Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What I've added to my TBR lately

I think the last of these posts I did was in November. Wow! That would explain why my folder of new book images is so large. So, here are the books I'm most excited about digging into these days.

First up, some books about America, because she's been through the wringer lately:

I recently chose All the Gallant Men as a memorial book for my father for my university library. He was in the U.S. Navy during peacetime, but the thought of him on a ship protecting a grand battleship always brings to mind those brave men of Pearl Harbor. This is the first account of a USS Arizona survivor, only five of which are still alive.

Renowned historian David McCullough has put together a book of his speeches on America and the American spirit, called The American Spirit, that I'm excited to read. (Out in April.)

I've long wondered about the U.S. territories, what their status is, if their rights and governance is any different from the 50 states, and why they aren't states. There's finally a book to answer my questions: The Not-Quite States of America. So excited for this.

Presidents and First Ladies

I've long been interested in President Wilson, so I've bought a copy of A. Scott Berg's (he wrote a bio about Lindbergh years back) biography, Wilson.

I've been looking for a copy of Margaret Truman's biography of her mother for years. Bess W. Truman is long out of print, but I snapped up a copy at a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago. Margaret Truman has written many books about first ladies, the White House, and Washington.

And I finally (why did this take so long?) bought Jon Meacham's biography of President George H. W. Bush, Destiny and Power. Bush fascinates me, and his long career and short presidency was full of adventure and varied national service.

While I was at it, I bought Meacham's Franklin and Winston, because one just can't read enough books about FDR, can one?

I've been dithering over Louisa, the biography of first lady Louisa Adams since it came out. I finally took the plunge and bought a copy.

And another FDR book, The Gatekeeper, is the story of Missy LeHand, President Roosevelt's "de facto chief of staff." If you've ever read an FDR bio, you know her name.


Atlas Obscura is an interesting encyclopedia-like book about weird places and things in the world. I'm all in.

Hoping to re-capture my feelings for Five Days at Memorial, I've bought a copy of David Oshinsky's Bellevue, a biography of the famed hospital.

And for some reason, I've added Bruce Springsteen's memoir, Born to Run, to my TBR. Well-written celebrity memoirs are few and far between, and I've heard nothing but good about this one. I'm not particularly a Springsteen fan, but I love a good story.

I can't wait to read The Book of Joy, reflections on joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.

If you know me, you know I hoard books about food and have a hard time getting around to reading them. I think Eight Flavors is one of those, but books, unlike most foods, keep.

In 2015, I read Tom Ryan's Following Atticus and was blown away. Ryan is back with another dog memoir, Will's Red Coat, and I can't wait. (Out in April.)

John Hildebrand was one of my college professors, though I regret that I never got into his extremely popular nonfiction writing course back in the day. He writes quiet, contemplative nonfiction that evokes a strong sense of place. The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac is a collection of seasonal essays that came out in 2014.


I've been looking for some more good Christian reading ever since finishing Jen Hatmaker's For the Love last summer. Her husband, Brandon Hatmaker, has a book out called A Mile Wide that I think I might try.

Also, I became familiar with Samuel Rodriguez after his inaugural prayer (and subsequent interviews), and his newest book, Be Light, is now out in paperback. I plan to pick up a copy soon.


The minute I finished A Gentleman in Moscow, I bought Amor Towles' earlier book, Rules of Civility.

I'm challenging myself to read a few books that are way outside of my wheelhouse, so I've added Lincoln in the Bardo to my TBR. It's definitely not my usual fiction reading.

And I picked up a copy of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, not just for the cover, but that was part of it.

You know that I love historical fiction (everything in this section is historical), but I get nervous about historical fiction based on fact. The Last Days of Night mixes the two, so I plan to read it and see if I can get over my black or white dilemma.

And because I now own a Kindle (thanks to my husband), I bought a copy of Alan Bradley's Kindle short, The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse (a Flavia de Luce story).

Sara Pennypacker will be back with another Waylon! book, Waylon! Even More Awesome, due out in October.

After enjoying Eleanor & Park, I added Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl to my TBR.

And if I read the Ramona books when I was little, I don't remember (though I think I did...), so I've added Beezus and Ramona to my reading list.

