Welcome to the 2021 Reading List! The list is in chronological order of when I read the books, but the first SIX are the ones carried over from 2020. Photos of books below the list. Books are moved up into the list as I read them.
Bird Box, J Malerman. The book is very close to the movie, but in several ways I think the movie was better. The movie put events in more of a linear fashion, which is easier to follow. But I’d say a good 85% of the book is represented in the movie and the movie is more suspenseful.
Sharp Objects, G Flynn. I liked this book a lot. I think the book is complementary to the mini-series on HBO with Amy Adams. The book is written from the main character’s (Camille, portrayed by Amy Adams) point of view, so you get a LOT more context about her. I also like the tweaks that the series made with Amma – she had MUCH more depth in the movie than she did in the book. Overall, a good read and excellent companion to the mini series.
Dry, Shusterman. This is a what-if type story: what if Southern California’s water really did run out? That’s the backdrop, but the story is about a small group of teens who must survive the breakdown of society that occurs in short order once the water stops. It’s a good paced read and all the action is in the space of just a few weeks. It ends on a good note, so it’s not one of those disaster books that leaves you wishing you’d not read it. Which is important at this point in time, I think.
I’ve read 29 books so far this year with 2 working now [October 20, 2021]. More behind cut!
I came across Obama’s summer 2021 reading list, and here are brief descriptions and whether I’ll read or not:
At Night All Blood Is Black, David Diop NO, WWI from POV of African soldier.
Land of Big Numbers, Te-Ping Chen YES, it’s about China’s history, YES.
Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe YES, it’s about the Sackler family dynasty; they made their fortune off Valium and OxyContin.
Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir NO, sounds like a retelling of The Martian.
When We Cease To Understand the World, Benjamin Labatut NO, it’s a type of historical fiction about several great scientists.
Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, Elizabeth Kolbert NO, it’s about climate change and I have read a lot about this already.
Things We Lost to the Water, Eric Nguyen YES, this is historical fiction about a Vietnamese family who fled to the US.
Leave The World Behind, Rumaan Alam NO, it’s a “thriller” that gets terrible reviews.
Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro NO, it’s an AI “artificial friend” who’s the protagonist.
The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris NO, set at the end of the Civil War, not my cup of tea, even tho it is historical fiction.
Intimacies, Katie Kitamura YES because the protagonist is an interpreter and this is a short read.
The End of All Things, Scalzi (I think I need to read the others in this universe first, this might be on hold.)
Almighty, D Zak
The Colorado Kid, S King. More of King’s Hard Case Crime imprint series of books. Joyland was one of these. I liked the Colorado Kid. It really illustrated King’s magical way with dialog. And I liked the open ending, too.
Later, S King. Same as above.
Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler. This book is by Hogarth press, which specializes in Shakespeare’s works, retold by modern authors. This story is Taming of the Shrew, retold as a modern tale. It is really good! It’s a great way to get your literature on, without the pain of enduring Shakespeare’s language. Read it! It’s good to read literature!
Within These Lines, S Morrill. This is a love story set in WWII San Francisco. The girl is Italian and the boy is Japanese. The story is told by alternating points of view between the two main characters. The author delves into the internment of Japanese citizens during the war and the deep racist roots of America. The conditions of the internment camps were deplorable, but the wartime propaganda machine spat out stories of now happy the Japanese were to be there and how great they were. LIES. I suppose reading this right this minute is not the best timing with the bullshit that is happening in the US, but OTOH, now is a GREAT time to remind ourselves that America is deeply racist and it is going to take a LOT of work to rid ourselves of it. Anyway, the book is a great read and you’ll learn a lot about how propaganda, suspicion and racism can combine with terrible results. The story is very good and I was misty eyed at the end. I felt deeply ashamed to that this country is still just as racist as it was in WWII – EIGHTY YEARS AGO. Perhaps when the remaining Boomers are gone we can begin to heal. Read this book to remind yourself that there is work to do and it is worth it.
The Way We Were, Paul Burrell. A memoir by Princess Diana’s butler. His second, got to milk that cash cow! Both his books made the best seller lists, strictly because Diana was on the cover. He is a dismal writer and his whole perspective is how important HE was to Diana (doubtful) and how he was her BFF and confidant (I’m certain he was NOT). The tone is preachy, self important and stodgy. Ugh. I abandoned this book. Don’t waste your time.
The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama. Very well written and I’m also learning about how Congress works, from an insider view. The section I’m reading is exposing Obama’s VERY WIDE religious streak, which to his credit, he kept OUT of his politics. I respect him for that. He walks his talk. The last few chapters veer into family affairs and such, so less interesting to me, but overall, a good read.
Sous Chef, Michael Gibney. This edition is the large print edition, so it looks longer than it is. I picked this up on a whim, because of the title, of course. It was a quick read and I liked it. It’s a day in the life of a sous chef, written from the reader’s point of view, which is kind of odd. But if you’ve ever wondered what a sous chef does, this is a nice little read, complete with a glossary of the various kitchen terms in the back. Fun!
