Tag Archives: best books

2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 5 (Greeks and Romans)

Welcome to my favorite reads of 2019…Part 5! I TAed this past semester for a class on early Western political thought which means I finally knocked off a lot of Greek writers from my to-read list! However, I will be the first to say that I only understood most of these books because I was taking a class while I read them. Accordingly, while these hit five stars and were favorites of the year, I don’t necessarily recommend just picking them up for fun.

The Histories by Herodotus

Basically, the book where we get the story of 300. Full of facts and legends, it really was an interesting read and fascinating as the first “history book” as we know the term today. I found it surprisingly fun as well as historically significant. 

Clouds, Frogs, Assemblywomen, Wealth by Aristophanes 

Arisotphanes was an Athenian playwright who lampooned the Iliad-like honor culture of Greek society. I read 4 of his plays. They are extraordinarily vulgar, extremely astute, and quite funny. And considering 2,000 years have passed since he wrote this stuff, it is incredible that his poop jokes are still funny. I think Wealth was my favorite. 

Phaedo by Plato

 Plato’s account of Socrates last hours before his death. It is a final look at his philosophy towards life and the philosopher’s call. Brief but impactful. 

The Republic by Plato

An incredibly important book for Western thought and the more I study it, the more I realize how much it impacted the world we know today. I kept pausing to exclaim, “But that’s something C.S. Lewis says!” or “That’s straight out of Saul Alinsky!” or “This is foundational to a G.K. Chesterton arguments!” But of course, it isn’t a book a book that depends on Lewis or Alinsky or Chesterton, but rather the common background for all them. That said, definitely a philosopher’s book. It begs for debate, discussion, further analysis but it doesn’t entirely satisfy because it leaves much unanswered. 

Ethics by Aristotle

I actually read this one twice: first at the beginning of the year while in Thailand then for my class. It definitely made way more sense the second time through. Context does amazing things for your understanding. I particularly liked the section on Friendship. Quite thought provoking. 

The Aeneid by Virgil

I did not like The Aeneid as much as The Iliad, but it certainly deserves credit for historical significance. The Aeneid follows the fall of Troy through the founding of Rome. Tons of hilariously bad passages foreshadowing the glory of Rome and Caesar and whatnot. But also tons of familiar scenes that are part of our modern mythos. So, worth a read. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

#IMomSoHard by Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley

Be prepared to learn and laugh about all the intimate, awkward parts of being a mom that no one talks about. I am definitely not the intended audience for this book, not being a mom  and all. However, it still made me laugh really hard and gave me insights to relate better to my friends who are moms. I highly recommend this one as an irreverent and upbeat look at the challenge of motherhood and how to support the moms in your life. 

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet is that guy you know everything about but somehow haven’t met. You have all the same friends and maybe work in the same field but your paths never cross. And everyone says, “Oh my gosh, how do you not know Hamlet?” and all you can do is shrug and be like “IDK, dude. IDK.” Anyway, I’ve finally met Hamlet. And he’s awesome. Wonderfully ambiguous and funny. This is officially my favorite Shakespeare play.

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies focuses on how people respond to expectations and how those expectation motivates them. Gretchen Rubin claims four types exist: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Upholders are motivated by internal and external expectations. Questioners only by internal expectation. Obligers only by external expectations. Rebels are motivated by neither. It sounds pretty simple and in a way it is.The book is not particularly mind blowing once you understand the initial framework. But I actually don’t think the author intends it to be. Perhaps it is just her legal style, but she cuts through a lot of the fluff one would typically expect. It made the whole thing a straightforward and fast read. Quite insightful and practical. 

Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse

A sporting story about cricket and the friendship of two, unlikely schoolboys at the turn of the century. Wodehouse’s distinctive comedic style mixes with the boarding school vibe to give a lovely, old fashioned flavor. Psmith is one of the most delightful characters I’ve met in a long time. You don’t even have to know anything about cricket to enjoy this story! 

The Enchiridion by St. Augustine

In The Enchiridion–Latin for “the handbook”–St. Augustine summarizes Christian doctrine in under 144 pages. It is brief, profound, and definitely worth chewing over. He expounds on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love in a way that was new to me. If you are at all interested in reading more by the early church fathers generally or St. Augustine in particular, this is a good place to start. 

