Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: Winter 2018

This year is off to a great start reading-wise. Mostly because it is all I feel like doing. The cold weather and the post-holiday exhaustion means that I come home from work, claim the couch (we are currently a one-couch family) and read. And what great books I have been reading since the new year. I am trying to list them in order of awesomeness. The top four books I have listed are really excellent reads, the kind of book you finish and you can’t imagine finding anything as good to read. But luckily, I did.

One my big goals for 2018 is to read books I already own. The cabinet above belonged to my grandparents. It is filled with my father’s scholarly work, books I have read, loved and kept (I have moved several times in the last 20 years so I have given many away) and books I have yet to read. I would say that the yet-to-read exceeds the already-read and this year I hope to change that. I really enjoyed this week’s What Should I Read Next podcast episode because the focus was backlist titles and while it is hard to not always seek out the shiny new releases, I know that there are so many good books that I already own. This year I plan to read them! Here is what I have been reading lately.

I had never read anything by Ali Smith but I went to the library and Winter was there by the checkout line. It was fantastic. I loved the writing. I will be buying this and reading it again once it is in paperback. I will actually be reading everything she ever wrote. Her writing reminds me a bit of Kate Atkinson’s. Hard to describe but really fantastic. Just read it.I finally read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close after owning it for 13+ years. I bought it in the summer of 2005 which turned out to be a turning point for me and my family. Life got crazy and I never read it. It moved with me twice (many books were lost along the way as I donated them to the library book drive, despairing that I would ever have time to read again) and I am so glad I kept this and picked it up over the Christmas holiday and read it. So so good. The writing, the writing, the writing and the main character. If you haven’t read it, do. That is all I am going to say. Another amazing book is Salvage the Bones. I am waiting for Jesmyn Ward’s new book (in line at the library). Such powerful writing. I loved the main character and the last several chapters with the description of the storm were stunning. I was late to the party on this memoir but am so glad I finally read it. I also loved this collection of stories which I read last year. I highly recommend both. Really terrific. A friend recommended Norwegian by Night to me. It reads a bit like a mystery but so well written with interesting characters and setting that it really transcends the genre. I highly recommend it. I picked up Swimming with Bridgeport Girls at my local library. The author grew up in my town and it was fun to read as the story took place largely in places that I know well. This is the story of a guy who gets in his own way. It was well written and entertaining. Not my typical read but definitely enjoyable but maybe more so for me because I live in Connecticut. I read We Were the Lucky Ones on the recommendation of multiple podcasters, bookstore owners and fellow readers. I have read so many WWII novels in the past several years but what makes this one stand apart is that it is the real story of a real family told by a daughter who researched her family history. So compelling. I was moved to tears. A wonderful read.The Last Days at Cafe Leila was recommended to me by a friend whose taste I trust. I loved reading about life in Iran and the story and characters drew me in. And the food! A good read.Love and Trouble was initially challenging for me. The content is racy and in the first part of the memoir, it was hard for me to get past. But I persevered as it had been a recommendation from my book whisperer,  Catherine who never disappoints. I am glad I read it and I would say that I thought it was a brave book. The writing is spot on and the story, while hard to read at times, rang true. The writer seemed to really be grappling with her past in a very authentic and vulnerable way so I was ultimately glad that I read it. Another book with sex and infidelity as a main themes, Fire Sermon, was my January Shelf Subscription book. This book was beautifully written. The author explored these subjects through the lens of faith and Christianity. It was interesting to read these two books back to back. Definitely check out the From the Front Porch podcast episode where this book is the Love it or Loathe it topic. Really terrific. You can link directly to that episode here.I finished a number of books that were half-read in the first few weeks of the new year. It was a great feeling to have a clean slate so to speak. I was inspired to read Moby Dick because one of our children was reading it for school and I am so glad I did! I think that I may have read it in middle school during a semester when we intensively studied whaling (and quite a lot of the book dwelt on the history of whaling) but the parts of the book that were dramatic were really dramatic and worth all the rest. If you haven’t read it, winter is the perfect season. It helped that I had this nice edition that I bought years ago. One of my reading resolutions for 2018 was to read a collection of short stories each month. I was inspired by this podcast episode. In January I read George Saunders’ first published collection of short stories. They are satirical and sometimes disturbing and often funny. They sadly rang a little too true in our current political and social environment. I also really loved the author’s note where he talks about how and when he wrote them and what his life was like then. It was worth the whole book to read about how he came to write.This month I am reading a short story collection by B.J. Novak which is very entertaining so far. I don’t watch TV, like ever, so I have never seen the Office and had no idea who he was but I am really enjoying the stories. I chose my 12 short story collections (one for each month) based on recommendations from the Bookshelf staff. I love that there is such a wide range of authors and writing styles. To see the whole stack, check out this post.This was a book I started in 2017 and finished in 2018. I started this story collection in 2017 because our book group read it. I hadn’t finished so tried to plow through in the first week after New Years Day. I almost made it but some of the later stories were really hard for me to read. Some very tough going on topics such as drug running, addiction etc. So I probably read all but the last two stories. I just couldn’t keep going. The writing is really terrific but the themes are a bit tough.

