Quackery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen


Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A look back through history at some of the questionable medical and pseudo-medical practices.

What made me pick it up: How could I not? It was full of miscellany which is my favorite thing and it was about medicine something which endlessly fascinates me. Perfect combo.

My favorite things: It’s so informative! I learned so many horrific things that I can now share awkwardly at social gatherings. And it was told with such candor and humor. The authors acknowledge that a lot of the things mentioned in this book are totally bananas, and have a brief laugh at how off the mark they were, but they also make a point to say that the science didn’t exist yet and people were unfortunately doing the best they could. The ampules of human (cadaver) fat almost made me lose my lunch though, not gonna lie.

Who it’s great for: Science, medicine, and history minded individuals who can stomach a lot of detailed information and discomforting descriptions of some practices.

Erica’s rating: four shells

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


Thank You, Bees by Tony Yuly


Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A picture book about being thankful.

What made me pick it up: I saw it sitting on my coworker’s desk and took a few minutes to page through.

My favorite things: I liked the repetition of thanking various elements — clouds for rain, sun, earth. It has very vivid illustrations, which reminded me a little of Eric Carle, and a simple message which I enjoyed.

Who it’s great for: Little ones who need a lesson in gratitude.

Erica’s rating: three shells

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


Evicted by Matthew Desmond


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A firsthand account of how eviction exacerbates extreme poverty.

What made me pick it up: Bill Gates said it was one of the best books he read in 2017.

My favorite things: I learned so much about the inequalities in housing, the callousness of slum lords, and the huge impact an eviction can have on all areas of your life. Reading about how owning poor quality inner city apartment buildings is a cash cow whether your tenants stay or leave was disgusting. This book is told in stories, which makes it all the more accessible. Sure a treatise on unfair housing practices would’ve been informative, but it wouldn’t have been this visceral. You will react physically to some of the horrible living situations subjects find themselves in and with horror that we, as a society, do not help them find better. I liked all of the personal stories, even if they were heartbreaking. I appreciate the author’s ability to maintain objectivity, for the most part, but don’t think I have the stomach to do spend years watching these small personal tragedies unfold while only providing a small amount of assistance. Desmond makes a compelling argument, based on extensive research, that we could fund a voucher system that would alleviate this problem and put us on par with many other developed and even developing nations in providing a leg up to our poorest citizens if only we would reallocate some money. In short, BY NOT SPENDING ANYTHING MORE we could fix the horrible, demoralizing situations you will read about in this book. How can we do anything other?

Who it’s great for: Everyone. Especially those interested in poverty and its mysterious persistence in extremely wealthy America.

Erica’s rating: five shells

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


Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust

today is the last day

Originally published in: 2013- English translation, the original German version was published in 2009.

What’s it about: A graphic memoir tracing one woman’s adventures traveling Italy illegally in the summer of 1984 with a friend as a 17-year-old Austrian punk with no money, no papers, and no plan.

What made me pick it up: This was new to our library and, as always, I couldn’t turn down a graphic memoir.

My favorite things: The author mixes in a few excerpts from her journals and letters that she wrote during the summer she was traveling, which makes her story feel more authentic. I appreciated how frank and honest she was about all of her experiences – no matter how painful or how many laws she happened to be breaking at the time.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of gritty travel memoirs; graphic memoirs.

Abby’s rating: four shells

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


Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado


Originally published in: 2014

What it’s about: Being the working poor in America and the impossibilities of achieving the American dream that that presents.

What made me pick it up: I saw it recommended highly by one of my friends on Goodreads.

My favorite things: As someone who grew up relatively poor early on a lot of this was familiar and it was so nice to have someone vocalize it who wasn’t slumming for journalism or doctorate earning reasons. The profanity and giving of no fucks made me feel like I was around some individuals from my hometown in the best way. More than anything it will open eyes for how hardworking the poor are and how not enough is being done to assist them. Yes, assist them. We’re all humans. Let’s start acting like it.

Who it’s great for: Anyone living paycheck to (hopefully) paycheck who wants to feel understood and those who have the luxury not to be who want to understand.

Erica’s rating: four shells

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


Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green

lighter than my shadow

Originally published in: 2013

What’s it about: A personal memoir of surviving and recovering from an eating disorder and abuse.

What made me pick it up: I love graphic memoirs and find they are a great medium for exploring personal traumas

My favorite things: Green is achingly honest and relatable. Her art is both lovely and despondent. She sheds light on the reality that eating disorders are about more than food and that not all are textbook cases.

Who it’s great for:  Readers struggling to understand mental illness in someone they love.

Abby’s rating: five-shells

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


The Nature Fix by Florence Williams


Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: How spending as little as 30 minutes a week in nature can help us be happier.

What made me pick it up: I’m a nature girl. I grew up running through orchards and living outside in our yard. My favorite pastimes reinforce what this book tells me is true — nature helps. More of it is better.

My favorite things: I love that she includes the research. I love that there is research that says we need more, not less, exposure to nature and that it can lead to all sorts of health benefits like less depression and ADHD. It might even be equal to or better than meditation! I enjoyed that she tells it as her personal journey to find out what works and why and how to incorporate more of it into her life. It makes me want to add “go for a walk in the trees” to my to do list and “end up somewhere wild” to my travel plans.

Who it’s great for: Nature enthusiasts of all stripes. Tree lovers. Walkers. People who feel a bit off and are looking for a solution.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Find a copy in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


I Can’t Breathe by Matt Taibbi

i cant breathe

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: The life, death, and legacy of Erica Garner – the man whose death at the hands of the Staten Island police made headlines with the release of a video of his dying words; “I can’t breathe.”

What made me pick it up: I was already thinking about reading this, but I made it my top priority after his daughter, Erica, passed away in late December.

My favorite things: Though at times it feels a bit voyeuristic, Taibbi dives deeply into the lives and histories of numerous people involved in or impacted by Garner’s death. He is very thorough in his reporting in order to paint a more complete picture of exactly how and why Eric Garner dies.

Who it’s great for:  True crime readers. Those interested in the human stories involved in racial profiling, police violence, and systemic discrimination.

Abby’s rating: three-shells

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


Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

gold fame citrus

Originally published in: 2015

What’s it about: In the near future, much of the Southwestern United States has been engulfed by a growing sea of sand due to the effects of climate change and unsustainable water practices. Luz and Ray struggle to survive, do what’s right, and find hope in the desiccated land.

What made me pick it up: I heard about this on a podcast that I’ve been subscribing to for a while.

My favorite things: I’ve always know that the East coast is the right place to be, and this sealed the deal for me. Watkins’ tale of an uninhabitable Southwest is terrifyingly believable and a reminder of the impact we’re having on our world. It’s also a great story about the struggle to build and maintain relationships through adversity.

Who it’s great for:  Readers interested in speculative fiction and apocalyptic themes. Fans of Jenni Fagan’s The Sunlight Pilgrims and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

Abby’s rating: four shells

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


She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton


Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A collected biography of some great female icons throughout history.

What made me pick it up: It seemed like a fitting book to kick off my 2018 reading with.

My favorite things: I liked that this profiled Claudette Colvin, who predated and inspired Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat. It’s always great to see women who are not the usual reference points for a specific time in history also get their stories told.

Who it’s great for: Everyone. Especially little girls who need role models from all walks of life.

Erica’s rating: four shells

Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link).