What I Read and Loved in August & September 2019

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

I can’t believe it’s October already and that I’ve been back at my school library job since the end of August. This school year has been as chaotic as I expected, but it’s also been good, albeit consistently busy. I feel as if I barely have time to take a breath some days, but it’s nice being back.

I intended to read a lot over the summer, but it didn’t happen. I was busier than I anticipated, but honestly, I didn’t want to read some days. And when I did want to pick up a book again, I found myself in a dreadful reading slump. Thankfully, I’ve recovered. Today I’m sharing the books I read in August and September along with some other things that have been bringing me joy.

What I Read

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Rating: 5/5

The Nickel Boys centers on Elwood, a young black man growing up in the 1960s who has a bright future ahead of him. One mistake costs him that future, though, and sends him to the Nickel Academy, a brutal reform school. The things that happen to Ellwood and his new friends at this “school” are horrifying, especially considering this book is based on a real place. This novel tells a dark but essential story that reveals the heartbreaking consequences of the shameful Jim Crow South.

Tenth of December by George Saunders
Rating: 4/5

I finished The Nickel Boys on August 6th and finished this on September 21st. In between, I started and stopped several books, but nothing held my interest. A friend recommended I read two specific stories in this collection, and I liked them so much that I quickly devoured the whole book. (George Saunders, thank you for ending my reading slump.) Tenth of December is witty, surprising, and unlike any story collection I’ve ever read. “The Semplica-Girl Diaries” is the star of the show and one of the best pieces of short fiction I’ve read in a long time.

A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson; translated by
Rachel Willson-Broyles
Rating: 3/5

Stella is a teen girl getting ready to head out into the world on a trip she’s been planning for a long time. Everything changes, though, when she’s arrested and accused of murdering a man. Like any parents, hers are willing to do whatever it takes to prove their daughter’s innocence. A Nearly Normal Family is a solid thriller, but parts of the story didn’t ring true for me. Despite that, the ending pulled things together in a satisfying way, so I’m glad I finished this one.

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style
by Benjamin Dryer
Rating: 4/5

This book is an absolute delight. I understand that a book about grammar might not sound like the most exciting reading material, but Dreyer’s English is as funny as it is helpful. If you want to brush up on your writing skills, look no further. It’s as if David Sedaris wrote a book especially for nerdy English majors.

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
Rating: 4/5

I love people who are unabashedly themselves, and Jonathan Van Ness is precisely that. In this memoir, the Queer Eye star discusses his life as a bullied child, an addict, and reveals his HIV status, yet Over the Top isn’t a sad book. Van Ness narrates the audiobook himself, and I laughed out loud many times while listening. His joy for life is infectious, and his devotion to his mom is beautiful.

What I Loved

DRINK: Canada Dry Diet Ginger Ale Lemonade

Jamie B. Golden of the Popcast recommended this drink, and since I trust Jamie’s makeup and skincare recommendations, I assumed she has good taste in beverages, too. She does. This drink is delicious in every way. It’s refreshing and light, and I’m sad I’m not drinking it right now. 

PODCAST: Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

Conan is one of my favorite comedians, so it makes sense that I’d love his podcast. Each week, Conan interviews a guest. Many are fellow comedians, but he’s spoken with Michelle Obama and Lyndon Johnson’s biographer, too. Every episode is hilarious and leaves me wanting more. The show is on hiatus right now, and I can’t wait until the next season kicks off. By the way, don’t miss the Stephen Colbert and Bob Newhart episodes.

MUSIC: Lover by Taylor Swift

I fell in love with Taylor Swift’s 1989 album, but never enjoyed her followup, Reputation. Because of that, I had low expectations for Lover, but it won me over upon first listen. It’s been on repeat since its release, particularly the tracks “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” and “You Need to Calm Down.” 

DRINK: Pumpkin Sweet Cream Cold Brew

I have loved pumpkin spice lattes since I was in the womb (or so it seems). I don’t care that there’s no pumpkin to be found in a PSL. I don’t care that drinking one makes me “basic.” All I care about is pumpkiny goodness. Well, this year, Starbucks has given me more than I could have ever wanted or deserved: the pumpkin sweet cream cold brew. I drink iced coffees amid blizzards, so this drink is right up my alley as the temperature begins to cool. It’s not too sweet, yet it still gives me the autumnal flavor I need. (LIFE HACK: If you’re like me and have given up caffeine, order a decaf iced Americano and asked for the pumpkin cream on top. You’re welcome.)


I hope this was at least mildly entertaining. If it wasn’t, don’t tell me. But do tell me what you’ve been reading lately.