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

The only cozy mystery to make it on my 5-star list, Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions is actually a German novel semi-recently translated into English and set in Sicily. The author does a great job conveying life in Sicily through quirky characters, beautiful descriptions, and odd jokes. For being a light-hearted murder mystery, it also tackles many heavy topics. The heroine of the piece, Auntie Poldi, is a depressed, alcoholic divorcee/widow who moves to Sicily with the intent of drinking herself to death. But her family won’t let her. Her sisters-in-law drop in regularly to make sure she is doing okay. Her nephew–the narrator of book–comes regularly to stay with her. The book has some genuinely brilliant quotes, funny scenes, and great characterizations. Oh, and murder. I cannot wait to read more in the series. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 3

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

Before being killed by pirates, Bronte Mettlestone’s parents leave a will requiring their daughter to deliver a series of gifts to her many aunts. If she fails, the world ends. NBD. Precocious heroine, odd adventure, cast of caricature characters…you know the type. At the end of the day, a wonderful story that tugged on my heartstrings. It deals with grief, laughter, extended family, and the memories that bring us together. It was very sweet, very heart-aching, and satisfying. Generally aimed at middle school readers but good for all ages. 

Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince by Megan Morrison

Megan Morrison is one of my favorite authors and her fairy-tale retellings are creative and wonderful.  Transformed–book 3 in the Tyme series–did not disappoint. The series provides a wonderfully developed world with great, memorable characters, solid, believable character change, and unexpected endings. I do recommend reading the first one, Grounded, and the second, Disenchanted, before tackling this one. That is why I am keeping my description vague. But let me tell you, it is worth it. Highly recommend for all adults, but series aimed at high grade school/middle school readers. 

When You Read This by Mary Adkins

This is the story of a woman given six months to live. Of a blog where she processes chemo and dreams and memories. A boss left grieving. A sister unable to move on. Like Where’d You Go, Bernadette or a book by Jaclyn Moriarty, it tells a story through texts, e-mails, and blog posts. It shows and it tells. Most of the action happens off-screen but it works because the real power of the story comes from the grief of the characters and the way they process it. And that’s not something you see up close. It is something that happens slowly and over time. I loved this book from the first chapter. Almost made me cry.

The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants: A Foundation CEO Reveals the Secrets You Need to Know by Martin Teitel

An odd book for this list of favorites but I found it an interesting and informative read. It reached 5 stars because of the writing. I really liked the engaging tone. This isn’t where you go to find something mind-boggling, or even specific advice. You go because it feels like grabbing coffee with someone who knows more than you and sometimes that’s just the encouragement you need.

Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits: Real-World Strategies That Work by Ilona Bray

Where The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants gives general advice, Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits provides strategy.  The book covers a very wide range of topics, is chalk full of relevant information, and left me with several new ideas. (I particularly appreciated the chapter about non-profit websites.) The writing is easy and enthusiastic, yet also structured enough that you can pick it up and jump around as needed. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for more from Nolo generally and Ilona Bray specifically. (And if that is not high, albeit odd, commendation for a reference guide, I don’t know what is.)

The Tyranny of Clichés by Jonah Goldberg

Some political books do not age well. They feed off the outrage of the moment and rely heavily on names and places. So despite its 2012 publishing date, The Tyranny of Clichés reached five stars because it did not fall into this trap. The book (at its heart) deals with ideas and languages. No references to popular politicians date it because any reference circles back to the idea being discussed. It was a very thoughtful discussion packaged more controversially than it actually is. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

Best reads of 2019…continued. 

Since You Asked… & Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Since You Asked… was Maurene Goo’s first novel and Somewhere Only We Know her most recent. I loved them both. But honestly, I have yet to meet a Maurene Goo novel I did not love. She writes about Korean-Americans and usually references Korean dramas which is the way to my heart. Since You Asked… feels very “first novel” but the snarky heroine, tight friend group, and lack of any overarching plot make up for it. It balances angst with character growth and I found it super heartwarming. Meanwhile, Somewhere Only We Know is the story of a K-pop starlet trying to take a day off and a paparazzi who tricks her into hanging out with him. The K-pop starlet carries the plot with a quirky, driven character and it made for some fun, fluffy reading while still maintaining an undercurrent of emotional punch. If looking for some good YA, I will always recommend Maurene Goo. 

