jfetting's 100 books in 2019

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jfetting's 100 books in 2019

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Dec 29, 2018, 6:02pm

Hello and welcome to my thread! As ever, I am aiming for 100 books in 2019. I squeaked over 100 in late December in 2018, so I'm hopeful that I'll manage in 2019.

Some more specific goals

1) Read 30 books off my own shelf
2) Read 30 books off the combined 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list (now closer to 1500)
3) Read 12 "classics" (defined here as pre-1900)
4) Re-read 12 favorites (Jane Eyre, The Sound and the Fury, Brideshead Revisited, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Rebecca, more TBD)

Dec 29, 2018, 7:04pm

I've starred your thread, and will be following your progress.

Thank you SO much for setting up this challenge for 2019!

I'll be posting my own thread shortly.

Dec 30, 2018, 4:36am

Thanks for setting this up, Jen.

Dec 30, 2018, 3:06pm

Thanks for setting up the group. Best wishes for a great year in 2019.

I look forward to following your reading, and falling for some major book bullets along the way.

Jan 1, 2019, 11:55pm

Thanks for setting up the group, Jen! Oooh, I've been thinking it's about time I did my regular (*ahem*, every decade) re-read of Jane Eyre, nice to see it on your list too. :)

Jan 2, 2019, 5:27am

Thanks for setting up this group also from me, Jen. I look forward to my second year of reading with the group.

Jan 2, 2019, 8:10pm

My pleasure, everyone. Happy to do it!

And now to the reading...

#1 Lethal White by Robert Galbraith **** (book off my shelf #1)

So FINALLY for the first time in years I received a book for Christmas. This came after very strong hints on my Amazon Christmas wish list ("someone please please please buy me this"), memes about books being the perfect gift shared on social media, and several phone calls with my parents where I flat out asked them whether anyone was going to buy me a book. Happily, Dad came to the rescue (my brother did as well - that'll be one of the next books I finish) with the latest Cormoran Strike book. I loved it - I love this series. I enjoy the mysteries and I adore both Strike and Robin. Rowling is just so very good at characters.

Jan 2, 2019, 8:30pm

I liked it too - glad you finally got some books for Christmas!

Jan 2, 2019, 9:31pm

Good call on the "please please please" on your Xmas wishlist. :)

Jan 3, 2019, 7:47pm

I was a giant pain about it but it worked out!

#2 Hunger by Roxane Gay ****

I don't have a nonfiction goal this year because I actually read a ton of nonfiction. Gay is one of my new favorite writers, and this memoir about her rape as a child and its long-lasting effects on her life and her body is exceptionally well written and very hard to read. I can't even imagine how difficult it must have been to write.

Jan 6, 2019, 6:17pm

I rarely get books as gifts either, and it is frustrating! I need to remember to get to more Roxane Gay this year.

Jan 10, 2019, 9:44pm

#3 Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves ***** (reread, book off my shelf #2)

This was my other Christmas present book. I'd read the old version; this is the 2018 update. I love Rick Steves' tv show and think he has the greatest job in the world. His politics are very similar to mine, and so I loved this book. He talks about what he has learned from visiting more-complicated places (Iran, Israel, Palestine, etc). It is quite thought provoking.

Jan 13, 2019, 7:07pm

#4 H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald *** (1001 book #1)

This was not what I expected - I suppose I expected a fiction novel about a hawk maybe? It was not that. Part grief memoir, part training-a-hawk story, part biography of T. H. White. I'm giving it 3 stars because I thought that the parts about how she grieved for her father after his sudden death were sad and honest. Mabel the bird was kind of a delight. I have absolutely no idea why she felt the need to include the White bits (he was super cruel to his hawks, and those parts were hard to read).

Jan 15, 2019, 10:16pm

Hurrah for finally getting some books as Christmas gifts!! I've only read Roxanne Gay's Bad Feminist, but I thought it was outstanding. Sounds like I need to get some more of her books.

Jan 18, 2019, 9:38am

#5 Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami ***

Not my favorite Murakami, by far, but still a decent read.

#6 Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman *** (book off my shelf #3)

Braverman is a dogsledder who is currently training for the Iditarod. Her Twitter account is one of my favorites - she posts lots of photos of her dogs and the threads are pretty entertaining. This book is a kind of memoir, even though she is in her 30s, when will people in their 30s stop writing memoirs? She talks about her experiences in Norway as an exchange student and learning how to dogsled at a folk school, and her experiences in Alaska at a dog sled tour company. These are very male-dominated worlds and they treat her about how you'd (sadly) expect them to treat a woman in her late teens/early 20s. She spends several summers in college and grad school working at some random shop in northern Norway, and those are my favorite parts. The guy who owns the shop is a great character.

