I set a goal of reading 100 books in 2019. I hope you enjoy following my journey & my thoughts on each book!
By Kevin Shinick & Fiona Hsieh
Well this was just adorable! The illustrations are beautiful and fun. The story is a nice reimagining where Chewie is actually friends with the porgs rather than cooking them. The plot isn’t anything overly thrilling, but cuteness levels are high. Would definitely read to a small child!
By Michelle Obama
"Becoming More" was the ultimate culmination of the memoir. It shares so many intimate details of the inner workings of the White House and the badass work done by an incredible First Lady. Michelle should be revered for so much more than her hella toned arms. Her grace, dignity, diligence, and joy are all to be admired. I'm so glad I read this book. She broke my heart and made it whole again. She's an optimist through and through, and recommends we keep our feet pointed towards progress despite the world as it is today. I'm going to do just that. Will you?
By Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, & Karamo Brown
This book is beautifully designed, with eye-catching images and bold colors, plus tons of playful photos of the Fab 5. Even better, though: the book is jam-packed with useful advice that's practical and hands-on.
By Liane Moriarty
It took me a mere 3 days to race through Liane Moriarty's latest. If you're in the mood for an extremely entertaining page-turner, pick up this book! While it's a bit of a slow start, it becomes more and more riveting as you go on.
I saw many reviewers complaining about how annoying or unlikeable the characters were. Come on! Bring it on! I am all about flawed characters that feel real, and that's exactly what Moriarty has pulled together in this ensemble cast.
By Jana Benová
This was a deeply strange book. I'd never read Slovakian literature before, but at least now I can say I have!
In this slim little volume, the prose style is experimental, and there are many nice turns of phrase that catch your eye and ear. A few things make you think. But for the most part, the city is overwhelmingly bleak, the characters don't do anything other than walk around and drink, and the random elements of unreality and magical realism are more perplexing than charming.
By Lauren Groff
I loved a good fucked up book. And I'm learning, I love that kind of book when it's fucked up for a purpose. These stories had a lot of fucked-upness to them, but in a pointless way. Everything is incredibly bleak. The stories are full of nameless female protagonists who are angry, depressed, and anxious. They think the world is nearing its end and there's no saving it. They're stuck in complicated marriages, loving their children and drinking far too much on overly long trips to France.
By Abbi Jacobson
I'm thrilled and delighted by how much I liked this book. Not only is this a road trip story, but it's also a breakup story. Abbi is saying farewell to the first relationship in which she truly felt in love. It's a big deal. The final two pages where Abbi banishes millennial FOMO and reassures our generation, and all readers, that it's all okay- those are the best. It's okay if you skip stuff, it's okay if every experience is not perfect, it's okay to open yourself up, even if you're scared 💗 Thanks for the reminder, Abbi.
By Jill Twiss & E.G. Keller
After learning that The Trevor Project had sent 100 copies of this book to Karen Pence's homophobic school, I knew I had to have a copy. The illustrations are beautiful and so cute. The storyline is sweet, and I love all the other funny animal characters that you meet along the way.
By Blake Butler, Joshua Cohen, Tracy Keaton, Andy Bain, & John Gagliano
This first volume is a bit of a mixed bag. I enjoyed the excerpt from Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place, and the final short story about groupies stayed with me and affected me more than I anticipated.
By Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
These books are so so good, as are the characters, the writing, the art, and the story. I can't get enough of Saga. I think an addiction may be in the works.
By Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
The art is gorgeous, the story is compelling, and the characters are flawed and fascinating. What more could you want?! I love watching baby Hazel grow up.
By Paul Jarvis
Company of One does not disappoint. It presents the radical idea that companies don't need to grow obsessively and endlessly in order to be successful. Instead, it's about working better and creating the lifestyle you want for yourself. It's about optimizing the whole rather than just blindly seeking more and more profit.
By Rupi Kaur
I liked The Sun and Her Flowers a tiny bit less than Milk and Honey. At this point, Rupi's writing feels more like a gimmick than a style. While she does explore some deep issues in a thoughtful way (rape, immigration), much of the collection made me literally laugh out loud. I don't think it's supposed to do that. Many of these poems are just big ol' cliches. They made me cringe and chuckle. It's fine, just not exactly my cup of tea
By Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
The tension is heightening and I'm not sure I can handle it. I'm growing extremely concerned about lil Hazel, and the rate and which characters are being killed off is alarming. I'm worried about Alana and Marko's relationship, but I have a bit more hope now than I did at the end of Vol. 4. That all being said, I am enjoying the hell out of the Saga series.
