Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What's In My Stack: The Mindy Edition

Hey, all!  I'm smack dab in the midst of a reading hangover.  It's like books have lost their flavor after Educated.   Although I'm working my way through a few non-fictions, I've yet to land on anything world-altering that I feel like reviewing right now.  That having been said, I do have a few exciting books sitting in my to-be read stack that you might like to add to yours.  So here's the Mindy Edition of What's In My Stack?

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

Kathy Hepinstall is one of my favorite authors.  Her first book, The House of Gentle Men has a permanent place on my favorites shelf.  She is an amazing writer and I can't wait to dive into this one.

Willow Havens is ten years old and obsessed with the fear that her mother will die.  Her mother, Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to chase varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors-- and she sticks out like a sore thumb along the modern others of their small conventional Texas town.  She was in her late fifties when Willow was born, so Willow know's she's here by accident, a late-in-life afterthought.  Willow's father died young, and her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere.  It's just her and bigger-than-life Polly.

Willow is desperately hungry for clues to the family life that preceded her, and especially Polly's life, pre-Willow.  Why did she leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return?  Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man?  And will Polly be able to outrun the Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?

The Book of Polly has a kick like the best hot sauce, and a great blend of humor and sadness, pathos and hilarity.  This is a bittersweet novel about the grip of love in a truly quirky family, and you'll come to know one of the most unforgettable mother-daughter duos you've ever met.  

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved America by Brian Kilmead and Don Yaeger

I am absolutely addicted to Timeless,a tv show that is in currently in it's second season on NBC.  It's about a group of individuals who go back in time to try to stop an evil organization from changing key moments in history (and it airs Sunday at 10pm PST on NBC if you are interested in watching).  It brings history to life in a creative way and has definitely sparked an interest in learning more about the different times they visit.  One of the episodes in the first season centered around Benedict Arnold, George Washington, and the Culper Spy Ring).  Not long after I watched the episode with my husband and older girls, I found this book.  It's now making the rounds at our house.  My husband has already read it (and enjoyed it) and my eldest is working on it right now.  I'm next.

When General George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over,  Instead, Washington rallied -- thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring.

Washington realized that he couldn't beat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York.  So carefully guarded were the members' identities that one spay's name was not uncovered until the twentieth century, and one remains unknown today.  But by now, historians have discovered enough information about the ring's activities to piece together evidence that these six individuals turned the tide of the war.

Drawing on extensive research, Brian Kilmead and Don Yaeger have pained compelling portraits of George Washington's secret six:  Robert Townsend, the reserved Quaker merchant and reporter who headed the Culper ring, keeping his identity secret even from Washington; Austin Roe, the tavern keeper who risked his employment and his life in order to protect the mission; Caleb Brewster, the brash young longshoreman who lived baiting the British and agreed to ferry messages between Connecticut and New York; Abraham Woodhull, the curmudgeonly (and surprisingly nervous) Long Island bachelor with business and family excuses for traveling to Manhattan; James Rivington, the owner of a posh coffeehouse and print shop where high-ranking British officers gossiped about secret operations; Agent 355, a woman whose identity remains unknown, but who seems to have used her wit and charm to coax officers to share vital secrets.  

In George Washington's Secret Six, Townsend and his fellow spies finally receive their due, taking their place among the pantheon of heroes of the American Revolution.  

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

One of my favorite book friends absolutely loved this book (shout out to Claudia, former bookseller and avid book lover) and it went in my stack without another thought.  She and I might not see eye-to-eye in all things, but we agree that books are pretty much the best things since...well, everything.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russel Pickett, but there's a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate.  So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett's son, Davis.  Aza is trying.  She's trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.  

In his long-awaited return, John green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza's story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of life long friendship.

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets  by Sudhir Venkatesh

When my husband first started working for our local police department, we lived in a part of town that had thus far managed to escape the gang violence that runs rampant in the city, but when gang-themed graffiti started creeping into our neighborhood, we knew it was time to get out of Dodge. We moved to a more rural setting outside of town and yet we still see and feel the effects of gang violence.  It's an unfortunate fact of life in our area.  I will admit to a certain amount of curiosity about the gang-lifestyle (because...why? and where are your parents?) and since I can't imagine there is a gang that actively recruits non-violent, law-abiding, middle-class, stay-at-home moms, I decided to read a book about it.  I'll let you know how it goes.