#7 Life in Miniature by Linda Schlossberg ** (book off my shelf #4)

This is an Early Reviewers book that I received and was supposed to review back in 2009. Ten years ago. I am absolutely the worst. What is really upsetting to me is that since I did not read and review this book back in 2009, I have packed it up and moved it at least 5 times. Had I read it when I was supposed to, I could have got rid of it back then!

I didn't enjoy this book at all. It is the story of a very short girl whose mother is suffering from some kind of mental illness - schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, I'd say. They move a lot, she has a sister she loves who runs away, other things kind of happen but they are so forgettable that even though I finished the book last night, I don't remember what they were. The ending was absolutely terrible; she and her sister call their mother and tell her that the imaginary criminals the mother thinks are hunting her have been arrested. This is supposed to make everything ok. That is absolutely NOT how mental illness works..

Jan 23, 2019, 9:11am

#8 Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness ***

I really enjoyed the first of these books, A Discovery of Witches, but the series is definitely going downhill. This installment focuses on 2 supporting characters, Marcus (a vampire) and Phoebe (who is being turned into a vampire). Marcus's backstory is kind of interesting - he was a young man in Revolutionary War America. Phoebe isn't my favorite character by a long shot, so those parts were less interesting.

There are chapters focused on Diana and Matthew still, of course, interspersed between the others. It is all just so increasingly silly. Yet another example of a strong initial idea and poor execution.

Jan 28, 2019, 8:39am

#9 The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters ***

Spooky story about a (maybe) haunted house in post-WWII England. I found the narrator to be one of the creepiest parts of the book - he is just obsessed with this house that is not his, and I found his relationship with the family to be kind of alarming. I do not know if that was the author's intent. Maybe?

Jan 28, 2019, 8:15pm

>15 jfetting: I still have some unread ER books... :hangs head:

Jan 31, 2019, 1:47am

>17 jfetting: I re-read that last year (for book group) and I liked it much more on the second reading (I read it when it first came out and was a bit ho-hum about it). That narrator is a creep. Did you get the feeling he himself was the ghost/malevolent spirit? Or at least the source of it all?

Jan 31, 2019, 8:51am

Yes, I can absolutely see that. Even when the whole family was dead, and the house was abandoned, he still kept going back there and fixing things, plus as far as we know, a lot of the trouble started when he showed up in their lives.

Jan 31, 2019, 8:56am

#10 Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman ****

This is a collection of essays (mostly transcripts of lectures and intros to books) about storytelling. I think the essays that talk about the importance of story - what happens, in what order, to whom - are the best ones, especially when he uses children's literature or Paradise Lost as his examples. The later essays are all about his atheism, which I am less interested in.

Feb 6, 2019, 1:19pm

#12 Milkman by Anna Burns ***.5

Last year's Booker Prize winner was pretty good. It is set somewhere in Ireland back in the 1970s, and everyone is either an informer or renouncer. The main character (I dont think we ever learn her name) is a bit of a misfit who becomes the unwilling romantic target of a renouncer (Milkman, of the title). Almost no one in the book has a name - her boyfriend is called "maybe-boyfriend", siblings are called "third sister" or "wee sisters" (they're my favorite). Things keep happening, she keeps not responding in the hopes that they stop happening, but they don't. I can't tell if it is really clever in a good way or too clever in a bad way. I finished it and while I didn't hate it, I have no interest in ever picking it up again.

Feb 9, 2019, 9:12am

#13 The Witch Elm by Tana French ****

Not part of her Dublin Murder Squad series (which is a shame, because I love those), but there is still a murder in it. Our very unreliable narrator, Toby, has an event occur within the first couple of pages that changes his life. This event isn't part of the main plot, but definitely affects how we view Toby and his reliability as a narrator. He then goes and stays with his uncle, who is dying of a brain tumor.

This is a little bit slower than most of her novels, but I still liked it.

Feb 11, 2019, 10:01am

#14 The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert *****

A nice overview of previous mass extinctions and the sixth mass extinction that we are currently living in and, as so nicely demonstrated by Kolbert, causing. I wish I could make everyone read this. It is heartbreaking.

#15 A Delicate Truth by John le Carre ***

Not my favorite - it started out well but I thought it ended a little bit abruptly. Much of the story could have been fleshed out a bit more and it would've been a stronger book.

Feb 12, 2019, 10:19am

#16 The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight **

Meh. This is a sort-of parody, sort-of self-help book for ridding your life of things, tasks, and people who do not spark joy, while avoiding being an asshole. It basically boils down to "just stop caring about it", which sounds easy and is, in fact, not.

Feb 17, 2019, 9:48pm

Yeah, those parody books are often just a one joke, run it into the ground affair. Not that I thought the Marie Kondo book was all that--but it did change the way I fold and put my clothes into drawers forever. Of course, that allowed me to stuff even more into my drawers so didn't exactly go along with the spirit of the thing.

