In My Library Tote: May Book Recommendations and Reviews

In May, I worked on finishing up my Spring Reading Wishlist. With the exception of An American Marriage (which I finally picked up, after a super long holds queue) and Big Magic (reading now) I was able to complete it. May also meant that I started my summer reading list. As I've done for the last couple of summers, I used the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide to help me make my selection. The rest of the year, I compile my TBR from a variety of sources. But for summer, I trust in Anne Bogel. She hasn't yet let me down.

Anyway, here's what I read in the busy month of May.

{what I read in may}

{A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman} I mentioned this one in my May Favorites post, so obviously it was one I enjoyed. Sometimes I love a book because of the writing, or because of it's message, or because it has a great plot. However, it's often the characters that do it for me, and in this case it was Ove himself who made me want to hug this book. (And I listened to it on audio, which would have made that very difficult indeed.) I know that the "grumpy old man" trope has been done, but to me this didn't feel at all cliched. Additionally, the other characters in the story are just as well developed, like the pregnant neighbor with whom Ove starts and unlikely friendship, and Ove's late wife Sonia, whose presence is felt despite her physical absence. I loved this one from start to finish. My rating: 4.5/5 stars. 

{11/22/63 by Stephen King} I read this for the "book over 500 pages" category for the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge. So yes, it's a hefty one. (Especially if your library gives you the hardcover!) All I knew about it going in was that it was about JFK, but more sci-fi leaning than straight historical fiction. Neither of those are elements that would normally draw me to a book, but I ended up picking it up because so many readers, all with varied tastes, have recommended it. If you've never read Stephen King before and think he's not for you, I'd encourage you to give 11/22/63 a try. If you read the book jacket blurb and think, "A book about JFK but with time travel? No thank you," believe me when I say that I had the same initial reaction. There's a reason why King is touted for being such a talented writer. He really pulled me in to the world he creates, and from the beginning I was invested. It was a long book, but it didn't feel long; in the story when someone time travels through the portal in the diner (stay with me, I swear!), no matter how long they're there only two minutes have passed when they return. That was a bit how it was reading this book; I could sit there and read fifty pages, but it felt like only a couple minutes had passed. My rating: 4/5 stars.

{How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber and Julie King} I read this because a couple of people suggested it when I asked for recommended parenting books last month on Instagram (since I focused on parenting last month for my goals). It really is a survival guide, and in an ideal world I could carry this book with me at all times to reference any time my kids are driving me crazy. I like the way this book is organized, with each chapter going into detail about a different topic (engaging cooperation, resolving conflict, etc.) and at the end summarizes with important points to remember and examples to use. I recommend this book to any parent of a young child. My rating: 4/5 stars. 

{Exit West by Mohsin Hamid} This was a book on my Spring Reading wishlist. Nadia and Saeed start their relationship the way many young people do: tentatively and furtively. However, as their country moves closer and closer to civil war, they must make commitments they're likely not ready for, or risk losing each other forever. Nadia moves in with Saeed and his family. As violence increases and they no longer feel safe where they are, they begin to hear rumors of doors that will take them far away. They weigh the options of staying vs leaving. The haunting, sometimes dreamlike, writing reminded me of The End We Start From, which I read earlier this year. Yet there was also the grounding element of Nadia and Saeed's relationship and its challenges that contrasted with the other-worldly concept of doors acting as portals between countries. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

{Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance} I listened to this book on audio, and J. D. Vance narrated it himself. I had heard a lot about this memoir, Vance's story of his upbringing as a reflection of the decline of white working-class America. For me, it offered a new perspective; I recognize that I have had the privilege of never experiencing true poverty, and I admit that I have often taken my education for granted. Vance's story was eye-opening and heart-breaking at times. While it did help me understand a culture quite a bit different from my own, it didn't give me the insight into Trump's victory as much as I'd heard it would. However, it was still worth the read and it's one I would recommend. My rating 3.5/5 stars. 

{Census by Jesse Ball} This was a pick from Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide, and the only one on her list that I didn't have to wait in a long holds queue for. It's the story of a widower and his adult son with Down Syndrome, and after learning that he doesn't have much longer to live, he signs up as a census-worker and he takes his son on a cross country trip (literally) from A to Z. It's a very strange story, beautifully written at times, yet hard to follow at others. I tend to like strange, but I struggled to get into this one. My rating: 3/5 stars. 

{Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin} I should have taken a closer look at this book's subtitle before reading, because when I picked it up I assumed that it would be similar to Rubin's The Happiness Project, but translated into home-related projects and ideas. "Everyday life" is a lot broader than the physical aspect of the home that I was thinking of, so I was a bit disappointed in this book. I did enjoy The Happiness Project, so if you are looking for something that continues that idea, I'd recommend this one. I am still a devoted Gretchen Rubin fan, but this one wasn't a favorite. My rating: 3/5 stars.


{The Assistants by Camille Perri} My current job is as an executive assistant, so when I heard that The Assistants was about a group of assistants who hatch a plan to pay off their student loans with company money, I was intrigued. I admit that it can be frustrating to see executives spend ridiculous amounts of money on travel or a client dinner out, especially when my budget is so tight at home. However, I don't do well when characters make a series of bad choices, and continue to dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole. It drives me crazy. I could tell pretty early on that this was a book like that, and I just couldn't do it. Plus, I listened to it on audio and didn't love the narrator. This is one I'd put in the category of "not bad, but not for me." 

Have you read anything good lately?

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