Thursday, December 31, 2009

35. Lush Life

Lush Life Richard Price
December 2009

Last book of 2009! I cannot believe that I've read 35 books this year, when initially my goal of 20 seemed like a long shot.

I am super glad that I picked this book up. It was on Time Magazines list of top 10 fiction books of 2008, so the cover caught my eye in the store. At first I was nervous about it because more often than not I am disappointed by the "must reads." But this one lived up to its widespread expectations.

I rarely read murder mystery/ detective type novels, so this was a great change of pace for me. Price has written three other books and I assume they will be just as interesting and captivating.

Monday, December 28, 2009

34. The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
December 2009

Another book that I can't believe I was never required to read growing up. I'm glad I finally did though, so at least I can hold my own if it comes up in a conversation. I'm still undecided on if I liked it or not. It kind of felt like it was just constaint complainsts about everything in his life. Though I guess Saslinger addressed that with the final conversation that Holdan had with his sister. I think Pheobe, the sister, is supposed to be everyone's favorite character, because she was certainly mine.

Rumor has it that Salinger has written another book and it will be released upon his death. I hope its true and I will read it for sure!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

33. The Road

The Road Cormac McCarthy
December 2009

This was a recommendation by several friends and I'm really glad I got to read it while on vacation... actually on the way to vacation (I read it in approximately 2 hours!)

Some people are concerned about it being depressing but really if you keep the underlying story line in mind, I think it can be quite inspirational. McCarthy's style is not what many are used to, but it is still a very easy read for anyone and really a heartwarming story at the core. Definitely recommend it!

32. The Tippint Point

The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell
December 2009

I'm excited I finally got to read one of Gladwell's books. I figured I should start at the beginning, though I think I will end up reading all of his.

I really liked how Gladwell introduced different aspects of his theory on why things spread throughout a population (whether a fad, an epidemic or an improvement in culture). He gives concrete examples when discussing each and he reintroduces those examples in later chapters. It creates a clear fluid line throughout all of his ideas. I think many authors who write non-fiction struggle to do this.

I believe that Outliers is next... either that or Blink... I'm not sure which one. Either way... Can't Wait!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

31. Twilight

Twilight Stephenie Meyer
December 2009

Ah! I can't believe I finally read it. I ended up watching the movie about a month ago, so I think that is what lead me to pick up the book. I'm a huge fan of HBO's TrueBlood (though I've never read the Sookie Stackhouse novels)... so I pretty much knew I would enjoy this series as well. It was just a matter of breaking down and reading them.

I definitely enjoyed the read. It was super quick and very much a "page turner." I'm sure I will read all four.... in good time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

30. Hard Times

Hard Times Charles Dickens
December 2009

Awhile back my parents gave me several of their old books from college, etc. (Most of which were required reading) I am slowly trying to incorporate them into my reading, this being one such book.

When I read Tale of Two Cities in high school, I loved it and do intend to read it again sometime. I was hoping that Hard Times would capture my attention just as easily, but it sort of fell flat for me. There were moments where the novel truly became a page turner and I enjoyed the story, but there were other time where I simply struggled through it. Its one of Dickens's shorter novels so I think it was worth the time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

29. The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera
November 2009

I've been asked several times if I have read this book in the past and I was slightly embarrassed to say that I haven't. In some's opinion it is a must read for young adults and professionals.

I was slightly nervous when I began reading it, because I saw potential for a very dry novel. However, Kundera is very unique in the way he portrays his message. The book switches back and forth between straight prose from Kundera and the story which he uses to portray his points. It actually ends up being quite interesting and very unique.

As far as the message he is trying to leave the reader with... its definitely an interesting one. I think I walked away with a sense that no matter how hard you try to rid yourself of responsibility or connections with people, it never will truly happen. It is best to accept your situation in life, embrace it, and live it to the fullest. The characters that seem to do that are the ones that are the happiest throughout. The ones that are constantly trying to either rid themselves of responsibility or change their current situation are the ones that seem the least happy. I'm not sure if that was what Kundera wanted us to take, but I think its a good message nonetheless.

Friday, October 30, 2009

28. Digital Fortress

Digital Fortress Dan Brown
October 2009

After reading Love in the Time of Cholera I needed to read something with a controlling plot line and a little suspense. Where else would I turn besides Dan Brown?