Someone gave me Milkman and I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to read it.

Feb 22, 2019, 9:24am

Marie Kondo also inspired me to change how I fold clothes in drawers. My mother spent decades trying to get me to actually fold my clothes, but it didn't stick until recently. SO much less time spent digging around for a matching sock...

#17 American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer *****

The author is one of the 3 hikers who were arrested and imprisoned for hiking near Iran a few years ago. He was released and, as a reporter for Mother Jones, has been investigating the US prison system. Bauer went undercover as a corrections officer at a CCA-owned private prison in Louisiana. The book is half his experience in the prison (and how it altered him), half a history of private prisons in the US, and 100% horrifying from start to finish.

The history of private prisons and the prison labor system was interesting - it was no coincidence that it took off after the Civil War. Yet another method to get free labor out of black people. Conditions in private prisons, historically and now, are just appalling. This book was eye-opening. I give it 5 stars, even though I will never be reading it again.

Mar 1, 2019, 3:42pm

#18 Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet by Ashlee Piper ****

Mostly very nice introduction to sustainable living. Quite militantly vegan.

Mar 3, 2019, 9:38am

#19 Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James ****

He is just so good at writing books. Like his previous books I have read, there is a lot of graphic violence so I should hate it but I don't. This is being billed as an "African Game of Thrones" or "African Lord of the Rings", both of which aren't entirely true, and do the book a disservice. It is entirely its own thing, which is a fantasy novel that draws on African myths, motifs, and settings to set up a quest story in an Africa-like setting.

The narrator is Tracker, a man from a river tribe who has a fantastic sense of smell and can use it to find anyone/anything. He is kind of a jerk, but I love him. He and a cast of characters who are various degrees of loveable (I ALSO love Sadogo) go in search of a mysterious boy. Lots of things happen along the way. This is allegedly the first of a trilogy and I am so glad.

Edited: Mar 3, 2019, 6:14pm

Really glad to see a positive review of the James! He's an exceptional author.

Mar 3, 2019, 7:27pm

>31 mabith: Every time I read one of his books, I'm surprised yet again by how much he makes me love the sort of book I would normally hate. I think it has a lot to do with his characters - I loved them in A Brief History of Seven Killings and the same here.

Mar 4, 2019, 1:26pm

Yes, he's brilliant at creating fully realized characters with realistic depth. Even with all the plot events in his books they still feel totally character driven.

Mar 5, 2019, 7:47am

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Mar 6, 2019, 8:54am

#20 Plastic Purge by Michael SanClements ***

Pretty basic guide to the history of plastic and entry-level tips on how to stop using so much single-use plastic.

#21 There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Coming of Age Story by Pamela Druckerman ***

A book about the modern midlife crisis and how it affected the author. The bullet points between sections about how you think/feel in your 40s were hilarious - I am 40 years old myself (how is that possible? surely I am only 25) and can attest to their accuracy.

Mar 6, 2019, 9:24pm

#22 Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat by Marion Nestle ****

Fascinating and horrifying look at how food companies manipulate studies and investigators to make it seem like their products are healthy (or at least not terrible). Nestle's introductory chapter is on how pharmaceutical companies do the same with drugs and drug research (one of the things she lists as part of the problem, right there on page 23, is... my career. Huh).

The big take home for all of that is that for both foods and drugs, transparency in funding and conflicts of interest is crucial. It is impossible to be unbiased when someone gives you money etc, but hopefully things are moving in that direction.

I can't believe Marion Nestle trashed my livelihood!

Mar 10, 2019, 7:26pm

#23 Munich by Robert Harris ****

Took a book bullet from john257hopper and it was just what I needed. This is a kind-of spy novel, kind-of thriller about Hugh, a British government official, and Paul, a German government official, who try to stop the appeasement that happened at Munich. It's a lot of fun. Highly recommended.

Mar 11, 2019, 9:56am

>37 jfetting: I read that book last year - and I think that it will be the first in a series! I liked it as well

Mar 11, 2019, 5:50pm

>38 torontoc: - I didn't know a series was planned. His novels tend to be self-standing, apart from his Cicero trilogy.

Mar 20, 2019, 6:00pm

#24 The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell *****

This was a fantastic book. I had expected a history book, because apparently I can't be bother to read the descriptions of books I add to my list, but it is more of a study on how WWI affected English literature and society (mostly literature). The copy I read was illustrated, which I recommend. I hadn't realized how literary that generation was - makes sense, I guess, since they had no radio or TV or twitter to distract them. Fussell focuses quite a lot of attention on Graves and Owen and super handsome Rupert Brooke. Highly recommended.

