book reviews [v. short]

January 2016
Chasing Slow. Erin Loechner
Loved this memoir from a popular blogger. Manages to be thought-provoking and relatable.

Stoner. John Williams
Bookshelf #3: A beautifully written and moving (sad but heroic) academic novel.

Miss Jane. Brad Watson
Could be my favorite novel of 2017 and it’s only January. A lush novel about a girl born with a genetic birth defect and growing up in the South in the 1920s. Absolutely lovely.

Books for Living. Will Schwalbe
From the author of The End of Your Life Book Club, another reading memoir, this time on books on how to live. Predictably loved.

The Names of the Stars: A Memoir. Pete Fromm
Pete Fromm spends a month in the Montana wilderness counting fish eggs and dodging bears, also about parenting. I loved his easy, wise perspective.

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores. Jen Campbell
Laugh out loud funny, customers have asked me some of these too; from Sherry.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. JK Rowling
Read illustrated version with girls.

December 2016
Underground Railroad. Colson Whitehead
This novel has won all the awards this year and I can see why: Cora’s harrowing journey from the deep South to the free North will not soon leave the reader’s consciousness. Wow.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. JK Rowling
Annual reread.

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens
On audible; annual listen.

The Mistletoe Murder. PD James
Four holiday stories published posthumously.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. J.D. Vance
On audible, sobering and worth a read post-election. Have sold a lot of copies at the store.

The Woman in Cabin 10. Ruth Ware
Read in one evening, day after Christmas. I don’t have standards when it comes to thrillers. So fun.

The Life-Writer. David Constantine
Lots of good reviews, fell a bit flat for me. Novel about a widow researching her deceased husband’s past.

Lab Girl. Hope Jahren
Oh, so loved this. Jahren’s memoir about her life in science is brilliantly written and so engaging. Her voice just leaps off the page.

The Buried Giant. Kazuo Ishiguro
Read for our book group at the shop. So many opinions and takes on this novel; great discussion. Not a fan of the myth-ish language myself.

A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman. Margaret Drabble
Bookshelf 3: Slim volume of short stories; lovely cover.

Astoria. Peter Stark
On audible: the history of the 1810 overland Astor expedition. This is a must-read for PNW history folks.

The Road Back to You. Ian Morgan Cron + Suzanne Stabile
My first introduction to the Enneagram. I am a 1, not at all surprised. This is a well-written, engaging book, totally recommend.

The House at the End of Hope Street. Menna Van Praag
A fun bookish novel…love the cover.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Ransom Riggs
Bookshelf 3. Listened to this, so popular at the shop but not at all my thing…

The Clothing of Books. Jhumpa Lahiri
Slim volume on book covers. Predictably loved.

Anne of Green Gables. LM Montgomery, narrated by Rachel McAdams
Such a highlight, can’t wait to listen to this with the girls. Rachel McAdams does a lovely job reading Anne.

November 2016
Jayber Crow. Wendell Berry
Modern Mrs. Darcy podcast recommendation. Such a perfect novel. Definitely a highlight of 2016.

Upstream: Essays. Mary Oliver
Important, necessary post-election reading.

A Year Between Friends: 3191 Miles Apart. MAV + SCB
Have followed these two for years, latest project: a year of photography, recipes and letters.

In the Company of Women. Grace Bonney
This is a meaty, beautiful book on women in creative small business. Endlessly inspiring.

Deep Work. Cal Newport
On audible: a reread.

How the Light Gets in. Pat Schneider
Bookshelf 3. A spiritual writing book.

The Mothers. Brit Bennett
Wonderful first novel.

Becoming Wise. Krista Tippett
On audible. Could listen to this four times and still come away with something new.

Turning Homeward. Adrienne Scanlan Ross
Hosted Ross at the shop and loved her slim memoir of home, salmon runs and river restoration.

Matilda. Roald Dahl
Read with the girls! Agh, loved it.

Ghosts. Cesar Aira
Customer lent this to me. By a revered Latin American writer, a slim novel but packs an emotional and existential wallop. So glad I read.

October 2016
Gilead. Marilynne Robinson
Reread of one of my favorite novels; for the shop book club.

Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores. Bob Eckstein
Beautifully put together little book on the best bookstores (both past and present) in the world.

Today Be Will Be Different. Maria Semple
Loved more than Bernadette. So funny and warm, also set in Seattle.

A Gentleman in Moscow. Amor Towles
Definitely a favorite of 2016. Novel about a man who is sentenced to live in a Moscow hotel for decades. It takes a while to get going but very heartwarming…

Pond. Claire-Louise Bennett
Atmosphere-language driven novel. No plot whatsoever. Loved, of course.

A Great Reckoning. Louise Penny
Best Gamache novel ever.

Light Between Oceans. ML Stedman
On Audible. Read because customers loved, totally overwrought for me…

The Curated Closet. Anuschka Rees
I am always looking for help along these lines. This is very well put together.

September 2016
When Breath Becomes Air. Paul Kalanithi
Reread for shop book club.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Roald Dahl
Read with girls – snoozer!

Commonwealth. Ann Patchett
Dare I say, my favorite Patchett novel? It’s so personal and wise and full.

Manage Your Day-to-Day. Jocelyn K. Glee
Reread. Can you tell I am looking for some inspiration?

The Nature of the Beast. Louise Penny
All caught up with Gamache.

Love Warrior. Glennon Doyle Melton
First half was a little overdone for me, but second half is so worth reading. Brave.

The Penderwicks. Jeanne Birdsall
On audible: with girls and Telfer. We all loved.

Love and Other Ways of Dying: Essay. Michael Paterniti
On audible: wonderful personal essays.

August 2016
The Making of a Chef. Michael Ruhlman
Modern Mrs. Darcy recommendation – loved, on audible.

Yes, Please. Amy Poehler
A reread.

The Sympathizer. Viet Thanh Nguyen
For the shop book club. Sobering and definitely outside of my normal book choice. Really glad I read.

The Course of Love. Alain de Botton
Read on vacation in Cannon Beach. Part novel, part philosophical treatise on modern marriage. Somehow, it works. Really thought-provoking.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl
Read with girls. Loved.

Essentialism. Greg McKeown
On audible; a reread.

The One Thing. Jay Papasan
On audible, blurgh.

You’ll Grow Out of It. Jessi Klein
On audible, so damn funny. Love her voice (actual and writerly).

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Follow up to An Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Pretty great.

Present Over Perfect. Shauna Niequist
A disappointment. This is not her best book. Wow, I could say a lot more but I won’t.

The Long Way Home. Louise Penny
Gamache!

Hold Still. Sally Mann
For the shop book club. A memoir with photographs. This was a great discussion book and Mann is a deeply accessible writer. Again, so glad I read this and not sure if I would have outside of a book club.

July 2016
Before the Fall. Noah Hawley
Passably fun thriller.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. JK Rowling
Enjoyed Harry as a parent, not sure if play script needs to be such a big event.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Mason Currey
A reread; for inspiration.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. Lewis Buzbee
A reread; for inspiration.

Everything that Remains: A Memoir. The Minimalists
Poorly written minimalist memoir.

George’s Marvelous Medicine. Roald Dahl
Read with girls, such fun!

Classic Penguin Cover to Cover. Paul Buckley
I want every single book covered in the shop. Love the art direction.

Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage. Molly Wizenberg
A reread; for inspiration.

The BFG. Roald Dahl
Read with girls, such fun!

The Twits. Roald Dahl
Read with girls, such fun!

June 2016
Cinnamon and Gunpowder. Eli Brown
Bookshelf 3: such a fun pirate nautical novel about food and love recommended by one of my most lovely customers.

