47. Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller
It’s a little hard to categorize this book. It’s part memoir, part biography, and part science book. Lulu Miller read about taxonomist David Starr Jordan who discovered one fifth of the known fish in the world whose life’s work was sent crashing to the ground during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Instead of giving up, he started over again trying to rebuild his collection. After her own life falls apart Miller digs deeper into Jordan’s story to find out what drove him to persevere in the wake of such a huge loss. Instead she finds out that man may have been much more than he seems. It also focuses on the fish themselves and the idea that fish don’t even really exist, which is the part of the book that blew my mind the most. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a biology class. It’s a fascinating book in all its many facets. I give it an 8 out of 10.
46. If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
Laurie thinks her life is going pretty well. She lives with her boyfriend of 18 years and they’re talking about starting a family. But she comes home one night and he tells her he’s leaving her and shortly after she finds out that he’s gotten another woman pregnant. Even worse they work at the same law firm so she can’t even avoid him. So when the office playboy Jamie who is trying to get a promotion suggests that they fake date to make her ex jealous and help the partners think he’s in a more serious relationship she takes him up on it. I really liked this romance novel. The characters were really well developed and it was a lot of fun to read. I give it an 8 out of 10.
45. In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby
Brie Hutchens is a an eighth grader who is coming to terms with her sexuality. While she’s still trying to figure things out for herself she’s accidentally outed to her parents who she already has a strained relationship with due to other struggles going on in their family. I think this would be a really great book for any teenager worried about coming out. It deals with feelings in a very real way with a more middle of the road reaction than you normally see represented. Her parents don’t throw Brie out and aren’t overly hostile towards her, but Brie also feels real pain at that the fact that obviously are struggling to accept her. I give it a 7 out of 10.
44. Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South by Mike Selby
I suspect this book was created from the author’s thesis or dissertation, but I appreciated learning about Freedom Libraries. Although I was familiar with SNCC and the Freedom Rides I had never heard about the Freedom Libraries they also set up in the south. This book gives a nice history of some of the libraries set up in various cities. I give it a 7 out of 10.
43. All Adults Here by Emma Straub
Like Straub’s earlier book The Vacationers, All Adults Here is a family drama. Here we follow the Strick family in a small town outside New York City. The matriarch Astrid after witnessing a tragic bus accident decides to reveal secrets she’s been keeping from her family for years. Meanwhile her 13 year old granddaughter has been sent to live with her after an incident at her school in New York City. Her daughter reveals that she has gotten artificially inseminated, and her oldest son seems to be floundering in both his work and his family. Nothing much happens in the book, but I enjoyed spending time with the characters. I give it a 6 out of 10.
42. The Overstory by Richard Powers
The first quarter of this book is almost like a series of short stories connected by each one containing something to do with trees. Even though I am not usually one for short stories, I thought that part of the book was lovely. The stories were beautifully written and I loved how the author imbued them with so much meaning from the trees. I should have quit reading there because the remaining 450 or so pages were nothing but diminishing returns. Some of the stories become interconnected during the remainder of the book, but characters from a couple of them inexplicably move forward with no connections to any of the others. I didn’t feel like I really learned anything more about the characters than I got from their stories at the beginning. I also didn’t really care about what little plot occurred over the great expanse of the book. If you like short stories I would actually highly recommend reading the beginning of the book, but then save yourself and stop when you get to the chapters named after tree parts rather than people. It’s hard to rate this book since I really liked about a quarter of it, but really disliked the vast majority of it. I guess I’ll average it out and give it a 5 out of 10.
41. Apeirogon by Colum McCann
An apeirogon is a figure with an infinite number of sides and that is actually the perfect title for this book. I don’t even know how to describe it. At its basest level it is a fictionalized story of the real men Palestinian, Bassam Aramin and Israeli, Rami Elhanan both of whom lost their daughters to violence but who come together to try and fight for peace in the Middle East. It also includes non-fiction passages at the heart of the book written by both men. The story if you can really call it that moves and folds back and around itself while weaving in other facts and histories all written in short vignettes ranging from a mere sentence to several pages. It’s masterfully written and creative in a way that compares to no other book I can think of save for maybe Lincoln in the Bardo, which I more admired for what the author did than I actually enjoyed reading it. Here I think everything comes together perfectly. It’s definitely not a book for anyone who needs their books to have a straight narrative story, but this is beautifully written and full of so much meaning that it is a true masterpiece. I give it a 10 of 10.
40. She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs by Sarah Smarsh
This book is a republished series of four articles written for The Journal of Roots Music, No Depression. The articles themselves haven’t been changed from their original form, but Smarsh does provide a forward in which she touches on some of the things that have happened in the world since they were written that she would have addressed in her writings had they been written today. Having listened to Dolly Parton’s America podcast, which Smarsh was a part of, I’m not sure I gained a lot of new information in this book, but I still enjoyed reading it. It’s nice to know that a woman like Dolly Parton lives in the world. I give it a 7 out of 10.
39. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
It’s shortly after the end of WWII and Charlie finds herself unwed and pregnant and hoping to find her cousin Rose who went missing during the war. Her only clue is a woman named Eve who was part of the network of female spies in France during WWI. During their hunt for Rose we learn about Eve’s past and Charlie helps her come to terms with the things that happened. Though the book is fiction is based off of real women. The characters were really well drawn and it made for a good discussion during one of my book clubs. I give it an 8 out of 10.
38. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Nine people check into a health resort in remote Australia to work on different parts of their lives that seem to be going wrong. Some are there to lose weight. Others to work on their marriages. Others to deal with the tragic death of their son. What they don’t know is how these 10 days will be nothing like they imagined and the impact they will have on their lives. I don’t want to give anything away about what actually does down in the spa, so I won’t say any more about the plot than that. I am annoyed at the way the book ended, but overall it was a pretty engaging read. The story definitely keeps getting a little more and more bonkers as you go along. I give it a 6 out of 10.