Mar 23, 2019, 9:33am

#25 Belgravia by Julian Fellowes ***

This novel by the writer behind Downton Abbey is set in Victorian England. It was a quick, easy, fun read about two families and the connection between them. What I found particularly interesting about it is that unlike many books written by male writers (dare I say most?), all of the men were basically caricatures. We have the tacky, social climbing tradesman; the handsome, talented orphan of mysterious parentage; the lazy, gambling addicted, desperate aristocrat; the evil, lazy, greedy aristocrat; the dishonest butler. In contrast, almost all of the women were complex, multifaceted characters with varying motivations and complicated relationships. They're so good. I'm kind of amazed.

Mar 23, 2019, 9:44am

>41 jfetting: I've had this on my list for when I need a light read. Sounds like it would fit the bill.

Mar 27, 2019, 6:03pm

#26 Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill *****

Absolutely hilarious look at what it would really be like to live in the Victorian era (short answer: filthy, smelly, and full of disease). I haven't laughed this hard at a book in a long, long time.

#27 Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell ***** (re-read #1)

This re-read of the book that got me started on my Scandinavian crime kick was triggered by the revelation that the BBC's Wallander series is being removed from Netflix at the end of the month. I am bingewatching the series (as if I have not already done this several times) and simultaneously re-read the book. I've recommended the Wallander series to many many people and in my experience, people either love him and his sad life and police work, or they absolutely hate him and question my impeccable literary taste. This book is one of my favorites of the series.

Mar 28, 2019, 11:30am

#28 Passing by Nella Larsen *** (1001 book #2)

This novel, set in the Harlem renaissance, is about two light-skinned Black women who grew up together in Chicago. Although both could "pass" as white when necessary (as demonstrated in the first chapters), one of them (Irene) marries a Black man and identifies as Black, while the other (I forget her name already - Clare?) marries a racist white man and successfully pretends to be white. The two reunite after 12 years, which triggers Clare to try to live in both worlds. It doesn't end well. Part of the ending is ENTIRELY predictable Clare and Brian's affair, but the fact that Irene pushes Clare out the window to her death) took me completely by surprised.

Apr 1, 2019, 10:02am

#29 The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope ***** (classics #1)

I think I read the rest of the Palliser books something like 5 or 10 years ago, and when I took this one off the shelf back then I opened it up, looked at the table of contents, saw from the title of Chapter 1 that Trollope had killed off my favorite character in the Palliser series, and immediately put it back. Just wasn't prepared to deal with the death of Glencora. So I finally got around to it and I'm glad I did. I forgot how much I like Trollope. My favorite storyline was the one about his oldest son, the Earl of Silverbridge. I didn't really like the storyline about his daughter Mary at all, mostly because I didn't like Mary OR Frank.

Apr 10, 2019, 10:12am

#30 Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper ****

Excellent, thought-provoking look at what it means to grow up as a Black woman in the US. I was expecting more about anger, given the title.

#31 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte ***** (re-read #2)

This remains my favorite book of all time. I read my lovely Folio Society version this time around, and as always these books are a joy. Beautiful paper, beautiful illustrations. It had been too long since I'd last visited Thornfield Hall.

Apr 10, 2019, 8:05pm

>46 jfetting: I was having a chat with a coworker earlier today about what was our most favorite book. I could not pick one, but if I was only allowed five books to take with me on a desert island, Jane Eyre was one of my choices.

Apr 11, 2019, 3:04pm

>46 jfetting: >47 fuzzi: I must re-read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I like the Brontes!

Apr 11, 2019, 3:11pm

My Jane Eyre is due for a reread too. I have the folio society edition and I also have an audio book version narrated by Juliet Stevenson that I haven't tried yet.

What's funny is that I really hated both of her other books - Shirley and Villette. But I absolutely love Jane Eyre. I can't think of many other authors that are that polarizing for me.

Edited: Apr 11, 2019, 6:19pm

>49 japaul22: I didn't hate Shirley or Villette - they're entirely mediocre in my mind. But I agree with you that there are very very very few authors who have many works that are ok-to-bad and one work that is The Greatest Book of All Time. I can't think of any others.

I like the Folio, but both Jane and Mr Rochester look wrong in the drawings. I get what he was trying to do, so I'm not mad about it, but that is not what Mr Rochester looks like AT ALL. I love Juliet Stephenson and I bet her audiobook is great.

I have a coworker who is not very well read (she'd be OUTRAGED to see me describe her thus) and who has very little depth in her classics reading. So I recommended Jane Eyre (even lent her one of my four copies!! which is VERY generous of me. NOT the Folio), and she was like "I didn't like that at all. What should I read next?" and I have refused to recommend any more books to her. Everyone's taste is different, but I kind of judge people who don't like Jane Eyre, and I can't imagine she'd like anything I like.

