Overall, I haven’t had the greatest reading year in 2016 but it has started to pick up in the last two months.
So far, I read 10 books this month…Actually, I completed 10 books this month – a couple of them were started in October and some several months ago that I didn’t have the energy or resolve to pick up.
Here’s what I finished in the first two weeks of November:
The Soul of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery (audiobook) – I knew next to nothing about octopuses prior to listening to this audiobook and was pretty blown away. It was an interesting read/listen although it did feel a bit long. 3.75 stars
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (paperback)- This is a series of letters from a young New York author (Helen Hanff) to staff at the bookstore located at 84 Charing Cross Road taking place over the course of about 2 decades. It was cute and heart-warming. 3 stars
The Man in the Monster: An Intimate Portrait of a Serial Killer by Martha Elliott (ebook) – This is Martha’s memoir as a crime journalist who got to know Michael Ross, convicted killer of 8 young women (and rapist of many others) over the course of 10 years. He was eventually executed in Conneticut after spending twenty years on death row. This book was fascinating because of Martha’s complex relationship with Ross. After 10 years interviewing him and speaking to him weekly on the phone, she considered him a friend. There were some gruesome passages reliving Ross’s killing sprees so it’s not for the faint of heart. I had to put it down a couple of times because of the content. I can only imagine what the young ladies and then subsequently their families went through. What’s great about this book is that Martha doesn’t try to sugar coat Ross’s crime nor does she gloss over anything. It’s honest and harrowing and includes some important discussions about mental illness. 4.5 stars
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (DRC) – I reviewed this on my blog because I received a digital copy from Netgalley. I truly enjoyed this story and highly recommend it. I originally started it in October but put it down because I was in the mood for non-fiction. After reading Man in the Monster, I was craving a book that was emotionally compelling but not completely dark. This was the perfect fix. 4 stars
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri (audiobook) – I commend Lahiri for picking up and moving to Italy in her 40s to learn the language fluently. The first half of the book was interesting and I couldn’t stop listening to her experiences. Her writing is entrancing and I always want more. Then the second half kicks in and it felt like a rehash of the first half. It felt incredibly repetitive and it really dropped the enjoyment level for me. I think this would have been better served as one or two essays rather than a book (even though it’s a relatively short book). Either that or wait a couple of years to write it when she had more experiences to share. 2.75 stars
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (hardcover) – a short collection of essays that were impactful and thought provoking. I thought the first four were the strongest but then the last three lagged a bit. I’m looking forward to picking up more of Solnit’s work. 3.5 stars
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin (hardcover) – I wanted to read this book since it was selected by New York Times top ten books of the year. I started it in July and finally finished it this month. Some of the stories were incredible and haunting while others were boring. As usual with short stories for me, it was a mixed bag. I think the other problem I had with it was that the stories were so short (most were less than 10 pages) that by the time I got into the story, it was over and onto the next. The book was over 400 pages and included about 60 stories. 2.75 stars
The Young Elites by Marie Lu (audiobook) – I was in the mood for an easy brainless read to listen to while I exercise. This fit the bill perfectly. It was fun and entertaining and required no thought when I put it down. Yeah it was predictable at times but I wasn’t looking for innovative YA. 4 stars (note: I rate YA and graphic novels on entertainment value so the ratings tend to be more easy going than other types of books where my expectations are higher)
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss (paperback) – this was another one of the books that I started in the summer and only just got around to finishing. That said, I just wasn’t in the mood for it until this month. When I got really into it, I couldn’t put it down. Truly fascinating history about the use of salt, sugar, and fat in processed foods that we eat everyday. I liked that Moss’s writing style wasn’t judgmental and rather focussed on the facts. My only issue with it was that it jumped around in time without warning so he could be writing about cheetos in 1990 in one sentence and then next he’s writing about 2008 and then back to 1990. It’s kind of annoying because it appears that he’s referring to a specific event but then you learn he wasn’t and then he refers back. It was a minor flaw that didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of this book. It was more insightful than I expected. 4 stars
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (ebook) – an elegantly written soap opera. I don’t have much to say about it. 2.5 stars