#20BooksofSummer Wrap Up

8:13:00 AM

20 Books of Summer is hosted by Cathy at 746 Books
There's a scene in To Kill a Mockingbird that's always made me laugh - it's Scout, talking about how when they were kids, Dill proposed to her and then forgot about her and hung out with Jem for the rest of the summer. I bring this up because that's pretty much been my approach to #20BooksofSummer.

I decided, mid-June and with zero prep, that I wanted to be part of the fun, too! And then I promptly forgot about it. I've been tweeting sporadic updates about the books I've been reading, but I haven't posted or done much past checking the hashtag every once in a while. Now it's time to update you about whether I actually met my 20 Books of Summer goal.

I didn't pick my books ahead of time, which is part of why I think I struggled to really get into the challenge. Had I known I was participating, I probably wouldn't have started with a 700 page book. *sighs*

Book #1 | American Gods by Neil Gaiman | I made it my mission to read more Gaiman this year after falling head over heels for The Ocean at the End of the Lane a few years ago. This book is gargantuan and I don't know that I would have gotten through it if I hadn't borrowed the audiobook to go along with it. Whenever I was flagging, I used the audiobook to help pick up the slack. This is the rare Gaiman book that's not narrated by the author, but it was still pretty good. Knowing what I know now, I don't know that I would have stuck it out, but I still felt satisfied in finishing it, if that makes sense.

Book #2 | Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin | For sure my favorite book of the summer, possibly of the entire year. I needed something to grip me after American Gods, and I devoured this in just a couple hours. It defies explanation or categorization and it lives up to its name. Julianne at Outlandish Lit never leads me astray, and she was right, as usual, about this one.

Book #3 | The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros | Am I the only person who hadn't already read The House on Mango Street? I certainly feel like it. I was inspired to read this after talking to a teacher-friend who had just come up with a brilliant idea about how to integrate these vignettes into her classroom and I wanted to steal her idea bask in her genius. After reading them, it was easy to see why she was so inspired - I was too. I hope that they'll resonate with students as we explore The American Dream.

Book #4 | Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming | My exposure to Alan Cumming was through his straight-laced character Eli Gold on The Good Wife, so this memoir was a shock to the system (in a good way). I had no idea that he had played so many diverse roles! After being asked to star in a show investigating celebrity ancestry, Cumming is forced to reconsider what he believed to be true. As someone with a complicated relationship with my own father and family, a lot of what he said really resonated. This one stayed with me long after I finished it.

Book #5 | Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll | I'd seen the films and sang Jabberwocky as part of my school's choir, but I'd never actually read Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass. It was silly and fun and full of deja vu. I think the original animated Disney movie is so ingrained in my brain that I kept feeling as though I read this before...which is totally possible. I just have no memory of it.

Book #6 | Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke | This book is my Everest. I tried. I failed. But I am determined. I WILL CLIMB THAT MOUNTAIN ONE DAY. (This is a weird metaphor, right?) Basically, this is my way of saying that after reading a hundred plus pages I wasn't into it enough to keep pushing through the other 900, even though it's got such rave reviews. Maybe someday.

Book #7 | The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt | People that know me well know that I've had a thing for Anderson Cooper for pretty much my entire life. When I was young, my mom broke it to me that it would literally never happen, but it didn't deter me because it didn't change the things about him that I liked - that he is handsome, intelligent, and thoughtful about his work: a Serious Reporter with a sense of humor. So when my mom mentioned that he had recently written a memoir with his mother, I knew I had to read it. Like Not My Father's Son, this was all about exploring the relationships between parents and children and the way in which that shapes the people we become. It was extremely personal and emotional and encouraged me to think about my relationship with my mother in ways I hadn't before.

Book #8 | Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng | This is the second of Celeste Ng's novels that I've read, and I'm coming to understand her signature style. She favors character driven stories, exploring relationships between families, mothers and daughters in particular. She does vaguely unsettling (moments, people) really well. She'll drop a major plot point at the beginning of the novel - a murder in Everything I Never Told You, a fire in Little Fires Everywhere - then take you back to the beginning to see it all unfold. She leaves you with as many questions as answers. And I'm all about it. I was super excited to receive an advance copy of Little Fires Everywhere because it was a novel whose release I was eagerly anticipating (it's out Sept. 12th), and now I get to tell everyone I know that it's worth checking out.

Book #9 | Made You Up by Francesca Zappia | I love an unreliable narrator, y'all. LOVE. IT. So when I saw this book about a high school student with schizophrenia who has auditory and visual hallucinations, I immediately wanted to check it out. I devoured it in a day. I'm don't know that this depicts mental illness in any real way,  but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Book # 10 | Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick | I've always felt a little like I would be friends with Anna Kendrick if we were to meet in real life, and I felt the same way after reading this. I don't think I've read a memoir of someone so young/close in age to myself and so in a lot of ways reading this really did feel like talking to a friend or big sister, someone a little older who could pass on to me the things she's figured out so far.

Book #11 | Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter | Listening to this audiobook gave me a new appreciation for the already astounding Hamilton. So much writing, hard work, talent, research, inspiration, music, love, and more writing went into making it happen. Listening to the finished cast recording, it's hard to imagine it turning out any other way, but reading this book reveals how false that idea is. This musical didn't spring fully formed from Lin's head, Zeus like, but instead was shaped, lovingly, into what it became. And it wouldn't have happened without the people he surrounds himself with - people who inspired him, challenged him, worked with him - people who didn't laugh when he said he was writing a hip-hop musical about a founding father.

Book #12 | Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson | Listening to this audiobook was like listening to your best friend tell you the most ridiculous and embarrassing thing that happened to them last week. It's hilarious and relatable and you have second hand embarrassment but know that it just as easily could have been you. Except you don't own any taxidermied raccoons. I knew of Jenny Lawson but hadn't read any of her work until this - and now I need to read it all. I wasn't at all prepared for this weird and wonderful memoir, full of crazy personal and just plain crazy stories about her life and what it's like to live with her husband, her daughter, and her mental illness.

I only made it through 12 of 20 books, but I'm okay with that. I'd had a really rough time recently, and in a lot of ways this summer was an opportunity for me to just drop off the face of the earth for a little while. So I didn't read as much as I thought I would, and I didn't make plans, and I didn't allow myself to feel bad about not doing things that I didn't want to do. And it helped. If I had to do it again, I'd probably read shorter books. But I know that's probably a lie because I'm always telling myself what I should read and then my brain is like I DO WHAT I WANT and I end up reading what I feel like reading anyway.

So tell me, what did you read this summer? And what memoirs should I read next? Because apparently I'm on a mission to read them all.

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