Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Nonfiction November Week #5: New to My TBR

Welcome to Week #5 of Nonfiction November. As this event draws to a close, the final topic is  New to My TBR and our host this week is Jaymi at The OC Book Girl.
It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book! 

I've added quite a few books to my TBR list this month, but I'll start with the one I've already finished.

by Clint Smith 

This book was recommended by Jen at Introverted Reader, then quickly seconded by several other bloggers. I listened to it earlier this month and rated it 5 stars. Don't miss it!

by Helena Merriman 
recommended by Rennie at What's Nonfiction
waiting on my kindle thanks to a recent daily deal

A few more for the wish list:

recommended by Katie @ Doing Dewey


Witness by Louise Milligan
recommended by Kate at booksaremyfavoriteandbest

A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell 
recommended by Jane @ Reading, Writing, Working, Playing

recommended by The Book Stop

recommended by Joy @ Joy's Book Blog  

by Mayukh Sen 
recommended by Katie @ Doing Dewey

This is just a sampling of the books added to my wish list this month. There must be at least a dozen more, but this post is already long enough. What books were added to your TBR list this month?

Saturday, November 20, 2021

A Pre-Thanksgiving Sunday Salon


Happy Saturday, friends. My Sunday Salon post is coming to you a day early this week... partly because I don't have a lot to report, but also because our Thanksgiving holiday will begin this evening when Twin A and her boyfriend (we're meeting him for the first time!) fly in from NYC. They'll be here for a week, so I don't expect there will be much reading or blogging during that time.

Current reading//

by Clint Smith 

I learned about this book through several Nonfiction November posts and borrowed both the print and audio editions from my library. Smith has a unique way of presenting this history. It reads almost like a travelogue as he visits landmarks and monuments (just in the south so far, but NYC is an upcoming chapter), beginning with Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Plantation.  An engrossing read so far...

Up next//

These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is a long-time favorite author and I was thrilled get a print copy of her new book from the library today... and a little surprised, too, since the book doesn't release until Tuesday! I'm also planning to use an audible credit for the audio, especially since Patchett reads it herself.  Her last essay collection, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, was a favorite when I listened in 2014.

On the blog//

Book Brief: Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

In the kitchen//

It's been a while since I shared a new recipe, but I really liked this Miso-Butter Pasta With Butternut Squash from the New York Times. I followed the recipe as written except I used the red miso I had on hand instead of white and omitted the red-pepper flakes. I've since learned that red miso has a stronger flavor than white and I think the white would have produced a more subtle dish. I will use white next time, but this was still a satisfying fall dish. The recipe may be behind the Times  paywall, so let me know if you'd like me to copy and email it to you.

Of course,  the kitchen will be humming with Thanksgiving prep this week. There will only be 6 or 7 of us this year (compared with 20-30 when we lived in NY) but we are so happy to be able to gather again.

From the cameral roll//

This yellow-crowned night heron dropped in during our dinner at the marina Friday night, much to the delight of all!

How was your week? What have you been reading lately?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Book Brief: Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

by Elizabeth Strout
Random House, 2021
256 pages

Oh, how I loved this book! It is Strout's third venture into the word of Lucy Barton.  Beginning with My Name is Lucy Barton,  Strout moved on to Anything is Possible,  a book of short stories featuring characters introduced in the first book, plus more about Lucy. This new novel, set decades later, is about Lucy's first husband William, their relationship, and Lucy's reflections on life itself. 

Elizabeth Strout has long been one of my favorite authors and, with each novel she writes, I am reminded of all the reasons why. I am struck time and again by her insights into the human condition. Oh William!  is a quiet, character-driven novel filled with simple but profound statements about life and what it means to be human. 

This was a read/listen combination for me. Once again, my library came through with both the ebook and audiobook at the same time. The audio is brilliantly performed by Kimberly Farr and is 7 hours long. (I listened at a slightly faster speed.)

The novel could work as a stand-alone, but I think the experience is richer if you already know and understand  Lucy. I didn't remember much about William from previous books, but that didn't seem to matter. I got to know him well here.

