Category Archives: General

First Book 2017

My first read of 2017 is one that I didn’t get to last year, despite being written by one of my favorite authors: Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh. Check out Book Journey to see what other people are reading on this first day of 2017.

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2016 Reading Year In Review

I made it! Finally, I read 52 books in one year. That was my goal, and despite a serious post-election slump, I managed to get there. Here is my 2017 Reading Year in Review.

9780307268129I read a lot of great books, and a lot of forgettable ones too. (If only we had the hindsight of a wrap-up post to know which books would fall into which camp BEFORE starting them.) I worked hard to overcome the draw of the iPhone and really focus on reading whenever I could – no easy feat. Listening to audiobooks definitely helped get my numbers up, thanks to a longer commute starting last March and the ability to listen on my iPhone instead of only in the car.

My goal for 2017: reach 52 again, and read only books I want to read for no other reason than because I am in the mood for them (with the exception of mother-daughter book club books). No guilt!

In 2016, as usual, I tended toward fiction over non-fiction and women writers over men. Some things never change.

Here are my standout reads from 2016:

Best audiobooks were The Risen (read by Richard Ferrone); After You (read by Anna Acton); Not Dead Yet (read by Phil Collins), Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (read by Oliver Wymer) and Underground Airlines (read by William DeMerritt).

Most disappointing book: The Excellent Lombards, Jane Hamilton.

Most creative read goes to Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters.

For the last several years, I have tracked the Depressing Themes of the books I read, and the lists are always impressive. Here are some of the depressing subjects covered by the books I read in 2016: the plight of poor white America, murder, divorcing parents, alcoholism, the challenge of raising autistic children, death of a brother, unrequited love, car accidents, Brooklyn ennui, the Holocaust, the collapse of the real estate market, dead husbands, miscarriage, dystopia, the Iraq war, PTSD, evil psychopath husbands, cancer, plane crash, slavery, cadaver organ donation, death of best friend, infidelity, Chinese orphanage, emotionally distant parents, kidnapped children, loss of custody. Phew.

The breakdown:

  • 45 fiction, 7 non-fiction
  • 13 repeat authors during 2014: Joyce Maynard, Jane Smiley, Elizabeth Strout, Curtis Sittenfeld, JoJo Moyes, Emma Straub, Jennifer Close, Carolyn Parkhurst, Ann Patchett, Noah Hawley, Jane Hamilton, Leah Stewart and Marcy Dermansky.
  • 19 audiobooks
  • 14 male authors, 38 female authors

How was your 2016 in reading? What were the highlights?

Why I Am Not Reading Right Now

fc8a3eb0-400c-44d9-9378-d95b7a2e94acSo this is my first post since the election last week. I haven’t done much reading in that time, other than our November mother-daughter book club book, which I will review later this week.

It’s hard to concentrate on books right now. I find myself constantly cycling through the news and social media (which are increasingly becoming the same thing for me) looking for some sort of reassurance or relief, and finding none. The news seems to get worse and more hopeless every day, and the pillars I usually look to in times of uncertainty are slowly falling away – or expressing their own fears and concerns.

What is this country going to look like in 6 months? A year? Four? How worried should we be about our personal safety, not to mention the safety of our immigrants, the sick, the earth?

Living in DC, it’s hard to escape from the stress of this looming administration change, and frankly, I don’t think I *should* escape from it. I feel that it’s important to be vigilant right now, to watch what is happening like a hawk so that I am keenly aware of the dangers I see around us. Putting my head in the sand – or into a book – may provide an uneasy, temporary reprieve, but it won’t help me be an engaged, concerned citizen capable of doing something (but what?) to help stem the tide of disaster we appear to be riding.

I set a goal of reading 52 books this year – a book a week. I had ambitious plans for November and December to help get me to that goal – one that has eluded me for years. It’s looking less likely that I will get there. I will keep trying, but right now, reading isn’t serving its usual role of allowing me to focus and relax amidst a busy, multitasking day. It seems instead like an indulgent and likely ineffective distraction. And frankly, I am just too stressed out to concentrate.

