Tuesday, June 05, 2018

What I Read | May + FREE Printable Summer Reading List

A look back at what I read last month + a #FREE summer reading list printable. #ASGbookshelf #whatIread
It was a busy month for books and I managed to meet my goal and read twenty-one books in May. I will say that I felt a bit underwhelmed by a lot of the books on my list. Many of them had rave reviews on Goodreads or were classics that "everyone" loved. Welp, not me. How does it make you feel when you don't connect with a book when it seems like every other reader on the planet has? 

Psst... Don't forget to grab your free printable reading list for the summer. It can help you track the books you read this season and it's so fun to use. The link is down below!

Must Read

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken  | ★★★★
From Senator Al Franken - #1 bestselling author and beloved SNL alum - comes the story of an award-winning comedian who decided to run for office and then discovered why award-winning comedians tend not to do that. This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect.

It's a book about what happens when the nation's foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.

It's a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast. In this candid personal memoir, the honorable gentleman from Minnesota takes his army of loyal fans along with him from Saturday Night Live to the campaign trail, inside the halls of Congress, and behind the scenes of some of the most dramatic and/or hilarious moments of his new career in politics. Has Al Franken become a true Giant of the Senate? Franken asks readers to decide for themselves. - Goodreads description

I'm a big fan of Al Frankin and it was so much fun to read his book. I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by him, which made it even better. He tells the story of his rise to politics, beginning with the period before he began writing for Saturday Night Live. He talks about how he became interested in public service and why he decided to get involved in politics and gives a lot of insight into what really happens in the Senate. I found this to be a very fun and interesting look at the different side of the political world.


Black Ink by Author  | ★★★★
Spanning over 250 years of history, Black Ink traces black literature in America from Frederick Douglass to Ta-Nehisi Coates in this masterful collection of twenty-five illustrious and moving essays on the power of the written word.

Throughout American history, black people are the only group of people to have been forbidden by law to learn to read. This unique collection seeks to shed light on that injustice and subjugation, as well as the hard-won literary progress made, putting some of America’s most cherished voices in a conversation in one magnificent volume that presents reading as an act of resistance.

Organized into three sections, the Peril, the Power, and Pleasure, and with an array of contributors both classic and contemporary, Black Ink presents the brilliant diversity of black thought in America while solidifying the importance of these writers within the greater context of the American literary tradition. At times haunting and other times profoundly humorous, this unprecedented anthology guides you through the remarkable experiences of some of America’s greatest writers and their lifelong pursuits of literacy and literature.

The foreword was written by Nikki Giovanni. Contributors include: Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison, Walter Dean Myers, Stokely Carmichael [Kwame Ture], Alice Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Terry McMillan, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Colson Whitehead.

The anthology features a bonus in-depth interview with President Barack Obama. - Goodreads description

This was a wonderfully curated collection of essays from black authors. The selection of writers that was chosen for this book was fantastic, including Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates, among many others. Each piece is preceded by a short bio of each of the contributors. Nikki Giovanni wrote a powerful foreword and that, in itself, was deserving of recognition. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Other mentions for the month of May:

The Myths of the Constellations by various authors  | ★★★★★
This is a piece of literature that was compiled from several different resources: Catasterismi by Eratosthenes, Astronomica by Marcus Manilius, Phaenomena by Aratus, and De Astronomia by Hyginus. It was so interesting to learn about all the myths behind the constellations and how they might have come to be.

Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler  | ★★★★
This was a really interesting memoir about facing our mortality, very much like Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air. Kate Bowler is diagnosed with stage IV cancer and must come to terms with the fact that she might very well die and that it is God's plan for her to do so. I love that she sort of questions a lot of the common stereotypical thoughts in the evangelical faith. Some believe that God blesses those who pray and ask, so why do some people die from horrible diseases and not others. Why are some suffering and others aren't? This book is thought-provoking and full of dark humor and I really enjoyed going on this journey with Bowler. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Call Me By Your Name by AndrĂ© Aciman  | ★★★★
I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I was going to. Aciman's writing is elaborate, which I'm usually not a fan of, but this was intoxicating. He captures all the beauty and sadness that comes with any passionate yet forbidden romance. This really is a study from inside the mind of someone who is obsessed with another person. It's romantic and painful and intimate and almost uncomfortable at times. Beautiful book. Can't wait to see the movie to see how it measures up.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans  | ★★★★
I've always connected with Rachel's writing and went through a similar journey of questioning my faith. After reading this book, I realize that we are supposed to be questioning our faith. I believe God wants us to come to Him on our own, not because we are told that's the way it should be. Rachel deep dives into the Scripture and looks at how it is often misinterpreted. I loved reading her thoughts on the role of women in the Bible and hearing her justify how you can be evangelical, a patriot, and still support movements like #blacklivesmatter. This is a very timely piece of non-fiction and anyone who is struggling with their faith in today's evangelical-extremist world needs to read this book. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review as part of my membership in the book launch team.