By Amanda Lovelace
Lovelace is clearly a Harry Potter-loving English major like me and hundreds of thousands of others. She decided to turn her platitude-filled Tumblr blog into a book of poetry, and it really didn't do much for me. It feels like a blatant Rupi Kaur rip-off, and I don't even like Rupi Kaur that much.
By Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Family reunion, at long last! So many nice moments in this installment of Saga, particularly with Hazel's teacher, and her reunion with Marko. They all start to blur together, but this was another quality addition to the series.
By Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
This story is so powerful, so emotional, so stunning and gripping. Brian and Fiona are an incredible team. The images stop me in my tracks, and the story moves me. What a perfect dynamic duo.
By Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
This was hands-down one of the best volumes of Saga of the series. Blooming friendship between Squire and Hazel has my heart soaring, right after her imaginary little brother had my heart breaking. I love these books so much.
By Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Oh that's cool, Brian and Fiona. JUST TAKE MY HEART AND SMASH IT INTO TINY BITS. IT'S FINE. I DON'T MIND AT ALL. If you need me, I'll be over here sobbing over fictional characters.
By N.K. Jemisin
Many of the stories in this collection are set in dystopian/post-apocalyptic worlds- they feel not too far from our own world, just close enough that they're not too hard to imagine. Jemisin shows a great deal of stylistic breadth. Some stories are very technical, some take challenging and experimental forms, others are more traditional but with equally fascinating and sometimes moving storylines.
By Angie Thomas
Bravo! Another absolutely riveting story, full of hope, heart, family drama, and brutal honesty. I freaking love it. Angie does an amazing job of driving the plot along, filling you with suspense, writing awesome bars, and then tying it all up nicely at the end so you feel so hopeful and pumped about the future.
By Hanif Abdurraqib
Hanif can take any subject matter and craft words that will move just about anyone with a human heart. I'm not a diehard Tribe fan- I'm only passably familiar with them- and I still felt the power and emotion thrumming through every chapter of this book. Hanif's thoughtful writing educates, elucidates, and makes you feel all the feels.
By Neil Gaiman
I enjoyed learning about the world below London. There were tons of interesting descriptions of magical, whimsical stuff, and great characters. I never felt particularly close to a character, and wouldn't have cared much if any of them died. I'm not sure what it was about Gaiman's writing that had me feeling distant from them. It's an interesting world, well-built, but it leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions. Sometimes I feel like Gaiman is being weird for the sake of being weird, so that irritates me a bit, but his writing is still enjoyable in moderation.
By Kate Zambreno, Roxane Gay, Alex Jung, & John Gagliano
I feel like these Two Dollar Radio essay collections are better suited for my college self than current self. They're a bit on the pretentious and academic side, and that's not really my jam these days. What puzzles me about these collections is that there's no theme tying everything together- it is a truly random assortment. A grab bag in terms of quality, topic, form, everything!
By Cheryl Boyce Taylor
Arrival was absolutely beautiful. Boyce Taylor tells us these stories of her childhood in Trinidad with language so musical it feels like a song. The poetry pulls you in until you feel like you're there alongside the poet. She shares heartbreaking personal histories and moves through them with her poetry. It's lovely and profound.
By Jasmine Guillory
I enjoyed this book, I'll admit it. It was cute and entertaining. The writing was kind of awful. It was written at a third-grade reading level, with simple word choices, a tedious and repetitive plot, and mediocre sex scenes. The story is predictable and the characters are frustrating- they're immature and take way too long to realize- shocker! They feel the same way about each other.
By William Trevor
This was the kind of writing that made me go, "Wait a minute, am I smart enough to be reading this right now?" The writing is dark, languid, melancholy. Things happen slowly and sadly. We can be cruel to each other daily, in small ways, and those traumas endure.
By Roselle Lim
This novel is wholesome, heartwarming, and whimsical. It feels exactly like a Hallmark movie and follows precisely the story arc you would expect. Girl comes home after a long time away. Things have changed. She has a dream and starts to pursue it, helping her neighbors along the way. Suddenly, things go drastically wrong. She's devastated! She blames herself! She wants to run away. She stays after a motivational pep talk from a side character. She finds all the answers in her mother's journals. Her enemy becomes her ally and mentor! She opens the restaurant! She falls in looooove!
