Reading challenges are one of several tools a regular reader can use to pull themselves out of the inevitable reading rut. I usually read the lists for inspiration for how to diversify my reading selections and move on. Others enjoy the satisfaction of checking each one off. Either way, I've decided to provide you with a challenge list this year!
One of my favorite extremely popular book bloggers has opted not to provide her apparently much-coveted yearly challenge because of something about how life is too challenging right now. That's fair, but life is challenging always and I have faith in you!
So for 2022, let's read the following books!
This year I had 17 amazing books that I wanted to share with you, but I was able to edit it down to a dozen (a painful process!) I tried to select my most-recommended and universally enjoyed picks!
Here we go:
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
This is the book you'll grab when you want to learn something in 2022. Fascinating inside look at poverty from a variety of aspects. It'll get you thinking.
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
Kidd explores what life might look like from the lens of Ana, the wife of Jesus. I was skeptical, but it's handled so carefully and beautifully - I loved it from start to finish.
4321 by Paul Auster
I held off reading this because it's a million pages long, but I'm so glad I finally cracked it - this is four versions of one man's story and it's pure gold. I love books that delve into those butterfly effect what-if's.
Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver
Along the what-if theme, what if a married couple goes through with a promise they made in their fifties to kill themselves when they hit 80? What if only one of them goes through with it? What if - many other scenarios, each played out in the chapters within this book. It's entertaining and thought-provoking, but I admit it gets a little wonky here and there. Fun wonky, but wonky.
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
I also read South of Broad this year, both excellent reading to accompany my first visit to my new favorite city, Charleston. Both heavy and humorous - belly laughs and tears on the same page of both of these sweeping family/friends dramas. Highly recommend!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Forgive the stupidly named book, this is probably my favorite of the three TJR books I read this year (also After I Do and Malibu Rising). Everything she writes is surprisingly 100%, I suggest you grab one. This one was tons of fun.
Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Ja0uad
I've been recommending the crap out of this book. I'm not getting many takers as of yet, because people don't want to read about other people's cancer journeys (I get it) but if you're brave enough to go there, go there with Suleika. Trust me. Spoiler: she lives, and then she takes a fun road trip!
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict
This one, however, is my *most* recommended for 2021. I read it, and loved it, and then did some research and ARE YOU KIDDING ME THIS WAS A REAL PERSON. So we have much to discuss.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
A woman pilot book, okay, but hear me out: it's not endlessly about what it means to be a woman pilot, it's lots of adventure and amazing characters and romance and flying and wartime and friendships and there's a reason it won a million awards this year.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
This is the WW2 spy book you're going to read and love and shove into the hands of everyone you know, I swear. My book club read it and thank goodness, because otherwise I would've been bratty about another <woman><insert career here> book. Good thing my booklovin' friends have my back.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
I can't tell you what this is about because then you'll decide it sounds weird and lame and won't read it. Just start reading it and you can thank me later.
Several People are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
I had to stop reading this near my family because I couldn't stop laughing. It's been a while since I loved a book so much that I actually had to savor it and read it a little at a time because I never wanted it to end. Hilarious/fun/stupid/irreverent - plus I love workplace books!!!
What did YOU love this year?
November brought COVID to the Scheirer-Weeks household and I'm happy to tell you that we're pretty well on the other side of it. None of us fared too badly - some coughing and fatigue, but that's about the extent of it. The worst part of COVID for us was the guilt - who we passed it to and how that impacted their lives. It sucked. But luckily all of our relationships are still intact and nobody seems to hate us too much - we're all just hating COVID.
The silver linings included some nice family time, the tackling of some projects around the house, and a bit of reading. November might have stunk in some ways, but the reading was marvelous!
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
As with Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I waited entirely too long to read this book. Poehler is a genuinely hilarious person who takes her craft of comedy very seriously and has been rewarded with much deserved success in her career. I loved this from start to finish, and would recommend it highly to anyone who even sort of likes Amy Poehler. (I’m not a *huge* fan of any celebrity, really, but I’ll read most anyone’s memoirs/essays!)
Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark by Cassandra Peterson
Okay, except I am a pretty huge Elvira fan!
