Category Archives: around the world in 80 books

Around the World in 80 Books: Persia

Love how she's doing this reading challenge for under $20. Thinking I need to search my own library shelves for some Rumi now, too...

Welcome to the next installment in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge! It’s exactly what it sounds like: I’m trying to read 80 books from 80 different countries/cultures around the world, and to add a frugal spin, I’m trying to do it all for under $20.

Here’s my running tally so far:

$0- Library books: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Spain, Nigeria, New Zealand, China, Canada, Jamaica, Austria, Mali, Afghanistan
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Mongolia
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan, Autism in the USA
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$0- Reward for participating in Summer Reading Program: Black America
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid review on an interesting read: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid
______________________________________

Grand Total: $6.73

I picked up today’s book at the library. It was one of the two Rumi options, and I blindly grabbed one as my children were about to terrorize my fellow bibliophiles.

Because I borrowed from the library, we’re still at $6.73. After today, I will have logged 31 books.

Persia

Love is my savior rumi arabic poetry

I read some Rumi in my teens. I liked it well enough, but I wasn’t overly into poetry back in those days. I appreciated it–it just wasn’t going to be the first tome I reached for.

I’ve recently rediscovered Rumi and his allegories and metaphors for love–the under-riding basis of virtually all spirituality and religion. I’ve scrolled through blogs and other websites dedicated to his poetry, and found new breaths of life.

And, yes, I realize Persia is no longer an empire in so many words, but Rumi lived across the Middle East throughout his life, and most of that was in Persia in the 1200s. Konya, which is now in Turkey and is where he wrote the vast majority of his works, may have been in the Byzantine Empire, technically. I’m not 100% on that.

So I thought I’d pick up a collection and give the holistic experience another shot.

I was left surprised. Love is My Savior is the first of Rumi’s Arabic works to be translated into English. Rumi bounced between four languages to express himself in different ways. Arabic provided some great opportunities for poetic license, and was often intertwined with Persian–the language in which he wrote most of his poems.

While I’m used to Rumi talking about love in erotic analogies, measuring one type of love just as great as another, what I’m not used to is him talking about heartbreak.

This book pulls largely from Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, named for his spiritual mentor, Shams. Shams and Rumi were crazy close, delving into the mystical aspects of Islam together, and perhaps loving each other in the way some of the more erotic poetry suggests. In the 1200s, when Rumi lived, there weren’t really as many prescribed lines surrounding sexuality. Heteronormativity was much weaker.

I did enjoy the book, but I have to admit, reading Rumi’s writings on heartbreak was…a little heartbreaking. I’m used to his words lifting me up and enlightening me. I’m used to reading about absorbing and producing love wherever we can find the means to do so. So it was discombobulating to read words that focused so strongly on his attachment to Shams, and the gut-wrenching pain he endured because of it.

Eventually, he learned to find an extension of that same love with his students. By working with them, he was connecting to the current of love that had flowed between him and Shams. The pure love of enlightenment.

But most of this book is a lament.

I didn’t hate it. Rumi is brilliant regardless of his mood. It just wasn’t what I was expecting. Here are some of the lines that particularly struck me:

Destroyed by your troubles, how you grieve and sigh…
By God! Listen to my proclamation!
He knows who caused your mind’s devastation.
From abasement, your soul will always rise.
You’ve abandoned all for love’s enterprise.
Be still. God is your helper. He’s the prize.
-From “Banner of Love”

My lover is a whale, and my desire
pure water–an ocean–with no end time.
Can a whale grow bored in a pure ocean?
-From “He’s Never Bored with Love”

Were you a lightning bolt or just a ball of flame?
You left me with no home here, all the same.
I worship you, but drunk I here remain.
Is that your grace, or is it my soul’s stain?
If I repent my sin, that’s sin…and shame.
If love is my savior, so when will I be saved?
Now reason shouts at me: “No! Don’t step off
the righteous path or it will be your grave!”
But isn’t death the only thing I crave?
-Love Is My Savior

