Archive of ‘My Reading Life’ category

The Best of Book Clubs

to be read pileEver since I can remember, reading books has been as essential as breathing. I am rarely without a book or a magazine in my hand. At the hairdresser, I’ll listen to an audiobook while waiting the 25 minutes at the color station. I’ve also been known to read while standing in a checkout line at the grocery store, completely unaware that the line has moved forward because I am so engrossed in a story.

Those who aren’t big readers can’t seem to relate to this. Reading feels chore to them instead of a constant source of entertainment. Or maybe they were forced to read one awful book in high school and decided that the written word wasn’t for them. I don’t fault them for this. I only hope they will someday discover the joy and inspiration found between the pages of a book.

In my case, the only thing better than reading a book is talking about it. I love in-depth discussions about overall themes, characters, and plots. I want to marvel over the author’s writing style, talk through the twists and turns, and celebrate (or critique) how it all ends.

This is why my neighborhood book club has been one of the highlights of my suburban life. Every month or so, we choose a book to read and discuss. We had been meeting for many years in person before the pandemic hit. To keep our momentum (and sanity) in check, we met over Zoom. While it wasn’t the same as sitting in someone’s living room, it provided that much-needed connection we were all missing.

At times, we don’t always talk about the book. We love to drink wine and catch each other up on what is happening in our lives. We are also an incredibly resourceful bunch. If someone wants to redesign their kitchen, we recommend contractors, appliance and tile stores, and the best place to find high-quality light fixtures. When we were all planning b’nai mitzvahs for our kids, we traded the names of DJs and caterers.

There was a time when I said I wanted to talk more about the books we read when we met. At one particular meeting, we tried to lay down some ground rules. For instance, if you read the book, come at 7 pm to discuss it. Come over at 8 for cookies, cocktails, and chit-chat if you didn’t.

This turned out to be a lonely time for me. 😉

Soon enough, I weighed my need for intellectual conversation and my even stronger desire for a close-knit friend group. Of course, the friends won out. To this day, I consider these people some of my dearest friends. And besides, good books are much easier to find than good friends.

These days, our book club is the perfect mix of literary discussion and Mom’s Night Out. And, I love every minute of it. Whether we talk about what we loved or hated about the book or indulge in some neighborhood gossip, we all love a good story.

December Book Report

If you said to me that I would finish reading 30 books this year, I would have said you were insane. I mean – I do have a life, you know, outside of reading. I have kids, a job, a home, a husband, a dog, friends, family, etc. When will I ever find the time to read 30 books?

Oh, who am I kidding? Apparently, if I cut out enough Netflix and doom-scrolling, I can carve out the time to read. So, I did just that.


I looked back to see what exactly I had read. Turns out, I finished 11 non-fiction – mostly memoirs – and 19 novels. I listened to seven books on Audible, read nine on my Kindle, and the rest were actual books from my bookshelf or local library. I DNF’d two books but only counted one of them in my total because I read most of it before I gave up completely.

It didn’t seem like I read this many books, so I’m glad I kept track of them. Otherwise, I may not have believed it myself.

Honestly, it isn’t about the number of books I read but the quality of the books and what brought to my life. I’ve enjoyed each story immensely, and I have no regrets for passing on both seasons of Ted Lasso to snuggle up with a good book. Although, I’ve heard it’s an excellent show.

This month, I read two books.

The Plot, by Jean Hanff Korelitz

It is so nice to end the year with a five-star read! This book had a lot of hype around it which always makes me suspicious. I’ve read rave reviews, and too often, the book doesn’t live up to the press it gets. I was more than pleasantly surprised when this book delivered the goods. The Plot centers around author/writing instructor Jacob Finch Bonner, a struggling writer who still hopes to write a bestselling novel someday and enjoy all the fame, fortune, love, and admiration that success brings. His last few attempts fell short of this goal, so he decided to teach at a third-rate MFA program in New England. When one of his students tells him about his story idea that will be a sure thing, Jake is envious and resigns himself to his mundane lifestyle.

But, when the student unexpectedly dies, Jake sees the opportunity to tell (a.k.a. steal) the storyline for himself. This fateful decision brings him the life he always dreamed of, along with a nightmare of epic proportions. This thriller is quite the page-turner, and although I did figure out the twist halfway through, I had to know how it ends.