>48 john257hopper: Wuthering Heights is a trip. I've read it a bunch of times, but everyone in that book is just terrible. It is really polarizing, too, since some people absolutely love it and others despise it. A great book group book.

Apr 11, 2019, 6:39pm

>50 jfetting: GASP! She didn't like Jane Eyre? I would have no idea where to go from there either.

Apr 11, 2019, 6:54pm

>51 japaul22: It was slow and weird apparently.

Apr 11, 2019, 9:08pm

>50 jfetting: very interesting comments about Wuthering Heights. I did read it, once, many years ago, and did not like it...now I think I know why. I have to like at least one character in a story or I don't care for it. I also tried to read The Bonfire of the Vanities but despised everyone, and so put my copy in the "to rehome" box.

Apr 12, 2019, 9:09am

>53 fuzzi: I'm the same - if I can't find one character that I like (and they don't have to be "good" as in "virtuous", necessarily. Just not terrible), I don't like the book. I ALSO despised Bonfire of the Vanities, for the same reason.

Apr 12, 2019, 2:19pm

#32 The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells *****

This book is about what sort of weather events, droughts, floods, wars, etc. we should expect if climate change continues at the rate it is going right now. This is a scary and upsetting book. There is no silver lining, there is no hopeful last chapter that may mislead anyone into thinking things will be ok. Things will not be ok. There is no reversing this. We can slow it down some so that the future isn't completely awful, but that seems unlikely given the current political climate.

Climate science is not my speciality (at all), but I've poked around in the peer-reviewed literature a bit, and I don't think this book is too farfetched. Given the current political situation in my country and around the globe - this is the future we have to look forward to. May future generations forgive us.

Apr 14, 2019, 8:16am

#33 The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly *** (book off my shelf #5)

This is a very very dark book. David is a boy in England right before WWII. He loses his mother to cancer, his father remarries, he feels angry about it. He loves books and dark versions of fairy tales, and one night ends up in a magical land populated by fairy tale characters or archetypes. It is very imaginative but so bloody and violent.

Apr 16, 2019, 7:55am

#34 Case Histories by Kate Atkinson **

I wasn't terribly impressed by this first installation of the Jackson Brodie series. Brodie is allegedly a private investigator who was hired to solve 3 separate cold case murders. He mostly drives around and whines about how he is divorced and his ex wife lets his child dress like a small hooker. In the last couple of chapters, 2 of the murderers are revealed; 1 never appeared in the book until that point. The 3rd story line didn't really get investigated at all. Apparently Atkinson wrote 4 of these.

#35 Elevation by Stephen King ***

A kind of happy little novella. I don't really have any feelings about it one way or the other.

Apr 16, 2019, 8:40am

>57 jfetting: I didn't really enjoy Case Histories either. I have no desire to continue with that series despite loving her other books.

So, book question - have you read Pillars of the Earth? I've had it on my shelf from a library sale for ages and have been going back and forth about reading it. The fire at Notre Dame brought it back to my attention (cathedral building and all). Is it worth the 900 pages of my time?

Apr 16, 2019, 2:58pm

>58 japaul22: - I can recommend Pillars of the Earth, it's a great historical fiction novel. It's one of the very few long novels I've read more than twice in my life.

Apr 16, 2019, 4:04pm

>58 japaul22: I read it about a decade ago, and in contrast to John, I hated it. 900 endless pages. I did not read the second novel either. I don't remember enough about it to explain exactly why I hated it, but I see that I gave it 2 stars.

So sad about the fire at Notre Dame. Last night I was looking at the photos of it from our French class trip - it was beautiful.

Apr 16, 2019, 4:54pm

>Me too about the pictures! I was showing my kids. That was so much fun and Notre Dame was definitely a highlight. I'm glad we saw it!

Re Pillars of Fire, well it will sit on my shelf a little longer. I just had a library book come in that I want to read. I have a feeling it's one I'll never end up getting too.

Apr 18, 2019, 11:05am

>61 japaul22: I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority on Pillars, so keep that in mind!

#36 A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre ***

Not his best, but not terrible either. Some spies, bankers, and lawyers in Hamburg, Germany are at odds over what to do with a Russian/Chechan/Muslim man who has escaped from a Turkish prison.

Apr 18, 2019, 3:22pm

>57 jfetting:. I remember being underwhelmed by Case Histories, but her subsequent novels featuring Jackson Brodie were a lot better, especially When Will There be Good News?. I read ‘Case Histories’ out of sequence, having already read One Good Turn and ‘When Will There be Good News?’ If I had read ‘Case Histories’’ first, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the later ones.

Apr 19, 2019, 9:24am

>63 Eyejaybee: That is good to know! I love her non-Jackson Brodie novels so much that I was surprised at how bad Case Histories was. I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to Sad Northern European Police Novels, so I'll give her another chance.