From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism and Christianity by Steve Cioccolanti

I recommend this book with a caveat: a formally Buddhist (now Christian) friend recommended it to me while I was studying in Thailand because I was struggling to understand Eastern Buddhism. (It is quite different from Western Buddhism.) The book does a great job differentiating the two. It perfectly fit what I needed at the time. But I would not recommend this to the casual reader hoping to compare the two religions. The main purpose of this book is to be a very short and to the point primer for Christians going on short term missions with the intention of witnessing to Buddhists in Asia. It might be an “insider’s view,” but it is a very select view with a very specific mission. 

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza (audio book version

This was an absolutely delicious audio book and if you decide to read The Knockoff, I recommend checking it out in the audio format. Katherine Kellgren somehow manages British posh, valley-girl, and start-up tech nerd without once making it feel forced or awkward. Delightful. The story itself is a novel about a middle aged woman who returns to her position as editor of a fashion magazine after a long leave only to find her boss turned it into an app. Now, surrounded by Millennials and baffled by e-mail, this Gen Xer must learn to find commonality with her co-workers and save her magazine. Despite a rather over-the-top villain, I found the story surprisingly thought-provoking and sweet. I really liked it. Very memorable. 

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose

This memoir tells the story of an American missionary who was held in a Japanese POW camp for four years during WW2. While it certainly recounts God’s grace to the prisoners during a very harrowing time, my favorite parts were when Darlene Deibler Rose lets down her hair a little and lets you know what she really thinks. For as much grace as she shows to her Japanese captors, she might suddenly name drop someone and be like “Yeah, that woman was a skank who had 3 amazing kids and I have no idea how they turned out amazing with a Mom like her.” And you would think it would come across as offensive and maybe it does to some. But to me it felt genuine. The personality of the storyteller really shines through. This is an imperfect memoir that feels super genuine and honest because of its imperfections.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

So, Crazy Rich Asians made 5 stars. China Rich Girlfriend did not. Jury is still out on Rich People Problems. We shall see. But I sure loved this one. It is a not-so-subtle mockery of the glitzy, rich life of an elite few and I ate up every word. Like the movie, my favorite part is how the intertwining stories balance the soap opera of Nick and Rachel’s life with the [still soap-opera-y] but more hard hitting drama of Astrid’s crumbling marriage. Of course, it is not perfect. Definitely vulgar at times and more language than I like. But so fluffy and ridiculously over the top I could not help loving it.

 


2019 Reading Challenge

I read a lot of books last year! 319, to be exact. Over the next two weeks, this blog is going to be all books all the time as I review the best–and worst–reads of 2019. I have posted my favorite and least favorite reads for six years now, but this year broke a lot of records. So, to help make it more manageable, tomorrow I will post a schedule with what to expect over the next few days. 

Until then, here is a recap of my year!

My 2019 Reading Stats

319 books spanning 91,483 pages. Of the 319, 58 were re-reads

Average rating: 3.3 stars.

Average Book Length: 286 pages.

To Read List: Jumped from 901 to 979. Whoops.

My Favorite Book This Year: Probably Sanditon by Jane Austen and Anne Telscombe but I will have an entire post listing my favorites. 

Most disappointing book: The Big Kahuna by Janet Evanovich 

Best Re-Read: Either Bargain Bride by Evelyn Sibley Lampman or The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis 

Most Read Author: Georgette Heyer (27 different books!)

Best New-To-Me Author: Mary Stewart   

Best Middle School Read: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

Longest Read: Understanding Immigration Law and Practice by Ayodele Gansallo at 736 pages (and yes, it is a textbook, but I read it!)

Shortest Read: On Fairy-Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien at a whopping 27 pages

Most Popular Read: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (a re-read) 

Least Popular Read: Mae Om Ki: The Life of the Forest and Ideals of the Justice System by Laofang Bundidterdsakul (I will never again complain when people misspell my last name.)


2018 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott

Giving and receiving criticism are two of the most difficult parts of being a boss. This book takes that reality and addresses it head on. I really, really enjoyed and appreciated it. It is somewhat niche as the author’s main case studies come from Google, Apple, and Twitter. However, a lot of the principles she mentions carry over into everyday life. Even as someone not currently managing people, I found a lot of her principles just good advice for every day relationships.

