It’s Monday, May 25th. What Are You Reading?

May 25, 2015 reading 1


This weekend caught me feeling in a funk, so I kind of holed myself up and had a little mini-readathon on my own. I grabbed a bunch of short books from my shelves, arranged some snacks and camped out on the couch for a good while. That Thing You Do With Your Mouth by Samantha Matthews and David Shields was super quick, so it acted as a good spark to get me going on Haints Stay by Colin Winnette and The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard. Hanging out at home alone and generally avoiding the internet helped me breeze through those and even get a good start on reading Pamela Newkirk’s Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga

Here’s hoping things look up a little this week so I can enjoy the nice weather and holiday.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Nonfiction Titles to Get Your Book Club Talking

May 21, 2015 lists 45

Nonfiction Book Club

I’ve mentioned it here before, but I strongly believe that nonfiction titles can be great for book club discussions. Sadly, they tend to get overlooked when clubs are picking out their reads. I get it. Nonfiction can be a tough sell, especially for those who rarely pick it up, but these books are sure to get your group talking!


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This teeny, tiny little essay is a great place to start. It’s small but mighty and you’ll have plenty to talk about when you’re done reading.

Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger

A bit of memoir, a dash of investigation and dozens of questions are tossed together in Alice Dreger’s book about the intersection of social justice and research.

The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig

Your book club will be spouting facts for months. This book is just filled to the brim with great bits of information that will make almost anyone thankful for modern medicine.

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

Sheri Fink’s book on the state of a hospital in post-Katrina New Orleans isn’t a light or easy read, but it’s an important one that will raise a ton of moral questions for your group.

Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear

It’s great to be grossed out with a group of friends, isn’t it? Everyone will be desperate to share the (numerous) moments that made them cringe while reading Anything That Moves.

The Monopolists by Mary Pilon

It might sound dry and boring, but the history of Monopoly is actually quite fascinating. Be sure to have a board on hand because you’ll definitely get the itch to play!

Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

The ins and outs of our social media lives, told through our data. It’s absolutely fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Written after the deaths of five men in her life, Ward’s memoir is heartbreaking, but also an incredibly honest and important look at racism and poverty.

Master of the Mountain by Henry Wiencek

This one is a little more academic, so I wouldn’t recommended it for a first rodeo, but it would be totally eye-opening for a group that has some experience with nonfiction and loves a good controversy.

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright

If you saw the HBO documentary based on this book, you’ve only seen about half of the crazybananapants you’ll uncover while reading.


Does your book club read nonfiction? Do you have a title that would be perfect for groups to read?


The Shore by Sara Taylor

May 19, 2015 reviews 35

The Shore by Sara TaylorThe Shore by Sara Taylor
Published by Crown Publishing Group on May 26th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
Buy From IndieBoundGoodreads


The world of Southern Gothic literature was once well populated with women; Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, and Dorothy Allison are regularly mentioned alongside William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. But in recent years, the genre has shifted away from its ghostly Gothic roots toward new Grit Lit sensibilities—and it’s overwhelmingly male.

Enter Sara Taylor. Don’t be fooled by the beachy scene on The Shore‘s cover—the islands off the coast of Virginia are beautiful, but their stories are grim. Taylor’s characters encounter drugs, extreme physical and sexual violence, and murder of the kind that’s common to Grit Lit, but here they’re braced by the feminism and sense of magic realism the genre has been lacking.

“Maybe one day you’ll learn to read his moods better, learn to sense when he’s running out of patience, learn to stop pushing him until the storm comes. There will be bruises, on your arms and other not so visible places, in the morning, and neither Stella nor Ellie nor any of the people you see throughout the day will say a word about them, the way you never say a word when Ellie’s skin blooms purple-green. Even so, you know they’ll see and wonder what you said, what you did, and how you failed to keep it together this time.”

The Shore works as both a novel and heavily connected short stories. Starting in 1885, the book follows a community on the Shore for over 200 years, dropping hints and names along the way; a minor background character in one chapter could be central to the plot in another, sometimes 100 pages or 100 years later. While this will certainly be frustrating for some readers, thinking and theorizing can sometimes make a book a reading experience instead of just a story.

An absolutely immersive experience, at that. In many ways, pulling apart the layers of The Shore calls back to close examination of classic work—both challenging and rewarding. At just 24, Sara Taylor has blended the best elements of Grit Lit and Southern Gothic with a completely original spin and left her first, powerful mark on the literary world.


If you’ve read or plan to read The Shore, we’ll be discussing it (spoilers and all!) next month over at The Socratic Salon.