Edited: May 13, 2019, 8:06pm

#37 In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen **.5 (book off my shelf #6)

This is a free Amazon prime book, and as always, you get what you pay for. This read a lot like Downton Abbey fanfic set during WWII. A rich earl has 5 daughters who are a smidge Mitford-esque, although this is nowhere near as clever as anything a Mitford wrote. They have a rich, dashing male neighbor and a kind, unassuming male neighbor. There is an event. Some people are spies. The bad guy is almost immediately obvious. It is a quick, easy, mildly entertaining read.

May 13, 2019, 8:16pm

#38 Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov ***** (1001 book #3 this is terrible, I am so terrible at this goal)

I haven't read any Nabokov in ages and I'd forgotten how good he is at writing. Loved this hilarious academic novel, loved Pnin himself (I got very angry anytime anyone was mean to him). Highly recommended.

#39 The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee **

Look at that title! Doesn't it look great? Don't you just want to stop everything and add it to your library hold list? Friends, I am here to prevent you from making that mistake. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself if this is really the right time to read a book that lauds conquest and genocide in the first 115 pages, and takes an additional 20 pages to get to the part where Columbus's son Hernando starts buying books. Here are the good parts for you:

1) Hernando buys SO MANY books, everywhere he goes. I wish I was Hernando.
2) Hernando makes lists of everything he owns and organizes his books in different ways over his lifetime.

So Hernando sounds like a delight, right? The rest of the book is garbage though. Lots of disconnected statements about Renaissance life, lots of sentences that start with "Hernando may likely have been familiar with X, created by Y, who was a very famous whatever at the time". DO YOUR RESEARCH. DON'T JUST GUESS.

May 15, 2019, 10:43pm

>65 jfetting: I do really enjoy Bowen's Her Royal Spyness series, though.

May 17, 2019, 9:46am

#40 61 Hours by Lee Child *** (book off my shelf #7)

I enjoyed my first Jack Reacher novel - mindless entertainment. I can see why people were all mad about casting Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in the movie - he is supposed to be gigantic and Cruise is tiny.

Jun 2, 2019, 9:18pm

#41 Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney *

Pretty awful. All of these people are terrible and I did not care what happened to them and I regret the hours of my life spent reading it when I could have been doing literally anything else.

#42 A Bite-Sized History of France by Stephane Henaut ***

Meh. It was ok. A bunch of vignettes of French history, linked to a food or beverage.

Jun 9, 2019, 10:40am

#43 A World of Three Zeros by Muhammad Yunus ***

I wasn't terribly impressed with this. Yunus invented the microcredit form of banking, which is actually pretty amazing and has helped many, many people in impoverished countries or regions of wealthy countries start businesses. It is a concept called "social banking" in which people invest in these social banks and get their money back, but no profit. In some ways, the book is a breath of fresh air. He is very optimistic about human nature, and tbh he should - his microcredit companies have something like a 97-99% repayment rate, which is amazing. But I think his idea that microcredit-type banking to save the world and help the climate is kind of naive.

#44 Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield ***

Whatever. It was fine. I was a little disappointed given how much I loved The Thirteenth Tale.

Jun 9, 2019, 10:50am

>70 jfetting: That's funny about Once Upon a River because I felt the opposite. I was very "meh" about The Thirteenth Tale but really loved Once Upon a River.

Jun 18, 2019, 5:28pm

#45 Howard's End by E.M. Forster **** (reread #3)

It is interesting to think about what will happen to the characters in this book in just a few short years (written and presumably set in 1908-1910). What would have happened to Helen and Margaret if they had moved to Munich? Still, a beautiful book and one I haven't read in ages.

#46 Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding ***** (reread #4)

Some comfort reading during an unexpectedly stressful time. I first read this when it came out back in the late 90s when I was in college. I don't know if it has aged well or not - I've always loved it and still do.

#47 An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan ****.4 (reread #5)

Pride and Prejudice fanfic told from the POV of Mr. Darcy himself. It is by no means great literature, but I do enjoy this trilogy and, again, comfort reading during an unexpectedly stressful time.

Jun 26, 2019, 8:03pm

#48 The Other End of the Leash by Patricia B. McConnell *****

Very interesting and useful look at dog behavior, primate behavior (particularly Homo sapiens), and how the maximize the communication between these two groups. I think it'd be a great read for someone looking to adopt their first dog (or, maybe, their second dog).

#49 The English Girl by Daniel Silva ***

It has been awhile since I'd read a Gabriel Allon novel. I enjoyed it, as I enjoy all of these. I have to say, the re-emergence of Russia as a Problematic Enemy Nation must be really great for writers of spy novels.

#50 The Heist by Daniel Silva ***

The problem with reading 2 Gabriel Allon novels in a row is that you can really easily identify where Daniel Silva is just dialing it in at this point. Literally copied and pasted whole paragraphs, sentences, etc of description. Am I going to stop reading them because of this? No.

