surprised at some of the racial stereotypes presented – a little cringe-worthy, and I’m not much of a cringer.
Pair with: The round-the-clock medical student rotations just made me want to drink lots and lots of espresso.
Next Up: I just started a terrific "graphic novel" all about FOOD!!!
Lately every ten minute Facebook session results in the viewing of at least 55 quotes that people have shared, oftentimes with the usual suspect captions of "Truth." "Accurate" or my personal favorite, "SO MUCH THIS."
I admit, sometimes I like the quotes. Often, as you can imagine, they warrant an eyeroll on my side of the screen. What's the deal with quotes in old typewriter font? They could say literally anything and people would be all over it, like OMG ACCURATE. Also, admit it - most of them have to do with how she is hurting, but she is strong, or she is going through stuff, but she smiles, or she is like raindrops on the drive-thru window at a Wendy's on a chilly autumn day.
To which I think (to both the poster and myself), for goodness' sake, get off Facebook and go read a book!
Books are FULL of SO MUCH THIS! They're full of truthbombs and accurates! Some books are even completely written in typewriter font! Like OMG, you just. couldn't. even. Could you?
Just for fun, here a just a few quotes I love from my 5-star reads:
“You’re unbelievable,’ said Rosie. ‘Look at me when I’m talking.’
I kept looking out the window. I was already over-stimulated.
‘I know what you look like.”
― Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project
“Nothing before you counts," he said. "And I can't even imagine an after."
She shook her head. "Don't."
"Don't talk about after."
"I just meant that... I want to be the last person who ever kisses you, too.... That sounds bad, like a death threat or something. What I'm trying to say is, you're it. This is it for me.”
― Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park
“People die, I think, but your relationship with them doesn't. It continues and is ever-changing.”
― Jandy Nelson, I'll Give You the Sun
“You're like a tornado of bullshit right now. We'll talk again when your bullshit dies out over someone else's house.”
― Justin Halpern, Sh*t My Dad Says
“Remember, Maya: the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.”
― Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
“Do you like Moby Dick?" he asks.
"I hate it," she says. "And I don't say that about many things. Teachers assign it, and parents are happy because their kids are reading something of 'quality.' But it's forcing kids to read books like that that make them think they hate reading.”
― Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
“Character is fate—that’s what he said. They’re bound up, those two, like brothers and sisters. You wanna know the future?” She points at Varya with her free hand. “Look in the mirror.”
― Chloe Benjamin, The Immortalists
“Religion is something between you and other people; it’s full of interpretations and theories and opinions. But faith . . . that’s just between you and God.”
― Fredrik Backman, Beartown
“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
― John Green, Looking for Alaska
“In fact, if I were a betting man, I’d wager that only 10 percent of the English instruction list will answer your call for nominations. Why? First, because more than a third of our faculty now consists of temporary (adjunct) instructors who creep into the building under cover of darkness to teach their graveyard shifts of freshman comp; they are not eligible to vote or to serve. Second, because the remaining two-thirds of the faculty, bearing the scars of disenfranchisement and long-term abuse, are busy tending to personal grudges like scraps of carrion on which they gnaw in the gloom of their offices.”
― Julie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members
“I'm not the messenger at all.
I'm the message. ”
― Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger
Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg! Share some of your favorite book quotes with me! (If you've ever been through the fresh hell known as having to watch Dora the Explorer, this is the part where I just stare at you, blinking.
I had a fantastic week of reading, and finished up two surprising books - one that left me speechless and one that had me eating all of the food - just what I needed!
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
I read this book with my jaw dropped open, flipping pages as quickly as I could. It is both ugly and wonderful, so I guess the title works. I love novels that turn a moral issue on its side and force the reader to re-examine their own viewpoints. Halfway through this disturbing and fascinating book, I had no idea what fates I wanted for the characters.
This was our book club selection for November. I’m *so glad* that I get to discuss it with others, but the date of our next meeting (the 26th) is way too far away. I have to discuss it NOW!
Oh yeah, I have a blog for that.
If you have a thick skin and don’t mind “what the heck?!?!”-ing your way through this story, I would definitely recommend it. As a bonus, the interview with the author is solid gold.
I rated this 4 stars on Goodreads. One component wrapped up in a bit of a sloppy way for my taste, which was the only reason I couldn’t give it 5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed my friend Angie’s review, and promptly read it after marking the book as finished. In regards to making a recommendation, I agree with her statement, “Would I recommend this book to my friends? It depends on the friend. It was gritty and raw, often profane, and frequently explicit. It was also beautiful, and eye-opening, and thought-provoking.”
Pair with: You know what? Just try not to eat with this one. Nothing in this book really stirs up an appetite.
Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist
Lately I’ve been reading two books a time: a physical library book chosen from my TBR list and an electronic book for my Kindle phone app that I select via Modern Mrs. Darcy’s E-book deals page. With those, sometimes I go in almost completely blind. With this one, I knew it had to do with food and contained recipes. Sure, why not? I like food.