Vicky and I used to watch her movie on practically a daily basis (along with the videotape that had Jem, Beauty & the Beast, & Freaky Friday). This memoir is fun and hilarious and filled with superstar gossip. She did the thing where she shared some huge news about herself to boost sales, but I’ll forgive her for it, although I will say Cassandra Peterson is definitely not *gay* but bisexual, as this book illustrates and also outright says that she really enjoys men. I’m so glad that she found happiness, though. She’s had such a wild ride.
A Calling for Charlie Barnes by Joshua Ferris
I love Joshua Ferris. He’s on my short list of authors where I plan to read everything he has written. Plus, he’s from the Danville area so he often has a lot of central Illinois references. This book is full of them. More importantly than that, this was just really, really well done and I really enjoyed this family drama novel that I can’t help but wonder might be more memoir than novel. So good.
After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Another author on my short list is Taylor Jenkins Reid. How does she take what could be such a boring and predictable storyline and fascinate the reader slowly but surely all the way to the last page?!?! Between sessions with this marriage-gone-wrong novel, I found myself many times staring into space thinking of the characters, feeling awful for them, and feeling grateful for my marriage. My low expectations for this book were greatly surpassed. Now I know to trust TJR. Everything she pens is gold.
World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain
This wasn’t so much a book written by Bourdain as one written *about* his travels and musings about the food and culture of the various countries he was able to visit during his awesome career and too-short life. I enjoyed it, but it felt like such a skimming of the surface. I think this is a rare case where the book was actually better as the moving pictures (in this case, multiple tv series).
At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
I’ve read so many books just like this one – the historical fiction with the heroine who becomes a stronger version of herself when faced with hard times such as war and develops friendship with a colorful cast of characters, often including a silent but handsome and bearded lumberjack. A larger percentage of them are enjoyable while they last and mostly forgettable. This one was actually really lovely, though. I might not remember it for the rest of my life, but it was a great story that I’d highly recommend to any fan of historical fiction!
Several People are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
This is a fast and hilarious read that is comprised of private messages among coworkers. I haven’t laughed so much at a book for quite a while. I loved it so much, but it was such a fast read that I had to savor it, so just took it a bit at a time. However, it would make a perfect airplane read (although if you’re like me, you’ll annoy everyone with your constant laughter).
What awesome books did you read in November?
Brrr! It's getting cold - the perfect season for curling up with something warm to drink and a good book! Last month I finished off eight books and most of them were delightful. Check out my reviews!
West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge – This was a beautifully written novel-with-true-parts about the journey across America with two giraffes, an old man, a lovable hardscrabble young man and the redheaded photographer that follows giraffes as they make their way to the zoo in California. It was a solid read, but it should’ve been better and more uplifting.
All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton – Now that I’ve read two books by Trent Dalton, I can tell you that I almost have to read him with my hands over my eyes but my God, it’s worth it. His books are absolutely haunting and beyond memorable. Read this one about a gravedigger girl and her quest to release her family from a curse. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me he is just WOW!
The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You: Stories by Maurice Carlo Ruffin – I was excited to read this book of short stories based in New Orleans but with the exception of the first story which I may never forget, I quickly forgot all the rest. Maybe it deserves another read down the road, but it was a dud for me this time.
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land – After I finished this work of magic, I immediately followed Land on Twitter and then pretty quickly unfollowed her because holy smokes she posts nonstop. She needs to log off and write some more! Seeing Facebook friends rave about the Netflix series reminded me that Maid had been sitting on my TBR list forever, so I dove in and must tell you that I wasn’t expecting to have my eyes opened any further than they were, based off of my own experiences as a single parent as well as my involvement with nonprofits that serve low-income individuals. However, I learned a lot from this memoir and would recommend it 1000%.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles – Everyone I know who read A Gentleman in Moscow loved it, so there has certainly been a lot of excitement about The Lincoln Highway. Towles brings us an Americana road trip novel packed with interesting characters along the way. While I would certainly recommend it, I have to tell you that the ending really threw me for a loop and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I haven’t had a chance to talk with anyone about it yet so please read it and send me a message!!!
Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver – This was the first of two books I read in October that explored different variations of a life or lives where the reader is let in on all of the outcomes. I really love this fun trick (The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is an example of this being done SUPER well) and this one was fascinating because it revolved around a marriage. The married couple in their 50’s make a suicide pact for when they hit 80, because it’s all downhill from there in their minds. We then see all of the results of what happens when they hit 80 and make new decisions regarding their pact. Recommend!!! (Some of the later chapters get a little science fiction-ey and weird, but are still good in their own way.)
Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook – I liked this graphic novel about university students in South Korea in the 1980’s. It was intense, but a quick and thought-provoking read.
4321 by Paul Auster – I just finished this 880 page novel that was part 2 in the theme of different variations of a life. This one centered on just one life, Archie Ferguson, and didn’t seem to be tied to any one specific butterfly effect decision but instead seemed to hinge on how his parents’ decisions, successes, and relationship in the early years created four different kinds of lives for Archie. I was fascinated by what changed and what remained the same in those lives.
Talk to me! What are you reading?
I finished 9 books this month, including several buzzy new releases. I'll keep my reviews super brief!
Eat a Peach by David Chang
Chang seems like kind of a turd, in general, but this memoir was still lots of fun, for some reason. Probably because of the food and because he's kind of a turd. It's maybe a little refreshing.
What to Miss When: Poems by Leigh Stein
Oh yeah, I don't really understand poetry.
But I want to understand pandemic poetry from an author I really like!
How about you read it, and explain it to me?
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
I highly recommend this hilarious and relatable memoir. I can't believe it has taken me this long to read it. We're really close to the same age, so I could definitely relate to her adventures in the chat rooms when she was a young teen!
One Two Three by Laurie Frankel
This book makes me think of Erin Brockovich, what with the poisoned town.
But instead of Julie Roberts, we hang out with three super weird and amazing triplet teen girls as they seek revenge.
Featuring a love interest with the villain's son!
Frankel writes books that really stay with you.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
This novel is not for everyone.
You'll love it or you'll hate it.
It's maybe one of the most romantic books I've ever read, even though it's not a romance.
I can't think about it right now, or I'll cry.
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman
As recommended to me by one of my booklovin' Board Members. Her book club read it and you know I had to get my hands on a book about an old rich lady who lives in the hospital....
Oh my, I googled my butt off as I was reading this book. Fascinating. Really good!
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
I was apprehensive about reading this one because:
1. all-female whatever books are really just all over the place, next it'll be like the all-female squad of zookeepers like "They can tame man or beast!" and
2. torture scenes no thanks!
But luckily my book club told me which chapter had the torture (30) so I could avoid it and I'm so glad I read this one. It was phenomenal. If Kate Quinn wants to write about zookeepers, I'll read it.
The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
I would recommend this to fans of Fredrick Bachman actually. It's almost this weird new (new to me?) genre of gritty feel good... where it's just this side of sappy/cheesy but it's not, instead it's thought-provoking and sweet. But yet there are some really tough themes that run all the way through it.
Most importantly, there are books!!! I wish some of them were explored more thoroughly, but overall I would say this was a lovely read.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
I love Liane Moriarty, but about halfway through the book I decided I hated all of the characters. But then 3/4 of the way through the book, I liked them all and threw the book across the room because how did she DO that?
The plot, for me, was beside the point, but if you must know it's "mom is missing! Where did she go? Did dad kill her? Why are all the siblings acting shady as hell?"
Maybe not my favorite of Moriarty's books (because of What Alice Forgot, obviously) but still solid.
Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush
I didn't know much about the Bush sisters, other than that they partied in college and Jenna has some sort of national book club. This was an interesting account of their coming-of-age and what it was like growing up in the public eye. It was maybe a wee sappy here and there, but overall I really enjoyed it and especially loved the included e-mails from George Bush Sr. Plus, the sisters are very different but both likeable. Who knew Barbara Bush was doing all sorts of cool things to help the world? Recommend (politics aside)!
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
I picked this up because it won the Pulitzer Prize... that's it. That's my reasoning. There's a lot going on in this book and it is therefore one you're going to want to read pretty much all at once, or else you may lose track of the various sub-plots. There are several wonderful characters and it is certainly an important and well-written story about Native Americans and the government's attempt to steal their reservations from them in the 1950's. However, for some reason this didn't *stay* with me. That could be my own shoddy memory's fault, but take that for whatever its worth.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict
This always happens to me, mostly because I go into my books so blind. But I'll be happily reading a novel, only to later find out the characters were actual people! (Or vice versa, with Daisy Jones & The Six) Obvious I know J.P. Morgan was a person, but it wasn't until the book finished up that I realized this "personal librarian" was a legit person. Which explains why it didn't necessarily follow the standard novel formula that I was expecting.
No matter what you know when you dive in, it's an absolutely fascinating read chock full of fine art, literature, smart quips, shrewd negotiations, family drama, love affairs, and race and class relations. What a total win.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
One of my favorite friends with excellent taste in books has been going on about this book for over a year. It's been sitting on my TBR list for just as long, but I was hesitant to read it because I was nervous to read about someone's month of madness. That sounds....maddening. Plus everyone is basically losing their minds right now so what of it?
Still, I'm glad I finally gave in. It was as I imagined it would be - haunting, scary, anxiety-inducing - but still a story well told that provides much food for thought.
However! Veronica said that this is on Netflix or something? I definitely have no idea how that could be a thing. She assures me it is fabulous.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Many of you know my beef with all of the stupid tricks of the publishing industry, most especially with sticking the word "girl" in the title of EVERYTHING, whether it makes sense or not. Certainly it once again makes no sense here. It's pulled from a play that is performed in the novel, which also is inappropriately titled. Enough with the girls!
Stupid title aside, this is fun and amazing and interesting from beginning to end, and I was a stupid GIRL for waiting so long to read it. (Admittedly I was nervous it actually would be about a city of girls, which doesn't sound like a fun read.) This is about New York City in the early 40s, theatre, drinking, starlets, showgirls, drama, stupid decisions, amazing costumes, and lots of sex. This is a perfect chaser to any sort of deep or depressing book you might've just read, but it's smart. Recommend!
This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith
I'm not even sure how to describe this weird book. Mostly because it could've been so high drama, what with the suicide intervention opening scene, but it was also high-level cozy autumn porn with nonstop blankets, cats, tea, books, crunchy leaves, pumpkins and delicious food descriptions. I still don't even know what to make of it, other than I really liked it and felt that it ended on a nice realistic happy note despite some characters and plot points being over-the-top throughout the book.
I'd describe this as an off-beat love story and would recommend it for those who might like such a thing (I did.)...
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
This book also languished on my TBR list for a million years, which is ridiculous because it was solid gold. I'm not even going to tell you about it, just that the characters as they are written might as well pull themselves off the page and sit down to dinner with you. You might need a tissue for this one, but it's worth it.
By the way, the main character is actually a GIRL, but there are no mentions of a girl in the title, just wolves. So I'm awarding bonus points for that.
How was your month in books?
Dare I say it - "especially now."
I hate seeing funny stuff captioned with someone lamenting that they laughed way too hard it whatever it was. Unless you laughed so hard you vomited or ruptured something, there is no such thing! That would be a much better caption. "I ruptured my spleen!"
There are a lot of really good and gritty, depressing, thought-provoking books out there that need read, but they also require a chaser. Life is like that right now, too. Watching the news or even scrolling Facebook or Twitter requires a shot of joy that reminds us that there are still so many reasons to smile (despite all of the very real reasons to punch the air, cry, pray, or go to bed early and hope tomorrow is better).
So - I like to pepper my reading life and my real life with books that will make me laugh! Lots of laughing, maybe a *little* thinking, but not too much. Here are some of my favorite authors who always deliver:
Jerry Seinfeld - Read his latest, "Is This Anything?" It's pretty much just a script of some of his best material through the decades. You'll read it in his voice and certainly recognize many of the jokes. Perfect for when you just have 10 minutes here or there but need a laugh.
Nora Ephron and Sloan Crosley - I lump these two together because they dish out hilarious and phenomenal essays. Now that Nora is no longer with us, I think Sloan fills her shoes very nicely when you're looking for the funny female perspective on life.
David Sedaris - It turns out that David Sedaris is not universally loved and appreciated by everyone, who knew? I had my book club read one of his hilarious memoirs and they were lukewarm. Granted, he can be a little darker and less laughs per minute than most listed here, but the laughs and snickers are definitely worth it. Try one. If you like it, there are like 1000 more. All he does is walk and write.
