Book clubs, buddy reads, and my favorite books of the year
Plus my Nordstrom sale wishlist and book to TV adaptation trends
This week I finally put together a blog post sharing my favorite reads of the year so far. In reflecting and ranking my 2021 reads, I became more appreciative of my literary life this year. Frankly, I was feeling like my reading had been sub-par in 2021, both in terms of quality and quantity. But as I looked back, I noticed that there are many books that struck a chord with me and even a handful that will become forever favorites. Perhaps it’s just that my memory and attention span have decreased with other major life events happening—and so I’m glad I took the time to look back.
One pattern I noticed is that many of the books I think back on as favorites are the ones I discussed with other readers. Whether it was with Chelsey for the podcast, the FictionMatters Book Club crew, or a more casual buddy read, the books I’ve had the opportunity to talk about are the ones that have stuck with me. I think that has to do with the way a conversation cements the book in my memory, but also that hearing multiple perspectives on a book adds layers of meaning and nuance to the book itself. I’m looking forward to more book discussions in the months and years to come, because it’s impacted my reading life in the very best way.
This week in books.
This week I read…
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. I started this Women’s Prize for Fiction winner last year, but after getting bogged down with Aspen Lit Prize submissions, I had to put it aside. I was so glad to pick it up again, this time as a buddy read with some FictionMatters patrons. In this tight and breathtaking novel, Shamsie uses the framework of Sophocles’ Antigone to explore questions of faith, family, nationalism, and loyalty. Shamsie hits the ground running from the first line, “Isma was going to miss her flight,” and then perfectly paces this novel alternating between languorous prose that provides rich character development and short, propulsive chapters to build the tension. I also love how nuanced the themes and characters are in this novel, and the way Shamsie pushes back against common stereotypes. The story did rely on a couple of tropes that I tend to dislike, which kept this from being a runaway hit for me, but it’s certainly going to be a book I think about and recommend for years to come. I’m really looking forward to discussing this one more with the Patreon buddy readers, because I know I’ll get even more out of it after hearing their thoughts. Amazon | Bookshop
The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon. I needed something light to fit in between Home Fire and The Tiger’s Wife and Solomon’s romance novel based in the world of public radio was just the ticket. This delightful romp follows two ambitious radio station colleagues who start a talk show where they pretend to be exes and discuss all things dating and romance. Of course, the catch is they find each other incredibly attractive, which could put their deception and entire careers at risk. While this book was super steamy and both of the leads were infinitely likable, I found myself not caring all that much about their relationship. Perhaps strangely though, I didn’t mind that! I was more invested in the larger story, the public radio station setting, and the characters’ individual journeys, and that was totally fine by me because it still made for a really fun read. This book is definitely open door and if you hate romances whose plots are largely based on a lack of communication, you may want to steer clear of this one. Amazon | Bookshop
Now I’m reading…
All’s Well by Mona Awad. Awad’s super dark and strange campus novel Bunny was a favorite of mine a couple years ago, so I was delighted to receive an early copy of her August release. This story follows Miranda, a former theatre actress who takes a job as a professor and director after chronic pain keeps her from the stage. This year, she decides to stage a production of All’s Well that Ends Well, but her mutinous students demand to put on Macbeth instead. It’s Mona Awad, so things get weird quickly in the very best way. Amazon | Bookshop
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. I finally started the July FictionMatters Book Club pick. It’s been on my TBR for ages, and it won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2012. But so far it’s received a lot of mixed reviews from FMBC members, so I’m very curious about how it will go for me. Amazon | Bookshop
Links I love.
Libro.fm asked me to pair audiobooks with summer activities, and it was super fun to put this list together.
BookRiot’s contributors shared their best books of the year so far.
I was fascinated by this article about the way the rise of TV adaptations for streaming sites is changing the publishing landscape.
I weirdly enjoyed reading this history of assigned summer reading. My take? Kids of all ages should be required to read in the summer, but allowed to read whatever they want.
I love watching the Olympics, but the more I learn about everything that happens behind the scenes, the more I wonder if these events are worth it.
Watching: Friends on HBO Max. I needed a short mindless show for background noise when I do mindless work so a Friends rewatch it is, I guess.
Listening: I’ve really been enjoying the reboot of the Witch, Please podcast. I completely understanding wanting to avoid all Harry Potter related content, but if you’re looking for something that examines the series critically, this is a good one. The hosts are both literature PhDs so it’s very academic and heavy on the literary theory. I particularly liked the episode on disability studies and disability representation (or lack thereof) in The Chamber of Secrets.
Loving: Building my Nordstrom sale wishlist. I don’t have a Nordstrom credit card so I can’t shop early, but that’s okay because it gives me more time to think about what I really need. I like to preview the sale, add a bunch of maybe items to my wishlist, and then edit waaayyy back as the sale date (July 28th!) approaches. Here’s what’s caught my eye so far:
The Moonlight Nightshirt in black. Moonlight products are super soft and rarely go on sale. And I’m thinking this might be a good item to have post-baby.
Spanx Faux Leather Leggings. I’ve wanted a pair of these for awhile, but haven’t been willing to pay $100 for them. It will be some time before I can wear them, but it might be worth it to seize the moment while it’s such a great deal.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Exfoliant. This is my favorite exfoliant—it works, but is super gentle on my sensitive skin.
Sam Edelman Poppy Sneaker. I really don’t need these but half off anything Sam Edelman is hard to resist.
Supergoop! (Re)setting Powder. I need a refill, and you can’t beat this price.
Madewell Pickford Pullover Sweater in Olive. Can you ever have too many Madewell sweaters? Logically, I know the answer is yes, but they’re so hard to resist.
Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Poor Cleansing Face Mask. This stuff is great and a jar lasts forever.
Barefoot Dreams Cozychic Waffle Cocoon Cardigan. Fall will be here before we know it and how good does wrapping up in this cardigan sound?
True Body Triangle Convertible Strap Bralette. Truly (pun intended) the most comfortable and supportive everyday bra.
And for baby…
Baby Hooded Bunting. I mean…this is just too cute.
Baby Organic Hooded Cardigan. Baby needs to be fall ready too, right?
Readers, I hope you always have shelves big enough for your book collection. For questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing email@example.com or responding directly to this newsletter. I love hearing from you!
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