Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

What I’ve Been Reading This Winter

This year I set a goal for myself to read more books, which is a goal I make every year and fail at. But this year I did something different… and it’s working!

What I did differently this year was to give myself a number of books to read — 25, which seemed both mildly ambitious, given that I’d averaged only about 10 a year for the past seven years or so, yet doable. And I figured reading 25 books in a year would require some change of habits, which was also a motivating factor for me (less screen time, for example). The other thing I did differently this year was to write a list of books I wanted to read, by researching and comparing around a dozen or so “best books of 2018” lists from sources I trust (like NPR, for example). Then, I went to my library’s website and looked for any of the books that might be available for immediate check-out (there were two or three out of my initial list of 27 or so books). From there, I added several to a hold list and then went to the library and checked out the ones that were already available. Since then, it’s been a successful cycle of reading a book and then getting a notice that one of my holds is available and waiting for me, so that I’ve had a continuous stream of books to read, which makes it so much easier to stay on track towards my goal. I love libraries!

Anyway, I started my #25InAYear challenge in the final few days of 2018 and have so far finished five and just started my sixth. (I guess, technically, I have started a sixth and seventh, but I put this one aside because it’s a loan from a friend that I can return at leisure, whereas the other is a library book that is due back soon.) Part of my challenge is to read only women and gay men authors, and since there has been some interest in what I’m reading (here and when I post on my Instagram stories), I thought I’d share the titles of what I’ve read so far, along with some brief thoughts.

1. His Favorites
My favorite so far! It’s a petite book (160 pages), but each page packs a punch. This is a suspenseful novel that explores the vulnerabilities of young women in a #metoo world.

2. Less
This is a novel about a middle-aged gay man on a trip around the world in search of himself. It’s ultimately a love story, and while it took me much longer to get into the story as I would like, I stuck with it and I’m really glad I did; the end is so beautiful!

3. And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready
This is a memoir about pregnancy and the first year of motherhood and it gave me a little PTSD reading it, to be honest. It was well-written and honest, and I probably would have enjoyed it more in the earlier months of my own motherhood journey, but at this point in my life, I am happy to sort of put those days behind me and not re-visit (or re-live) them too much. I’d recommend for a first-time mom (or mom-to-be) though – especially one who might want affirmation that she’s not alone in her struggles.

4. Little Fires Everywhere
Ooh, this one was a page-turner! It’s a “riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.” It leaves the reader questioning what makes a mother — and, really, what makes a family. Really engaging storytelling with rich, complicated characters you can’t help but root for, even when they do stupid stuff.

5. Look Alive Out There
This was an entertaining book of humor essays from Sloane Crosley, who’s been compared to everyone from Dorothy Parker to David Sedaris, and I’d probably hate her a little bit for all her success if she weren’t so likable and self-deprecating in her writing. Her essay about her obnoxious neighbors and how she got revenge on them is worth the price of the book alone (especially if you check it out for free from the library like I did).

What are you reading these days? Anything I should add to my list for this year?

13 comments… add one
  • TeacherNerd February 7, 2019, 3:18 pm

    I find GoodReads to be an excellent source of suggestions. I discovered John Boyne, an Irish author, last year, and I’ve LOVED his work, especially A History of Loneliness, The House of Special Purpose, and The Heart’s Invisible Furies. (My reading goal this year is 125 books, which is a lot, but I don’t do much screen time and I’m a fast reader.)

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  • csp February 7, 2019, 3:35 pm

    So, I am reading a YA series called the Court of Thorns and Roses. It is so freaking good. It is crazy sexy for a YA novel. But its feminist undertones later in the series are so great. The rumor is that the first book she wrote in high school. But it is the 2nd and 3rd that I need other people to start reading so we can just talk about it forever.

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  • Rangerchic February 7, 2019, 3:54 pm

    I’ve been debating reading Little Fires Everywhere. I might go ahead and read it now.

