11. Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones marks the 24th book I’ve read by Stephen King.  Hey, stop judging me. I went through a dark binge-reading period in my teens when I consumed books by the author en masse.  I eventually grew out of it and moved on to brighter things. A fellow book clubster picked this one, so I felt obliged to read it.

Here’s the gist of the plot in one sentence: Unable to write following his wife’s death, a best-selling author returns to their lake house where he is haunted by ghosts and harassed by an old, evil millionaire.

The book features everything you’d expect from Stephen King: sentimental reflections on marriage, gruesome and gratuitous violence (in the form of a gang rape scene), and pages upon pages of confused and unnecessary sex dreams.  So, yeah, 24 is way more than enough Stephen King to last a lifetime.

12. The Invention of Wings

“I saw then what I hadn’t seen before, that I was very good at despising slavery in the abstract, in the removed and anonymous masses, but in the concrete, intimate flesh of the girl beside me, I’d lost the ability to be repulsed by it. I’d grown comfortable with the particulars of evil. There’s a frightful muteness that dwells at the center of all unspeakable things, and I had found my way into it.”

–Sarah Grimke, The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd

Monk Kidd’s historical fiction, The Invention of Wings follows the lives of two women in their search for freedom:  abolitionist and feminist Sarah Grimké  and Hetty “Handful” Grimké, her personal slave. Kidd’s portrayal of Sarah is based of newspaper articles, and her letters and diaries, while Handful is largely imagined — she died early in life. It’s beautifully written and richly imagined with vivid characters and pitch-perfect dialogue.

 There are a couple editions out – the original and the Oprah edition. Just letting you know so if you decide to read you can make an informed decision about whether you need the version with Oprah’s commentary or not.

13. Traveling with Pomegranates

This travel log/memoir by Sue Monk Kidd was co-written with her daughter as they traveled through Greece and Turkey.  It explores mother-daughter relationships, different phases of womanhood, and feminine mythology. It sounded like something I would like, and I really wanted to like it, but the switch back and forth between authors was clunky  and as a whole it had a gimmicky vibe.  Not my favorite.

14. The Association of Small Bombs

This is what it felt like to be a bomb.  You were coiled up, majestic with blackness, unaware that the universe outside you existed, and then a wire snapped and ripped open your eyelids all the way around and you had a vision of the world that was 360 degrees, and everything in your purview was doomed by seeing.

–Karan Mahajan

A bomb explodes in a bustling Delhi marketplace. Among the dead are two young brothers on their way to pick up their father’s TV from the repairman.  Karan Mahajan puts the reader in the mind of various people affected by the blast, each trying to piece back together the fragments that remain of their lives in the aftermath of the terrorist attack.  We glimpse into the lives of the father and mother of the dead children, the store owner, the terrorist, his girlfriend, his unsuspecting friend, and the bomb itself personified. What emerges is a horrific kaleidoscope (or perhaps more accurately collide-oscope) of  perspectives.  It is a fascinating read.

15. The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage from It’s Violent History

BeauJeau picked this one out for me because he knows how much I love all things tea. He even calls me T (or is it tea? I don’t know.). Anyway, I learned all sorts of interesting things about tea from Episcopal priest, Becca Stevens in this inspirational and meditational book.  It’s packed with all sorts facts, history, and recipes. The Way of Tea and Justice also describes the origins of the Thistle Stop Café in Nashville, and their mission to honor the stories of the women who have “survived lives of trafficking, addiction, prostitution, and life on the streets” in order to “illustrate the simple truth that love heals.”

16. Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living

This is a manly man book. I bought it because I was at the bookstore reading the back cover when a random guy walked by and said he’d read it and that it was hilarious.  Having binge-watched Parks and Recreations and having been thoroughly entertained by Ron Swanson, I figured I’d see what the man behind the character had to say about himself. It seems he’s a big, lovable, hard-working, goofus, with a vocabulary that can switch from crass and vulgar to highbrow and pretentious in an instant. It contains illustrations (literally drawings) of things like breakdancing moves and acceptable vs. nonacceptable facial hair styles. It’s kinda funny, but I wouldn’t say it’s “hilarious.”

17. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

A smart, funny, and heart-touching book for high schoolers, young adults and beyond. The book was awesome and so was the movie.  For  more extensive review,  click here: The Problem with (and Beauty of) Book Clubs

18. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

This is another awesome book for the young adult crowd.  But be forewarned, it was scary enough to give me nightmares!  The movie was less scary, but not nearly as good as the book. For the more detailed post, click here: Peculiar Children.

19. Hollow City

The sequel I literally ran out of the house to buy upon reading the last page of Peculiar Children. With its crazy animals, dizzying time loops, WWII bombing scenes, and eerie vintage photograph, it was a great follow-up to the first book.

20. The Courage of Sarah Noble

Since we’re on a roll with the kidlit, here’s another. A little friend was reading this one at her teacher’s recommendation and wanted us to read it together, so we did.  It’s based on the real-life of 8 year old Sarah Noble, who in 1707, traveled with her father to build their home in Connecticut.  When the project was complete, he left Sarah in the care of a Native American family they had befriended and returned to help the rest of his family make the journey. The sweet story offers a very different perspective from the “savage natives” themes so commonly propagated in past generations.

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