By Jasmine Guillory
I honestly think The Proposal is a better book than The Wedding Date. But it is VERY SIMILAR. Food, sex, food, sex. Characters that take an unnecessarily long time to figure out they love each other. You know, the usual. Nik is a slightly more compelling character than Alexa. She's more feminist. I honestly couldn't remember a thing about Alexa's personality once she showed up in this story again. Someone should really tell Jasmine Guillory that liking coffee isn't a personality trait.
By Eleanor Kriseman
This book was impeccably written and incredibly disturbing. You know, just my cup of tea. Cal and her alcoholic, emotionally abusive mother roam around Florida and across the country to Eugene leaving a trail of frustration and sorrow in their wake. Cal is painfully lonely, and finds all kinds of unhealthy ways to fill the void left by her mom's utter lack of attention and love shown towards her.
By Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers writes this biography in the most novelistic way, and I absolutely loved it. As a coffee enthusiast, I was fascinated by Mokhtar's story, the history of coffee in Yemen, and his dogged pursuit of bringing the industry back to its once-prominent position worldwide. Well-written, compelling, and even suspenseful at times, this is a must-read for any coffee aficionado.
By Barbara Browning
This was the weirdest book I've read in a LONG time. And I read a lot of weird books! YouTube conspiracies and meaningless academic/pretentious meanderings that lead to nothing. This was disappointing, but it was also strangely amusing in some ways?
By Nina LaCour
This book was stunning. Perfect. Heartbreaking. Beautiful. This book follows protagonist Marin in the wake of her grandfather's death. He had secrets she discovered when he went missing, and these secrets devastatingly shifted her perception of their entire life together. There's grief, there's mystery, there's a beautiful college campus in NYS in the dead of winter, there's LGBTQ romance and a super deep friendship. There's family, confusion, angst, beauty. Basically everything I'd want in a book. I'm astonished I made it to the end without crying. Lovely book. Go read it.
By Justin Reynolds
I read this book so fast, I thought I must have loved it. But once I stepped back and sat with it for a little bit, I realized it didn't sit well with me. While it was gripping and the plot kept me to turn the pages quickly, at the end, I felt unsatisfied. Why do so many YA novels feature sick girls? It reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars, which was not a favorite for me. It certainly lends itself to teen angst and drama. "I am not my sickness!!!" - every sick YA female protagonist ever. The story was entertaining and I definitely think YA audiences will love it. I did appreciate the POC representation too!
By Jaclyn Johnson
Jaclyn Johnson has written an interesting little volume. There is some serious, nitty gritty business information and advice in here- including simplified explanations of legal terms you might find in contracts. That was awesome! At other times, the writing was overly cutesy, and it contained far too many generic illustrations with an encouragement to 'gram them. I was very meh on that aspect. Definitely some good kernels of advice in here, but take it with a grain of salt.
By Mark Doten
While the author nails Trump’s voice, it’s interesting at first then gets dull as dirt towards the end of the book- it all sounds the same and drags on for far too long. The first 1/3 of the book had me intrigued. A post apocalyptic world and a need to rebuild? Fascinating! Then we roll into the Birdcrash compound and are treated to 80 pages of a sociopath drilling holes in a woman’s skull and pouring acid inside to rewire her brain and I wanted to throw the book at a damn wall. I hoped the book would somehow tie it all together in the end, but there was nothing to redeem the gruesome madness we endured as readers. The book is purposeless. Big swing and a miss.
By Casey McQuiston
This gloriously happy book filled me with joy, uplifted me, and gave me hope again. I loved every second I was reading this book, and disappearing into its 418 pages was pure happiness. People should not dismiss this book as "just romance," either (that's rude, anyways). It's inherently political (First Son of the U.S. falling in love with the English prince, hello), and it's a glance at a better world, a slightly different reality from our own. And it gives you hope that this is a reality we can still create- one where we reject injustice, hate, and bigotry and choose honesty, hard work, and compassion instead.
By Karamo Brown
Karamo's book was good but not great. It was definitely interesting- it was fascinating to learn about his history as an abuser and a cocaine addict, and to see how far he's come in a short time. His reflections on his life were insightful, but something felt a little off to me the whole time. The memoir felt sanitized. "I did a bad thing. Here's what I learned." It was a little superficial, and not as deep as I expected from Queer Eye's resident culture expert and tear-inducer. This memoir definitely didn't make me cry!
