Year 15, Book 55

55. Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes DuMez

Historian DuMez digs deep into the history of white evangelicalism to show how Donald Trump’s election is a culmination of long held values and not people voting for someone antithetical to their beliefs for purely pragmatic reasons. It’s a really good look at how white evangelicalism has been trying to remake the Jesus of the gospels into a rugged, ultra-masculine nationalist since the beginning of their religion. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 54

54. Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

A middle-aged man looks back on his first love who he met during a summer in high school when his mother moved in with another man and left him there to take care of his mentally ill father alone. They meet as part of a company putting on a summer Shakespeare play. This book did not do a lot for me. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 53

53. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Kendi weaves together his own story about how he began to rethink race, racism, and developed the idea of how to be an antiracist. I appreciated his thinking on the topic and thought he addressed some issues in ways that I hadn’t thought about before and with a different bent than a lot of the other books I’ve read on similar topics. I think he has a lot of good ideas. Definitely a book well worth reading. There’s a reason it seems to be at the top of every anti-racist reading list I’ve seen. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 52

52. Save Yourself by Cameron Espisito

Stand-up comic Cameron Espisito’s memoir about growing up devoutly Catholic while realizing that she was gay. It was a fine, quick read for lying in a hammock and knocking out a book in an afternoon, which is what I did. There’s not anything particularly special about it though. It’s another run of the mill celebrity memoir. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 51

51. Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I liked aesthetic that the book created and I thought parts of it were clever. However, there were large parts of the plot that I felt had giant holes in them and other things that were brought up that just seemed like they were dropped. I did like that there were some real emotional character moments where the characters seemed to be growing and owning up to the consequences of their actions, but on the other hand it sometimes seemed like the characters were operating in two different books one realistically grounded and one with a lot of over the top mystery mustache twirling. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 50

50. Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye

Bryson Keller says he has no interest in dating during high school and with senior year well under way says he just wants to wait until college, but then finds himself dared to date a new girl every week at a party. Kai Sheridan has made his own decision to wait until college to come out, but impulsively takes the bet and asks Bryson Keller to date him for a week. Now it seems like they might both be breaking the vows they made.

This was a really cute teenage rom-com. I very much enjoyed reading it and think it would make a great movie a la Love, Simon.  I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 49

49. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

This book has uniformly rave reviews and apparently is being turned into a TV show. I do not understand why. It’s the decades long story of a Russian man who is forced into essentially house arrest in a hotel after a regime change in the country. Maybe my perspective was colored a little bit by the fact that I read the book while under quarantine for COVID-19, but I did not get what appealed to people about this book. I felt like nothing really happened. We didn’t ever get a good interior look at the characters thoughts and the time jumps left out major things that I wanted to know about. It at least led to a good book club discussion. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 48

48. The Bright Lands by John Fram

In a small town in Texas a teenage football star disappears in an eerily similar manner to someone else who disappeared years before. His brother who recently returned to the town from NYC to visit his brother along with the cop who is the sister of the previously missing boy try to dig into what really happened when the other cops seem to be trying to cover it up.

In the beginning I felt like this story had promise, but it went completely off the rails at the end with the answer to what really happened. It turned the book into something it wasn’t for most of the book. I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened, but then I wished I hadn’t. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 15, Book 47

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.

Year 15, Book 46

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.