Do you remember BookIt?
You know, that amazingly smart program that rewards kids with pizza for reading books. Seriously, that shit is genius, and I can still see the colorful stickers all over my book covers and taste that glorious pepperoni personal pan pizza in my mouth.
K, now I want a pizza.
Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find the adult version of BookIt that’s as satisfying as the kid’s version, so I’ll have to settle for the reward in sharing my quarterly book list with you and then excitedly emailing or texting about the books you’ve read too. Really though, I still think I deserve a pizza party and a sticker for all this reading…
Anywho, this quarter’s list is a good one. It’s wide-ranging, for sure. Well, I mean, really all my book lists are pretty wide-ranging with something for everyone (check out the last couple here and here), but this one definitely has something to satiate any kind of taste.
Like, even if you like pineapple on your pizza, you will find a reward here.
I’ll let the quick summaries speak for themselves, but if you only have time to skim and need immediate highlights for download or purchase: The Attachments and The Knockout Queen. You’re welcome.
Now: 22 books I’ve read so far in 2021, 19 of which I’d wholeheartedly recommend.
To Have and to Hoax: A Novel (The Regency Vows Book 1) Martha Waters (Y’all. Yes. I liked this one because there was so much tension for the first half. Like, tell me, already!! I liked the characters and the relationship – ahem, strong-willed, curious female + strong-willed, proper male = feisty, passionate love match I can identify with – and the ending too. I made a bad habit of reading Goodreads reviews this quarter, and people skewered this book, but I disagree with their assessments. Sure, some of it’s frustrating, but isn’t that real life sometimes too? Also, if you’ve been into Bridgerton but are on a waitlist till 2025 to read the books, grab this to get your fix.)
Saint X: A Novel Alexis Schaitkin (Loved this one. It was so interesting, such a captivating style. And definitely a unique story too, with a feel and ending I can’t quite describe, but really, really enjoyed. It lived up to all the hype it got in reviews.)
Snapped (Playbook, The Book 4) Alexa Martin (Y’all, I love this series so much. If you haven’t started reading it, what, pray tell, are you waiting for? It’s the last book of the bunch, which was sad for sure. But thank goodness, the author has a new series coming out soon!)
The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism Jemar Tisby (This is an important read for Christians. I’ll be up front and say it’s a basic historical survey, so much of what the author included I have already read several times over in other books about American history and racism in our country. However, the unique part of this book, and what I was interested in specifically, is how it explains the direct ties to the church and racism, and how Christians have, throughout the course of history, at best been silently complicit in racism, and at worst been explicit about actively supporting slavery, racism, and discrimination, twisting the Bible to meet their needs. That’s also not necessarily new info, but this was a solid book that put it plainly, and also included specific calls to action for Christians today.)
Docile K.M. Szpara (Well, this book unknowingly introduced me to a genre I didn’t even know existed – slavefic. [Because no, I obviously didn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey.] And, apparently, it’s not a particularly well-done example of it either. The summary and reviews of this one really piqued my interest, but I would definitely say the book itself and the execution of concept didn’t match up or deliver. I liked it, and it got me thinking, but the Goodreads reviews got me thinking even more. You gotta make your own decision on this one. Another note – there are a fair amount of graphic gay sex scenes in this that sometimes err toward rape.)
The Vacationers: A Novel Emma Straub (Honestly, I loved this one. For whatever reason, I was silly and read Goodreads reviews on this one too, which were super critical of the lack of character development in the book. However, I disagree and think this book was great. Plus, truthfully, we don’t always get to know a person’s character in depth, why do we always expect it in a fiction novel?)
Dietland Sarai Walker (This book was excellent. So freaking good! I read Goodreads reviews of this one afterward and basically just laughed because they all made the author’s baseline point anyway. Ugh – don’t read internet reviews! Highly recommended!)
Dune Messiah Frank Herbert (After reading Dune last year, I had saved this one for when I was really in the mood for an epic sci-fi saga. Well, it wasn’t as much of an epic saga and it didn’t take up several weeks of reading, so that was a bit of a relief. But, it did really pack a punch as far as continuing the story. I didn’t want it to end, and I loved where the author went with it. Unexpected, as far as traditional heroes go, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter for Dune.)
Shakespeare for Squirrels: A Novel Christopher Moore (Knowing this is one of my favorite authors who always delivers, I picked this one up just because it had no library wait time. Much to my delight, it was based around one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and was weird and wonderful in all the best ways. I didn’t realize it was part of a character series, so that’s fun to discover too, and I’ll now go back and read the rest!)