Look! Our love shines on, past earth and heaven!
The days have kept our bodies far apart,
I swear by God, my heart is still with you.
My heart is tender when my love is new,
sad and grieving when lovers must part.
My heart sends you my messages of love–
no end. But I’m still thirsty! What to do?
My soul returns to the places I saw you.
Can I repent the sin of love this true?
-From “I Climbed to Heaven”

 

Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Leave it in the comments! Here’s what’s already in my queue:
Philippines: May Day Eve and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin recommended by Guiltless Reader
Iceland: Scarcity in Excess by Arna Mathiesen & Thomas Forget
Sudan: The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih recommended by Kate Wilson
Ethiopia: The God Who Begat a Jakal by Nega Mezlekia recommended by Based On a True Story
French Antilles: Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde recommended by Based on A True Story
Suriname: The Free Negress Elisabeth by Cynthia McLeod recommended by Based On A True Story
Germany: In the Garden of Beasts or Devil in the White City by Erik Larson recommended by Emi from AIP Around the World
Haiti: All Souls Rising by Madison Smartt Bell recommended by Tre from House of Tre
South Africa: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton recommended by Emily from The John & Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing
Australia: In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson recommended by Aaron from When Life Gives You Lemons, Add Vodka
Romania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
Croatia: Girl at War by Sara Novi recommened by Erin from TexErin-In-Sydneyland
India: Malguid Days by R.K. Narayan recommended by Michael from Stretch a Dime
Vietnam: The Refugees by Viet Than Nyugen recommended by Nicole from Adventures of a Semper Fi Family

 

Around the World in 80 Books: Afghanistan & America

Love this series. She's exploring 80 cultures from around the world through reading 80 different books from diverse authors--and she's on track to do it all frugally for under $20.

Welcome to the next installment in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge! It’s exactly what it sounds like: I’m trying to read 80 books from 80 different countries/cultures around the world, and to add a frugal spin, I’m trying to do it all for under $20.

Here’s my running tally so far:

$0- Library books: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Spain, Nigeria, New Zealand, China, Canada, Jamaica, Austria, Mali
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Mongolia
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan, Autism in the USA
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid review on an interesting read: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid
______________________________________

Grand Total: $6.73

I haven’t done one of these in a while. I keep getting stuck about halfway through a book, and can’t get myself to commit to finishing–even though that’s my usual practice. While I wasn’t very good at this challenge in 2017, I did read and review some other great books, like Broke Millennial, Make Your Kid a Money Genius and How to Hire a Nanny.

Since it’s been six months, you may not remember that I incurred some late fees on the books from Austria and Mali. My librarians know me pretty well, and they made the generous move of forgiving them for me without me asking. Lucky me!

So we’re still at $6.73, and after today, I will have logged 30 books.

Black AmericaTo Be Young, Gifted and Black

I acquired this memoir-like play from my library last summer. Our family participates in the summer reading program every year, and I got to pick a free book as a reward for that participation.

It took me a while to get to this one. Like I said, I had several books I was halfway through, and wanted to finish them before picking up a new tome.

That was dumb.

Because when I finally picked this one up, I realized Lorraine Hansberry is one of my favorite writers ever. Period. The end.

Hansberry was the playwright behind A Raisin in the Sun. Her success gave her a platform, which she used for activism and encouraging other authors. She was contemporary with MLK, Jr., whom she respected, but also saw as only one part of the solution. Nonviolence was not going to make racial discrimination go away on its own.

Hansberry died in her early 30s as a result of cancer. She had several half-written works which were compiled, along with some of her letters and journal entries, to create this play. It’s phenomenal.

It was alarming how many of her words are still pressingly relevant today. I was struck by certain passages, receiving confirmation of a message I’ve heard time and time again: things are better today than they’ve been before, but the amount of progress we’ve made in our country is small. And we need to do better. Starting yesterday.

I looked for a version of To Be Young, Gifted and Black on YouTube, but only got clips and pieces. Then I got on Twitter and saw #LorraineHansberry trending. I thought maybe Twitter was getting all creepy on me like Google does, but when I checked it out, I saw that PBS had just aired a documentary about Hansberry that night. I missed it, but I’m looking forward to catching up on it. It was apparently pretty powerful.

I’m not surprised.