It’s Monday, May 18th. What Are You Reading?

May 18, 2015 reading 18


Much like I expected it would, the weather here went from somewhat chilly Spring to “Woah, it’s almost 90!” in the span of about a week. While it made for good reading and romping time in the backyard with the pup, we were somewhat limited by our ability to withstand the heat. My husband worked all weekend and I knocked out a bunch of the things I had to do (primarily groceries and yardwork) pretty quick, which left me with some time to tackle long overdue, tedious blog tasks. Broken links, tags, things I keep trying to pretend don’t exist. I’m nowhere near done, but I did get a good start.

I’m still reading The Improbability of Love (it’s a long one!), but started and finished So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson for my book club. There’s a ton to turn over with that one. I don’t agree with him on everything, but the book definitely had me going back and forth with a few of the situations. I’ve also just started Sarai Walker’s Dietland, which is wickedly smart and strange so far. I can’t wait to see where it goes. Appropriately enough, its cover is a bit of a play on the typical chick lit cover, no? We’re discussing that term, what we think it means and how we feel about its use over at The Socratic Salon if you’d like to join in.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

What Do You Expect from a Companion Novel or Sequel?

May 15, 2015 discussion 31

a god in ruins expectations

I recently finished up Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, which is being billed as a companion to her wildly successful novel Life After Life. I won’t be reviewing it here, since many of my thoughts are too tangled in spoilers, but I’ll be discussing my mixed feelings with The Socratic Salon early next month. I mostly read stand-alone novels, so I’m hoping to get some collective insight into what you all expect when you pick up a companion piece or sequel. Part of me wonders if my expectations were just off base with this one.

  • For me, the ideal companion piece sheds new light on some aspect of the original work for those who read it, but also succeeds as a stand-alone novel for those who haven’t. I feel like this is extremely hard to do. Am I wrong?
  • When it comes to sequels (or books in a series), I need to feel like I get a complete story arc rather than just a piece in the overall puzzle of the series. I don’t mind a cliffhanger, but finishing a book that doesn’t feel like it had it’s own plot is a huge bummer.

So, what are your expectations when you pick up a companion novel or sequel?


A Dream Cast for The Signature of All Things

May 14, 2015 tv and movies 8

signature of all things pbs

I absolutely loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, so I was pretty thrilled to hear news that the novel is being adapted for Masterpiece on PBS. I immediately alerted my book club and we couldn’t help but talk about dream casting. Since the novel spans quite a bit of time, it’s likely the show will need multiple actors for each character. It was hard enough for me to come up with a great adult (who could possibly be aged) for some of the main characters, so I’ll leave the kids and any other options up to you!


sarah polleyAlma Whittaker

“She was her father’s daughter. It was said of her from the beginning. For one thing, Alma Whittaker looked precisely like Henry: ginger of hair, florid of skin, small of mouth, wide of brow and abundant of nose.”

First Choice: Sarah Polley (Can we get her to direct, too?)

Also considered: Kelly Macdonald, Gwendoline Christie




Henry WhittakerDonald Sutherland

“Henry’s face was better suited to a grown man than to a little girl.”

First Choice: Donald Sutherland

Also Considered: John Hurt, Ben Daniels





David ThewlisAmbrose Pike

“A tall, slender, sandy-haired young man in a brown corduroy suit stepped out.”

“Up close, though, one could see his age – especially as he lay in the sun, flopped across the grass without his hat on. His face was faintly lined, tanned and freckled by years of weather, and the sandy hair at his temples was turning gray.”

First Choice: David Thewlis

Also Considered: Tobias Menzies, Cillian Murphy


Prudence Whittaker DixonHolliday Grainger

“Polly [Prudence] was the same age as Alma, but daintier and startlingly beautiful. She looked like a perfect figurine carved out of fine French soap, into which someone had inlaid a pair of glittering peacock-blue eyes. But it was the tiny pink pillow of her mouth that made this girl more than simply pretty…”

First Choice: Holliday Grainger

Also Considered: Amanda Seyfried, Mia Wasikowska



Juno TempleRetta Snow

“The girl was certainly a queer-looking thing. She had seemed prettier from a distance. True, she had a lovely figure, a magnificent head of hair, and an appealingly matched set of dimples, but from nearby one could see that her face was a bit flat and round – something like a saucer – and her green eyes were altogether too large and demonstrative.”

First Choice: Juno Temple (with dark hair, of course)

Also Considered: Samantha Barks, Emily Browning


All images from

Who would you like to see in The Signature of All Things? Do you have any great child actors in mind? What about the other characters?