Category Archives: General

10 Great Books From 2019

Stuck at home and looking for an escape from the news? I can’t offer medical advice or easy pantry recipes or tips on homeschooling, but I *can* give book recommendations. I’ll post some lists each week with reading ideas to get you through quarantine.

Here are ten books I loved last year. Because they aren’t that new, they might be available from your library’s digital collection, or by curbside pickup from your local indie.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

There There by Tommy Orange

The Only Plane In The Sky by Garrett Graff – WARNING: not escapist!

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Forever Is The Worst Long Time by Camille Pagan

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

I hope that you find reading a solace in these challenging times.

First Book 2020

Every year, Sheila at Book Journey hosts First Book, where she invites readers to send in photos of them with their first read of the year. I’ve participated the last 4 years, and am excited to do so this year too. So give Book Journey a visit and see what people are reading on the first day of 2020. Thank you Sheila for keeping up this fun tradition!

Here’s my pick: Weather, by Jenny Offill. I was a huge fan of her last book, Dept. of Speculation, and this one is written in a similar style. I am really looking forward to it. It comes out in February 2020, but I am too excited to read it to wait another month. In this picture, I am standing outside Oracle Park in San Francisco on a chilly, grey, wet day (hence the frizzy hair). We were in California for a week over break and are now headed home.

Happy new year, everyone! What is your First Book of 2020?

2019 Reading Year In Review

This year I surpassed my reading goal of 60 books – my highest goal ever – and ended at 64. It was a pretty good year in reading, but not amazing. There were a lot of books that I really loved, so the highs were very high. But as I scroll through my list, I see just as many books that were just OK and didn’t leave much impact on me. The 2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge also slowed me down in the last few months as I ticked the last categories off the list. I am hoping to avoid a challenge-related reading slowdown next year with the new categories in the 2020 challenge that will hopefully sustain my reading energy all year. I will also continue to be very deliberate with my reading choices in order to improve my satisfaction with the books I read.

I increased my non-fiction and my male author counts, both of which were goals for 2019. For 2020, I am setting a goal of 60 books again. Hopefully I will surpass it once more, but this year was definitely a stretch and I don’t want to get too ambitious for 2020.

Here are my overall stats for 2019:

Books finished: 64
Fiction: 54
Non-fiction: 10
Male authors: 14
Audiobooks: 21
Repeat authors: 
Taylor Jenkins Reid, Karen Thompson Walker, Lynda Cohen Loigman, Dani Shapiro, Sally Thorne, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Patchett, Colson Whitehead, Halle Butler, Katherine Center, Agatha Christie, J. Ryan Stradal, Jean Kwok, Stephen McCauley, Kevin Wilson

Here are a few superlatives for the year:

Best Books: I listed my top 10 best reads of 2019 in a separate blog post, so I won’t repeat them here.

Best AudiobooksBecoming by Michelle Obama, Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Books I Could Not Put Down: Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Forever Is The Worst Long Time by Camille Pagan, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, Becoming by Michelle Obama

Books That Should Be Required Reading: The Only Plane In The Sky by Garrett Graff, There There by Tommy Orange, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Book That Made Me Feel Stupid: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Thank you all for reading along with me in 2019. 2020 will be my 14th (!) year of blogging and I am grateful to you all for supporting EDIWTB and sharing it with your friends!

Happy 2020!!

10 Best Books of 2019

What a year 2019 was for reading!

Here are my top 10 reads of the year. These are the books I thought about months after I read them, the ones that most touched, entertained, educated or moved me.

