Reading Recap: January 2021

I wasn’t sure how my reading year would start out, but I had a record month! Baby Piper is due in March so I’m trying to cram in as much reading as I can before her arrival. So far it’s been a mixed bag of fiction and nonfiction, new and old releases. Every year I try to see how long I can make it without buying a new release, and I cracked on January 15th and bought Jesus and John Wayne because Twitter made me do it. I subsequently bought and flew through three new releases. Book buying and reading has been my coping mechanism for the month of January and the start of 2021.

I also set up my Bookshop.org affiliate store! You can go here and find all of the books I’ve read and recommended: https://bookshop.org/shop/thelazybookshelf

If you want to know more about what I’m reading, you can follow my Bookstagram @thelazybookshelf. Or you can follow me @heymeff for general silliness and sporadic posting.

I started off the year wanting to read books that have been on my To Be Read list for a long time and this was on it. It tells the story of Achilles (obviously) but from a wider lens than we’re used to. I liked Miller’s other novel Circe better, but I enjoyed this one. I read it at the beach, which was a great because the second half of the book is set on the beach at Troy. This was very plot driven and well written. My biggest critique of this one was that it was *really* dramatic. I mean, it’s Greek mythology which is basically the original soap opera, but still. The drama was strong.

Another book set on the ocean while at the ocean! This is a middle grade book about an orphan, a grumpy old man who adopts her, and the life they live on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. The nature writing is excellent and made me Google ‘Elizabeth Islands’ multiple times. It won a bunch of awards, and they were all well deserved. I love the characters, and I loved getting to go along with Crow as she discovered her background and learned to love herself.

This was another memoir that had been on my list for a long time, and I finally checked it out from the library on both audio and ebook because I could not put it down. It’s nonfiction but reads like an unbelievable novel. I alternated between shaking my head and literally gasping while I was reading. Ruth writes about growing up in a polygamist cult, both the little bright moments of childhood and the dark, unthinkable events that shaped her family. It was such a page turner, but it was also really sad. The most hopeful part of the book was that the author Ruth had grown up to heal and write her story.

I picked this up because it was available from the library and my friend and fellow reader Julie who’s recommendations I trust implicitly. It’s a book of essays about art, creating music, and finding the spiritual in doing creative work. Peterson is a songwriter and a Christian and this book is part memoir, part advice, and I found it really thought-provoking. It was inspiring and weirdly made me want to quit my job write poetry or something!

My first new release of the year! I got this in my Book of the Month box in January and it was worth the $10. It was really entertaining and kept me guessing. It is a straight up mystery, even though the cover gives off thriller vibes. I thought it was very atmospheric; I can’t say I’ve ever read a book set on Tasmania. I gave it 3.5 stars.

Miracle Creek was another book that I had on my shelf for a long time and I’m glad I finally read it! It’s part mystery, part community drama. It reminded me of Little Fires Everywhere in tone and plot, and Snow Falling on Cedars, which I loved.

What can I say about this 75 year history of the white evangelical church? It was so interesting and eye-opening and at times shocking. The subtitle is honestly how I’ve felt about Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians for about four years now. As a person who is a Christian, it revealed so much about how we got here as a nation. It gave me context about why there’s such division in the church and it explored Christian Nationalism in a way I’d never read before. Du Mez is a Calvinist and I felt like her writing was thorough, well researched, and very bold, in a good way.

I attended an online book event (as you do in the COVID-era) and it previewed 2021 books being published in January and February. The next three books were on that list and they were all hits for me! Also, RIP to my bank account because I bought them all either in hardback or on my Kindle. This one is told from the perspective a homeless girl living in San Francisco. At the beginning she witnesses a crime and while that story line is somewhat interesting, I found the character of Maddy and her backstory much more compelling. It was frustrating to read at times, and I think that was the point. Homelessness is an epidemic in California and many cities around the country and this book shed light on an issue that is really prevalent and important. How is it that we, the richest country on earth, have so many human beings living without basic shelter? I flew through this one!

I did *not* think I was going to like this book. Anything revolving around bullying or hazing is really hard for me to read but surprisingly, I couldn’t put this one down. First of all, the cover is just weird, and even after reading it, I don’t know what it has to do with the story. It takes place at an all girls’ school in England. Most of the students are rich, spoiled brats and that’s just not something I usually enjoy reading about but something about the writing was so compelling! It was a combination of Gossip Girl and Mean Girls. It left me feeling icky at the end but I was very much entertained.

I was really hoping this would be my next all time favorite book, joining Ask Again, Yes and A Place For Us. It has all the right ingredients: complicated family dynamics, really great writing, and a lot of plot to keep the story moving. And while I really liked it, it did take me about 100 pages to get into. Also, I didn’t find any of the characters to be ones I could root for. The story follows two timelines: present day, and forty years prior when the family is living in Bangkok and one of the children goes missing. I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened to Philip, but also because I kept hoping I’d come around on at least one of the characters. It was really really good but didn’t make my list of all time favorites like I was hoping.

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What did you read in November?

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