50 Books in 52 Weeks (#11-20)

Read about my first ten books here.

11. The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

Probably my least favorite book of the ones I’ve read in 2016, this novel was a little below my reading level. Thorne said she wanted to explore political campaigning through a child’s eyes, so she crafted a story about a high school girl whose mother died a year before and she finds out her father is a senator campaigning for president. It was an easy read with an interesting (albeit completely unrealistic) plot.

12. Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

James’s memoir was beautifully written in short snippets that were easy to digest. A Shakespeare professor, she took a yearlong sabbatical and uproots her entire family to live in Paris for the year. I especially enjoyed reading about her two children, a 16-year old boy and an 11-year old girl as they navigate through normal adolescent struggles in a different language and culture. The only thing I didn’t like about this selection: it made me want to go back to Paris, something I probably won’t be able to do for at least the next decade!

13. The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America by James T. Patterson

Another mandatory reading for my history course. This book was chock FULL of facts, almost too much, in my opinion. It was written by a history professor at an Ivy League and made me realize I much prefer books by journalists who write nonfiction in a more readable, narrative style. I know more about the year 1965 than I thought I would ever know.

14. After You by Jojo Moyes

After I finished (and bawled) my way through Me Before You, I knew I had to read the sequel, After You. But, like most sequels, it just wasn’t that good. It lacked the punch of the first and I found myself missing one of the main characters (who, *spoiler,* dies at the end of the first book). Sometimes it really is best to just leave it at that first book.

15. The Swiss Affair by Emylia Hall

I didn’t love the plot because it was just a bit far-fetched (a college girl form England spends a year studying abroad, meets a friend who gets murdered three months later and later has an affair with one of her professors who is mysteriously linked to the murder). But it’s set in Switzerland! Hall’s descriptions reminded me so much of my short stay there and had me dying to go back.

16. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

I actually hate baseball, and this novel is filled with it, but I still enjoyed Harbach’s story. What drew me to commit to this 500-pager is that it’s set in a fictional college town located on the shores of Lake Michigan. I love, love, love books set in my home state. The Wisconsin references, the character development, the dazzling prose make it well worth the investment of this brick of a book.

17. On Writing by Stephen King

I’ve never read one of King’s novels (I actually don’t think I’ve ever read a horror novel), but decided to give this loan from my aunt a go.  I was surprised by the quick pace of this how-to. I’ve never been a fan of books that tell me how to do something; I’d much prefer a story with the how-to symbolically embedded in the prose. But King states up front this same position. Since devouring it in a couple of days, I find myself reading other books differently, more through Kings’ lens. Get on with the story, I’ll tell the author just as King instructed. Good details and descriptions cannot compensate for a poor story. Of the 10 books I read in this batch, I was most influenced by this one. It’s a book everyone, not just aspiring writers, but everyone should read.

18. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reid’s story has been told time and time again — a woman trying to figure out what man she should end up with. But she formats the story into two separate ones following the protagonist through two completely different scenarios hinging on a decision made one night. In one scenario, she chooses to hang out with a friend. In the other, she chooses to spend time with a former flame. The alternating storylines made for a quick read because as one story got a little dry, the others’ intensity picked right up.

19. Unanswered Cries: A True Story of Friends, Neighbors and Murder in a Small Town by Thomas French

If I had to pick just one journalist to have dinner with, it’d be Tom French. He’s actually a journalism professor now at Indiana University, but worked for decades at the Tampa Bay Times, one of the country’s greatest regional newspapers. French casually wrote this book in the middle of his career. Its premise sounds pretty ordinary, a woman in her thirties murdered in her Florida home, but French explains why this matters. I’m not a huge fan of murder mysteries, but this is one worth picking up.

20. The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

I’ve always been fascinated by twins and this book delves into that topic. I don’t think the quality of writing was that strong. You know when an author writes something so good, so profound, that you quite literally have to put your book down and think about the words he or she just put on the page? Never happened with this read, a forgettable chick lit book, but still an interesting story that attempt to untangle the twin dynamics of jealousy and envy.

In other reading-related news, I started a GoodReads account, which allows me to electronically track the books I’ve read and the ones I want to read. I spent a good couple of hours procrastinating on final papers during one of my last weeks of school and imported my entire reading list Google doc onto my GoodReads account (more than 170 titles)! The website’s cool because, after reading a book, you can rate it out of five stars and an algorithm spits out reading recommendations based on your ratings. It also helps me better visualize how much progress I’ve made on my New Year’s resolution.

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