In Celebration of National Book Month

Missing from the photo – March’s book (I read a library copy) and June’s book (Another library copy, though I plan to buy it and add it to my almost-full bookcase.)

October.

Time for pumpkin-flavored everything it seems. 

Time for small bite-sized candy bars. 

And time to talk about books.

Because October is also National Book Month.

I tried to think about how to commemorate the month. So in honor of National Book Month, I’m taking a look back at the books I have read during 2021. I’m sharing one stand-out book from each month. Maybe you’ll find yourself adding to your “want-to-read” list. 

Or maybe you’ll find yourself adding to your holiday gift list. Because October also means the holiday season is just around the corner.

January:

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

I’ve read this book more than once. It’s that good. From a reader’s standpoint, and a writer’s standpoint, I’m just in awe.

February:

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

A true test that I really enjoyed a book? When I order my own copy after reading a library copy. And that’s what happened with this novel. I just found myself really caring for these characters. And, it’s another good reminder that people are often not what they seem at first glance. You can’t know what someone is really dealing with just by looking at them.

March:

How to Astronaut: An Insider’s Guide to Leaving Planet Earth by Terry Virts

For most of my childhood, actually until my junior year of high school, my career goal was to become an astronaut. And all these years later, I’m still incredibly curious and interested in learning about astronauts’ lives. This isn’t a dry memoir at all. You’ll find lots of humor and fun observations.  

April:

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Such a delight to read about these two authors and go along on this journey with them. This was my first novel by Ms. Henry, but certainly not my last. (People We Meet on Vacation was published in May and is on my ever-growing want-to-read list.)

May:

Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas by Alexi Pappas

I was reading a copy of Bravey I had borrowed from the library. But, I found I was putting sticky notes on so many pages, that I ordered my own copy before I had even finished reading this powerful memoir. Honest, raw, touching. 

June:

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Mixed within this sweet, original love story are some serious topics – emotional abuse, wrongful incarceration. It’s a story I didn’t want to end. And now I’ve added Ms. O’Leary’s other novels (The Switch, The Road Trip) onto my want-to-read list.

July:

Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness: How to Stay Sane and Live One Step Ahead of Your Symptoms by Ilana Jacqueline

When a patient is given a chronic illness diagnosis, they should also be given this book. It’s an important, valuable resource that would have been so helpful when I first became ill.

August:

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Wow! This book is everything — heartbreaking, funny, touching, devastating, enlightening. I didn’t realize how little I knew about South Africa and Apartheid. Just an incredible read. 

September:

Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage by Anne Lamott

There is no one quite like Anne Lamott. It’s that rare combination of what she says and how she says it. She writes with such warmth and honesty about the big things (climate change) and the small things (like pants not fitting).

October:

I’m still reading the first book of October. Stay tuned!

Readers, have you read any books that blew you away? That touched you? That made you smile? That you can’t stop telling your friends about? Please, do share. 

Why I Read

I bought myself a present. The print you see in the above picture created by one of my favorite novelists, Katherine Center.

I love this quote, because I agree whole-heartedly.

There are so many reasons to read. And those are the same reasons I write.

This week, I thought I’d take inspiration from Ms. Center and share a book I have read for each of these statements.

Read for Fun.

This one is easy. I recently finished Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. The pages flew by as I read this fun, delightful novel. And now I want to read more of Abbi Waxman’s books.

Read for Pleasure.

Beach Read by Emily Henry was pure pleasure. Just one of those novels I disappeared into and stayed up later than I probably should have just to read one more chapter.

Read for Comfort.

A disclaimer – one of my essays is published in The Things We Don’t Say: An Anthology of Chronic Illness Truths. What most strikes me about this valuable anthology is the universality of the feelings written about. The medical conditions may be different, but the emotions are the same. And it is so comforting to know there are others out there who “get it.”

Read for Wisdom.

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird may be one of the most popular books about writing. It’s a book I have read multiple times, and each time I find some new nugget, something that strikes my fancy and warrants a sticky note. 

Read for Insight.

Michelle Obama’s Becoming. Honest, moving, inspiring. And what makes it even more special is that one of my best friends gave me this book about one of the best role models out there. 

Read for Hope.

I discovered Danea Horn’s Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping with Stress of Illness in what can only be described as an act of serendipity. I have read this important book more than once. It is a book that I highly recommend to anyone living with a chronic illness.

Read for Adventure.

Scott Kelly’s memoir, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery is a true tale of adventure. It’s highly unlikely I’ll travel into space, let alone live onboard the International Space Station for one year. Yet, by reading Mr. Kelly’s memoir I could get a sense of what it would be like to be that far away from planet Earth.

Read for Laughs.

Matilda by Roald Dahl has a special place in my heart. I always read it to my fourth graders – a little bit after lunch each day. Once we finished the novel, we’d watch the Danny DeVito film. (A touching side note – my students thought I resembled Miss Honey. I took it as a sweet compliment.) And I’m so glad my son enjoys it too. We’ve read this book many times. And we laugh at all the same parts.

Read for Possibilities.

Kicking in the Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts, and Quotes to Help You Break Through Your Blocks and Reach Your Writing Goals by Barbara Abercrombie should be on every writer’s desk. So many great prompts to use for 5-minute writing exercises. And I never know when I start writing which of those prompts, which of those “exercises,” will actually be the seed for a whole new essay.

Read for Joy.

There is a new edition out, with a beautiful cover, for Katherine Center’s Everyone is Beautiful. It was the first novel I read by Ms. Center. It was one of the few books I can say had me hooked from the first sentence. And I knew after reading this book, I would read everything and anything else this author wrote.