Maybe I just need to give it a few more days?

Unfortunately, I think it’s going to take longer than that.

Pre-Vacation Post

I am finally going on vacation this week, which I am really looking forward to. 8 days in Italy, with hopefully enough downtime to read some books.

Here is what I am bringing with me to read.

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A few other things to share:

  1. My friend Nicole Bonia of Linus’s Blanket and I have started a podcast for Readerly magazine. Here is the first episode. It’s not on iTunes yet, but I will share the link when it’s up. For now, you can listen at the Readerly site. We talk about what we’re reading, what’s coming out soon, and what you might have missed this summer. Give it a listen! We’re recording another show today.
  2. I went to a reading by Carolyn Parkhurst on Saturday at Politics and Prose, where she talked about Harmony, the book we just read for the EDIWTB online book club. Here is some of what I learned in her Q&A:
    • Parkhurst has a son on the autism spectrum. She made Tilly a girl so that there would be differences between her son and Tilly.
    • Pop culture informs her writing a lot.
    • She told Alexandra’s perspective in the second person so that the reader could be closer to her and understand what is going on in her head She wanted those chapters to feel more intimate, so that the reader would viscerally feel the chaos in her life.
    • Harmony was the most difficult book she has written and took the longest to write, in part because it was the most personal. She worried whether it was OK to be writing about her kids.
    • She is still not sure whether she got Tilly’s voice right. Her son’s mind is incredible, unlike anyone’s she has ever met. She wanted Tilly to be unique too and had to create that voice for her.
    • Scott was the hardest character to write. He says the right things and makes sense on the surface. He is not based on anyone she knows, though she spent a lot of time thinking about cults when she wrote him.
    • She has ideas for her next book but is not writing anything right now.
  3. I also enjoyed this Wall Street Journal post about Parkhurst’s son reading Harmony.

I’ll be offline for the next two weeks or so but hope to have a few reviews to post when I get back! Happy August, everyone.

A Decade of Blogging

Back in 2006, when blogging was just starting to get popular, I decided to start one myself. Writing about books seemed like a good fit; after all, I love to read, and I love to find and talk about new books that I want to read. I’ve always had a voracious appetite for books – even though I don’t get to most of the ones I have on my TBR list – and I thought blogging about them would be fun. Well, a decade later, here I am.

A lot of things have changed since that the day I published my first post on EDIWTB…

First of all, my life has changed. In 2006 I had twin 2 year-olds, and now those very cute toddlers are going into 7th grade. I also had a son 4 years ago, so I am as busy as ever on the family front. (Here they are last night at the Nats game.)

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I’ve had three jobs since 2006, all of them related to communications and social media, and my love for digital platforms has only grown along with them. I don’t participate much in the book Twittersphere, but I spend a ton of time using social media for work and I’m constantly on Facebook.

Despite everything else going on, I actually read more now than I did in 2006. I’m more focused on the industry, the book blogging community and new releases, and I feel pressure to stay up to date. Plus I have this blog to keep up. Life is a zero sum game, so if one thing starts increasing in its demands, like training for a race or doing the NYT crossword puzzle (I’m currently on a streak) or watching the Nats, then something else has to give, and it’s usually reading. But I try to keep it up.

A few years after I launched the blog, I discovered audiobooks, and my life has never been the same.

I’ve met many amazing authors and narrators, and will always be very grateful for that.

I’ve gotten access to tons of books, and I still get a thrill when I come home to a manilla envelope with a new book inside.

I’ve gotten to know some of my blog readers, and I’ve connected with IRL and social media friends about books, which was the whole point of writing this blog, anyway!

And I’ve read a lot of excellent books.