My Life in France, Julia Child. This is the book on which the movie Julie & Julia was based. It’s written by Julia’s grandnephew (on Paul’s side), who interviewed her and took notes during her last years. It is PRECIOUS. It has inspired me to again attempt some of the recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If you read nothing else of Julia’s, read this. It is endearing and encouraging and I just loved it. //end fangirling
Broken Music, Sting. I am enjoying this memoir! Sting is an interesting guy and his story is a good read. This is an excellent read! I love learning about the histories of people, places, bands. I did not know much about The Police, but this book certainly fixed that and I learned a lot about Sting, too. Highly recommend.
Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Robert O’Brien. It’s a classic! Read this one in a coupla days. GREAT story! MUCH better than the animated film.
Ladder of Years, Anne Tyler. Rarely have I despised a main character as much as I do this one. She is a sniveling, immature, ignorant KAREN who got married as a teen to a clone of her father and still lives in her childhood home. She is stupid, weak, childish and narrow minded. Did I mention ignorant? She embodies the type of woman that so many of my HS peers became. Despite this, I am going to finish this novel. Either I’ll BAN Anne Tyler’s shit from my sight forever or she’ll turn this around and show me that she deserves the many kudos she’s gotten in her career. She wrote The Accidental Tourist and Breathing Lessons (both became hit movies). I know her from Vinegar Girl, which is a modern retelling of Taming of the Shrew – which was great! SEE review above. I did manage to finish this book. It did get better and the main character did improve, but it was still not very interesting. It’s a story about a 40 something woman who has a midlife crisis. Meh. It’s just OK.
The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold. Wow, this one starts off DARK. Sebold wrote The Lovely Bones, which I read a while back and loved. The movie was good, too. But this novel seems to be all about a daughter murdering her aged mother and staying in the house with the body… I had to move this to treadmill reading. I can’t read that shit before bed! We’ll see how this one goes; I’ll try to finish it. Finished it! It is a study of family mental illness – not an easy read. Was it worth it? Yeah, I think so. It also has an open ending which I don’t favor in books like this one. It’s just OK. I am curious about Sebold’s memoir, Lucky. I’d like to see how HER life has been. Her stories are TWISTED.
Chum, Jeff Somers. This is an odd little book. It’s written all first person, but from ALL the characters. The book doesn’t have much of an overall theme, it’s more like a collection of vignettes AND they are not in order. It’s a good study of character writing, however, because you know immediately which character is speaking, so I’d recommend it if you like to write. But otherwise, it’s not cohesive at all and then it just ends. ? It’s just ok.
We Walked the Sky, Lisa Fiedler. This is classified as a YA novel, but I’m liking it so far. It is circus oriented, which I LOVE. (See: Geek Love and Water for Elephants) This was a very good read! It is one of those novels that has two main characters, one in the past and one current. It’s about a granddaughter and her grandmother. The grandmother is the one who ran away with the circus in the 60s and the granddaughter has been taken away from the circus by her mother, who was never much of a performer, but took care of the animals. I enjoyed this book a lot! Recommend.
Bring Me Back, B.A. Paris. This is a thriller type novel. It’s about a girl who disappears and the fallout from her disappearance. It’s a pretty good read, but I did find myself skimming often. There’s a nice twist at the end, but I had the idea before the reveal. The writer is English, so it’s wordy and repetitive at times – not sure why English authors seem to write this way, but I see it often. It is a good quick read, just don’t expect too much.
The Paris Wife, Paula McLain. This one is historical fiction about Ernest Hemingway’s wife. WOW, this is an EXCELLENT read! I really liked the author’s rhythm and tone. Her love of the material shines through the characters! Not only has she made me want to read some Hemingway, I also want to read more of her work. She has a memoir that I’d love to read! Strongly recommend this book! It is SO well written!
Skinner Luce, Patricia Ward. Sci fi novel, which I don’t usually go for. This is a pretty good read. It reminds me A LOT of the Star Gate bad guys, the Goa’uld, who are an ancient race of simbionts that take human hosts. In Skinner Luce, the bad guys are aliens who come and go through a gate and when they visit, they take human form. They are only interested in being entertained and kill many of the hybrids they create called Servs. These hybrids are part machine, but mostly human. A portion of people on Earth are these Servs, and they live alongside regular humans. Apparently the normal humans are not aware of this situation. There are large gaps like this all through the book, so it’s not particularly GOOD sci-fi, but it’s readable. It was OK.
Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell. This novel is about a missing girl’s mother. It is not YA, but it reads that way, with short chapters and rambling style that I associate with all English authors. It’s just OK, I’m about halfway through. [2 days later] THEN it POPS! Just when you think it’s just another woman in a mid-life crisis, POW! Now I’m liking it.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, Gayle T Lemmon. This is a historical novel about Afghanistan. It centers on the censure and control of women in Afghanistan after sharia law was put in place. It’s about a community whose women pulled together to make money for their families after the men left to fight or flee for their lives to Pakistan. It’s a bit grim, but still interesting from a historical standpoint. Finally finished this one – it was a slog. While I appreciate the information and reading just how horrible Afghanistan is, it was GRIM. I invite all the assholes who think Christian sharia is JUST FINE to go fuck themselves. Sharia is sharia, no matter the religion. The US had best watch out or we will be Under His Eye in Gilead.
