Book Shelf: Summer 2016

"A book is a promise."  Matt Sartwell uttered those words on a Food52 podcast about the James Beard Awards (he was talking about cookbooks).  I'd never given much thought to what a book represents, but how true.  You open a new book with excitement and anticipation and the good books live up to (or exceed) those expectations.

With that in mind, recommendations from friends and family are my favorite way to pick my next book so perhaps if I share what I'm reading, you'll do the same?  If you are on GoodReads, let's connect - I use it to track what I'm currently reading or want to read.  As a list-maker and goal-setter, GoodReads is right up my alley; the amount of pleasure I get at completing my annual reading challenge is certainly disproportionate to what it ought to be.  The following are my favorite reads of 2016.  I'm going to start sharing these monthly as I plan to do even more reading in the coming months and please let me know what you are reading.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld - From the author of Prep and American Wife (both of which I thoroughly enjoyed), this is a smart, funny, modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice.  P&P is on my short list of all-time favorites, and I really think this does it justice. The characters are crude and undisciplined in a way that Jane Austen couldn't even imagine and the book is hilarious for it.  

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen - I heard Anna Quindlen speak a few years ago and couldn't believe I had never read any of her books.  She's incredible.  This book is raw,  a touch depressing, and really honest.  

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal - I'm hesitant to mention this book because the person to whom I sent my copy of the book did not like it.  That said, I loved it and couldn't put it down.  I don't know if it was all of the quirky Norwegian references, the book's focus on cooking, or the tension in the story of mother and daughter, but this really resonated with me.  

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - This book needs no introduction.  Along with All the Light We Cannot See (which I read last year), this received tons of recognition in recent years and for good reason.  It's captivating and the storyline and the situations in which the characters find themselves will keep you turning the pages.  Both of these are set in Europe during World War II and both are page-turners with intricately-woven story lines.  

The Inseparables by Stuart Nadler - Weaving the story of three generations of women in one family, this book tackles the realities of modern life and the struggles we go through regardless of age.  This made me laugh and cringe and the writing is incredible.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling - This is a play based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling that was released the same day the play debuted in London.  It's Harry Potter as an adult who works in the Ministry of Magic, has three children, and is married to Ginny Weasley.  If you have a hankering to return to the world of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, this is your ticket.  I'm not a huge fan of reading plays, but I'll take more Harry Potter in any form.

Here's the Plan by Allyson Downey - Written by the founder and CEO of Weespring, I'd recommend this to anyone who is pregnant, on maternity leave, or considering having a family and a career.  Allyson does an excellent job laying out your options and recommended approaches to discussing pregnancy, maternity leave, and returning to work with your employer.  I wish I had read this before Blythe was born.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - A memoir of a neurosurgeon with terminal cancer, this book is haunting, inspiring, and heartbreaking.  This is one that you'll read with tears streaming down your face, especially the passages where he talks about his wife and daughter.  A good reminder of the fragility of life.  

Currently, I'm working my way through The Emperor of All Maladies (absolutely fascinating but quite long), Truly, Madly, Guilty, and Better than Before (which I'm re-reading).