Thank you so much for sticking with the blog over the years even when I don’t post frequently. Thank you for your comments, for participating in my online book clubs, for letting me know about great books, for disagreeing with me when I don’t like the books you love, and just for being out there.

You are what makes this fun.

 

2016 Summer Reading List

Thanks to the many Facebook friends who provided suggestions for the 2016 crowdsourced Summer Reading List! I asked for recommendations of books you’ve recently loved –  and you didn’t disappoint.

Here is the list. I’ve put ** next to those that were recommended by more than one person. When it’s a book I’ve read too, I’ve included a link to my EDIWTB review. Happy reading!

**A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (several votes). This has been on my TBR list for a long time.

**China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

Reliance, Illinois by Mary Volmer

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (reviewed here)

Three Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

**Fates And Furies by Lauren Groff (reviewed here)

Purity by Jonathan Franzen

The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne

The After Party by Anton Disclafani (reviewed here)

The Man I Love by Suanne Laqueur

THE+NEST+by+Cynthia+D'Aprix+SweeneyThe Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

**The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

**Tuesday Nights In 1980 by Molly Prentiss

The Secrets Of Flight by Maggie Leffler

Undercover by Cat Gardiner

This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

**Some Luck, Early Warning and Golden Age by Jane Smiley (reviewed here, here and here)

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

The Sudden Appearance Of Hope by Claire North

Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick

Heat And Light by Jennifer Haigh

Under The Influence by Joyce Maynard (reviewed here)

**All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr  (I really can’t believe I haven’t read this yet)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (reviewed here)

**When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The Sympathizerows_13923264503861 by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Secrets Of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

Thursday 1:17PM by Mike Landweber

**Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (reviewed here)

City On Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Good Luck Of Right Now by Matthew Quick

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

**Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

**Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin

American Housewife by Helen Ellis (reviewed here)

Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing The Way America Works by Jay Newton-Small

Dear Mr. You by Mary Louise-Parker

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

First Wives by Kate 9780525953005_custom-1a7b1faa66fe002fff8a3604f6c0f3534d546b1c-s200-c85Anderson Brower

The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

At The Edge Of The Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Ice Cream Queen Of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald

**Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (reviewed here)

The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life Of Love And War by Lynsey Addario

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Disrupted: My Misadventure In The Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons

Special Topics In Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Homegoing by Yaa Gaasi (I am reading this now)

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

City of Thieves by David Benioff (reviewed here)cityofthieves.final.indd

Kingkiller series by Patrick Rothfuss

Out Of Time series by Beth Flynn

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

A Fine Balance by Mistry Rohinton

Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Dreamland: The True Tale Of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

In The Kingdom Of Ice: The Grand And Terrible Polar Voyage Of The USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, And The Battle For Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru

Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea by Barbara Demick

Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox by Joanne Bamberger

S by Doug Dorst

Us by David Nicholls

Finding The Dragon Lady – The Mystery Of Vietnam’s Madame Nhu by Monique Brinson Demery

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Thanks again for all the recommendations!

Summer 2016 on EDIWTB

I haven’t posted a lot lately, but I am definitely reading and making some plans for the blog.

This summer will mark my 10th anniversary (!) of blogging here on EDIWTB, and I want to mark the milestone by sharing some fun book-related things:

  1. Retrospectives of my favorite books and audiobooks from 10 years of reading.
  2. The possible resurrection of the EDIWTB online book club. (Trying to pick a book now…)
  3. The crowdsourced 2016 summer reading list
  4. More author Q&As
  5. Conversations with some other veteran book bloggers

Another idea I am playing with – video or audio book reviews. Would you listen to or watch a book review, rather than just reading it? I’m curious to see how this would go over. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

So keep an eye on this space for some milestone content. I’m almost done with Jennifer Close’s The Hopefuls and am 1/3 through Yaa Gaasi’s Homegoing, so I’ll have some reviews up this week and next.

Thanks for sticking with EDIWTB!