My daughter recently attended an in-person literary event with Elizabeth Strout in NYC. She told the fully-vaccinated, masked crowd that she has her next two novels planned. The first is even nearing completion, but she gave no hints as to the subject matter. I think this is wonderful news and am already looking forward to another Strout novel.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Sunday Salon: November 14, 2021

I'm getting my weekend post in under the wire tonight! The last few days have been a blur, but we had an excellent weekend celebrating my husband's birthday. Our daughter and her boyfriend flew in late Thursday night for a whirlwind visit... and we made the most of every minute! We enjoyed  a couple of dinners out, some beach time, a little shopping, and a lot catching up.

Recent reading//

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

I'll post a brief review of this book in a day or two, but for now let me say that I loved it! Strout has long been a favorite and she certainly doesn't disappoint with her latest offering.

by Denise Kiernan, narrated by the author

My third book for Nonfiction November is a history of both The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC and the Vanderbilt family. I won a paperback copy in a Goodreads giveaway a couple of years ago and used an audible credit to get the audio edition... I do love read/listen combinations for nonfiction! 

We've visited Biltmore a couple of times over the years (first for the costumes of Downton Abbey and later for a Chihuly exhibit) and I enjoyed this deeper dive into its history.  Kiernan's research was thorough and presented in a logical manner, with just the right mix of the "house" itself, its impact on the local residents, and the Vanderbilt family. 

On the blog//

Likely to read next//

I just learned about this book last week while reading Nonfiction November posts and was happy to discover it on the 'new nonfiction' shelf at the library. I brought home a couple of other books, too, but this is the top contender.

The week ahead//

We have been assured that work will resume on our downstairs renovation, but I'm not getting my hopes up. I also have a couple of routine doctor's appointments. And we're eagerly anticipating the arrival of our other NYC daughter next weekend. She and her new boyfriend (we'll be meeting him for the first time!) will be here for the entire week of Thanksgiving - can't wait!

That's it for me this week. How have you been? What are you reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Nonfiction November Week #2: Book Pairings

Nonfiction November is now in its second week. Our host this week is Katie at Doing Dewey (be sure to visit her for links to participant's posts) and the topic is book pairings.

Nonfiction November Week 2: (November 8-12) – Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. 



Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II by Liza Mundy sent me down a rabbit hole of WWII reading, code breaking, and finally Bletchley Park.  As I said in my review:
This is my kind of narrative nonfiction! It strikes just the right balance between hard history and human interest. Mundy's research is thorough, her writing is great and I learned about something completely new. I wasn't at all familiar with this fascinating story of women recruited from colleges (primarily the Seven Sisters) and trained by the government to break codes during WWII.
A short time later I read The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. I don't read much historical fiction these days, but really enjoyed this story. It's about three very different women who form an unlikely friendship while working at Bletchley Park during WWII. I approached this as a read/listen combination and was always eager to return to the story... and it never felt like 600+ pages! 

There are still several more books, fiction and nonfiction, on this topic I'd like to read before too long.


The titles and subject matter (life as an illegal immigrant) are similar, but  Beautiful Country: A Memoir by Qian Julie Wang and Infinite Country by Patricia Engel are very distinct works. 

I read Infinite Country  last spring. It is a short, impactful novel about one family's immigration experience... their struggles and hardships in both the U.S. and Colombia, and the separations that result. The book really packs a punch and it's difficult to read at times. [Trigger warning for sexual abuse]  

Infinite Country  does much more than simply tell a good story. It caused me to think more deeply about the issue of immigration and to look at it from a different perspective. To me, that's the difference between a good book and great book. This will end up being one of my favorite novels of the year.

Beautiful Country: A Memoir  was a read/listen combination for me, with the audio version read by author. Qian Julie Wang, along with her mother, left China for NYC in the early 1990s when she was seven years old. They came to join her father, who had arrived a few years earlier. 

It's a sad story about an undocumented child coming of age in a big city, while facing hunger, poverty, and racism. However, compared to Infinite Country, this book on the gentler side. Books, reading, and libraries played an important role in Wang's life. Her love of the written word added an uplifting aspect to an otherwise bleak existence and certainly increased my enjoyment of this memoir. Wang, now in her 30s, went on to attend Swarthmore College and Yale Law School. She had considered writing a memoir for years and finally tackled the project during the pandemic.