Afghanistan

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan
I started this challenge after seeing it on Savvy Working Gal years ago. One of her first reads was The Underground Girls of Kabul, and I have been wanting to read it ever since. I finally hit it last summer, right before the spell of books I got halfway through. I usually like to tell you about two books at a time, so I’ve held onto the review until now.

Jenny Nordberg is American. She went to Afghanistan for another story, but happened upon something fascinating while she was there: the woman she was covering had three daughters–but one of them dressed up as a boy on a regular basis. This way, the child could escort their sisters to school, go to work and give the family a bit of an elevated status.

Nordberg found out that not only was it not unusual that the family engaged in this practice, but that it was actually a cultural norm throughout Afghanistan. It even has a name: bacha posh.

But people were reluctant to talk about bacha posh. It was accepted as a regular practice, but also a private family decision that you shouldn’t pry into.

Nordberg questioned whether this practice was child abuse. You raise a girl as a boy for so long, and then once they hit puberty they have to switch their gender identity; they may be in real physical danger if they continue to empower themselves by not meeting cultural gender norms at this point.

I…really don’t think it’s child abuse. One of the people she interviewed called her out on it in this way:

Why does it matter if a child dresses like a girl or a boy? Westerners oversexualize their children.

^Truth. In the words of RuPaul, “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”

Granted, girls and women are oversexualized in general, leading to their oppression in the society Nordberg studied.

 

 

 

Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Leave it in the comments! Here’s what’s already in my queue:
Philippines: May Day Eve and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin recommended by Guiltless Reader
Iceland: Scarcity in Excess by Arna Mathiesen & Thomas Forget
Sudan: The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih recommended by Kate Wilson
Ethiopia: The God Who Begat a Jakal by Nega Mezlekia recommended by Based On a True Story
French Antilles: Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde recommended by Based on A True Story
Suriname: The Free Negress Elisabeth by Cynthia McLeod recommended by Based On A True Story
Germany: In the Garden of Beasts or Devil in the White City by Erik Larson recommended by Emi from AIP Around the World
Haiti: All Souls Rising by Madison Smartt Bell recommended by Tre from House of Tre
South Africa: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton recommended by Emily from The John & Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing
Australia: In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson recommended by Aaron from When Life Gives You Lemons, Add Vodka
Romania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
Croatia: Girl at War by Sara Novi recommened by Erin from TexErin-In-Sydneyland
India: Malguid Days by R.K. Narayan recommended by Michael from Stretch a Dime
Vietnam: The Refugees Nicole from Adventures of a Semper Fi Familyby Viet Than Nyugen recommended by

Ella Builds a Wall: Anti-Bullying Book for Kids

Wow, this is a surprisingly deep kids' book that teaches children how to deal with bullies in genius but simple ways.

Today I want to stop and take a second to address something that’s not directly finance related: bullying.

When I was growing up, bullying made you tough, supposedly, though it hardly ever happened to the “tough” kids. With boys it sometimes but not always got physical, while girls for the most part stuck to tearing each other’s souls apart with words.

As time went on, anti-bullying campaigns became a thing. People started advocating for children who went through emotional abuse in schools, in particular. While society definitely didn’t reach perfection, things appeared to be moving in the right direction.

Without delving into the specifics of why, things have shifted culturally and quickly. Bullying is largely touted as a sign of strength. Violence and hate crimes have been on the rise in the US as of late.

This is the world I’m raising my kids in, and it makes me ill. While I hope we can make a speedy U-turn back to progress, and I know I can raise my own children to be kind, charitable and empathetic, I can’t protect them from the entire world. Bullying is something I have to prepare them for.

Ella Builds a Wall

One way I’m choosing to instill good values and resilience in my kids is by making sure there are good morals and role models in the literature they consume.

When teacher and fellow personal finance blogger Ruth McKeague released her book Ella Builds a Wall, I knew it would be one of those books. The important kind. The kind you read again and again, and discuss later in context of real life situations.

Her work did not disappoint. In it, a girl named Ella is getting bullied at school. Frustrated, she joins a karate class, where she thinks she’s going to learn how to kick some butt.

