My Top 5 Reads of 2019 (So Far...)

IMG_2913.jpg

In 2018 I suffered a major reading slump that I didn’t come out of until somewhere around September. In 2019 I started reading again in earnest, and have read some really great ones this year. Of the 91 books I’ve read so far this year, these are the top five. I’m interested to see what will still be on my list at the end of 2019.

In no particular order…

50 Great American Places by Brent D.Glass — This book is solely responsible for bringing back my wanderlust and the many miles I’m planning on putting on my car this summer.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Graphic Novel) — I love that so many classics are being turned into graphic novels. I finished this and immediately handed it to my 11 year old history lover.

Betty Ford by Lisa McCubbin - You know when an intro makes you cry you’re in for a good book. I picked this up because Betty Ford and I have a neighborhood in common, but ended up being so impressed by Ford and what she accomplished in life. Highly recommend.

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice McFadden - The most hopeful book about child slavery you will ever read.

the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur - Once I started reading this I couldn’t stop. I never thought of myself as a poetry person, but this book proved me wrong.

Note: links to amazon.com are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

September 2017 Audio Books

Fall flowers

Fall flowers

Summer is officially over, and after running here, there, and everywhere for weeks I'm looking forward to some weekends at home puttering and listening to audiobooks! I haven't listened to much lately, but here's a few I did manage (mostly in the car.)

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson -- I read this book a long time ago, and decided to give the audio a try this summer. I like this one - it's more like A Walk in the Woods than some of his others that I find to be too judgey.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken -- Interesting to see how the sausage gets made. He wants to run for president right? That's why he wrote this book?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- Still one of my favorites, and I love it on audio. For such a short book, there's so much there. Beware of careless people.

That's all for this month! Hopefully next month I'll be back in the swing of things.

Life According to Steph

Note: Links to amazon.com are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Books About Travel Gone Wrong

After finishing The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware last week I remembered how much I enjoy reading about travel gone wrong. After going through my librarything.com account I saw that I had read quite a few books on that topic. Here are some of my favorites (both fiction and non.)

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

The Travelers by Chris Pavone

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

Around the World in 50 Years by Albert Podell

Do you have any favorites about travel gone wrong?

Vacation Book Review

This year was my first in memory that I tried to match my vacation reading to my location. Usually when I travel I pick something that's easy to read. I've been known to devour a whole trilogy in a week. I also have a thing for reading scary books by the beach.

Last week when I traveled to the mountains of North Carolina with my family I switched things up a bit, and matched my books with my vacation destination.

I've been meaning to read A Clearing in the Distance for years. It worked out well though that I got to read it in the same week I was visiting the Biltmore Estate.  Olmsted laid out Biltmore as an older man, and I got so much insight into the process by reading this book. I even got to read some of it while sitting on a bench in the gardens of the estate.

My husband downloaded all ten million hours of Fortune's Children for us to listen to in the car. This book was actually very funny, and gave a good background into exactly why someone would want to build a really huge house.

My husband bought me a signed copy of Appalachian Odyssey for Christmas, and I put it aside until our trip. I turn 40 this year, and appreciate stories about people who continue to hike past the age of 30.

How do you pick your vacation books? I liked this approach, but did kind of feel myself wishing for a novel at the end of some days!

Note: links to amazon.com are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

September Quick Lit

Summer reading season always ends too quickly...

Summer reading season always ends too quickly...

It's mid-September, and I think we can all agree summer reading time is over. Here's what I read in the last few carefree weeks of summer.

I'm not sure what to think about The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng. The subject, WWII, was brutal, but the cadence of the book was soothing. This is the first book I added to my TBR when I started my LibraryThing account. Now that I finally read it I'm sure it will stay with me for a long, long time.

I read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume in order to fill in a few blanks for some reading challenges. I'm glad I took the time, because this book is still a masterpiece. I was the same age as my son is now when I first read this book, and re-reading it this summer brought back a lot of my 3rd grade feelings. It was a timely reminder.

Walking With Plato by Gary Hayden tells the story of a walk. He reads and he thinks as he goes, and this book is a simple yet satisfying unpacking of his thoughts. He wasn't trying to write a book as he set off, and the reader gets a much better story for it. This was a five star read for me, and may end up as my favorite of the year.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin made me want to drop everything and read Truman Capote books all day and night. I had no idea that this was a fictional retelling of his relationships with the Fifth Avenue elite until I started, and it was such a lovely surprise. Sometimes when you pick a book by its cover it works out for you.

Brush Back by Sara Paretsky is the latest V.I. Warshawski novel. It's not the greatest in the series, but it was still worth reading. True story - when I was finally allowed to take books out of the adult section of my local public library growing up I randomly grabbed one of the first V.I. mysteries, and I haven't stopped reading them since.

Walking The Amazon by Ed Stafford was another book about walking -kind of a theme for me lately. This was a solid adventure story. It wasn't the best written of the bunch, but it was enough to make you want to run away from home and do something crazy.

