Book Reviews: What I Read in October 2017

I only made it through five books this month, but I have some good excuses.  I’ve been working my way through the nearly 47 hour audiobook of 1Q84 for the last month and a half, so I did not finish a single audiobook this month.  Also, the call of the couch and the television set has been pretty difficult to pass up on cozy Fall evenings.

My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

I heard about this book from the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, which recommended it as a good “flight pairing” with the book Young Jane Young, which I read and reviewed back in AugustYoung Jane Young was the fictional story of a woman whose blog account of her affair with a married congressman went viral and essentially ruined her life.  So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a nonfiction analysis of online public shaming and how recipients of public shaming cope with life afterwards.  Author Jon Ronson uses real life examples to show that these people are more than the one moment they have become known for (remember Justine Sacco? The PR manager who tweeted a racist joke before boarding a plane to South Africa?  The world knew she lost her job before she did?  She’s in here.)  This book was a page-turner that I knocked out during our two flights to Montana earlier this month.

Do Not Become Alarmed – Maile Meloy

I went three days without a book at the start of our Montana trip, thanks to Jon Ronson’s page-turner, so I was delighted to find Do Not Become Alarmed on the new release table at Elk River Books in Livingston.  I had heard about this book from one of my favorite podcasts, From The Front Porch.   This story is a page-turning adventure tale (with some appropriate foreshadowing in the first chapter) about children who become separated from their parents on a cruise ship excursion in a foreign country.  There are some pretty heavy topics covered within the story, but the author somehow manages to keep this a light and easy read.

The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

I picked up this book at Sax & Fryer in Livingston, an old bookstore without a website, a computer, or even a cash register newer than 100 years old, but with a wonderful selection of primarily Western titles.  The Glass Castle is a memoir that tells the beautiful and heartbreaking tale of the resilience of children in a very dysfunctional family.  The emotional rawness left me moved nearly to tears in many sections of the book.  I cared so deeply for the characters that I could not put this book down until I finished the very last page.  This story was adapted to a movie version earlier this year starring Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson.  There is no way it can top the book, but I’ll be streaming it anyway as soon as I get a free night.

Sourdough – Robin Sloan

Sourdough was one of my September Book of the Month Club selections, and I chose it because I really enjoyed the author Robin Sloan’s first novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (my review here).  Sourdough is a delightfully light and fun story about a Silicon Valley robot programmer who is entrusted with an ancient and special sourdough starter.  In taking care of the starter and learning to bake bread, she finds her passion and changes her life, with lots of quirky twists and turns along the way.

Sing Unburied Sing – Jesmyn Ward

Sing Unburied Sing was my other September Book of the Month Club selection, and it was recently announced as a finalist for this year’s National Book Award in Fiction.  The author won the National Book Award back in 2011 for her earlier novel, Salvage the Bones, which I have not yet read but would love to.  Sing Unburied Sing is a slow, heavy, and beautifully written story told from three perspectives: Jojo, a biracial boy living with his mother and grandparents in Mississippi and the primary caretaker for his toddler sister Kayla; Leonie, Jojo and Kayla’s drug addicted and basically negligent mother; and Richie, the spirit of someone important in Jojo and Kayla’s grandfather’s past.  The story follows the dysfunctional family’s quest (which seemed to allude in many ways to Homer’s The Odyssey) to pick up Leonie’s husband and the children’s father Michael from Mississippi State Penitentiary.  The language is beautiful, the story is important, and the author deserves every award coming her way, but this was a very sad, oftentimes uncomfortable, yet still rewarding read for me.

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club (which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!

6 Comments

  1. What a great list of titles! My book club read The Glass Castle this summer and it was such a good discussion plus it kicked me off on a memoir craze for a while. It’s grittier than Walls book but if you like a redemptive memoir, I recommend The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner about her life growing up in a religious fundamentalist commune.
    I’ll be adding Do Not Become Alarmed to my list. Looks intriguing!

  2. I just put Do Not Become Alarmed on hold at the library. Thanks for the recommendation!

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