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what i read – 2019: Q1

Hello! It’s April! So far this year, I have read seventeen books.

Seventeen books is somewhat below my average; I am eight books behind pace if I want to meet my usual goal of 100 a year. I’m not concerned: it’s early in the year and I’m not up to pace with my book reviewing yet. I’m actually rather impressed with the amount of reading I am doing! Keeping my reading pace with one child wasn’t too hard; reading with two children is something else entirely. Twice as many schedules to manage, three times the mess, eight times the laundry (why is there so much laundry!?), and the same number of parents. Lounging on the couch with a good book while my husband plays with the baby? Sounds like a fun weekend! With two children, I can lounge on the couch reading while my husband plays with the baby, as long as I can do it while an almost-three-year-old pokes me in the eyeballs and tries to “flush mama’s head” with a hairbrush and sings “The Three Little Kittens” at the top of his lungs. I can’t even read ebooks while I’m nursing, since the almost-three-year-old has taken possession of my Kindle: he types words into whatever search bar he can find and only occasionally orders piano instruction books using my linked Amazon account. Thanks, progeny!

How to Read Less: Live with an Almost-Three-Year-Old

When I started 2019, I had full-time childcare for our pre-preschool tyrant and was still sitting around the house nursing or cuddling a sleeping one -month-old baby. I was feeling somewhat accomplished by grabbing some of the perpetually unread books that sit on my living room bookshelves, and also finishing a few ebooks before they were returned to the library. Now, I have less childcare, and feel somewhat accomplished when I can read 25 or so pages of a book while sitting on the floor of the living room and building towers out of blocks, or squeezing an audiobook into my cleaning/cooking/Stardew Valley time.

I’ve been trying to write these quarterly reading updates for actual years now, but – surprise surprise – I end up writing WAY too much about each book and never finishing. So allow me to take advantage of this smaller-than-usual reading quarter and tell you about what I’ve been reading!

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III 

I selected this ebook off my robust Overdrive Wish List, hoping for a short middle grade read to feel good about finishing. It was a short middle grade, but a little too historical for me to read it quickly. While I can’t say I’m terribly interested in the retelling of famous battles, I will say I was startled by how little I knew about this era of history! Just nothing at all, really.

Smarter Better Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Another selection from my Overdrive Wish List, to be read on my phone while nursing/hanging out with a little babe. Very fascinating stories – reminded me of Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell. I did wish there was more content about personal productivity as opposed to business productivity.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Ever since I read a.l.l. of Jacqueline Woodson’s books for a grad class, I have prided myself on keeping up the streak… until for some reason I didn’t read her exceedingly slim and well-reviewed adult novel for a number of year?! It’s for adults, but still feels very Woodson: adult mostly in perspective rather than content or point of view. Very satisfying to finally read a book that’s been mocking me from my bookshelf for years.

Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward by Gemma Hartley

Hartley wrote that article about Emotional Labor that everyone read back in 2017. After hearing her on the podcast circuit, I decided to read her new book on the topic. On one hand, Hartley is talking about important, under-discussed manifestations of systemic sexism that affect us all in some way or another. I am on board and interested. On the other hand… this kind of book makes me want to get into a fight with my husband. Which is not something I have time/energy for right now. A Conundrum. (One that Hartley does, actually, talk about in her book, of course…)

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

My first postpartum audiobook! A nice uplifting, postpartum read! Funny story: I listened to this whole book, put it on my Goodreads, only to discover I had already read and reviewed it. I had no recollection of this. Parenting is fun and definitely does not fry your brain at all! Thumbs up!

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling

My second postpartum audiobook, and a continuation on the Parenting Is Not For Mere Mortals theme. I heard Kiesling on the Mom Rage podcast: this her debut novel, and while the story isn’t strictly *about* parenting, the main character is actively solo-parenting a toddler throughout. This provides a sort of never-ending thrum of mundane activities always buzzing behind the narrative… which, you know, is pretty much exactly what parenting young kids is like.

Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks

Another galley I’ve had on my shelf forever. It’s part memoir, part sociological nonfiction, written by a woman who was arrested for leaving her kid in the car while she ran into a store.  behind the click-bait-y topic is a really thought-provoking look at how and why our culture has shifted so profoundly. It wasn’t that long ago, historically speaking, that parents used to send their kids off to work full time in factories! This reminded me a lot of Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, both in content and form.

To Night Owl, From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

Just picking up those galleys and knocking them back, guys. This one is realistic middle grade fiction. Stories told in email are a hard sell for me, but the two characters were voice-y enough to keep me interested. Plus, I liked the Parent Trap/summer camp vibes.

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

An audiobook choice. A little too rom-com-y for my usual tastes, but I enjoyed it

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley

I have recently promoted Lucy Knisley to a Must Buy author. I have been looking forward to reading her graphic-memoir on pregnancy and childbirth since I learned she was pregnant… which was when I was pregnant with Baby #1! We had our babies within days of one another, this author who has no idea I exist and I. After reading the whole, traumatic story, I am 100% thankful that my labor and delivery, while a bit excessive, was otherwise drama-free.

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

I aspire to be the kind of person who picks up the latest Newbery winner after the awards are announced. Instead, I am typically the kind of person who puts the latest Newbery winner on hold and never reads it. EXCEPT FOR THIS YEAR! This year’s winner was a classic-feeling realistic middle grade novel – a sixth grade novel, as so many of my favorite MG books are – with a distinct cultural and geographical setting.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Another middle school story, this time in graphic novel format. Like Merci Suarez, Jordan is a minority scholarship kid at a fancy-dancy private school; while Merci has been at her school for awhile, New Kid focuses on Jordan’s transition into this new environment dealing with feeling “othered” at every turn.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

Like Smarter Better Faster, this is another pop-social-science book with a premise that was RIGHT up my alley… but the content really couldn’t live up to my expectations. Or maybe I’ve just read all of the time management/productivity literature that exists in the world and there’s nothing left for me to learn. Nonetheless, this was a quick, interesting read – although somewhat laughable to be reading about how to perfectly time… anything while performing full-time parenting duties.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

My first five star book of the year! I listened to this collection of personal essays about Chee’s life and writing on audio and although I had no real investment in the author/subject matter, his narrative voice just h.o.o.k.e.d. me and I wanted to listen for ever. My dishes were very well washed and my kitchen counters and floors quite clean for the few days I listened.

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

Another audiobook. Another realistic sixth-grade-ish book. I won’t post any spoilers, but I read this weeks ago and am still occasionally reeling over the parents’ hand in the book’s Big Reveal. I don’t think the book wanted me to vilify them, but as an adult human/parent? Horror.

Juliet’s School of Possibilities by Laura Vanderkam

A business-focused “fable” isn’t exactly the kind of book I usually seek out….  but I read Vanderkam’s blog and listen to her podcast often enough that I felt like buying her book was a small way to support the creator of content I enjoy. If you’re familiar with Vanderkam’s perpetual 168 Hours “you have enough time” thesis, Riley’s life-changing transformation won’t be anything new to you, but it was a pleasant – and quick – read.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

A memoir that lays plain how nearly impossible it is to escape systemic poverty. How little support our society provides to single mothers is really sickening.

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