Initially I was a little worried, because the author laid her foundation for the book by sharing that it would be about food, faith, and the experiences that we have around the table. Now, I’m a spiritual person, but I don’t usually select books with faith as a primary focus. I’m always worried I’ll wind up reading a 250 page sermon, and I don’t wanna! Still, I kept on with it, because – as mentioned – I do enjoy food.
I’m so glad I did! If the author had dialed this book two or three degrees in any other direction, it wouldn’t have worked, but instead it landed perfectly with me. What is most likely a compilation of blog posts and recipes came together to be part memoir and part “ode to food.” Yes, she weaved in some spiritual insights throughout, but I found them to add true value as opposed to being preachy in any way. Plus, she peppered these lightly enough that I feel like your average foodie Atheist would probably still enjoy this book, overall.
I gave this book 5 stars! I came away with many great recipes, lots of restaurants I’d like to try, and I also now want to have all of my friends over to the house for dinner. I found the author to be incredibly smart and insightful. I’m so pleasantly surprised! I can’t wait to discuss this book further with you at my house later this week when I make you a bunch of food and we have heaping platefuls and seconds and multiple drink refills and laugh and chat until the candles burn out.
Pair with: I advised you not to pair the other book with anything, but you’ll want to make sure you have heaps of food on hand at all times while you read this book. This includes: crusty bread, goat cheese, bacon, chocolate mousse, Caesar salad, red wine, sweet potato fries, fresh berries, strong lattes, more goat cheese, croissants, watermelon, a vat of chicken chili, and a blueberry crumble.
I'm almost halfway through a wildly popular book. The librarian said, "Man, this book won't stay on the shelves. It's *always* on hold for someone!" So far? It's well written but is all sorts of depressing and kinda predictable.
I was shoveling Raisin Nut Brain into my maw a couple of weeks ago and talking with Google about what sorts of things successful bloggers do that earn that incredible achievement of upwards of 5 readers. Google disclosed that the coolest bloggers interview important people, like authors.
Well, I don't really know any authors, but I thought all four of you might enjoy a quick text-message interview with my sister Vicky, who inhales books the way I inhale cups of coffee. In fact, looking at those numbers, if she were to just up her reading a little bit, her books to my coffee ratio would be equal. Impressive!
Vicky has a Bachelor's, two Master's and a Doctorate, so she's done some book learnin' and is real real smart and uses big big words. She also tends to go on at length about various topics. Sometimes we'll have a conversation about something completely random and two hours later she (we) come up for air and she's got a complete outline for a new presentation she can deliver at a pop culture or dragon-themed conference.
Thus, I opted to conduct our interview via text message! Short and sweet! Unlike my lengthy intro. Come back, come back, I'm done blathering on.
Kimberly: How many book do you read each year on average?
Vicky: When I used to keep a list yearly for several years, I was averaging between 150 to 200 books in addition to around 200 or more novellas a year. Many works touted as novels on Kindle are actually novellas.
Kimberly: Are you a speed reader?
Vicky: Probably not by the official definition because I do not skim as I read.
Kimberly: Any tips or idea on how to squeeze in that many books?
Vicky: Because reading is my favorite hobby, I don't think about having reading goals. Some days before work, I procrastinate the professional work I should be doing because I am in the middle of a good book, but I try not to do that, as I am always in the middle of a good book. Reading during lunch is when I used to get a lot of reading in. I love going out for coffee or a meal by myself to just sit and read. It keeps me away from the distractions of other things I should probably be doing, like grading or housework!
Kimberly: What is this "housework" you speak of?
Kimberly: Have you ever abandoned a crap book?
Vicky: Yes, absolutely! If it just feels like work, has so many editing errors that I cannot get past them, or just isn't grabbing me, I may set it aside for the moment or abandon it completely. That does not happen often, though.
Kimberly: Do you have any auto-read authors?
Vicky: Certainly. JD Robb, Stephen King, Laurell K Hamilton, Frank Stepnowski, Eli Easton, Alexa Land, R. Cooper, Kelly Gallagher, Orlando Sanchez, Shelly Laurenston, Neil Gaiman. Many authors of novellas.
Vicky: TJ Klune
Kimberly: Holy smokes - that's pretty much everyone!
Vicky: LOL, Not even close.
Kimberly: An example of a book you thought was going to be lame but that rocked?
Vicky: That's difficult. I don't read books that I think will be lame. Frank Stepnowski's Teaching Sucks but We Love it Anyway made me leery because of the title, but after that, he became an auto buy. I was nervous about Hewlett's Executive Presence, but I've found it wonderful.
Vicky: I really love Kelly Gallagher's Readicide.
Kimberly: I've literally never heard of any of the books you're talking about.