I have only read Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, so I was excited to try something else of his. It was just as exciting and thrilling as I anticipated. I'm glad I went back to the basics because my reading was getting a little monotonous. Whenever in need... turn to Dan Brown.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

27. Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez
October 2009

Okay. Wow. That took me a while to read. Granted I've started grad school and just become a lot more busy all around, but still, a month!

Not only did my schedule contribute to the long reading time, but also this book! I really wanted to read this because its on all of the "must read" lists and so many friends have said that its their favorite books. Good Lord I hope they are lying. Marquez barely tells a story here. The book is almost entirely character development. Sure there's a pretty interesting underlying story throughout the novel, but in the end I felt that I knew characters but little about what happened with them. There was no build to a climax, it was just a slow and steady narrative the whole book.

I get why people liked it and I think I understand why its a "must read." But One Hundred Years of Solitude is also on all the lists and I'm going to have to build up the courage to start that one.

Monday, September 21, 2009

26. Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes Frank McCourt
September 2009

At first I struggled reading this book, simply because of the strong Irish accent that it is written in. However as the memoir progressed, this became part of the charm. It has been a while since I read a true memoir (even though they used to be what I read exclusively) so I forgot what it was like to read something without a true climax and story line. Although, in the end, I remembered why I loved reading them.

Memoirs give you the ability to learn about people from another place and time. You literally get to step into their lives and explore what it would have been like to live right along side of them. Here we get to go to Limerick, Ireland during the great depression and the first World War and live with a family struggling to survive. McCourt has a sequel which I'm hoping follows him once he's made his trip from Ireland to America. I will probably pick it up next year. He has me hooked!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

25. The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture Randy Pausch
September 2009

I wasn't originally going to write an entry for this book. But on second thought, I figured that, in the event that someone who might actually read this blog didn't know about it, I would be doing them a disservice. I have read the transcript of Pausch's actual lecture, but this is the first time I have read his entire book. It is essentially the background behind the lecture... why he decided to give the lectures.... why he decided to talk about certain things... and what was going on in his life around the time of the lecture.

Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and informed that he had approximately six months to live. At CMU it is common for professors to give a "last lecture" upon retirement, which gives them a chance to essentially "teach" whatever they want. Pausch's lecture was entitled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."

Both the book and his lecture are more worth your time than probably anything you've ever read. Literally they both brought me to tears and made me laugh, inspired me and challenged me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

24. Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants Sara Gruen
September 2009

This is a novel that my roommate has been excited for me to read. I don't have too much to say about it.

It was an easy read and an interesting story. It did have a unique twist at the end, that made it less cliche than I originally anticipated. I had a friend who said they put it down and in some ways I can see why. It develops rather slowly and with some foreshadowing in the beginning it makes the climatic buildup even more straining. Although, in the end I am glad I took the time to read it! Made me miss the circus!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

23. Into the Wild

Into the Wild John Krakauer
August 2009

I watched this movie several months ago and was drawn to read it by two different things. 1. I was intrigued to learn more about who Chris McCandless was as a person. I enjoyed learning about his take on life and the world and was drawn to find out what drove him to think and feel that way 2. I wanted to find out how Krakauer would have personally told the story, instead of watching someone rendition. Both desires were materialized through reading the book.

And just a final thought on McCandless. I see the desire for people to chastise him as an ill prepared, arrogant young person. In fact after seeing the movie and reading the book, several of my male friends felt exactly that way. There argument was similar to the ones high lighted in the book: He was selfish. He was stupid. He doesn't deserve any of the attention he has received. However, I can't help but feel the same way that Krakauer does. We have all done stupid things in our day. We have all tested our limits with our parents, with society and with life itself. I've gone skydiving. Even though its very mainstream to do so today, some people would argue that it is an idiotic thing to do. Why risk your life? Because everyone loves the feel of adrenaline pumping through there system and everyone loves do do something different. McCandless was no exception.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

22. Wolf at the Table

A Wolf at the Table Augusten Burroughs
August 2009

Burroughs is hands down one of my favorite writers. I've read several of his memoirs and I'm amazed on several levels every time I read a new one. I've always been amazed at his ability to recollect so many distinct details of his early life, which he finally addresses in this book. His stories of his childhood both intrigue me due to their seeming uniqueness, but they also sadden me due to the realization that these stories hit home for far to many people in this country and world. Maybe my fascination with his life and the way he tells it is because it instantly makes me grateful for the wonderful life I have and parents that provided it to me.

