Unruly Reader merch!

My new favorite t-shirt? This one! 

…now available on Amazon, thanks to the fine efforts of the Dear Man. 

And for Unruly mugs and totes and hoodies and notebooks… there’s Redbubble

So yes, we’ll be decking out the entire house and family in Unruly merch. (Kidding. [Maybe.])

What I’ve been reading: January 2020

Anyone else with me on this? I love the New Year. I love the promise, the potential, the new start.

I love the goal-setting and leaping out of the gate and the good work ahead.

Hello, 2020. How about let’s be friends.

 

Here’s what my January reading looked like…

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 

3 words: interpersonal, complex, pageturner

Give this book a whirl if you like… captivating stories about race and power dynamics, #ownvoices novels, Little Fires Everywhere, relationship triangles, deciphering motives 



When the English Fall by David Williams

3 words: matter of fact, somber, good-hearted

Give this book a whirl if you like… the Amish, post-apocalyptic fiction, first-person narrators, a view into another society, a gentle and introspective narrator, characters who have premonitions



The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz

3 words: engrossing, immediate, immersive

Give this book a whirl if you like… old-fashioned mysteries with an updated tone, books in which the author’s real life bleeds into the story, curmudgeonly detectives, sidekick narratives



Do the Work!: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way by Steven Pressfield

3 words: rousing, irreverent, tough love

Give this book a whirl if you like… a tough but encouraging approach to creativity, productivity books that cut through the excuses



A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

3 words: humorous, self-effacing, rollicking 

Give this book a whirl if you like… hiking the Appalachian Trail, fish out of water stories, self-deprecating humor, buddy narratives



Life’s Accessories: A Memoir (and Fashion Guide) by Rachel Levy Lesser

3 words: conversational, relatable, heartfelt

Give this book a whirl if you like… personal essays, clothing as a symbol for different phases of life, memories connected with physical possessions, family life, love and loss

 

 

 

My favorite of the month:

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

 

 

What’ve you been reading so far in 2020?

Such a Fun Age = such a great read

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

3 words: interpersonal, complex, pageturner

 

The first book I finished this decade, and what a good one.

 

You know how some books keep you turning the pages, but then you forget all about them later? 

And other books make you think about them over and over, even after you’ve finished reading? 

This book’s got it going on in both the page turning department and the you-can’t-stop-thinking-about-it category. 

I seriously want to talk with anyone who’s read this book… there’s so much to discuss!

We’re talking issues of race, class, power, and privilege. There are secrets from the past, and old traumas just waiting to burst forth, and new insults waiting at every turn. And then there’s our smartphone-infested age…

Emira is a twentysomething who gets a job babysitting for a little girl from an affluent white family—and she and the little one adore one another.. Alix, the toddler’s mother, is an Instagram influencer with designs on becoming a feminist icon… and the intent to improve Emira’s life (oh so condescendingly…)

Then there’s a flashpoint — when Emira takes the little girl to a gourmet grocery store and is accused of kidnapping. And then another person enters the picture, also intending to help Emira. 

And by this point, I just wanted everything to be ok for Emira, and the web kept getting more tangled. 

A total pageturner… not due to adrenaline, but because you’ll need to know how this situation is going to resolve. 

A book filled with wisdom and worry and despair and hope. 



Give this book a whirl if you like… captivating stories about race and power dynamics, #ownvoices novels, Little Fires Everywhere, relationship triangles, deciphering motives

Reading goals for 2020

(Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash)

New year, new goals. Except some of my reading goals are the same old, same old. Tried and true and so very good. I’m excited about the reading year ahead.

Here's what's new in my reading goals this year...

Read long books and savor them

Ever since I read Middlemarch last year and adored it, I’ve had a renewed and enhanced appreciation for really sinking into a long story. I want more of that this year.

Read a classic

See Middlemarch above.

Read an LBJ biography before our trip to Austin

We’re anticipating a trip to Austin this year, and that can only mean one thing: LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, plus a side trip to the LBJ Ranch. Yeah, baby..    

So this geek’s gonna read another volume of the magnificent biography by Robert A. Caro. Kinda a little too excited for normal life.