I really enjoyed Glitter and Glue and look forward to reading Kelly Corrigan’s latest book which I am waiting for at the library. I loved her honesty. It was a quick read. I think I read it over a weekend.I have just started this book which was on the NY Times notable books of the year list. I loved the Little House books as a child but I do have to say that some of the descriptions of Native Americans gave me pause as I read them aloud to my children. I am really interested in the back story. Stay tuned.I have a big stack of books lined up for the next month which I am looking forward to tackling including a beautiful hardcover edition of The Essex Serpent which was a birthday gift from my mother. I am really looking forward to reading it. I have heard such good things about it. and just today, I received my February Shelf Subscription in the mail. So fun! What are you reading and loving this winter? I am linking to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly quick lit post today. Link here to read her new book recommendations!

Reading and Books

Nursebean reads: August 2017

I have not been reading as many books as last year. Work has been really busy and I have been doing a lot of sewing and I have had a harder time finding things that really grab me. But this month, I have read four books so far that have been really good reads. They are all really different. No real theme here. The first is The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.  I decided last year that I want to read more classics and have slowly been making progress toward that goal.

This is actually the first Henry James book I have read but it won’t be the last. I really enjoyed the writing, the character development, the settings (Rome, the English countryside). I did end up feeling as though I wished I were in college and had the opportunity to discuss it with a  couple of smart students or hear what  a professor might say about the book and the author. I ended up googling it and saw a piece that referenced this book which is now on my summer reading list. To be continued.

I listened to the audio of Born a Crime which was recommended by Anne Bogel and also by my daughter and son-in-law. I mostly liked it very much. I learned quite a lot about South Africa and it was entertaining and shocking in parts and funny in parts. I am not a TV watcher so didn’t know Trevor Noah but I am glad I listened to it. I got this Joshilyn Jackson book on audio from a daily kindle deal ( I get tons of great books from the Modern Mrs. Darcy daily emails.) I really enjoyed it and it was great on audio. Smart, Southern chick-lit which I would not normally think was my genre but I was drawn into the story and will definitely be getting more of her books on audio. She reads them herself. She is an actress and does a great job as a narrator. I was pleasantly surprised.

I got this next book recommendation from Catherine Newman. I love her writing, her recipes, her books and her book recommendations. This was a smart, funny read. I highly highly recommend it. What are you reading lately?

Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: July 2017

I have read far fewer books this year than last mostly due to a heavy work schedule. I am also listening to more NPR news (sadly) and podcasts. I am also having a harder time finding books I love. Nothing I have read yet has topped Lincoln in the Bardo. I highly recommend it.

Here are some recent reads.

I am glad I read A  Piece of the World and appreciated the characters and the way the author wove the story together that blended real settings and people with her fictional characters but I found it slow going at times.

