July Reads

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We were out of town for almost half of July, and I got almost zero reading time on any of our adventures. (This reminds me that I should also try and post some pics from said adventures.) Still, with the inclusion of a couple of books that were started earlier and a couple more that were either super short or super fast (or both), I managed to knock out a good number of books this month. I am learning a lot about my reading habits and preferences this year as I have been keeping track. I have decided to cut two kinds books out of my life: this won’t be a surprise if you’ve been following along with my review blurbs this year. :)

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This book was exactly up my alley. In fact, if I were ever to write a book (no plans), this is the only format that I think would ever work for me. It is a collection of random memories and thoughts, often in list form–organized alphabetically, of course. In many places the book reminds me of when I was a kid and would pretend that my life and thoughts were being recorded for broadcast (Truman Show style). I mean, there are so many thoughts in here–quirky fleeting and/or recurring thoughts–that would never make it into a traditional memoir but that are just so thoroughly delightful in their ordinariness. The subtitle (tagline?) is “I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story.” I loved the creative format and even found it potentially inspiring for future projects. This book probably isn’t for everyone, but it really resonated with me, like someone else was in my head–a template for how but not what happens in my pretty little head.

The Paper Magician, by Charlie N. Holberg. When I pull up Goodreads there is sometimes a quote (by I forget whom) that says something like “I have without fail enjoyed the books I have read while I’m convalescing.” I am the opposite. This book is not getting a fair shake because I was getting sick while I was reading it and the whole experience is tainted. I think I might have liked this book as a summer read–light, not terribly profound but creative and entertaining.

The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Ok, so, celebrity memoirs is one of the categories of books that I am giving up on. I like Fixer Upper a lot. I like Chip and Joanna as they are portrayed on the HG show and how they seem to actually be in real life. I thought the book was kind of like watching an episode of the show–sweet, inspiring (in another life). The book didn’t (as some other celebrity memoirs have) make me like the Gainses any less. But the thing is I just. don’t. care. Meh. Seriously, I got kind of bored even writing up this five-sentence review. Done.

My Life in France, by Julia Child. For whatever reason, this book doesn’t count as a celebrity memoir. This was our book club pick this month, and I was glad to finally have read it after having it on my list for years. I knew a little about Julia Child from watching clips of her PBS show and, well, because she’s a household name. I was caught up and often amused by her personality and take on the world–so different from mine. I was intrigued by her descriptions of food (chicken that just tastes so “chicken-y”) and of France (one town her husband, Paul, described as “bouillabaisse of a city”). I wish I had gotten the edition with photographs to read, but even without photos, I finished this 400-page book with ease.

The Listening Life, by Adam S. McHugh. This was our book discussion group pick for the summer. A group of women from church met over six weeks to discuss. I really liked this book. I feared that maybe it would be full of obvious stuff, that I would get the gist by reading chapter titles. There was some of that, but there were also some profound insights that hopefully have changed me. The subtitle “Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction” is a concept that, fittingly, is worthy of giving ongoing attention to, and I believe I will be returning to many of the thoughts and nuggets from our group’s discussion.

Some Writer: The Story of E. B. White, by Melissa Sweet. This is another book that was just right for me. It’s found in the children’s biography section. The illustrations are multimedia collages, and both the story and artwork are engaging and delightful. I want to read (or in some cases re-read) everything by E. B. White, and I also want to seek out other books by Melissa Sweet.

A Monstrous Regiment of Women, by Laurie R. King. This was the second in a (I think pretty well-known) series. I read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice quite a while ago and have been meaning to continue. I really enjoy this reimagining of Sherlock Holmes. In this series Mary Russell is Holmes’s apprentice and the focus is her (not him). This was a good mystery–probably not memorable to me in the longterm, but I definitely enjoy this world and will continue with other books in the series.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Samson. This one won me over. The story of a geneticist with Asperberger’s who goes about finding a wife in a rigid scientific manner but is predictably upended by real life, I was afraid the formula would define the book. And, yeah, it was predictable, but it was also surprisingly charming. I liked it.

Raven Black, by Ann Cleeves. I picked this up because someone else was reading it and said that the television series based on it is really good. I haven’t had a chance yet to check out Shetland, but I will. (I hear the adaptation is pretty loose, but I’m guessing from the description that it won’t bother me and that I’ll like it. I’m not a purist in such matters.) I read a review that said this is a thriller, not a mystery, and I think that’s the perfect description. There is a murder to be solved, but it’s not like the author drops so many clues that you are trying to figure it out. That said, it’s not a bunch of misdirects either–all to say, I was engaged and found the ending satisfying, surprising but not shocking because it was well-supported. Another book I liked.

The Enneagram, by Karen Webb. Ok, so my book club is trying something different this month. We are talking about the topic of the Enneagram and each seeking out our own book to find out more about it. I took a few online tests and talked to a friend (all point to 2). This book is not my favorite and I’ll be seeking another book out to learn more. It seems like this is meant to be an introduction, but without the other information I’ve read, I’d be (even more) lost. Side note: we Jason is apparently a 5, and we read an online description of how 2s and 5s relate that had us howling at its accuracy. I am truly interested in finding out more, but this book just didn’t do it for me.

**Oh! And the other type of book I’m giving up on is harder to boil down: no more thriller-type books where the premise intrigues me but I can tell by reviews and/or slight spoilers that it’s going to push all my hate-it buttons. For example, I made the mistake of reading I Found You, by Lisa Jewell, but I have since dodged this bullet by passing on Do Not Become Alarmed, by Maile Maloy. I’ll do a little more soul searching and try to articulate more precisely what I mean by this kind of book, if only for my own sake.

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