And lastly, a book my grandson recommended. Actually, he recommended the whole The Books of Elsewhere series (five books), but I'll start with the first, The Shadows, and see how it goes.

Have you read any of these? Are you looking forward to any? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, February 20, 2017

18 presidential books on my to be read list

Happy Presidents Day! In honor of the great men who have shared this office, I've put together a sampling of my to be read books that feature presidents, first ladies, and first families. The more I read about the presidents, the more I want to know. While I doubt if I'll get to all of these by the end of the year, I hope to get to a good chunk of them.

The Kennedys

Franklin Roosevelt

The Trumans

Huge Biographies



What I'm reading this week (2/20/17)

Last week I finished:

Last week I finished my audio-read of Wolf Hollow. This book had been on my TBR since it came out last year. I enjoyed the book. I've seen it compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, but I'd have to say that's true in plot only. It's no To Kill a Mockingbird, but then I think TKaM is one of the finest books in American literature. Wolf Hollow is about Annabelle who lives on a farm with her family during World War II. When a new girl comes to school who bullies Annabelle and others, things escalate a point where truly terrible things happen. This isn't a book about name-calling and kids-will-be-kids bullying. People actually get hurt. People hate. People go on manhunts. People die. It was ally pretty real. I liked the writing, the characters, the strong sense of setting, the moral dilemma Annabelle faces when lying to her parents. What I didn't love about the book was the sense of danger. For the fifth grade and up crowd, there really isn't anything terrible in the book--nothing worse than a mild-ish TV drama, I suppose, but I still enjoy children's books that celebrate the innocence of childhood, not that put a child into an adult situation. My rating: 3.5 stars.

I also finished Michael Booth's Super Sushi Ramen Express. I'm torn about this one. On the one hand, I learned a lot about Japanese food. It's a comprehensive look at everything from ramen to Kobe beef to dashi to sushi and sashimi to soy sauce to tempura. There were also interesting side adventures to places like a restaurant that serves its noodles upstream from a family with chopsticks waiting to pluck them out of the water, sauce them, and eat. We meet sumo wrestlers, talk to MSG moguls, go to a tea ceremony, visit a wasabi farm (did you know wasabi is best grown in running water?), Okinawa to chat with people who enjoy the best longevity on the planet, and lots of other destinations. I marked dozens of facts that I want to captures. But on the other hand, I found the book a little boring. I tend not to like books that take a reader to a different place each chapter, to meet different people, and that set up little interviews for the reader. That sort of drives me bonkers. This was one of those books. I was also a little annoyed by the way the author took what the industry folks said about their various products (such as the MSG folks) as fact without challenge. It seemed a little sloppy. So, I don't know, I learned a lot, but I didn't always enjoy the ride all that much. It's a great book if you want lots of facts about Japanese food and cooking, and especially if you don't mind the kind of travel book that gives you whiplash. My rating: 3 stars.

This week I'll finish:

I think I'll kind of miss Eleanor and Park when I'm done with this book. They're great characters. I just hope this one ends well. I could see it going any number of places, and I'm anxious.

Last week I began:

I finally started my "other" book for the month, House Beautiful Pink. There isn't much text here at all, but it sure is pretty. Perfect book for Valentine's month.

And because I can't go more than a day without having a poetry collection going, I picked up my March choice, Poems That Make Grown Men Cry. It's a collection of short essays by famous men you've never heard of talking about the poem that makes them cry, and the poem, of course, is included. It's arranged chronologically, so I'm still back in the early 1800s, which isn't my preferred era for poetry, but I have hopes of liking it more when we get to the modern poems.

My current audiobook:

I often choose audiobooks to knock off a long book that I wouldn't get to for months otherwise. Belgravia, written by Julian Bellows of Downton Abbey fame, is one of those books. I don't have a good idea of what the book will be about, but I was in the mood for an old, sweeping story, and I think it will be that. 

Next up:

Driving Mr. Albert has been on my TBR for so long that I'd actually sold and bought back the book.
It's about a road trip with Albert Einstein's (literal) brain by the author of The Telling Room (about a cheese road trip in France...or something like that).