I don’t have much evidence to compare, but I think I’m reading quite a bit more this year than I have in the last 2-3 years. By my count, I’ve read 17 books in the first six months of 2018, which might be a record. I’m usually a pretty opportunistic reader, though I generally steer away from mysteries, crime, and thrillers, more out of habit than any real dislike. Lately I’ve been trying to read more work by Asian(-American) authors, so they get their own section. Here’s the list, along with a brief review. (Amazon Affiliate links ahead, but please support your local bookstores!)
- The Bear and the Serpent, Adrian Tchaikovsky. Grade: A-. Enjoyable high-fantasy novel picked up on a whim at the library. Follows a group of adventurers set in a world where people can Step into animal shape. A bit long as most epic fantasies are but not too rambly.
The Transcriptionist, Amy Rowland. Grade: C-. Interesting premise about a newspaper worker becoming obsessed with a blind woman falling to her death into a lion exhibit, that I feel failed to deliver. Weird, wandery, and just kinda disappointing.
*The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niefenegger. Grade: A. I listened to this on audiobook 3-4 years ago, but my auditory processing is poor and the story was good enough that I wanted to reread it.
*Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells. Grade: B++. A moving exploration of mother-daughter relationships set against a pleasurable walk through history and location.
- Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher. Grade: C. I really wanted to like this more. Mildly funny, it read like it was written by someone with mental health issues, which I suppose it was.
- Shockaholic, Carrie Fisher. Grade: B-. A bit more coherent and entertaining than the other memoir. I think I was looking for The Princess Diarist but couldn’t find it at my library.
- The Women of the Cousins’ War, Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, and Michael Jones. Grade: A-. Though not a superfan, I generally enjoy Philippa Gregory’s novels set in War of the Roses / Tudor England. This book goes into more biographical detail about three major characters.
- The Zimzum of Love, Rob and Kristen Bell. Grade: C+. Probably not that bad of a book but I didn’t find it that interesting. (I suppose I am way less fixated on love and marriage now that I’m actually married, is that bad?)
- The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield. Grade: B+. A very short but good read or listen about entrepreneurship. I appreciate the lack of fluff that’s typical in a lot of millennial entrepreneurship content.
- Fascinate, Sally Hogshead. Grade: A+. Game-changer for the way I do branding and voice development for my clients. Highly recommend for anyone in business, non-profits, creative entrepreneurship…really, just anyone.
- *I Feel Bad About My Neck, Norah Ephron. Grade: B+. I was on some kind of memoir rager this year. Ephron’s stories are funny and a lot more coherent than Carrie Fisher’s.
- Why Men Don’t Listen & Women Can’t Read Maps, Allan and Barbara Pease. Grade: B++. I can’t say I’m comfortable with the highly simplified view of human sexuality the book presents, but the evolutionary psychology behind other differences between the sexes is interesting and plausible.
- It’s Not About the Broccoli, Dina Rose. Grade: A+. Life-changing mindset shift for helping our picky toddler be a more adventurous eater! And the idea that learning good habits instead of obsessing over results is a useful paradigm for just about everything in life.
- *China Boy, Gus Lee. Grade: A–. Colorful period story of Asian-American dislocation. Great texture, I just kind of wish there were more to the plot than a kid learning how to punch people.
- *The Piano Teacher, Janice Y.K. Lee. Grade: B+. Another good period piece set in World War II Hong Kong. Reminds me a bit of Lisa See’s work minus some of the grinding brutality of pre-modern China. The ending was kind of confusing, but the book was enjoyable.
- *On the Noodle Road, Jen Lin-Liu. Grade: B++. A foodie ramble through East and Central Asia, Turkey, and Italy. The reflections on marriage and the role of women seemed…a little trite and very vaguely orientalist, which is disappointing coming from an Asian expatriate author. But it made me really hungry!
- Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith, Mihee Kim-Kort. Grade: A. Would have been even more earth-shattering had I read this 8 years ago, but still full of profound wisdom and abundant warmth. I think I got a little indigestion reading it too fast before the launch date…this one should be savored and absorbed slowly.
Surprisingly, there’s a lot more nonfiction so far than fiction, which is unusual for me. I think I intentionally seek out nonfiction books that interest me or answer questions that I have, while my fiction selections are mostly luck of the draw. (In this case, what I picked up at the library sale in March!)
Any suggestions for the second half of 2018? Also, if you want any of the books with stars by their title, I will send you my copy for the cost of shipping. Leave your e-mail and I’ll be in touch!