When first-year graduate student Sudhir Venkatesh walked into an abandoned building in one of Chicago's most notorious housing projects he hoped to find a few people willing to take a multiple choice survey on urban poverty--and impress his professors with his boldness.  He never imaged that as a result of this assignment he would befriend a gang leader named JT and spend the better part of a decade embedded inside the projects under JT's protection.  From a privileged position of unprecedented access, Venkatesh observed JT and the rest of his gang as they operated their crack-selling business, made peach with their neighbors, evaded the law, and rose up or fell within the ranks of the gang's complex hierarchical structure.  Examining the morally ambiguous highly intricate, and often corrupt struggle to survive in an urban war zone, Gang Leader for a Day also tells the story of the complicated friendship that develops between Venkatesh and JT - two young and ambitious men a universe apart.  

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry - Fredrik Backman

Image result for my grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorryFredrik Backman wrote A Man Called Ove, a book I dearly love.  I've read several books of his since then, and though I haven't loved them all as dearly as I love Ove, I am still taken with his writing style and will most likely give them all a read.  Hence, this book's presence in my stack.

Elsa is seven years old and different.  Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy -- as in standing -on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy.  She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend.  At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged.  Elsa's greatest adventure begins.  Her grandmother's instructions leader her to an apartment building full of misfits, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones, but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman's bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove.  It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuschia Dunlop

Image result for shark's fin and sichuan pepperI love travelogues.  I love culinary literature (aka food lit).  I don't have the money to travel the world or the metabolism to eat everything in sight, so a book that combines the best of both worlds, seems like a vicarious delight.  It could potentially be my favorite thing ever, aside from hyperbole.  In the stack it goes...

Food writer Fuschia Dunlop (okay, that name is awesome) went to live in China as a student in 1994, and form the very beginning vowed to eat everything she was offered, no matter how alien and bizarre it seemed.  In this memoir, Fuschia recalls her evolving relationship with China and its food, from her first rapturous encounter with the delicious cuisine of the Sichuan Province to brushes with corruption, environmental degradation, and greed.  From the vibrant markets of Sichuan to the bleached landscape of northern Gansu Province, from the desert oases of Xinjiang to the enchanting old city of Yangzhou, this unique and evocative account of Chinese culinary culture is set to become the most talked-about travel narrative of the year. 



The Circle by Dave Eggers

Image result for the circle eggersI saw the trailer for the movie based on this book, and it seemed creepy and slightly dystopian, which is an easy sell for me.  HOWEVER, I have to read the book first.  Because. Duh.  It also has Emma Watson (HERMIONE!) in it, which is a virtual guarantee that my husband will want to watch it with me.  And that is another way a book finds its way into my stack.

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime-- even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.  What beings as the captivating story of one woman's ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.  





Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Image result for alexander hamilton book chernowThis book is the basis for the hit Broadway show, Hamilton: An American Musical, and details the life of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of Treasury under George Washington, and the guy on the guy on the ten-dollar bill.  I've been listening to the semi-clean version of the soundtrack for a while now (it's on right now, actually) and absolutely adore it, so it makes sense that I'd read the book.  It's a little long (ahem...731 pages), so it's lived in my stack for an embarrassing amount of time and been consistently returned to the library unread.  Reading this one will take some commitment. I recently was gifted my own copy (thanks, Matt!), so hopefully I will be able to get through it now that their isn't a due date attached.

Ron Chernow, whom The New York Times has called " as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we've seen in decades," vividly re-creates the whole sweep of Alexander Hamilton's turbulent life--his exotic, brutal upbringing; his titanic feuds with celebrated rivals; his pivotal role in defining the shape of the federal government; his shocking illicit romances; his enlightened abolitionism; and his famous death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July 1804.  Drawing upon extensive, unparalleled research--including nearly fifty previously undiscovered essays highlighting Hamilton's fiery journalism as well as his revealing missives to colleagues and friends -- this biography of the extraordinarily gifted founding father who galvanized, inspired, and scandalized the newborn nation is the work by which all others will be measured.  

So that's what's in my stack.  Hopefully, you found one or two books you can add to your stack!

1 comment:

Jordan @ForeverLostinLiterature said...

Wow, what a great list of books! The only one I've read is The Circle, but these all sound so interesting. The George Washington One and Gang Leader for a Day sound particularly intriguing. Hope you enjoy these!

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