Grit. Angela Duckworth
On audible, especially thought-provoking as a parent.

A Moveable Feast. Ernest Hemingway
Bookshelf 3. What, how have I never read this? Such an enduring classic.

Mrs. Dalloway. Virginia Woolf
On audible, read by Annette Bening. A reread, of course in June.

Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel
On audible, a reread of one of my recent favorites.

The Long Way Home. Louise Penny
Oh Armand Gamache and Three Pines, how I love you.

Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide. Francine Jay
Getting tired of these books, an ARC.

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work. Kathleen Norris
A reread on vacation.

Consider the Years. Virginia Graham
Bookshelf 3: Persephone book, WWII era, light verse.

Six Memos for the Millennium. Italo Calvino
Bookshelf 3: Calvino’s essays on literature and philosophy. Feel timeless.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle/Ralph S. Mouse/Runaway Ralph. Beverley Cleary
Read with girls, what a joy to reread these as a parent (I so loved them when I was a kid).

Black Hole. Charles Burns
Post-apocalyptic graphic novel set in Seattle. Eh.

The Girls. Emma Cline
Much hyped first novel. It’s good. Really interested to see what she does next…

The Nest. Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
PERFECT vacation reading. Loved this warm, funny novel about the Plumb siblings. Could have read another 300 pages.

Modern Lovers. Emma Straub
Also, perfect vacation reading. Light and fun Brooklyn family drama.

Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Max Porter
Whoa, this is so surprisingly wonderful: Crow moves in after the wife and mother of two little boys dies a sudden, accidental death. Part novella, part fable, part grief essay. It works.

Palace of Books. Roger Grenier
Bookshelf 3: books about books are my comfort reading.

La Rose. Louise Erdrich
Can’t say this is my favorite Erdrich but very compelling.

The World Between Two Covers. Ann Morgan
Bookshelf 3: travel book about books.

The Eagle Tree. Ned Hayes
An Olympia author, friend of the store, this is a moving novel about a boy with asperger’s who loves trees.

Sweetbitter. Stephanie Danler
Loved this, highlight of 2016. A coming of age memoir, set in New York food world. A first novel.

May 2016
How to Catch A Frog & Other Stories of Family, Love, Dysfunction, Survival & DYI. Heather Ross
Bookshelf 3. Such a lovely collection of stories on all the themes in the subtitle. I was unexpectedly very moved.

The Beautiful Mystery. Louise Penny
Obsessed with Inspector Gamache.

The Sellout. Paul Beatty
The shop’s first book club selection. A heavy-hitting racial satirical novel. Oy. Thankfully, the discussion was thoughtful and sensitive.

A Trick of the Light. Louise Penny
Obsessed with Inspector Gamache.

How to Be A Heroine: Or, What I Have Learned From Reading Too Much. Samantha Ellis
Bookshelf 3: Such a fun literary memoir.

Bury Your Dead. Louise Penny
Obsessed with Inspector Gamache.

The Brutal Telling. Louise Penny
Obsessed with Inspector Gamache.

Pax. Sara Pennypacker
Alternating narratives between a twelve-year-old boy and his pet fox. Very moving, very well-written. Loved.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Sherman Alexie
How have I never read this? Funny and completely perfect.

A Room of One’s Own. Virginia Woolf
On audible; A reread.

Smarter, Faster, Better. Charles Duhigg
On audible; I love these productivity-type books. It’s ridiculous.

For the Love. Jen Hatmaker
On audible; A reread.

April 2016
Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in a Distracted World. Cal Newport
On Audible; another productivity book. I love thinking about attention – both as a concept and a practice.

A Rule Against Murder. Louise Penny
Obsessed with Inspector Gamache.

Year of Yes. Shonda Rhimes
On Audible; an unexpected joy. Inspiring, well-written and Shonda Rimes just puts herself out there.

How Literature Saved My Life. David Shields
Bookshelf 3: Title best part of book.

The Easter God and His Easter People. John V. Taylor
Bookshelf 3: A compilation of a newspaper column by the former Bishop of Winchester. Some good stuff here.

The Cruelest Month. Louise Penny
Obsessed with Inspector Gamache.

A Fatal Grace. Louise Penny
Obsessed with Inspector Gamache.

Still Life. Louise Penny
Obsessed with Inspector Gamache.

Truth Like the Sun. Jim Lynch
Jim Lynch is a wonderful local novelist. Bounces between 1960s Seattle World’s Fair and current affairs. Really fun, well done.

10% Happier. Dan Harris
Sold a lot of these at the shop. A bit of a slog for me but loved Harris’ overall voice.

A Little Life. Hanya Yanagihara
Yikes. I had Jude-infused dreams. Absolutely fell into this thick novel and world Yanigihara creates. Would love to talk about with someone else who finished. I felt slightly manipulated by I decided I don’t care.

March 2016
Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors. Kate Gavino
Sweet illustrations and quotes.

Bookmarked. Reading My Way From Hollywood to Brooklyn. Wendy W. Fairey
Bookshelf 3: Reading memoir. Totally enjoyed.

The Woman in Black. Susan Hill
Bookshelf 3: Read this when T was out of town. Scared the pants off me, in the best way. Gothic novel that just works so well.

Border Songs. Jim Lynch
His second novel, cast of characters on the Washington/Canadian border.

How To Be Here. Rob Bell
Both read and listened to. Reminds me a lot of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. Predictably loved.

Simplicity Parenting. Kim John Payne
Bookshelf 3: One of the best parenting books that I should reread every year.

M Train. Patti Smith
Bookshelf 3: This could have been 3,000 pages and I would have read the whole thing with reverence. I listened and read. Just adored.

The Productivity Project. Chris Bailey
On Audible. Truly terrible.

February 2016
The Days of Abandonment. Elena Ferrante
Yikes-o. Pre-Neapolitan novel novel by Ferrante. Like reading a fever dream.

Run. Ann Patchett
Bookshelf 3: Not my favorite Ann Patchett but a solid novel.

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books. Cara Nicoletti
Gift from C+M for Christmas. Such beautiful illustrations and so well done. A complete pleasure.

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name. Vendela Vida
Bookshelf 3: Have been meaning to read this for years. Readable novel, have read another, more recent Vida novel. Fun to see the growth.

Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates
A must-read on current race issues in America.

Once Upon A Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens. Lauren Scheuer
Bookshelf 3: I love my chickens.

Containable: How Passion, Commitment and Conscious Capitalism Built A Business Where Everyone Thrived. Kip Tindall
On Audible. A great business book that a fellow store owner told me to read. The author is the CEO of the Container Store.

Four Seasons in Rome. Anthony Doerr
I picked this up at the Book Swap at ABA’s Winter Institute. I adored this book. Memoir of Doerr’s year in Rome spent writing and living with his wife and twin baby boys. Reminded me just a tiny bit of our year in New York.

A Bowl of Olives: On Food & Memory. Sara Mudda
Bookshelf 3: Lovely illustrations, a little short on substance.

The Paying Guest. Sarah Waters
Bookshelf 3: A slow burn. Waters just works for me.

If on a winter’s night a traveler. Italo Calvino
Bookshelf 3: A classic that I have never read. Such a fascinating structure.

Eleven Hours. Pamela Erens
Advanced reading copy, read in one evening. Harrowing childbirth novel. So well done.

The Apartment. Greg Baxter
Novel that takes place in one day in an unnamed Eastern European city. It just works.

The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories. Anthony Marra
A bit of a disappointment for me. Connected stories – the experience didn’t gel for me.