The same goals as last year, cuz I just adore them that much…

Continue to read at least 20% authors of color

One of the most rewarding reading goals ever. Last year I exceeded my goal, and I have every expectation I’ll do the same this year.

Finish Book Bingo 2020

I’m going for bingo blackout on our Book Bingo 2020 card and I’m totally excited about it.

What are your reading goals this year?

Book Bingo 2019: What I Read

It’s time for the year-end reckoning! (I love this part.)

I completed the Book Bingo 2019 challenge and filled up my whole card.

Overall, as I look at this list of titles, I’m filled with a sense of satisfaction. There’s some good stuff there.

Here’s what I read…

 

Edgar Award: first novel     

A mystery that was nominated for — or won — the Edgar Allan Poe Award for First Novel 

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

 

Heroine   

Strong female voice: author, character, or subject

Middlemarch by George Eliot

 

Palate cleanser  

A book that refreshes and balances out what you’ve read lately   

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 

  

Genre-bending  

A book that plays with genre — it might break the rules or be categorized in more than one genre

The River by Peter Heller

 

Gen X author 

A book written by an author born between 1961 and 1981

Bingeworthy British Television: THe Best Brit TV You Can’t Stop Watching by Sarah Cords and Jackie Bailey

 

Odd couple  

A book about an unusual pairing 

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

 

Classic I’ve never read 

A book that’s stood the test of time

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

 

Pushing boundaries  

A book that challenges your worldview or awareness. Or a book whose pioneering character or author breaks new ground. 

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson

 

Explore   

A book that takes you or the character to a new place

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

 

Place Name 

A book with a place name in its title (examples: Looking for Alaska. Or Alaska by Michener). 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow

 

Life hack

A book with a shortcut that makes makes your life (or a character’s life) easier 

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

 

Unbelievable

Nonfiction that’s stranger than fiction, or a novel whose premise you’re not buying 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

 

Green

A book with a green cover, or a book about nature, money, envy, or any other green thing 

A Student of History by Nina Revoyr

 

Fire

Literal fire, passion, or something burning within 

Passion and Affect by Laurie Colwin

 

Birth

The beginning or a fresh start 

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

 

Romantic

Idealistic or passionate 

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

 

Language

A book with a distinctive voice or a book in translation 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

 

LGBTQ

A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

 

Novelty Book

A book structured in an unorthodox way 

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

 

South Pacific

A book set in, or written by an author from the South Pacific 

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

 

Folktale

A story incorporating elements of a myth, legend, or fable 

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

 

Map

A book about a journey, a guide to self-discovery, or simply a book with a map in it. 

Internment by Samira Ahmed

 

Deep Dive

An investigative, immersive reading experience

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

 

Unruly Woman

A book about a woman who breaks out of the mold

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time by Ida Keeling

 

Lost & Found

A story of rebirth or redefining a sense of self 

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

 

And now, on to Book Bingo 2020!

 

If you did Book Bingo 2019, please post a link to your wrap-up post in the Comments — I’d love to know what you read!

What I’ve been reading: December 2019

December is for short books. Or at least that’s how it looks for me.

With only a couple of exceptions, the books I read this month were on the shorter side. And given all the busy things that happen in December, maybe that’s all right. 

Here’s the run-down on December’s reading…

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James C. Cain

3 words: gritty, intense, fast-reading 

Give it a whirl if you like… classic noir, anti-heroes, criminal couples, obsession, first person narrative, underbelly

 

She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

3 words: vibrant, inspiring, engaging

Give it a whirl if you like… biographies of remarkable women, courageous lives, #ownvoices, learning more about a famous person we think we know about, the Underground Railroad

 

Purple Cow: How to Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

3 words: thought-provoking, conversational, creative

Give it a whirl if you like… marketing books, business books that are fun to read, thinking outside the box

 

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

3 words: nostalgic, warm, coming of age

Give it a whirl if you like… Westerns, first person narratives, coming of age novels, women in the West, school days narratives, stories about teachers

 

I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan

3 words: tongue-in-cheek, browseable, light

Give it a whirl if you like… short vignettes about libraries, stories of human interactions, behind-the-scenes at a library, people’s wonderful quirks

 

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

3 words: whimsical, quirky, charming

Give it a whirl if you like… warm and wise appreciation of everyday moments, quirky formats, books that are browseable but still compulsively readable, smart feel-good books

 

 

What books were your favorites this month?

