Tuesday, September 04, 2018

What I Read | August (+ FREE Fall Reading List Printable)

A look back at what I read last month. #ASGbookshelf #whatIread



It was a quiet month on the bookshelf. I only read about half of what I usually consume, but it was nice to slow down and enjoy what I was reading. I was excited because there were so many wonderful books on this month's list, including two about dogs. I've been on an animal kick lately, so take that as a hint of more to come in the following weeks.

This weekend, my brother and I have a trip to the used bookstore planned. The shop is over an hour away, so we try to go once every quarter, and we take boxes of books (donated by the entire family) that we can trade in for credit. We always leave with stacks of new-to-us books and never end up spending a dime.

Do you enjoy visiting used bookshops? When you go, do you have specific books you look for or do you pick whatever speaks to you from the shelf?

Must Read

A Dog's Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron  | ★★★★★
From W. Bruce Cameron, the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel A Dog's Purpose, which is now a major motion picture!

Lucas Ray is shocked when an adorable puppy jumps out of an abandoned building and into his arms. Though the apartment he shares with his mother, a disabled veteran, doesn't allow dogs, Lucas can't resist taking Bella home.

Bella is inexplicably drawn to Lucas, even if she doesn't understand the necessity of games like No Barks. As it becomes more difficult to hide her from the neighbors, Lucas begins to sneak Bella into the VA where he works. There, Bella brings joy and comfort where it is needed most.

After Bella is picked up by Animal Control because pit bulls are banned in Denver, Lucas has no choice but to send her to a foster home until he can figure out what to do. But Bella, distraught at the separation, doesn't plan to wait. With four hundred miles of dangerous Colorado wilderness between her and her person, Bella sets off on a seemingly impossible and completely unforgettable adventure home.


A classic story of unwavering loyalty and incredible devotion, A Dog's Way Home is a beautifully told, charming tale that explores the unbreakable bond between us and our pets. This fantastic and exhilarating journey of the heart is in the same tradition as the beloved bestseller, A Dog's Purpose. - Goodreads description

Heads up. If you are an animal lover, this book will pull you in so many directions, emotionally. I love books that have non-human narrators and this story is told from the perspective of Bella, a mixed-breed dog who goes above and beyond to make her way back to her beloved man, Lucas. She has quite the adventure (sometimes, frighteningly so) and there are so many times I wanted to peek at the ending to find out if she does indeed make it home. On her journey, Bella makes many new friends, human and otherwise, and must determine which of these friends is going to help her find Lucas, and which ones will keep her from him. Cameron's writing perfectly describes the loyalty of a dog to their people and gives you a glimpse of just what might be going on in the mind of your pup. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Noteworthy

Merle's Door by Ted Kerasote  | ★★★★★
While on a camping trip, Ted Kerasote met a dog—a Labrador mix—who was living on his own in the wild. They became attached to each other, and Kerasote decided to name the dog Merle and bring him home. There, he realized that Merle’s native intelligence would be diminished by living exclusively in the human world. He put a dog door in his house so Merle could live both outside and in.A deeply touching portrait of a remarkable dog and his relationship with the author, Merle’s Door explores the issues that all animals and their human companions face as their lives intertwine, bringing to bear the latest research into animal consciousness and behavior as well as insights into the origins and evolution of the human-dog partnership. Merle showed Kerasote how dogs might live if they were allowed to make more of their own decisions, and Kerasote suggests how these lessons can be applied universally.  - Goodreads description

As he shares the biography of his beloved friend, Merle, Ted Kerasote investigates the history of the dog and its relationship with man. I've read this book many times over and I will never tire of Kerasote's storytelling. Often inserting tales of their adventures in the valley and surrounding mountains of Grand Teton National Park, he shares bite-sized but well-researched facts about dogs, how they came to be domesticated, and how they concur and differ with other species in the animal kingdom. Merle wasn't just any dog. After spending his early months having to survive on his own in the wilderness, he had developed a certain intelligence that was above many of his other canine companions. He had a knack for sniffing out a hiking trail, hunting elk and determining which "dogly" things he would or would not do, like retrieving quail for his person. Not only did this book make me wish I had a chance to meet the honorary mayor of Kelly, WY - a title he was given because of his ability to connect with every town human and animal alike - but it seriously makes me consider packing up my belongings and moving west to enjoy the majestic beauty of this region.

