Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In My Library Tote: Recent Reads in April

Do you set reading goals? I don't set out to read a certain number of books each year, but I do sometimes think about the kind of books I want to read. I tend to stick to fiction, typically contemporary fiction, but this year I made it a goal to read more nonfiction. This month I made some progress on that goal: three of the five below are nonfiction picks!

{April 2017 books} 






{Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson} The publishing company Alice works for sends her to the home of infamous novelist M. M. Banning, where she's supposed to act as her assistant as "Mimi" completes her long-awaited second novel. However, Banning has other things in mind, and instead puts Alice in charge of Frank, her nine-year-old son. Frank isn't your typical nine-year-old; he loves old movies and has a wardrobe that looks like he stars in them. He's smart in a way that separates him from kids his age, and therefore has few friends other than the adults in his life.
     The characters in this story are extremely well-written. I tend to forget books pretty quickly after I read them, yet despite finishing this over a month ago, the characters are still vivid in my mind. What made this book good, not great, for me was the main character, Alice, who for some reason I struggled to like. My rating: 3.5 / 5 stars. 

{The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner} The Fringe Hours explores the idea that many women feel like they are so busy fulfilling all of the roles of their life that they don't have any time leftover for themselves. She walks you through taking a hard look at your life and determining the things that matter and the things to let go of. From there, she encourages you to think about small pockets of time that are easily wasted, and how you can use that time on activities that give you pleasure.
     I like my "personal growth" non-fiction to be practical and easy to read, and this was both. Many of the tips she shared were things I already do, but I definitely gained new insights as well. This was a timely read for me, as I'm still adjusting to being a mom of two and I often find myself feeling like there's just not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do. This book helped me to give myself a little grace. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

{Rules of Civility by Amor Towles} Katey Kontent is ringing in 1938 with her friend Eve at a seedy jazz bar in New York, when a handsome, wealthy man comes in and sits at a nearby table. The man, a banker named Tinker Grey, winds up being the force behind big changes in both women's lives.
     I find that the books I tend to enjoy the most I find the hardest to sum up in a few short sentences. That is definitely the case here; this was an excellent read. Sometimes I find that a beautifully written book often has a plot that drags, while a great plot often goes along with mediocre writing. However, with Rules of Civility, Amor Towles truly presented the best of both worlds. I was captivated by his portrayal of New York City in the late 1930s, and I thought the characters were both believable and likable, especially the heroine Katey Kontent. I recommend this one for sure! My rating: 4/5 stars.

{A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold} Most people are familiar with the story of the Columbine school shooting in 1999, but few have heard it from the perspective of one of the killer's mothers. Rather than making excuses for her son Dylan, she instead seeks to understand why he did what he did and what she could have done to prevent it. Her story captures the complexity of her experience--she discusses the tragic shooting with sensitivity and detail, but she also paints a picture of Dylan's life that goes beyond that defining event. She shares her personal story, and also makes it clear that her hope is for others to learn from her mistakes and recognize the signs of a child in distress. All the profits for this book go towards research and funding for organizations that focus on mental health issues.
     This is normally not the kind of book I pick up, but someone mentioned it on a podcast I listen to and on a whim I picked it up. One of the main reasons I read is to see the world from another's point of view, and I think that can be especially difficult in a situation like the Columbine shootings. Like most people, I wanted to write off the parents of the shooters as being nearly as guilty as the kids themselves, but Klebold's perspective opened my eyes to the fact that it's often a lot more complicated than that. I think this was an (emotionally) challenging, yet important, read. My rating: 3.5/5 stars. 

{The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown} In a sport often dominated by the rich and privileged, one crew team of humble origins at the University of Washington sought to defy the world's expectations and take the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Brown tells the story of this iconic rowing team and how their strength, perseverance, and teamwork led them to their dream of representing the US in the Olympics.
     Look at me, 3 non-fiction reads this month! An anomaly for sure. While Brown does go into great detail about rowing, a sport that I knew little about before reading this, The Boys in the Boat reads like a novel. I like that the scope goes from very narrow--for instance, the story of one boy's childhood and beyond--to broad--what was happening in Germany during this time period. It was very informative and thorough, but it never felt like a history lesson. I enjoyed getting to know the boys, their coaches, and the other important figures in their lives. By the end I couldn't put the book down, because although I could predict (or look up) how everything went for them, I got so wrapped up in the story that I felt so nervous for their sakes! This was a wonderful read, it was my surprise favorite of the month. Rating: 4/5 stars.

Have you read anything good lately? What should I pick up next? 

Linking with Modern Mrs. Darcy

No comments:

Post a Comment

I really appreciate hearing from you!