January 2016
My Name is Lucy Barton. Elizabeth Strout
My favorite Strout novel: small but mighty: It’s about never really escaping from childhood, about memory and writing and motherhood. I finished it days ago and can’t quite put it on a shelf. I loved it so.

Out of Sorts: Making Peace With an Evolving Faith. Sarah Bessey
Loved this faith memoir-ish book from Bessey. Comforting and challenging all at once.

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Nadia Bolz-Weber
Gift from Sherry. Better than Pastrix even. Bolz-Weber has such a great voice and also v. encouraging. Can I tell I am in need?

The Art of Memoir. Mary Charr
Felt a bit like Mary Karr’s memoir class dumped onto the page but still worth reading. I am not writing anything but I still love reading about the process of writing.

Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion. Leona Rostenberg + Madeleine Stern
Bookshelf 3: Gift from Chris. Loved this memoir of two wonderful friends who start a rare book business in post World War II New York.

Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up With More. Erin Boyle
Boyle is one of my favorite bloggers and her coffee table book on living a simple life is as lovely as I had hoped…really wonderful photographs.

When Breath Becomes Air. Paul Kalanithi
Devastating and yet hopeful and life-affirming memoir by a young neurosurgeon diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Impossible to forget.

Phantoms of the Bookshelves. Jacques Bonnet
First book read in the New Year with Telfer in Seattle. On the art of living with books. Predictably loved.

Plainsong. Kent Haruf
After reading most of Kent Haruf’s novels in about ten days, the fictional town of Holt, Colorado town feels very real. Plainsong is probably my favorite – two cowboys take in a pregnant teenager – and the grace and connection here is just stunning.

Eventide. Kent Haruf
A sequel of sorts to Plainsong. Lovely.

Benediction. Kent Haruf
Again, set in the Holt, Colorado. Again, lovely.

Our Souls at Night. Kent Haruf
Published posthumously. Story of an older man and women, neighbors, who forge a connection. Love and connection is an essential human need.

Presence: Bring Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. Amy Cuddy
Saw Amy Cuddy at the bookseller conference – a wonderful speaker. The book fleshes out her famous ted talk. Really enjoyed. (on audible).

More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. Laurie Colwin
Bookshelf 3: The second installment of Colwin’s homey and wonderful food essays.

December 2015
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. JK Rowling
Never fails to move me.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. JK Rowling
One of my favorites.

Career of Evil. Robert Galbraith
Third installment of mystery series under JK Rowling’s pen name. Really good, really scary.

Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens
My annual, essential listen.

Pride & Prejudice. Jane Austen
On audible, read by Rosamond Pike. Just as good as I had hoped.

Everything I Never Told You. Celeste Ng
Also on audible, I liked the storytelling: a young girl is found dead in a pond in the first sentence and almost the entire novel is backstory. It works. For me, in audio, the novel was a little heavy-handed but still, well done.

The Gifts of Imperfection. Brene Brown
A reread, such an important book for me.

Devotion: A Memoir. Dani Shapiro
Bookshelf 3: Shapiro’s memoir of her changing relationship to faith and belonging. Really wonderful.

November 2015
Rising Strong. Brene Brown
I think this is Brown’s best. Her work all comes together in this and certainly seemed to me her most readable book.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. JK Rowling
Book Four!

When We Were on Fire. Addie Zierman
Recovering evangelical memoir. Author is slightly younger than me and I totally get her.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. JK Rowling
Least favorite Harry.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Alison Bechdel
First book on Shelf #3. Bechdel’s coming-of-age graphic memoir. Such a powerful story in a medium that I do not usually read.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Elizabeth Gilbert
Considering this is the second time I have read this in less than two months, it’s safe to say I am a big fan. This time listened to Gilbert read.

Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling
On audible. Mostly fun, a little bit tiring.

October 2015
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone. JK Rowling
New illustrated version is so beautiful.

Did You Ever Have A Family? Bill Clegg
A woman loses her daughter, boyfriend, ex-husband and daughter’s fiancé in a house fire the night before the daughter’s wedding. Told from multiple points of view, this is a grief novel that is quite powerful but…I think what’s missing is the true heart of the main character. Lots of opinions and sideline stories but not as truthful as it could have been. If that makes sense.

1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare. James Shapiro
Shelf Project #2.Have only been meaning to read this forever. What a year in the life of Shakespeare: wrote Hamlet, As You Like It, Julius Caesar and Henry the Fifth.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Elizabeth Gilbert
Went to Portland to see Gilbert talk at Powell’s. Main point: To be human is to be creative. Create something. Gilbert, whether you love her or not, is  so genuinely warm.

Offshore, Human Voices, The Beginning of Spring. Penelope Fitzgerald
Again, three very different novels.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. JK Rowling
Basilisk!

H is for Hawk. Helen Macdonald
Sounds complicated: this is a grief memoir, a book about training a goshawk and a literary criticism of  T.H. White. What? It so works.
Elegantly written. Dense. Lovely. True.

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays & Stories. Marina Keegan
Keegan had just graduated from Yale when she died in a car accident. This is a compilation of her essays and short fiction. Read for the first essay (also entitled The Opposite of Loneliness) but her stories I also really loved.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. JK Rowling
Love the structure of Azkaban.

The New York Stories of Edith Wharton
I read this compilation over the course of six months and the stories are so worth reading. Makes me want to reread House of Mirth soon.

X. Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone. Only two more…

For the Love. Jen Hatmaker
On audible. Read by the author. I haven’t connected to Hatmaker much before but I loved this. Maybe because she was reading it? But so funny and true and encouraging.

September 2015
The Story of the Lost Child. Elena Ferrante
Final book (#4) in the Neapolitan novels. Felt a little soapy to me but satisfying.

My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer. Christian Wiman
I have been reading this for almost eight months. Wiman is a poet and this book is *dense* and hard and beautiful and worth the work.

Goodbye to All That. Robert Graves
WWI memoir. Have meant to read for forever.

Fates and Furies. Lauren Groff
Hot book for the Fall. Groff is exactly my age and I have read all her other books and loved (Monsters of Templeton, Delicate, Edible Birds: Stories and Arcadia). This novel is about a marriage and it’s complicated (as all are). First half from the perspective of the husband (Fates) and the second half from the wife (Furies). First half is a force, second half didn’t work as well for me. Overall, totally worth reading.

Book of Speculation. Erika Swyler
On audible, sadly didn’t care for this.

August 2015
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories. Raymond Carver
Birthday gift from Eleanor. I can’t believe I have never read Carver. His stories are horrifying and gripping and just absolutely human.

The All of It. Jeannette Haien
Slim Irish novel. Basically a conversation between a woman and her priest but so beautifully written and morally interesting.

The Whale’s Companion: The Whale in Legend, Art & Lit. Ariana Keltic
Read on Oregon Coast vacation. The book as an object is beautiful but a little lightweight on the content.

Browsings. Michael Dirda
Of course I had to. Michael Dirda and a book called Browsings? Delightful bookish essays.

Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte
On audible. I love Juliet Stevenson’s narration.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. Elena Ferrante
Third Neapolitan novel. Elena and Lila are mothers and still doing the (horrifying) neighborhood dance.

Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays. Eula Biss
Whew, I will read anything that Biss writes (See: On Immunity). Such thoughtful, tangly essays. I love her mind.

Thunderstruck: Stories. Elizabeth McCracken
Truthfully, months later I remember none of these stories. I am pretty sure I enjoyed while reading? Ringing endorsement!

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty. Vendela Vida
Powell’s Indiespensable. Half thriller, half literary novel about identity – it burns. Absolutely loved. Ordering for shop.

