Even though it’s been 11 years since I graduated from college (!!), September still has a nostalgic back-to-school theme for me. This makes me doubly excited about my reading life—it reminds me of preparing to head back to the classroom. Here are my books for September.
No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol
I seriously, seriously LOVED No One Tells You This and will be purchasing a copy for my personal library asap. The writing is absolutely gorgeous, and I learned so much from Glynnis MacNicol's interesting, compelling perspective. Even though I am different from the author in many ways, there were portions of Glynnis's reflections that resonated with me so much, especially those about the impact of social media and the struggle to ask for help. There was so much wisdom in this book; I took a lot of notes. I loved Glynnis's adventures and how they were juxtaposed with chapters about caring for the people in her life, including her ailing mother—and how, when viewed all at once, they comprised a challenging, wonderful, beautiful life. I can absolutely see myself reading this book again and again for years to come. I look forward to reading whatever Glynnis writes in the future!
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
** Spoiler Alert **
This was a fast-paced novel but it was ultimately very predictable and not at all believable. From the beginning it was easy to see that Erin’s husband was not to be trusted. There are so many loose ends and very little character development. The ending was so random, as was the insinuation that Erin would be helping her new bff/gangster Eddie with a “favor” to make up for the ways he helped her. Skip this one.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
While the content of this book is undeniably dark, Michelle McNamara’s writing is brilliant and her investigative journey is fascinating. I love what researcher Paul Haynes and investigative journalist Billy Jensen wrote about her: “Her writing, at once dogged and empathetic, works the specifics into a fluent narrative...Michelle always found the perfect balance between the typical extremes of the genre. She didn’t flinch from evoking key elements of the horror and yet avoided lurid overindulgence in grisly details...What her words evoked was the intrigue, the curiosity, the compulsion to solve a puzzle and resolve the soul-chilling blank spots.”
I admit that reading this book made me a little skittish because the reality of the Golden State Killer is a scary one, but it was so well-written, filled with grace and a respect for humanity, that I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend this book, especially for lovers of the likes of Serial and Making a Murderer.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
This book is good, but my expectations were a little off — I expected to devour Pachinko and instead it was hard for me to get into. I kept waiting to love it. The writing is beautiful and my eyes were opened to the plight of Koreans trying to survive in Japan after being displaced; the hardships they waged were so difficult. While I liked the main protagonist, Sunja, I didn’t think the rest of the characters were developed thoroughly — maybe that was the author’s intention, but I felt that once I started to get to know one of them, the story shifted to focus on someone else. Noa was an especially unlikable character in my mind; it became hard for me to read about him.
I am giving Pachinko three stars because I wonder if maybe my current season of life lent myself to not loving this book in the way I expected to. This won’t be going on my favorites list, but it may be a worthwhile title for many readers to enjoy.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before started a little slow + ended a bit too fast but I ended up really enjoying this book. It was easy to read, and I loved the way Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship weaved itself together. Reading this lighthearted book (that still had some depth to it) was a respite for me. I was initially caught off guard by the slightly abrupt ending, but then I realized the halted conclusion was setting the plot up for a sequel. I’m excited to read books #2 and #3 in this series, and I definitely want to watch the Netflix movie.
Educated by Tara Westover
Educated is a powerful, fascinating, beautifully written book. Tara Westover's story tugs on the reader's heartstrings, and her writing is so compelling and rich. I think this excerpt from page 304 of the book sums up the themes in Educated the best:
"Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn't a demon: it was me."
Highly, highly recommend this book! I will be purchasing a copy for my personal library.
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
Though The Ensemble is very well-written, I couldn’t quite get into it. Some of the musical terminology/lengthy passages about the quartet’s technical activities bored me, even though those sections were written beautifully. I also didn’t think the characters grew/developed much over time.
This is a book that I liked but never felt excited about picking up; it didn’t really compel me to keep reading. I really appreciate Aja Gabel’s writing and style, and I’d be happy to read another one of her books in the future — but The Ensemble just wasn’t for me.
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
I really enjoyed this book. It was so well-written and easy to read. It was pretty predictable but it was still heartfelt and rich. Recommend!
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Storied Life of A.J. Firky is, to a book-lover like me, exactly what a novel should be. This book had humor and depth in equal measure, and I wish I was friends with all of the characters in real life. I also wish Island Books was a place that actually existed so I could visit and pay my respects to that magical shop that became home to so many people. I feel on the precipice of weeping now that I’ve finished the book — in part because the ending was heart wrenching and also in part because I’m so sad that the book is over!
Highly, highly recommend!
Image via Glitter Guide