The Knockout Queen: A novel Rufi Thorpe (Hands down, best book of the year so far. I was blown away by this book, and I’m honestly still thinking about it. I’m not even going to give any details other than to say, if you pick one novel from this list, make it this one. And then let’s talk about it when you’re done. SO GOOD.)
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat Aubrey Gordon (I doubt I need to remind you, especially based on my last email, that we have a problem with fatphobia and weight stigma in our culture. The author, AKA Your Fat Friend on blog and social media, does an incredible job of not only sharing her experience as a fat person in the world, but of sharing the history behind a system that discriminates horribly against fat folks, as well as the data and science that explains the nuances of fatness and health. READ THIS BOOK and be a better person.)
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating Christina Lauren (Awww, this one was adorable. Obviously. One of Christina Lauren’s sweeter endeavors for sure. If you need a feel-good rom-com, this is the one.)
Not That Kind of Guy Andie J. Christopher (Very cute. Liked the framework, liked the characters.)
Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It Ethan Kross (I feel like this book is a reason why I don’t read nonfiction personal development books often. It was so highly praised and anticipated! And inner dialog stuff is so intriguing to me, and a big part of my work, so I really thought this would be a great book to read. Spoiler alert: meh, it wasn’t really. I did enjoy how decent of a storyteller the author was, even as an academic. Lots of times, those dudes are dry as hell and their books are painful. I found some of the research and info interesting, but it wasn’t earth-shattering. If it’s a topic that interests you, grab it. If not, skip it and just read the press articles on the internet.)
Attachments: A Novel Rainbow Rowell (This one is tied with The Knockout Queen for best book of the year so far. God, I LOVED this one. 5 STARS. Hell, ten stars! This book was just absolute perfection. The concept was awesome and unique, the nostalgia was excellent, the characters were so, so good, and yes, the ending was lovely. It’s different. It’s one you’ll like, no matter who you are.)
The Windfall: A Novel Diksha Basu (Really enjoyed this book. It really told an excellent story about how money can affect our lives. It just felt…real. Heartfelt. I smiled at the last page.)
Stormsong (The Kingston Cycle Book 2) C. L. Polk (This is a cool series reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. So if you’ve been missing that, pick up these books! Also, queer leads, FTW!)
The Midnight Library: A Novel Matt Haig (This book, too, very much lived up to its hype. Such a lovely commentary on the continual human tendency to think about how much greener the grass is in another life. Well-written piece of literature, excellent and not cheesy incorporation of the magical element, and one to leave you thinking for a while. Highly recommended.)
Self Care: A Novel Leigh Stein (Super meh. Honestly, skip it. I like to read these books that critique “wellness,” but this one was mediocre at best. I had high expectations, and they were not met at all.)
Lethal White (Cormoran Strike Book 4) Robert Galbraith (Whew, another doozy in the Strike series! God, these books are just so intricately detailed – in both character and storyline. I’m invested in the ongoing stories and relationships of the characters now for sure, but the individual murder mysteries are super compelling too. Great stuff.)
The Interestings: A Novel Meg Wolitzer (Loved it. Loved it! Without realizing it, I’ve become somewhat of a Meg Wolitzer fan, and this book solidified my fandom. It was, indeed, interesting. So were the characters, their lives. But at the same time, it’s just such a good, like, life story of human existence and conflict and emotion and change and mistakes and all the human things. I’d call the tone and the speed subdued, but never slow or boring. It was perfect.)
A Deadly Education: A Novel (The Scholomance Book 1) Naomi Novik (Wow. Wowwwwww. Whew. This was unexpectedly…violent and slightly disturbing. But I mean, I still loved it, and I especially loved the main character. Think: Hunger Games, but within a high school setting. And not anything like Harry Potter. Liked it a lot, and am definitely looking forward to the rest of the series.)
So, do you think I deserve a pizza too? I do, right? I totally do. So do you.
Let’s get pizza.
Let’s also connect on Goodreads, if ya wanna. You can keep up with my reading in real time over there instead of just waiting for quarterly lists, and I love seeing what you’re reading too! And let’s support our local libraries and booksellers and authors and editors.
I hope you find something to read that feels like a reward in itself, on this list or another one. Keep me posted, OK?
If you’ve read something great lately, email me and let me know! I’m always adding to my library list. And if you want more talk of books, more often, sign up for weekly emails from me.