Books

Books Read in November 2018

I read eight books in November (one was an audiobook), which brings my 2018 total to 81.

I rank my books with these categories: Highly Recommended, Recommended, Okay, and Not Recommended.

Recommended

1) Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, Sarah Smarsh

Description: During Sarah’s turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, the forces of cyclical poverty and the country’s changing economic policies solidified her family’s place among the working poor. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves, she challenges us to look more closely at the class divide in our country and examine the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less.

This story (on escaping the cycle of rural poverty) is excellent, and worth reading. The only thing I didn’t like was that the author writes as if she’s talking to her unborn daughter (the one she chose not to have because she didn’t want to end up a teenage parent like her mother and grandmother before her). It threw me off, and I thought the book would have been better without it.

2) In Pieces, Sally Field

Description: Field brings readers behind-the-scenes for not only the highs and lows of her star-studded early career in Hollywood, but deep into the truth of her lifelong relationships. Powerful and unforgettable, this is an inspiring and important account of life as a woman in the second half of the twentieth century.

Everyone knows Sally Field, but the details of her life surprised me. She didn’t have friends as a kid; she was sexually abused by her stepfather; she had a then-illegal abortion at age 17; she battled depression and binge eating. She talks openly about her relationship with the controlling Burt Reynolds. She also addresses her shortcomings as a mother and romantic partner. A heartfelt and interesting page-turner.

3) Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After, Heather Harpham

Description: A page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.

This is a great story. I forced myself not to look up details on the author while I was reading her book because I honestly couldn’t guess how the ending was going to turn out. Would her daughter live? Would the relationship with the child’s father last? It kept me guessing and I liked that.

4) The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution, Brent Preston

Description: The inspiring story of a family that quit the rat race and left the city to live out their ideals on an organic farm, and ended up building a model for a new kind of agriculture.

As much as I love urban living, I’ve always been interested in people who leave it behind and take up farming. (No, I could never do it. I don’t have nearly enough energy.)

5) All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know about Getting and Spending, Laura Vanderkam

Description: How happy would you be if you had all the money in the world? The universal lament about money is that there is never enough. We spend endless hours obsessing over our budgets and investments, trying to figure out ways to stretch every dollar. Vanderkam shows how each of us can figure out better ways to use what we have to build the lives we want.

This was a rare re-read for me because I had the physical book on my shelf and wanted to donate it, but I remembered liking it when I first picked it up years ago. So I read it again before dropping it off at a thrift store. The messages had less of an impact this time around because I read about financial topics pretty often, but it’s still a good book. Definitely recommended for those looking to make thrifty changes in their lives.

Okay

6) Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream, Ibtihaj Muhammad

Description: Growing up in New Jersey as the only African American Muslim at school, Ibtihaj always had to find her own way. When she discovered fencing, a sport traditionally reserved for the wealthy, she had to defy expectations and make a place for herself in a sport she grew to love.

This woman seems great and she’s extremely inspiring and hard working, but it’s just not good writing. Too simplistic and too many exclamation points.

7) Jell-O Girls: A Family History, Allie Rowbottom

Description: A gripping examination of the dark side of an iconic American product and a moving portrait of the women who lived in the shadow of its fractured fortune, this is a family history, a feminist history, and a story of motherhood, love and loss.

This was fine but could have been better. I thought the premise sounded interesting, but there was too much focus on a family “curse,” which came across as cheesy.

Not Recommended

8) Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime, Ron Stallworth

Description: In 1978 the community of Colorado Springs experienced a growth of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) membership. One man, Police Detective Ron Stallworth, dared to challenge their effort and thwart attempts to take over the city. He launched an undercover investigation into the Klan, gained membership into the organization, briefly served as Duke’s bodyguard, and was eventually asked to be the leader of the Colorado Springs chapter. The irony of this investigation was that Stallworth is…a black man.

I’ve heard the movie is worth watching (I haven’t seen it), but skip the book. The writing is awful. I only plowed through it because the book isn’t very long.

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