2015 Reading Round Up, Part One

2015 Reading Round Up, Part One

Women be reading! Full disclosure, I count cookbooks and coffee table books. Hey, if it has words, it's a book. Before we jump into the first half of 2015, feel free to take a gander at the

last half of 2014

. Now, here's what I've been reading!

Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

by Cheryl Strayed

I've been meaning to read this book for two years, but just got around to it. I'm actually glad I waited. This book wouldn't have resonated with me two years ago like it does now. I devoured this book, reading it in a few days, unable to put it down. I cried through so much of it. I even underlined passages and dog-eared pages to go back and reread. I would like to think that this book will touch anyone who has felt tremendous grief, but I've heard so many people disparage it, and the author, that I wonder. I loved it, and I applaud both the writing and the author herself. Great book.

The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club

by Laurie Notaro

This book was probably hilarious in 2002 when it came out. I like Laurie's writing style and sense of humor. The jokes in this book are just out-dated. I would be willing to read a more recent book by her. I've heard her speak at an author signing and she seems like someone who writes books I would like.


by Stephen King

This book BLEW MY MIND. So good! Not a typical Stephen King book - not scary, not gory. It's just a great book. A really, really great book. I'm currently making John read it.

Tiny Beautiful Things:  Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

by Cheryl Strayed

I LOVED this book, which is a strange thing to say about a book I cried all the way through. If you don't know what

Dear Sugar

is, Google it and then come back and read the rest of this review. The truths in this book are uncomfortable, raw and tremendously helpful. There's a lot of pain in these pages, but it's pain shrouded in beauty and compassion. As someone who has done a lot of internal heavy lifting this year, reading these stories healed me in a way I didn't expect. I didn't realize how much I needed to know I'm not the only one.

*Also, this is one of Ann Patchett's favorite books. Read her review



Collected:  Living with the Things You Love

by Fritz Karsh, Rebecca Robertson

I LOVED this book. It's a fascinating read on why people collect what they collect and how they display it. The authors used to work for Martha Stewart, so visually, it's a beautiful book. 

Just Mercy:  A Story of Justice and Redemption

by Bryan Stevenson

One of the best, probably most important, books I've ever read. Proper review forthcoming, once I quit crying. Everyone should read this book. 


I have a solid base of knowledge on this subject, but this book still blew me away. First of all, the writing. Bryan's legal, matter-of-fact writing style suits this book well. His story is compelling enough without narrative flourishes. I feel like this book could be easily picked over because of the title, the cover, and who wants to read a book on the death penalty? But everyone should read this book. All of the things that feed into why this is a book on the death penalty need to be read about, talked about, explored, etc. This is a conversation we should be having. Read this book.

See also:  

Bryan Stevenson on Charleston and Our Real Problem with Race


The Kitchn Cookbook

by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, Faith Durand

This book is short on recipes and long on Pinterest-esque tips. This is a great book for someone just starting out, who knows next to nothing about setting up a kitchen, what to buy, how to host dinner parties, etc. I didn't have much use for it, but I can see where someone at another stage in their life might.

It's What I Do:  A Photographer's Life of Love and War

by Lynsey Addario

After hearing the author on NPR and seeing her on The Daily Show, I added this book to my library list. I'm so glad I read it! This book is riveting. Her first-hand accounts of Iraq and Afghanistan are like nothing I've ever read. It's such an interesting look into the life of not only a photojournalist, but a conflict photographer. Her life is fascinating and terrifying. I wish this book had existed in my late teens and early twenties. It's so inspiring. A must read!

The Soul of a Chef:  The Journey Toward Perfection

by Michael Ruhlman

My friend Amanda recommended this book and I'm glad she did because I wouldn't have heard about it otherwise. It's not a new book. It was published in 2000, but it doesn't feel outdated. It's the follow-up book to The Making of a Chef, which was a book about the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) process of becoming a chef. This second book is divided into three parts, the first of which is an inside account of the competition to become a Certified Master Chef at the CIA. This part is fascinating and very clearly the inspiration for the Bravo show Top Chef.