Food • A Love Story•, Jim Gaffigan. I had high hopes for this one, but alas, it is just a collection of (what seem like) stand up routine jokes. It’s just OK. Still funny observations on food, but not as entertaining as stand up.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss. This book is a totally hilarious treatise on GRAMMAR. The front has pandas…one has a gun… GET IT? Yeah. It’s written by an English woman, and they actually address the differences between American and British English in a foreward, but the book has NOT been re-edited for America. Which is a good thing. English humour is best left as-is, in my experience. This book is one long grammar Nazi rant and I LOVE IT. It makes my pedantic grammar Nazi heart SING. :D
Stories to Read Again and Again, edited by Sarah Anne Stuart. Collection of stories by the greats: O Henry, Ernest Hemingway, etc. I have read Woolf, Twain, Hemingway and a few others. I love this short story collection and I love reading some of the classic authors I have never read before. Love this collection!
The Marvelous Land of Oz, Illustrated by Scottie Young, based on the Frank Baum story. I like the take on Baum and of course the art is awesome. Just started looking it over.
Worth It, Dan Price. This is a short memoir type book, written by the CEO of Gravity Payments. He’s the one who raised all employees’ minimum pay to $70k in 2015. I bought this on a whim, because I like what he’s doing. Sadly, it’s just his story of being raised by evangelical turbo christians and how he had a full blown business by 18. Sigh. While on the surface this seems like it’d be encouraging, it really isn’t. This guy is just one of those who has the magic touch and always fails upwards. He did not come from money, so there’s none of that, he really did this all himself, but I still felt bummed after reading it. Meh. The good news is that his scheme worked and Gravity Payments is doing just swell.
World Travel, Anthony Bourdain & Laurie Woolever. Bought this on a whim with the above book. This is not really BY Bourdain, but it’s more of a smattering of things he said on his various food travel shows. Woolever was his assistant for years, so she took the framework of the book that she worked out with Bourdain before his death, then went into the archives and fleshed it out. It’s OK. Lots of Bourdain’s observations of the places being discussed, so there’s that. It’s OK. Not a must have of Tony’s works, tho, by any measure. I do enjoy the illos by Wesley Allsbrook!
At The Bottom Of Everything, Ben Dolnick. My current treadmill book. It’s better than I thought it’d be. This novel is a rambling examination of learning about oneself with some Indian religious cult thrown in. It is about a dude and his friend who goes off the rails after they cause a car accident that kills a woman when they are 15. They both go off the rails in their own ways and this is a story examining that. It’s OK.
The News From The End Of The World, Emily J Miller. This one is starting off better than I thought it would. This novel is an easy read. Subject is family bullshit, which everyone can identify with. It doesn’t have an end, it just stops, which I find annoying. It’s worth the $3 I paid for it, but no more.
When I Close My Eyes, Elizabeth Musser. This book has a pretty good story line and some interesting characters. It is well written, as well. I did not like the overly Christian themes or constant references to God, Jesus, etc. This author is known for Christian books, and had I noticed that about her, I’d have skipped this one. I’m glad I didn’t, it was a pretty good read despite the Bible beating. ;)
Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee. Just started this one and it has a similar feel as To Kill A Mockingbird. I think it is less edited, perhaps, at times it gets hard to follow. It is the ongoing story of Scout as an adult. Interesting. This is the FIRST book written by Lee, it was rejected when she shopped it around in the early 60s. Her lawyer found it in a bank vault and it was published pretty much as is. It is a good book, but some more editing would’ve helped, I think. But definitely worth a read.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich. Impulse by at a yardsale. It’s dated (1998), but sadly, still accurate – but hopefully not for much longer, thanks to the pandemic changing the industry and its shitty pay. This writer with a PhD (Biology) goes to several cities around the US and takes low level hospitality-type jobs. This book is the result of those jobs and her observations about them. So far, EXCELLENT.
Another Ollie’s hurl (Oct 8)!
Couple of art books: Gaugin and Botticelli.
AMISH ROMANCE NOVEL!! LOL I’ll never get through it, but come ON!
A companion story to Gwendy’s Button Box by S King.
The Good Demon
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is a Chinese historical fiction novel.
The Garden of Letters, Alyson Richman.
Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee.
The Queen’s Lover, Vanora Bennett.
Went to Ollies and got four more for the stacks:
The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande.
Goodwill June 5 2021!
The Easy Drawing Book, Peter White. Got this one because it’s vintage from the 60s!
OLLIES! June 13 2021:
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Lisa See
Harley Quinn, Kiss Kiss Bang Stab
Deadpool: The Collection
Harley Quinn: Night and Day