Year 13, Book 81

81. Too Much is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells

I often feel like when I’m reading celebrity memoirs that I’m just reading the same book over and over again. It’s the story of some awkward kid who didn’t fit in, funny anecdote, funny anecdote, road to where they are now, lather, rinse, repeat. This book did not feel like that to me. Rannells mostly focuses on his teenage years and his early days after moving from Omaha to New York. It is funny, but it felt like this book was much deeper with him really talking about figuring out who he was while dealing with some really difficult situations. I was surprised that the book ended with his first big break on Broadway in Hairspray. I got this book as an e-galley and at first thought maybe I didn’t have the whole thing so I had to go look it up and nope the book really does stop there. I guess that leaves him room to write more books about everything that came after. If you’re a fan of Rannells or Broadway I highly recommend this book. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 80

80. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson

Written in the form of a sermon Michael Eric Dyson addresses white Americans and their role in the continued racist society we live. He talks about the way America can truly face it’s racist past and make true reparations to bring lasting change in the future. It’s a really good and well-written book. I read it with a diversity reading group at work and it sparked a lot of really great conversations. Unfortunately as with all books like this I fear that the people who really need to read it the most won’t and mostly Michael Eric Dyson will wind up preaching to the choir. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 79

79. A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

Deya is a teenager in Brooklyn raised by her grandparents after her parents death. Even though she doesn’t want to get married her grandparents are starting to bring suitors around for an arranged marriage. Then one day a mysterious woman shows up hinting to Deya that there may be more to the story of her parents than she knows. Deya’s story is told in alternating chapters with that of Isra, her mother who came to Brooklyn from Palestine as part of arranged marriage to Deya’s father Adam until the two stories converge. I really, really liked this book. It delves deftly into the struggles of family, culture, and trying to stay true to one’s own self. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 78

78. The Space Between by Jenn Crowell

Gloria and Jascha have helped each other out as friends dealing with Gloria’s husband’s death from leukemia and Jascha’s family’s death in a car accident. They’ve finally decided to take their relationship to the next level when Gloria suffers from a mental breakdown and their decision to try continue with the relationship afterwards is further threatened by Jascha’s PTSD from the accident. I have no idea what this book is supposed to be. It’s far too maudlin to be a romance novel, but it seems too light to be much else. I didn’t really connect with it on any level. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 77

77. Doing Time: Notes from the Undergrad by Rob Thomas

I’m generally not a fan of short stories, but for some reason I really enjoyed this young adult book with each story themed around a high school student’s volunteer work to fulfill the 200 hour graduation requirement. I think perhaps because the book was set in Texas in the mid-90s, which jived with my own high school experience in Texas in the mid-90s. I’m not sure how much the young adults this book is actually aimed at would like it, but this old lady walking down memory lane did. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 76

76. The Library Book by Susan Orlean

This book is part memoir, part true crime, and part a love letter to libraries. Orleans frames the book around the 1984 arson fire that burned L.A’s Central Library. She examines the fire itself and the potential suspects in true crime fashion, but that is only a portion of the book. She also looks deeply into the history of the L.A. library itself and talks about all the work that the library and others like it are doing today. She frames it all around her own experience with libraries and books. The history of the library’s directors is almost worth the read itself. It’s kind of crazy. It’s definitely worth a read. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 75

75. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

The only reason I finished reading this book is because it was for one of my book clubs. In my head I don’t like science fiction even though there are a lot of science fiction things I like. Books like this are why I have that belief. This book is everything I hate about science fiction. I hate the ridiculous amount of made up names of things,people, and creatures that I can’t pronounce or keep track of. I also hate the wandering. I do not care about reading about people trying to stay alive as they wander across some landscape on some journey for some reason. At least half of that book was that. I did like some the questions the book raised about gender, but that was not even remotely enough for me to like this book. I give it a 3 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 74

74. Rise Up!: Broadway and American Society from “Angels in America to “Hamilton” by Chris Jones

Theatre critic Chris Jones talks about Broadway shows and their relationship to American culture beginning with “Angels in America” and ending with “Hamilton”. He looks at how Broadway began to take risks with the subject matter of their shows focusing on the ills of society like “Angels” and “Rent”. He also looks at how Broadway began to take more risks with the scale of their shows as well looking at shows like “The Lion King” and “Spiderman: Turn off the Dark”. I can’t say I really learned much by reading this book, and I imagine anyone who is a Broadway fan wouldn’t. However I found it a fun trip down memory lane and enjoyed reading the book. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 13, Book 73

73. Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA by Tim Junkin

As the title indicates this book is the story of Kirk Bloodsworth who was the first person to get off death row due to DNA evidence. It’s a somewhat maddening story because you can see all the places along the way that the criminal justice system failed and led to him being on death row when he was completely innocent. It’s a really good book even though reading it might make you kind of crazy. I give it an 8 out of 10.