Other mentions for the month of August:

Calypso by David Sedaris  | ★★★★★
This is the funniest (and at some points, the most disgusting) book I've read in a long time. Sedaris is unapologetically himself. The sarcastic in me adores this man. There are so many clever one-liners and belly-laughable stories and I loved every moment of it. This makes me want to go back and re-read all of his other work. I will never look at a snapping turtle or a chicken cutlet again without wanting to barf. Listen to the audiobook if you can. Sedaris narrates it and it's wonderful.


A Higher Loyalty by James Comey  | ★★★★★
An honest recount of just how corrupt, insecure, and immature the current administration is. I didn't know much about Comey until the whole email investigation debacle, but I enjoyed learning about his background and path to get into the seat of Director of the FBI. His story proves that there are still people in high places who value loyalty to the constitution and office rather than the people who hold those offices. The book was eye-opening but hopeful.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue  | ★★★★
This was SO good! There are so many books written about immigrants and I've never connected with one as strongly as I have with Dreamers. The characters were complex and interesting. Their story was fleshed out perfectly. You fall in love with this couple from Cameroon in the first chapter and root for them until the end. Mbue's prose is lovely and her writing is so easy to consume. The pages just keep turning. I gave it four stars because I felt that the story dragged a bit and was longer than it needed to be, but I'd round it up to a 4.5.

Yes, My Accent is Real by Kunal Nayyar  | ★★★★
Raj Koothrappali is one of my favorite characters on television. Nayyar is a brilliant actor and I couldn't wait to learn more about him. I listened to the audiobook since he narrates it himself and it was so funny and touching. He talks a lot about his childhood and Indian culture, and the many nuggets of wisdom that his father has shared with him. I've obviously never met his parents, but if I ever got the chance, I would want to hug them because of this book. This was an incredibly fun read.

The Measure of Our Success by Marian Wright Edelman  | ★★★★
I picked this book up for the comparative media studies class I'm taking and I'm glad because I wouldn't have known about it otherwise. This is a short collection of essays in the form of a letter to Edelman's children, in which she imparts her wisdom about how to make it in the world as a person of color. The word "wisdom" can't possibly begin to cover all that she writes to them. She teaches them what it means to be black, that education is one of the most important things in life, how to treat people, even if you don't like them, and that absolutely nothing comes free - you get what you work hard for. This was so, so good.

Irreconcilable Politics by Michael T. Hutchins  | ★★★
Politics is a tricky subject. Everyone believes he or she has the best solution to a problem, but these solutions are usually based on personal experiences, beliefs, and biases. I don't believe one person alone has the key to solving all of the world's political issues. This book is one economist's attempt to do just that. Hutchins begins the book by sharing why we have differing political views and philosophies and how this affects the world as a whole, and then breaking it down further and discussing conflicts within organizations. He discusses the idea of using bargaining to get people with different opinions to come together and agree on hot-button issues. While this book was very informative and thought-provoking, it was very long and academic. I think at least a quarter of it could have been trimmed for redundancy and to eliminate some tangents that, to me, didn't seem to contribute to the overall theme of the book. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The Mysterious Stranger (and other stories) by Mark Twain  | ★★★
We're not on the Mississippi anymore, Huck... This is a novella that was published posthumously and it's not at all what I was used to from Twain. So much of his writing has character and is engaging. This was just... bitter. I will also note that I listened to the audiobook version from Tantor, read by Jonathan Kent, and the audio quality was terrible. The narration was muffled and you have to keep it on 100% volume in order to even make out the words. Ugh.

Great American Outpost by Maya Rao  | ★★★
This is a documentary about the oil book in North Dakota and its impact on local residents. Rao introduces a lot of interesting characters and the way she narrates their stories is very much like a memoir. I really appreciated how her writing draws you in and places you on the scene with the people she's telling you about. You know them. You follow their stories and you have a difficult time not feeling invested in them. The book is a little over 330 pages, but it felt so long. Perhaps it's the subject matter that made it more tedious to read. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler  | ★★☆☆
Contrary to the title of this book, it was a short read. I was able to sit down and breeze through it in less than two hours. That being said, it was not an enjoyable one. There were too many cliches and it read like a bad Lifetime murder mystery.

For those of you who stuck around to get to the bottom of the post, here's a special treat for you - my fall reading list printable, just for you! (Download details below)



The regular version is available for download by clicking here, but if you are a subscriber to the ASG newsletter, you get access to the expanded edition, which lets you keep track of your reviews and star rating. That version will be released in this weekend's newsletter. There's still time to sign up here. Enjoy and happy reading!

What did you enjoy reading last month?

The post What I Read | August 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!

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