July 2015
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Greg McKeown
I am getting really good at saying no at this point in my life. But this book takes it to a whole new (thoughtful) level.

The Bookshop/The Gate of Angels/The Blue Flower. Penelope Fitzgerald
Bookshelf 2. The Bookshop was my favorite. Quiet and heartbreaking. And also not surprising that it was my favorite.

Dept. of Speculation. Jenny Offill
Whew loved this. Inventive, surprising, true. Having children is no joke.

Freedom of Simplicity. Richard J. Foster
Shelf Project 2. Good.

Eleanor & Park. Rainbow Rowell
I adored this. I wish I this was around when I was a teenager. Two unlikely kids fall in love and it’s bighearted and heartbreaking and true.

The Crow Road. Iain Banks
Shelf Project 2. Also a Powell’s Indiespensable selection. I read about two-thirds and then lost steam. Blah about the characters, blah about the plot. Sped through the last third.

Go Set a Watchman. Harper Lee
I am tired of talking about this. I read it, I am glad I did so. But there’s way too much to say.

Among the Ten Thousand Things. Julia Pierpont
Solid first novel about a marriage unraveling. Couldn’t put it down, some really standout moments.

June 2015
I Know How She Does It. Laura Vanderkam
I love reading about how other women manage their time. It’s hugely inspiring and comforts me when I feel like I am doing a little too much.

Hausfrau. Jill Alexander Essbaum
I loved this. I have to admit the beautiful cover drew me in first but the language is lovely and the character’s descent totally gripping. Also, the protagonist is clearly suffering from postpartum which makes the whole novel even more haunting.

The Bat. Jo Nesbo.
Customers at the shop are obsessed with Nesbo so I thought I would give it a go on vacation. Not a huge thriller reader but enjoyed this enough to stay up way too late to finish.

The Penderwicks. Jeanne Birdsall
Also very popular at the shop and my nieces have been telling me to read for years now. Four sisters on a summer adventure. I am saving the other three for when my girls are a little older. Could have been written fifty years ago. Such fun.

A Mind Awake. Selections from C.S. Lewis
These selections, I think, would have been more powerful in context. In theory, a selection of the writings of C.S. Lewis sound like a good idea but in the reading, they comes across like soundbites.

Americanah. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Shelf Project 2. Absolutely dazzling. This is the perfect book club book because you want to talk to someone, anyone after reading it. It’s about race and gender and it’s big and full of life. Loved.

Honeydew. Edith Pearlman
Shelf Project 2. Didn’t resonate with me. Very readable, lovely moments but the stories didn’t stick.

Still Writing. Dani Shapiro
A reread. I have said this before but I love writing books not because I want to be a writer but because they inspire me to pay attention. This is one of my favorites.

Why Jane Austen? Rachel M. Brownstone
Shelf Project 2. Examines how Jane Austen became Jane Austen. Predictably loved.

Daybook: The Journal of An Artist. Anne Truitt
Shelf Project 2. Inspiring and lovely meandering tone. On work, raising a family, art and priorities.

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step At A Time. Jeff Speck
Listened to this. First half was amazing. I want to make sure our city planners have read this one. Thesis: Walkable cities have vibrant downtowns.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Jon Ronson
Listened to this. Terrifying. After Ronson has a identity theft issue on Twitter he examines recent public shaming cases. Well done.

The 4-Hour Workweek. Timothy Ferriss
Listened to this. Some really good things to think about here..although tone was off-putting to me.

May 2015
The Precious One. Marisa de los Santos
Not her best novel…I enjoyed the echoes of Middlemarch but overall this novel seemed like a somewhat sad facsimile of some of her other books…

Nora Webster. Colm Toibin
Shelf Project 2. Most compelling novel I have read in a bit. Nora Webster is recently widowed with four children, little money and is slowly making her way. Quiet and detailed and lovely.

Scary Close. Donald Miller
Listened to this and enjoyed: be vulnerable in relationships. Good stuff.

Two. Melissa Ann Pinney. Edited by Ann Patchett
Essays accompanying photographs featuring two (people, things). So wonderful.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Roz Chast
Finally read this. Poignant, sad, infuriating and funny, this is Chast’s graphic novel of her experience with her agin parents. Wowza, I don’t think I will ever drink Ensure.

Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books. Wendy Lesser
Shelf Project 2. I love this type of thing. I really loved the cover on this book.

This is Water. David Foster Wallace
Commencement speech in book format – from Chris. “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” Yes.

Our Endless Numbered Days. Claire Fuller
Powell’s Indiespensable selection. A young English girl is taken by her survivalist father to a hut in Germany and told that the world is destroyed except for the two of them. Finished on Mother’s Day…

The Boys in the Boat. Daniel James Brown
Listened to this after selling tons of copies at the shop. Sentimentally told but such a good story: UW rowing team in the 1930s wins Olympic Gold. Also loved (so endearing) how the narrator pronounced little Washington towns (Puyallup & Ephrata).

You Can’t Make Me. Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Strong-willed child parenting book. You can probably guess why I read this one!

Letter to My Daughter. Maya Angelou
Shelf Project 2. Kind of lightweight Angelou but still, some good stuff here. Fittingly read around Mother’s Day.

The Secret Garden. Frances Hodgson Burnett
Shelf Project 2. Anna gifted me this lovely edition illustrated by Lauren Child. I hadn’t read this in about twenty years. Just loved. Can’t wait to read out loud to C&J.

Searching for Sunday. Rachel Held Evans
I missed the millennial cutoff by a few years but I must say it’s comforting to find these writers that give voice to my own struggle with the current attitudes, positions and beliefs of the evangelical church. Evans gives me hope.

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Gretchen Rubin
I love all of Gretchen Rubin’s books and this might be my favorite one. I love thinking about how to do things better. Just good stuff. Listened to it…

The Folded Clock: A Diary. Heidi Julavits
Picked this up in New York. Every entry starts with “Today I…”. Her mind is so alive here. I loved it – she shows her neuroses and foibles and quick observations but also is capable of such careful, deep consideration. Loved. Loved.

A Chicken in Every Yard. Robert & Hannah Litt
Shelf Project 2. Chickens! It’s a requirement to own at least five books on chicken-rearing when you have four hens in your backyard.

April 2015
Lila. Marilynne Robinson
Shelf Project 2 & Book Club! Lila is all together lovely. A much different book than Gilead but feels right.

April 2015
Lady Susan. Jane Austen
Shelf Project: Epistolary novella – Austen’s first fiction. Doesn’t have much substance but so interesting to read to see how she develops later as a novelist.

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves. Stephen Grosz
Shelf Project 2: A psychotherapist writes about why we do what we do in a remarkably clear, story-based approach. Really loved.

Men Explain Things to Me. Rebecca Solnit
Solnit takes on “mansplaining” and other ways conversations between men and women go south. Love her intellect.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. Laura Vanderkam
Can you tell my mornings are still a problem? So hard to get out of bed…This was helpful and well-done (listened to on audible).

Euphoria. Lily King
Absolutely loved. Inspired by an event in the life of Margaret Mead and centers on three young anthropologists in New Guinea in the 1930s. Passionate storytelling.

The Fringe Hours. Jessica Turner
I do a pretty good job of taking time of myself but loved listening to this (and could always do better). Could have been condensed a bit…

We Should All Be Feminists. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Read in one sitting. Yes! Sobering and inspiring. Would be a great grad gift.

