Summer (Literary) Escapes

Some books I’ve read lately. I’ve read NINE! books since February. Ah, COVID. These are they. Enjoy.

The News of the World

by Paulette Jiles

This was a really nice read. It’s set in Texas, 5 years after the conclusion of the Civil War. It had me looking up words, timelines and facts as I went along… I realized that historical fiction is probably my favorite genre. This book gave me a little bit of All the Pretty Horses vibes, and of course True Grit. I did guess at the ending but I still enjoyed it all the way through.

The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig

I’ve been telling everyone about this book. And so many people are reading it! It’s not that it’s the best written book, but it has such a great concept — the chance to relive your life by changing the decisions you made. Extremely enjoyable!

Today Will Be Different

by Maria Semple

I chose this book because I enjoyed Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by the same author. Today is a view into the life of Eleanor, a restless wife and mother who has an overactive mind. Basically me. It felt good to get drawn into her comical malcontent. The end of the book seemed to arrive quickly and I almost felt like I had watched the first episode of a TV show with no more episodes available.

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Brontë

Do I even need to review this book? It’s the sort of classic fiction I was made to read in high school, but I wasn’t. It was referenced in two different books I read this year and I decided I had to read it. If you aren’t used to reading 19th century English Lit, it may be a lot. It was challenging for me, but so worth it. I see why it’s so beloved. The writing is so descriptive, so artful, so unlike anything written nowadays. But I think the best thing about it is getting to know Jane, a woman who has every reason for not being virtuous or true to herself and yet, is.

Such a Fun Age

by Kiley Reid

This was a good in every way. Easy to read, plot twists, authentic characters, good writing that you aren’t even aware of as you’re reading it. The story felt so modern and relatable. I enjoyed the settings – New York, Philadelphia, Allentown – all so familiar. My favorite part: the dialog between the three-year-old girl and her babysitter who just ‘gets’ her.

Beach Read

by Emily Henry

I did, actually, read this at the beach. It was okay. But, I think I’m just not that into romance or YA and this was a little bit of both. It is a book written about authors writing books. Which takes place on a lake. There’s a fair amount of history of family disfunction. Then there’s super steamy luv scenes. All in all a good vaca read.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

This was a weird book. But weird is good. Spoiler: Eleanor is NOT fine. I found it somewhat interesting and reassuring to go on the journey with her, about her past, her trauma and then her slow renewal.

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

This was my cup of tea. Family disfunction, multigenerational saga, mystery… It was thoroughly enjoyable and richly descriptive. I was engaged all the way through. Tried to guess the ending but was still surprised.

The Woman in the Window

by A.J. Finn

I don’t usually read suspense but this was very good. I wanted a good page turner after reading Awakening the Heroes Within. Obviously it pays homage to Rear Window and Noir in general but is it’s own story. Has you guessing who dun it as well as is she imagining it all? Recommend!

Book Roundup

Hi there! It’s been a while since I talked about books. Here’s a catalog of what I’ve read over the last year. I like to keep track and also give a bit of a list of suggestions for anyone looking for something new to read.


by Glennon Doyle

The most recent book I’ve read is this third memoir by Glennon Doyle. I’ve been reading her writings since the early Momastery days. I read her first book, Carry On, Warrior but never got around to her second one, Love Warrior. Now I’ve just finished Untamed. I loved it! It is so powerful, so real. As I was reading, I thought of numerous friends that I wanted to tell, “You have to read this.” I will be forever grateful that she had the courage to put herself out there, to lead the way, to tell me and all women, that we are meant to be wild, we are worth it, and the world needs us to be untamed.

Anxious People

by Fredrik Backman

My friend Joan told me about this book and I thought it looked really enjoyable. I had seen the movie version of Backman’s previous book, A Man Called Ove, so I assumed this would be equally lovely. What I appreciated most about this story was how light it was. Even though it deals with the hardships of life and how they can lead to our self-destruction, this story about a bank robbery gone wrong and subsequent hostage situation at an apartment open house is full of humor and real human connection. It was an easy read with a twisty plot that kept me guessing until the end. A delight.

