by Liane Moriarty, 2014
You know, as much as I complain about having read popular books because they tend to end up being not so great, every once in awhile I read an immensely popular book, simply for the fact that it’s popular, and I’m rewarded. Well, in this case it’s more that I wanted to watch the HBO adaptation with Alexander Skarsgard, but hey, the motive isn’t important. What’s important is that I expected to read a trashy, poorly written book with a predictable plot and instead found a captivating mystery with sharp commentary on parenthood and suburban life. I guess you can be popular and smart after all.
by Brian Tracy, 2001
Eat That Frog! is one of those self-help type books I’ve encountered on the productivity/start-your-own-business websites I peruse. It’s been touted as a great instruction manual for learning how to get off your ass and start getting things done, and so I added it to my list of books that I should probably read. When a recent water shut-off at my apartment building forced me out for a day, I found myself browsing the shelves of a bookstore, where I grabbed this book and promptly read it cover to cover. It’s a slim volume and an easy read and although I personally didn’t learn a whole lot new from it, I can see why people find it valuable.
by Lemony Snicket, 2001
Things are starting to heat up for the Baudelaires! We’re still using the same formula as ever: the siblings are placed in the care of some well-meaning but less than apt adult, Count Olaf shows up in a new disguise, and the orphans end up having to save themselves. In this case, however, an entire village fails the three, as the moniker “It takes a village to raise a child” is put to the test in their new home, the Village of Fowl Devotees. Or, if you will, VFD.
by Paul Beatty, 2015
Ah, the library. What’s so great about the library nowadays is that you can put any ebook on hold and eventually it’ll come to you without you having to lift a finger. What’s not so great about the library is that, for some reason, all of your ebooks tend to come in at once and you find yourself speed reading them before they’re yanked from your account. Such was the case with The Sellout which, despite having a long wait time, became available to me shortly after I received The Nix, meaning that after reading that 600+ page tome, I had little time to devote to this Booker Prize winner and even less time to spend appreciating it. For I think there is probably some level of genius in this novel, however unable I was to connect with it.
by Nathan Hill, 2016
I am not sure what I expected of The Nix, but wow, was this more than I ever thought it could be. This is a prime example of exactly the sort of multi-generational, multi-viewpoint story I love. What starts as the story of mediocre Samuel Andresen-Anderson and his unfulfilling life as a would-be-author-cum-teacher becomes the sweeping tale of Samuel’s mother, her college compatriots, his grandfather, the neighbors Samuel grew up with, and the friends he makes in an online role-playing game. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt utterly absorbed by a story, eager to get back to it at every possible chance, but that is exactly how I felt about The Nix.
by Meredith Russo, 2016
I kind of hate fairy tales. Not the Brothers Grimm sort, which are actually quite gruesome and only vaguely resemble the stories we were told as kids, and not even really the Disney sort, because I can’t lie that, as much as it rankles my inner feminist, I still enjoyed Beauty and the Beast. No, I mean those stories where someone with a “problem” – they have a string of failed relationships, they are clumsy, they (gasp!) have curly hair and glasses – overcomes said “problem” to live happily ever after. I realize there is some comfort in knowing that we are all lovable despite our differences, but this sort of trite plot and predictable ending are far from new and far from interesting.
by Chris Guillebeau, 2012
It’s been something of a goal of mine to start my own business. While I’m typically wary of books that promise to show you how easy and affordable it is and all you need is a can-do spirit and a little web know-how, The $100 Startup was featured in an ebook sale for $1.99 and I figured, why not? I know Chris Guillebeau has been touted as one of those serial entrepreneurs who flies all around the world, having created businesses that support his lifestyle, and I read a few of the websites that have spoken highly of him in the past. I wish I could say this book surpassed my expectations of being a glossed over DIY manual for would-be self-employed business owners, but it didn’t. It was really what I was expecting it to be, which is to say, containing not much that I didn’t already know.