Books: October Edition

October began with a valiant endeavor to read several books as quickly as possible. It reminded me of when I was in my final semester of library school when I read one to two books a week of various genres for my reader’s advisory class. It was a fun challenge then and was again now!

Yet in this instance my reading goal was to share personal insights with our University’s common read committee (of which I am a member) to decide next year’s Freshmen reading selection, so my timeline and reading list were much shorter.

We had ten overall candidates and, ironically, each of the three I read are our top three contenders, which will soon be voted upon by our faculty, staff, and students! It’s nice to know I can confidently advocate for any of these, as well as discuss plots and subject matter from a thoughtful, informed place.


Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work by Dave Isay

My common read list kicked off with this compilation of short personal accounts, shared with the producers of the audio StoryCorps project, of which you might have heard segments on NPR. Each are memorable, many bring a smile, several bring a tear, and all of them have a connection to what fuels personal passions and motivations. My favorite was a conversation between two men who work together as repairmen on the Golden Gate bridge, who have been able to also prevent several people from jumping off the bridge and committing suicide. This was a great contender for next year’s common read!


So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

This is another contender for our university’s 2017 common read, which stretched me and made me think about the serious ramifications of online behavior. And not just the “I posted pictures of me partying and I was fired” types of situations, but things that people posted that became trending topics on Twitter and “blew up the Internet,” causing tremendous backlash from perfect strangers who weighed in on the situation. An overarching theme Ronson offers is that the “they” of the Internet is actually “we.”

In the current political climate, where a certain Presidential candidate doesn’t indicate any apparent shame for his actions, makes this a very timely read…

There were some very R-rated themes and language, a high “shock value,” which makes me hesitant about this being our selection, but at the same time, I kept finding myself talking about what I was learning.


How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

This third common read selection was a terrific one and was my favorite! Johnson uniquely researches the history behind our modern reliance on six common, ordinary objects or phenomenons: glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. As I read this from a college freshman’s perspective I think they, too, would love discovering unknown historical facts that have a present-day connection, the supporting diagrams and photographs were an added touch, and my overall impression was one of amazement and appreciation for human perseverance and ingenuity.


The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

After reaching the end of my common read commitments, I picked up this ARC I had been wanting to read for several months. My thanks to Edelweiss for this advanced reader’s copy!

This debut novel is written by an actual baker, which lends an air of authenticity to the descriptions of ingredients and methods for baking pies and other kinds of desserts. There’s also a nice subplot of folk music, which I also enjoyed. Each year I look forward to reading a good book about food (especially desserts) and thought this one was a fairly gentle story with a happily ever after, especially since the story begins in the fall – perfect timing. The main character Olivia was likable and found myself rooting for her to be successful with professional and personal decisions and to come out on top (which she does!).


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The Optometrist and I enjoy audio entertainment, including lots of 30-60 minute podcasts we listen to on shorter car rides, and it’s not unusual for me to read books aloud to him. Yet, we have a very short commute to work so we don’t feel we would get our money’s worth out of a full Audible subscription. But thanks to our Amazon Prime subscription, we have a handful of Audible audio books we can stream for free, without having a full, stand-alone account.

Last week I took advantage of listening to a shorter book, the unabridged version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, narrated by Scarlett Johansson. I had never read this childhood classic and found it bizarre, witty, and memorable. Johannson’s voices and accents were consistent and often made me chuckle. (If you liked her voice in the movie Her, with Joaquin Phoenix, you will like her interpretation of Alice.)
As November dawns, I’m endeavoring to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time (I’ve been intimidated by this fantasy series quite long enough and I’m being brave!) and queuing up a slate of Christmas books. Hurrah for overcoming challenges and cozy Christmas stories!


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