The Books of April 2021


A beloved classic tale about the unlikely friendship between a pig and a spider.

 Last year my four-year-old discovered Mercy Watson and the Tales from Deckawoo Drive series by Kate DiCamillo. He was obsessed with pigs, so naturally I thought of the beloved tale of Wilber and Charlotte. I had some fond memories of this one, but didn't love it nearly as much as an adult.

A spellbinding novel of dark family secrets and a young woman's rise and revenge set against the backdrop of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

I found this to be a fun little escape into turn-of-the century SF. I loved tagging along on the main character's exploits around SF, visiting places like the Cliff House and the Sutro Baths. This novel doesn't ever get very deep, but it did lead me down my own little rabbit hole concerning Chinatown and the politics of the time. I'm always a fan of a book that leaves me wanting to learn more and this fit the bill.  

An enthralling, redemptive novel set in Bangkok in 1972 and Washington, DC, in 2019 about an expatriate child who goes missing, whose family is contacted decades later by a man claiming to be the vanished boy.

This was my first solid 5 star read of 2021. This novel does so many things so well. I cared very much about each of the characters and felt a spectrum of emotions as I followed them throughout their lives. The setting was established in such a way that I swear I felt the sticky, heat of Thailand. It's a hard read, emotionally speaking, but is also just so insightful. I cannot recommend this novel enough!

A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong.

 I was incredibly nervous to read this one, because it seems to be quite polarizing among readers I trust. I went in knowing that many people were disappointed with the ending, so I prepared myself accordingly and went in with lowered expectations.

Honestly, I couldn't put this down. I found this book to be terrifying and am extremely relieved that I didn't read it earlier on in the pandemic. There isn't a whole lot that happens in the plot and it leaves the reader with so many questions. It reminded me of The Road in that way, except this novel has the glimmer of hope and possibility that The Road didn't really have. If you don't mind a whole lot of ambiguity, then you'll likely enjoy Leave the World Behind.

You Are Magnificent by Ganel-Lyn Condie:
In a world where many women wonder if they measure up, the quest for perfection can be exhausting! For those who are overloaded and overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy comes an authentic and powerful lifeline of reassurance. . . .

This was the selection for my neighborhood book club, which is comprised of mainly LDS (Mormon) women. I very likely would not have picked this up on my own. I found the writing to ramble quite a bit, drawing conclusions and connections that, at times, seemed a bit of a reach. I agree with the overarching sentiment that everyone has value and something to contribute, but wouldn't recommend this book to anyone outside of the LDS crowd as it really has glaring moments of the "us versus the world" mentality.

. . . John Hodgman is an older white male monster with bad facial hair, wandering like a privileged Sasquatch through three wildernesses: the hills of Western Massachusetts where he spent much of his youth; the painful beaches of Maine that want to kill him (and some day will); and the metaphoric haunted forest of middle age that connects them.

 This book kept me company as I battled some recent insomnia and painted and then repainted the walls of my-not-so-great room. I loved every stinking minute of it. Hodgman is funny and insightful and I will do my best no to run into him in the post office should I ever travel to his area of Maine. If you need company and a laugh or two, then Vacationland on audio is a fantastic choice. My one complaint is that it wasn't longer. . .my room still isn't totally painted.

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson's Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

One of my favorite, most meaningful reading experiences of 2020 was reading Krueger's This Tender Land. I had heard that Ordinary Grace was full of my favorite elements: a strong sense of place, complicated families and the growing pains associated with any good coming-of-age tale.

Ordinary Grace delivered on all of those things, however it didn't impact me in quite the same way. I'm sure most of that has to do with my unfair, exceedingly high expectations. This Tender Land is the masterpiece. Ordinary Grace feels more like a warm up.

The amazing story of how the world's greatest fossilist found her first huge find at the age of twelve.
I'm absolutely thrilled that this book exists! As I have gotten older I have seen glaring gaps in my education and the existence of Mary Anning is one of them.

We picked up this particular title after reading the picture book Stone Girl, Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt, which I preferred. However, if Mary Anning is new to you, then you would likely enjoy this slim book.

"Money cannot buy happiness, but it buys the conditions for happiness: time, occasional freedom from constant worry, a moment of breath to plan for the future, and the ability to be generous."
Vacationland by John Hodgman

"'It's the right thing to do.' Clay knew this would work; his wife felt it important, not to do the moral thing, necessarily, but to be the kind of person who would. Morality was vanity, in the end."
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

"The dead are never far from us. They're in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air."
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

"'Trust me, Wilbur. People are very gullible. They'll believe anything they see in print.'"
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

What was your favorite read of April?

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