The 50 Books of 13

I did it! I read 50 books this year. 

****--4 Stars means: WOW! I should read this!

1. Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
My friend Phoebe recommended this book to me because she's a psychopath! Just kidding. It was incredibly gripping. I loved all the little gems he hangs on his overarching storyline. It made me worry about my own sanity as well as everyone around me. Well done, Mr. Ronson!

2. Naked by David Sedaris
This is my second time reading this book and it was even better the second time around. Sometime humorous essays lose something with repeated readings but Sedaris is one of those friends at the party that you beg to tell old favorites. I think I especially loved reading it on the other side of my own hitchhiking adventures because there is a certain larger-than-life/nostalgic-but-gritty experience in this collection of stories that I feel towards that time in my own life.

3. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
You know the joke, I'm sure I've told you: Q. "How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?" A. "That's not funny." Well good news! This IS funny! Yah funny feminists! Ms. Moran tells hilarious stories about tough woman-y topics as well as just normal woman-y topics. There were parts I really wanted to just memorize so I could have a more lighthearted way to talk about feminism with people, besides, of course the light bulb joke.

4. Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
I'm not sure any other cooking book has so influenced my day to day cooking quite like this one. It's literally a mountain of ideas. I began making weekly stocks/broths out of our vegetable odds and ends and any bones from our dinners. I served meals made of toast and small plates of things to put on our toast. I made a whole dish out of celery! Celery, people! Celery!

5. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (really, one R wasn't enough?)
I went ahead and bought the box set of four for $5 on Amazon because I was 347 out of 521 on the library waiting list.  I had already watched the first season but I decided to go ahead and read the first book anyway. I think this is the first time I've ever watched something first instead of after I had read the book. But I loved it this way so much better! Usually when you read a book you had the characters and the poignant story points held so vividly in your head that the movie is always a disappointment. But having the HBO characters in my head while I read was nice and when something happened in the book that didn't happen in the show, it was like getting the first hand version of a really juicy story. The first season and this book align quite closely.

6. Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl
I just love this woman's books. This may not be her best but it's lovely all the same. I loved reading this stories, they were so personal and vibrant. They take her from being a cook to being a critic which is such an excellent and fitting journey. There were also stories that just broke my heart--like an adoption that fell through after the child had already been in her custody. And all the food and love and heartbreak. It was very good company.

7. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
Phoebe recommended this to me because she also had a dragon tattoo!
I didn't actually expect to like this as much as did. I thought for sure it was going to be too graphic and horrible. But the graphic and horrible parts, while inferred, weren't nearly has explicit as the movies make them out to be. This book had me by the throat the whole way through. Honestly, who doesn't love a "who dunnit"? Its truly a gratifying mystery that has you guessing the whole time and the conclusion is shocking without being a disastrous stretch (The Killing season 3 comes to mind).

8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I really love a book with shifting narratives and this one is nicely done. There is something a little uncomfortable about a white writer assuming the first person voice of a black woman but Stockett, in a way, addresses these tensions gracefully. I think I walked into it with the attitude of "the white person is wrong" and left thinking "just look at all those complicated relationships". It's not perfect, but it's well worth the read.

9. Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
The second book! So good and begins the divergence between the book and the show, at least as far as time-line goes. It's also where being in the smug "Having read the books" camp pays off a bit. Honestly its like getting the full story while everyone else is getting the watered down version.

10. Lets Explore Diabetes in Owls by David Sedaris
The latest! I bought it in the airport in Miami and had devoured most of it by the time we got home. It had all the flash and polish I've come to expect while also surprising me in little and lovely ways.

11. Panic-Free Pregnancy by Michael S. Broder
I really liked this book. It goes through a bunch of the actual studies that people like to scare the shit out of you when they say "There's a study that says..." and basically tells you what the studies actually say and what shouldn't be read into them. It was very reassuring and nice.

12. Knocked-Up Knocked-Down by Monica Murphy LeMoine
Looking for a hilarious book about miscarriage/stillbirth? Ok, some of it is funny but its still really sad but told in a voice that is so relatable. I don't know what I would have thought before my own miscarriage but I really appreciated all the black humor and honest reflections. It really hit the spot during a really rough time.

13. Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
The third book! It doesn't start off very well, it's slow and laborious. But it picks up in the middle and POW PING PUNCH by the end. The 3rd TV season finishes more or less with about 150-200 pages left in the book. And holy crap, those last pages whips and twists the plot and your expectations in a compelling, gut wrenching whirlwind. Its strange how mad these books make me because they don't do what I want them to but I don't necessarily feel tricked or pushed around like some stories that try to shock for the sake of shock.

14.  Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
This is my second time reading this and it was just as wonderful as the first. I just love these characters. She has such a way with her character-building. I found myself imagining what they would say in different scenarios in my life. Plus it has the all the richness of a southern story but with the strange beauty of the southwest.

15. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
This follows the Bean Trees and is so stinking good. We all have these ideas of community, family and what it means to have a safety net as well as these sneaky opinions about everyone else's. I love how this story tackles all that as while giving a modern history lesson about the Cherokee Nation. Plus there is some time spent in Seattle and even though the protagonist struggles while here, it's still fun to have the setting in Seattle.

16. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
I am such a sucker for comedians writing memoirs. More please! Martin looks back on his life in the most practical of way--laying out how he came up with this act, which takes years to build. He is sweetly surprised and amazed at some of his work and is humble and confident in turns. I was so sad when I came to the end.

17. Where Did You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Did I mention how much I love a Seattle setting? And a mystery?! I'm also crazy about multi-media narratives. This compiles emails, personal narratives, letters, etc into a very fun ride. It funny, quirky, with characters you hate to love and characters you love to hate.

18. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is probably my 3rd time reading this and it was so moving to read this with my 12 year old and 20 year old past selves. I also found out that Dill was based on Truman Capote which added a little something extra to the story. I have been so curious about how people take their own stories and history and transform them into fiction. And Harper Lee does this just so beautifully.

19. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This book really hit the spot. I loved the illustrations that participates in the storytelling. There is something so hard and sad about those who don't quite fit in their communities despite great love. This manages to hold so many truths so respectfully.

20. Hyperbole & A Half by Allie Brosh
I've been so excited about this book for awhile now. And it didn't disappoint. Allie is a hilarious story teller who would be amazing if she just stuck with prose but she also tells her stories through amazing illustrations! So it's mind blowing hilarious. Her pictures are fairly minimalist but she manages to convey such wry emotion in them. All that coupled with her knack of getting into the most ridiculous situations.

*** --Three Stars Means: Good! I might just read this!

21. Fall on Your Knees by Ann Marie MacDonald (recommended by Rachael)
22. Clams: How to Find, Catch and Cook Them by Curtis J Badger (recommended by Shaughn who said I would get a kick out the funny writing...and I did.)
23. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
24. Wilder Life by Wendy McClure (Recommended by Phoebe because she's Wild!)
25. Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky
26. Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding
27. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
28.Mommy Doc's by Yvonne Bohn, Allison Hill, Melissa Jo Peltier
29. It Sucked Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong
30. Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster Burton
31. Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson (Recommended by Amelia)
32. Cold Magic (Book 1) by Kate Elliot
33. Cold Fire (Book 2) by Kate Elliot
34. Cold Steel (Book 3) by Kate Elliot
35. Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin
36. Shopgirl by Steve Martin (Recommended by Emily)
37. Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson
38. The Kid by Dan Savage
39. Who Could That be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket
40. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

**--Means: Hmmm. Worth finishing!
41. My Kitchen Wars by Betty Fussell (Recommended by Aunt Laurette)
42. Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
43. Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine (Recommended by Amelia)
44. Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson (Recommended by Amelia)
45. Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? by Jina Pincott
46. Miscarriage, Medicine, & Miracles by Bruce Young and Amy Zavatto
47. Late for School by Steve Martin
48. Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
49. Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott
50.Autobiography of  a Fat Bride by Laurie Notaro


  1. Stephanie McAllisterJanuary 26, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    I just have to comment on #19 - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - because it was something I stumbled upon and just loved as an audiobook (a requirement for back-to-NE drives). The author's voice is perfect - I had to actually check to see if it was a true-life narrative!

  2. Ooh! Good tip! I will have to get that for my next road trip. I bet it was so amazing to hear driving through Nebraska! I bet most things are amazing to hear driving through Nebraska. :-) I'm so curious to hear what his voice sounds like, now.


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