Book club update

Science fiction, contemporary classic play, children’s horror, and noir. How’s that for some variety?

Our book club has had a great season of discussible reading. Here’s how it went…

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Discussibility Score:

Because: Octavia Butler is one of the best at creating compelling characters and putting them into intriguing situations that are outside our normal realm. In this book, a woman has the ability to shape-shift and gender-shift, and she’s immortal. Unusual things happen. Discuss!



A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry 

Discussibility Score: 5

Because: We knew it was a classic, and none of us had seen or read this play–so we made that right. While reading the play doesn’t take much time, it requires some serious emotional energy because the issues are tough ones, the characters are sympathetic, and the answers aren’t clear. 

 

Bonus: format discussion! We all have different takes on reading plays. Personally, I love them, but also feel a bit irritated by the stage directions. (I prefer “show, don’t tell,” but in this format: impossible. So I get why it’s necessary, but I’m still annoyed by being told how a character reacts. See also: my hatred of adverbs.)



Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Discussibility Score: 4

Because: This book is intended for children, but my friends… it’s seriously creepy and disturbing. (The one night I read it before bed? Unsettling dreams.) Coraline faces every child’s nightmare: her parents are replaced by sinister clone parents who intend her harm. And it all happens under her own roof. That girl’s all on her own, which is both terrifying and empowering. 



The Postman Always Rings Twice by James C. Cain

Discussibility Score:

Because: Much of our discussion consisted of our voicing our distaste for this book, which we all agreed made us feel dirty. The first-person unrepentant criminal narrator is disturbing, nearly all of the characters are detestable, and the plot is sordid. But we also agreed: that last paragraph made it all worthwhile. 

 

Next up: When the English Fall by David Williams. Because who doesn’t love a good post-apocalyptic book about the Amish? 

 

What book have you most wanted to discuss with someone lately?

Reading resolution: do Book Bingo

Looking for a reading-related New Year’s resolution for 2020?

Look no further.

Book Bingo 2020 is here!

To read more and sign up, check out the quite thrilling Book Bingo 2020 announcement post

I’m looking forward to heading into the new year with all you good readers.

Happy New Year, all!

Favorite books of 2019

Raise your hand if you love year-end lists of best books.

Same here.

This year I read some absolutely terrific books, which required difficult choices because my goal was 10 books.

Here are the books that made the list…

Why’d I love them? Here’s why…

 

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal  

3 words: creative, poignant, whimsical

Give it a whirl if you like… inventive style, quirky bite-sized anecdotes, delight in daily life, clever writing

 

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker 

3 words: conversational, thought-provoking, intriguing

Give it a whirl if you like… how to plan parties that are more meaningful and meetings that are more effective, new ways of conceptualizing gatherings, why being a benevolently bossy host can be best

 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

3 words: character-driven, engaging, family 

Give it a whirl if you like… stories of family drama, house as a character, supportive siblings, evil stepmother, layers of meaning 

 

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

3 words: absorbing, character-focused, warm

Give it a whirl if you like… big-hearted stories of family dysfunction, Chicagoland novels, sisterhood, parenting, stories of long and happy marriages

 

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

3 words: profound, measured, philosophical

Give it a whirl if you like… memoirs of survivors, the power of the mind, Holocaust narratives, encouragement through difficult times

 

Working by Robert A. Caro

3 words: first-person, inside glimpse, psychological

Give it a whirl if you like… “inside baseball,” the story behind the story, how extraordinary nonfiction is written, self-deprecating humor, biographical research, how books are researched and written, a psychological portrait of a biographer

 

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

3 words: cheeky, inventive, suspenseful

Give it a whirl if you like… a mix of suspense, family drama, and grim humor; a highly responsible character trapped in terrible circumstances by the acts of a loved one; tension between integrity and family loyalty

 

