94. The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
While leaving work one night a Moroccon immigrant is killed in a hit and run outside of his diner. The story then interweaves the lives of his daughter who returns home to deal with his death, his widow, a former classmate of the daughter, an undocumented immigrant who witnessed the crime but is afraid to come forward, and the detective working the case in addition to pieces of the story being told from the perspective of the man who was killed. I really liked the characters and how their stories worked together. I felt like the detective’s story felt a little tacked on, but otherwise I appreciated how you got to see how the man’s death affected people in various ways and unlocked some hidden secrets. I give it an 8 out of 10.
93. How to Be Fine: What We Learned From Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer
This book is based on a podcast that I’ve never listened to called By the Book in which the authors do what the title says and try to live by the rules of 50 self-help books each for a two week period. I am not a self-help book person, so in some ways this is not for me but in other ways pretty much just confirmed that I’m right not to be a self-help book person. I suspect the podcast would actually be more enjoyable than reading this book. In the book they distill down what they experienced into three sections: things that they found helpful, things that did not work for them or in some cases were actually harmful, and things that they wish self-help books would address but they don’t. I found the way the way the book was written with each of them taking the lead on writing every other chapter while providing input from the other author kind of awkward. If you like self-help books this might be of interest to you. I give it a 6 out of 10.
92. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
I adored Gyasi’s previous book Homegoing. It was my favorite book of that year. It’s still something I think about frequently. While good this book does not live up to the same level as Homegoing. I read it a couple weeks ago and had to go look up the synopsis to even remember what it was about, so obviously it’s not something that has stuck with me in the same way. It does very deftly touch on issues of family, addiction, mental health, and religion. I give it an 8 out of 10.
91. Sunny Days: The Children’s Television Revolution that Changed America by David Kamp
A history of the advent of educational children’s television in the late 60s and 70s. As one might expect a large portion of the book is devoted to Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. A number of other shows are covered though. It was an interesting and informative read, but I found the parts about all the shows I never watched and many I had never even heard of less interesting. This wasn’t bad, but I would definitely recommend Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis over this book, especially if you’re primarily interested in Sesame Street. I give it 6 out of 10.
90. The Mixtape to My Life by Jake Martinez
The main character love’s 80’s music and each chapter of the book is titled with an 80’s song related to what happens in the chapter. As a music lover I appreciated that aspect of the book. It’s an enjoyable LGBTQ high school romance. I’m guessing that authors want to present a positive outlook to teens, but this book like many others I feel like makes the coming out process too easy when all plot points up to that point to realistically people not coming around so easily and embracing their kid with almost no issue. I give it a 6 out of 10.
89. You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
At the beginning of this book when I thought it was going to be about a Palestinian-American woman who is closeted but lives with her girlfriend coming to terms with her parents, her religion, her culture, and her sexuality I was interested. But then the book winds up not being about that at all. It really lost me at the point where she goes to rehab for a love addiction. This was not the book I wanted it to be at all, and I suspect the version I wished it was would have been much better than this. I give it a 4 out of 10.
88. I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom
Much like in her show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom creates a humorous but also cringeworthy and unself-conscious view of mental illness and in this case her personal experiences with hit. This book is a sort of memoir written in a series of essays some of them straightforward and some of the written in off-the-wall ways like her creation of a board game or a conversation between herself at different ages. Fans of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Rachel Bloom will definitely like this book. I give it a 7 out of 10.
87. Kind of Famous by Mary Ann Marlowe
Layla has been the anonymous site moderator for an online fan club for her favorite band for the past decade. Now she has the chance to express her love of music with a new job at a rock music magazine where she befriends a photographer who is the girlfriend of a band member that winds up throwing her into the orbit of several bands including the one she runs the fan club for. She quickly hits it off with a drummer in one of the bands, but will when he finds out her secret will he ever be able to believe that she’s not just using him to get to the member of her favorite band?
I’m a big music fan myself, though I’m not into fan club stuff like the protagonist in this book. I still enjoyed reading a romance set in the music world though. This is the third book in a series with the first two books focusing on how two of the couples in the bands in this book got together. I liked this one well enough that I thought about seeking out the first two, but then I read the plot synopses and at least the first one sounds entirely ridiculous so I didn’t. I give it a 7 out of 10.
86. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
In 1969 New York City, four siblings visit a woman who claims to be able to tell people the day they will die. This information haunts all of them throughout their lives as they become adults and make choices influenced by that information and the experiences of their siblings. The story is told sort of in four parts focusing on each one of the siblings and building on the story of the sibling before. I liked some of the sibling’s stories better than others, but I think the way that everything was weaved together added an additional layer to the book. It was a very thought provoking book and made for a great discussion with my book club. I give it an 8 out of 10.