When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win WWII. Molly G. Manning
Shelf Project 2: Such a fascinating, well-researched yet lively book about books. WWII and the creation of small, lightweight books to send to the troops for encouragement and entertainment. Really moving…

The Story of a New Name. Elena Ferrante
Shelf Project 2: The second of the Neapolitan Novels set in working class Naples. Lila gets married at sixteen and Elena furthers her education. These are must-reads…

Under the Wide & Starry Sky. Nancy Horan
Shelf Project 2. Novel centers on the wife (and life) of Robert Louis Stevenson. Listened to this…not sure what to say. Interesting, well done but lacked depth and believability.

Women in Clothes. Sheila Heti & Heidi Julavits
Eleanor gave me this for Christmas. Such an eclectic, surprising, deep collection about clothes, about being a woman, about our own mothers. I loved. Would make a great gift.

March 2015
Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. Sari Botton (ed)
Shelf Project 2. Lovely essays on leaving New York. Finished the day before we left to visit New York.

The Novel Cure: Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin
Shelf Project 2: A fun concept – alphabetized ailments and descriptions of the novels you should read to aid the cure. I love reading derivative literary types of things.

Parenting Without Power Struggles. Susan Stiffelman
Shelf Project 2: Such an inspiring, sane book about parenting. This should be a reread for me every year.

The New Yorker Stories. Ann Beattie
First Shelf Project is done! For whatever reason, Beattie’s short stories felt like homework. I admired the skill but they didn’t move me.

Hey Natalie Jean: Advice, Musings and Inspiration on Marriage, Motherhood and Style. Natalie Holbrook
Fun book version by one of my favorite bloggers.

At the Kitchen Table: The Craft of Cooking at Home. Greg Atkinson
Shelf Project 2: Wonderful food writing from a Pacific NW chef.

On Immunity: An Innoculation. Eula Biss
Timely and intelligent short essays on immunization. Biss doesn’t engage popular media debate much and this feels like a definitive book on the topic.

February 2015
Still Alice. Lisa Genova
Shelf Project 2: Such a thought-provoking novel…main character is a Harvard professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Not exactly lyrical.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Gabrielle Kevin
Shelf Project 2: A lovely, heart-filled bookseller story – predictably loved this one.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Ann Patchett
Listened to this time – read by Patchett. A perfect book of essays. One of my absolute favorites.

Wolf Winter. Cecilia Ekback
A Powell’s Indiespensable book. A mystery of sorts set in the Swedish Laplands. Interesting.

The Chronology of Water. Lidia Yuknavitch
A powerfully written memoir. I sank into this book and read it in a day.

Burning the Days. James Salter
Shelf Project: Salter’s memoir sags in places but his description of being a pilot in the Korean War is absolutely wonderful.

The Girl on the Train. Paula Hawkins
2015’s Gone Girl. Listened to this – totally gripping.

Brown Girl Dreaming. Jacqueline Woodson
Poignant  journey through author’s early years – appeals to readers of all ages.  Newbery Honor book for 2015.

The Empathy Exams: Essays. Leslie Jamison
Absolutely one of the most thought-provoking collections of essays I have ever read. What does it mean to show empathy? How can we understand one another? Good stuff people.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods & Madness. Kay Redfield Jamison
Shelf Project: Eleanor gifted me this book and I finally read it. Brave and intelligent – a modern classic on the author’s personal experience of being bipolar (manic depressive) while being a mental health provider.

January 2015
The Year of Reading Dangerously. Andy Miller
Subtitle: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life.
Such a fun (and funny) book, especially the first half. Once Miller became a father, he stopped reading. This is his project to be both a father and a reader. I loved it.

The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. Simon Winchester
One of the major (and tireless) contributors to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary was an American doctor imprisoned in an English insane asylum/prison for murder. And no one knew his identity until decades after he began helping. It’s just a great story.

Being Mortal: Medicine & What Matters in the End. Atul Gawande
About life’s end and how we can do it better. Compassionate and grippingly readable. I want to make everyone read this book! And then we can all talk about it together.

The Unspeakable: Essays. Meghan Daum
Listened and loved. Daum is brutally honest in these essays – her mother’s death, an unsuccessful pregnancy, choosing not to become a mother, and her involvement with the foster care system. Thoughtful, and, at times, uncomfortable for me. In a good way.

The Sorrows of an American. Siri Huvstedt
Shelf Project: Read while sick. Have respected Siri Huvstedt since I heard her speak on a Middlemarch panel in New York. This novel weaves her personal family history and the story of a lonely psychiatrist in New York who becomes involved in the life of a woman and her daughter who rent an apartment from him.

The Accidental. Ali Smith
Shelf Project: Also been carting this one around for years. A young woman interrupts a family vacation and changes the family forever. Not exactly my favorite…stylistically overdone (for me).

Slammerkin. Emma Donoghue
Shelf Project: Seriously been carting this book around since our apartment days in Loma Linda. Took it to New York and now, years later, finally picked up. Loved it! The fictionalized life of a “loose” woman in London in the 1700s. Based on a real case…

Sunday Suppers: Recipes & Gatherings. Karen Mordechai
Absolutely the most beautiful cookbook I have ever seen. I am loving the recipes too…

Sorted Books. Nina Katchadouran
Also a book I ordered for the shop this Christmas. Author is an artist who photographs books spine out. They form sentences or thoughts that strangely work as a whole.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo
So fun! Basically, when you are tidying, if you hold an item in your hand and it does not give you joy, get rid of it. The author is mostly just kind of adorable.

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Listened to this – longwinded but interesting account of how our brains store and use information.

Thrive. Arianna Huffington
I kind of loved this…Takeaway: don’t feel bad about needing to sleep.

My Brilliant Friend. Elena Ferrante
Hard to describe this novel. Fierce is a word that I think has been used before but works. Fierce, intense female friendship novel. Two girls, growing up in 1950s in working class Naples. First in a series of four.

December 2014
Well-Read Women. Samantha Hahn
Such wonderful portraits of female fictional characters. Bought for the shop this Christmas and sold quite a few. Predictably, my favorite was ANNE.

Prune. Gabrielle Hamilton
Loved Blood, Bones and Butter. Hamilton’s new cookbook is huge and fun to look through, but really not meant for the home cook. At least not this home cook. Sold on Amazon.

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. Anne Lamott
Some new stuff from Anne and some of it’s repackaged in such a pretty little book. A gift from Sherry. Read right when needed.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. JK Rowling
Another annual Christmas read. I read a chapter or two a day until I get to the bit where Harry, Ron & Hermione are at Gringott’s and then I read the rest in a complete rush.

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens
Annual listen!!

Running the Rift. Naomi Benison
Shelf Project: Rwanda running novel. It was fine.

Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary. Nigel Slater
Each chapter is a month, read in the corresponding month during 2014. I love Nigel Slater’s sensibility. His kitchen diary is not really like mine (obviously I am not a professional cook and food writer) but his food feels so real. He makes meals based on how he feels that day or what he has in his kitchen (or larder as he would say) or what he sees at the market.

November 2014
Yes Please. Amy Poehler
Listened and very predictably, loved. There is a chapter on body image at the beginning that I think is pretty much the best thing I have read in a long time…

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint. Nadia Bolz-Weber
Yes. Sherry made me read this and everything in me is yes. Also makes me think I need a tattoo.

Gilead. Marilynne Robinson
A savored reread. In preparation to read Lila, the loose sequel to Gilead. Except I am just sort of saving and looking at Lila rather than actually reading it.

The Lola Quartet. Emily St. John Mandel
By the author of Station Eleven. Solid, very readable novel but did not move/interest/astound like Station Eleven.

Chicken & Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading. Janice Cole
Pretty pictures of chickens and what I can cook with all the eggs I currently don’t have (our chickens did not lay much in November).

Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read. Stanislas Dehaene
Shelf Project: Mind-numbingly boring.

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work”. Kathleen Norris
When this book is on the list, you know I have had a minor-ish life meltdown and am desperately trying to recenter myself! Also: see Persuasion.

October 2014
Lunch at the Shop. The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal. Peter Miller
Hah! I thought maybe we could be like this cool bookshop in Seattle where the staff eats together at midday. The dream has died (and I am not at all sad).

What We See When We Read. Peter Mendelsund
An exploration of what happens when we read. Such a fascinating, graphically interesting book.

The Children Act. Ian McEwan
A London judge is asked to rule whether a minor must undergo life-saving medical treatment against the wishes of his parents due to religious reasons. Case coincides with personal drama. Ian McEwan just works for me. I will read anything he writes.

Not That Kind of Girl. Lena Dunham
Listened to this memoir/advice book. Her life has been/is so different than mine but I loved the experience of this.

A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus: Menus & Stories. Renee Erickson
A lovely, warm cookbook from a Seattle chef. I’ve been to one of her restaurants…now want to go to all.

We Are Not Ourselves. Matthew Thomas
Took me entirely too long to read this. The reviews were so glowing but my takeaway…eh?

Thirty Girls. Susan Minot
Shelf Project: also felt blah about. Timely and beautifully written but the ending felt tacked on in a cursory, violent sort of way. I think upheaval in my personal life is talking more than the novel…

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. David Mikics
Seriously, I read this soooo slllloooowwwllly. I loved it. I love being told how to read in great detail.

September 2014
Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel
One of my favorite novels of 2014. A recounting of a connected group of characters before, during and after civilization’s collapse from a lethal pandemic. So beautifully written.

Persuasion. Jane Austen
My favorite re-read of all time.

Simplify. Bill Hybels
Why do I keep listening to stuff like this?

Crucial Conversations. Kerry Patterson
Clearly, three weeks in to owning a small business, still have a lot to learn in this area.

August 2014
Three Junes. Julia Glass
A reread. Still one of my favorite novels but mostly for what it did to me as a young adult. Brought perspective, empathy and a totally different way of looking at an “issue”. Isn’t that why we read? I am so grateful.

The Map of Enough: One Woman’s Search for Place. Molly Caro May
Shelf Project: Also, a book club selection. We all agreed that while the author is irritating and the book a bit of mess, the themes of contentment and finding your place resonated on a personal level with all of us.

The Good Life: The Moral Individual in an Antimoral World. Cheryl Mendelson
Shelf Project: Lively discussion of morality in our current age but boy Mendelson has an oddly defined, narrow and barely concealed contempt for a good chunk of Americans. I skew pretty liberal and even then her tone was incredibly off-putting.

A Novel Bookstore. Laurence Cosse
Shelf Project: Charming French novel – two people open a bookstore that sells only “good novels.” Culture wars ensue. Loved.

Two-Part Invention. The Story of a Marriage. Madeleine L’Engle
L’Engle’s chronicle of her forty year marriage to Hugh Franklin. Loved with a few caveats.

The Husband’s Secret. Liane Moriarty
Vacationy type of novel that completely did not work for me.

Whole Grain Mornings. Megan Gordon
Birthday present from Chris & Mendy. Can’t wait to try some of these recipes…

The Art of Fielding. Chad Harbach
Shelf Project: About baseball of course but also about small colleges, friendship, love, where we belong. I loved this. Warm & wise and the baseball bits were actually wonderful. And I don’t even like baseball!

Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Laura Hillenbrand
Absolutely the most amazing story of the life of Louis Zamperini – Olympic runner, WWII surviver. Gave to my dad for his birthday and he’s actually reading it…

Counting by 7s. Holly Goldberg Sloan
Anna recommendation. Middle-reader. Twelve-year-old Willow’s parents die in a car accident and she is taken in by an extremely unlikely group of people. It just works. Loved this.

July 2014
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm. Philip Pullman
Shelf Project: Cate and I read a chunk of these tales together. She loved many of the tales, even the dark and gory ones, and I appreciated the notes after each tale discussing provenance and artistic license, etc. There’s isn’t a clunker in the whole collection.

California. Edan Lepucki
Really scared me actually – author’s vision of the future seems so realistically bleak and Frida & Cal are such great characters. Telfer and I both could not put this down (and yes, we ordered from powell’s – not amazon)!

My Salinger Year. Joanna Rakoff
Listened to this memoir about the year Rakoff spent working for the literary agency that represented J.D. Salinger. Less about Salinger than it is about the tenuous post-college years, about finding your place, about growing up.

A Rope and A Prayer: The Story of a Kidnapping. David Rohde & Kristin Mulvihill
Shelf Project: In 2008, David Rohde, a NY Times reporter and newlywed, was kidnapped by the Taliban and held for seven months. The book alternates perspectives of David and his wife, Kristin. Fascinating account.

Bittersweet. Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
A bit of a blah novel about a girl who covets the family of her college roommate after spending a summer with the entire clan on a compound in Vermont.

Townie: A Memoir. Andre Dubus III
Shelf Project: Affecting memoir of a scrappy, difficult boyhood and young adulthood. While his father was a respected writer and college professor, his kids and ex-wife live in much more difficult circumstances. One of those books I would have never read without Powell’s Indiespensable but so glad I did.

The Silkworm. Robert Galbraith
I imagine these are so fun for JK Rowling to write – and I certainly love reading about Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. Mysteries are so satisfying sometimes…

Little Bee. Chris Cleave
Shelf Project: Heavy-handed novel about a Nigerian orphan and a British couple who meet on a beach with devastating results.

June 2014
Blue Nights. Joan Didion
Shelf Project: Held me completely captive: “When we talk about our mortality, we are talking about our children.”

All the Light We Cannot See. Anthony Doerr
Read this on vacation. So fun to absolutely immerse myself in a big, thick novel. Set in WWII, two intertwining stories, a blind French girl and a German soldier. Done remarkably well, absolutely recommend.

Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Marta McDowell
Shelf Project: Such a lovely little book about Beatrix Potter’s gardens. Wonderful photographs.

The Widower’s Tale. Julia Glass
Shelf Project: Julia Glass is one of my favorite novelists. This one takes a bit to get into but I was so happy to spend time with these characters.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. George Packer
Shelf Project: Whoa, read this if it all sounds good to you. George Packer takes the lives of three ordinary Americans as well as short biographies of famous Americans to create a mosaic of life in America now. Honestly, a nonfiction masterpiece.

Turn of Mind. Alice LaPlante
Shelf Project: A hand surgeon has early-onset Alzheimer’s and is accused of killing her neighbor and best friend. It’s twisty and psychological and although I definitely figured out the killer (which hardly ever happens to me), I was completely gripped.

Just Kids. Patti Smith
Listened to this. I read the book a couple of years ago and it left me a bit cold. The audio version, read by Patti Smith, is absolutely spellbinding. Very much recommend.

The Family Dinner. Laurie David
Shelf Project: We do have a (mostly) happy medium these days at our dinner table but I am open to all kinds of advice. There is a chapter on table conversation with kids that was particularly good.

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music & Nightfall. Kazuo Ishiguro
Shelf Project: Ishiguro’s novels are so wonderful (Never Let Me Go & Remains of the Day). These short stories are very readable – a couple take place in Venice – but they don’t stick (if that makes sense).

May 2014

The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else. Christopher R. Beha
Shelf Project: Author reads the Harvard Classics in a year. I do love a project book. Not as wonkish as it sounds.

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Anne Lamott
A reread (relisten). Exactly what I needed this week. Mental note: read again when girls are teenagers.