This is a book that is not to be missed. Trust me.

How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

New Years’ resolutions rarely work out for me (except for when it comes to my reading goals 🙂 ). I have high hopes but rarely commit to a long-term plan to cross the finish line. I’ve read plenty of books and articles about forming sustainable habits and staying motivated, but they haven’t moved me enough to succeed. This book was different.

Wharton professor, Katy Milkman, tackles six reasons one may fail to achieve their goals – impulsivity, procrastination, forgetfulness, laziness, confidence, and conformity. In each chapter, she offers up compelling stories and examples with solid science and evidence showing how each of these obstacles can get in the way of reaching our full potential. Sometimes, these books contain so much science that I lose interest. Other authors tend to tell stories without a valid point. Milkman gives just the right amount of everything and makes a good case for turning each of these negatives into a positive way to make a change.

I’m not big on re-reading books, but I know I will refer back to this one frequently as I try once again to finally achieve some lofty goals.

What’s Next?

I have three books in the queue for January. The first is one that my sister has recommended to me – Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir. I’ve had it downloaded in Audible to listen to since October. But, the book is over 500 pages long, which equates to about 18 hours of listening time. In addition to it being a big book, it is also science fiction which is not a genre I usually read. However, I’ve heard great things about the story, and I’m up for the challenge.

The next book is for neighborhood book club – We Are Not Like Them, by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza. This novel has made the rounds on some of the bookish podcasts I listen to, and I’m looking forward to diving into it.

The third book I want to read is Inheritance by Danni Shapiro. This memoir is about a woman who takes a genetic test for fun and learns that the man she has called dad her entire life is not her birth father. This book has been on my TBR list for quite some time.

A final word…

This is the part of my blog where I encourage you to shop at an independent bookstore of your choice. While I regularly support a few different bookstores, I have also been feeding the Amazon beast by downloading cheap titles on my Kindle. I’m not proud of it, and I wanted to come clean.

I feel much better now. Indie bookstores are still my favorite places to shop for books, but the lethal combination of convenience and affordability are too tempting. I still hope you shop at indies as I do. They need our support, and a bookseller’s recommendations are invaluable – but nobody’s perfect.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2022!

XO,
Elisa

November Book Report

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of you! I am so incredibly grateful to you, dear reader, for continuing to read my blog. I haven’t been the best at keeping up with my writing schedule lately, but I am planning on more posts in the future – so, stay tuned!

In the meantime, my reading life has never been better. I’m branching back out into listening to books on Audible. I did this all the time when I had a long commute into work and gave it up once I started working from home. But now I realize that listening to books while exercising, doing the dishes, or folding laundry, helps me continue to enjoy great stories while being extremely productive around the house.

I’ve always been pretty good at multi-tasking.

So, what have I been reading? I finished five books in November, which I think is a new record for me. Besides listening to books on Audible, my new favorite activity is to listen to a few reading-related podcasts like – Currently Reading, Sarah’s Bookshelves Live, The Readerly Report, and my favorite – What Should I Read Next. Each of these podcasts offers insights into cultivating a better reading life and continues to put new and back-list books on my radar. If you are an avid reader like me, I highly recommend checking out one of these podcasts.

Okay. On to the book reviews! Enjoy! 🙂

The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas

Rose Napolitano and her husband Luke made the decision not to have children before they got married. They loved their careers. Rose knows in her heart that she does not want to be a mother, and she makes this crystal clear to her family. Luke is on board because he wants to spend time on his photography business. But, a few years later, Luke changes his mind and now desperately wants to be a father. He puts an enormous amount of pressure on Rose, whose feelings on the subject have never wavered.

I’m just going to say right now that I LOVED THIS BOOK! The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano takes the reader on quite a journey. The chapters depict a different version of Rose’s life and sees that storyline through. And each path begins in the same way with a fight about taking prenatal vitamins. I don’t want to say too much more, except that this novel takes a deep dive into the pressures women face from their partners, their parents, and society as a whole when it comes to the subject of motherhood.

One thing I will say is don’t look at the table of contents in this book. They are all named for whatever number life Rose is in (i.e., Rose, Lives 2, 5, and 7). I never felt lost when the different lives overlapped, but the table of contents made me think that it would be hard to keep track. It wasn’t.

