Thursday, June 4, 2020

Wrap Up: May 2020

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Books I Read

In May, I read 7 books.

Bridge Of Clay by Markus Zusak. Markus Zusak is one of my favorite authors, but I didn’t like this book. I should have listened to my instincts and given up. It’s very long, very slow, and lacking suspense because the beginning of the book tells you most of what’s going to happen. The author has a poetic writing style. I occasionally got frustrated with it. I just wanted to know what was happening and why I should care so we could move on to something more interesting! I did love the premise and setting of the story. It’s about five brothers who live together in the “racing district” of a town in Australia. The town is vivid and well-developed. The story is about what happens when the brothers’ criminal father returns to their home.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I liked it a lot, but I don’t think I’m as obsessed with it as other readers seem to be. It’s about an island that’s plagued by human-eating horses that crawl out of the ocean every October. The humans capture the horses and attempt to race them without getting eaten. I found the main characters bland because they’re obsessed with horses and winning money in the races, but that’s pretty much it. They don’t have a lot of personality. Since I’m not obsessed with horses or racing, it was hard for me to stay interested in their story. Aside from the characters, everything else is brilliant. The premise is unique and creepy. The ending is (mostly) unpredictable. I admire the way Maggie Stiefvater writes description. I feel like I understand the island’s culture and landscape, but the world-building never bogged down the plot. I’ll happily read more of this author’s work.

Nomadland: Surviving America In The Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. This is a nonfiction book about poor people who live in cars or RVs and travel around the US, working seasonal jobs at farms, parks, or warehouses. This book is a fascinating and terrifying peek into my future. I’ve always had low-paying jobs. It’s very possible that I’ll someday end up living in a van and sleeping in the parking lot of an Amazon warehouse. It’s scary to know that a divorce or medical emergency can take away everything you’ve built in life. The writing in the book isn’t brilliant, and I think the research could have gone farther, but the author interviews some fascinating nomadic Americans. I admire their creativity and tenacity.

Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger And Mourning On The American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild. If the author used the phrase “Strangers in their own land” one more time, I was going to chuck my Kindle across the room. Seriously. I get it! It was a clever phrase the first time, but it lost its charm after the author used it 10,000 times. The book is a psychological study of the Tea Party. That makes it sound boring. It’s not! It’s about coastal Louisiana and the people who live there. If you’re interested in environmental issues, then this is a must-read. I learned a lot about the impact that oil and chemical companies are having on the health of people and wildlife. I did not learn much about the American Right. Probably because I don’t live in a “Liberal bubble.” But, I’d still highly recommend this book. It’s thought-provoking and may end up on my “best books of 2020” list.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. This is a complicated one. Ultimately, I felt “meh” about it. It took me a week to read the first 100 pages because they meander, and I got bored. Then it finally hooked me, and I read the last 200 pages in a day. The ending is so good! The story’s main conflict involves a Chinese immigrant who abandons her baby. The child is given to a wealthy white family. Then the mother decides she wants her baby back. I love that the author tackles morally difficult questions that don’t have clear answers. No character is a hero, but their motivations are understandable. It makes you wonder what you’d do in their situation. This book is worth reading, but I struggled at the beginning.

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss. It’s told from the point-of-view of a stay-at-home dad. I appreciate that perspective because it’s not one we see often. It definitely made me think, especially the scene that takes place at a swimming pool. Dad can’t go into the girls’ locker room with his preteen daughter, so he waits for her near the locker room door and gets reported to management for “staring at children.” Being a stay-at-home dad to daughters has some unique challenges for sure. His life becomes even more challenging when he learns that both of his children may have a mystery illness that causes them to stop breathing without warning. This is the second Sarah Moss book I’ve read. I’m curious about her nonfiction, but I won’t read any more of her fiction. Her topics are super interesting, but I don’t love her writing style. It’s long-winded and repetitive. This book didn’t have enough action to fill 300+ pages.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume. My biggest reading success in May! I loved it. I’ve somehow gone my entire existence without reading a Judy Blume book. She’s been writing bestselling children’s books for longer than I’ve been alive. This novel was probably censored in my part of the world. I doubt my elementary school would have let us read a book that mentions bra shopping (gasp!), and periods (double gasp!), and test-driving different religions (triple gasp!). That sucks because I would have loved this book as a kid. I had a few experiences that were similar to Margaret’s. My only complaint is that the ending is rushed. Other than that, I enjoyed this novel immensely. It’s funny and relatable. And it sparked my fascinating “too much information” Twitter conversation.

Best Books Of May

Most-Viewed May Blog Posts

May Bestsellers

Here are the books that people bought on Amazon or Book Depository last month after seeing them on Read All The Things! (Don’t worry, the link-tracking robots only tell me which books people are buying, not who is buying them. That would be creepy.)