By Lilliam Rivera
I found this book perplexing. I loved the worldbuilding and concept the author was addressing, but I could not stand the protagonist. I’m usually down for unlikeable characters, particularly nuanced ones, but Nalah was just annoying and naive as hell. Multiple times she references how she prefers ignorance to knowledge. This reminded me in some ways of a less sophisticated version of The Power by Naomi Alderman. It definitely held my interest, and I’ll certainly be open to reading more by this author in the future.
By Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur
This book was far more substantive than most women empowerment/business books that I’ve read. The authors present a strong argument for why it’s both an excellent and a lucrative idea for female friends to go into business together. They interviewed many women business partners and those firsthand stories were very compelling. There’s a bit of research too, and my nerdy heart soared when they cited Deborah Tannen. A great read for any woman who aspires to own her own business.
By Cal Newport
This book gave me a LOT to think about. Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism is well-researched and compellingly written. He offers a lot of strategies and tactics you can try out on your own to decrease your addiction to your phone. Newport definitely doesn't see much good in smartphones or social media. Unfortunately, he's also never used social media himself, so at times, it sounds a little bit like someone high and mighty preaching about how superior they are.
By Lawrence Shainberg, D. Foy, & Antonia Crane
In this volume, I hated the first two pieces. They were pretentious and difficult to get through. I didn't get much out of either one. Found the story about stripping and the one about the guy who went to prison on purpose fascinating and a little bit moving. Interesting at times, but not overwhelmingly amazing, or even consistently good.
By Scott McClanahan
This was beautiful and funny and sad- my kind of book. McClanahan blends memories to craft a memoir that feels vivid and real. In his appendix, he explains what he knows was true and the ways in which he made small changes for various reasons. It was so interesting to read those reflections on the book I had just finished. There's some really lovely prose in here, some deeply sad moments, and some moving ones.
By Sandhya Menon
This book was ridiculously cute and happy. Both characters were entertaining, and it was fun to watch them fall in love. The book wasn't as predictable as I thought it might be. I appreciated the realism of white rich dude whose dad donated the science wing winning the entire competition.
By Kiese Laymon
This is going to be one of my 2019 “everyone should read this” books. Heavy is potent, heavy is the perfect word for the book. Heavy is also the story of Laymon’s battle with his weight and with eating, how starving himself was a way to control something, to punish himself for his failures. How eating was a way to forget, and also to punish. Laymon’s book illuminates what it’s like to grow up as a black boy in Mississippi. It dives deep into human relationships, especially parent/child relationships, and how good we are as Americans at fucking things up. This isn’t a hopeful or an optimistic book, but it’s a true one.
By Tiffany Haddish
Tiffany Haddish has written a great book. Not only is she incredibly funny, but she's lived an immensely hard life, which I had no idea about! The book is very personal and shares stories about her mother's abuse, her father's abandonment, and her horrible ex-husband, who stalked her, physically abused her, cheated on her, and abandoned his daughter from a previous relationship. Somehow Tiffany manages to make all the stories pretty funny. There's not a lot of continuity and the book as a whole feels uneven, but it was a super fascinating read.
By John Strazzabosco
I initially had some concerns about the other’s perspective and was worried there would be a strong white savior complex present throughout the narrative, but it wasn’t really there. Though repetitive at times, the book is solid. It’s a well-researched look at the traumas and neurological impacts of poverty.
By Sloane Crosley
Mediocre at best, indulgent ramblings of a privileged white woman in NYC at worst. “The Grape Man" may have been the only essay that stuck with me. The one about fertility was thought-provoking. Many others seemed like throwaway, filler pieces. The one about the domain name "thief" irritated me to no end. That's a thing, Sloane. Try checking your email.
By Phoebe Robinson
This book grew on me gradually. I found Phoebe’s writing style pretty annoying. So many abbreviations and unnecessarily cutesy ways of saying things, plus a million fake URLs like “thatstrashandyouknowit.gov.” Why?! What does that add?! And so. Many. Tangents. Kinda felt like she was trying to hit a dictated page count. I did enjoy and appreciate her essay on money and debt, and her stories about meeting Bono were hilarious. I think she’s very smart and insightful, but buries it in unfunny, distracting quips.