The Affairs of Others. Amy Grace Loyd
Shelf Project: Maybe not for everyone but I loved this novel about a Brooklyn widow and brownstone-owner who becomes overly involved in the life of her tenants.

The Invention of Wings. Sue Monk Kidd
Molly recommendation, on audible. A affecting novel told from the point-of-view of a slave and a girl who grows up in a slave-owning family who becomes an abolitionist and early feminist. True story, a sister story. Loved.

Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World. Gail Goodman
Good, useful ideas; could have been condensed into a magazine article.

Dirt Candy: A Cookbook. Amanda Cohen & Ryan Dunlavey
Shelf Project: A vegetarian restaurant in Brooklyn; cookbook in a graphic novel style; gift from Eleanor.

The Shelf: LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading. Phyllis Rose
Author reads an entire shelf in a library and reflects on reading and culture; loved, loved.

The Blue Castle. L.M. Montgomery
How I have not read this? Valancy Stirling throws off her terrible family and starts to live. Just so much fun.

Congratulations, By the Way. George Saunders
A bit of a silly book but a lovely speech.

All Our Names. Dinaw Mengestu
African refugee has a love affair with a white social worker.

Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage. Molly Wizenberg
Think opening a restaurant would be so much fun? Maybe read this first…Molly Wizenberg has such a great tone in her writing, absolutely loved this and have made several of the recipes.

The Blazing World. Siri Huvstedt
An ignored female artist stages three separate shows with male artists under false identity. Dense and thought-provoking.

Under the Egg. Laura Marx Fitzgerald
A middle-grade art mystery set in New York. Loved, so fun.

Learning to Walk in the Dark. Barbara Brown Taylor
Explores the role of darkness in the spiritual life. Surprising and lovely, Taylor’s writing has been such a gift to me this year.

April 2014
And the Dark Sacred Night. Julia Glass
A loose sequel to Three Junes; wise, warm novel about family and roots.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Nicholas Carr
Books on technology do not tend to age well but many of Carr’s observations are pertinent to my own life and definitely made me think.

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen. Laurie Colwin
Wonderful essays by a writer who likes to cook and eat. Just a tiny bit dated but still so worthwhile.

Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit. Paul Huston
Went through this during Lenten Season. I didn’t do most of the exercises as you would have to be retired or independently wealthy to have that kind of time but it served it purpose to make me think, reflect, and pray during Lent.

Someone. Alice McDermott
Second college girl (can you even call 35-year-old women girls?) book club. Novel was greatly enhanced by discussion.

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. Barbara Brown Taylor
Listened to this – read by the author – and now am reading it in print because it was so good and so exactly what I needed and the audio moved a little too fast for me.

The Gifts of Imperfection. Brene Brown
Listened to this, reader kind of annoying but Brene Brown has such good things to say about shame and resilience and living life with whole hearts.

The Divorce Papers. Susan Rieger
Fun epistolary novel I read on my iPAD. I told Telfer, let’s not get divorced, okay?

Dog Songs. Poems. Mary Oliver
Read these out loud to Henry. I am not sure he appreciated them much but it made me feel just a little bit better.

Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog: Essays. Delia Ephron
Third reread. Love this book.

March 2014
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. Lewis Buzbee
A reread for me. Bookshop memoir, one of my favorite things.

Barefoot in Paris. Ina Garten
Makes me want to go to Paris!

168 Hours. Laura Vanderkam
I am always thinking about how I can be more productive and more efficient but you know what? I don’t know want to try this hard. But one good point: we do have more time than we think we do.

Tenth of December: Stories. George Saunders
Remarkable stories, very different than what I usually read. “The Semplica Girl Diaries” especially has stayed with me.

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. Wendy Welch
Another bookshop memoir!

The Goldfinch. Donna Tartt
I unequivocally loved it. Even when my copy had multiple errors and missing chunks at the most crucial scenes. I finished it and then had no idea what happened and when my new copy came a week later I had to reread the final fifty pages. Oh, that’s what happened to the painting! Makes me want to reread her other two novels.

February 2014
Satisfied: Discovery of Contentment in a World of Consumption. Jeff Manion
Why do I listen to Christian self-help books? I always hate them.

Winter’s Bone. Daniel Wordless
Listened to this lovely short novel about a young girl in the Ozarks trying to find her father. So well-done.

Lean In. Sheryl Sandberg
The media storm around this book clouded how good it is and its central message. So happy I listened to it.

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother. Madeleine L’Engle
Another summer at Crosswicks; reflections on life and and death of L’Engle’s mother.

Notes from a Blue Bike. Tsh Oxenreider
Listened to – not my favorite (her tone is way off) but endlessly interesting to see how other families live out their choices and values.

Flora & Ulysses. Kate DiCamillo
Winner of Newbery award this year; adventures of a little girl named Flora and Ulysses, her superhero squirrel friend. A lot of fun.

Keepers. Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion
A great family, week-night cookbook. Nothing is fussy and kids will like most things.

Bittersweet. Shauna Niequist
Absolutely lovely, personal spiritual essays. Very encouraging to me this year.

My Life in Middlemarch. Rebecca Mead
Part personal reading memoir, part biography of George Eliot. Absolutely stunning. Of course this is exactly the thing I love to read. I went in expected to be stunned.

Jane, the Fox & Me. Fanny Britt
Lovely graphic novel- troubled young girl in Montreal reads Jane Eyre. Hope.

The Well-Educated Mind: Susan Wise Bauer
Bleh. I am kind of over being told what to read.

January 2014
Longbourn. Jo Baker
I loved, loved, loved this. A retelling of Pride & Prejudice from the servant perspective. What could have been soapy is so heartfelt and lovely.

Cold Tangerines. Shauna Niequist
Personal, spiritual essays. Now read all of her books. Interesting to watch her develop as a writer.

The Kinfolk Table. Aaron Williams
Lots of composed, perfect pictures. Kind of short on real life. It’s like the most mockable parts of Portland and Brooklyn all in one book. But you know I like it.

A Circle of Quiet: The Crosswicks Journal – Book 1: Madeleine L’Engle
Lovely, meandering thoughts on faith and life.

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table. Shauna Niequist
Essays and recipes. Good stuff here; Sherry recommendation.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital. Sheri Fink
Sobering and written extraordinarily well. How do people in the midst of a crisis react under pressure? Ethically complicated and endlessly fascinating…

Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life. Dani Shapiro
I find that these writing advice books are the best life advice books. I am always so grateful for the author’s vulnerability. Thoughtful and inspiring.

The Signature of All Things. Elizabeth Gilbert
Who knew a 19th century botany novel could be this much fun? Loved the sentences and warmth the author has for her characters.

Canal House Pronto! Hamilton & Hirsheimer
I want to make everything in this…these two are my favorite food writers and as I am reading this I kept asking myself:  why don’t I eat more pasta? really, why?

At Elizabeth David’s Table. Forward by Ruth Reich
Decided to start including cookbooks that I read. Lovely volume with beautiful photographs.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Works. Mason Currey
So many varied and intriguing ways of living out this life, whether we are in “creative” fields or not. All work is creative in some sense.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Jen Hatmaker
A project book – author tackles excess month-by-month. Good stuff but boy, author is so irritating.

December 2013
Humans of New York. Brandon Stanton
Loved this book of NYC portrait photography from Sherry.

The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater.
Read all the year-long; comforting kitchen, cooking with what you have and what’s in season type of book. Meandering in the very best way.

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens
My annual listen. So wonderful.