Don’t Cosplay with My Heart by Cecil Castellucci

This Young Adult novel tells the story of a high school girl who copes with her messed up life by cosplaying as her favorite comic book character. I unexpectedly loved the book. It tugged on my heartstrings and wrapped me up in a world of fandoms and cosplay. It wasn’t perfect – a little on the nose with its “all fans are equal” message and I’m never a fan of teenage romance – but it successfully walked the line of emotional and angsty. While it could have been more fleshed out, I liked it because it wasn’t. Short, fun, appealing. It captures what brings people to fandoms and cosplay and how one girl channels her anxiety about life into her costumes. If I have one complaint, it is with the title. It does not do the book justice.

2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious by Shannon Hale

I am officially obsessed with Shannon Hale’s Squirrel Girl. And this is solidly Juvenile fiction. Not aimed at adults at all. Doreen is a Marvel superhero – Squirrel Girl. She doesn’t get to hang out with the Avengers much, but she does text with them! (The Winter Solider is scary…) Her powers include a giant tail that she hides in her pants and the ability to communicate with squirrels. It sounds weird, it is weird, but it works so well. I giggled my way throughout. Also, I am pretty sure I am Squirrel Girl. I need more books in this series PRONTO.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Sometimes, Young Adult novels are really terrible, and sometimes they are written by Maurene Goo and are amazing. This book hit me right in the feels. Clara Shin doesn’t take life too seriously. She loves pulling pranks, though, and finally her pranking goes too far and her Dad forces her to work at his Korean-Brazilian food truck over the summer with her arch-nemesis. I loved Clara from the start. I loved the diversity in this book. The character growth. The food truck. I d that even though it is packaged as a sort of Sarah Dessen teeny romance, the real focus is on female friendships and learning to care. The romance hits the right note of important, but not all consuming for the plot. Just good.

My Plain Jane by by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton

This is the second book in the The Lady Janies series. The first one told the story of Jane Gray – the fated 9-day, English Queen – and the third one will tell the story of Calamity Jane (I wanttttt). My Plain Jane, however, tells the story of Jane Eyre. But not the story you know. As always, the Lady Janies mess with history (or in this case, literature) to include a host of fantastical characters and hilarious, witty plot points. It is so fun and creative. You can read it with without reading the first one (only the names connect them.)

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Using psychology, philosophy, theology (ish), and some biology, Jonathan Haidt digs into what brings true happiness and how we define it. I like how intellectually engaging the book was. Most of the studies, philosophies, and ideas he presented were familiar. However, I’ve never seen them combined like this. It really is about “modern truth” born from “ancient wisdom.” I might disagree with how he reaches his conclusions, but overall I liked chewing it over.


2018 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 3

Free to Serve: Protecting the Religious Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations by Stephen V. Monsma

A solid, introductory look at religious organizations (both for- and non-profit) within the United States and the increasing legal challenges they face. I spent the summer obsessively reading religious freedom cases, so I was looking for something a little more specific and technical. However, this was a good overview of the arguments for religious liberty and how recent rulings have hampered that liberty. Four stars but I bumped it up to five for the “interludes.” These essays, particularly the first one, were my favorite part of the book. Solid read – and recommendation! No legal background needed to appreciate.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

A really heartwarming, well-developed story about a boy raised in prison with his Mom. Very cute and yet it never downplays real emotions. It embraces moral dilemmas but also never gets too intense for middle school readers which I liked. (It very easily might have.) A really solid read!

Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff             

While the book reads like many of your standard self-help, follow-your-passions, cheerleading business books, it brings something slightly more to the table. I read and enjoy those books, but they do not mirror my personal experiences. Accordingly, books about Reinventing Monday or Finding The Work You Love never quite apply to me. This book targets that audience but also offers practical, useful advice I found good for right now.  I’d give this one 3.5-4 stars as a business book, add .5 for humor, and then another .5 because I found it so relatable. In particular, when he was describing how much he hates e-mails and details, I was shouting, “YES! THAT IS ME.” I also feel like he offers good advice about managing mentors, cheerleaders, and casual relationships. This book offers very sound advice about what networking really looks like. Definitely worthy of the Seth Godin/Dave Ramsey crowd it aims to run with.