An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones

I feel like everyone was reading this so I jumped in too. A couple struggles early on in their marriage and then are torn apart when the husband is accused of a rape he did not commit. It shows the challenges a marriage endures, from the point of view of everyone involved. What does it take to stick it out? How much do you sacrifice? A very real and honest story with good character development and artful writing.


by Min Jin Lee

This is a hearty book! I think I read it on Brittney Bathgate‘s recommendation. I do love a book set in the past and very much like a book set in Japan. I read a few books by Yukio Mishima in college. Anyway, Pachinko is a beautiful, heart-rending story about a Korean woman who’s fate is altered by charming Japanese businessman. It chronicles her struggle and “luck” and those of the generations that follow. I learned so much about the history and culture of Korea and Japan.

Modern Lovers

by Emma Straub

I went on a search for the quintessential light beach read back in August. I remember liking The Vacationers, so looked for another Emma Straub book. Modern Lovers feels like a Netflix show. The characters are easy to get to know and seem somewhat familiar. Everyone makes foolish decisions and you can see how they’re going to regret them later. A quick, easy read.

The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

I jumped into this book and pretty soon wondered if it was a mistake. Four siblings go to see a psychic and each find out the day they will die. So, it was kind of dark. I stuck it out and I’m glad I did. It was a page-turner. I had to find out if (and how) they died. And of course, I thought a lot about which is worse; knowing when or not knowing when.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

by Sogyal Rinpoche

After I read Noah Levine’s The Dharma Punx I went out and bought The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which Levine describes reading and implementing as he attempts to find meaning in his life. That was four years ago. Then this past summer, out of the blue, a friend said I should read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He said it was the most important, most life-changing, most profound book he’s ever read and I should do myself a favor and read it. I said, I OWN THAT BOOK! But, I was about to go on vacation and didn’t think it would be a casual read. I did end up reading it on my trip and it was fantastic. I am still reading it, many months later, putting it down as I read other books, but I will say it is life-changing. No one wants to confront death. But what I didn’t know is that death is not what we think it is. This book is full of wisdom and truth … and beauty. You should read it.

The Snow Queen

by Hans Christen Andersen

This book was recommended by my therapist. She often talks about fairy tales and myths to describe the psyche. I bought the hardback version linked above because I loved its Scandinavian illustrations but before I got a chance to read it I got an email from my friend Jennifer who had just recorded the book! So I listened to it. I don’t usually like audio books but JC’s voice is so amazing I had to. The Snow Queen tells the tale of a two young friends and an evil mirror. The original fairy tales aren’t like Disney’s. They are dark and strange. I enjoyed listening to the 7 stories of the Snow Queen but think I’ll read the physical book too.

Purchase the audio book here.

Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World

by Carol S. Pearson

Also recommended  by my therapist. I’ve only started reading this so I can’t say much but I gotta say, I love an epic quest. I had to read the Odyssey in high school and then I chose to read it again as an adult for fun! Also, Circe. But this isn’t fiction, it’s more of a psychology text book. Or a self-help book. The goal being that you discover “archetypal allies that can help you live the story that is needed for you to discover your true identity, calling, and purpose.” So, yeah. I’ll get back to you on how it goes for me. 

What to Read this Summer

Hello! Welcome to July. I’m finally getting around to going through the books I’ve read since, March? Here they are, newest to oldest. It seems I’ve read about 2 books per month. That’s a lot for me. I’m not saying you should read all of these. If I was going to pick my favorites, ones I think you’d enjoy reading on the beach or whatever, I’d say: The City of Girls and The Dutch House. But, here are all the impressive tomes I’ve managed to cram into my already overcrowded brain:

by Andrew Sean Greer

Review: I grabbed this in paperback at Barnes and Noble recently, desperate to dig into something light and summery, and in actual physical form. A struggling writer goes on a round-the-world lark. I’m still reading it but it’s turning out to be pretty perfect for lounging around by the pool this season.

by Michael Chabon

Review: This was the book back in 2017. Recommended by my Aunt Joan. I didn’t love it. I think this is the first book my Aunt liked and I didn’t. It was artfully written and interesting—a sort of memoir about the author’s grandfather—who, admittedly, did interesting things. But, it just didn’t really take off for me. (Rocket joke, which is only sort of funny if you read the book.)