By Helen Oyeymi
This book was so weird and confusing, but I think I liked it. I was perplexed the entire time. Once, I feel asleep while reading it, and I woke up yelling, "IS THE MOM IMAGINARY? IS THE DAUGHTER IMAGINARY?" I'm still not sure what I just read, but it was super intriguing and compelling. It's not a plot-heavy or character-heavy novel. Mostly just... description-heavy? Very strange.
By Mira Jacob
Good Talk blew me away. The illustrations make this especially compelling and readable. She's perfectly combined humor and truth, so that one minute, you're laughing hysterically, and the next, you're thinking about the reality of life in our country for people of color during the Trump administration. Mira's stories of her family feel relatable and distinctly American. I cheered for her, I teared up, and I turned pages like I was ravenously hungry. It was nearly impossible not to devour this in one sitting. Everyone should read this book.
By Lauren Wilkinson
I had mixed feelings about this one! For a spy novel, it's quite boring, unfortunately. I couldn't really get into it. For me, the narrative structure just didn't work. You're so immersed in other times, with only the occasional forward flashes to her children in the present moment. The random "you" she would jolt into after like 5 chapters of just describing the situation in 1987 was always jarring. I'm perplexed about a lot of this book. The pacing was off. I felt disconnected from the narrator. Even the opening scene, which should have been riveting, was boring. I liked some of the final reflections on the last page, where she mentions what it means to be a good American with integrity, but I felt like that could have been tied into the rest of the novel more rather than slapped on it at the end.
By Mason Deaver
Mason Deaver’s debut novel is a gem. It’ll give you happy, mushy feelings if you can get through the angst. It’s a bit heavy. There’s anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, so it’s very real in that regard. But super cute love reins supreme, and it’s awesome. I do wish some of the other characters had been a bit more fleshed out, but that’s my only criticism!
By Tan France
Not a ton of new info in this book. You hear a little more about Tan’s background and upbringing, and his relationship with his husband. He is refreshingly honest about a period of his life during which he was suicidal due to extreme work stress. He also shares interesting insights about being a brown person in a Post-9/11 world. My problem with the book is that Tan treats each of these things superficially, just glazing the surface and moving right along to discuss crop tops and tuxedos. You never really get a deep dive, just his take, and then we move right along. I would have appreciated more depth.
By Rainbow Rowell
I can't wrap my head around the popularity of this book. If you love fanfic, you may like this book. If you shipped Harry/Draco, you may love this book. But if you love a good plot, complex characters, and a system of magic that makes coherent sense, this is not your book. I couldn't get over the ridiculousness of their magical system.
By Charlie Jane Anders
This book was peculiar. It felt like the author was trying incredibly hard to show off how smart and funny she was. All the pseudo-science, from the wormhole device to the Total Destruction System, plus the ridiculous, over the top mockery of hipster culture in San Francisco, was just too much for me.
By Mackenzi Lee
This book was an utter delight. Such a fun romp and a super quick, enjoyable read. Mackenzi Lee kills it with practically every aspect of the novel: the romance, the pacing, the adventure, the character growth. It was truly awesome.
By Garrard Conley
While I didn’t particularly like Conley’s writing style (I found his prose overly flowery, roundabout, emo, and melodramatic), he tells an important story. It’s easy to get stuck in a liberal bubble and not realize what it’s like to grow up in a conservative Christian household where everyone around you believes gay people are going to hell. Conley shines a light on that, very honestly, and throws out a lifeline to kids growing up in similar situations to him.
By Mackenzi Lee
Some things in this novel that were super fascinating were left unexplored, while other things were beaten like a dead horse. I was utterly intrigued by the sea dragons, but Felicity and Johanna are barely surprised by their existence, and we don’t learn much about them. Meanwhile, we have to listen ad nauseam to Felicity telling herself she deserves to take up space and that she is a rare wildflower *eye roll* This book does a great job with historical research and really puts you right in the era. The characters are nuanced and it’s a fun read. And super feminist! And Felicity is asexual!
By Mallory Ortberg
I hate to say it, but I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in this book. It’s a shame, because I love Ortberg’s Dear Prudence column and enjoyed Texts from Jane Eyre. I just found this short story collection unbearably pretentious and boring. Some of the stories were bloody, some were cruel, and some had no plot whatsoever. It wasn’t interesting, I didn’t care about the characters, and I was relieved when it was over.