Middlemarch by George Eliot

3 words: lyrical, character-focused, absorbing

Give it a whirl if you like… a big, absorbing story; classics; reading about a village; nuanced character portraits so detailed you’d recognize the characters if you met them; fiction that inspires the reader to examine her own life

 

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

3 words: creative, compulsively readable, fast-moving

Give it a whirl if you like… rock stars; documentary / oral history format; grim humor; the creative life; sex, drugs, and rock & roll; 1970s pop culture

 

Good Talk by Mira Jacob

3 words: creative, thought-provoking, sad/funny

Give it a whirl if you like… memoirs in graphic novel form; smart, sad, funny memoirs; #ownvoices; a look at race and ethnicity through personal experience; stories told through conversations with a child, parents, a spouse, and friends

 

 

So, my fellow readers… what books made your “best of the year” list this year?

Announcing Book Bingo 2020

Welcome to Book Bingo 2020!

It’s our 6th year of producing a bookish bingo card, and every year the best part is that more people are joining in the fun.  

The Theme

This year’s bingo card has a calendar theme, thanks to my dear friend and bingo collaborator, who suggested it. 

So you’ll find the names of months in ghosted text, and the categories on the card are arranged strategically so they can carry us through the seasons of the year. We start out with Icy (for winter), then move to Longing (for spring), then a Road Trip (for summer), and finally Horror (for fall). Every category on the card is placed in its spot for a seasonal reason. 

I won’t be reading books in category order, but if you’re looking for an added level of challenge, you could attempt to read through the year by category — to fully experience the seasonal tone we’ve built in. If you try this, please let me know how it goes!

The Gratitude

Book Bingo is possible because of two of my most favorite people on earth:

  • My dear friend, who loves bingo category creation every bit as much as I do (so much that she created an amazing spreadsheet this year to help us with the planning process; there are few things more pleasing than a good spreadsheet).
  • The Dear Man, who creates the beautiful design of each year’s book bingo card. I love the work that comes out of our home graphic design office. Every year: happiness.

How to Play

  • Read a book that fits the category. Each book can qualify for only one category.
  • Complete just one row or column, or go for blackout by reading a book in every category.
  • All books must be finished in 2020. Books started in 2019 but finished in 2020 count.
  • We’ve provided some definitions, but you can free-style it if you like—as long as you can make a case that the book fits the category.
  • All categories can be fiction or nonfiction (your choice), unless otherwise specified.

The Categories

Icy – A book that takes place in snowy winter, a story featuring a cold-hearted character, or a chilling tale

Landscape – A book whose setting is vital to the story 

Novella – Shorter than a novel, but longer than a short story

Harlem Renaissance – A book written by a Harlem Renaissance author 

Longing – A story filled with yearning, desire, or wistfulness 

Lies & Deception – A book with lies, so many lies. Or a book that deceived you.

Expectations – A story of fulfilled or thwarted expectations, or a book that failed to meet your expectations 

Underdog – A book about a character who defies the odds

Personal Growth – Self-improvement: pragmatically or spiritually

Long Haired Author – A book by an author who has (or had) long hair

A Friend’s Suggestion – Ask a friend what you should read next

Podcast – Listen to a serial podcast or read a book written by a podcaster

Carnegie Medal Nominee – A book nominated for the Carnegie Medal

Modern Classic – A contemporary book that will stand the test of time

Road Trip – Wanderlust, restlessness, desperation, quest? A book with a road trip in it

Olympic Sport – A book with a character who participates (at any level) in a sport featured in the Olympics

Checklist – A book you’re checking off your list, or a book containing a checklist for a better life

South America – A book written by a South American author or a book that takes place in South America

Back to School – A story with a school setting

Love – A book that illustrates love 

Native American – A character or an author who is Native American

Horror – A story that inspires a feeling of dread

Political – Election year! Read something political

Memoir – A nonfiction personal account based on the author’s experience

Indulge – The hot fudge of reading: all pleasure, no virtue

To Sign Up...

Add your blog name & URL in the Comments. Easy as that.

Printable Book Bingo Card

Questions? Answers!

If you have any questions about any of the categories, ask your question in the Comments, and I promise I’ll respond.

Now let’s get out there and Bingo!