The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett

Review: This is my kind of book. I got it in hardback, a Mother’s Day gift, and it was a real treat. It was much like Commonwealth, with flashbacks to youth and family disfunction that feels so familiar. The Dutch House refers to a house in a suburb of Philly (my backyard practically) built by a Dutch couple, and is the setting of much sadness, obsession and ultimately redemption? I loved it.

by Cheryl Strayed

Review: This book was very popular back in 2013 but I never got around to reading it, or watching the movie starring Reese Witherspoon. I really enjoyed this non-fiction book about a woman’s solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. (I read it on my iPad with the Libby app, then switched it to my daughter’s Kindle.) Such a page turner! Not only did I feel compelled to keep marching through it, cringing at every mishap, but was also inspired by it to re-explore some of my own foolhardy youthful treks. It even made me want to maybe write a memoir of my own. I have to mention though, I accidentally read some of the reviews online and the bad ones are so scathing! So unnecessarily cruel and judgmental. Like, they missed the whole point. I found myself thinking about this story so much after I finished it and wanting to talk to everyone about it. Seems no one I know has read it. Good summer book.

The Diary of a Young Girl
by Anne Frank

Review: Well, what can I say about this? Obviously a powerful piece of history. I couldn’t remember if I had read it before. I must have. My high school did it as a play. I know the story. I learned that the book has been re-published with some previously deleted parts. It was interesting to read it now that I have a soon-to-be adolescent daughter.

The City of Girls
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Review: This is the only book I’ve read by Elizabeth Gilbert since Eat, Pray, Love. Unlike that big breakout book, City of Girls is fiction. It’s about a teenage girl who moves to NYC to live with her Aunt who runs a playhouse. The time is the 1940s. It’s pretty racy and also tragic and very, very good. I love a good novel you can get immersed in.

Queenbees and Wannabes
by Rosalind Wiseman

Review: This was like a textbook for me. Research. If you have teenagers (or tweenagers), read this book. (Also you must read How to Raise a Screensmart Kid.) Wiseman’s book is from the early 2000s. It is what the movie Mean Girls is based on. But it’s not funny. It’s harrowing. Good god. Can we talk about re-traumatization? And flashbacks to a misspent youth? But it’s full of useful information and very illuminating.


So much reading over here. I want to give a plug for your local library. They let you borrow books. Like, for free. Do it. Being able to download books, to your iPad or Kindle or whatever, from your library is the best thing during times like these.

I’m Still Making Myself Read Books

Actually, I like reading. But, you know, Netflix. And Instagram. And other mind-numbing activities. Reading seems like it’s good for the brain and the soul. So here’s what I’ve read since I last posted about books.

To the Land of Long Lost Friends:
No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith

I am only about one third of the way through To the Land of Long Lost Friends now. I previously read two other Books by Smith. It’s not really my style of literature but he was such a favorite of my stepmother Carolyn, and it reminds me of her and her quirky sense of humor. My copy was a gift from my Dad and it has a sticker on it that says “Politics & Prose, Signed by the Author” which gives me so many feels. #politicsandprose #iheartdc

Educated: A Memoir
by Tara Westover

This books was really hard for me to read. I became so invested and emotionally effected by it I almost couldn’t finish it. But it was so well written. And, if she could survive the living of it, I could hopefully survive the reading of it.

The Four Tendencies:
The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better
by Gretchen Rubin

I would say this book changed my life. I think everyone should read it. I read it on my Libby app. Because it was a library book, I read it super fast. Whenever I read a self-help type book, it feels like a school assignment and there’s a sense of obligation to get it done (that’s why I’m an Obliger!) Take the online test to find out which of the four tendencies you are. It gave me amazing insight on who I am as well as the motivations of the people I live with!

Turtles All the Way Down
by John Green

You may know I steer clear of YA, but my good friend Laura recommended this, so I read it. It was pretty good.

by Madeline Miller

Wow, not like anything I’ve ever read before. Quite intense. I studied ancient Greek and Roman mythology in Junior High and High School. I also read the Odyssey (voluntarily) rather recently, so it was fascinating to read a sort of novel told about the gods as if they were people. The writing was rich and challenging and really transported me to a radically different place and time. Recommend.