Instead, her instructor teaches her how to control her emotions. She teaches her how to build emotional walls around herself to protect her feelings, and how to use blocks to defend herself if, and only if, someone attacks her physically.

She also learns to not build walls of outward hatred or self-loathing around herself, separating herself from the rest of the playground kids.

Ella’s walls are metaphorical, but insanely important to understand. When she finds herself jealous of a peer, she recognizes and subdues the emotion, leading to a beautiful friendship.

When her bully gets violent with her again, she defends herself until a teacher arrives to witness what is actually happening.

And when the bully, in his punishment, starts building walls of anger around himself, wallowing in his misery, she extends kindness to try to pull them down.

What We Learned

My kids enjoyed learning the karate blocks in the book, but I was impressed with how much they understood the emotional lessons, too. When I asked them about the walls Ella tore down, they told me about the jealousy and anger. They told me about the bully, and the kindness Ella extended to him.

Overall, regardless of which era you’re living in, the takeaways were valuable lessons that many adults still haven’t mastered:

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Mindfulness
  • Self-Worth
  • Kindness
  • Empathy
  • You are allowed to defend yourself in physically threatening situations.
  • You are not only allowed, but should, stand up for others when you see them becoming victims of bullying.

If you want a quick tie-in to money, when you have these skills, you’re more likely to have a larger network of friendly faces in your career. You’re also more likely to negotiate for higher pay when you believe in yourself and feel like self-advocacy is a strength rather than something to be ashamed of.

But mostly, you’ll just be a better person.

Bring Home a Copy of Ella Builds a Wall

If you want to take on this complex subject with your kids, this book makes it simple. I’d highly recommend picking up a copy.

Ruth is Canadian, so the prices are CAD rather than USD, but after you pay for shipping it comes out to around $15-ish USD, anyways.

 

How have you dealt with bullying?

Whether you’ve experienced it yourself or have seen your child experience it, whether it’s happened in the schoolyard or in the workplace, I’d love to hear your experiences with bullying and how you’ve handled it. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Around the World in 80 Books: Austria & Mali

Welcome to the next installment in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge! It’s exactly what it sounds like: I’m trying to read 80 books from 80 different countries/cultures around the world, and to add a frugal spin, I’m trying to do it all for under $20.

Here’s my running tally so far:
$0- Library books: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Spain, Nigeria, New Zealand, China, Canada, Jamaica
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Mongolia
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan, Autism in the USA
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid review on an interesting read: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid
______________________________________

Grand Total: $6.73

 

I have some bad news. The next two books were also library reads, but when we went on our latest trip, I forgot to return them. Or renew them. Idiot move that I’ll be paying for. Literally.

Luckily they were both worth it.

 Austria

Man's Search for Meaning

I absolutely loved this book. In fact, I recommended it for our annual Summer Reading Giveaway. If you haven’t entered yet, there’s still a $250 Amazon Gift Card and 8 books up for grabs–including Frankl’s masterpiece

Frankl was a psychiatrist, philosopher and Holocaust Survivor. This book is about his experiences, but primarily about how even in the worst of situations, we can find hope in our lives if we will only prescribe it meaning.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been struggling a little bit as I’ve gotten older with the whole hope thing. When I was younger I could find inspiration around every corner. As I age, I’m finding that to be harder. I felt a lot like Joe from my New Zealand read, only a lot less dramatic:

“I am just a waste…the worst thing I bear is the knowledge that others have borne far worse distress and not buckled like this under it. They have been ennobled by their suffering, have discovered meaning and requital in loss…”

You get discouraged because you’re struggling, and you get frustrated with yourself because you know others have struggled against such greater odds and came out stronger.

You start asking, “What’s wrong with me that I just can’t deal?”

I wasn’t exactly expecting to find the answer in the existential memoir of a Holocaust Survivor. But I did.

Frankl teaches through non-fictional parables how to assign meaning to any suffering–whether it appears to be banal or soul-wrenching. He also notes that just because he’s been through the Holocaust doesn’t diminish the intensity of someone else’s suffering in a less horrific situation.

The entire point isn’t the intensity of our suffering. Suffering will happen to all of us.

