Books – May Roundup

I am being so slow with my book-reading this year, but there’s good news to report as far as my yearly goals, and I have a feeling things will pick up soon.


The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

This is a YA book, and I’m not entirely sure where I heard about it.  It tells the story of a young (gay) man, who is still in high school, and still finding himself.  His sister died in a car crash 6 months before, and neither he nor his mother have even started thinking about continuing on with their lives.  It’s a really sweet coming of age tale, and I loved the friendships that were portrayed.  I think it’s also a great example of how LGBT stories are not just for those who identify that way – so many times I found myself identifying with how Quinn felt, even if it had a slightly different spin on what we were feeling left out about.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Eric Larson

This was my book club book for May, and was…interesting.  I think we all enjoyed it/were interested in the contents, but it was sort of odd to read about an aspect of history where I am so very poorly informed.  I always forget that Hitler’s rise to power was a gradual climb that started in the 1920s, and that other nations believed you could work with the Nazis when they initially took power in the 30s.  Reading about the US ambassador’s daughter at the time who was fascinated by the Nazis feels unimaginable.  People who are willing to forgive an obviously despotic, petty, xenophobic leader because “he won, now we have to work with him” feels just as ugly back then, when there were violent acts being committed against minority groups AND against those who weren’t even Germans.  It must have been an interesting (and scary!) time to be working in the State Department.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, M.Ed.

It’s weird to think of myself as a parent, but for more than a month now (and longer, if you give a broader definition to the term), I’ve been a stepmother.  I’m still getting used to it.  And one of the disadvantages of becoming a parent to semi-grown children is that I don’t have the luxury of learning as I go and saying, “That’s just how we do things”.  So when my favorite blog/podcast recommended this book, I was intrigued.  The main idea the book espouses is that when there is too much stuff in your child’s life – be it toys and physical things, a home rhythm that’s out of whack, too many events on the schedule, or too many adult world worries – children will act out in one way or another.  I did feel pretty good about how we do things after finishing the book (trying to emphasize outdoor/creative play, not having too many things scheduled all the time), but that there are still areas for improvement – I would personally love to have things like bedtime be more regular and scheduled, and to be more diligent about filtering out the adult world and worries.  Perhaps this means I need to pass the book along to the Boy…

Celebrate Everything!: Fun Ideas to Bring Your Parties to Life by Darcy Miller

This was a wedding gift, and I’d seen it on a couple blogs late last year when it came out.  It’s written by the Martha Stewart Weddings editorial director, so you know she knows what she’s doing.  It is a visually spectacular and inspiring book.  The kind of book that makes you want to throw more parties, and to start doing things like hosting themed cocktail parties.  If only I knew more of my neighbors in a better way, because I’m not sure I have enough friends to invite over as regularly as I would want to host parties.  I love that there are lists of sources in the back of the book (wonderful for a magpie like me who just wants a little of everything), but it’s also a little scary to think how much one could spend on a party based on recommendations from this book.  Still, I think it’s a great source of inspiration, and you could do a lot of it yourself, and make many of the decorations reusable.  Just lots of good ideas for those who like to host…


The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Would you believe that for a short period of time I lost my Arlington Library borrowing privileges?  I’d delayed renewing my account so many times (it involves an in-person trip), that after four months, they finally cut off my access to Overdrive.  And that’s when I made the sojourn to the Shirlington branch.  But in the few hours in between, I needed a new book (talk about poor/perfect timing!), and so I looked at the audiobooks currently available from the Alexandria library where I also have an account, and this one was pretty high on the list.  Perhaps because a movie based on it came out recently?  In any case, it’s interesting so far.  I don’t think I had any expectations of what it would be before.

And as we go into the summer, I am way behind on my reading.  Thankfully this time of year is a little slower, and allows for things like reading books when you’re on vacation or have free days.  I’m hoping to do a little more of that, since I’m woefully behind on my Goodreads challenge – 20 books for the year when I should have done 25!!!

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