51. Never Look an American in the Eye: A Memoir of Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian American by Okey Ndibe
In Never Look an American in the Eye, Ndibe writes a memoir about his experiences moving to America from Nigeria. It’s an interesting and sometimes funny look at the travails of moving to a new country and becoming accustomed to a new culture. I found the stories about confusion surrounding his name particularly amusing. I give it a 6 out of 10.
50. Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson
You may remember Mara Wilson from movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda. In this memoir she shares her experiences as a child actor and how she ended up leaving acting as a career in this memoir composed of a series of essays. It felt like a pretty standard memoir written by an actor (or former actor in this case). If you are into those types of books, this is a good one. This book is a little bit of a twist on the formula in that a lot of these books start off with how the person didn’t fit in as a kid but eventually made it as an actor/comedian, whereas this book starts off with her not fitting in but already working as an actor and eventually leaving the profession because she realized she was never going to be what Hollywood wanted her to be. I give it a 6 out of 10.
49. The BFG by Roald Dahl
My book club read this book in advance of The BFG movie adaptation being released. Most of the members of my book club had read this book before and had fond memories of it from their childhood. I suspect had I originally read it as a child I would have enjoyed it more, but I did not share the love everyone else seemed to have for it. It’s a fine book and I can see why kids would enjoy it, but as an adult reading it for the first time it did not resonate with me.
The titular BFG is the Big Friendly Giant who is befriended by an orphan named Sophie. Lucky for her he is the one giant that does not feed on people. Together they set out to rid the world of giants and stop the attacks around the world that result from the other giants feeding. It’s a kids’ book, so of course the story itself is rather simple. I did appreciate Dahl’s use of language though. He has a real gift for making up words that you immediately know what they mean and perfectly fit what they sound like. There are copious amounts of this type of language throughout the book, and it was my favorite part. I give it a 5 out of 10.
48. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
This book is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which authors create contemporary retellings of Shakespeare plays. Vinegar Girl is Anne Tyler’s take on The Taming of the Shrew. I generally like Anne Tyler books and I’ve enjoyed other retellings of The Taming of the Shrew, but man I did not like this book at all. I don’t think I’ve actually read or seen the original work, so I’m not sure how closely the story of this hews to the play. My problems with this book may have something to do with the underlying source material, but either way I thought this book was terrible. I give it a 2 out of 10.
47. You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson
Stand-up comedian, Phoebe Robinson, writes a book of humorous essays exploring race, gender, and pop culture. Oh the whole it’s a funny but also poignant look at issues that are very prevalent in our culture. Some of the essays worked better for me than others, but on the whole I really enjoyed this book and definitely look forward to what Phoebe Robinson has to offer in the future. I give it a 7 out of 10.
46. As I Descended by Robin Talley
I read this book over two months ago and could barely remember what it was about even after reading the blurb about it on Goodreads. That’s how much it stuck with me. It’s a YA modern re-telling of MacBeth set at a boarding school with two girls plotting to unseat the most popular girl and win their school’s coveted prize that will get the winner a free ride to college. They’ll do whatever it takes including calling on some dark magic long rumored to haunt the school. Perhaps this book would appeal more to the teens that it’s aimed at, but I didn’t particularly care for it. I give it a 4 out of 10.
45. TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz
Alan Sepinwall is one of my go to television critics, so I was excited to get my hands on an advanced reader’s copy of this book a few months ago. I’m just now finally getting around to reviewing it the day before it is actually released. Sepinwall and Seitz worked together at the New Jersey Star-Ledger for 20 years and have reunited in this book to debate the greatest American television shows of all time.
They came up with an elaborate rating system to score the shows and determine their rankings. They only included shows that have ended their run with an exception made for the long running The Simpsons, whose impact on American culture they feel is firmly established at this point. The best part of the book is definitely the beginning where they talk about the rating system and then debate how to rank the five shows that had tied scores for number one. The rest of the book is as you would expect a listing of shows with descriptions and why they think the show belongs on the list starting with their number one show and counting up to 100.
If you’re a television lover and someone who loves a good list I would highly recommend this book. I give it a 7 out of 10.
44. The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-Boats by William Geroux
I admit I didn’t actually finish this book. I had heard it compared to the Boys in the Boat, which I really loved, but this book didn’t connect with me like that one did. It is the same kind of idea where the author weaves personal stories in with historical events and technical descriptions. In Boys in the Boat there was one central person that the story followed that I think allowed for a greater connection than in the Mathews Men where that personal narrative was much more distributed. Additionally as horrific as the stories about the U-boat attacks were after awhile they just all felt very similar. I didn’t feel like anything new was happening, and I just got bored with the book and decided to stop reading it. I give it a 4 out of 10.
43. Whatever…Love is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves by Maria Bello
Years ago I read an essay that Maria Bello wrote in the New York Times’ Modern Love column about being in a relationship with her best friend, a woman, and her son’s response when she finally told him being whatever, love is love. I enjoyed the essay so when I saw that she had expanded it into a book I added it to my to-read list. I finally did earlier this year after the NYT did a follow-up interview with her and I was reminded that this book existed.
The book is a memoir of sorts framed by the relationships Maria Bello has had both romantic and otherwise. The book was ok, but really the highlight of it is that initial essay. So I’d recommend looking that column up in the New York Times and probably giving the rest of the book a pass unless you’re really into Maria Bello. I give it a 5 out of 10.