    I go through stages where I read constantly to I’m not in the mood to read and go weeks/months without reading. And my mood changes on what genre I want to read. But I do love reading all the recommendations!

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    Skyblossom February 7, 2019, 4:26 pm

    I’m reading everything I can on a Ketogenic diet, especially as it relates to cancer and dementia. I’m also reading about the microbiome and the affect that different gut bacteria have on overall health, especially gut and mental health. I’ve also been reading about WWII during the past several years.

    I’ve been listening to a variety of audio books. This past two to three weeks I’ve listened to these.

    The Hacking of the American Mind
    Hitler’s Children
    Fascism: A Warning
    Irena’s Children
    The Forgotten 500
    David and Goliath
    Tiny Beautiful Things

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  • Deni February 7, 2019, 5:02 pm

    Hello, I’ve been following/mostly lurking for many years and wanted to share some book recommendations. At least one of them I may have found via your site, recommended by someone else. I love my local library too, and have added a couple from your list to mine. 🙂

    All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
    Anything written by Jodi Piccoult
    The Half-Life of Everything by Deborah Carol Gang
    The Secrets We Carried by Mary McNear
    Big Woods by May K. Cobb

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  • Anonymous February 7, 2019, 8:56 pm

    I loved The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and am working on The Female Persuasion by her right now. And I think everyone should read So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.

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    Lucidity February 7, 2019, 9:19 pm

    I like this feature! It’s nice to get recommendations and see what other people are reading.

    I’ve been reading lots of books on pregnancy and parenting, because pregnant! Ack! Tonight I’m taking a break from all that non-fiction with Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother’s Soul. Last week, over two days off work, inspired by catching the tail end of one of the Mockingjay movies on TV, I re-read the Hunger Games trilogy. I’ve also been working my way through the stories in Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe Turns the Page for the umpteenth time. He was a beloved Canadian storyteller whose stories were originally broadcast on his radio show. I re-read his books all the time because they make me laugh and cry and nostalgic and happy all at once. They’re simple but beautiful, quintessentially Canadian, and he always seems to get to the heart of what it means to be human.

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  • SpaceySteph February 8, 2019, 7:04 am

    Last year I challenged myself to read 26 (one every 2 weeks) and I made it with a couple weeks to spare, but I was aided by breastfeeding until October and pumping until April, so lots of time where I was kind of stuck and had to entertain myself. And reading was way better for my mental health than scrolling endlessly through facebook!

    Another thing that helped my count is having a Kindle, and my local library has ebooks to check out. Some great things about the kindle:
    – As soon as you finish one book the next is instantly available (even if trapped under a baby)
    – Lighted screen meant I could read while feeding kid in dark room
    – Easy to use in a single hand while the other one holds a baby
    Of those 26 books I read, I think I borrowed 24 of them, and I never set foot in the library at all, its all done through the website.

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  • Ale February 8, 2019, 7:30 am

    I got a Kindle Paperwhite november last year and it has helped me so much to read more. Because it’s lightweight and waterproof I can carry it anywhere, I’ve carried it hiking so I can read at the top of a mountain, but I don’t have the real weight of a big book in my backpack. I love it. I still love traditional books but this has helped me so much. Right now I’m finishing the Century trilogy by Ken Follett which I haven’t loved but I need to know how it ends. Starting Handmaid’s Tale (a little behind I know), and I really want to read some classics again like 1984 that are next on my list.

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      Lucidity February 8, 2019, 1:24 pm

      Ahhh now I want to reread the Handmaid’s Tale. What a great book.

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    • Kate February 8, 2019, 1:30 pm

      Did you guys know Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel? To be published 9/2019.

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      Lucidity February 8, 2019, 1:35 pm

      That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day!

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  • K February 8, 2019, 12:41 pm

    I just finished Educated by Tara Westover which was great. I’m a big memoir fan. I’m currently reading His Favorites thanks to your suggestion, Wendy!

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