BRL Best Books of 2018

Some of you may remember that I keep a paper book journal in addition to my Goodreads account for book tracking. When I read a book that particularly moves me I give it a star in my paper journal, which equals a five-star rating on Goodreads. As I looked over my 2018 reading I realized that TWENTY books had rated a star this year! So I had some choices to make as it came time to make my Top Ten List for the year. Without further ado, here are my favorite books of 2018. (Note: I’m a huge backlist reader so not all of these books were published this year.)

In no particular order:

  • The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams (2016). This was a life-affirming, uplifting audio book that truly inspired me. I learned a lot about the friendship between the Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu, and how each man approaches life’s challenges with grace and equanimity.
  • How Many Miles to Babylon? by Jennifer Johnston (1974.) Set in Ireland in WWI, this beautifully written novella explores the growing friendship between a young member of the landed gentry and one of the workers on his family’s estate as they both set off to fight in the war. Truly moving with a devastating ending.
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018.) Just a gorgeous, emotionally probing book about two people who fell in love with the best of intentions – and then life throws them a horrific curveball that reverberates for years. It’s a beautifully told relationship story with well-drawn, believable characters. Unforgettable.
  • Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (2015.) What a surprise! A book that had been on my TBR list for a few years and I’m so glad I decided to read it. It was one of those absorbing reads that made me want to ignore my family for a few days. Linked short stories, all centering in some way around the character of Eva, a young woman in Minnesota with a passion and a gift for cooking. Foodies will love it, but anyone who just wants a good story will enjoy it too.
  • Born A Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016.) The BEST AUDIO BOOK I’VE EVER LISTENED TO. Funny, surprising, illuminating, moving. I learned so much about South African history through this story of Noah’s unlikely existence. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s one I would read (or listen to) again for sure.
  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956.) This novel is exquisitely written and emotionally tough. A portrait of a man utterly in denial about who he truly is. David, a young, rootless, white American living in Paris in the 1950’s, has a fiancee he’s running away from when he meets a handsome Italian waiter and falls in love. His denial sets off a tragic chain of events for everyone involved. Baldwin is a genius! I intend to read everything he’s written.
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean (2018.) I recently wrote about this one, but it’s just a gem of a nonfiction book, about the importance of libraries today and Orlean’s emotional connection to them through her late mother, as well as a gripping true-crime account of the devastating library fire in L.A.’s Central Library in 1986. Lots going on here, but Orlean weaves all the strands together beautifully.
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017.) That rare super-hyped novel that is worthy of all the praise. What starts off as a quirky portrait of a lonely young woman who doesn’t connect well with other human beings becomes a moving and warm-hearted novel about unexpected connections and the capacity for change and growth. A lovely book that I will definitely read again someday.
  • Brother by David Chariandy (2018, first published in Canada and the UK 2017.) Not one word wasted in this slim but powerful novel about two brothers growing up in a poor, multi-cultural part of Toronto in the 1980’s. There is tragedy here but there is also terrific beauty and great love, especially in the character of the boys’ Trinidadian immigrant mother, who works herself to the bone to provide for her sons and tried to give them a better life. I just adored this.
  • The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton (2018.) Another book I recently read and can’t stop talking about – thank you Oprah! Hinton’s ridiculous sham of a trial for crimes he didn’t commit will make you angry, and his emotional journey living on death row in Alabama for 30 years will move you, inspire you, and make you question your beliefs about the death penalty.

51mPEE0qUtL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Honorable Mention: Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (2017.)  Linked short stories, a companion piece to Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton. Spare prose and heartbreaking, real characters in small town middle America. Strout is a hell of a writer.

 It’s been such a good reading year. Have you read any of the books on my list? Do any of these pique your interest?

Advertisements

Library Checkout, November 2018

library-checkout-feature-image

Library Checkout is a monthly library-use meme hosted by Rebecca at Bookish Beck. Please do visit her blog, she always reads so diversely (and in massive quantities, too!) Here is a snapshot of my library usage in November:

LIBRARY BOOKS READ:

There There – Tommy Orange ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Death of Mrs. Westaway – Ruth Ware ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The House at Sea’s End – Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway mystery #3)                 ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ I am LOVING this series!

Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch mystery #31/Renée Ballard #2) ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ I don’t know how Connelly does it. He’s a MASTER of compelling, propulsive writing. I still care about Bosch 31 books later. I’m excited to see the new direction he’s taking now that he’s partnering with Ballard.9780062368607_p0_v3_s550x406

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life – Ed Yong ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (Review to come)

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times – Pema Chödrön ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

CURRENTLY READING:

51LSDwIJIUL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row – Anthony Ray Hinton

A Room Full of Bones (Ruth Galloway #4) – Elly Griffiths

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ:

Dare to Lead – Brené Brown

Spy School – Stuart Gibbs (middle-grade fiction – I’ve been meaning to get back into reading MG fiction for a while now)

IN THE HOLDS QUEUE:

The Library Book – Susan Orlean

Becoming – Michelle Obama

Fox 8  – George Saunders

Gmorning, Gnight!:Little Pep Talks For Me and You – Lin-Manuel Miranda40854717

Go Tell it On the Mountain – James Baldwin (My Classics Club spin book!)

