Reading on the Go!

I started this post a few weeks after my wedding. I thought that I might share a couple of my pre-wedding reads (none of them had anything to do with weddings) and then 4 months passed. Even though that whole concept doesn’t make sense anymore I’m doing it anyway. I’ve also started graduate school (while working full time- my classmate from Germany says I’m crazy), and  I’ve managed to cram a few books in. Basically, everything I read was worth the time. Saying that, I didn’t want to just brush them off and just list them on the 2015 Bookshelf. Here are some short reflections on my reads.

Pre-Wedding Reads:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAll the Light

I’m making my husband read it. He’s going to read it and he is going to love it. This book was beautiful to read. I’m a huge fan of World War II novels and Doerr did not disappoint. He crafts his book just as the locksmith crafted the neighborhoods for his daughter, with care and attention. While the novel starts off at a leisurely pace, the lives of these strangers begin to collide and the reader will be completely engrossed until the end. Yes, some parts read slow but push through because it really is worth it.


Bossypants by Tina Fey

This book really helped me get my head on straight before the big day. Tina made me laugh, cry (from laughing), and think (while laughing). The book isn’t so much a continuous memoir as it is a collection of stories. Tina’s thoughts and experiences presented me with a new lens to view my own accomplishments and goals through. Afterwards, I felt a lot more confident about where I am and where I’m heading. Sometimes, you just have to do it.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy KalingMindy

Mindy is as big of a Tina Fey fan as I am. She hilariously compares the two of them throughout her book, but reading them side by side unveiled how different they truly are. Both women are very humorous, resourceful, and intelligent. Mindy’s memoir, however, has a lot more pause for her analysis of a situation. It’s more organized and thoughtfully conceived. While still funny, Mindy has an undertone that makes you take everything with a grain of, what I call, serious salt.

BloggessLet’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

I’m going to see her and it’s going to be incredible. Jokingly, I refer to Jenny Lawson as my spirit animal. Throughout the novel I’d wake up my husband to read him sections. He would nod, respond with, “She’s you!” and promptly return to dreamland. Her perspective is one of a kind. I particularly recommend this to my friends battling chronic illness. It’s not too hard on the brain but is incredibly inspiring and funny. Lawson is a well-known blogger who has her own health struggles. Her humor inspires me to wake up and start fresh. Her second book, Furiously Happy just hit the shelves, so if you love her there’s more to read.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodHandmaid

This is one of those books that I never had assigned in high school and also never came across in college (but should have read independently at some point). Basically, it needed to be checked off my list. After my reading I can definitely see how this would have caused a stir when it was published, and some parts of the story still call forth foreboding feelings. It’s well written and I don’t think it could have ended any other way. The ending was just right and I do recommend taking this novel for a spin. It wasn’t my favorite but it was valuable.

Everything Else:

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, book 1) by Tana French


My mind was blown. Not only was the case complex and challenging but the perspective was raw with characters and their relationships evolving radically throughout the novel. Part of the stark perspective stemmed from the personality of the first-person narrator who filters the entire experience. Be warned, this novel is very murky and very realistic. The language is also dense and incredibly well-crafted. French’s style is unable to be replicated. It’s not to be picked up for a bit of light reading.

Would you like a summary of my Macroeconomics textbook? Because it’s ruling my life right now and that’s what else I’ve read.

Okay, I lied, I did manage to get in Bardach’s 8 Steps (which I do highly recommend if you’re interested in public policy).


Enjoy what you read? 
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Book Nook Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

racing in the rain book cover

Stein’s work is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship depicting the human experience in a candid and very honest way. In fact, the words “very honest” simply aren’t powerful enough to describe the experience of reading The Art of Racing in the Rain.


R. Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. If you haven’t seen it we’re probably not friends.

Only Robin Williams can do my feelings justice!

The story is experienced through the eyes, ears, and nose of the lovable and forever loyal Enzo as his master, Danny Swift, lives and races. Despite knowing little about the racing world (and honestly having almost no interest in it) I adored the book. The extended metaphor captures the little moments within this little family so well, a slow down of the high speed pace of life. Sometimes a turn is made with such precision that you can hardly believe the execution and at other times you end up in the pit with a flat tire and blown transmission. Take Two!