The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

THIS BOOK WAS SO FUN! An original fairy tale that emerges from Indian folklore, it walks the line of creative and classic – familiar fairy-tale allusions blend with new ideas. I really loved all the strong characters, the crazy adventure, and the way everything wraps up without a cliff hanger. Great for middle school readers (and older, of course.)

Everyday Law in Russia by Kathryn Hendley

A direct but informative look at Russian law. My professor actually wrote this book and used it as a textbook, but I often found myself reading ahead and losing track of time. It helps that Professor Hendley presents a clear thesis and sticks to it throughout without rambling side tangents. I found her persuasive and educational. Easy for non-lawyers, too!

Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George

A 1920’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing! I found it so fun I couldn’t put it down. It was not that the writing was that enjoyable (okay, but sometimes a little cluttered) or that I needed to know what happened to the characters (honestly, Beatrice was kind of annoying?) but somehow all together the good and bad came together to create something really delightful. It is a character driven story and not super action packed, but they are very well developed characters. It is easy to like and sympathize with them and want to read on. Side tangents and romances and plots flit here and there but it stays true to its core.


2018 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy   

This is a short novel about the death of a worldly, high court judge in Russia and the reaction of the people around him. The book was beautiful, though even as I write that I realize how odd it sounds. A story about a self-absorbed man dying? Beautiful? Yet it was. It was beautiful because Tolstoy captures how death makes humans sympathetic, even the most insufferable among us.

Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High by Melba Pattillo Beals

This is a powerful memoir about one girl’s experience during a year of forced integration in Little Rock, Arkansas. I read some of the cases in law school, but it is a different thing to hear it from a 15 year old’s perspective. Whether or not you agree with the politics, it makes for an interesting, thought-provoking read. (Also, I found the book so absorbing I had to remind myself that this was Real Life and not Fiction, so I couldn’t be disappointed when my ship died.) I almost put this book in the Mid Blowing Reads category, and it still might belong there. It is one of those excellent memoirs that places one individual’s experience within the broader changes of history and in the process really makes history personal. (I will say as warning, there is one scene that does make it inappropriate for younger readers.)  

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin

This was a powerful, sweet memoir about baseball and childhood. Goodwin recounts her experience as a kid in the 1950s, bonding over baseball with her Dad and reading with her Mom. It doesn’t feel anywhere close to 272 pages. This is the story of childhood innocence, New York, and the rivalry of Dodger, Giant, and Yankee fans. It is brief, sweet, and memorable.

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

As a fifteen year old, Malala was shot in the head at point-blank range by the Taliban. Her crime? Seeking an education as a female in Pakistan. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve heard Malala’s story; it is a powerful one. She makes it even more powerful, however, by allowing her passion for her country to come through in her writing. She talks about Pakistan’s conflicts, history, and beauty. Her love is strong and because it is strong, she cuts through the hate, misinterpretation, and confusion and allows her readers to see and love her country too.

Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges by Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner

Justice Scalia and his thoughts on two skills courtroom lawyers must develop: persuasive thinking and persuasive writing. It is a practical and interesting book for lawyers. I particularly appreciated the portions about brief writing, as that carries the most immediate use for me. Potentially useful for non-lawyers but not perhaps my first recommendation.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Like many celebrity memoirs, I picked this book up without a clue as to who Felicia Day was. But I loved the title. And honestly, I ended up loving the book. I mean, she was homeschooled! ME TOO. All her friends in high school came from the internet! SAME! After graduating, she moved to Hollywood to pursue stardom! Oh wait, not me. In fact, once Day left high school, this book ceased to be relatable, but never ceased to be enjoyable. Initially, I liked it because of it reminded me of, well, me. Yet as she opens up about her anxiety and depression, I was reminded of many of my close friends and the world they live in that I often struggle to understand. I feel like Felicia Day’s writing helped bridge that gap a little. Not a perfect book, a little vulgar at times, but one that hit close to home and made me chuckle often. I may not be a gamer, but I sure know what it is like to have all your friends come from the internet. It is fun to find someone else who understands.

(Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BETHANY!!!!)