It’s about assigning meaning to our suffering, so we can continue to go on, and live a good life while we’re doing it. Even under the worst of circumstances. Even if we don’t believe in God, or are unsure of Her/His existence.

If you’re a human being, it’s a must-read.

Mali

Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali
Monique and the Mango Rains was recommended by my friend Rebecca of The Personal Finance Lawyer. It was powerful.

It was written by a Peace Corps volunteer, which initially made me a little skeptical. For this challenge, I’m really trying to read not only diverse books, but diverse authors. It’s ideal if they’re from the country they’re writing about. Plus, Peace Corps memoirs have a tendency to read like accomplishment journals.

But this book was nothing like that. The entire story was about the friendship she had built with Monique Dembele–the midwife and essential pediatrician in the village Holloway stayed in. Incidentally, you got to learn how people lived in southern Mali in the early 1990s, and about peripheral wars and conflicts.

But the real story was her friendship with this woman who revolutionized Women’s and Children’s Health in her region, despite the barriers she faced. It was beautifully told. I had tears in my eyes at the end.

Parts of it are intense, as apparently female genital cutting was standard practice in Mali, and is still being addressed in many areas of the country if I understand correctly. You’ll also be reading about rape and domestic abuse.

Despite the difficult subject matter, or maybe even because of it, it’s well worth the read. It’s amazing to see how one woman had such a huge impact on an entire region, and reminds us that we, too, can impact those around us for the better despite the challenges we face.

 

 

Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Leave it in the comments! Here’s what’s already in my queue:
Afghanistan: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg recommended by Savvy Working Gal
Philippines: May Day Eve and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin recommended by Guiltless Reader
Iceland: Scarcity in Excess by Arna Mathiesen & Thomas Forget
Sudan: The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih recommended by Kate Wilson
Ethiopia: The God Who Begat a Jakal by Nega Mezlekia recommended by Based On a True Story
French Antilles: Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde recommended by Based on A True Story
Suriname: The Free Negress Elisabeth by Cynthia McLeod recommended by Based On A True Story
Costa Rica: The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica
France: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr recommended by Our Next Life
Germany: In the Garden of Beasts or Devil in the White City by Erik Larson recommended by Emi from AIP Around the World
Haiti: All Souls Rising by Madison Smartt Bell recommended by Tre from House of Tre
South Africa: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton recommended by Emily from The John & Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing
Australia: In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson recommended by Aaron from When Life Gives You Lemons, Add Vodka
Romania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
Croatia: Girl at War by Sara Novi recommened by Erin from TexErin-In-Sydneyland
India: Malguid Days by R.K. Narayan recommended by Michael from Stretch a Dime (I’m giving up my other India read–I just couldn’t get through it. Excited to check out Michael’s recommendation.)

Summer Reading #Giveaway Extravaganza

Those of you following the Around the World in 80 Books Challenge know that it is possible to read on a crazy tight budget. Saving money on books isn’t the only thing to be concerned with, though. Reading enriches our lives by expanding our viewpoints and challenging our beliefs. It helps us learn academically and empathetically.

My good friend Meredith runs a monthly virtual book club, and every year I partner with her and a bunch of other fab bloggers by compiling a kick-off to summer book list, including why we think you’ll love each tome.

In addition to sharing our picks, we celebrate the start of summer reading in a big way–with a fantastic giveaway for a $250 Amazon gift card and SEVEN free books! So tune in below for the 20 Best Summer Books List and then make sure to enter the Rafflecopter at the end for your chance to score big. And this year we have a fun bonus–WE ARE GIVING AWAY 100 COPIES OF THE BOOK CLUB’S TOP ALL-TIME PICK, too! 