Book Club 5

Books I’ve read, and what I liked:


The Courage to Be Disliked
by Ichiro Kishimi And Fumitake Koga 

My friend Jenny recommended this and I bought it on iBooks. I thought it was going to be a book about setting boundaries, but it really wasn’t. I have to say I thought the format — a Socratic dialogue — very awkward. Maybe it was the translation from the Japanese. It was like, people don’t talk like that. But once I accepted that, I was able to enjoy and benefit from the ideas put forth. Although the concepts weren’t new to me, I loved them! I won’t spoil it for you, but I highly recommend!

Raising a Screen Smart Kid
by Julianna Minor

This book has become my parenting bible. Limiting screen time is all my family talks (fights) about! Raising a Screen Smart Kid has helped so much. It is extremely well written (easy to read) and well researched. Oh my god, did Julianna do her homework! I truly answers all the questions. Please, for your sanity and survival, buy this book. Like, now.

The Miniaturist
by Jesse Burton

Okay, now a lovely novel. Set in 17th century Amsterdam, it feels a little like Henrik Ibsen’s A Dolls House. I love a good family secrets book. A truly enjoyable literary journey.

The Call of the Wild
by Jack London

I read this because my 11 year olds had to for school and I needed to quiz them on it, but I ended up loving it. So interesting. Quite violent. I’m glad I finally read this artfully worded classic based on real events in 1900 Alaska. I downloaded it for free on my iPad.

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

I swore I’d never read another WWII/Nazi book. This was worth an exception. Two young lives, on opposite sides of a war, ultimately converge. Beautiful described scenes and action.

by Niki Brantmark

Such a cute little book. I love Swedish design and culture. (I read and loved A Year of Living Danishly.) I’ve followed the blog My Scandinavian Home for a while and knew I’d love this book. I’m also a sucker for great photography and illustration.

Full of Beans
by Jennifer L. Holm

This is one of the books I read to my kids. I got it at the library. Their dad read The Third Mushroom and The Fourteenth Goldfish to them and they loved those, so I thought it would be good. So many kids’ books are a real drag for the parents but this one was enjoyable! It was fairly gritty, kind of a Elmore Leonard vibe. Set in Key West in the depression, it follows a sort of little rascals group of kids who are very resourceful.

by Michelle Obama

Not to be political, but I love the Obamas. It was obvious I was going to read this book. How fun to hear her life story, and all the presidenty stuff we already know, from her perspective. You gotta love her. Plus she is amazing in Carpool Karaoke.

Warm Socks, Strong Coffee & Good Books

So, it’s winter(ish). And that means I’m cozying up alone with books. Here’s the journey where my introversion has taken me.


Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love
by Jonathan Van Ness

I got this book for my birthday. I love Queer Eye and so I knew I’d enjoy this. I’m also a sucker for a story of a checkered past. So, yeah. By the time I finished the book, I felt such a strong feeling that Jonathan and I were friends and should chat everyday. Side note: check out Gay of Thrones.


Cinnamon and Gunpowder
by Eli Brown

I started off slow with this one but was glad I stuck it out. It was really good. What’s it like to be a chef kidnapped by pirates? You’re about to find out. Pirates, trade wars, gourmet food prep … could be a current TV show … only it’s 100 years ago.


Where the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens

I’m proud to say I got this book from the library (and by “got” I mean had it downloaded and then had to wait to have it renewed through my Libby app). This book was so beautiful! The imagery! The mood. I just wanted to BE there. I was there. Creative and original. Highly recommend.


Love Anyway
by Jeremy Courtney

I was invited to meet this author and be a part of a making a difference in war-torn places. The evening was amazing and I’m so glad I went. Taking a close up look at the wars in the middle east is not something I frequently or willingly do. The refugee crisis and ever widening violence in this world is just too painful for me to look at. So, reading this was a big step. And it was so worth it.


Have you read any of these books? It’s always interesting to step back and look at what themes I’ve been immersing myself in. Growing up gay in the midwest. Getting kidnapped by pirates. Surviving poverty, abuse and rejection. Facing the worst atrocities as well as your own crisis of faith. Sort of connected. Sometimes our trials and suffering lead to great accomplishments. Sometimes our attempts to escape lead us right back to where we were. But, hopefully our experiences will shape us into something useful and something we can be proud of.