By Sarah Kuhn
This is a gem of a YA novel. Super cute and fun. There’s mochi, there’s fashion, there’s romance and family conflict. It felt a little younger and more juvenile than some YA I’ve read recently, but that’s fine—I know I’m not the precise intended audience for this book. My only complaint was how long it took Kimi to realize that fashion was a valid career and not a distraction. Loved the representation of Asian Americans and LGBTQ+ teens.
By Ocean Vuong
This novel was stunning and difficult, perplexing and beautiful, smart and hard. I kept hearing “a poet’s precision” used to describe Vuong’s prose, and that’s exactly right. He doesn’t have any extraneous fluff; he cuts straight to the point. This work of fiction explores memory, family, abuse, drug addiction, home, relationships, and being LGBTQ+ in an intolerant place. It’s challenging to read.
By Adam Kurtz
Such a nice, positive, honest lil read. Adam shares great advice for creatives, some of it obvious, some of it less so, all of it thoughtful and gently presented. Lots of good reminders in here!
By Nicholas Rombes, Nathan Knapp, Charles Ray Hastings Jr., Ruth Gila Berger, & Erick Lyle
I bought all 4 Frequencies essay collections solely out of excitement for the Shia LaBeouf essay contained in this one. It was anticlimactic and a letdown. The other essays were a mix of horribly depressing and horribly pretentious.
By Susan Choi
This book very nearly broke my brain. I was confused the entire time I was reading it, and can’t remember the last time a book has perplexed me so much. It’s a dense read, with hardly any line/paragraph breaks or white space. It just keeps going and going. And yet, this book intrigued me. It was a fun mental exercise to try to figure it out. The structure is unique, in that each of the three parts is called Trust Exercise, and happens at a different time period and is narrated by a different character with a different perspective.
By Sally Rooney
This book is another one of those “white people problems” books, as I call them in my head, where unlikeable characters get themselves into bad situations by making bad choices and not communicating with the people around them. The characters frustrated me at times, and I wanted to yell, “JUST TELL HIM/HER” 🙄 Nonetheless, I found myself wrapped up in their drama and I enjoyed the book and Rooney’s writing style. She’s very good.
By Tommy Orange
This was a fascinating and eye-opening novel. I loved the intro and interlude, and felt the writing about Native Americans was strongest in those sections. Having 12 main characters was a bit too much for me to follow, and the Octavio/Carlos/Charles bunch were virtually indistinguishable for me. I was also super frustrated with the ending- what a letdown! I’m not asking for things to be neatly tied up with a bow, but some resolution would be nice. It felt really abrupt. Nonetheless, Tommy Orange clearly has a ton of talent!
By Marcy Dermansky
Very Nice is a page turner that'll have you flying through its 290 pages. The characters are all flawed and pretty unlikable (though not fully despicable). Dermansky smartly comments on life in the so-called "post-Obama era," where people think they're good people because of small political acts, like donating money to pro-immigrant causes. Instead, they fail to evaluate their own actions and behaviors as they move through the world, hurting the people around them on the most basic levels.
By Jeff Wood
Two Dollar Radio is incredibly good at publishing peculiar books. I honestly have no idea what to make of this one. It was deeply strange, very interesting, and beautiful at times. I’d call it pre-apocalyptic and existential.
By Valeria Luiselli
Luiselli educated me and got me thinking even harder about the migrant crisis at the border. She revealed facts I was totally ignorant of. She made me want to take action. The prose is beautiful and filled with empathy. So well written. Everyone should read this eye-opening essay.
By Ingrid Rojas Contreras
This book was fascinating, beautiful, scary, and provocative. It made me realize how little I know about Colombia, particularly during the Escobar era. The writing is beautiful and thoughtful. It makes you wince at the poverty and the unfairness of it all, as you watch Petrona grow up in the invasion, struggling to provide income for her family, and Chula growing up wealthy, in a gated neighborhood. The love between them is real, and years later, they clearly still understand each other and the struggles of their situations, despite the distance.