  1. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. This book kicked off my 2019 reading and it set a very high bar. It’s a novel about how AIDS ravaged the gay community in 1980s Chicago, with ramifications for decades for those who knew and loved the men who died from the disease. (Review here.)
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama. It’s a cliche at this point to gush over Michelle Obama’s memoir, but it’s just really good. I think about Becoming all the time, and I miss the Obamas terribly. (Review here.)
  3. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. This novel about a lonely widow in Maine and the unlikely friendship she strikes up with a pitcher with the yips was the perfect summer read. It is smart, wistful and romantic without a trace of sappiness. I was sad when it ended. (Review here.)
  4. Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Brodesser-Akner hit a nerve this summer with her novel about modern marriage and divorce, Manhattan-style. Funny, observant and acerbic, the book took a narrative turn 3/4 of the way through that gave it much more depth. (Review here.)
  5. The Only Plane In The Sky by Garrett Graff. This comprehensive oral history of 9/11 is very difficult to read, but it’s important and very moving. I recommend this book equally for people who lived through 9/11, and those born after it happened. (Review here.)
  6. In The Pleasure Groove by John Taylor. I loved this memoir by the bassist of Duran Duran, not just because I love DD and anything related to 80s music, but because he was smart and self-deprecating and lived a crazy life in the 80s. (Review here.)
  7. Forever Is The Worst Long Time by Camille Pagan. This is a bittersweet read about a man who falls in love with his best friend’s girlfriend and pines for her for years. When they eventually get together, will it work out? This book took some unexpected turns and I think back on it often. (Review here.)
  8. Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane. This story about two families inextricably linked through tragedy will break your heart. (Review here.)
  9. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I loved this book about a brother and sister who are forced to move from their childhood home after their father dies. Patchett traces their lives over the next few decades, exploring their relationship and how the house looms large in their identities. (Review here.)
  10. Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf. This quiet novel about two older people who find each other after their partners died is beautifully simple and moving. This was my first Haruf novel and I can’t wait to read more. (Review here.)

2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge: Wrap-up

So this was the first year I participated in a reading challenge – on my blog or anywhere. I’ve always avoided them, because the ones I’ve considered always had categories that I just didn’t want to spend my precious reading slots on, like “books with a flower on the cover” or “books with something sweet in the title”. I read too slowly and life is too short not only to find books that fit the bill, but then to read books I otherwise wouldn’t have read.

But last year, my friend Stephanie came up with a list of categories that seemed pretty manageable, and with her permission and some tweaking by me, I launched the 2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge. My goals were to push myself to read some books that I should read but probably wouldn’t prioritize during the year, and to diversify my reading list a bit. I hoped that it wouldn’t become a chore and that I’d find some great books that, looking back in December, I’d be grateful that I’d been pushed to read. I knew going in that it wouldn’t be hugely mind-expanding – I didn’t choose categories like Political Memoirs or Science Fiction or Social Justice- but I did want it to broaden me a bit.

I would say the Challenge mostly accomplished those goals, but not entirely. Some of the categories – Memoir, Debut Novel – were very easy to fulfill, and I read several that fit the bill (all of which I would have read anyway). Campus Book and Short Stories were also easy. When I got to books like Unread Classic and Humor, my enthusiasm started to wane, because the books I read – while decent – felt like obligations rather than free choices, like when book club chooses something you don’t really want to read that badly.

By Q4, when I had Pulitzer Prize Winner and Self-Help and Birth Year left, I became downright resentful. There are so many books I am so excited to read, and between my various book clubs and this challenge, they were getting further out of reach. In the end, I am glad I read Interpreter of Maladies and The Best Skin Of Your Life Starts Here, but it was that process of getting myself psyched up, mentally, to read and finish them that I didn’t enjoy. I was cursing the Challenge and rethinking its direction and purpose.

So, I am relieved the Challenge is done, I am glad I did it, and I am most of all so happy that so many of you EDIWTB readers did it too. That has been the best part: the Facebook group and the camaraderie around it.

But I want to improve it.

Later this week I will reveal the categories for the 2020 EDIWTB Reading Challenge, and I hope you all will return for it and invite your reader friends to join too. I’ve picked categories that are less onerous, in that they allow you more flexibility and freedom to read your bookshelves and choose the books you’re most excited about. I can pretty much find a book for each one that I genuinely want to read, and will hopefully avoid the dreaded December pileup of reading obligation. I want you all to feel energized and purposeful, rather than needing to cross categories off the list.

