Year 16, Book 19

19. The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone

Another true story about a woman doing amazing things and then basically being written out of the history in favor of men. Elizabeth Smith and her husband William Friedman were recruited to work as code breakers during World War I and continued their work independently in different areas of the government through World War II. I skimmed a lot of the stuff about the actual code breaking, but I thought it was an interesting story overall and had some trivia that I definitely didn’t know about. If you’re into stories about women doing great things in history that they didn’t get enough credit for this book is for you. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 18

18. Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey

Madeline grew up working in her family’s book store, but now it’s falling on hard times and her aunt is threatening to close it. Madeline blames the new chain book store across the street and Jasper the cute boy who works there. Now she’s trying to figure out how to save the book store while fighting her attraction to her rival. This was a cute enough teen rom com with some decent banter. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 17

17. The Undocumented Americans by Karla Canejo Villavicencio

Karla Canejo Villavicencio was one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard. In this book she examines her own family and her own experiences along with other undocumented immigrants from across the country. She wanted to focus on people and their lives that are not often portrayed in the media. It’s not a straightforward non-fiction book. It’s written with many literary flourishes but conveys the stories of people with heart, elegance, and respect. She brings humanity to people who are too often portrayed as anything but. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 16

16. We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption in an American City by Justin Fenton

The true story of an elite police unit in Baltimore known as the Gun Trace Task Force, which spent years ripping off drug dealers and setting people up for crimes they didn’t commit. Since I live in Baltimore I knew a lot about this going into the book, but I also was excited to read it because Justin Fenton is one of my favorite reporters from the Baltimore Sun. It was a really engaging read that just highlights why the mistrust of police in Baltimore is so high. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in crime books or books about policing. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 15

15. Susan, Linda, Nina, & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR by Lisa Napoli

I enjoyed this book and learned a lot about the beginnings of NPR including how they wound up supporting themselves through fund drives. At some point I think the book does get away from the thesis of its title though. At the beginning it does start off specifically focused on these women and how they wind up working at NPR, but then it turns more into just a general history of NPR including some extensive background of some of the men that worked there as well. So while I thought it was interesting I also felt like it betrayed its premise to some degree. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 16, Book 14

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

The youngest of 12 children, Sarah Broom was born 6 months before her father died and was raised in the yellow shotgun house in an industrial part of New Orleans East that her mom bought as a young woman. Broom uses this falling apart house that is eventually destroyed in Hurricane Katrina to tell the story of her family, their neglected part of New Orleans, and her complicated relationship to all three. It’s an excellent look at the complications of home and family as well as the racism that is still all too common that affects them. I give it am 8 out of 10.