Saturday, June 01, 2013

100 Books: May Update

Oh wow!  I read AWESOME books this month!  I sort of wish I would have spread them out over the whole year because they could have been #1 every month.  Well, maybe not every month, but these were seriously fantastic books.  And, of course, a couple of duds.

15.  You and I, Me and You by Mary Janice Davidson:  This book was incomprehensibly horrible.  Granted, it was #3 in a series, which I did not know when I picked it up, but seriously.  It was terrible.

14.  I Know I Am, but What Are You by Samantha Bee:  I read several hilarious memoirs this month.  This book was not one of them.

13.  Self Help by Lorrie Moore:   Really great short stories by a fantastic author-- a throwback from 1981 and worth checking out of your library.  I just connected better with other books.

12.  Die for You by Lisa Unger: A perfectly serviceable thriller.

11.  Darkness My Old Friend by Lisa Unger: See above.

10.  Sliver of Truth by Lisa Unger:  Yup.  I will continue to browse the U's for more of her books.

A librarian was blocking the new releases with her huge cart, and the closest me and my increasingly fussier baby could get was the pop culture section, where I snagged the next 3 books, all of which were satisfying and hilarious.

9.  I Love You, and I'm Leaving You Anyway by Tracy McMillan: Her dad is a pimp.  For real.  And is in and out of prison.  She has a rocky childhood (duh) and becomes a successful TV writer who has man issues.  A lovely memoir.

8.  I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley: Hilarious.  Made me want to be young and hip and from NYC.

7.  Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster: How have I not read this book before?  I laughed out loud BY MYSELF feeding the baby in the middle of the night, and I read parts of it aloud to Ben who HATES when I read funny books out loud to him.  Her reminiscence of the iconic Gucci binocular case purse made me almost buy one on Ebay.  And her discussion of sorority rush-- omfg.  I loved this book!

The rest of these books were so good they would have been #1 or a close #2 any other month, but I read them all in May, so here ya go:

6.  Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg:  A really thought-provoking read. It's a much more nuanced argument than the media gave her credit for making (she understands that institutions are discriminatory, and she isn't blaming women for our situation).  At the same time, it's sort of liberal feminism light for people who haven't taken a women's studies course lately.  Most interesting to me was her assertion that women lean out in the time immediately before pregnancy and motherhood-- she says there's no reason to make workplace accommodations for pregnancy until you are actually pregnant, which seems like common sense, but I know that I started to lean out before I was ever pregnant, deciding that a professorship at an R1 was not for me long before Harry came on the scene but because I wanted kids.  She says that if we lean out in this way and don't strive for promotions or otherwise commit to success at work, then it makes sense that we want to leave our jobs because they aren't fulfilling us the way they might have if we made them a priority.  It becomes easy for us to stay home instead of working because work isn't a big deal.  She also talks about second wave feminists working to make sure the next generation could choose her own destiny and being shocked that so many of us choose to not work.  BUT, she is quick to point out, more of us would work if institutions weren't so sexist and terrible to women.

5.  Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman:  SUCH A GREAT BOOK!  I wish I could raise my kids in Paris.  There are HUGE HUGE HUGE race and class privilege issues that go completely unmentioned in this book, but it's great.  It's breezy and funny like a memoir, but her observations about French parenting make me glad I have a baby to experiment with.  I especially like the idea that babies are rational beings.  

4.  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling:  HILARIOUS.  She does have a little jokey paragraph about how/why her book is not as good as Tina Fey's and it totally isn't.  But it's great, and I found all the stuff about her days as a writer/director/actor on The Office totally fascinating.

3.  Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight:  Read this book.  That's all I am going to say because spoilers would be terrible!

2.  Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris: OMG, great.  This is like old school Sedaris-- more funny childhood stories, some really touching stuff about his dad, and a bunch of weird, contemporary observations.  Any other month, this would have been a clear runaway winner.

1.  The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer:  Wow.  I love this book like nothing I have read in at least 10 years.  This book is Empire Falls good. It's a whole world with people I feel like I know.  It features a group of friends who meet at summer camp in high school.  As someone who went to a transformative summer camp, the plot drew me in.  It follows one women most closely but shares glimpses of other characters.  I want to read the whole damn story 6 times from each person's perspective-- that's how wonderful this book is.  It was a slow read-- took me 4 days of dedicated reading-- but it was worth it a million times over.


  1. I'm so glad to read this, as The Interestings and Reconstructing Amelia are on my Summer Reads list. (I'm not as far as you on the Read 100 Books goal, but I am hovering around 30 and hope to catch up now that I'm not teaching!).

    I also loved Bringing Up Bebe--it was so good for me to read it before going back to work. It has inspired me to tell Zuzu to "be gentle and be wise" instead of "be good" when I leave her at daycare, and to say, "You don't have a right to do that" instead of, "No! STOP IT!"

    I had a similar reaction to Lean In as you describe--I thought it was a far more nuanced and careful argument than the media suggested. And although I, too, "leaned out" of an R1 job, it made me glad that I took my full maternity leave AND pushed my university to accommodate a part time schedule for me this spring because institutions SHOULD be doing more to support maternity leave so that women are excited about coming back to work after.

    If you're looking for a quick read, I recommend a YA novel called Wonder. We listened to it on a recent road trip and David and I both loved it.

  2. You are the best book friend. Adding these to my list!!

  3. Oooooh, I'll have to put The Interestings & Reconstructing Amelia on my to-read list.

    Sedaris read Dentists Without Borders aloud when I saw him last month; I came >this< close to peeing my pants.

  4. I read mindy kaling's book this month too, and while I liked it a lot, I didn't really find it funny. I think I might be broken

  5. Anonymous10:27 AM

    Molly and I both love love love having your recommendations - thanks! Re: Bebe - I was suprised at the breast feeding and laughed out loud at outher parts. I read the French kid lit example vs US kid lit out loud to my Francophile friends. Now I want to investigate other cultures via their mainstream kid lit now and thru history. Boo