To conclude:

Favorite books I read for the 2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge: Becoming, In The Pleasure Groove, The Dreamers

Least favorite books I read for the 2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge: Charlotte Sometimes, I’ll Give You The Sun

Easiest categories: Memoir, Debut Novel

Least favorite category: Birth Year

Which were your favorites and least favorites??

Thanks again for participating, and stay tuned for the 2020 list!

2019 Readerly Report Holiday Gift Guide

This year, Nicole and I devoted two episodes of our podcast The Readerly Report to our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide. We recommend gifts for a variety of readers on your list, such as people in need of distraction, historical fiction lovers, friends who need to read the book before the movie comes out, and audiobook junkies. There are a lot of categories to browse through – hopefully some of them will knock a few gifts off your list.

You can find Episode I here, and Episode 2 here. Each link has a list of the categories and recommended books, as well as a link to listen to the show. You can also find the show at iTunes.

Happy shopping!

Vacation!

I am heading out on vacation today for almost two weeks. I am very excited. Our kids have been coming and going all summer but this is our first and only time away the five of us. We’re going to Spain and Portugal.

As always, I’m bringing too many books with me (my rule of thumb is always to bring two times as many books as you think you’ll read) but I’ve spent a while thinking about them and curating the pile. Here they are:

And Then There Were None and I’ll Give You The Sun (not in this pic) are included to satisfy the unread classic and book-to-movie-in-2019 categories of the EDIWTB 2019 Reading Challenge.

In other updates, I had the amazing chance to hang out with my favorite author, J. Ryan Stradal, when he was in DC two weeks ago. We talked baseball, books, 80s music, and more, and of course I had to share my intense love for Kitchens Of The Great Midwest. I don’t *think* Ryan thinks I am a stalker. He did ask me for a ride to his hotel, which I doubt he would have done if he’d feared being abducted. Here we are:

Nicole and I have been busy recording podcast episodes, so there won’t be any interruption while I am gone. Please keep tuning in to The Readerly Report!

Have a great two weeks everyone! If I have time, I will post reviews of what I’ve read on the trip. Otherwise, I’ll post on my return.

Everything You Need To Know About EDIWTB

Hi EDIWTB Readers! There are a lot of new visitors here, so I thought it would be a good time to give an update on the blog, and let you know about some other places where you can connect with me and other readers.

This blog, Everyday I Write The Book, is where I post reviews of the books I’ve read. I generally read contemporary and literary fiction, with some memoirs and non-fiction thrown in. This year, I gave myself a goal of 60 books, and I’m on pace to meet that goal. I have a busy life with kids and a full-time job, so while this number is a lot lower than most of the book bloggers I know, it’s (kind of) manageable for me. I post reviews here pretty much every week. You can subscribe to updates via email, or follow the EDIWTB Facebook page, where I post links to each of my reviews.

This year, I also started the EDIWTB 2019 Reading Challenge, which consists of 12 books in 12 categories over the course of the year. We have a Facebook group for the challenge, so if you’re interested in joining or following along, just request to be added to the group. I have gotten the easy categories out of the way – debut novel, memoir – and have the hard ones left, like book written the year I was born and self-help. The rest of the year will be interesting.

In addition to this blog, I also co-host a weekly podcast about books called The Readerly Report with my friend Nicole Bonia, who is a great reader. Our tastes mostly overlap, but she is more adventurous than I am. We talk about reading trends, books we’ve finished, upcoming releases, new paperbacks and more. We also have fantastic guests on the show like Anne Bogel and Ron Charles as well as fellow blogger/podcasters like Sarah Dickinson and Catherine Gilmore. The podcast is a great complement to EDIWTB. The Readerly Report has a Facebook page and a Facebook group – please follow and join.