At one point during the novel Enzo says that although he cannot relate the details of a particular event he knows the emotions behind it and thus, despite the specifics probably being incorrect, the story is still true. I found this story to be so true it was almost unbearable at times. We walk as Enzo beside Danny when his daughter Zoe is taken from him by his in-laws, when he watches his wife being buried from afar, and when he is destitute in a hovel. One of my favorite recurring symbols throughout the novel is the evil zebra, which first manifests when Enzo is forgotten and becomes delirious without food or refreshed water for days. Afterwards, the zebra appears when anything Enzo declares to be evil touches or interacts with the people he considers family.

Despite the dark topics that the novel deals with, there is a lighthearted undertone that is never lost. I was miraculously inspired as I read, even at the darkest of times. If you haven’t thought about Stein’s book or added it to your GoodRead’s list, I would seriously re-consider. We can learn so much from observation, and our furry friends are the ultimate observers.


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Hold the Bonfire: Banned Books Week 2014


As a book lover, I have a difficult time wrapping my mind around book banning, burning, and other words that start with a B. Yes, there are books that I wouldn’t go through the trouble of reading again. Perhaps I’d even rather stick my hand in an oven but someone, somewhere out there does enjoy that book and they have that right! Everyone deserves open book access. While I understand the need for ratings and age moderation, why should there be a ban on the book? If you are over the age of 18 you are allowed to fight for your country, die for your country, but for the love of apple pie don’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, a fictional account documenting the very real realities of racism within said country. 

The American Library Association (bless you!) compiles a list every year detailing the top 10 banned books and the top 100 books banned or challenged over the last decade. So, you might be asking yourself, why are these books banned? There are a variety of reasons ranging from language to racism. To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, is objected to due to racist content, which I find rather ironic since (as I mentioned before) it highlights racial injustices and does not condone them. So where are these books banned from? I’m not talking about your corner store Barnes & Nobles pulling titles off their shelves and shipping them back to the warehouse. Banned books are forbidden in public or private institutions, like libraries or schools. While individuals can still buy the books, the literature is no longer as accessible to the public at large, and therefore infringes on their ability to access information that may be considered controversial. In order to better understand the phenomenon, I thought we’d take a look at some of the books being censored and why they are being challenged and hidden away from readers.

Keep Away from the Kiddos:

Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey


Why is it censored? Offensive language; unsuited for age group; violence

So, yes, Captain Underpants takes potty humor to a new extreme, but there’s something to be said for kids being able to communicate their bodily functions. Perhaps they will not always speak about their excrement at the correct time, but they can learn when they can and cannot talk about potty subjects. My motto? “What happens in the bathroom, stays in the bathroom. Except if your doctor asks. Then tell your doctor.” It’s fun, it’s whimsical, and (yes) it’s a little dirty. But don’t you want to have fun while reading with your kid too? As for the “violent” aspect, I see nothing wrong with teaching a child that the only way you can beat a demonic toilet is with a plunger. Perhaps if I had read this book as a child, I wouldn’t have such an aversion to maintaining my own plumbing.

Too Tough for Teens:

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar (series)


Why is it censored? Drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

I’m going to let it be known that I read this series when I was a teenager in high school. It wasn’t my cup of tea but it was strangely addicting, like when you know you should put away the chips, you’re full, but you reach for one more. The book does have drugs, the teens curse, and they even have sex. All things that teens, in the real world, do. Would I recommend this series for a 12 year old? Eh, most of it would probably go over their head. How about a 16 year old? Sure, it might even open their eyes to a few things. One of the main characters struggles with bulimia and the novels demonstrate the intense mental and physical roller coaster she rides every day. Honestly, I think that awareness of bulimia (along with anorexia and other eating disorders) and how easy it is to hide, even from some of your closest friends, is valuable. This series does bring something to the table. While these characters are the “It” people in their schools, the narrator shows all of their faults, how not together they are. She shows when they stumble, fail, and crash in ways that are irreparable. Young adults are able to think about issues in complex ways, so give them the chance. The naysayers? Let them pretend teens don’t have sex or throw up their lunch. As for me, I say let them devour this book as they will.  XOXO, Gossip Girl

(Disclaimer: The sign-off is from the book series. It is not mine. Please don’t sue me.)