Plus, 6 more books on hold that I’ve had on hold for a while now and keep pushing back using my library system’s “suspend” function. I’m starting to wonder if I really want to read these after all! It might be time to let some of these go.

Anything from my selections look interesting to you? What have you checked out from your local library lately?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classics Club Spin #19

Hello friends. I hope those of you who have been celebrating Thanksgiving have had a great few days. I’m delighted to write that it’s time for another Classics Club Spin! Here are the “rules:”

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty CHUNKSTER books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Tuesday 27th November.
  • We’ll announce a number from 1-20.
  • Read that book by 31st January 2019.

Um, did they say “CHUNKSTER?” Gulp. When I looked at my list I noticed that I do have quite a few chunksters I haven’t even touched yet. Because I’m a wimp, my spin list is half 500+ page tomes, half “fun size” literary masterpieces (bigger books in bold type.)

  1. Go Tell it on the Mountain – James Baldwin
  2. Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë
  3. The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
  4. A Study in Scarlet – Arthur Conan Doyle
  5. My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier
  6. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  7. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  8. Adam Bede – George Eliot
  9. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  10. North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
  11. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  12. The Thin Man – Dashiell Hammett
  13. The Blue Castle – L.M. Montgomery
  14. Less Than Angels – Barbara Pym
  15. Ceremony – Leslie Marmon Silko
  16. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  17. The Warden – Anthony Trollope
  18. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  19. The Island of Dr. Moreau – H.G. Wells
  20. Native Son – Richard Wright

What from my list have you read? I’ll post the result next week.

Library Checkout – August 2018

Library Checkout is a fun meme celebrating library usage coordinated by Bookish Beck – check out her blog! This month, as usual, I’ve been checking things out and putting things on hold like a boss. My library system (the one at which I work) just recently upped the checkout limit to 50 items! In addition to the books listed below, I’ve been checking out mad quantities of books for my kiddo, since he has to read at least 20 minutes a day for school. And I’ve also been trying to watch all the Marvel superhero movies (I basically missed everything after Iron Man and before Black Panther, LOL) so I’ve also been getting those from the library. Yay, libraries!

library-checkout-feature-image

BOOKS READ:

SKIMMED: None

CURRENTLY READING:36672820

  • Brother – David Chariandy
  • Clearing Emotional Clutter: Mindfulness Practices for Letting Go of What’s Blocking Your Fulfillment and Transformation – Donald Altman

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ:

  • The House at Sea’s End – Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway #3)
  • The Lying Game – Ruth Ware
  • The First Bad Man – Miranda July
  • The Art of Living – Thich Nhat Hahn
  • The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell
  • Smitten Kitchen Every Day – Deb Perelman
  • Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients – John Whaite

IN THE HOLDS QUEUE:

  • Barracoon – Zora Neale Hurston (this is waiting for me at the library now!)
  • There There – Tommy Orange
  • Yes We (Still) Can – Dan Pfeiffer
  • The Sun Does Shine – Anthony Ray Hinton
  • The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz
  • The Death of Mrs. Westaway – Ruth Ware
  • Dear Mrs. Bird – A.J. Pearce
  • Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World – Maryanne Wolf
  • Transcription – Kate Atkinson (although I will almost certainly buy this one before I get it from the library. I should just take myself off the holds list.)
  • On The Other Side of Freedom: The Case For Hope – Deray McKesson
  • Our House – Louise Candlish
  • French Exit – Patrick deWitt

RETURNED UNFINISHED/UNREAD:

  • The Cooking Gene – Michael Twitty (This is still on my TBR list; it had a hold on it.)
  • Shadowhouse Fall (Shadowshaper #2) – Daniel José Older (I intend to get this again – I just wasn’t in the mood.)

So once again I have a gazillion things checked out and on hold and realistically I don’t think I’ll get them all read but even if I don’t it STILL benefits my library to check them out! Circulation is key. Did you make use of your public library is August? Have you read any of these titles?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classics Club Spin #18!

It’s Spin time! I joined The Classics Club (now under new leadership) earlier this year and got the word yesterday that it’s time for another Spin (my second.) What’s a #CCSpin? Well, basically you choose 20 books from your original list and then on Spin Day the Classics Club leaders choose a number from 1-20. Whichever number is drawn is the classic book you read and write about next!