I am going to be honest: Beartown was hard to read at times. I felt the foreshadowing and omnipresent voice of the narrator always commenting on the characters and the story was heavy handed and I found it hard to read knowing that something bad was going to happen but not knowing when or to whom.

Our book group read All the Rivers, a novel that was banned in Israel’s public schools about a romance between an Israeli woman and an Arab man who meet in Brooklyn. It was beautiful and poignant and led to a really great discussion as several members of our book group grew up in Israel.

I really enjoyed The Wangs vs. The World. It was timely, funny, poignant and I loved the characters. I read The Rules Do Not Apply because It was recommended by two bloggers whose taste I trust  but while I could appreciate that the author had been through some very tough experiences some of which were very familiar to me from my own experience, I just had a hard time relating to her. I felt really detached reading it which surprised me. I am listening to this on audio which is very good. The best thing I have read so far is the first 20% of this classic-my current read. I am loving the writing and the main character Isabelle Archer. I only wish my English professor father were still alive so I could discuss it with him when I finish the book.

Linking up today with Anne Bogel my chief book whisperer whose podcast What Should I Read Next is my major source of great new reads. I highly recommend it!

Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: May and June 2017

I have not been reading as much this year as last. Partly because I am listening to fewer audio books having already worked my way through Flavia De Luce and Robert Galbraith and partly because I am listening more to the news and to podcasts rather than audio books (I love this one, this one and this one and I powered through this one along with much of the country (although I am not sure I loved it in the end,) and partly because I have had less free time than usual due to business at work and to dedicating time to getting more regular exercise which has limited my reading time. But I did read these books in the last two months. This was my favorite which I found out about through Great New Books which is a great source of books I have enjoyed reading. This is a memoir and does follow the year of experimentation a la The Happiness Project, which seems to be a new genre, but I liked the author’s unsentimental writing style. She acknowledges feeling and sentiment without wallowing. Her writing is spare but quite beautiful. She is self aware but also seems to put her ego aside which I appreciated. The subject was very interesting to me because my brother is an ornithologist and though it is about birds, it isn’t really about birds. A pretty quick read that I will likely read again. Lots of food for thought.I read four other books, all of them good reads but none of them five stars. I Let You Go was engrossing and I liked some aspects of the story but there were was a really unlikable character whose thoughts and actions occupied a lot of narrative and that detracted from my overall experience of the book. I did like the writing though and would try other books by the same author.

I discovered Erin on the Art of Simple podcast and I ended up liking this memoir more than I expected to. She writes in an unsentimental way about things that were really quite difficult for her. Many of her experiences are things I went through. I have sometimes thought about writing a book but have stopped because I don’t want to revisit those times and out of respect for the privacy of the other people involved but I felt as though she did a very good job in telling her story. Highly recommend.

I listened to O Pioneers on audiobook and I would probably have done better reading it. The narrator of the version I read had a sort of sing song voice that came across a little too pollyanna to my taste. This totally reminded me of the Little House books. I will have to go back and read more of  Willa Cather (I understand that several of the books are basically a series?) and will give this another go. I didn’t dislike it but it was hard to engage when listening to this particular narrator.

Earlier this year I read this book which I loved loved loved so I expected to love Rules of Civility. I liked some parts of the book very much, particularly the etiology of the title and the history and the historical figure who coined the phrase but I didn’t love the book entirely, again due to characters making bad choices. I guess that is a theme for me this month. I am glad I read it but is wasn’t up to A Gentleman in Moscow.

I am currently reading this book which I am really liking. The writing style, the characters and the story are all working for me.

I started this book which I think I am going to really like. Sort of a modern era Rules of Civility. So far the characters are more likable.

And I got more than 80% through this when my library loan ended and it disappeared from my Kindle. I really want to know how it ends now. I have liked it but not loved it. The ending will likely tell the tale but it may be months before my turn comes around again.

What are you reading and loving right now?

Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: January 2017

I am currently engrossed in this book which I was inspired to read by listening to Mel talk about it in this episode of the WSIRN podcast. It is so, so good. Even better, I am reading it while away for the weekend in the Berkshires in a house with a working fireplace-my idea of heaven. Read Mel’s post on how to take a reading weekend vacation for inspiration. And if you aren’t listening to this podcast yet, you should. I never miss an episode. They are always fun but the one with Mel was especially fun. I added several great books to my to-be-read list, discovered a new blogger and have new recipes to try. Bonus!

Recent books read include this one which is the MMD book club pick for this month. I loved it. I loved the story, the characters and their relationship, the sense of place, the writing-I loved it all. I am now off to find other titles by this author who I had never heard of before reading this book although she is a well-known author.

I also finished this book which our book group read last year. I loved the ending and the way she wove the stories together. An amazing debut novel.

I am alternating reading about vampires with reading these two non-fiction books.
I love both writers and I need something less scary to read before bed.

I am listening to this book on audio. Perfect for the commute.And I recently picked up this stack of books from the library. They are mostly inspired by Anne’s suggestions although I have wanted to read the Snow Child since this favorite blogger recommended it several years ago. Anne’s recent post about great winter reads sent me to the library for that one and two others.  A Manual for Cleaning Women is our current book club read. So many titles, not enough time! What are you reading this winter?

Reading and Books

Nursebeanreads a lot: 2016 Summary of Best Reads


The year is not yet over but as of yesterday December 13th, I had read or listened to 115 books in 2016. Here is the Goodreads summary (I love the pretty book cover mosaic!) As you can see, I liked most of them quite a lot-more than 100 were a 4 or 5 star read for me. This is largely because I have three terrific book whisperers who you can learn more about here. I also share details here of how I found time to read many more books this year than ever before. It has really been an amazing year for reading.img_4254Goodreads calculates all sorts of statistics. Here are two: number of pages read: 38, 937 (I actually may make it to 40,000 by December 31st. Who knew?) and longest book read (actually listened to on audible): Anna Karenina which is apparently 964 pages. It was over 34 hours of audio and took me over two months of daily commutes to finish but it is one of the books that I am especially glad I read this year.

Bloggers I follow choose their favorite books each year. Some choose three favorites. I would have a very hard time narrowing this list down that far but I tried, going through the list, to choose the books for each category that still resonate many months later. I came up with a list of 26 books, about 1 in 5 that I read this year (some are the first book in a series that I enjoyed.)

I actually rated 45 of the books I read 5 stars on Goodreads and some of the list of 26 weren’t even books I had rated a 5, so there are many other fantastic books on the list. You can click here to see the whole list.

Here are my most memorable books of 2016 by category. The first category is fiction. I chose these six books and would probably have to rank The Underground Railroad as my favorite. It is hauntingly beautiful.img_426311/22/63 was the first book I read this year and my first ever read by Stephen King. It still resonates with me. He is really a great story teller and this very long book kept me engaged over a three day period during which I inhaled it wanting to find out how it ended. This was also one of several books that I read this year that took place in the early 1960’s either during the year I was born or shortly thereafter which made it that much more compelling to me. It also takes place-at least some of it-in a small mill town in Maine, also a common theme of some books I loved this year and also one of my favorite places.

I just finished A Gentleman in Moscow and I highly recommend it. I loved the characters and the story kept me interested. A really good winter read. I have Rules of Civility, also by Amor Towles,  lined up to read next and I can’t wait.

The One-in-a-Million Boy was wonderful. Just read it. Great female protagonist, small town in Maine, compelling story.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven: World War II, unforgettable characters, beautiful writing.