If you are looking for a novel that will elicit good book club conversation, this is the one to buy. However, I’ll put the trigger warning on here for infertility and loss.

Good Company by Cynthia D’Apix Sweeny

What happens when you find out that a) your husband cheated on you and b) your best friend knew all about it and kept it a secret? Good Company tells the story of Julian and Flora and Margot – a different sort of love triangle that stretches the bonds of marriage and friendship to its limit. This story was a little slow initially, but it picked up a little after the first few chapters. There are plenty of flashbacks to when the main characters first met and how their relationships evolved. Good Company refers to the theater company where this all takes place, so there is quite a bit of detail into putting on a show and working in the entertainment industry. But, I kept wanting to return to the main story because I found that much more interesting than the setting or the strolls down memory lane.

I wanted to enjoy this book because I loved the author’s debut novel, The Nest. This one was just so-so for me, but I finished. I listened to it on Audible while doing my Hanukkah shopping and thought that narrator did a great job. If I had the book, I might have DNF’d it much earlier.

Going There by Katie Couric

Some of my favorite memoirs are written by journalists. Not only are they wonderful writers who know how to tell a story, but they have also witnessed history while it is happening and reported on it. In her memoir, Katie Couric doesn’t disappoint. She definitely “goes there’ when talking about her family, kids, career, love and loss, love after the loss of her husband to cancer, sexism in the workplace, and yes, Matt Lauer.

The behind-the-scenes aspect of her efforts to get in the door, be seen as a serious journalist, get the story, and get it right appeals to me on many levels. Early on in my career, I was a newspaper reporter and lived and breathed the newsroom rollercoaster culture. It’s quite a ride.

I was afraid that I might not love her memoir as much because many stories were already out there. Her book tour included many interviews on the talk shows, and I was worried I already knew too much going in. In this hefty book (nearly 500 pages), there is still plenty to chew on.

Yearbook, by Seth Rogen

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this memoir by a comedic actor that hasn’t always been my cup of tea. Typically I’m not too fond of the whole pot culture scene. It’s not my scene, and I’m too straight-laced to understand the attraction of recreational drug use.

But, I’m happy to report that this book is much more than that. Maybe it’s because Seth Rogen is a member of the tribe (meaning Jewish) or that he is not one of the more handsome, cookie-cutter types of actors that tend to annoy me more than impress me, but I genuinely liked the way Seth shares his stories. He has just the right amount of humility as he enjoys his celebrity status.

And I am so glad that I listened to this book on Audible. Not only does he have an excellent delivery, but he has many cameo appearances/voiceovers that I was not expecting. While I could have done without the drug-related adventures, this was a fun read.

Don’t Keep Your Day Job: How to Turn Your Passion into Your Career by Cathy Heller

Full disclosure: I picked up this book after being furloughed from my job last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. I took the setback as an opportunity to explore whether I wanted to turn my passion for writing into a full-time gig.

As for the book, I started reading it last summer and then put it away once I secured my new role. However, I decided to finish it because l enjoy listening to the author’s podcast of the same name. She understands the creative mind and how difficult it might be to translate that into good business sense. Basically – she speaks to me on a level I can relate to and understand. Her voice and writing style is both encouraging and informative. And her practical advice is what I would consider spot on – from building an audience to creating your own brand. So, whether you are a painter, a writer, a baker, or a candlestick maker, I highly recommend this book to build the entrepreneurial life you desire.

What’s Next?

At the beginning of 2021, I set my Goodreads Challenge reading goal to 21 books. I am pleasantly surprised that I have surpassed that goal and am on my way to finishing 30 books by the end of the year. There are plenty of books on my shelves to choose from, and I am purposely picking easy reads and shorter books to reach my new goal.

This Holiday Season

If you are a regular reader of my book review blogs, you know what is coming. It’s the plea to shop at independent bookstores for your literary gifts. If you aren’t sure where to find your local bookshop, check out Bookshop.org. However, I have one major favor to ask of you – find the bookstore on the website – but buy the books directly from the store. You can still online shop on most indie bookstore websites, and the owners will benefit from your entire purchase. Unfortunately, the website credits a bookstore a tiny percentage of your purchase to the store – and not the website.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know what books you have recommended lately, so I can add them to my list!

Happy Holidays!

Elisa

 

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