So here are my 20, pretty much chosen randomly (I did put some chunksters in there to mix it up:)

  1. Fahrenheit 451 – Bradbury
  2. Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon – Austen
  3. Jane Eyre – Brontë (re-read)
  4. The Woman in White – Collins
  5. A Study in Scarlet – Conan Doyle
  6. The Thin Man – Hammett
  7. The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas
  8. The Lottery and Other Stories – Jackson
  9. West With the Night – Markham
  10. 1984 – Orwell
  11. Less Than Angels – Pym
  12. Anna Karenina- Tolstoy
  13. Crossing to Safety – Stegner
  14. Native Son – Wright
  15. Ceremony – Silko
  16. Stoner – Williams
  17. Island of Dr. Moreau – Wells
  18. Brideshead Revisited – Waugh
  19. Beloved – Morrison (re-read)
  20. The Gowk Storm – Morrison

If you’re in the Classics Club, good luck with your spin! I hope you all get the number you want. (Totally statistically impossible, but you know.) 🙂

Have you read any of these? Have any thoughts?

My First Classics Club Spin! (Classics Spin #17)

I’m delighted that there’s a new Classics Spin just a few weeks after I decided to join the Classics Club! If you don’t remember, the Classics Club is a reading challenge (sort of) that celebrates “classic” literature and when you join you make a list of fifty titles you want to have read and written about in five years. For the Spin, I take twenty of my chosen books and number them 1-20. On Friday, March 9, the leaders of the club will post a number. I then have to read the book that corresponds with that number by April 30!

I like this idea, because I haven’t yet begun to read any of my classics. This is the push I need! Here’s my list of 20:

  1. Gather Together in My Name – Angelou
  2. Giovanni’s Room – Baldwin
  3. The Long Winded Lady: Notes From the New Yorker – Brennan
  4. The Master and Margarita – Bulgakov
  5. Great Expectations – Dickens
  6. Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas
  7. Love Medicine – Erdrich
  8. Wives and Daughters – Gaskell
  9. Life Among the Savages – Jackson
  10. Quicksand -Larsen
  11. The Gowk Storm – Morrison
  12. A Good Man is Hard to Find – O’Connor
  13. 1984 – Orwell
  14. Less Than Angels – Pym
  15. Ceremony – Silko
  16. Crossing to Safety – Stegner
  17. The Warden – Trollope
  18. Brideshead Revisited – Waugh
  19. Island of Dr. Moreau – Wells
  20. Native Son – Wright

 

I don’t know if there are any that I don’t want picked at the moment. Well, maybe not the Bulgakov. I’m kind of hoping for #18 or #9. But I’ll be happy with whatever number comes up! Then I’ll be on my way. 🙂 I’ll be sure to let you know the verdict after March 9!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I MEANT to read in 2017 and Didn’t

I am not a regular participant in Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by Broke and Bookish, for now) much anymore, but this is one theme I’ve done in the past and enjoy writing up. It’s the Top Ten Books You Meant to Read in 2017 and Didn’t Get To.  So many good intentions and only so much time in the day, right?  I’m sure we all have a list of the things we wanted to read last year.  But just because we haven’t gotten to them yet doesn’t mean we can’t read them this year.  There’s always hope.

We all know that I didn’t get to Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns and Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.  But what else had I been hoping to read last year?

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie. Stefanie, Teresa, and other bloggers who’ve read this have rated it charming and funny, and it looks like the kind of smart, quirky book I need in my life.

The Fire This Time:  A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward.    I own a copy of this, and I WILL get to it in 2018.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel.   Looks like my kind of weird.  Maybe by the time I get to it the third one in the trilogy will be out!

On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman.  One of my favorite comedic novelists.  Also very underrated.

March: Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.  I had a copy of this checked out from the library but I didn’t get to it before I had to turn it in – it had holds! And then it just got lost in the shuffle.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.  I’ve heard so many good things about both the book and the audiobook that I ended up waffling between the two formats and never getting either one.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay.  I enjoy short story collections, but I tend to put them off indefinitely!

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae.  One of three Kindle purchases I made last year that I haven’t read.  I just don’t like reading on a screen as much as reading on paper, so I put it off.

Any of George Saunders’s short story collections (besides Tenth of December.)  He’s one of my favorite writers (based on December and Lincoln in the Bardo,) so why haven’t I read any other of his books?

Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches From Lahore, New York, and London by Mohsin Hamid.  Another book I had in my hands from the library and didn’t read.

 

Have you read any of the books on my list?  Do you also check out library books and never get to them, and then they get lost in the shuffle?  Anything you wish you’d read last year that you’re determined to read this year?  Let me know in the comments.