Book Shelf: January 2017

It turns out that when you are unemployed, you have the opportunity to do a lot of reading.  I absolutely love to read so you'll hear no complaints from me about having more time to do so.  I brought ten paperbacks with me that had been gathering dust on my nightstand at home and I'm happy my stack is now much shorter.  None of them are coming to Australia with us so I have until February 12th to finish the rest.  Unsurprisingly, I read only one book in December what with the holidays, finishing my job, packing our house, and moving out.  Here's a rundown of what I've been reading:

Tiny Little Thing - Incredibly disappointed by this read about a woman caught in an unhappy marriage in the 1960s.  It wasn't terrible, but it had great promise and it just didn't live up to it.

The Underground Railroad - I am a huge fan of Colson Whitehead's writing (Apex Hides the Hurt and Sag Harbor are favorites) and of course this one is receiving critical acclaim and attention that is well-deserved (it won the 2016 National Book Award for fiction).  Instead of the Underground Railroad as a metaphor, it actually exists in this novel about Cora, a slave desperately trying to escape the south, and a relentless slave catcher named Ridgeway.  I couldn't put this down and felt anxious for Cora through the entire book (and even after it ended).  If you've seen movies like 12 Years a Slave or Roots, you won't be surprised by the violence and horrific acts portrayed in this book, but if you haven't, be prepared.  It's gruesome but well-written, engrossing, haunting, and an important read.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven - This was touted as the next All the Light I Cannot See or The Nightingale, and it is a page turner set mainly in London during World War II.  I was engrossed in this book and stayed up way too late several nights to finish it, but in the end the story was not as compelling as All the Light I Cannot See or The Nightingale so I'd read those first if you haven't.

Wolf Hollow - This is technically Young Adult fiction but it is an incredible story and drew me in from the first page (it isn't too long and I read it in one day, again staying up way too late to finish).  The protagonist, Annabelle, lives a peaceful life in rural Pennsylvania during World War II and her world is turned upside by the arrival of a young girl who stirs up a lot of trouble for herself and others in their small town.  The topics are quite heavy for an actual young adult and there are not many happy endings to this story so I'd recommend reading this before you give it to any pre-teen.  But do read it - I loved it.

The Five Love Languages - I wrote a post about this here; in summary, you don't need to read the book, but I do recommend taking the quiz

Sweetbitter - A coming of age story about Tess who moves to New York City after college and works at a fancy restaurant near Union Square.  Books about cooking, working in restaurants, etc. are a genre that I typically really enjoy and this book was so close to being really good.  What didn't work for me was some of the decisions Tess made toward the end of the book that seemed out of character and pathetic -- and perhaps written that way only to add drama to the book?  If you are looking for a book that actually talks about food, this isn't it -- there is much discussion about working in a restaurant, but not about the food itself.  

Nurture Shock - A few parenting books have been recommended to me repeatedly, this being one of them.  I found some of the sections helpful, particularly those about praising your children (don't do it too much - instead praise the fact that they are trying), Tools of the Mind schools, and kids and lying (they learn to do it at a disturbingly young age).  Several sections are written about issues that arise during the teenage years and just aren't relevant to me yet.  This didn't tell me much I hadn't already read in parenting articles, but skimming it didn't feel like a waste of time either.

Too Many Cooks - Dana Bates is a fellow Yalie and I have so wanted to love her other novels, all of which star a female protagonist whose interest in cooking is central to the plot.  Her other novels have been okay, but not compelling enough to make them great chick lit - but Too Many Cooks is.  This was a fun, easy read with interesting characters and I highly recommend it as your next beach read.  I tore through this one in a day!

Sushi and Beyond: One Family's Remarkable Journey through the Greatest Food Nation on Earth - This came highly recommend as a book to read before we head to Japan and it absolutely is.  Each chapter details a new location and a new cuisine.  I glossed over some of the details about certain foods that I know I won't be eating (e.g., fugu), but I furiously took notes on other foods to check out and grew increasingly anxious (in a good way) about how I'd ever remember what to order or figure out how to ask for it in Japanese. 

The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life - I'm admittedly obsessed with Nordic culture right now and am really looking forward to exploring that part of the world this summer.  This book explains the policies of the Nordic countries surrounding parental leave, child care, vacation, health care, and happiness and life in general.  It is fascinating to take a close look at another culture and compare it to the United States, but I'll admit it made me think a lot about where I live, why I live there, and what matters to me in terms of social policies and society.  To summarize - everything discussed in the book (health care, child care, parental leave, vacation, work-life) seem to be dramatically better in the Nordic region and people are (according to the UN World Happiness Report, see the rankings here) happier than in the United States.

Alice and Oliver - This was on the new arrivals shelf at the library and I picked it up and read it in two days.  An engrossing story about a woman who has just given birth to her daughter and finds that she has advanced leukemia.  The novel details her experience fighting leukemia and having a bone marrow transplant and offers both her perspective and that of her husband.  This is a work of fiction, but it is based on the author's life and his wife's illness.  It's heart-wrenching and, at certain times, hard to read but I loved it.

Oh, Crap! Potty Training - Ha!  Not my typical read, but without a doubt the most helpful book I've read in a long time.  Thanks to J for telling me this was the guide for potty training.  It was a quick read, instructive, and so far the approach has worked.  Blythe isn't fully potty trained, but we are well on our way. Hooray! 

Next month's update will be a combination of books read in Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand!