Whereas by Layli Long Soldier


Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Being American Indian in America, a country that doesn’t always respect that reality or treat it well.

What made me pick it up: I love poetry because it’s wonderful word play and brief (helpful if you, like me and Abby, are in a Goodreads competition). This being by an American Indian writer only made me more intrigued.

My favorite things: It’s difficult to put into words how this poetry affected me. Yes, it’s always good to be, even briefly, submersed in a culture that isn’t yours, but this… this is different. This is like a sucker punch. Every time. It’s wrenching and raw and you feel exposed as you witness an even more exposed writer. You viscerally experience her injustice. Her dualities and all her struggles. And you want to sincerely atone for everything that has happened to her people even though you know that is impossible. The damage is too great. I love poetry because it’s like math — it makes me focus, and think hard, and at the end be overcome with a sublime feeling of inspiration and awe because of the magic that appears on the page once you figure it out. I cannot recommend this enough.

Who it’s great for: Poetry fans. Anyone interested in American Indian history or experience.

Erica’s rating: five-shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Before I Forget by B. Smith, Dan Gasby and Michael Shnayerson

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Model, restaurateur, and lifestyle guru Smith and her fight against early onset Alzheimer’s.

What made me pick it up: A patron called asking about it and it sounded interesting. I originally thought it was Smith writing about her husband’s early onset diagnosis. I was incorrect.

My favorite things: This is powerful. It is mainly told by Gasby with small sections by Smith. I listened to the audio and hearing how slightly vacant she sounds is heartbreaking. I appreciated their honesty about difficulties they face with her new capabilities and how her continued decline is likely inevitable since the science isn’t ready to fight back quite yet. I admired Gasby’s dedication to Smith even after losing her as the partner she used to be. It made a strong impression of the importance of health insurance, health education, and fundraising for more research to be done. It reminded me a little of Pat Summit’s memoir after her early onset diagnosis which stays with me to this day. I also was glad to learn that there now is a definitive diagnostic test on live patients for Alzheimer’s, although it is cost prohibitive and not usually covered by insurance. *sigh*

Who it’s great for: Individuals or family members of someone with Alzheimer’s. Those curious about the disease.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this title at Amazon or in your local library.


 

Hunger by Roxane Gay

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Roxane Gay reflects on her life in her body. She explores struggles with size, eating disorders, assault, and what it’s like to exist in a world that wasn’t designed to accommodate your body.

What made me pick it up: I love Roxane Gay’s work and I thought this book sounded important.

My favorite things: Take a deep breath before you dive into this because it is deep, raw, and painfully honest. She doesn’t shy away from details of her assault or the ways she thinks of her assailant to this day. She even takes the time to explain why she’s more comfortable identifying as a victim of sexual violence rather than as a survivor – without condemning or questioning those who do identify as survivors. The courage and openness throughout Hunger is consistently inspiring.

Who it’s great for: Fans of Roxane Gay’s other work. Memoir readers looking for something heavy to dig into.

Abby’s rating: five-shells


Find this book at Amazon or in your local library.


 

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell

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Originally published in: 2013

What it’s about: COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg considers her own experiences and gives advice for women on investing fully in career and life. You can also read Erica’s review of Sandberg’s later book Option B.

What made me pick it up: I’ve been meaning to check it out for a while and the audiobook was available to check out.

My favorite things: Some will argue that this is geared only toward certain women, but Sandberg does a great job of identifying her own privileges and trying to adapt her advice to women who may not have the same opportunities. She also encourages women to fully commit to whatever decisions they make even if they aren’t the same ones she would make.

Who it’s great for: Women looking for advice on career and life or insight into one woman’s rise to the top. Readers who enjoyed Sandberg’s later book, Option B.

Abby’s rating: three-shells


Find this book at Amazon or in your local library.


 

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: After a horrendously neglectful and abusive childhood with their movie star mother, the three Sunshine Sisters are brought back together to deal with her impending death.

What made me pick it up: Jane Green is just the right level of fiction for me. Not terribly literary but not too fluffy either. I had previously read Summer Secrets and seen her speak and enjoyed both so I definitely keep an eye on her upcoming to her books now.

My favorite parts: Yes, there are love stories and mostly happy endings but there is real drama in this book as well. The damage of their childhood affects each sister differently, but definitely has negative consequences in their adult lives both in how they deal with their trauma but also in how they support or fail each other. I always appreciate personal transformations through adversity and all three of the sisters go through this in one way or another.

Who it’s great for: Readers looking for chick lit or romance with a little more substance. Fans of domestic fiction and family stories.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get this book on Amazon or at your local library.


 

Marlena by Julie Buntin

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Fifteen-year-old Cat is uprooted from her middle-class suburban life and finds herself a member of the rural poor. She fills her days with Marlena, the neighbor with whom she develops a teenage friendship defined by wildness, loss, and addiction.

What made me pick it up: I heard a review of this on a podcast and was immediately intrigued.

My favorite things: The story is told through both reflections by an adult Cat still struggling to make sense of her time with Marlena, and by teenage Cat as she experiences the life-defining friendship. Cat’s two voices weave together to seamlessly to illustrate the desperation and urgency of her friendship with Marlena. Bonus: the whole time I was reading I had that one Wallflowers song playing in my head.

Who it’s great for: This is a good choice for fans of Elena Ferrante or readers looking for something with a similar feel to Winter’s BoneThe Lovely Bones, or History of Wolves.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Set in the politically charged late 1960s Chicago, a young girl struggles to solve the mystery behind the death of her strange and alluring upstairs neighbor. She lives her life through monsters and horror films, desperately trying to escape the reality of her family’s struggles and her own outcast status.

What made me pick it up: I read a preview of this that made it sound incredible. (It was.)

My favorite things: First, let me just say that I was so pleased to find “Book One” written on the spine because this volume opens up far too many threads to close. The story is mysterious, heavy, exciting, and grim, and it pulls you in from the beginning. The art is made up of these beautifully crosshatched panels made up to look like the notebook of a young girl, and Ferris effortlessly recreates classic works of art in her own style.

Who it’s great for: Fans of graphic novels looking for monsters, murder, mystery, or history.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells


Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.