September’s Books

September was a busy month, but I’m happy I was able to get through two books. My goal for 2015 is to read 24 books — so two a month. Thankfully, I am right on track. Here’s what I read last month:

The Hundred Year Flood – Matthew Salesses

I originally got this book through Amazon Prime’s Firsts program. It took me about a week to read. And quite frankly, it would have taken me less time had I not been completely confused in the beginning. The narrator jumped back and forth between the past and present. It was difficult to follow. I can’t say I recommend this book. But, I do recommend free books.

Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

Despite the length of this novel, I could not contain myself and sped through it, always wanting more. My biggest complaint was that at the end, I wanted more prose. I had more questions about the narrator. I wanted to know more. I am ashamed at how long I pushed off reading this book. I’ve read Eugenides’ other work and I always postponed reading Middlesex because I had assumed, incorrectly, it was about some old English town. That couldn’t be further from the truth.


One of my resolutions is to read more so I need to start having ideas ready for what I’m going to read next. Here’s my list of books that I plan on reading this year. Obviously, this is not the complete list and I’m open to suggestions. You can tell I’m really into non-fiction, but I’m fairly open to any suggestions you have.

1)The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin — There is a Teddy Roosevelt movie in talks based off one of her books – much like Lincoln. So, I have to read this one before the movie. 

2) Because I Said So: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids by Ken Jennings — I read Maphead last summer by Ken Jennings and I really loved his writing style. Super easy to follow, funny, and full of facts. I’m excited to read another book by him.

3) This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral – Plus Plenty of Valet Parking in America’s Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich — Remember when I wanted to be in politics? Yeah, some side effects still remain and wanting to read this book is one of them.

4) Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg — I’ve heard mixed things about this book and I want to check it out on my own.

5) The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough — David McCullough is one of my favorite history writers. I heard him talk about this book on NPR a year ago and I’ve had it on my list ever since. This is finally the year I’ll read it.

6) Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments by Alex Boese — If the title doesn’t give you a reason to read it then I don’t know what else could.

7) Shrinkage: Manhood, Marriage, and the Tumor that Tried to Kill Me by Bryan Bishop — I loved Bald Bryan on the Adam Carolla show and I remember when he was first diagnosed with his brain tumor. This book doesn’t come out until May, but I look forward to reading it. Bryan is a smart guy and I’m sure his book will be great.

8) The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene — I saw Brian Greene speak at an event last year with Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I’ve heard good things about his writing style — that it’s fairly simplistic and makes sense to people that aren’t scientists.

9) The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt — I’ve seen this book repeatedly on Best Books of 2013 lists. So, I figure why not see what the hype is all about.

10) Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden 

RECENTLY READ // Orange is the New Black

Apparently, just like everyone else, I inhaled Orange is the New Black on Netflix. I zoomed through it and then I was left wanting more. MORE, NETFLIX, MOAR. So, I decided to read the memoir on which the show was loosely based. And not surprisingly, I quickly devoured that.
The book was well written and much different from the show. There are some similarities, obviously. But the show is much more dramatic — obviously.

Piper is incredibly respectful of the women that she is incarcerated with and the juicy stories we see on the show are not in the book. What we do see are women that are just trying to get by and get past the things they have done. Piper is lucky to have a huge support system and she realizes how truly different she is than the other inmates. I know a lot of criticisms of the show have been how it’s about a white woman that is on a short sentence with the intention of “growing,” but the real Piper did recognize her privilege and I don’t feel like it’s a problem within the book. 

Should you read it? Yes! Definitely. It was a good book and if you finish the series and need more, then this is the only way to go. If you have no interest in watching the show, this is still a good book and at least that way, you won’t be totally clueless when people are talking about this show. 


I obviously read this because the movie came out and after hearing reviews of the movie, I don’t think I will. Basically, if you haven’t heard, the movie is nothing like the book. It’s just “Hey, Brad Pitt is gonna fight some zombies! That are fast! Politics!” And, I do love me some Brad Pitt, but I don’t feel like spending money on that.
The book, however, is really good. It’s better than it had any right to be, actually. Zombie books are, let’s face it, pretty lame. I thought we all got over zombies around 2006.
I think I just really like the style of this book. It’s just short little stories about how people handled the war. And, they’re really well written. Some of them have little twists. Some of them are sad. But, for the most part, they’re all good. And hey, if you totally hate one, you could probably skip it because there is no true plot to this book.

Should You Read It? Sure. If you want to see the movie and then gripe about how the two are nothing alike, please do. If you want to enjoy the movie without feeling the need to complain endlessly that it’s not like the book, then don’t. And, if you’re like me and have no intention of seeing the movie, go ahead and read it. It’s pretty short and actually, pretty good.

23 for 23 — Goal #3 – 21/50. 


