The Ultimate Book Geek Challenge, Part Six

Category 35, Set in the summer: Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

The main event of the book happens during the summer, I think. Or it could be fall, but it felt like summer when I was reading it. There's also a lot of winter in the book. It's really good. Set in Idaho. Part mystery, part family drama. Very well-written.

Category 36, A book that will make you smarter: Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour

Well, I think it made me briefly smarter, anyway. It's hard to remember what I learned from it when confronted with a bratty teenage girl. Not that any of my teenagers are bratty.

Category 37, Bestseller: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This is a very good book, but it didn't move me like others have. I always wonder how much my response to a book depends on my current place in life -- maybe it would have been more moving and meaningful at a different time. It is worth reading.

Category 38, Reader's choice: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout 🎧

I really liked this. More family drama, with a partial reconciliation.

Category 39, Male author: Family Life by Akhil Sharma

Super interesting. Tragic. Hopeful ending.

Category 40, It happened at sea: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I haven't been a huge fan of Hemingway, even though my favorite high school English teacher loves him and kind of looks like him. I decided to read it because it's short and would fit in this category and it's usually a good idea to read classic literature. It is SO GOOD! I loved it. When I read it, my brother-in-law had just successfully completed a 100-mile trail run/race (in just over 33 hours) and there were many lines that seemed to apply to his experience -- sitting with and ignoring pain, endurance for ridiculously long periods, stuff like that.

Category 41, A book your friend loves: Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker 🎧

Okay, I guess I don't know if she LOVES it, but she recommended it to me and loaned it to me. It was okay. Enjoyable. I might have liked it more if I'd read a physical copy instead of listening to it.

Category 42, Female author: I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron 🎧

I've never read anything by Nora Ephron (though, of course, I've seen some of her movies). She has some interesting stories to tell about being a woman in journalism at at time when that wasn't common.

Category 43, About faith: The Magnolia Story by Joanna and Chip Gaines

This was pretty interesting, about how Joanna and Chip Gaines got started with their TV show and business. They are definitely an interesting couple and it's nice to read about believing people who are grateful to God for their successes and the challenges that led to them.

Category 44, Book that made you laugh: Recovery: Freedom from our Addictions by Russell Brand 🎧

Who knew that Russell Brand was such a deep thinker? I guess Jon did, but I didn't. I really loved this book. It described the 12-step AA recovery plan with a lot of detail and personal insight that I found really interesting, and of course, it's pretty hilarious sometimes. But also moving and useful. If you are familiar with Russell Brand, you won't be surprised that there are moments of vulgarity. But it's interspersed with some really insightful, faith-promoting, and inspirational stuff.

Category 45, Book that made you cry: Educated by Tara Westover

Wow, this is fascinating. And pretty local for us Idaho folks, since Tara Westover grew up near Malad, Idaho. I read it, then Jon read it. Then Lillian and Seth read it. I thought Tara tried pretty hard to honestly tell her story and in spite of an odd childhood with a probably bipolar father and an abusive brother, her love for her family showed through. I do wonder if she'll be able to reconcile with them eventually -- I'm sure it's not easy to have a wildly successful tell-all memoir written by a daughter. And in spite of the craziness of her childhood, I think it's clear that her parents loved her and were doing their best. For example, I loved how her dad supported her and watched her perform in local plays when she was a teenager, even though it went against his beliefs.

Category 46, Book that expanded your view: As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl by John Colapinto

This is another "Wow" book. And also fascinating but ultimately tragic. In the late 1960s, parents of twin boys decided to have them circumcised and the doctor botched the first circumcision, effectively castrating the 8- or 9-month-old baby. (They did not carry through with the second circumcision.) Under the direction and care of the leading doctor in the relevant field at the time, they raised him as a girl, alongside his twin brother. It was the perfect opportunity for the doctor to test his pet theory (and the accepted expert opinion of the time) that gender is a matter of nurture and not nature. For years, the doctor trotted this family out as proof that physical gender didn't matter so much, but in reality, things weren't going so well. Eventually, as a teenager, unhappy "Brenda" eventually finds out that she was born a boy and decides to live as David after that. Unfortunately, when the book was written, it was kind of an inspirational story, but an afterword added later lets us know that David committed suicide later. I wish that came at the beginning, so you know going in that it's not going to end well. But it's an enlightening telling of a specific case that highlights the medical hubris of the doctor, his manipulation of the family, and some of the physical and other factors that make up gender. I think it sheds light on current discussions about gender disphoria, etc, although it doesn't at all clear things up with any finality. Definitely worth reading.

Category 47, Read about it online: Swing Time by Zadie Smith

I loved Zadie Smith's first book White Teeth but I haven't loved any of her books since then quite as much. This one was okay. The writing is excellent. The story just didn't do a lot for me.

Category 48, Red cover: The Power by Naomi Alderman

Set in the near future when all women in the world have suddenly received and are developing a mysterious electrical power that makes them nearly invincible. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but let's just say we don't necessarily use it for peace and love and good. It was kind of a fun read, with plenty to talk about.

Category 49, Looks interesting: The Big, Not So Small, Curvy Girls Dating Agency by Ava Catori

Well, it looked interesting but really wasn't. If you like formulaic romance with not-very-good writing (some people do and I'm not judging), then it's nice to have one with an overweight protagonist.

Category 50, Book you started but never finished: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I know this is supposed to be a really good book, but I did not love it or even really like it very much. I have a friend who really loves something by her (and it may be a different book), so maybe I'll give her another try sometime. I am glad that this challenge made me finish it, though, because I liked the ending more than the rest of it. So maybe that's a good sign.

There! Finished! And since I finished sometime in October, I read some more books, too:

  • Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton. (Did not love it and found it apparently unmoving, but then later when I was telling Mira about it, it made me cry. So maybe I did like it.)
  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith. Third in the series. This one used Blue Oyster Cult lyrics, many written by Patti Smith. I liked it!
  • Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. Fourth in the series and it's very new, so now I have to wait for the next one! Usually I manage not to get all involved in a series, but I got very attached to the main characters and now I miss them. Actually, it's been hard to get into something else.

Maybe my next post will list all the books I started and didn't finish. It probably equals two or three books!


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