Books I Read This Week 2019 – 32

Solid reading this week. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Callings (4 stars): I have never heard of StoryCorps but I loved the title of this book when it showed up at my library so I knew I wanted to read it. It turned out to be a total gem. It’s full of very short stories from real people’s lives and how they ended up or chose with the career they love. It’s very touching and very real. There’s a section specifically for the military as well. I loved each of the stories in their unique way. The variety is what makes this collection even more of a joy to read because you can tell it’s not trying to impart a perspective or a lesson. It’s just giving you glimpses into real people and their real moments. It was exceptionally lovely on audio.

The Wedding Party (3 stars): I enjoy Guillory’s novels and know that they will be funny, a bit sarcastic and land squarely on sweet. I felt this one was lighter (or maybe more predictable) than usual so I started and stopped it a few times but once I got into it, it was a fun ride for the few hours it took me to read it. If you’ve read the other two, you’ll likely also enjoy the cameo.

The Confession Club (4 stars): “It’s all well and good to congratulate someone on something good that they did, or to acknowledge what’s wonderful or exceptional about them. And we should do that; we should never be spiritually stingy. But to say out loud our missteps or inadequacies – to _confess_ in an honest way and to be lovingly heard – well, that’s the kind of redemption we need on a regular basis.”

Elizabeth Berg’s novels are a joy to read. They are quiet and sweet and kind and wind their way through your heart and soul. Her characters are richly layered and multi-dimensional and human. They have flaws, fears, delights and everything in between.

“Apparently, sometimes when you feel yourself done with something, you’re not done with it at all.”

This lovely story is just like what we’ve come to expect from Berg, it’s about women aged 20 to 70 who meet regularly for “confession club” where they confess to something they feel bad about. Something they are ashamed of or embarrassed to admit out loud. There are a wide range of confessions, from funny to sad to serious but they all have a lot of heart, of course.

“She envies Nola for the way she is always in a rush to do everything, the way she rises so quickly to the possibility of joy. Most of all, she envies Nola her default setting of goodwill toward man, beast, or weather.”

It’s also about a homeless Vietnam Vet who is finding his way through and meets one of the main characters in the novel. I found him to be a great addition to the story, and really enjoyed his chapters, his journey, and his struggles.

“There are quite a few design flaws in us humans, you know. More than in animals and plants. And I guess we have to cope with them. Don’t have to like them, just have to cope with them.”

There is some plot in this story but really it’s about people, it’s about getting old, it’s about being lonely, it’s about navigating life or marriage or motherhood or friendship. It’s about what it means to be human.

“That’s what life is, at its best. A confession club: people admitting to doubts, fears and failures.”

I am always left with a deep feeling of gratitude when I read Berg’s novels. This one is no exception. They make me feel less alone, softer and kinder.

“We forget how ready people are to help. You can talk all you want about the evil spirit of man. But I don’t think it’s true. I think most of us are just dying to be good. And one way we can do that is to forgive the bad in others as well as in ourselves.”

So many good reminders in this story, about taking risks, giving people chances, giving ourselves chances, and most of all about forgiveness. So grateful for writers like Berg.

Huge thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care (4 stars): Self-care can be (and has been) defined many different ways. Many of the resources I’ve seen over the course of the last year have all been focusing on the “pampering” aspect of self-care. Things like taking baths, getting a pedicure, etc. I’ve also seen examples around practicing gratitude, journaling, etc. What’s great about this book is that is has both and then so much more. I think it’s relatively true to its title in that it’s pretty exhaustive.

“The goal of self-care is an ever-morphing target, so concentrate on getting to know yourself and your needs instead of thinking in terms of cures and fixes, solutions and antidotes.”

This book doesn’t pass judgement on how to define self-care and what’s acceptable and what’s not. It casts a wide net and gives you so many options that you feel empowered to pick what works for you at different times in your journey.

There are so many awesome ideas in this book that I can’t imagine there won’t be one that speaks to you. I’ve read several books and hundreds of articles on self-care in the last few years and there were several new-to-me ideas in this book. Many of which I was excited to try immediately.

If self-care is an area where you’re interested in exploring or if it’s an area where you’ve explored for a while and would like fresh ideas, I think you will love this book.

thank you to netgalley and the experiment for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

The Gifted School (3 stars): My children attend a “gifted” school so I was both curious and reluctant to read this. I finally got myself mentally and emotionally prepared and then…. well and then it was a bit of a letdown. I feel like the book could have been (and tried to be, at parts) about the ramifications on bringing a public gifted school into a community and whether that’s a good idea or not (from the perspective of educational policy, using tax dollar money, etc.) I get that, it might have made the book less salacious but it would have been more thoughtful and interesting, in my opinion. The book does have some of that but, especially towards the end, it devolves into the increasingly poor decisions made by the parents and shocking revelations in their community, etc.

In the end it’s a book about how people can be backbiting even if they are “best” friends when they perceive a situation to be competition between their kids and someone else’s kids. If there’s a way to stack rank our kids or put barriers, then people can make really poor decisions morally. I didn’t find this at all to be surprising (maybe because i’ve seen it first hand?) so the plot of the book sort of fell apart for me as it became more soap opera and less an interesting take on the impact on community, etc.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota (4 stars): I read Strada’s previous novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest and loved it so I was not surprised that I loved this one, too. This novel has a fantastic blend of 3-dimensional, interesting, quirky-but-real characters with a plot that circles back in to itself, just like real life does. It’s full of heart, joy, and hope. It’s about real people, in real life situations, who show resilience, support, and strength for each other. I loved every single moment I spent with this book and cannot wait to read more from this author.

And there we go, an okay week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

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