From Serial Killers to Psychological Thrillers: 2019 First Quarter Reading Report

Looking for a good spring read? I’ve got a few or 26 to recommend.

Best Books I’ve Read in 2019 So Far

  • I started the year listening to Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and OH MY GAWD is it good. And by good, I mean beautifully written, achingly sad, and so disturbing, especially for a Sacramento native where the Golden State Killer got his start (and was arrested not two miles from my current home!). This is not one to listen to before bed. Ask me how I know.
  • Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am rose in my esteem after I finished listening to it and found out it’s a memoir. It reminded me of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, an alternate history type book where the main character dies and comes back to life over and over (also a great read!). I would have appreciated the stories more I think, had I known they were O’Farrell’s actual experiences.
  • A powerful and difficult read, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele’s memoir When They Call You A Terrorist sparked so many emotions. I listened to the book, which is read by the first author, and found myself weeping at some points and feeling rage at others. The book details many of Khan-Cullors’s family and life experiences to help explain the rise of Black Lives Matter as a social movement and also touches on the effects of mental illness, stigmatized sexualities, poverty, and mass incarceration. It is a must-read.
  • If you like ambitious dystopian fantasy, The Book of M by Peng Shepherd is for you. Although the plot runs a little amok toward the end, I fell in love with the characters, especially as they dealt with losing their shadows… and all of their memories. So haunting.
  • Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic makes my top books list because her advice for living a creative life is on point, especially for those who are not “creatives” or artists, per se. Her “stop worrying about perfection”/”stop worrying about what others will think”/”you do you, but just do something already” advice was exactly what I needed to get unstuck on a creative writing project.
  • And, last of my top books so far this year, Rosella Postorino’s At The Wolf’s Table, the untold story of the women conscripted to be Hitler’s food tasters during World War II. I knew nothing of these women’s experiences before now and found myself utterly captivated and horrified.

Catching Up On Books I Never Read in High School

  • After stumbling upon Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue and not realizing it was part of a series, I went back to the beginning and listened to her entire The Giver quartet (The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son), and wow. My top thoughts: HOW ARE THESE KIDS’ BOOKS? and WHY AREN’T THEY LONGER??? Set in several loosely connected dystopian communities with varying degrees of technology, I found the characters and their lives compelling. The story lines were engrossing but also disturbing especially in regard to eugenics and the treatment of emotion as evil. I was shocked to learn later that The Giver is standard school age reading list fare. (Note to audio book fans: The books have different narrators, all of which were fine but it’s a little jarring if you listen to them all in a row.)
  • Okay, so I saw the movie first and was so confused I had to go back and read A Wrinkle in Time. I’m still a little confused but I can see better now why Madeleine L’Engle’s book is a classic.
  • (Bonus book in the young adult genre) I found Kathryn Erskine’s “The Absolute Value of Mike” charming. It’s a Young Adult book about a teenager named Mike who has a math related learning disability and struggles finding approval from his math genius dad. Mike ends up getting sent away for the summer to live with aging relatives while his dad does a summer research project abroad. A funny and sometimes poignant tale ensues as Mike helps the community of his new small town raise money for town’s minister to adopt a child from Romania. It’s a little convoluted but involves family communication, relationships between fathers and sons, grief/loss, and also hope and community. And lots of gentle humor.

A Random Assortment of Good Reads

From Gulp, Mary Roach’s creative nonfiction exploration of the alimentary canal, where I learned WAY too much about saliva, feces, and gut bacteria, to Cynthia Hand’s The Afterlife of Holly Chase, a magical twist on A Christmas Carol, I’ve enjoyed a number of easy/interesting reads that I may not remember by the end of the year. (The Goblet of Fire doesn’t fit in the forgettable category, it just fit in this hodgepodge collage)! Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season will probably stay with me the longest, as this fictional murder mystery is set on a former plantation and illustrates important themes related to race and class. And if you’re looking for some decent modern romance fluff, I’ve just discovered Christina Lauren.

Psychological Thrillers That Make Me Question The Libby App Algorithm 

While Anthony Horowitz’s The Word is Murder is a more straightforward murder mystery (and quite good!) and Gillian Flynn’s The Grownup is a short story that SHE NEEDS TO FLESH OUT OMG, the rest are psychological thrillers that make me wonder who Libby thinks I am. Libby being the library app I use to download e- and audiobooks. While I found Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth inventive, if not abjectly terrifying, and Alice Feeney’s Sometimes I Lie more creative than most, I’m tired of the female-protagonist-made-to-feel-literally-crazy-due-to-the-lies-drugs-and/or-manipulations-of-those-closest-to-her trope. The number of these books I’ve stumbled across in the last couple years makes me almost want to start reading dust jackets/descriptions.

Until then, I’ll be finishing up my three reads-in-progress: The Other Life by Ellen Meister (already shaping up to be a top read of 2019 depending on the ending); They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners by Stephanie Jones-Rogers (definitely on the top nonfiction reads of the year); and The One, by Nora Roberts, because I love a good magical dystopian mystery romance and I don’t care who knows it.

xoxo,
your favorite bookworm

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