61. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Mayes
In this novel Mayes writes a historical fictional story about the pack horse librarians of Kentucky, who delivered library books to remote parts of the state on horseback during the Depression. Alice is a Brit who marries a man from Kentucky and is now living in a remote coal mining town with a husband who won’t engage with her and his abusive father. Margery is a woman who won’t let any man push her around and who bucks all the stereotypical roles for a woman of the time. In addition to heading up the pack of librarians she fights against the corrupt coal mining practices of Alice’s father-in-law’s company putting her in the crosshairs and putting both their lives in danger.
For the most part I enjoyed this book. I thought the trial section of the book was a little silly and I really wish that Alice’s husband had been given an actual story. Even his father, although one-dimensional, is more of a character with his role of being a foil to the librarians. It would have been nice to have some real story or explanation for his indifference towards his wife and his refusal to consummate their marriage. I give it a 6 out of 10.
60. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Danny and his older sister Maeve grew up in a large imposing mansion outside Philadelphia known as The Dutch House after the people who built it. Bought by their father after he built a successful real estate business the Dutch House became the centerpiece of their lives. The book covers five decades from their childhoods in the home through the many years after they were kicked out of the house by their stepmother after their father’s death. It’s the story of family, longing, and duty all influenced by a house that seemed to hold an undue influence over everyone’s lives. I give it an 8 out of 10.
59. The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast by Andrew Blum
Blum explores how weather forecasts are created looking into the history of how people first began predicting the weather and looking forward to today to the super computers and algorithms that have helped make weather forecasts more accurate. He visits remote weather stations to look at their role in forecasting the weather. It’s a pretty quick read and I learned a lot about how weather forecasts work that I didn’t know before since I pretty much knew next to nothing. I give it a 7 out of 10.
58. Audience of One: Television, Donald Trump, and the Fracturing of America by James Poniewozik
New York Times television critic James Poniewozik examines the evolution of television and mass media as well as Donald Trump’s history and his own obsession with television. He looks at how the combination of the two was one of the many reasons that Donald Trump got elected president. I very much believe that his ability to take advantage of the current television landscape is one of the major factors in how he got elected and watching how things continue to play out I very much worry that his ability to know how to use television and media to manipulate us is going to get him another 4 years. I give it a 7 out of 10.
57. Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr
This book looks at the history of the punk rock movement in East Germany and how it lead to the revolution that helped bring down the Berlin Wall. There were some really interesting stories in the book and the partnership created between the punks and the Church was fascinating. There are of course a lot of terrible stories about how the punks were treated by the Stasi. I thought it was an interesting story, but I think it was perhaps a little too detailed for what I cared about. I had a hard time keeping all the people straight there were so many of them. I think I might have preferred a New Yorker length article on the subject rather than an entire book. I give it a 6 out of 10.
56. All the Worlds Between Us by Morgan Lee Miller
Quinn is a 17-year old high school student who is also trying to qualify for the Olympic swimming team. She just barely missed qualifying in the last round and is determined to spend her senior year distraction free and focused on her goal. The only problem is her twin brother who has started hanging around with the popular kids who make her life a living nightmare. Even worse one of the popular kids is her old best friend Kennedy and the first girl she ever kissed, who moved away and then completely ignored Quinn when she moved back.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought the teenagers and their feelings felt pretty realistic. I liked the relationships between the characters. I would definitely say that though this is a young adult book it is definitely for an older young adult audience as there are some fairly detailed sex scenes. I give it an 8 out of 10.
55. Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life of a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald
When Jill Grunenwald graduated from library school in 2008 library jobs were in scarce supply, so she wound up working in a minimum security men’s prison. She shares her stories of working the prison for just under 2 years. There were some interesting stories, but the book definitely felt like an amateur memoir and over-familiarly written. I give it a 5 out of 10.