Jim Gaffigan - Jim's books are similar to Seinfeld's "Is This Anything" referenced above, but organized more by topic. I love Jim Gaffigan so much, and his relationship with food is totally relatable!
Tina Fey - For whatever reason, I held off for many years reading Bossypants. Have you ever seen a book cover so many doggone times that you just avoid it out of spite? Big mistake in this case!
I swear, I ruptured my spleen.
For some reason, I was reading at a pretty steady clip this month. I finished up 8 books - let me tell you about them (briefly)!
Writers and Lovers by Lily King
In some ways, this was great. I really loved so many of the observations within this novel and the author really brings you right into each scene with her beautiful writing. The content, though, was eh. What was with the weird love triangle?
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
Don't confuse this with the fluffed out listicle type book so popular on bookstore shelves today. In fact, Peterson deep dives into the thought behind each rule, with examples ranging from Biblical stories to modern scenarios and back to the beginning of time. He's blunt and interesting and I suppose fairly controversial at this point. His chapter on not raising kids to become people you would hate was especially interesting to me. I would recommend, but clear distractions before jumping in.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
As loyal readers know, I think everything Reid touches turns to gold. I would agree with that in this case, especially because it was more or less marketed as a beach read and has that fun 1980's glamourous rich-and-famous in Malibu feel. It won't change your life, but it's fun family drama drenched in alcohol and dusted with cocaine.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
This was our book club book, as suggested by me, and I feel good about having suggested it - hopefully everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. My favorite part? Strong female characters AND strong male characters! This novel jumps back and forth between a daring woman pilot a couple of generations ago and to an actress playing her in the present day. Fascinating, and not the sappy mess you might be envisioning, I promise.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
The Four Winds is about the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the migration to California, little work and poor wages, families suffering together, and what it means to be a strong person in the face of obstacles. I do usually like Kristin Hannah, but I feel like she was reading the book alongside of me and constantly tapping me on the shoulder to remind me of the points she was trying to drive home. "Don't forget, we should all work together for the betterment of society" and "Sometimes you have to be strong even when you're scared!" So the story took a backseat and I think I like it better when I can enjoy a story and then sit back and think I'm really clever to have unearthed the theme that ran along under the surface of the story.
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
I started this book while in Charleston, as I had heard it described as Conroy's love letter to Charleston - which it was! But, like Prince of Tides, it was packed full of drama centered around a group of friends, jumping forward and back in time. The main character could've been the same main character from Prince of Tides and certainly several other components of the plot had some similarities. I'll have to read a few more, but so far in my reading of Conroy it seems like he loves to make you laugh, make you cry a few lines later, and then make you laugh again, maybe with some WTF thrown in among the paragraphs as well. It's a strange reading experience and I kind of love it.
Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
This memoir was a fast read, and certainly Ford has been through some stuff, but nothing so crazy or interesting that I thought about anything any differently or felt compelled to recommend this to a friend. She's a good writer and seems like a good person, but I was glad that this only took a couple of days to get through. I'd suggest a pass on this one, unless you're in the mood for a speedy read about family dynamics, fathers in prison, and sexual assault.
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes
Spoiler alert: Flour and sugar make us fat. I really loved how Taubes argues his case and now I feel like I need to be reading his book at all times so I can be encouraged to lay off the danishes. I highly recommend this book, which is really a pretty quick read and probably skimmable if need be, to anyone struggling with extra pounds. The implementation, though.... that's the hard part!
How did your July reading shape up? Did you read anything you would recommend?
Many of my five star reads are those that might only appeal to a few like-minded readers. Others have tremendous universal appeal and I embarrass myself with how often I recommend them. I've actually gotten into a bad habit over the years of making unsolicited recommendations and thus, I started a book blog.
You opted in to this!
So- here are five books I'm *always* hyping up (other book bloggers might say "the books I'm always pressing into hands" but I'm more of a library and Kindle reader, so this would involve us taking a quick road trip to the library to select the book that I can then press into your hands, or my downloading the book on your reading device which I would then press into your hands. Anyway, I'm pressing, okay?)