Do you ever pair you nonfiction reading with  a novel on the same subject?

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Two Nonfiction Mini-Reviews and My Current Reads

Hello, friends. It's a refreshingly cool, breezy weekend here in southwest Florida - just perfect for a long walk (me) or a long bike ride (my husband). And naturally, my long walk involves an audiobook! It's been a good week, although not enough happened on the downstairs renovation. Thankfully, we won't need that space for Thanksgiving, but I'm starting to get nervous about Christmas...

Finished last week//

by Stanley Tucci, narrated by the author

I get Stanley Tucci. We are both of the same vintage, grew up in rural NY state (his Westchester was pretty rural at that time and my central NY still is), we both had Italian immigrant grandparents, and food and family were what mattered most. Our grandfathers both made wine... the way he described that musty smell of his grandparents' cellar took me back to the 1960s. Several anecdotes he shared could have occurred in my own extended family, and that recognition had me laughing out loud. 

Beyond childhood, similarities begin to fade but the deep foundation of food and family endures. Tucci shares stories of his career and life over the years and, as you would expect, food looms large. I was completely entertained throughout and enjoyed comparing his recipes with those I've encountered over the years. There were several old favorites and others I'd love to try.

The best part of this book was the experience of hearing Stanley Tucci tell his own story. If you listen to audiobooks, this is definitely one you must  listen to. (David Sedaris also falls into this category.) It is one of my 2021 favorites!


Book Love by Debbie Tung

This little volume is 150 pages of graphic bookish goodness. These depictions of life as a bookworm had me chuckling and nodding my head in agreement. Thank you to the several bloggers who recently wrote about this book.  I found it on hoopla available for immediate download via my library. If you're reading this blog, I suspect this is a book you'd love too!

Current Reading//

The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan

This book has lingered on my shelf for a couple of years, but its time is finally here. The "last castle" is George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. I have visited The Biltmore a couple of times over the years, but would like to see it again while this book is fresh in my mind. Maybe this summer?  I'm just past the halfway mark now and enjoying it as a read/listen combination. 

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

I know it's Nonfiction November, but there are times when my brain just needs fiction... and my library hold of Elizabeth Strout's latest novel arrived. She has long been a favorite author and although I've just started this one, I'm already loving it. 

On the blog//   Nonfiction November Week #1: My Year in Nonfiction

The week ahead//

Nonfiction November moves into week two with Book Pairings hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey. I'm hoping to have that post for you on Tuesday.

We will be celebrating my husband's birthday this weekend. Daughter #1 and her boyfriend arrive Thursday evening for a long weekend of festivities. I can't wait!

I'm finally getting a haircut and highlights this week! After having my September appointment in NY cancelled due to a Covid outbreak at the salon, the situation is dire. 

How did your week go? What are you reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Nonfiction November Week #1: My Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November is here! This annual event, an entire month of bookish topics devoted entirely to nonfiction, is always a favorite.

Our hosts this year are:
Katie at Doing Dewey
 Jaymi at The OC Book Girl


So far, 2021 has been a pretty good reading year for me. While my overall numbers are up, my nonfiction percentage is down - only 30%. In recent years I have averaged between 35 and 40%. Still, I'm satisfied with that number... especially since I don't set specific nonfiction goals.

How I consume nonfiction//
I read nonfiction of course, but I also love listening to it. Having both  the audiobook and a print copy is ideal. That way, I never miss out on photographs, maps, charts, recipes, etc. With a read/listen combination, I listen on my morning walk, then read outside in the late afternoon or curl up in my favorite reading chair in the evening.

What I'm reading about this year//
I've read on a variety of subjects this year, most notably...

MEMOIR, mostly food

I've also read about current events, psychotherapy, and even a couple of how-to books.
Notably absent compared to previous years are nature, books about books, law, and the Supreme Court.

(listed in the order I read them)

My goal for Nonfiction November//
 It's simple, really. I want to hear about all great nonfiction you've been reading this year. And then, ideally, I'd like to read them all myself before next year's event. My best recommendations always come from book bloggers!

How was your year in nonfiction? Which books were your favorites?

For links to other "My Year in Nonfiction" posts, visit Rennie at What's Nonfiction.


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