By Helen Hoang
What a fun, entertaining, and delightful read! I only started seeing the term “neurodiversity” recently; the author is neurodiverse herself, falling on the Autism spectrum, and was diagnosed later in life (age 34). I enjoyed her portrayal of Stella and appreciated the sensitivity she used in depicting a high functioning Autistic adult. I always get frustrated in rom coms when the two people are clearly not communicating and just need to overcome the silly imaginary hurdle and finally get together. Once Stella and Michael got there, it took a whopping 10 pages to resolve.
By Ilana Griffo
This was an enjoyable and insightful experience! I rarely read books that require you to be so active, so I had to make sure I was in the mood to work before picking this one up. Ilana Griffo has created a neat little book to guide you through everything you should consider as you start to take action on your early stage idea. Early parts of the book felt a little beginner to me, but other sections were more helpful and had useful exercises.
By Elizabeth Acevedo
This beautiful, breathtaking book is comprised entirely of poems. What a creative approach to novel writing! I’ve never encountered something like it before. I loved Xiomara’s story in addition to the way it was told. The pacing was perfect, you get a good amount of character development despite the brevity of the poems, and it’s emotional too.
By Hanif Abdurraqib
Hanif Abdurraqib’s writing never fails to move me, puzzle me, and make me think. I tried to pace myself through this poetry collection, focusing and contemplating, but taking breaks to let it sink in. The poems in this collection are heavy, exploring topics like loss, grief, loneliness, and how mourning can bring us together and eventually lead to celebration and moving forward.
By Abbi Waxman
This book is cute and fun, but the narrator was also super annoying, and the writing was mediocre too. There weren't as many bookish vibes as I expected for a book that has "bookish" in the title. Nina is a pretentious literary snob, and nearly doesn't date someone because he hasn't read enough/"the right" books. She loves Jane Austen, has a cat, lives alone, and is a walking cliche. I was mostly bored by her.
By Sarah Ruhl
This was an interesting read, but I feel the title and marketing for the book were misleading. It's entirely about theater, and very little about sword fights, umbrellas, or anything else mentioned. The essays are extremely thoughtful and at times pretentious. It gave me some interesting concepts to mull over, but wasn't exactly what I was looking for when I picked it up.
By Raphael Bob-Waksberg
I enjoy short stories and humor writing, but they’re typically hit or miss. A whole collection can be a miss, or a handful of stories throughout. One of my all-time least faves is BJ Novak’s collection; I was nervous when I saw he’d blurbed this book. This collection didn’t have a single miss. They were written in vastly different styles and structures, and all of them made me laugh. These stories are deeply weird, extremely funny, and super smart. I loved every second of it, and was reluctant to finish, because it would then be Over.
By Kristen Arnett
Arnett’s writing is excellent. It felt like there wasn’t much plot to move us forward (enough of Brynn already! She sucked), but I felt tugged forward along Jessa’s journey nonetheless. Jessa sucked too. It was another one of those romance situations where the person is too closed off to accept that the relationship they’re in might actually work. As bleak as things are, I was glad to see the family moving towards healing at the end. My takeaway was that even in fucked up families, there’s love. And opening up to each other is hard and scary, but trying is worth it.
By Ocean Vuong
Beautiful poems. There were a handful in here that I really loved (like "Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong"), but I loved Vuong's novel even more than this poetry collection.
By Jayson Greene
This book was so stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking that I couldn’t bring myself to stop reading. I finished it in under 24 hours. At first, I found Jayson Greene’s prose a bit overblown and wordy, but it grew on me over time. He has a way of finding words for this truly horrible thing that just amazes you. It was moving to read his story of grief. Jayson’s sharing about how grief changes the way you experience the world was poignant and will stay with me for a long time.
By Helen Hoang
Another entertaining read from Helen Hoang! It was a perfectly cute and fun read. As others have mentioned, you do have to suspend your disbelief in some ways in order to enjoy it. It gets a little heavy/repetitive on themes of poverty, class, and the classic immigrant story, but still a relatively light read.
By Elizabeth Acevedo
Absolutely loved Elizabeth Acevedo's second novel! She did a spectacular job crafting a positive portrayal of a teen mom- of which there seem to be shockingly few. I don't think I've ever read a book with a teen mom as the protagonist, let alone one where she's a badass human approaching life with integrity and grace despite fear and confusion. Highly recommend this book, especially if you love food!
By Lily Koppel
The writing isn't good, but the subject matter is interesting. There's no real story or consistent thread to follow; instead, it's an assortment of random-ish anecdotes about the astronauts' wives. I think the book struggled because of its lack of focus on any specific women.