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

20 Best Summer Books:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Femme Frugality: “Psychology, philosophy and theology have a way of blending together. In this book, psychologist Viktor Frankl relates his experiences as a prisoner in Hitler’s concentration camps, using it as a way to underpin his philosophy that man can get through anything if he assigns meaning to life. Great for anyone going through a difficult time, or anyone who has detached from organized religion but is still seeking the meaning of life.”
  2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Lindsay of See Mom Click: “If you’ve ever felt like the days are slipping by and you’re just trudging along, The Happiness Project is a must-read. Rubin’s writing really speaks to me, the perfect balance of hard facts and science combined with practical wisdom about proactively making yourself happier and living in the now.”
  3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. Wendy of ABCs and Garden Peas: “An inspiring, food-filled story of the Kingsolver family’s adventure as they move to a farm in southern Appalachia and begin living their lives in a way that works with the local food chain. This year’s 10th Anniversary Edition also gives readers a glimpse into how their family has carried their inspiring “real food” journey with them throughout the next decade.
  4. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline. Mikaela Fleisher of Iris and Honey: “Christina Baker Kline brings an artist and his muse to life in this novel that blends fact and fiction. Based on Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World, Kline gives readers a truly beautiful glimpse into the life of the woman behind the painting.
  5. Red Water by Kristen Mae. Kristen Mae of Abandoning Pretense: “An Amazon best seller, Red Water will slither under your skin and stick there. Erotic, raw, and disturbing, and with deeply flawed but relatable characters, Mae’s sophomore novel is a dark, unflinching examination of the psychology of self-loathing and the secret, unspeakable lust for depravity that lies dormant within us all.”
  6. My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits by Jen Mann. Jen Mann of People I Want to Punch in the Throat: “My Lame Life is a great summer read for teens and adults because it’s a funny and endearing book that is entirely relatable!”
  7. Famished by Meghan O’Flynn. Meghan O’Flynn: “Famished is a bestselling psychological thriller that explores the darkest parts of the human psyche. Hailed as “Thrilling, emotional and depraved,” this novel is one you won’t want to put down.”
  8. Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion: “While not a new publication, Jenny is every one of us: frazzled Mama juggling parenthood and work. When she realizes a family meal is the best shot at quality time with her husband and kids, so begins her journey to make it happen. It’s part cookbook (fabulous, EASY recipes) and part narrative. Witty, relate-able, and educational (I learned how to cook things, you guys!) I was went through Jenny-withdrawal when I finished the book!”
  9. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Shari of Adore Them pick: “Jon Ronson is an incredible author who combines objective observations with his own take on these experiences. For this book he spent years meeting people who had been subject to public shaming. It is fascinating (& horrible) to see how one tweet could ruin someone’s life.”
  10. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying: “The story is told in alternating voices of three best friends as they begin their senior year: one knowing she is OUTTA THERE, one being OK with staying exactly where he is because he has his stories to escape into, and one not feeling like he can or is deserving of going anywhere but right where his father’s crimes put him. I felt so many things while I read this, but mostly that I will now read literally anything this author writes from now on.”
  11. The Most Beautiful by Mayte Garcia. Suzanne of Toulouse & Tonic: “I devoured this book about Prince by his ex-wife Mayte Garcia. At first I was afraid it would be exploitive but after reading reviews carefully, I gave it a try. It was so worth it. A great portion of the book is the story of HER life. It’s interesting and insightful. The parts of her life she shared with Prince are handled in a respectful but honest way. I feel like I actually know something about this enigmatic man now. I still miss him but 4 me, it brought a little peace.”
  12. Redemption Road by John Hart. Lydia of Cluttered Genius: “Redemption Road caught me from page one and had me guessing the entire way through. I don’t generally choose murder mysteries or thrillers, but Hart’s novel has me wanting to find the rest of his books to read more!”
  13. Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center. Natalie of a Turtle’s Life for Me: “Everyone is Beautiful is a heartwarming and humorous look at one woman’s journey through marriage and motherhood as she tries to find small moments of personal fulfillment. The epiphanies and insights she gains along the way are told in a light-hearted manner, but resonate deeply in a way that will have you thinking about it months later. I read this with my book club and we found we were bringing it up again even a year later, because it struck such a deep chord with us.”
  14. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Dani of Meraki Lane: “I loved this book. It explores so many emotionally sensitive topics – infertility, adoption, motherhood, and interracial marriage – and the author did such an amazing job of jumping back and forth between the United States and India. She described each with such vivid detail, and the story truly encapsulated the meaning of the word ‘family.’ It was an easy, yet complex read, and the ending brought me to tears. I highly recommend this one!”
  15. The Twelves Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. Jana of Jana Says: “I LOVED this book. Dark and twisted and violent and a thriller complimented with a father/daughter/coming of age story told between alternating POV and bouncing back and forth in time until it all catches up to itself. It’s so well done and well written and I cannot recommend it enough.”
  16. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Kimberly of Red Shutters: “It’s the story of a family, torn apart by slavery. One branch of the family aids in the slave trade in Ghana, later becoming involved in conflict with the British, and finally finding their way to America. The other side of the family is sold into slavery and generations later experience an America of incarceration, poverty, and drug abuse. Despite its challenging subject matter, Homegoing is captivating, an extraordinary story about hope, connection, and loss. I couldn’t put it down, and when it did end, I was disappointed–I wanted more. That’s the sign of an extraordinary book!”
  17. The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles. Janine of Confessions of a Mommyaholic: “This is the beginning of a supernatural, romance YA series that struck all the right notes for me. Honestly, think it could be in the leagues of Twilight or even Harry Potter as the writing was superb. Plus, the storyline was unique, fast moving and heart tugging, as well. Therefore, recommend as the perfect summer vacation read.”
  18. The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. Rabia of The Lieber Family: “Lianna’s mom has disappeared. The most plausible explanation is that her frequent sleepwalking took her over a bridge to her death. But on closer inspection, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. And the good looking detective assigned to the case is trying to help, isn’t he? So what really happened? I can’t wait to find out!”
  19. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. Anne of Once Upon a Mom: “I haven’t read this one yet but it looks amazing! It’s a story about a quirky kid with an even quirkier grandma who, after her death, leaves a a series of letters apologizing to people. I’m looking forward to finding out about all of Grandmother’s secrets!”
  20. City Mouse by Stacey Lender. Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and Meredith of The Mom of the Year: “This defines a beach read for me! So relatable to our own lives as it is all about mom trying to find out exactly where she fits in the in the scheme of suburbia–all that goes along with it. Plus, when a book is described as ‘The Stepford Wives meets Bad Moms’, how can you go wrong?”