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews  | ★★★★
One thing to know about me: I despise romance novels. I hate chick lit, in general. I don't like sappy love stories (or cringy sex scenes) and I can't stand when female protagonists are written to be helpless and reliant on a man to get her out of whatever pickle she happens to find herself in and be the single reason for her existence. I picked up this book to fill a reading challenge slot and was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. It was extremely fast-paced and entertaining. I could have done without the handful of romantic bits, but I'm obviously in the minority and they didn't make me gag, so there's that.

Take Me With You by Andrea Gibson  | ★★★★
This is a witty, raw, and passionate collection of poetry that included a lot of enjoyable illustrations to go along with some of the poems. Gibson (they/them for the purpose of this review) is an LGBTQ poet who has the ability to cut themselves open and bleed all over the page. You feel the emotion behind their work and there are a lot of quotable bits inside. I will note that the ARC Kindle version I received was very difficult to read because of the layout, so I'll probably pick up a hard copy of this book so I can appreciate how it was intended to be read rather than the jumble that I just went through. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth  | ★★★
I immensely enjoyed the first book in this series, Carve the Mark. Roth does a great job of world-building in her YA fantasy books. Even though you are reading about places and things you've never conceived before, she makes you feel like you've stepped off the ship into that world and that's awesome. This book felt a little disjointed for me. I enjoyed following the original players, Cyra and Akos. I fell in love with them from the beginning of the series and was not disappointed here. There was a new POV character that I didn't connect with at all and Roth introduces an LGBTQ plotline, which I'm all for, but it felt like this relationship was tossed in for the sole purpose of being inclusive and not because it impacted the overall story.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle  | ★★★
I remember reading this once or twice as a child and thinking it was good, but I hadn't picked it up since then so I decided to read it through once more before watching the film. It was okay. Certainly not the most exciting children's fantasy I've read and I found my attention drifting off as I went through it this time.

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed  | ★★★
This was essentially a collection of Strayed's most popular quotes from the various works she has published. Although many of these quotes were insightful and inspiring, I didn't think they warranted a book of their own. 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald  | ★★★
An enjoyable, lighthearted read about a small town and books. It was a bit long and drawn out, but the characters were warm and relatable.

F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism by Laura McKeon  | ★★★
Basically, a study of women undoing all the progress that women have made so far. This book is a journalistic review of anti-feminism. Some of the stories McKeon shares are shocking and it made me angry to read this. She did a great job of researching, interviewing and reporting. Her writing is fast-paced and clear and enjoyable to read, but it was depressing to read because of the subject matter. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel  | ★★★
I have a love-hate relationship with this book. Half of me believes it's brilliant, and the other half gets extremely annoyed when I read it. There are parts that are difficult to read and I really dislike the ending, but the story is captivating and I can't put it down once Pi gets in the lifeboat. 

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky  | ★★★
If you ever wanted to know about salt, the history of it, or the uses of it, you'll need this book. This was a very long account of where salt comes from and how it's been used in everything from preserving dead bodies to brining pickles. I grew a little tired of learning about a quarter of the way through and felt that the book could have been condensed a lot, but it was interesting.

Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith  | ★★★
This is a novel about twin brothers who, inseparable as kids, become estranged as adults. It's only when Whiskey has an accident and is in a coma that Charlie must reflect on what happened to their relationship. I didn't find myself connecting with this book. The characters felt a bit flat and honestly, the whole coma ordeal felt too much like a soap opera. It was just an okay read for me.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte  | ★★★
I've read this at least half a dozen times, beginning in a literature class in school and a handful of times after. It's still not for me. I can appreciate the story for what it is, but I've never connected with it. Blah.

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami  | ★★★
This would not rank in my top favorite works by Murakami, but it was easy to read and the characters were interesting. The author always does a really good job of writing with such passion that it's hard not to adore everything he puts out.