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

Note: links to amazon.com are affiliate links. thanks for your support!

Pa is getting on my nerves

We took an epic road trip last week through Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. We got pretty close to Little House territory, and I even saw a sign for a slough at one point. I had plenty of time for car reading on this trip, and given the setting I decided to catch up on my favorite pioneer family.

I forgot just how much Pa annoys me in this book. I know it was a different time, but man. He really just does what he wants doesn't he? His only concession to his wife and girls is that he is only moving them to a shack in DeSmet instead of Oregon.

I think I need to keep reading to the next book (The Long Winter), because I like when Ma finally loses her patience and lets Pa have it. Rosin your fiddle with that Ingalls.

I read about it in a book, and now I must go...

I finished The Wright Brothers last week, and now I am itching to travel to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. I've been there before, but David McCullough's book is so rich with detail that I need to figure out a way to see it again. I barely remember it, and I'm sure I didn't appreciate it enough. Luckily it's only about a four hour drive from here (when traffic is good.)

Have you ever done that? Read about a place, and gone there? As much as I read it usually works the opposite for me. I read about a place because I've just been there, or because I have plans to go there.

A new adventure! How exciting!

May 2016 Quick Lit

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

I finally got around to reading Northanger Abbey, and liked it a lot. The ending was kind of meh, but the character of Catherine was crazy in an awesome way. I loved all of her wacky scenarios.

I'm still on my travel writing kick, hence, my impulsive use of an audiobook credit on Albert Podell's Around the World In 50 Years. This one grew on me. I didn't agree with all of "Big Al's" opinions, but I was fascinated by the logistics of traveling to every country in the world. I also appreciated that he seemed to spend a fair bit of time in every country. He wasn't just traveling to check things off his list; he really seemed to take time with each country.

Ever wondered what it's like to be Mormon in New York City? The New York Regional Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker was an interesting account of what seems to be a pretty big struggle. It was sometimes shallow, but also very sincere, and seemed very honest. I recommend it, but don't expect to find any life altering truths here.

I finally finished The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and now I finally know what everyone was talking about last year. This method is not really for me, but it did make me think about all the stuff we have. Some spring cleaning may be in order.

I listened The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury in my car. It was perfect for that. I found it entertaining enough to listen to, but didn't feel that I had to shut it off the second I picked up my kids. In fact my 8 year old even enjoyed a few of the stories while we waited for his bus. These are all short stories that are about the same things. It's kind of hard to explain, but very enjoyable, light science fiction. The only depressing thing was the astronauts from the future were born in 1986 - a full 9 years after me. I don't know when I got so old.

Note: links to amazon.com are affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

REVIEW: The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

Have you ever set out to meet a challenging and clear goal that has a specific end point? I know I have. Turns out I may be on a quest, which sounds a lot more exciting than "crazy hobby".

In his book The Happiness of Pursuit Chris Guillebeau not only defines modern day quests (no tilting at windmills here), he provides tips for completing them, and illustrates his points with interesting vignettes from his own travels, and from interviews with other hopeful questers.

I'm in the middle of my quest to visit the highest natural point in each of the 50 states plus DC right now, and this book provided me with some motivation to keep going. (It also gave me plenty of ideas on what to pursue when I'm done!)

Note: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a honest review.

REVIEW: Wide-Open World by John Marshall

I have been on a travel writing kick ever since I had a square for it on my Summer Reading Bingo card last year. That must have been how I ran across Wide-Open World by John Marshall. It was a worthy addition to my current reading obsession!

This was a real life book about doing something kind of crazy that was at the same time relatable. It starts with a couple with two teenagers that is drifting apart. Their marriage isn't terrible, but it's not great, and they feel like they're about to lose their kids to facebook and adulthood. They would love to drop it all, and travel for a year, but aren't sure how to swing it. They realize that by leveraging volunteer work they might be able to swing it.

I'll cut to the chase: these are not self righteous, I'm better than you because I help people instead of traveling types. If you're afraid reading this book will make you feel bad about your next trip to the hotel swimming pool don't be. These are people who initially use volunteer work as a way to help them travel, but who end up being changed for the better by it. This book includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that's what makes it so likable.

Other armchair travel I've enjoyed:

Note: Links to amazon.com are affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

REVIEW: The Secrets of Happy Families (For Real)

Tis the season for family disharmony. Before you get divorced/abandon your home and kids/vow never to celebrate another holiday with your in-laws again, try implementing some of the tips from The Secrets of Happy Families from Bruce Feiler.

I was skeptical at first, but I followed some of Feiler's tips on a recent family vacation. No joke, it was the best one we ever had. Why? Because instead of all sitting around trying to fulfill everyone's vision of a perfect vacation we banded together to dig a huge hole in the sand, and to rescue a rubber chicken from a tree. That sentence would make sense if you had read this book. Well, maybe not, but it worked, and I would have never instigated this kind of nonsense if it weren't for this wonderful, wonderful book.

If your family is already perfect, try this book:

Note: Links to amazon.com are affiliate links. Thanks for your support.