Our Souls at Night is a quietly beautiful story. I loved it.

img_4289Non-Fiction: I read a lot of great non-fiction books this year, most of them recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy or on her podcast. My favorites were Year of Yes, Big Magic and Being Mortal, all fantastic. I listened to Being Mortal on audio and the audio version was really excellent. Year of Yes is a must read for all my daughters. So, so good.

img_4291Classics ( also audio): I wanted to read more classics than I actually did but I did end up listening to Anna Karenina. This version was very enjoyable. I ended up finding it on sale on Audible quite cheap which was great because it took me so long to get through, I would never have managed with borrowing it from the library. I also listened to a fantastic version of The Wind in the Willows which I also bought for $2 on an audible daily deal. And I read or listened to books 2-7 of Harry Potter (which I would classify as a modern day classic) which were so good. I had read the first book almost 20 years ago when it was first published and I bought it for my now 30 year old son. I started listening to the Jim Dale audio books and listened to books 2-4 and then read the rest over Thanksgiving when I traveled to see my daughter. After the election I needed something to take my mind off current events. It was just the thing. Reading the whole series over a relatively short period of time really revealed to me just how brilliant J.K. Rowling is. The way she wove so many threads together by the end of the last book was just amazing. So glad I took the time to read these books!

img_4295Mystery: I read or actually listened to the J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) Cormorant Strike mystery series (three books in all but more are forthcoming, thank goodness). These were fantastic on audio. I was so sorry when I finished them. I also listened to the entire nine book Flavia De Luce series, also fantastic. They are a little gruesome, as are the second two books in the Cormorant Strike series, but the narrator is great and I loved them and didn’t mind the discussion of decomposing bodies etc. I found both series through Modern Mrs. Darcy. I also listened to one the Jackson Brodie mysteries by Kate Atkinson, one of my favorite authors. Her writing style is so brilliantly funny. I am glad that I haven’t read all of these because I look forward to reading them this year. The audio was really terrific but I also enjoy reading her books just for the pleasure of her writing style.

Audio-I read so many more books than usual this year. I have written this year in other posts why this is but listening to books has definitely made a difference and I have found some really good ones and learned how easy it is to borrow audio and kindle books from my local library and download them to my phone. This made is easy for me to read while going on walks, sewing, driving. One book I would definitely recommend listening to is Between the World and Me, which I have included in the memoir category below. I was listening way past my bedtime to the author read his powerful words.

img_4277Sci-Fi/Just for Fun: I would never have found this book without Modern Mrs. Darcy and the What Should I Read Next Podcast but it was really a fun read. I bought it for my nephew and my kids. I understand the audio version is excellent as well. A movie is in the works.

img_4293Memoir: My favorite book genre is memoir and I read many this year and had a hard time narrowing my list so here are eleven that are all fantastic. I loved Travels with Charley by Steinbeck which I had never read before this year. He started on a trip across the U.S. in January 1961, the month I was born, and started his trip in a small town in Maine which resonated with other books I read including When We Were the Kennedys, another fantastic memoir by the author of One-in-a-Million Boy. It was so interesting to hear him describe what the towns were like and what he encountered across the country. So much of it resonated even in this day and time. The more time passes, the more the same issues are present in our culture. It felt really timely to read it now. I won’t go into detail on all of the other books in this category. Many are well known. But suffice to say that they were all great reads that I would highly recommend. As I read my way through this year, I wrote several posts where I did mini-reviews of most of them. You can link to my other posts about my reading life here. And if you aren’t yet listening to the What Should I Read Next podcast, I highly recommend it. You can subscribe on iTunes or follow the podcast on Instagram at @annebogel and @whatshouldireadnext. I am tremendously grateful to Anne for her thoughtful recommendations to her guests and I haven’t gone wrong reading any of the books she recommends. I have also found all kinds of great books and audio books on sale by subscribing to her daily kindle deal emails. A tremendous resource for readers.

What books did you love this year?



Reading and Books

Post-Election Bibliotherapy

I couldn’t put these books down.  I highly recommend all four which are very different but very good.They all drew me in and made me want to keep reading which is what I need right now.img_4005I also highly recommend reading this letter and this post. Wise words for challenging times. Since the election last week, however, the only thing I have had the energy for is this series which I had been working my way through on audio book. The audio version is awesome but this  weekend I borrowed the hardcover books from my daughter and have lost myself in the story. I finished Book 4 tonight and will start the next in the series tomorrow. I am hosting my book group next month and we will be reading this book. But for right now, rooting for HP to overcome the forces of evil is just what I want to read.