What I Read and Loved in June 2019

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash

I’m finally on summer vacation from work. So far, my days have included a lot of sleeping, lounging, reading, TV-watching, and general laziness. I cannot recommend these things enough.

I’m excited to share what I read in June, but I’ve decided to switch up these monthly recaps a bit. In addition to the books I read, I also want to include things I loved throughout the month, whether it’s a podcast or a recipe. I’d love for you to share your favorite things too in the comments below.

Let’s get going.

What I Read

The Ruins book cover

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
Rating: 4/5

When Irish detective Cormac Reilly first started his career twenty years ago, he was called to a house in the middle of nowhere in which he found a woman who had overdosed on heroin. She left behind two kids, Maude and Jack. When The Ruin opens, Jack has just committed suicide, but his sister and girlfriend don’t believe that’s true. With the past resurfacing, Reilly is told to re-open the investigation of Jack’s mother’s death, which also might not be what it seems.

I enjoyed this dark and twisty crime story. Reilly is an engaging, well-developed character who never forgot Maude and Jack and what they went through. The blurb on the cover of this book says it’s perfect for fans of Tana French, and I agree. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

The Night Before by Wendy Walker
Rating: 2/5

Laura was devastated by an awful breakup, which led her to leave her life in New York City to move in with Rosie, her sister, and brother-in-law. Laura decides to give online dating a try, but when she doesn’t come home from a date, Rosie knows something is wrong and sets out to find her. Due to an incident in Laura’s past, Rosie doesn’t know whether Laura might be a victim or a perpetrator.

Though this book is entertaining, it lacks depth and nuance. I like thrillers that have well-rounded characters and believable twists, and I don’t think The Night Before has either.

The Woman in Cabin 10 book cover

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Rating: 3/5

Lo is a travel journalist who finally has a good assignment: she gets to spend a week on a new luxury cruise that offers beautiful scenery, pampering, and fine dining. One night in her cabin, Lo hears what sounds like a scream and a body thrown over the side of the ship. She looks outside and sees blood on a partition next to her room. When she reports what happened, the head of security doubts her story. All the guests are present, the blood has been cleaned up, and Lo has a few reasons why she might not be the most reliable witness.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is a fun read that’s perfect for summer. The novel has solid pacing and just enough creepiness to keep things interesting.

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy
Rating: 4/5

Though I read three thrillers in June, this nonfiction book was the most gripping page-turner I read all month. Beth Macy’s account of America’s opioid epidemic is utterly fascinating. She weaves together threads of poverty, addiction, politics, and a corrupt pharmaceutical company and presents a story as compelling as it is heartbreaking. If you’re looking for a better understanding of opioid addiction, this book is a must-read.

My year of rest and relaxation book cover

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Rating: 4/5

This novel’s protagonist has a life many young women envy. She’s a young, thin, beautiful blonde who is living in NYC, thanks to her inheritance. She works at an art gallery and has an older man who’s interested in her. She’s unsatisfied and unmotivated, though, and begins seeing a psychiatrist who gives her exactly what she wants: the ability to numb everything she doesn’t want to feel and the chance to just sleep for a year.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is worth all the hype it’s received. This novel is an absolute delight and one I wish I would have read sooner. (If you like this book, check out The New Me by Halle Butler. It has a similar theme and tone.)

What I Loved

PODCAST: To Live and Die in L.A.

Journalist Neil Strauss hosts this show which investigates the disappearance of Adea Shabani, a beautiful 25-year-old aspiring actress who came to Hollywood to chase her dreams. This true-crime podcast is the first I’ve ever binge-listened. (Is that a thing? I think it’s a thing.)

MOVIE: Yesterday

Jack has been trying to get his music career off the ground for over ten years with no luck. As he’s heading home one night after a gig, the entire world loses power for twelve seconds, and something strange happens: certain things that were once beloved no longer exist. Jack remembers the Beatles, but no one else does. He knows this is his chance to make it big, so he passes off their music as his own and quickly becomes the most famous musician in the world.

I liked this film even more than I thought I would, even though the plotline has a few holes. I’ve loved the Beatles ever since I was a little kid, and this movie reminded me of why.

GADGET: Chef’n VeggiChop Hand-Powered Food Chopper

I LOVE THIS LITTLE CHOPPER SO MUCH. I’m not a good or fast chopper, so I use this a lot. Even though it’s not motorized, it’s fast and powerful. It can handle crunchy carrots just as well as it handles hardboiled eggs. This is one of my most used kitchen tools.

Worthwhile Links

My June Blog Posts