51. One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
I read this book for one of my book clubs. I did not much care for it. Silver is a middle-aged man, long divorced and a dead beat dad to a teenage daughter. After being diagnosed with a heart defect that can be treated with surgery but will be fatal without, he makes the decision that the life he’s led isn’t worth saving and decides to not have the surgery. This somehow drags his daughter and his ex-wife and her soon to be new husband all into Silver’s orbit as they try to convince him to have the surgery. Silver is a terrible character, and I am just really over reading anything else about middle-aged, white men. Period. I give it a 4 out of 10.
50. Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell
Fifteen year old Charlie Bloom is an amateur photographer who winds up being invited by an old schoolmate who is in a band that’s hit it big to come and take pictures of their shows to post on a fan site. Charlie hides in her photography as a way to escape her life at school where she is often bullied and her life at home where her widowed father is often not up to the job. Her experiences with the band throw her in a world she is unfamiliar with and she becomes involved in somewhat of a love triangle with two of the band members as well as trying to figure out why so many of the band’s lyrics sound like diary entries written by her dead mother.
This is apparently the first in a series of books and people seem to indicate in their reviews that the secret revealed is sort of mind blowing and leaves you on a cliffhanger. I apparently found that to be less of the case since I don’t remember how the book ends several weeks later as I write this, and I didn’t care enough about it to bother reading the next book in the series whenever it comes out. I give it a 5 out of 10.
49. No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyel
This books follows several Indian immigrants living in the Cleveland suburbs. The story mostly follows Harit, a lonely man living with his disabled mother after the untimely death of his sister and Ranjana, a lonely married woman who secretly writes paranormal romances in her spare time and who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Harit. Part of the story is also devoted to Ranjana’s son, Prashant who has gone away to college. The book had some interesting things about the immigrant experience, but I didn’t love it. It was an okay read, but nothing I would say is essential reading. I give it a 5 out of 10.
48. Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977 – 2002 by David Sedaris and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
I’m reviewing book number 48 as two books that I quit partway through. I figure adding the amount I read of each constitutes enough that I can call it a whole book. The David Sedaris book as the title suggests is a series of entries from his diary. I know my diary entries have certainly always been rambling thoughts that probably only mean anything to me and that even I probably don’t care that much to read again. I felt the same way about David Sedaris’. If you ever wondered if he actually works at all those humorous, autobiographical essays this book should assure you that he does.
I was very much looking forward to Roy’s new book. I loved reading The God of Small Things back in the 90s. This book that from what I read seemed to be somewhat about an Indian child born intersex, raised as a boy, but who decides she is a woman instead and winds up living with a bunch of trans people and adopting an abandoned girl. I gather there are other characters that weave throughout her life, but I never got that far. I found this book meandering and boring. I didn’t not hold my interest enough to devote several hundred more pages to it.
47. Grrrls on the Side by Carrie Pack
This young adult novel is set during 1994 in the age of Riot Grrrls. Tabitha doesn’t feel like she fits in at her suburban school, but then one day at a show she picks up a zine that includes information on a Riot Grrrl meetup. Exploring life in her new punk scene opens Tabitha’s eyes to many things including her sexuality and race issues. I honestly read this book long enough ago that I don’t remember what I thought about it when I read it. I guess that means it didn’t leave that much of an impression on me. I give it a 5 out of 10.
46. Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Avviva Grossman was a Congressional intern during college who wound up having an affair with her boss, which became a political scandal. In order to outrun her past she changed her name, moved to a small town in Maine, and became a wedding planner. Now thinking of embarking on a political career of her own it seems like her past is coming to light. The story is told in a variety of formats including things like emails and one chapter of choose your own adventure story telling. It is narrated by Avviva/Jane, her mother, her daughter Ruby, and the Congressman’s wife.
For the most part I found it a pretty good book. I could have done without all the experiments in telling the story through different styles. I give it a 7 out of 10.
45. You are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds by Jenny Lawson
Part adult coloring book, part humor book, part a book of affirmations about being true to yourself no matter how messed up that self may be, You are Here is the newest book from Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess. I give it a 6 out of 10.
44. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
I probably never would have picked up this book on my own, so I’m very glad that the Make Me Smart podcast chose it for their first book club selection because I loved it. A lot of people including the podcast hosts seemed to think it was worth reading because they learned a lot, but they found it a slog to get through. I did not have that experience. I loved every minute of reading this book.
Yes, it is a dense book and is heavily research based which made many people compare it to reading a textbook, but I have no issue reading books like that. I read a lot of them for fun and this one was right up my alley. Turns out it’s mostly about the field of moral psychology and how that affects our political and religious leanings. I found it completely fascinating and it definitely makes me understand our political divide on a different level. It explained a lot to me about why we look at the same things completely differently, and why Republicans are doing a better job of resonating with people than Democrats are. It didn’t make me feel especially hopeful unless I could somehow get every American to read this book and reflect on it, but it at least can hopefully help me better understand where others are coming from. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone if you aren’t afraid to tackle a dense read. I give it a 9 out of 10.
43. George and Lizzie by Nancy Pearl
This is the first novel by well-known librarian Nancy Pearl. I guess it’s supposed to be the examination of a marriage at a crossroads with down home George brought up a loving mid-Western family and Lizzie brought up by psychologist parents who mostly viewed her as a subject to study rather than a daughter. In high school Lizzie in order to rebel against her parents’ vision of her Lizzie decides to sleep with every member of her high school’s football team, something that winds up haunting her and ending the relationship she had before George. She spends well into her marriage obsessing over that lost love leading to the crossroads of their marriage.
I hated this book. I hate the stupid trope where psychologists have no interpersonal skills and use all other humans especially their children as study subjects. I thought Lizzie’s obsession with her ex was ridiculous. There was nothing about this book that I really cared for. At least it was short. I give it 2 out of 10.
42. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
I read this book for one of my book clubs. It sounded really interesting going in, but it didn’t really hold up for any of us. The story takes place during WWII with one of the characters being an American socialite working with the French consulate, one being a Jewish girl who winds up in a concentration camp, and the third being a doctor at the concentration camp who does experiments on the prisoners. Their stories all wind up intersecting eventually, but only in the smallest of ways and not how I was expecting.
I didn’t realize until reading the afterward that two of the three characters were mostly based on real people, with the third based on a composite of people. I found the parts the author said she made up about their lives to be the most annoying parts of the book. Mostly I wound up wishing she had written a non-fiction book about their lives. I did find it interesting that she carried the story through to the end of their lives rather than just ending it after the end of the war like it seems many of these types of stories end.
Overall I didn’t care much for the book, though based on other reviews I’ve seen of it I seem to be an anomaly. I give it a 5 out of 10.