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
This book is full of music - the descriptions of musical pieces are unlike anything I've ever read before. You'll be googling and listening and reading and suddenly you'll realize you just read the best love story EVER. Look, now you're crying. SO GOOD.
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Well, there are tons of Jodi Picoult fans out in the world. Picoult was what I read when I was making the transition from reading nothing in college to voraciously reading everything. Picoult was my pit stop and why not? She's great at examining all sides of an issue (though her writing can get tedious. I remember the book about whales...my God...so much information about WHALES).
Of her books, I loved Nineteen Minutes most, by far. Her trademark is played out best here, where the reader finds themselves truly seeing all sides of ...a school shooting? Incredible.
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
I remember loving this book so much when I read it last summer, but I'm amazed at how many times it has come up in conversation (I interjected it into the conversation) since then. This was the ultimate beach read - glamorous, fun, not too gritty but not brain candy. Grab it while the pools are still open!
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Now that I've read this phenomenal peek at the life of a therapist (who goes to a therapist), I've been following Gottlieb online and I have to admit - she's the ultimate advice-giver. This book is like a therapy session every time you crack it. I will probably read it again, which I never do.
I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak
Speaking of reading again, this is on my list to read again. I hope I love it just as much as I did the first time. Did you ever have a re-read that totally fell flat? I don't think this will. I recommend it all the time (as it is my current FAVORITE book) but nobody EVER, EVER reads it for me. It's an excellent book marketed to the high school and college crowd that reveals lessons on the forms of human kindness. But it's not sappy sweet, it's awesome!
What book do you want to press into my hands?
I've made an alarming discovery about memoirs in recent years: the *best* memoirs are NOT by the rich and famous.
Think about the typical trajectory: they came from humble beginnings in a place like Central Illinoi, someone said they couldn't make it b the way, someone said they couldn't make it but they proved them wrong. The rise to stardom, the struggle with drugs or alcohol or weight or toxic love and the ultimate finding of their soul, capped off with a book deal. I've read this book by many authors.
The best memoirs are by those who have endured something crazy/interesting/meaningful and live to tell about it Here are some of my favorites:
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
I've started obsessively recommending this fantastic chronicle of a young woman's cancer battle and subsequent road trip. Jaouad certainly doesn't sugarcoat anything, so reading of her cancer journey can be hard, but that's the point. I still think of her regularly in the months since I've finished her memoir.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Be sure to read this eyebrow raising account of Westover's upbringing in backwoods Idaho and how her family relationships crumple as she seeks higher education. I worked my Google muscle so hard after finishing this, looking at pictures of her family like I'm some kind of private detective.
Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, The Cult that Bound My Life by Sarah Edmondson
Forgive her the excessively long subtitle, because this book is crazy good. If Educated was eyebrow raising, Scarred is jaw-dropping. Is there any limit to what someone will do to have control? Fun bonus: NXIVM traps their victims under the guise of a multi-level marketing (pyramid) scheme, which is a testament to how cult-like those can be (and I know, I sold Sensaria for a hot minute in 2005.)
Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving Extremism (Also Titled A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church <so what's up with that?>) by Megan Phelps-Roper
Thinking about the Westboro Baptist Church usually makes me sick to my stomach, but the nausea is worth it here. Phelps-Roper does a great job of exposing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Troublemaker: Surviving Scientology and Hollywood by Leah Remini
Remini, oh the other hand, comes out guns blazing with this fascinating tell-all. While she does touch on her boring stardom stuff (oh, it's not THAT boring I suppose), she focuses on what a huge hot mess the church of Scientology is. Unfollow and Troublemaker would actually be fun to read as a doubleshot, to compare and contrast religious cult behavior.
Let It Go: My Extraordinary Story - from Refugee to Entrepreneur to Philanthropist
Ironically I had a donor recommend this book. I'm not sure I would have ever come across it otherwise, which would have been a shame. I absolutely loved the memoir and the author. Who doesn't love a self-made rags to riches story? Her deeply moving stories about her son and resulting philanthropy for Autism are intense, and I think of them often. Every aspiring philanthropist should read this!
What would YOU add to this list?
Mom of four, wife of one. By day I fund-raise with coffee, by night I read with wine and chocolate.