- What: Educated
- Who: Tara Westover
- Pages: 334, hard cover
- Genres: Memoir
- Published: 2018
- The lit: of 5 flame
Educated was one of those books that I was a wee bit hesitant to read. Since it was released in February 2018, I’ve seen it everywhere: in the windows of bookstores, every time I log into Amazon, on all of the lists, and even on Ellen.
Could a book really be this good? You know I’m a skeptic! Furthermore, could a memoir be this good? Then, I wondered if I’d had a change of heart about the genre. Before Educated, I had read three memoirs in a little over a year; that totaled the amount I had read in the previous 10 years. With Michelle Obama’s, Tiffany Haddish’s, and The Glass Castle now in my repertoire, did I want more, or did I prefer to not take the risk (I had been choosing the best of the best in the genre after all)?
I’m thrilled to say that Tara Westover’s devastating yet uplifting book about her unorthodox upbringing and her even more unorthodox rise to success and happiness fell right into line with the above-mentioned books. I’m also happy — yet still slightly weary — to report that Educated has shifted my opinion of its genre. My negative feelings toward memoirs are a thing of the past, and I think I’m onboard — or at least in line to board. Let’s be honest: I’ve always been a little late to the party.
- What: The Proposal
- Who: Jasmine Guillory
- Pages: 325, soft cover
- Genres: Contemporary fiction and chick lit
- Published: 2018
- The lit: of 5 flame
Sometimes you need a pick-me-up. In July and August, I read some great books (see here, here, and here), but there was a lot of death and sadness. It was prime-time summer reading mode, so why was I depressing myself before Labor Day? I desperately needed and wanted something fun, fast, and maybe even a little sexy (not too different from what our main characters in this review desire).
Insert The Proposal: the perfect remedy for summertime blues.
Yes, it’s classic chick lit: Boy meets girl; they have a fun fling; and you fly through their whirlwind romance with many laughs.
But Jasmine Guillory also gives us realistic sex scenes, some very tasty meals (I was craving tacos for days), cultural awareness and diversity, and zero eye-rolling over clichés. This is more than your typical summer beach read. To put it simply, it’s a really good book, of which I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Sometimes that’s all you need in a recommendation, especially in the steamy months of summer.
(And don’t read too much into this title; I have so many ideas now that T.Swift has new music.)
About a month ago, Kyle and I were having a date at our favorite rooftop bar. We were on top of a Jersey City hotel sipping cocktails and looking out at the best view of NYC. Suddenly, I was overcome with gratitude for living and working in such a beautiful city and for experiencing everything I had these past five years.
I relayed this emotion to Kyle and asked if that feeling of “Wow I can’t believe I live here” ever hits him because it sure as hell hits me from time to time. We were definitely in agreement on this one.
It’s this emotion and experience that is the point of a book like Tuesdays with Morrie, a nonfiction account in the same vein as The Last Lecture. The book stresses the importance of reveling in every single moment and illustrates that the simple things in life matter most. When death comes upon you — like it does to the main character, Morrie — you’re reminded that your time on Earth is too short to be distracted by money, success, vanity, and pride. Just like I need moments such as the one overlooking NYC a month ago, I need books like Tuesdays with Morrie and The Last Lecture to remind me of everything that’s important. I’m pretty sure we all do.
This might seem hypocritical considering I have a book blog, but I don’t actually read book reviews — at least in their entirety. Hopefully that doesn’t scare away my readers. I like to form an opinion of a book with little input from others, especially critics who I don’t always trust. I love best-of lists and enjoy reading just enough of a review to understand the main plot and premise.
But let me clear: I need to know that main plot and premise before deciding to read a book.
This surprised my partner, Kyle, about a month ago after boarding a flight for Colorado. I had just received Before We Were Yours on my Kindle, but when Kyle asked what it was about, I couldn’t remember. Because that nagged me to no end, I made sure to Google it before takeoff.
Kyle was perplexed: “You couldn’t just start reading? You had to know what it was about?” Yes, yes I did. Why the judgment? And this is how the challenge was born and how I found myself reading The Dogs of Babel.
Have you ever wished you could talk to your pet? I mean, you spend so much time with the little fur balls, why wouldn’t you? They can sense when you’re sad, and they comfort you with their cuddles and love. They greet you when you come home and wag their tails to communicate their excitement. It seems entirely unfair that they can’t whisper they love you and that everything’s going to be OK and that we can’t reciprocate how much they mean to us too.
Speaking with our pets is the main conduit through which author Carolyn Parkhurst tells a heartbreaking story in The Dogs of Babel. In the beginning, you think it’s just about a man trying to communicate with his dog. It seems a little crazy, but is it really the worst idea? Soon a story about grief, loneliness, mental health, and internal struggle unfolds. Just like our pets, sometimes words evade us, and it’s impossible to convey how we really feel.
With special guests Lucky (left) and Snowy.
One of my first memories with my sister occurred when I was around five years old. I kicked her in the face because I wanted to know what a black eye looked like. Anger had nothing to do with it. I was notoriously the question-asker of the family after all, and my curiosity simply got the best of me.
As you can probably imagine, my parents — and my sister who is four years older — were not very happy with me. I don’t remember what my punishment was, but I insisted it wasn’t personal. Fortunately, Erin hasn’t held a grudge against me, and even though I spent a lot of my youth being jealous of my crazy smart and talented older sister (that’s not why I kicked her!), we’ve become close friends. She inspires me every day.
My close sisterly bond is one reason why I wanted to read Before We Were Yours. This incredibly tragic story about sisters who are separated and try to find their way back to each other is well-written and different from the plot of most novels. And it reminds you of the importance of family, especially of the sister who forgives you for any hurt and harm you may have caused in the past.
Fortunately, I have friends who give great book recs. That’s exactly what my friend Jen did this summer when she recommended How Not to Die Alone. I had heard this title before and thought it was a self-help book. Lord, that would be a depressing read. She assured me that was the furthest thing from the truth.
Jen was right.
After I finished this funny, quirky, and delightful fictional book, I knew I wanted to speak to its author, Richard Roper. He came through and answered some burning questions I had about his literary favorites; the main character, Andrew; and some new projects on the horizon.
Photo credit: Natalie Dawkins.