I’m so good at reading books in the winter. Then, spring turns into summer and it gets too hot to sit outside and read in the evenings, social obligations pop up, my work hours lengthen and flex and books that should take a few days to devour take longer and longer, full weeks, even. So, I’ve been in a reading rut. I’ve read some lovely things, especially lately, but this second reading report includes a lot of books I didn’t love or even like, a few I slogged through just so I could mark them as finished and at least one I loved until the end when nothing was settled and I threw the book across the room in a fit of disappointed rage.
THE BEST BOOKS
In 2012, Caroline Van Hemert and her husband embarked on an epic adventure, a 4,000-mile trek from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic, traveling under their own human power, hiking, skiing, rafting and canoeing along the way. Within the story of this incredible journey, is the story of migration, their own, but also the creatures, and especially the birds, they encounter along the way. Van Hembert is an ornithologist and her knowledge of the bird friends she encounters along the way adds a beautiful and unique layer to this incredible story. This book is a lovely addition to an emerging collection of adventure-filled travelogues by women. It’s beautifully written and an incredible, inspiring and wanderlust-provoking story.
Kate Quinn’s previous work, The Alice Network, is one of my all-time favorite books, one I’ve forced a handful of friends into reading, and I was excited to jump into another of her stories. This is another brilliant work of historical fiction about a British journalist and a female Russian pilot who team up to find the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal.
Madeline, 14, lives in northern Minnesota with her parents at the site of an almost-abandoned commune. She’s largely unsupervised, running wild-ish, and is trying to come to terms with her own burgeoning sexuality. A wealthy family moves across the lake, and Madeline begins babysitting their son, Paul. Things take some complicated turns and the story jumps forward and back in time. It’s a weird book that tackles heavy topics.
Set in Bogotá in the 1990s, this is the story of Chula, part of a wealthy family, and Petrona, her family’s live-in maid. The family lives inside a gated community, theoretically safe from the violence and turmoil that’s ravaging Columbia, but the threat is still there, still very real. It’s part history lesson, part coming-of-age story and part biography, as the events in this book are loosely based on the author’s own experiences.
THE GOOD BOOKS
THIS MUCH COUNTRY by Kristin Knight Pace – After a heartbreaking divorce, the author agrees to spend the winter in a cabin outside Denali caring for eight sled dogs. After that, she’s hooked, and eventually runs the Iditarod. Today, she’s one part of Hey Moose! Kennel.
STAY SEXY & DON’T GET MURDERED by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark – Based on the staggering success of the podcast My Favorite Murder comes this book, which is part self-help, part memoir.
MAID: HARD WORK, LOW PAY & A MOTHER’S WILL TO SURVIVE by Stephanie Land – The story of a single parent trying to scratch herself up and out of poverty. It’s an honest and sometimes heartbreaking.
BLUETS by Maggie Nelson – A personal exploration of life, love and sexuality through the color blue.
THE IMPOSSIBLE CLIMB: ALEX HONNOLD, EL CAPITAN, AND THE CLIMBING LIFE by Mark Synnott – In 2017, Alex Honnold became the first person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. This was a staggering feat, one thought to be impossible, but he did it. I enjoyed this book, but agree whole-heartedly with this review, by Blair Braverman, on the book’s problematic portrayal of women.
IN THE TIME OF BUTTERFLIES by Julia Alvarez – Set in the 1960s in the Dominican Republic, this is the fictionalized story of the Mirabal sisters. They opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and were eventually assassinated for their resistance.
THE GUEST BOOK by Sarah Blake – A multi-generational story that travels through three generations of a powerful American family. It’s historical fiction doused with a love story and a few handfuls of mystery.
THE JUST OKAY BOOKS
THE TRIAL OF LIZZIE BORDEN by Cara Roberton – ★★★ – Quite literally the entire trial of Lizzie Borden, which was neat, but not at all what I was expecting.
THE DREAMERS by Karen Thompson Walker – ★★★ – I was riveted by this book until it ended and absolutely nothing was explained.
THE LAST ROMANTICS by Tara Conklin – ★★★ – A family saga.
THE AWAKENING by Kate Chopin – ★★ – Y’all, I just don’t enjoy classic literature, not one single bit.
WHAT ARE YOU READING?
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