the sparkly life: All the Books I Read in September

Monday, September 30, 2019

All the Books I Read in September

As I've mentioned before, I have stepped up my reading big time this year. As of today, at the end of September, I've read 93 books so far in 2019 (woo!). I read 12 this past month (four audiobooks and seven "regular" books), and I've listed them below with short descriptions. If you're looking for something to read, there's lots to love here. And of course, to keep up with all of book recs, follow my bookstagram, @alyssaisbooked. Happy reading!

Loved/Highly Recommend/Read these immediately:

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag: This was hands-down my favorite book I read this month. It tells the story of an apocalyptic world where, thanks to climate change and epic storms and floods, the United States has been completely submerged under water. The world that remains is dangerous, lawless, and terrifying. The story centers on Myra, a mother whose five-year-old daughter, Row, is taken from her on the very first, gut-wrenching page. She spends the rest of the book searching for her (along with her other daughter, Pearl) and trying to survive. The book is heartbreaking, thrilling, hopeful, fascinating, terrifying, and surprisingly action-packed. The writing is absolutely beautiful as well. It was 400 pages, but I flew through them and honestly wish there were 400 more. I truly loved this book.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead: This was just nominated for the National Book Award, and for good reason: It's absolutely incredible. It tells the story of Elwood, a young African American boy sent to a reform school for a crime he didn’t commit. We follow Elwood’s time at the Nickel school, which is truly hell on earth. The boys are forced to do hard labor. Schooling is essentially non-existent. The administration is corrupt. Horrendous abuse is rampant. And though no one who went to the school was unscathed, the story takes place in the 1960s, so the school was segregated and the black children got it much, much worse. But perhaps the scariest thing about this book is that it is closely based on a real reform school, the Dozier School for Boys, where real-life atrocities occurred, and around 70 (!) unmarked graves have since been recovered. (Those poor, poor boys.) The fact that this book is based on true events makes it even more powerful. But it’s also just a great story with incredible writing, strong characters, and a real emotional pull. The book feels timeless and destined to become a classic. I was so moved by it, and I know the story of Elwood and the rest of the Nickel boys will stay with me for a long, long time.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: This book launched earlier this year, but I finally just got around to reading it once Laura Tremaine--who I recently recorded a podcast with--named it as one of her top reads of the summer. It was so good! It tells the tale of four siblings who visit a fortune teller as children. The fortune teller's power is that she can predict the date of your death, so each child learns the exact day he or she is supposedly going to die. We then follow each child as they grow up and live their lives, burdened with this incredible knowledge. We see how it affects every choice that they make--and we do see when and how they die. Fascinating, gripping, and very well-written.

Really liked/Recommend:

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman: Nina is an introverted bookstore employee living a very solitary, simple life in Los Angeles, when she suddenly gets the news that her father (who she has never met) has died and left her with a huge extended family (and a potential fortune). We then follow as she navigates this new family--and life. This book was such a pleasant surprise! I think I was expecting something super light and chick-lit-y, but it was so much more than that. It's smart and funny, and a true love letter to the joy of reading.

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur: In the beginning of this memoir, the then 14-year-old author is woken by her mother who confides that she has just kissed a male family friend (who, uh, is not her father). And thus begins a disturbing and decades-long affair between her mother and the man, and an even more inappropriate mother-daughter relationship. The mom basically makes her daughter an accomplice in the affair, using her to help keep her secrets from everyone else. It's crazy, you won't be able to put it down, and you'll never be so thankful for your normal mother!

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson: This book was unlike anything I've ever read before. Woodson's writing style is beautiful--and so different! It almost reads like poetry. It also reads like a long short story, rather than a traditional book, if that makes sense. (This is not a long book--I read it in a few hours in a single afternoon.) It covers race, teenage pregnancy, family, poverty, mistakes, and coming of age. It's really a beautiful story and I absolutely loved the ending.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen: Though I really love so much of Bruce Springsteen's music, I wouldn't call myself a hardcore fan. But I still really enjoyed this book! Some of it is very detailed (and might be better suited to that hardcore fan), but most of it was fascinating to me. Loved learning how he grew up, how he got started in music, how he was discovered, and the stories behind his biggest songs. (I found myself constantly stopping the book to look up and listen to the various songs after his stories!) Note: I listened to the audiobook version of this and I definitely can't imagine doing it any other way. Bruce reads it himself!

Liked/Worth reading:

Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern: I used to be a huge Howard Stern fan back in high school, and though I haven't listened to his radio show in years, I still love his interview style. (And I have a new appreciation for him now because of the work he does fostering cats with his wife Beth. We got our two cats from them!) This book is a collection of transcripts of his best celebrity interviews throughout the years, interspersed with thoughts and writings from Stern about his relationships, his struggles, his insecurities, his regrets, and more. His honestly and insight is remarkable, and the book is probably nothing like what you'd expect. Howard Stern is definitely all grown up now. 

The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey: I listened to the audiobook version of this; it's supershort. It's mostly interviews that Oprah has done with various people throughout the years, all focused on self-discovery and finding your calling. (These are all interspersed with Oprah's own thoughts, which were my favorite parts.) Some interviews/chapters were better than others, but some were incredibly powerful. (One line in one chapter even stopped me in my tracks on the street and brought me to tears.) If you love Oprah, you'll love this.

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza: This book tells the story of Charlotte Walsh, an accomplished wife, mother, and businesswoman who decides to leave the private sector to run for an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania. We follow her as she navigates balancing campaigning and family life, and dealing with sexist political attacks. It's a really fun read. Note: When I posted on my bookstagram that I was reading it, I had been told by a few people that the ending ruined the whole thing for them. (One person told me she threw the book across the room when she got to the last page!) I have to say, that I didn't love the ending, but when I read the author's explanation for it (which she does explain in the back of the book), I could see where she was coming from and I "got it." Fun, smart book, especially if you're at all into politics.


One More Thing by B.J. Novak: I did the audiobook version of this, which was fun because a lot of celebs like Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham guest on it, but at the end of the day, the book was just okay for me. It's a collection of short stories that are all super random and weird. Some of them are random and weird in a good way--and some of them are just weird. I found a handful of them great and really funny, but I wasn't that into most of them. Sorry, B.J.--I still love you!

Are You There Vodka, It's Me Chelsea by Chelsea Handler: I got this audiobook because I had just listened to Chelsea's most recent book (Life Will Be the Death of Me) back in August and I loved it. (So funny and really personal and moving, too!). I was hoping for something similar with this one, but oh my god--not the case. This book is from 2008, but it felt like it was written in the Stone Age. It was very uncomfortable to listen to because it's weirdly racist a lot, and honestly, just not funny. Handler has clearly matured a lot in the last 11 years. Thank god.

Have you guys read any of these books? (If so, what did you think?) And did you read anything else in September that you loved? Tell me! I'm always looking for recommendations.

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