Vicky: Ok. Well, I read Carrie once a year before prom.
Kimberly: Who is your favorite sister?
Vicky: <nickname for me that contains expletive, not unlike the nickname I have for her that contains an expletive>
Kimberly: And why haven't you read your favorite sister's favorite book?
Vicky: Because my sister reads circuitous dirges that would probably cause me mental anguish. She would like the slim volume, Janne Teller's Nothing, recommended to me by a student. It's amazingly written.
Vicky: I reread King's IT about 2x a year.
Vicky: I lent it to a student and need to get a new copy. Oh! House of Leaves! I dare you to read it!
Kimberly <ignoring her other texts>: Well my sister would like Marcus Zusak's I Am The Messenger.
Kimberly: Okay and finally why should someone grab a good book right now and ignore reality for a while?
Vicky: Why should they? Why wouldn't they? I like a lot of escapism but sometimes works that incorporate real issues are excellent. I just read Eli Easton's m/m YA Boy Shattered and it was phenomenal.
Kimberly: Thanks Vixy!!
Well that was fun! Now I've got to go research all of these books and probably blow up my To Be Read list!! Also need to research "housework."
Hope you're having a great week. I'm currently reading a book all about food and as a result, none of my clothes fit anymore.
A little more about Vicky. I found this by Googling her......(sad)
At the same time as teaching full-time at Cerro Gordo High School, I have also taught at Richland Community College, have been a Teaching Assistant for courses through Harvard University Extension School, and continue to teach as an adjunct instructor at Millikin University. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and Drama with 6-12 teacher certification in both as well as gifted certification, a Master’s degree in Teaching and Learning with an emphasis on curriculum and instruction, and a doctorate in Education and Leadership. In 2014, I earned a Master’s of Extension Studies in Liberal Arts in the area of Humanities with a concentration in English through Harvard University Extension School, where I was honored to receive the Thomas Small Prize. Recent publications include the poem "Another degree earned: Liminality begins" for the Illinois English Bulletin and the paper "Fangs in the cornfields: Teaching vampire literature to nontraditional students in the composition classroom" in The Vampire Goes to College.
I stayed busy with non-reading activities this week, so I was up late finishing up my second book last night. I would hate to disappoint my 4 readers by only having a review of one book for the week. No fun!
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
This novel was a highly anticipated "seductive psychological portrait" that I'm sure will really satisfy a huge chunk of readers. On the plus side, Claire Fuller is a beautifully descriptive author ("George smiled and I saw how his gums had withdrawn from his teeth such a distance that they could at any second have come loose and dropped into his empty bowl with a clatter.") and I really enjoy how she unfolds her story here. For me, though, the story unfolds a little too slowly and the characters were unlikable. Thus, I didn't care what happened to them. I also felt like I've read too many versions of this book. Awkward single woman befriends intriguing couple only to find out that they are not what they seem. Yawn, moving on.
Note: Nothing seductive. The psychological portraits abound, though.
Pair with: The characters do drink tons of wine, which may make you desire a glass or two (without the hangovers they experience.)
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Much like Bitter Orange, this novel will have readers who will rightfully love it very much, but for me, this book started out kinda cheesy and evolved into a cheese-fest akin to the Macaroni-N-Cheese at Noodles & Company where they pile an unnecessary and artery-clogging heap of grated cheddar on top of their already cheesy mac-n-cheese. Similarly, I could eat it up with a spoon in the right frame of mind. Alas, I wasn't feeling it this time. It tries to be Harry Potter, a John Green YA novel, and a light science fiction all at once and fails at all.
The author uses a method of description that I have been noticing all the time lately and it's really been grinding my gears. "All." As in, "My office is all loose papers and half-used notebooks." or "My kitchen is all empty boxes of cereal and wine corks." "My 3 pm work face is all smeared mascara and bitten-off lipstick." You get the idea. Annoying!
Also, halfway through the book, Mr. Penumbra doesn't say a sentence without including "My boy!" before or after sharing his thought. Cuz that's how old men talk, okay?
However! There are definitely some laugh-out-loud one-liners. Maybe you'll really like it and then we can fight it out in the comments.
Pair with: At one point the main character grabs a lunch from the Google headquarters, and included with his delicious meal were several perfect spears of asparagus, which I've been craving ever since. So instead of reading this book, let's go have some asparagus, which I assume is no longer in season, although I don't know much about seasons/food/produce. I bet we could find some!
Next up: I just started this month's book club book. I'm really excited, because book clubber Angie, who has lovely taste in books, just gave it 5 stars on Goodreads and added a really long review which I won't read so I can go in blind. ALSO I accidentally ordered my library copy in LARGE PRINT so I'm going to feel even more like a senior citizen than I already do, my boy!
Mom of four, wife of one. By day I fund-raise with coffee, by night I read with wine and chocolate.