Jun 28, 2019, 8:40am

#51 These Three Remain by Pamela Aidan **** (re-read #6)

The third book in the P&P Mr Darcy POV fanfic (I skip the middle book - there is no Elizabeth in it and it is not based on P&P and it is kind of insane). Why did people stop writing these P&P fanfic books? I could read more.

Oct 18, 2019, 5:12pm

Yeesh. I cannot believe my last update was in June. It has been a crazy summer. I adopted a puppy. She is a lot of fun and a lot of work. I did get a lot of reading in, though, so here come some short, short reviews.

#52 A Dog Runs Through It: Poems by Linda Pastan *****

I loved this little book of dog-related poetry. The title of the book comes from the last poem, "Envoi" which I will reproduce here:

We're signing up for heartbreak,
We know one day we'll rue it.
But oh the way our life lights up
The years a dog runs through it.

#53 A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute (1001 book #4) **

Disappointing. I liked the part where they were roaming the jungle. I was put off by the racism (yes, yes, product of its time, but still). Unfortunate, given how much I love On the Beach by the same author.

#54 The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkein (book off my shelf #8) **

Whatever. It is time for this nonsense to stop. Not everything your dad wrote was good, Christopher.

#55 The Library Book by Susan Orlean *****

LOVED it. The first chapter made my cry, thinking about how much I loved my childhood library. How much I still love libraries. I cried several times, actually.

#56 Normal People by Sally Rooney **

Friends, Sally Rooney is not the author for me.

#57 How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky ****

Kinda like this, actually. Scary. Upsetting.

#58 An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz *****

Phenomenal, powerful look at violence and poverty and the people affected in Chicago. Highly recommended.

Oct 18, 2019, 5:23pm

#59 Biased: the New Science of Race and Inequality by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt *****

Best book I have read all year. Fascinating, science-based look at our brains and their implicit biases. I wish everyone would read it. The author combines her research with stories of her experience as a Black woman raising a Black child. I absolutely loved it and am forcing it on everyone.

#60 1919 by Eve L. Ewing *****

Poems about the 1919 Chicago race riots. I loved them; Ewing is becoming one of my favorite poets.

#61 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ***** (many-fold re-read #7)

Still perfect.

#62 Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan *****

I loved this! Loved the movie, too. Light, fun, summer reading.

#63 Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration by Emily Bazelon ****

Nothing light or fun about this one, but necessary. It helped me see Kim Foxx, the main prosecutor in Chicago, in a whole new (positive) light.

#64 Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham *****

Definitely recommended. Fascinating look at the nuclear disaster.

#65 Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty ***

Another summer read. It was fine. I prefer the tv show.

#66 The Group by Mary McCarthy ****

A surprisingly modern-feeling book from the 50s. People do not change over the years.

#67 China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan *****

It makes me sad that I will never be as rich as the people in these books.

#68 On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong ***

A poet's first novel. Beautiful writing, the story needs some work.

Oct 18, 2019, 5:34pm

#69 The English Spy by Daniel Silva ****

So actually what happened was that I went on a Gabriel Allon binge this summer. Did you know that Silva literally copies and pastes whole paragraphs of exposition from one novel to the next? That is what you learn when you read like 5 Gabriel Allon books in a row.

#70 The Black Widow by Daniel Silva ****

These are so formulaic and he's kind of reactionary but I love them so much.

#71 House of Spies by Daniel Silva ****

Not much to say about them, though.

#72 Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan ****

Why, why can't I have rich people problems?

#73 The Other Woman by Daniel Silva ****

I wasn't kidding about my Gabriel Allon binge.

#74 Winterdance by Gary Paulson (book off my shelf #9) ***

When I was in grad school, I had a pretty serious health scare. I had to wait about 3 weeks for biopsy results to come in, and I struggled a lot with anxiety at the time. My PhD thesis advisor gave me this book to take my mind off my potential impending death because "it is so funny!". It was a nice thought, but I was incapable of reading, and so finally got around to this a few weeks ago. It is described as funny by PhD Advisor, on here, and on goodreads. It is not funny. I do not know why anyone would find this funny. Some parts are beautiful, some are sad, but nothing is funny.

#75 Spring by Ali Smith ****

I'm enjoying this series. Smith writes beautifully.

#76 The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead ****

Wonderful writing, horrifying story. Glad I read it, never intend to read it again.

#77 Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes ***

Neither good nor bad. Holmes writes about living in Maine like someone who really really enjoyed her week long vacation in Maine.

#78 The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen ***

Fine. Neither good nor bad.

And that's me caught up!

Oct 18, 2019, 5:51pm

Glad to see you back posting again! You got me with some book bullets, Midnight in Chernobyl in particular catches my eye. And congrats on the puppy! No wonder you've been busy!

