100. The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Annalee Ahlberg is a sleepwalker and one night she goes missing in the middle of the night. Her daughter Lianna leaves college to return home to Vermont to help take care of her grief stricken father and 12-year old sister while trying to figure out what actually happened to her mother whose body has not been found even though she is suspected dead. When she meets a detective assigned to her mother’s case and discovers that he is a fellow sleepwalker who had a secret friendship with her mother she becomes even more intent on finding out the secrets of her mother’s past and how they might have led to her disappearance. I very much enjoyed this book and since it’s a Bohjalian book I was expecting there to be a sort of twisty revelation at the end, but I never managed to figure out what it was. I give it an 8 out of 10.
99. The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone
Paula Poundstone explores some of the stereotypical things that people say will make you happy and rates whether or not they actually made her happy. She includes things like getting organized, driving a sports car, dancing, exercising, and volunteering. As a standup comedian she obviously provides a humorous look at each of these activities while mixing in stories of her life with her kids. I got more used to it as I read the book, but in the beginning I had a hard time with the rhythm of the book which very much felt like a standup routine to me. Ultimately though things that might have worked for me as part of a standup routine or hearing them on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me didn’t work for me in book form. I give it a 6 out of 10.
98. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
A sort of typical actor celebrity memoir essay book. Graham shares stories of her childhood and her career obviously focusing on Gilmore Girls. If you aren’t a Gilmore Girls fan or a Lauren Graham fan than there is not much to recommend it. I actually enjoyed reading it, but it’s very much written in her voice and as I said has a lot about Gilmore Girls in it. There’s nothing groundbreaking here and you’re probably not really going to learn much about Gilmore Girls you didn’t already know, but it’s still a fun read. I give it a 7 out of 10.
97. Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing by Reba Riley
Reba Riley grew up in a strict Pentecostal life that encompassed her whole world including her house, school, and of course church. As an adult her upbringing left her scarred by religion to the degree that encountering religious experiences that reminded her of her childhood physically made her sick. On her 29th birthday plagued by a mysterious illness that no doctor could diagnose Riley feels a calling to face her past and explore religion. She sets out on her 30 for 30 project in which she visited 30 religions over the course of the year leading up to her 30th birthday. Through it all she reconciles her past and finds a sort of faith again.
This book for me was a case of the perfect book at the perfect time. My experience with religion doesn’t mirror Riley’s, but I have often found myself at odds with religion even though I have faith. I could relate to her experiences in that way and found some of the insights she shares extremely helpful and relevant in the face of how I’ve been feeling recently. She helped to remind me that my faith is not in people it is in God and even in what I view as the most broken examples of people claiming to live out God’s will there can be shimmers of God’s love. I’m not sure the book itself is the best book, but for me it was exactly what I needed to read and I hope other people in need find it. I give it an 8 out of 10.
96. My Life to Live: How I Became the Queen of Soaps When Men Ruled the Airways by Agnes Nixon
If you were a soap opera fan, then you probably have at least heard the name Agnes Nixon legendary creator and writer for All My Children and One Life to Live. She got her start in soaps writing for Guiding Light when it was still aired on the radio and eventually made the move into television eventually getting to start her own shows that then ran for over 40 years with her involved until the end.
This book is a memoir she wrote before her death about her life, her difficult relationship with her father, her marriage, her kids, and most of all her career. It’s funny since she spent most of her life writing that she said in the memoir that she found writing it very difficult and that it wasn’t like writing for a soap opera. I would agree that she was not perhaps the best memoir writer in actual writing style, but I very much enjoyed her story. I give it a 7 out of 10.
95. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
A memoir by Trevor Noah about growing up in apartheid South Africa. He was born to a black mother and white Swiss father making his birth an actual crime. It was interesting to read about how he experienced living in a country strictly segregated by race as a multi-racial child. I’ve never managed to get into watch with The Daily Show with him as host, but some of the interviews I’ve seen/heard with him made me interested in reading this book. I didn’t love it, but it’s definitely an interesting look at his life. I give it a 5 out of 10.
94. A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City by Drew Philp
In 2008 as a 23 year old just out of college Drew Philp spends $500 on a house being sold at auction in Detroit and then works for years to rebuild it. He shares his experiences in this book. Living in Baltimore, which has faced many of the same issues as Detroit, the story felt familiar even though I personally have no experience building anything or living as he did. I think part of my enjoyment of the book derived from that commonality though and I’m not sure I would have connected to it if I were someone else. I give it a 5 out of 10.
93. Death at the Day Lily Cafe by Wendy Sand Eckel
The book takes place in a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Rosalie has just opened up the Day Lily Cafe for its grand opening when her friend Doris comes to her for help proving that her sister Lori didn’t murder her husband. This is the second book featuring these characters and I gather in the first one Rosalie stumbles onto a dead body in her yard and gets involved in the murder investigation helping to solve it, which is why Doris wants her help this time.
Cozy mysteries are not a genre I normally read, but someone in my book club picked this one out for us to read. At first I was kind of annoyed by the writing, but eventually I got enough into the story and the coziness of it that it stopped bothering me. It wasn’t without its faults, but ultimately I wound up really liking it. Also it made me really hungry reading it because all the things they served up in the cafe sounded delicious. There are a few recipes in the back of the book. I give it a 6 out of 10.
92. A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder
Basically a biography of Paul English founder of the website Kayak. I didn’t find it a very compelling read. I give it a 5 out of 10.
91. I Was Saved by the Bell: Stories of Life, Love, and Dreams that Do Come True by Peter Engel
A memoir written by the creator and producer of Saved by the Bell. It is not a history of the show itself, though the show is featured a lot in the last half of the book. Engel writes a lot about his career including how he got into the profession and how he wound up working on kids shows and finding it the most rewarding experience of his life.
In addition to work he also covers his personal life, which was very rocky at times. He was addicted to drugs at one point until even though he is Jewish became essentially a born again Christian. I found the parts about his faith to be really interesting and not what I expected to be reading when I picked up a book about Saved by the Bell.
It is perhaps not the most well-written book in the world, but I think anyone who grew up watching Saved by the Bell would ultimately enjoy it. I give it a 6 out of 10.