By Toni Morrison
This bleak, depressing story grabs you and won't let go. You follow Claudia, Freida, and Pecola and all the slices of sadness and horror that populate their world. Some of it is everyday horror, like mean boys on the playground and cranky parents that have to work too hard. Other horrors are uniquely disturbing. There is little to redeem things in this book or make the reader feel better, which I think is kind of the point. You just have to sit with your discomfort. And damn, it does not feel good.
By Tara Westover
This was a compelling and thought-provoking read. Tara’s story itself is extraordinary, but the writing is not. The writing can be repetitive in some sections and drag in others. The story, though, is powerful. It's shocking that Tara was able to overcome her circumstances and pursue the education she received. I love the way she carefully looks at memory as something each of us constructs, and a viewpoint that's more of a perspective than an objective reality.
By Rachel McKibbens
One of my favorite poetry collections I’ve read in 2019! McKibbens seems to find the right words every time, and kept taking my breath away over and over again. I read each poem twice (or more) because they packed such a potent emotional punch and put words together in such creative and perfect ways. This collection covers mental illness, family lineage, womanhood, sexuality, and so much more. I highly recommend it.
By Michael Lee
Lee’s poems are so gripping. They are sharp and powerful, and reminded me of the Hanif Abdurraqib and Ocean Vuong stuff I've been reading earlier this year. Lots of exploration of death, grief, addiction, and despair. I look forward to seeing what else Lee writes.
By James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner
A very mediocre, boring book. There’s nothing new here. The 10 truths are incredibly generic and broad, with no real detail or helpful, actionable advice. You could just read the closing paragraph of each chapter and get the gist.
By Jonathan Van Ness
Jonathan speaks frankly about some seriously hard shit in his life, including being sexually assaulted as a child, bullying, dropping out of college, working as an escort, developing a sexual compulsivity, struggling with drug addiction, losing his stepdad, and receiving an HIV positive diagnosis. He is 32 years old and has lived so much life. His honesty and frankness was refreshing. I loved all the connections he made to therapy and what he’s learned about himself. This book shines and is full of amazing advice without coming across as preachy. Plus, Jonathan includes his sixth grade report on the Bill Clinton sex scandal, and it’s super entertaining.
By Lisa Taddeo
This book is compellingly written, but problematic in some ways. Taddeo's prose and the intimate look at each woman's sex life was riveting. However, the problem lies in how Taddeo introduces the book. She claims to be offering a deep dive into human desire in America. Something representative. But this book isn't representative at all! It's three white women who are all in heterosexual relationships. The good about this book: the writing is strong and you feel fully immersed in these women's lives. Most people can find something to relate to in each woman's story.
By Richard C. Schwartz
This book was helpful and interesting. This model is all about how we have different parts inside of us that play different roles- they try to protect us, they're angry, they motivate us, they shame us. By talking to these parts and being curious about their aims, we can create a more whole version of our Self and live life in a more balanced and sustainable way.
By Adrienne Sharp
The founding of Las Vegas seemed like an interesting topic, but this book was dull as dirt. I don't think it served the story well to alternate between two time periods. There wasn't enough suspense in either one of them for me to care. The book picks up in the last 1/4 or so, but even then, it's too much name dropping of random mobsters and too much unnecessary description that doesn't move the plot along or develop the characters. The ending is lackluster. It's vague and you don't even feel like rooting for Esme by then.
By Robin DiAngelo
White Fragility was tougher to read than I expected. There were definitely cringey moments, but it was helpful. I particularly appreciated the emphasis DiAngelo placed on the good/bad binary of racism. If someone gives you feedback that something you did was racist, they aren't saying you're a terrible, immoral person. They're trying to help you grow. The writing was dense and dull at times, and felt repetitive. Still, a useful book for any white person in America who can keep an open mind while reading it.
By Josh Gondelman
Josh Gondelman's book was a very pleasant read. It was funny and nice, Josh seems like a good person, and he and Maris are the cutest. There was one part where I was actually smiling and chuckling, when he described his wedding DJ impersonating Michael Jackson at the reception. I appreciated that Josh was reflective as well as funny in this book. He's not trying too hard to be a woke white guy, but he is trying to move consciously from being passively nice to actively good and kind, a force for the positive. All in all, a fun read that I'd recommend picking up in between heavier books.