Frightening for the Family:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling


Why is it censored? Occult/Satanism; anti-family; violence

I don’t care what they say. I will love Harry Potter until the day I die and I will read it with my children and maybe even my grandchildren if my copies can withstand the test of time. The very first point I want to poke a stick in is the “anti-family” argument. One simply needs to take a peek inside the Burrow to see that the books are not anti-family. The family structures are not all standard or typical, but that does not make them any less valid. Harry creates his own mish-mashed family with a beloved godfather, honorary werewolf, surrogate mother, and quasi siblings. There is nothing wrong with this. Harry’s own biological family mistreats him, abuses him, but that’s an unfortunate reality for many children. It does not make the work anti-family, it simply shows different ways that families can form.

The books increase in violence as they go, and I think this has to do with the overall content becoming more mature as Harry grows up. The books originally aged with their readers. Now younger readers have access to all 7 books in one go but they may not get the finer points of the later books. While some of the later books may be over their heads, this doesn’t mean that the series should be completely written off. Instead, it should be admired for its evolution!

Let’s flat out address the hairy green monster in the room. The books take place in a magical world and Harry is called a “wizard” because he’s a boy and the girls are called “witches.” They wave wands and they fly on broomsticks and they are the reason I shout “Accio” across the room at my remote control in the hopes that it will one day fly into my hand. It’s fantasy and it opens a world of imagination. There are darker elements of magic that Lord Voldemort uses, but the different facets of magic give depth to the world. What kind of world would it be if there was only good magic? The magic is not the wand-waving within the books, it’s the lessons and relationships within them. Don’t get caught up in superstition. Your child may be the only one in the room that doesn’t know what’s going on when someone says, “I’m a Gryffindor!”

What do you think about the current banned books list?

Should institutions be forced to censor their selection?


Book Nook Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


I’m almost a decade behind in reading this novel and now that I have finished it I keep asking myself why I didn’t pick it up earlier. Originally, I had no intention of reading The Book Thief— I was thinking more along the lines of a chilling mystery or some kind of psychological twister. My sister-in-law (to be) is actually the one who changed my mind. She is currently away at college and asked for her original, rain-damaged, spine-torn copy of the novel (she has 2) to be shipped to her as soon as humanly possible, so I became curious. What was it about this book that enraptured her? I borrowed her second copy last Friday and finished it in a week. I don’t think I’ve devoured a novel that fast in a very long time.

There are two things that made this book stand out for me: the structure and the narration. Not many books are told from the point of view of Death, and, yes, I do mean Death with a capital D. While other World War II novels have given us unique perspectives, this is the first novel I have read that has looked upon the event from another plane of existence. Readers would be told chapters ahead of time that a particular character would die. I would read on and hope that somehow it would not come to pass, but Death would never let me forget that it was coming with subtle remarks and reflections.

The structure of the novel itself pulls the reader through, with excerpts from books within the book, drawings, side notes from Death, and random tidbits of information. They’re just little unnecessary snippets of information that paint a larger canvas for the reader to explore, see, and touch. It’s brilliant. The book is also broken up into sections, which are then divided into chapters. Before you know it you’ve completed an entire section and are hungry to learn what awaits in “The Jesse Owens Incident” or “The Floating Book.” One chapter down- on to the next!

Overall Review: If you haven’t read it, you should do so. It’s excellent.


There is one moment I have to talk about, and if you haven’t read the book you may not want to continue on, which is why I made sure to put the Spoilers heading above this section. The first and last kiss between Liesel and Rudy. The moment where a young woman, who has just lost everything, kisses the body of her freshly dead best friend. My heart broke. I think I started tearing up there and it just didn’t stop until the end of the novel. However, I couldn’t stop thinking, who would Liesel kiss the rest of her life? She marries, she has children and grandchildren. She greets Death at a ripe old age, but her husband is never identified. Personally, I believe she married Max. Yes, I know there’s an age gap, but a difference in age wasn’t as uncommon and I feel like he is the only one left who would truly understand her. Thoughts?

And now, the ultimate question, what book would you steal?

 Look out for new reviews and check out the rest of the 2014 Bookshelf!