Outside of the stories, Burroughs style of writing is one that captures you instantly and doesn't ever really let you go. Even when you are long done with the book there seems to be always moments in everyday life that spark a recollection of one of Burroughs stories. After reading four of his books, there are countless times were his stories get mistakenly categorized into the stories of close friends. This is why I can't stop reading them.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

21. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Rebecca Wells
August 2009

Holy Crap! I really liked this book. I saw the movie years ago, whenever it first came out. I remember enjoying it, but I haven't really thought about it otherwise, that is until the book caught my eye at the store recently.

Every girl has an unique relationship with her mother, and I obviously am no different. Wells has the ability to make you feel as though, no matter how atypical your relationship with your mother might be, it is still a powerful one. I think after reading this book I might have a new take on my mother. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in worrying about how she acts and is perceived. I definitely wonder now and again how she ever got to be her certain way. But Wells drives home throughout the novel, that understanding why she is the way she is, isn't really important. What's important is just accepting. Sounds so easy to say it... doing is a whole other task...

Monday, August 10, 2009


So my goal this year was to read 20 books, and I've done so by August. I recognize for many this is not that large of an accomplishment, however for someone who only gets about an hour a day to read, I couldn't be happier. No worries, I'm already almost done with my next book. Lets see if I can get to 30!

20. The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold
August 2009

Sometimes it seems like I'm a little behind the curve with the "must reads," but I'm really glad that I finally got around to reading this. I think because I just recently read To Kill a Mockingbird, the similarities were glaringly obvious to me.

Sebold was daring in the perspective that she chose to write the book from. Rarely has a story like this been written from the view of the deceased, which made this book different than so many others like it. At times the story line became a little strange, but overall a great book and excellent read.

19. The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife Audrey Niffenegger
August 2009

I just went to the beach so finally I grabbed all those love story/beach reads that I've been meaning to get around to reading. My friends have been hounding me to read this and as expected it was very good.

I loved the twist on a traditional love story. Niffenegger did a great job with the large task of organizing a novel that jumps around in time and perspective.

18. Unaccustomed Earth

Unaccustomed Earth Jhumpa Lahiri
August 2009

Lahiri is most noted for authoring The Namesake, however she has received immense recognition over the past year for Unaccustomed Earth. In fact, several publications rated this as the book of 2008.

This book is broken down into eight different stories. All of which revolve around first or second generation Indian Americans. What I found most interesting was the way she carried certain characteristics from one character to the next in the different stories. It made it interesting but also slight confusing, such as when two characters were avid photographers.

I enjoyed the book, it was a quick read. However, I struggle to understand why it was praised so highly. It seems highly unlikely that there was not a better book released in 2008.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

17. Glen Beck's Common Sense

Glen Beck's Common Sense
July 2009

I felt it was time to go back to some non-fiction reading. I am a fan of Glen Beck, which is why I picked up his book. It is a modern approach to Thomas Paine's Common Sense pamphlet. I wish that, like Paine did, Beck would have released it anonymously. Although Beck is on FoxNews and regarded as a conservative reporter, this essay is written from the stance that today's political parties are both equally at fault. In fact, he often takes the stance that the way our government currently operates is not in our best interest.

Its very short, and quite to the point. If you aren't tired of reading and hearing about everything that's wrong today in America, or perhaps especially if you are, I would grab this and give it a quick read. I wouldn't be surprised if it is nothing that you haven't all ready heard or thought before, but its nice to know that those who have a much louder voice than we do are feeling some of the same things that we are. It's definitely worth the three/four hours it would take to read it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

16. Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
July 2009

Wow! What a great novel! I remember learning about the influence that Uncle Tom's Cabin had in the minds of people at the start of the Civil War. However, I definitely underestimated how good of a book it actually is. It really is a shame that it is not studied more in American literature classes. From what I gathered in the background information, it has lost a significant part of its appeal due to "Tom plays" that were common in the 1920s. These plays depicted the characters in a largely negative and often degrading fashion. Which is in no way similar to those characters in the book.
All in all, I am really glad that I decided to read this and have suggested to all my friends that they read it too. The book is written so that you meet a core group of characters at the beginning and follow each one of their stories as they separate and eventually come back together. Each story captivates you and holds your attention throughout the entirety of the novel.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

15. My Sister's Keeper

My Sister's Keeper Jodi Picoult
July 2009

So all my girlfriends have been saying that I must read this since I am close to my sister. So I bought the book. She read it while I was finishing up a previous one and now I finally got my hands on it. We also wanted to both read it before the movie came out. Even though everyone always says "the movie is never as good as the book." I still think its fun to see how someone else interprets a book.