First off, let me just stop you right there. I know, it looks incredibly boring. A book. About maps. But, hear me out on this one — it was really well written and interesting. It wasn’t like, “A map of America created in 1780 first showed this …” It’s so much more than that.
We all know (or we should all know) Ken Jennings from Jeopardy! fame. He’s the guy that won a lot in the early 2000’s — now do you remember him? He’s a very interesting person and his writing style is informative and personable. He incorporates little tidbits into his writing that make you feel like you’re just talking with the guy. I love that in some non-fiction books — sometimes, especially in subjects that I’m not super familiar with, I want to feel a more personal connection with the author and I definitely feel that in this book.
The book takes a deeper look at people that just love maps. And surprisingly  there are a lot of people out there that fit that description. Jennings feels that a love of maps is a secret thing — something that people hide, but once he admitted it, he found a lot of others that felt the same way he did. He talks to kids in geography bees, geocachers, and map collectors. The book is about so much more than just maps.
I cannot wait to read his other books, like Because I Said So! His writing style really impressed me. 
Should You Read This? Yes! I cannot stop recommending this book and everyone looks at me like I have a third eye. But trust me on this one, it’s definitely worth it. 

RECENTLY READ: In the Garden of Beasts

In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and An American Family in Hitler’s Berlin – Erik Larson

Last year, I read Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City. I immediately fell in love with his writing style — his ability to take non-fiction and write it like it was fiction. To create a world that existed and immediately pull the reader in. The problem with a lot of non-fiction authors is that it gets a little dry. We’re so far removed from the action in the book that it seems far away. That’s not a problem in Larson’s books.
In the Garden of Beasts follows the American Ambassador to Berlin right before World War II. Ambassador Dodd is not a typical member of the State Department – he’s a history professor that just wanted an easy post so he could work on his grand work of a history of the American south. Unfortunately  that was not possible while in Berlin.
Knowing what I know about World War II and Hitler’s regime, it’s really interesting to see the perspective from Americans at that time. At first, Dodd’s family was actually sympathetic to the Nazi regime. 
This book is very well written and interesting. No real dry parts either.
Should You Read It? Yes! Even if you’re not a huge non-fiction fan, this book would appeal to you. It’s got romance, action, and you might even learn something.

RECENTLY READ: Space Chronicles

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Neil deGrasse Tyson speak and this collection of his essays is fairly similar to his speaking points – manned vs. unmanned space exploration, the need to promote science for children, etc. And, I definitely agree with a lot of the points he makes.
Some of the essays do get a bit repetitive, but I think that it helps to drive his points home. If he didn’t think what he was saying was important, he wouldn’t keep saying it. He was interested in science because of the Apollo missions – so why should we deny our future generations that push towards science? 
His essays are fun and interesting – very easy to read. You wouldn’t think an astrophysicist would be simple to read, but Neil makes it fun. He includes his “Space Tweets” throughout the book as well. 
Should You Read It? Yes! Even if you have only a mild interest in space, this is such a good and easy to read book that it is definitely worth it. And, you might even learn something. 


Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History – Florence Williams

I have them. So, I was pretty intrigued by the book. Breasts come out of nowhere and suddenly, you’re stuck with these two things for the rest of your life. It wouldn’t hurt to know a little bit more about them.
I guess I was expecting a very scientific look at the development of breasts, breast feeding, augmentation, and the inevitable decline. However, I ended up reading a lot about chemicals because as Williams mentions repeatedly – they’re everywhere.
For the record, Williams is a journalist – not a scientist. So when she shrugs off scientists because they’re men (Honestly. She’s very judgmental about male scientists that are studying breasts), I’m a little wary of her intentions. And, she’s a self-proclaimed “granola girl.” 
It’s a little bit of a bummer read. And, by little bit, I really mean it’s a total bummer of a read. It’s a lot of “You’re going to get breast cancer no matter what.” I wish the book had been more about the development of breasts in mammals (what an odd thing to write) and about breast augmentation with less focus on the doom and gloom of having breasts.

Should you read it? Meh. I wouldn’t bother.

Goal #3 – 23 for 23 – 17/50.


This is one of those books that everyone talks about and I push off reading until it seems like everyone’s forgotten about it. 
At first, I wondered what exactly I was reading. I had heard it was a great book and it seemed to move slowly and like walking into a dark room, it took a while to adjust to my surroundings. Who are these people? What is happening? Where are they going?
Eventually, I started to feel for the two main characters in the novel – the child and the man. Their relationship strains on my heart. I’m not a mother, but I feel like I would do the same for anyone in my family.
The book left me with a lot of questions. My head is still swimming with them.

4 out of 5 stars. A book that leaves me feeling the way that The Road did is a good book. 


Drift: The UnMooring of American Military Power – Rachel Maddow

I’m a huge fan of Rachel Maddow and I’m also a huge fan of reading about the military. So, I knew I would really enjoy this book.
Maddow’s thesis is essentially that as a country, we once wanted to make it so that if we went to war, we wanted to be all in – we wanted to feel the consequences to prevent us from jumping in. Our founding fathers put up roadblocks in the Constitution to prevent it as well. However, Maddow explains how we’ve moved away from that. 
It’s an interesting read. Now that I’ve read a non-fiction book, it’s time to read a fiction book.