Bel Canto. Ann Patchett
Not the best audio version but I remembered while I like this novel.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Ann Patchett
Personal essays of the best sort. So much to like here. 

The Greatest Gift. Ann Patchett
Not my favorite.

Daring Greatly. Brene Brown
Brown is a shame researcher and famous TED Talker. Really useful stuff here – particularly in parenting.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. JK Rowling
And Harry Potter Homework 2013 concludes.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. JK Rowling
One of my top three favorite Harry’s. Nerdy.

The Lowland. Jhumpa Lahiri
Read for the first meeting of my college girlfriend book club. Absolutely loved this novel about two brothers set in both India and America. Read it.

November 2013
Divergent. Veronica Roth
Latest dystopian YA series; listened to on audible. Not sure if I will continue with series. Kind of says it all?

Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix. JK Rowling
Angry Harry is my least favorite Harry.

Possession. A.S. Byatt
Reread.  Satisfying in a big-novel-cold-outside sort of way.

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope. Anne Lamott
Lamott-lite; content not all that deep but somehow deeply comforting.

Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog: Etc. Delia Ephron
I just read this in print but then bought the audiobook too; read by Meg Ryan. So wonderful.

October 2013

The Circle. Dave Eggers
Blah? Love Dave Eggers but this technological dystopian novel left me kind of cold.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. JK Rowling
Harry Potter Homework

Wives & Daughters. Elizabeth Gaskell
On audible. Gaskell’s epic, unfinished novel. I am kind of unaffected by Gaskell. I see the skill, the characterization, but also the sentimentality.

Seating Arrangements. Maggie Shipstead
Assorted crises for a group of WASPs gathered for a wedding. Well done but…

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Karen Joy Fowler
Wonderful. I am not saying much about the plot because it sounds ridiculous so try to start reading without reading anything about this novel. I was so sad to leave this book.

W is for Wasted. Sue Grafton
Oh Kinsey Millhone.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. JK Rowling
Harry Potter Homework!

September 2013
Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog: Etc. Delia Ephron
Personal essays. Loved, loved, loved.

Sense & Sensibility. Jane Austen
Juliet Stevenson is the best audible narrator ever.

Some Hope. Edward St. Aubyn
Third Patrick Melrose novel; fancy party in the country, Patrick sees at least a glimmer of possible redemption.

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone. JK Rowling
That time of year again: Telfer and I are doing Harry Potter Homework (finish the series on Christmas Day). So nerdy.

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate. Justin Lee
A necessary book for the time; a little wordy but his heart is so good.

Snobs. Julian Fellowes
Reread on audible. Frothy British novel of manners before author famous for Downton Abbey.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. JK Rowling
Harry Potter Homework!

August 2013
The Cuckoo’s Calling. Robert Galbraith
A pseudonym for JK Rowling; extremely readable mystery novel. Hopefully it will be a series.

Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do. Meredith Maran, ed.
Incredibly thoughtful collection of author interviews; Eleanor recommendation.

Wide Sargasso Sea. Jean Rhys
Feminist classic; a retelling of the woman who became Edward Rochester’s wife in Jane Eyre.

Eating. Jason Epstein
A lovely meandering memoir of life and food. Perfect for vacation.

Manage your Day-to-Day. Jocelyn Glei, ed.
Can you tell I have been slightly overwhelmed? Really good stuff here. Somewhat obvious but needed advice.

Never Mind. Edward St. Aubyn
First of five Patrick Melrose novels; awful, awful father novel. Not yet sure what I think.

North & South. Elizabeth Gaskell
Loved, loved, loved. Missy recommendation from a long time ago.

Bad News. Edward St. Aubyn
Second Patrick Melrose novel; awful father dies. Addiction is like a character, almost painful to read.

July 2013

Visitation Street. Ivy Pochoda
Red Hook, Brooklyn mystery. Two girls set off on a raft in New York Harbor one hot summer night and only one comes back. Well done.

Pride & Prejudice. Jane Austen
On audible. P&P strikes me as more complex (women, money, relationships) every time I read.

Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings. Craig Brown
Absolutely delightful. Last third kind of drags.

Life After Life. Kate Atkinson
Whoa. Almost want to reread immediately. Plots sounds ridiculous when explaining to someone else but Atkinson makes it work. In awe.

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. Barbara Brown Taylor
An Episcopal priest leaves the clergy. Thoughtful.

Wave. Sonali Devaniyagala
Author’s husband, two small sons and both her parents are killed in the Boxing Day Tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2006. She writes about how she has got on. Hard to breathe while reading this.

Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites. Kate Christensen
Enjoyable food/life/coming-of-age memoir. Doesn’t make me want to run out and read her novels. Is that bad?

June 2013

Transatlantic. Colum McCann
Lovely, connected stories about Ireland. Anna and Amanda and I went to hear author speak in Seattle.

How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
Yes. We read this as an intervention basically.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel. Anthony Marra
Powell’s Indiespensable. About Chechnya, never would have picked up on my own. Writing is peppered with little histories and future happenings of all the characters, no matter how minor, like little bits of grace. Loved.

Title taken from the definition in a dictionary: “Life: a constellation of vital phenomena – organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.

The Secrets of Happy Families: improve your mornings, rethink family dinner, fight smarter, go out and play, and much more. Bruce Feiler.
Read the op-ed piece in New Yorker. Happy families share rituals and tell stories. Good chapter on money & kids.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anne Lamott
Reread on getaway with Telfer; one of my favorite books. I don’t have big writing plans, but I do want to pay attention to my life.

This is where I am at: “Reality is unforgivably complex.”

May 2013

Waiting to be Heard. Amanda Knox
Audible; read by the author. She totally didn’t do it. Way, way too long.

Me Before You. JoJo Moyes
Breezy British book about assisted suicide. I know that doesn’t sound right.

Still Point of the Turning World.
Blew my heart up. Immediately a favorite. A reflection on parenting a dying child and grief. Raw, angry, articulate and yet alive. Remember: limits of empathy

“The meaning of Ronan’s life was not to teach me; we often say this about people who defy our notions of normal and I find it pathetic, patronizing and a way of distancing ourselves from our own fragile bodies and tenuous lives.”

Death of Bees. Lisa O’Donnell
Powell’s Indiespensable. Somewhat uneven but good first novel – quirky Irish sisters who bury their parents in the backyard.

Homemade Summer. Yvette Van Boren
Beautiful photography. Really fun book.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. David Sedaris
Audible. Loved. Had read most before in New Yorker.

The Woman Upstairs. Claire Messud
Unreliable narrator (favorite of mine). Elementary school teacher falls in love with a glamorous family. Could not get this out of my head. Loved.

The Fifth Wave. Rick Yancey
Young adult apocalyptic novel – teenage girl narrator. Really well done.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. Katherine Boo
Read in Boston. Picture of reality as complexity. Everyone should read. Gripping and yet so human. No easy answers.

State of Wonder. Ann Patchett
Powell’s Indiespensable. Lush writing. Pharmaceutical company in the Amazon, new drugs. I just couldn’t quite suspend reality enough to make novel seem believable.

The Table Comes First: Family, France & the Meaning of Food. Adam Gopnik
Not his best. He comes across a little strong at the best of times but the tone slightly off.

3 thoughts on “book reviews [v. short]

  1. Haverlee

    Loved going through your list!!! I keep a list of my most recent favorites on the right side of my blog. I only put stuff on there that I absolutely loved and would highly recommend to anyone. Sherry Duerre sent me your blog link. I’ll be following along!
    Do you use Goodreads.com? Look me up on there if you do. I keep it updated.

  2. Pingback: Two Quotes & V. Short Book Reviews | home on the web

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