Wish Those Days Could Come Back

  • What: Becoming
  • Who: Michelle Obama
  • Pages: 421, hard cover
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

My family weighs heavily the ability to tell a story. If you lack it, there will be judgment. Just ask my sister, who unfortunately has been made fun of countless times over the years for her infamous stories of “Remember that one time with that one person?” Sorry, sis, but I had to. Thankfully, she’s improved, which confirms there’s hope for even the worst storytellers.

This high standard my family shares stays intact when I read and review books. I can sniff out a poor storyteller within a few pages, and a great one introduces him or herself right away.

It was pretty obvious after reading the prologue of Michelle Obama’s 2018 memoir, which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 10 out of 10 weeks (sittin’ pretty at the top too I might add), that Obama was no phony. She’s not a famous person who found pages with her name on them simply because of that name. No, Michelle Obama was born to write and to tell stories. The Steffens clan would hold these abilities in high regard. I know I do.

Becoming

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Just Because You Feel It

  • What: There There
  • Who: Tommy Orange
  • Pages: 290, hard cover
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Wow. Some books just hit you where your emotions run deep. Some books bring unspoken conflict right into your hands. Some books make you question everything around you. And some books make you say “Wow.” There There is all of those, right from the beginning.

Read 10 pages of this powerful novel, and you’ll understand why it was on the best-of-2018 lists from Barack Obama, the New York Times, the Washington PostEntertainment WeeklyEsquire, ThrillistTime … you get my point. It’s easy to scoff a little at some of these lists. Reviewers (cough *me*) don’t know everything, and they’ve let readers down before (see here). But There There and its genius author, Tommy Orange, deserve every bit of prestige and attention they garnered in 2018. Orange’s heartbreaking story about Native American identity and experience is just that good.

There There

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2019 Resolutions

I’m a little behind on New Year’s resolutions, but I needed time to really think about what I wanted of 2019 and of myself. I still don’t really have that answer, but I do know one thing that I want to define the year: books. To read a plethora of books and to share my thoughts about them with all of you.

Oh and travel. A lot of traveling. So that’s two things I want from this year.

You could say those have become annual resolutions for me. In 2019, though, I yearn to do more. I want to expand my literary presence and stray a bit from my normal genres. I want to tap into the titles that make my family and friends come alive. I want to know authors whose passions and backgrounds might differ from my own.

Here, I present to you my 2019 reading resolutions.

2019 Resolutions

Just a few recent adds to my bookshelf.

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Ranked: Reads in 2018

This year contained many ups and many downs, so it’s hard to say how I really feel about 2018. One thing I am positive about though is that this year was full of fantastic reads. Twenty-six books fell into my hands these past 365 days, and it’s time I share with my loyal readers the definitive ranking of every book I read this year. Now let’s get down to business!

2018 reads

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These Lines Across My Face

Schools mandate history classes with the justification that they help prevent mistakes that became the downfalls of previous generations and eras. Don’t adults owe society the same proactive mindset as the prominent decision-makers? In a world as politically charged as ours in 2018, history couldn’t be more important, and fiction gives it the most interesting depiction. Literature not only reminds us of past tragedy but also of how to build from the rubble.

I’ve read a lot of World War II fiction, and that’s because this time period gives us some of the most intriguing, confusing, emotional, and heartbreaking stories of human existence. The hatred that was spread and also the love and kindness that were borne from this pain are incredibly relevant today. Books like Jessica Shattuck’s 2017 smash, The Women in the Castle, are of course tragic, beautiful, and complete page-turners, but they are also critical if we ever want to better our society and avoid repeating our darkest days.

The Women in the Castle

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Thanks for the Memories

  • What: Warlight
  • Who: Michael Ondaatje
  • Pages: 285, hard cover
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Everybody loves a good plot twist, myself included. In my review of Rich People Problems, in fact, I praised author Kevin Kwan for his ability to keep you guessing with one curveball after the next, which ensured the book was never dull (among other wonderful qualities). In retrospect, clues had been leading up to these revelations since book one, and nothing felt out of place.

I can’t quite say the same thing about Michael Ondaatje’s 2018 hit, Warlight. What saddens me about this conclusion is that I loved this book up to the ending. Ondaatje’s writing is beautiful and poetic, and it evokes the exact sadness and curiosity the characters feel. Ondaatje paints a mystery yearning to be told. But when he finally reveals the secrets, he does so with a twist too far out of left field that leaves you with a bad impression. Warlight, though exquisite, couldn’t quite close the deal, which is why I can’t quite give it more than three flames.

Warlight

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Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

  • What: Forest Dark
  • Who: Nicole Krauss
  • Pages: 290, hard cover
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Published: 2017
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Sometimes flipping the last page of a book leaves us absolutely befuddled.

“What exactly happened here in these few hundred pages to which I devoted significant time, energy, and brain power?”

Fortunately, only a few books spur this thought. Nicole Krauss’ 2017 hit was one of them. For a novel that garnered much attention and praise and made many best-of lists, I was ready to be blown away. Forest Dark, however, left me lost and grasping for more clarity and purpose … not unlike the main characters.

Forest Dark

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