You can also find me on Instagram, where I post photos of the books I read next to my dog Lucky, who has the exact same expression in every photo.

I LOVE hearing from EDIWTB readers. What have you read that you found out about on this blog? What have you read that I should read? Did I get something totally wrong? Tell me! You can email me at gayle@everydayiwritethebookblog.com or comment on the blog.

Thank you for reading and for your support and enthusiasm for the blog. I look forward to connecting!

Oh, and where the blog’s bizarre name came from? The 80s, of course! It’s a song by Elvis Costello.

Independent Bookstore Day

Tomorrow, Saturday April 28, is Independent Bookstore Day, a celebration of and at independent bookstores around the country. I love independent bookstores (duh). I especially love visiting bookstores when I travel. I drag my family into bookstores and tell them I need 20 minutes of uninterrupted browsing – and then I go up and down aisles, admiring bow the books are organized and checking out staff picks. Even though the last thing I need is more books, I always walk out with at least one.

In honor of Independent Bookstore Day, here are some of my favorite indies from around the country. If you’re near one of them, go check it out! And please comment and tell me about your favorite independent bookstores and why you love them.

1. Island Bookstore, Corolla NC. This outpost of the Outer Banks indie chain is so lovely that I bought a watercolor print that someone painted of it to frame and hang in my library. I go here whenever we’re in the Outer Banks. I want their bookshelves to be my bookshelves.

2. Politics & Prose, Washington DC. This is my home bookstore, my default bookstore, and the most dangerous place in the city for me. The selection is broad, the events calendar is robust, the staff is amazing… need I go on? There is a reason why P&P’s reputation stretches far beyond DC.

3. Powell’s Bookstore, Portland OR. New books living side-by-side on shelves with used books? Yes, sign me up. I’ve only been to this store once, but it’s a book lover’s dream. (Its tagline is “City of Books”).

4. Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle WA. This place has everything – a great kids section, tons of fiction, lots of recommendation hangtags – in a spacious, airy setting. Plus it’s in a cool part of town.

5. Strand Bookstore, New York NY. The Strand has lost some of its book-treasures-in-a-musty-basement feel, but it’s still enormous and full of books I want to read. Most of the books are discounted, even new ones, so it’s easy to walk out with a big bag of books even when you promised yourself you wouldn’t.

6. The Brewster Book Store, Brewster MA. There are a lot of indie bookstores on Cape Cod, but I happened to stop at this one and fell in love with it. There is a great selection packed into a small space, and it’s a perfect vacation book source.

7. Books & Books, Key West, FL. I stopped in at this store, which was founded by Judy Blume, while on vacation a few weeks ago. It’s small but has an excellent curated selection of new fiction. I walked around the store thinking, “I’ve wanted to read THAT book… and THAT book… and THAT book… and THAT book…”.

Happy Independent Bookstore Day! Learn more about it here.

Giveaway: EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL by Mira T. Lee

First, thanks for the great response to the 2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge! I am excited that so many of you will be joining me to read 12 books in 2019 across the categories on the list. If you would like to join, please search for the 2019 Everyday I Write The Book Reading Challenge group on Facebook or email me – gweiswasser@gmail.com – so that I can add you. We have a Google doc going where people can add their name and book selections over the course of the year.

I am currently reading a memoir – From The Corner Of The Oval by Beck Dorey Stein – which counts as one of my books for the challenge. See? This is easy.

Second, exciting news: Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee is coming out in paperback next week, and Penguin has given me three copies to give away. I read and reviewed it last year, and it’s definitely a book that has stayed with me over the months. I recommend Everything Here Is Beautiful on print over audio, so here is a great chance to get your hands on the book if you don’t have it already. It’s about two sisters and how mental illness strains their relationship over the years. Thank you to Penguin for providing the books for the giveaway.

To enter to win, leave me a comment here and I’ll pick three winners on Friday, January 18. Good luck!