What I’ve Been Reading Lately

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It’s now December and I’m one month away of *hopefully* hitting my 100 books in a year goals from my 30 Before 30 list! Yay! It’s been an interesting year of learning how to make reading a part of my everyday life. (According to goodreads I read 27 books in 2015, and I think, like, 4 in 2014…). Needless to say, I’m looking forward to having a break from teaching and performing and practicing during the last couple of weeks of December so I can polish off this list with some good ones!

Now, onto what I’ve been reading lately:

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I actually didn’t know about Joshilyn Jackson until recently, and in case you’re new to her like me, she’s a New York Times best selling author who writes mostly southern fiction (both books I read last month were set in Alabama).  She was an actor before an author, so she narrates her own audio books and the southern twang is spot on. I listened to two books as audiobooks, and now I’m reading a third as an ebook. I would recommend the audiobook version for your first Joshilyn Jackson book.

Gods in Alabama was my first one and I loved it! The story line follows a young girl who, after living in Chicago for 10 years to hide from her past, brings her black boyfriend home to Alabama to meet her (more than a little) racist family. There’s a lot of scandal and mystery and fun plot twists, and this audiobook kept me entertained while I was driving home from an orchestra gig until 1:00 in the morning.

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I’ll say that Jackson’s A Grown Up Kind of Pretty didn’t capture me in the same way, though. There are more main characters, so I feel that each one wasn’t developed quite as much, and plot just seemed a lot sillier to me than in Gods in Alabama. (I know…it’s a chick lit sort of book, and it’s supposed to be kind of silly. But this was one especially hard to believe..). I’d skip this one and start with Gods in Alabama if you want to I’ve Joshilyn Jackson a try !

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I picked Gambler’s Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem as my Book of the Month November pick. Anthony Bourdain was one of the guest judges last month, and this was the book that he suggested. This book follows a backgammon gambler who believes he is psychic, but as his luck starts to disappear, learns he has a tumor under the surface of his face that is partially obstructing his vision and psychic abilities… It was my first time to read something by Jonathan Lethem, and I didn’t love it. It was a weird book, ha. I can’t place exactly what it was, but this was one of those books that I had to keep re-reading the same page over and over because my  mind would wander. Part of that could be due to the fact that I was reading it on a plane at 10 pm on our way home Ohio last month and I was super sleepy..

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Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight was a book that I would totally recommend to others, and probably even read it again myself! I stumbled upon it in a weird way.. I was flipping through Vogue while I was in a book store one day, and there was a feature on some photographs by Annie Leibovitz, and author Aleandra Fuller was one of Leibovitz’s subjects. When I read about the books she had written, I was interested and looked them up on my kindle library and grabbed the first one that was available, which was Don’t Let’s Go to the dogs Tonight. It’s Fuller’s memoir about growing up in Africa in the 1980s, before and then after the Rhodesian Bush War. Her humor is dry and witty, and the book is moving and surprising. One of my favorite parts was how miserable so many parts of growing up in Africa sounded (uh, 5 foot lizards anyone?), yet how much she fell in love with the country.

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Before the Fall by Noah Hawley was another novel that I loved! Noah Hawley is best known for writing and producing the TV series Fargo. He’s written 5 novels, but this is my first to read. The story revolves around the plane crash of a private charter plane traveling from Martha’s Vineyard. Of the 11 passengers on board, 9 are dead from the crash only 16 minutes after take-off. The rest of the novel jumps backward and forward in time, examining each passenger, their stories and motives, and….oh my gosh, I flew through this book! I couldn’t put it down!

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Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937. This book captured me from the beginning. I really enjoyed this one because I didn’t know much about the Hindenburg Disaster, so I kept jumping back to the Wikipedia page while I was reading the book. The story uses the real names of the passengers who were aboard the airship, but Lawhon puts her own spin on what happened and how it actually exploded, which was fascinating to read. This is another book that kept me guessing right up until the very end and definitely kept me up later than my typical bed time…

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The name is super cheesy, I know, but The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right  by Atul Gawande was actually really good! Gawande is a surgeon and researcher, and in this book he discusses how the use of creating simple check lists in professional areas like surgery, building construction, and disaster relief can reduce or even eliminate mistakes. Ok, a couple of things about this book. First of all, I didn’t realize that many mistakes were made in a hospital…yikes. Haha. It makes me a little nervous to ever be placed in the ICU! (It totally makes sense, though…doctors and nurses are human, and they can make mistakes just like everyone else..). Secondly, I currently use a system called OmniFocus for my task management. (It’s awesome! If you’ve read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and are intrigued by accomplishing more in your day, you seriously need to check out this app!). OmniFocus uses a simple system of having users create step-by-step goals for daily tasks, and then check them off. (I’m overly simplifying the system, but in its most basic form, it’s a check list!). The whole time I was listening to this audio book, I was thinking about OmniFocus and how much I love it. 🙂

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I read Alice and Oliver by Charles Bock without knowing one key issue: that the author’s wife passed away from leukemia just before their daughter’s third birthday.  I think if I had known this, I would have felt a lot more emotion while I was reading the book this story about a young family of a mother, father, and baby girl, and their struggle through the mother’s diagnosis and treatment of cancer. If you’re going to read this one, be sure to read a little background on the author first! That would have made all the difference and I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more than I did…

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Ok, that’s it! Have you read any great books lately that you want to let me know about? I still have a few more to read to hit my yearly goal, and then it’s on to 2017 and a whole new batch of books! Crazy. How is 2016 almost over???

Happy Thursday!

Kelsey

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