Eat the Apple by Matt Young  | ★★★
Extremely dark military humor. I didn't think I'd like as much of this as I did, but I found the narrative style to be kind of quirky and interesting. I also enjoyed the lists and diagrams throughout the book. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Gratefulness: The Habit of a Grace-FIlled Life by Susan Muto  | ★★☆☆
I didn't care for this book. It was written in the style of a devotional and focused on why we should be grateful. The author is writing from a Catholic perspective and includes a lot of scripture references, but I didn't' feel that it meshed together well. One of the main themes in the book is that gratefulness is a gift from God and I don't know that I agree with that. I believe grace is a gift from God as are all of the things we are blessed with, but gratefulness is our acknowledgment and expression of thankfulness for the grace and blessings bestowed upon us. I just didn't click with this one. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding  | ☆☆☆☆☆ (abandoned)
I had to put this one down because it bored the living daylight out of me. Nothing about it made me want to keep turning pages.

Wait! Before you go... don't forget to download your FREE summer reading list printable! There are two versions available - the simple checklist featured here and the full version that includes star ratings and review reminders for all of your books. That printable is available exclusively to the ASG newsletter subscribers. You can sign up here or download the free version below.

What did you enjoy reading last month?

The post What I Read | May + FREE Printable Summer Reading List first appeared on A Simpler Grace. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your friends! Don't forget to join the ASG Tribe!


  1. I didn't actually know Al Frankin wrote a book - and he was my senator! I also really liked him and his politics and I was sad when he had to resign. I think he made a good choice, but man I wish he could still be in the Senate fighting for us. I tried reading Jane Eyre a few years ago when some friends and I attempted a book club and I felt the same way, I just couldn't connect with that book!

  2. Oh, I am glad to hear Al Franken's book was good... I want to read it!
    Thanks for sharing the printable!

  3. shootingstarsmagJune 5, 2018 at 11:22 PM

    Thanks for sharing all of these! I'm so happy to hear you liked Call Me By Your Name. I read it years ago - I think around the time it came out and really loved it. I also really loved the film, so hopefully you will too. I need to re-read the book though as again, it's been years now. haha

    I haven't heard of Everything Happens for a Reason but it sounds really thought-provoking, and I kind of love that the author has some black humor. I feel like I would be like that if I were to unfortunately develop a life-threatening disease.

    Ooh is that your actual book list for the summer? I really want to read Yes My Accent is Real. I just love him. I read Possession back in college and it's okay...not my most favorite. I still need to read Room - and see the movie! I do like An Abundance of Katherines; not my most favorite John Green book, but it's fun! I like all his books. :)


  4. Love the printable! :) Girl, you are always my reading inspiration. Haha. I would love to read this many books in a month. I've been slacking hard. My rainbow challenge is kicking my butt, but I'm still trying to get through it.

    I definitely agree with you on A Wrinkle in Time. It was OK. I read it and was like... "Eh. Moving on!" ;)

  5. Thank you for sharing the printable (I'll have to keep it for later in the year). I have the winter one you shared last year and need to start filling it in :)
    Everything happens for a reason sounds like an interesting book.
    You read so many books in May - well done!

  6. I feel the same way about Frankin. He is such a down to earth guy and I was sad that he stepped down from his post, but he was right to take the attention off him and direct it where it should have been - on the bigger issues at hand. I'm glad I'm not the only one who couldn't connect with Jane Eyre. Sometimes I feel like a weirdo when I don't like the popular classics. :)

  7. I've been waiting to see the film until after I finished the book, so I'm excited for that!

  8. Haha! I probably wouldn't read as much if I had a husband and kids like you do. But since I have no life... :D I have been loving the rainbow challenge. I pick a lot of books solely for the covers and it's fun to choose them on color alone.

  9. It was so good. He is one politician who had a lot of common sense ideas and didn't seem to let the "game" of politics be his motive.

  10. You're welcome! Anthea, I also have the backlog of printables saved from previous seasons, so if you want to have a peek at those so you have one you can use for the season you're in, I'd be happy to send you those links. Just let me know!

    Everything Happens for a Reason was a really interesting book. I always find it intriguing how people face their own mortality. It's definitely not something we generally like to think about, but there's always an opportunity to learn a lot.

  11. Yes please - I'd like to get the links and I can print them for the other seasons :)

    You are right - there is always an opportunity to learn especially on a topic which so many of us don't like thinking about. I found the book "Tuesdays with Morrie" to be amazing. I want to re-read it because it is so full of lessons.

  12. I'm shooting you an email right now! :)