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It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

And that’s it, friends! Our list of the 20 Best Summer Books you need to kick back with during all the sun-soaked days ahead of us! As promised, the giveaway for a $250 AMAZON GIFT CARD and copies of some of the titles on this list (Red Water, Famished, My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits, The Sleepwalker, Homegoing and Redemption Road) is below!

UPDATE: BONUS! You’ll also win a copy of my fave: Man’s Search for Meaning!

No better way to keep your reading stash well stocked and you can use the gift card to grab some other titles that are on your own wish list. Sweet!

As long as you are 18 or older, live in the continental United States, and enter before June 16, 2017 at 5:30am EST, you are eligible to win!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

Also as promised, we are tickled to be giving away 100 COPIES of the favorite title our book club has ever read, This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel! Read the whole post HERE to find out why it is such an exceptional book, and then hop over quickly to enter the giveaway! Thanks to the generosity of Flatiron Books, copies will be sent to the first 100 people who enter the giveaway* (The grand prize winner included! The same giveaway deadline and rules as above apply.) We could go on and on about This Is How It Always Is, but to put it simply: it is important, life-changing, and beautiful. This isn’t just a book you want to read, it’s a book you need to read.

*Note: remember each person can gain multiple entries, so don’t assume that all 100 copies have been claimed when the entries total goes over 100! Meredith will be updating on social media how many copies are left if you want to check in on this as the giveaway progresses!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thanks for joining us in this kick-off to summer reading celebration with this list of the 20 best summer books! Happy summer and happy reading, friends!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

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***Thank you to Flatiron Books, Jen Mann, Kristen Mae, Meghan O’Flynn, Macmillan Publishers, Anchor Books, and Vintage Books for providing copies of the books for the giveaway. All opinions are entirely our own.***

Book photo in second graphic: depositphotos.com, Image ID:9056658, Copyright:belchonock

Last image credit: depositphotos.com, Image ID:13362963, Copyright:coolfonk