2018 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

I read 255 books in 2018! Here are some of the best:

Confessions by Saint Augustine

Augustine of Hippo is one of the great church fathers of the Christian faith. Confessions is his memoir, testimony, and prayer to God. It is beautiful and difficult. I should have read it long ago. But honestly, even at 25 I felt intimidated and pretentious picking up a book by a church father. Imagine 15-year-old me doing it. But 15-year-olds should read this book. And 25-year-olds. And 85-year-olds. Augustine is not as scary as he sounds. Confessions is an incredibly readable and beautiful book. It is a love letter to God. I found it challenging and profound; I will definitely be coming back. This is one of those books that calls for multiple re-reads.

The Ugly Duckling by A.A. Milne

To read the synopsis is to know the entire plot of this one-act play: a king and queen want to get their ugly daughter married, so they have her beautiful serving maid take her place when a prince comes calling. Little do they guess the prince decides to try the same ruse! Though short, this is a very sweet story and an immediate favorite. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (a favorite children’s book of mine) does a fun job retelling it. Very good for a quick read.

Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth by James Cross Giblin

With a title like “Good Brother, Bad Brother” I expected a picture book aimed at children. Then, when the book arrived, I realized it was 244 pages and not aimed at children at all. This is a full-fledge biography! I went through a phase in high school where I was all things obsessed with the Lincoln assassination and this book landed on my to-read list courtesy of that obsession. My memory has dimmed somewhat as to the actual assassination but this book’s focus on Edwin Booth filled in many fascinating details I’d either forgotten or never knew. Edwin was himself a remarkable man forced to forever live in the shadow of his infamous brother. This biography does an excellent job showing Edwin in a positive light (his acting, overcoming alcoholism, love for his daughter) while also not shying away from his flaws (failed theater, failed marriage, etc.) I definitely recommend this one as a fascinating look at John Wilkes Booth’s brother and as the biography of a remarkable actor basically forgotten by history.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, JR. by Clayborne Carson

A fascinating book and great audio with snip-its from Martin Luther King Jr.’s actual speeches. I especially liked what it had to say about organizing. It contains good tips, such as: pick a target, don’t protest generally. (Very Saul Alinsky.) Like most people, I assume, I am most familiar with MLK’s work in the South and was fascinated to learn about his efforts in Chicago. His methods and goals seem to have shifted at that point and perhaps not been as effective. It left me wanting to learn more.

Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain

So, you read Jane Austen. And she’s great! Classic, even. But possibly not an author you want to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. Then you discover Georgette Heyer. She is romantic and clean and everything you were looking for. However, eventually you run out of Heyer and you can only re-read those books so many times. (Trust me, I know.) Where do you turn next? I recommend Suzanne Allain. From a technical standpoint, Mr. Malcolm’s List isn’t a perfect book by a long shot. It plays fast and loose with historical detail (all that first-name calling!) and comfortably relies on some scandalous behavior. But It. Is. So. Fun! And best of all, it fills that Regency craving without causing you to blush. I found it unexpectedly funny and sweet. While reading it, I often flipped back to re-read scenes just for the pleasure of it. Quite a delightful book.

Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff

Speaking of funny…Stuff Christians Like caused me to laugh so hard that people kept staring at me on the bus. I seriously could not keep it in. The book gently satirizes many parts of Christian culture we take for granted. Though the book is starting to feel ever so slightly dated, I was continually delighted by how dead-on accurate it was. It also ends on a more serious note, combining humor and grace in a way that leaves the book more than just another funny read. It has depth. Mostly, though, I recommend it for a good laugh!


2018 Reading Goal (Update)

We’re hitting my favorite time of the blogging season! The part of the year where Larry comes out and sings a silly song.

No wait, that’s not it.

It is the part of the year where I review the best and worst books of 2018!! And with 255 books complete, you better believe I have a lot to say. I did not have a list of ‘Mind Blowing Books’ last year, but no worries, you’ll get a good one this year. 

However, this is actually an update to say…you’re going to have to wait. I have a major paper to finish and 4 scholarship application essays to edit in 3 days. Then I’m packing up my apartment and getting ready to move. My goal is to slowly write the majority of my Best and Worst book posts over the next few days and then schedule them while I’m on a flight to Thailand. That way, you won’t miss a day of me! 

Between the books and travel, stay tuned, things are going to get good! (And also, thank you all for tolerating these very brief posts over Christmas.)