Edited: Oct 18, 2019, 6:56pm

Biased is now on my wishlist.

I absolutely agree with you on Pride and Prejudice.

Oct 18, 2019, 9:09pm

YES reading Biased is absolutely a wonderful decision!

Oct 19, 2019, 11:25am

Putting Biased, the Eve Ewing, and Charged on my to-read list. Thanks!

Oct 21, 2019, 8:18am

Yay, you're back! I put Biased and Midnight in Chernobyl on my list. I also really like Emily Bazelon's writing on Slate, so I might check that out as well.

Oct 26, 2019, 12:21am

>77 jfetting: now there's a Paulsen I've not yet read...

Welcome back. Puppies are a lot of work, but in a year or so you should have a good dog.

Oct 26, 2019, 2:10pm

>83 fuzzi: Promise? She's a 7 month old lab/terrier mix. Cute as a button, smart as a whip, naughty as an adolescent lab/terrier mix... she is driving me bananas right now! Constantly testing me. This too shall pass...

Edited: Oct 26, 2019, 2:14pm

>83 fuzzi: Promise? She's a 7 month old lab/terrier mix. Cute as a button, smart as a whip, naughty as an adolescent lab/terrier mix... she is driving me bananas right now! Constantly testing me. This too shall pass...

Oct 27, 2019, 10:42am

>85 jfetting: I'm on my 4th dog. It's been my experience that they don't mature emotionally/mentally until 18 months of age. My 3rd dog was a GSD/Lab mix, very very smart and dominant. She fought me over everything, and the usual training did not work. I had to use a steel bar crate for her "time outs". At about 18 months she suddenly accepted me as Alpha and was a Dog in a Million for the next eight years.

Oct 31, 2019, 7:43pm

#79 The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark *** (book off my shelf #10)

Not great, to be honest. Quirky but not in a good way.

Dec 16, 2019, 2:50pm

#80 Telex From Cuba by Rachel Kushner *** (Book off my shelf #11)

Kind of interesting novel about Cuba during the time when the Castro brothers took over.

#81 Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi ***

The story about several generations of a village family in Oman, spanning the 20th and part of the 21st centuries. I liked it but didn't love it.

#82 The Testaments by Margaret Atwood **

I distinctly remember reading The Handmaid's Tale for the first time. I was in grad school, studying for my PhD qualifying exam, and needed a break. I went to Borders (remember Borders?) to browse the shelves for an hour or two and go home. I read the first chapter of Handmaid to see if I would like it, then sat down in the aisle and read the rest of the book in one go. It was that good.

The Testaments... is not. Would've been better leaving the ending of Handmaid ambiguous. Absolutely should not have won the Booker this year.

#83 Station Eleven by Hilary Mantel **** (reread #8)

Re-read this for book group, still thoroughly enjoyable.

#84 Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine **

I read the first 2 books in this trilogy about magical teenage librarians. I now remember why I had chosen to not finish the trilogy.

#85 The New Girl by Daniel Silva *****

I think I am caught up on the Gabriel Allon novels for now. This one was really good - doesn't quite follow the same formula as most of them.

#86 The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates ***

Honestly, I expected to like this more than I did. The magical realism was pretty good but for some reason it just didn't work for me.

#87 Chernobyl by Serhii Plokhy ****

Another Chernobyl book! Also really good, lots of Ukrainian politics. If you are going to read just 1 Chernobyl, book, I'd go with Midnight In Chernobyl

#88 Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo ****

This should NOT have had to share the Booker w/ The Testaments this year. This book is wonderful - snippets of the lives of 11 Black women (and 1 Black gay man) living in England. They're all interconnected, sometimes in surprising ways.

#89 Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles ****

The history of libraries is super interesting, actually.

Dec 17, 2019, 9:02am

#90 The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking *****

Kind of silly and clearly should be marked "advertising", but I enjoyed it.

Dec 28, 2019, 6:59pm

#91 The Sum of Small Things by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett ***

Interesting look at how the "new" "elite" class spends their money. Now that so-called luxury goods can be bought by anyone with a credit card and a tolerance for debt, the elite spend their money on expensive college and preschools, Lululemon pants, reading The New Yorker, etc etc etc.

#92 The 10 Commandments of Money by Liz Weston ****

This was written right after the 2008 recession, and so is a bit dated but still has some really good, common-sense advice.

#93 On the Beach by Nevil Shute ***** (reread #9)

I still love this book. It is both scary and sad - how easily this could still happen!

Dec 28, 2019, 10:15pm

Are you going to host the 100 book challenge again in 2020?

Jan 10, 2020, 3:07pm

Hi folks! I kind of fizzled out on this thread last year, but I am determined to do better this year. You can find me in 2020