Tuesday, October 31, 2023


Now, why in the world did I Booo! in my title? I didn't read anything remotely ghosty or scary during the month of October. 

1. Scrappy Little Nobody - Anna Kendrick. Memoir. Audiobook.

2. The Man Who Loved Books - Jean Fritz and Trina Schart Hyman. Juvenile Nonfiction.

3. The Lager Queen of Minnesota - J. Ryan Stradahl. Novel. Reread. Book group book.

4. Happiness Falls - Angie Kim. Novel.

5. Sharp - Michelle Dean. Nonfiction. Audiobook.


I was only familiar with Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect and that song, Cups. Now I want to immerse myself in her filmography, particularly Into the Woods and Up In the Air.

The Man Who Loved Books was a treasure of a read. St. Columba of Ireland loves books, and since this takes place long before the printing press, he copies by hand any new book he comes across. This gets him into some trouble, and he banishes himself from Ireland. His legend is presented like an illuminated text (Trina Schart Hyman, the illustrator is styled the "illuminator"). Her illustrations are beautifully detailed and often humorous, and the legend is relayed to readers by Jean Fritz with a good dash of Irish swagger. Although this book can be found in the children's department, people of all ages should check it out. The Man Who Loved Books turned out to be my favorite read for October.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota was just as enjoyable this time around as it was the first. J. Ryan Stradahl, please hurry up and write another novel. Or a memoir. Or anything. Ever since Kitchens of the Midwest, I've been a big fan of yours. When I saw you interviewed on KCTV5 a few years ago, I alternated between beaming at the television and squeeeing like a fangirl.

Happiness Falls is a suspense novel set during the 2020 pandemic. The father of a family goes missing, and the only witness is his 14-year-old autistic son, Eugene, who shows up alone at the family home, agitated and with blood on his clothing. The novel is narrated by Eugene's older sister, Mia, who tries to figure it all out while staying one step ahead of a police detective named Janus, who seems determined to pin a crime on Eugene. Like Mia, the novel is fiercely intelligent and often seems all over the place, posing challenging philosophical questions as well as examining every possible scenario about the father's disappearance. Filtered through Mia, Happiness Falls often feels as if it's struggling for air. It can be a frustrating reading experience, but I can't stop thinking about it and I would like to read Angie Kim's first novel, Miracle Creek.

Sharp features portraits of ten women -- Dorothy Parker, Hannah Arendt, Rebecca West, Mary McCarthy, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Pauline Kael, Janet Malcolm and Renata Adler with an intriguing cameo of Zora Neale Hurston -- who made their reputations as writers and critics. Sometimes their lives intersected. Occasionally, they were friends, or didn't like one another. Since I really enjoy 20th century literary gossip, this was my cup of tea. Except for the chapter about Renata Adler, which I disliked. It seemed as if Michelle Dean also disliked Adler, and she was passing the punishment on to the readers. Adler's chapter was mercifully short, thank God. Ouch. Come to think of it, maybe *that* was my scary October moment.

Goodbye October and hello to Nonfiction November! I'm building a stack that is engrossing but probably overly ambitious.

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