May Snapshots

1. You’ve probably noticed that the world is a mess. This section of the wrap up will be short. I spent May staying inside my house as much as possible. I baked tiny banana nut muffins, requested that my local library buy books by Black authors, and did yoga every day. The muffins turned out adequate. The books probably won't arrive for months. The yoga . . . is an experience. I’ve fallen on my head so many times that I’m surprised I don’t look like Quasimodo. I feel like Quasimodo.

It's so tiny!

2. The most interesting event of the month: It was briefly windy. During one of our regularly scheduled windstorms, a tree split in half. One half fell on a house. The other half was leaning ominously toward another house. The falling tree was so noisy (and involved so much dramatic screaming from the neighbors) that everyone on my street ended up outside. (Seriously, I thought someone had died. So much shouting!) It was 9 pm. We were out there with flashlights like, What are we supposed to do about this tree? The screechy neighbor ended up calling the fire department. I was skeptical that they’d help because don’t they have fires to extinguish? Turns out, they don’t. Getting the tree cut down required three firetrucks, the biggest ladders I’ve ever seen, chainsaws, very bright lights, a megaphone, and three hours. The event turned into an unexpected nighttime block party. Everyone sat around and watched firefighters chop a tree. We’re really, really bored in lockdown.

My nighttime photography skills are not good, but you get the idea.

Wayward Googlers

Here are a few amusing Google searches that led people to Read All The Things! last month. I’m sorry to the unfortunate souls who ended up here instead of finding what they were Googling for.

“Is buying Instagram followers illegal?” As far as I know, there are no laws about buying followers, but it is against Instagram’s terms of service. If you want to keep your account, don’t do it. 
“does percy die in gentlemans guide.” No. Though, some readers probably wish he did . . .

All The Things!

Number of unread books on my TBR shelf = 54 books.

I’m currently reading = It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

What did you do in May?


  1. I grew up with Judy Blume books, and cannot believe you have never read any of them. Forever by her was my most scandalous teen read. I love the pic of your niece. So cute!

  2. As a volunteer fireman, we have been called out a lot with down trees--we don't generally remove them, but try to make the scene safe and to make sure there are no ruptured gas or electrical lines and doors are not blocked, etc.

  3. Judy Blume was a mainstay of my childhood. I remember reading Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. All of Judy’s book made such an impact on me and are so tied to my childhood/early teens. I am now craving banana nut muffins.

  4. I read Are You There God when I was younger and it kind of traumatized me. I read it again as an adult and I was like, ok, this isn't so bad, it's definitely dated!

  5. I LOVE seeing Judy Blume on there....such fondness for her from my childhood. Looks like you had a great month in May. My library has a pretty decent selection in black authors. So I am lucky in that. Hope you get those books soon. Happy reading in June.

  6. I'm sorry Little Fires Everywhere didn't work out for you. Actually, your reaction to it is how I expected I'd react when I read it, but I ended up really liking it.
    A customer at the bookstore I worked at recommended Nomadland to me.

  7. Both Sarah Moss and Celeste Ng are on my shelves. I hope to check them out soon!

  8. Wow, I can't imagine growing up without Judy Blume! Although, I found Margaret embarrassing at the time I read it, Forever was a really important read for me as an older teen. You are in for a treat if you keep reading her, and she has some great adult books too. I highly recommend In the Unlikely Event.

  9. Maggie Stiefvater is one of those authors I keep meaning to read. I have heard such good things about her books. Everytime I see Little Fires Everywhere advertised on Hulu, I'm reminded I need to pull my copy off my shelf and read it. I am so glad you enjoyed Blume's book. I grew up reading her books (and Beverly Cleary's) and am enjoying reading them now with my daughter. We haven't taken on Margaret yet, but I'm sure we'll get to her. I hope you have a great month of June, AJ.

  10. I'm really glad you enjoyed your first Judy Blume book. If you want to try more of her childrens' books, I definitely recommend the Fudge series. I re-read those with my son a few years ago and they were just as funny the second time around for me and of course my son adored them.

  11. Sounds like you had a good reading month! I recently deleted Little Fires Everywhere and Are You There God? from my TBR, but now I'm think I maybe should put the Judy Blume one back... Hope you have a great June! :)

  12. Seven books is a great reading month - some mixed experiences it sounds like, but all in all a solid month. I have had Nomadland on my wishlist for a while now, so interesting to read your thoughts on that one.

    Happy reading and wonderful June to you!

  13. I've been meaning to read The Scorpio Races for a long time. I loved The Raven Cycle but I wasn't keen on Maggie's first series, so I'm interested to see if I'll enjoy it or not!

    Katie @ The Queen of Teen Fiction

  14. I loved every Judy BLume book I read, but Are You There, God? was one I wasn't allowed to read at school because of all the "body and sex issues." I went to Catholic school, so yeah. I felt the same way about Scorpia Races--excellent premise and I really enjpyed the writing and world.