Happy Fall! I’m so excited that summer is almost over (I know, controversial opinion – but I’m from Maine and I love the cold.) Chilly fall days are perfect for curling up with a fuzzy blanket, a good book, and a cup of tea. Of course, summer is also a great time to sit outside and read while a nice breeze rustles the pages. You’ll find I can make any season into an excuse to read.
Below are the books I read in August. As always, there’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction, although no young adult fiction this month.
Year of Yes by: Shonda Rhimes
Still Foolin’ ‘Em by: Billy Crystal*
Lisey’s Story by: Stephen King
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by: Samantha Irby
On Tyranny by: Timothy Snyder
Alexander Hamilton by: Ron Chernow
Big Magic by: Elizabeth Gilbert
Orphan Train by: Christina Baker Kline
As You Like It by: William Shakespeare
Stitches by: Anne Lamott
The Shack by: William Paul Young
We Were Eight Years in Power by: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Argo by: Antonio Mendez*
An African American and LatinX History of the United States by: Paul Ortiz
The Girl Who Smiled Beads by: Clemantine Wamariya
Into the Water by: Paula Hawkins
*I listened to the audio book.
Keep scrolling for my spoiler-free thoughts on all the books I read in August.
I am a fan of Shondaland. I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy since the beginning and I’m catching up on Scandal. As far as I’m concerned, Shonda Rhimes is the definition of a boss-lady. Her book did not disappoint. Shonda chronicles how she faces her fears for a year by saying yes to all the things that scare her, and I was left stunned by how much she accomplishes in a year. It’s a great inspirational pick-me-up and Shonda is hilarious. 5/5 stars.
Ok, you have to listen to the audio book version of this book. It’s basically a couple hours of Billy Crystal stand up and its heartfelt and hilarious (and also I just love his voice.) 5/5 stars.
Stephen King is known for his use of colloquial language and building worlds and ideas around that language. This book does that more than most, and at the start it can be a little hard to get into. You have to keep track of all these new terms, like “bool,” “blood bool,” and “Boo-Ya Moon.” But as you read, and you let King’s writing evoke all the emotions it’s meant to evoke, you’ll slip into the story and it will all make sense. 4/5 stars.
Samantha Irby is laugh-out-loud funny, and I don’t often laugh out loud when I’m reading a book, mostly because it makes you THAT person on the bus. But she’s so funny, with this fantastic “no more fucks to give” attitude and she’s brutally honest about relationships and feminism and sex and bodies (including bodies with disabilities.) Her writing is sooooo refreshing (and also she’s fun to follow on Instagram.) 5/5 stars.
This is a short book and it contains a series of short lessons or things to do in order to keep a democratic society from slipping into a tyrannical one. It’s an accessible how-to pamphlet, and worth a read if you’re a bit scared about where our country is headed. 4/5 stars.
I know, I’m behind, all right?! I LOVE Lin Manuel Miranda and his musical, but I hadn’t made it to the source material yet. And I won’t pretend I wasn’t daunted by an 800 page biography of the first Treasury Secretary. Have I mentioned how much I hate economics? And how I’m only just getting into reading non-fiction for fun? But Chernow writes a stunning historical biography. He flawlessly weaves together hundreds of primary and secondary sources, giving voice to different perspectives (like Eliza’s) where possible. I understand, now, how Lin Manuel read this and saw a story people would pay to see performed. Chernow’s writing reads like a beautiful, complex movie. 5/5 stars.
Most books about writing make me cringe a bit. They’re repetitive and self-aggrandizing and rarely provide helpful advice. Elizabeth Gilbert’s book joins the few that are actually great, mostly because she doesn’t tell you how to write, but how to recognize creativity and inspiration and use it to fuel you. 4/5 stars.
So I don’t know about y’all, but I certainly didn’t know that orphans in New York in the early 1900s were just shipped across the country on a train and handed over to whoever needed a servant or, if they were lucky, genuinely wanted to adopt a child. This book fictionalizes that history, and draws parallels between the orphan trains and the modern-day foster care system. It’s a beautiful, thought-provoking book. 5/5 stars.
My first ever play that I performed was As You Like It. We had to audition with the “all the world’s a stage” monologue, and I ended up playing Duke Senior (when you’re twelve, gender-blind casting is a more widely accepted thing.) Revisiting the play after ten years was wonderfully nostalgic. I love Shakespeare in general, but it was also so cool to read all of my old lines and remember how my knees quaked when I had to say them on stage. 4/5 stars.
I’m still working through all of Anne Lamott’s work. This book is quite short, and it uses the metaphor of stitching something together (be it a quilt or clothes) to explain how faith can knit together different parts of your life and bring you healing and grace. 4/5 stars.
I saw this movie a little over a year ago, mostly because I loved the idea of Octavia Spencer as God. The book reads more like an extended sermon than a work of fiction, but there were some truly amazing lines that made me think about my relationship with faith and the idea of God. 4/5 stars.
I first read (and got to speak to!) Ta-Nehisi Coates 3 years ago when I was doing a research fellowship focused on race at Tufts. I read Between the World and Me and adored his writing. In the Trump Era this book, which is a collection of essays with additional commentary that Coates wrote over the eight years of Obama’s presidency, should be required reading for everyone high school age and up. 5/5 stars.
I actually haven’t seen this movie, though I’ve heard good things. I am, however, fascinated by the intelligence community and covert operations. This book details an elaborate, undercover plan to extract US diplomats from Iran during the hostage crisis in the 1970s. It’s quite a perspective on what goes on behind the curtain of American government. 4/5 stars.
I love reading about little-known parts of history, or the stories that are often ignored or left out of history books. This book traces US history from the Revolutionary War to present, focusing a lot on labor struggles, by highlighting the often-overlooked contributions of African Americans and LatinX people. 5/5 stars.
I’ve read a lot of books (some straight accounts and some memoirs) about the Rwandan Genocide. It was a large part of my major (though that’s less of an excuse now that I’m out of school.) Clemantine Wamariya’s account of her flight from Rwanda and her years spend criss-crossing southeastern Africa, living in refugee camps and relying on the generosity of others, only to make it to the US and face the obstacles of assimilation, is one of the best I’ve read. If you liked Ishmael Beah’s Long Way Gone, you will like this. 5/5 stars.
I am fascinated by Paula Hawkins’ narrative structure (multiple perspectives over multiple time periods) which I first read in Girl on the Train and now in this book. She executes it flawlessly, but it is far from easy. This is a gripping thriller (I read it in a day, when I should have been doing many other things) but it is also instructional for anyone who is writing a book. 5/5 stars.
Wanna see what I read last month? Check out What I Read This Month (July)!