I think I may have had unreal expectations for it because of all the hype surrounding the movie. I definitely enjoyed it, but because I kept hearing about how "saddd" it was, nothing that was sad really came as a surprise to me. Honestly, the most interesting story line, which in my opinion could have been a great book of its own, was the story about their brother. I found him, by far, the most interesting character in the book.

Regardless of the hype and the movie, the book is so easy to read and so talked about, that all women, especially those with sisters, should just give it a go. You'll finish it in a snap... and you'll be able to join in on all the conversations about it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

14. Candide

Candide Voltaire
June 2009

Another attempt to step out of my comfort zone, but also a friend's favorite. It was a very short but dense read. Whenever I read books like this, I try to pick up the Barnes and Noble's Classics versions. It gives you a great background on the history during the time that the book was written and of the author.

If you are unfamiliar with Candide, its essentially a satire about the idea that "everything happens for a reason," or as they say that "we live in the best of all possible worlds." The message that I took away from it, was: you can have all the misfortunes in the world or all the pleasures in the world, but what really matters is having a purpose and a drive to succeed and fulfill your life.

Some deep stuff there! But regardless, like I said, its a very short and easy read and there's no reason why anyone shouldn't pick it up and finish it in an afternoon!

Monday, June 22, 2009

13. To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
June 2009

I know, I know. How is it even possible that I haven't read it? I have no answer. But what I can say, that seems entirely cliche, is... I Loved It! haha! It was great.

I don't really see the need for anything more than that!

Monday, June 15, 2009

12. Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle Kurt Vonnegut
June 2009

Another one of my friend's favorites. He's been trying to get me to read a Vonnegut book forever and now I understand why. I'm not sure if it was jumping straight from Stevenson or Vonnegut, but this book was so easy to read. I flew through it.

The story was essentially a simple one, however the message was much more complex. I think I only understood what the story was actually about once I was finished and stopped to think about it. Vonnegut has a way of shoving greater themes about humanity into a relatively simple novel. His characters aren't entirely that complex. Its more about the message at the end, than the development of characters along the way.

I definitely want to fit in another Vonnegut book soon. Probably Slaughter House Five, since that seems to be the obvious next choice.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

11. The Master of Ballanatrae

The Master of Ballantrae Robert Louis Stevenson
June 2009

Another "classic" as I like to call them. A strange read for me in the sense that I felt like I struggled through it, though I was never lost and completely aware of the story line the entire time. Stevenson's style of writing is obviously something that I am not exposed to everyday, so it was nice to submerge myself in something different for a change.

The only other Stevenson book that I have read is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and even that was some 8 years ago. I may have to revisit it again!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Caught Up!

Okay I'm all caught up with the books that I've read so far in 2009. I'll be back once I'm done with the one I'm currently reading....

10. The Nasty Bits

The Nasty Bits Anthony Bourdain
May 2009

Listen, if you don't like No Reservations, something is wrong with you. I'm addicted! I think Bourdain is great, both on the show and in this book. He has several books out, but this is the first I have read and I can't wait to read more... but remember my theory variety!

This is a collection of essays about all aspects of the culinary world. When reading this book, you get to go inside the kitchens, eat at the nicest restaurants in the world and travel all over the globe. My only issue is when he would list menu items I generally had no idea what he was saying. But in retrospect I probably learned a thing or two. Like... apparently foie gras is as delicacy. I didn't even know what it was... duck liver fat?? Sounds gross!

Anyway, if you like the show... read the books!

9. The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd
May 2009

Loooooveddd it! This was recommended to me by my 80 year-old grandmother. (Who by the way reads at least 2 books a week! I aspire to be like her!) I am originally from South Carolina so this was a ton of fun to read. Like the name of my blog suggests, when I read its like I'm traveling back to places I've been or to places that I hope to some day go. Kidd brought me right back to the heart of the Carolinas.

This was such an easy read and I think any woman would fully enjoy it. Its a love story, suspense novel and lesson on bee keeping all in one.

A great summer/beach read!

8. Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat John Steinbeck
May 2009

Besides reading 20 books in 2009, my other goal this year is to incorporate all of my friends favorites into my reading list. One of my best guy friends will instantly tell you that this is his favorite book, so he got to go first. I'm pretty sure that the only other Steinbeck book that I have read is Of Mice and Men, but I remembered really liking it, so I was looking forward to this.

Reading your friends' favorite books tells you a lot about them. At first I thought... "Oh! This makes sense... they are just getting drunk the whole time!" Needless to say, my friends and I enjoy a drink now and then. But as the book came to a close I realized it was about so much more than just that. It was about the importance of friendship, and how no matter what, good friends are there for each other when you need them. It made me smile thinking of how this was one of my boy's favorite books.

Everyone should read this.

7. Peony in Love

Peony in Love Lisa See
April 2009

This is the second book by See that I have read (... the other is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) and the more of her I read, the more I seem to hear about her. I think she deserves every bit of attention that she is getting. Both books are excellent. Definitely a feminine read though. I've traveled to China, so I like to read both nonfiction and novels about the places I have been. It brings me right back to my trips.

This was a great love story, although not a traditional one. I think virtually anyone would enjoy it. I couldn't put it down!

6. Survivor

Survivor Chuck Palahnuik
April 2009

I love, love, love Palahnuik books. Well... maybe I'm a little to early to say that. But I loved this and Fight Club, which I read last year. I'm having to force myself to read other things in between, because if it were up to me... I would read everything he's ever written, right in a row.

Let me step back, I should specify that Palahnuik is not for everyone. All of his story lines and characters are a little twisted. So if you are easily upset by severe language and actions, his stuff probably isn't for you... just think Fight Club. But if you liked the movie... get reading!

5. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Dee Brown
March 2009

I won't deny that I struggled reading this book. It was dry and full of historical facts. However now, in recollection, I think I truly enjoyed it. Every once and a while I try to thrown a "classic" in to my reading list. Its important to me to stay well rounded and not get caught in a niche of reading the same type of books over and over again. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee definitely did that for me.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to learn about a topic that not many people are comfortable discussing, pick up this book. It will not only challenge you as a read, but will also challenge your previous way of thinking about the late 1800s and the Native Americans.

4. Kite Runner

Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
February 2009

Not much needs to be said about this book. Virtually everyone has at least heard of it and it did not disappoint. I look foward to reading more by Hosseini.

An absolute recommendation!

3. Men are Better than Women

Men are Better than Women Dick Masterson
January 2009

Well, so much for trying something I thought would be funny. This ended up just being a rant by some stuck up snob of a man. I definitely don't recommend this.

I know, I know. Why, as a woman, would I ever even pick it up? Because I enjoy laughing at the ridiculous reasoning behind how "men" think. I am friends with mostly guys and I pretty much already know how they think, regardless of how disappointing and hysterical it may be. So I figured this wouldn't tell me anything I didn't already know. Well I was right. I've heard about people making tons of money off being complete idiots and making comments that are off the wall, and this book just proves the point further.

Definitely do not waste your time.

2. Musicophilia

Musicophilia Oliver Sacks
January 2009

Some 5 years ago I read two of Sacks's books, A Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars, and enjoyed both greatly. Therefore when Musicophilia caught my eye at the store, I had to pick it up. Sacks is a noted and respected Neurologist/Psychiatrist and gives detailed descriptions and reactions to patients and individuals he meets throughout his practice.

Musicophilia gives the reader several various accounts of people who either have extreme musical abilities or severe deficiencies (such has true tone deafness, etc.)

As you have probably already begun to notice, I am a fan of nonfiction writing. It provides me a way to learn about cultures, practices, careers and places that I might never get to experience otherwise. If you don't need a dominant story line to capture your attention and love to learn about the bizarre circumstances that some people are living in, I would definitely recommend anything by Sacks.

1. Sex, Drugs and Coco Puffs

Sex, Drugs and Coco Puffs Chuck Klosterman
January 2009
I read this a while back, so its hard to remember my instant reactions. Like most of Klosterman's books this is a collection of essays that range in topic from soccer to cover bands to Marylin Monroe. He definitely made me laugh in several instances, however when he reflected on certain 80s bands, needless to say, I was lost.

I would recommend to anyone who already enjoys reading memoirs and comedic rants!

Better Late than Never?

So I saw the 20 books in 2009 challenge ( and thought I would try this one on my own... But more for my own sake, I've decided to document what I have read and post my comments/reviews on a blog.