The second and third parts of the book are spotlights on chefs who own and run their own restaurants. One from CIA and one self-taught. The first is Michael Symon. A CIA graduate who owns Lola Bistro in Ohio. I have no idea who he is, but his section of the book is interesting because it shows the behind the scenes of how Food & Wine picks it's top ten best chefs every year.

The second, self-taught chef, is Thomas Keller of French Laundry. This section is reason enough to read the book. It's 112 pages on how Keller's brain works, how he runs his kitchen, and very detailed descriptions of his food over the years (plus recipes). I already knew a lot about Keller, but I learned new things by reading this book.

I only gave the book three stars because it's a slow read and hard to pay attention to at times. There are a lot of food and recipe details that I glazed over. But on the whole, it's an interesting book that I'd recommend to all my foodie friends and lovers of Top Chef. It's worth it for the Thomas Keller chapter alone.

Seriously Delish

by Jessica Merchant

This is a cute cookbook. If you like

her blog

, like I do, I recommend reading this book. I'm glad I checked it out at the library as opposed to buying it, because while it was fun to read, I don't feel I need to add it to my collection. Honestly, her personality shines just a tad brighter than her recipes in this book. Definitely worth checking out though.

Men Explain Things to Me

by Rebecca Solnit

Eh, this book isn't great. It started out strong, which gave me hope, but it lost me by the end. Not because of the topic, but because of the writing style. The title ceases to be relevant after the first chapter.

It's hard to keep your focus while reading, again, especially in the last chapters. It feels like a book that needs a lecture series to go along with it; it's not powerful enough on its own. The topic is a conversation I'm interested in, but this book didn't do it for me.

The Girl On The Train

by Paula Hawkins

Great book, couldn't put it down. It does have a Gone Girl-esque feel, but with two differences:  it's set in London, and the ending doesn't piss you off. I plowed through this book while stuck at home in an ice storm for a few days. It reads fast with short chapters divided by character and time of day. It doesn't go very deep into the character's psyches, and I figured out whodunit early on, but I still thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.


by Sean Brock

This is a great book. The photos and stories are amazing. But... it's more of a show piece than a cookbook. The few recipes that I would be interested to make require two days and ingredients I can't get. I flagged the things I like from Husk, like the fried chicken and the cheeseburger, but the recipes are way above my pay-grade. All of that being said, this is a beautiful book, that I will display on my coffee table, untouched and unused.

Bad Feminist:  Essays

by Roxane Gay

I knew of this book, but don't know that I ever would have read it had it not been recommended to me. The book is divided into sections:


Gender & Sexuality

Race & Entertainment

Politics, Gender & Race

Back To Me.

The first section, Me, was so bad, I put the book down and almost returned it. I recommend skipping that section and going straight into Gender & Sexuality.

I liked this book. Her perspective isn't always my perspective, and she goes a little further than I'm comfortable with on some issues, but she makes strong points. A lot of these essays made me think, and some re-framed things for me, and made me madder (rightfully so) than I have been. It's a cliche, but this book woke me up.

It's a good book. You won't love it, but I recommend you read it. Just skip that first section.

Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence

by Joy Wilson

I love this book! I read a library copy and immediately returned it and bought a hardcopy for myself. It's my new favorite cookbook. I love Joy's writing style, and I love her recipes. I read every recipe and feel like I can probably make all of them. Her descriptions make me want to try all of them. Awesome book!!


by Stephen King

I really liked this book. I couldn't put it down and read it in 2-3 days. It's not "scary", but it's definitely disturbing. It's apparently in the same vein as his first five books, which maybe I should go back and reread. It's a weird, and sometimes slow-going book, but overall, I liked it. It is nuts though.

Meditating and Shit

Baby's First Swim Meet!