An Open Book: What I Read in October and November

Reading has always been a big part of my life, but it’s been a saving grace this year. I can’t imagine being stuck in our one-bedroom apartment without the company of a book (or two or three or … a dozen). They’ve kept me company on my daily walks. They’ve given C and I something to talk about. They’ve bookmarked the end of every single day.

The last couple months have been filled with memorable reading journeys. HumanKind was uplifting and beautiful, offering a sense of hope in a particularly hard time. This is Where I Leave You was simple but hit the heartstrings; it was a lovely book to read together with C. And Notes on a Foreign Country encouraged me to tangle with the complex narrative of being an American living abroad.

The gift of reading truly is the gift that keeps on gifting.

book reviews

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: I often feel like I’m in the minority in believing that people are inherently good, but Bregman’s book confirms what I already know to be true. The author definitely did his research, digging into the details of dozens of studies that seem to “prove” that people are mean-spirited and selfish at their core. I can’t wait to get my hands on a hard copy so I can read and savor this book over and over again.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: Savvy yet simple, this story packs a punch with flawed family members forced to spend a week together sitting shiva after their father passes away. Tropper is a word master, and his writing style left me laughing and choking up with all the feels within just a couple pages of each other. Even for those who aren’t into fiction, this is 100% worth your time.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: Any typical list of pivotal players from World War II does not include Virginia Hall, but it should. This deeply researched and well-written book details Hall’s fascinating life leading up to, during, and after her time serving as an Allied spy during the war. There are far too many unsung female heroes in world history, and we need to celebrate long overdue books like this one that bring their stories to the forefront.

book reviews

The Great Passage by Shion Miura (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: A strangely enchanting story about the birth of a dictionary — and the characters who devote their lives to it. I’m fascinated by the complexity of dictionaries (see my review of Word by Word), and I love that a whole story was built around this complexity. The Great Passage surfaced nuanced and sensory details that drew me in; I really loved the parts dedicated to picking out the paper for the dictionary.

Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: Complex and nuanced, this book challenges the pre-conceived ways of thinking and beliefs that the vast majority of American citizens hold. I know now that the education I received and the information I was fed and believed growing up in the United States was very unbalanced, incomplete, and fringed with white supremacy. This book should be read by every American, but especially those living outside the country who are trying to make sense of a world where the narratives they’ve learned don’t fit.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: This book was awkward and uncomfortable in so many ways, which I assume is the point. None of the characters was particularly likeable, which always keeps fiction at an arm’s length for me. This was a quick read, which is what I was looking for, but it’s not a book I’d rush out and recommend to others.

2 Responses to “An Open Book: What I Read in October and November”

  1. Jill

    Some great ideas for my book group in your list. Thanks!

    • JoAnna

      As always, I’m glad my book list inspires you!


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