September 09, 2019

My Reading List and Thoughts on the Last 29(!) Books I've Read

I was planning to write an update on my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old List (one of the goals was to read 40 books), and once I got started, it was getting longer and longer as I listed the books. Then I decided that I'd better just make this its own post. Here, I can list the books I've read since I started this reading goal as well as share my thoughts on each one.

Because of this goal I've made to read 40 books before I turn 40, I've read more books in the past year than I have in over a decade, and that includes three books that were about 1,000 pages each! I started this list in January 2018, when I decided to start reading more.

Here is what I've read (links are affiliate links to Amazon):

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I didn't care for this book. Going into it, I actually didn't know anything about it except that it was a controversial read for school-age kids (which is what drew me in, honestly). I read it to count it as my goal of reading a classic novel, and I was excited to read it; but I just didn't find it very interesting. I wish I knew what all the fuss was about, because I wanted to like it!

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I was torn about what to think about this book. On one hand, I appreciate how the authors were trying to put clever twists in there; on the other hand, I guessed the big reveal from the very beginning. As soon as I'd decided that I was right, I was looking for all the clues to confirm my suspicions.

The description of the book strongly emphasizes to assume nothing, that nothing is as it seems. And I think that's why I was clued in right away. So, I will admit that it's a bit clever but I would have liked it more if I'd have been completely taken off-guard. That said, I read the book very quickly (two days), so I was definitely intrigued.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I LOVED this book! I think it's a must-read for just about anyone. There are versions for kids, parents, siblings, partners, etc. This will completely change your relationships (for the better) and help you understand the people you love and why they react the way they do to your way of showing you love them. I wrote more in depth about my thoughts on it in this blog post.

Running: A Love Story by Jen A. Miller

This was only mildly interesting to me because I couldn't relate to the author very much other than her love/hate relationship with running. A large part of the book is about bad/unhealthy romantic relationships she has--so I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped to. If the book had focused more on the running aspect, I'm sure I would have liked it much more.

Coreyography by Corey Feldman

I'm a sucker for a clever play on words, so I loved that this book was called Coreyography (it's an autobiography of Corey Feldman). However, the title makes the book sound kind of ridiculous, and I could understand why it would turn people off.


I think this is in the top three memoirs I've ever read. And I LOVE memoirs! I knew next to nothing about Corey Feldman when I started reading this, and I was never a fan of his (I didn't *dislike* him; I just didn't know who he was or watch his movies). When Jerry and I took the kids to Boston, we watched Stand By Me and I loved it! I was interested enough to look up the actors which is how I came across Corey's memoir.

It was absolutely fascinating to read. I don't enjoy many celebrity memoirs because they tend to focus on their fame and a lot of them are the typical rags-to-riches stories. Coreyography was very different because his focus was more on his personal thoughts and feelings about what was happening in his life rather than the details of the events. I liked that he was humble and didn't drop names just to show his fame.

It's an emotional book and I felt so bad for his lost and confusing childhood. He still holds a lot of resentment toward the whole Hollywood fame scene and when reading his memoir, it's very clear why he feels that way. It certainly changed my viewpoint of it. If you enjoy reading memoirs, this one is a must-read--whether you know who he is or not!

Chasing the Merry Go Round by Kelly Bargabos

This book was sent to me to review on my blog. As I state for any review, I am 100% honest when I review products, so if I don't love something, I will let the company (or in this case, publicist) know that I didn't care for it, and I ask if they would prefer that I don't review it or that I post my honest opinion. In this case, they suggested that I just not post a review.

My main complaint was that it was repetitive--I felt like I was reading the same things again and again. However, I LOVED that I could relate so much to the author about hyperempathy. I had no idea that hyperempathy was even a thing, but the way she described it was like turning on a lightbulb for me. While empathy is a great quality, having too much of a good thing is a burden. More than a burden.

I carry around others' feelings inside me to the point that it causes me severe anxiety and depression. I can walk into a crowded room and it's like I have a sixth sense--I can tell what people are feeling and I can read between the lines as clearly as if it was a book in front of my eyes. When someone is unhappy, I *feel* that and carry it inside of me and I want so badly to fix it and make them happy. While most people can let things go after a little (or long) while, I can't do that until it's all better.

Anyway, the author described hyperempathy so well that I was relieved that others have this same issue. I thought I was just plain crazy (well, crazier than I already am). So, while I didn't love the book, I did love reading about this problem.

The Gender Game (book one) by Bella Forrest -and-
The Gender Secret (book two) by Bella Forrest

I was drawn into this series because it was described as being for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. And honestly, it was fairly accurate. The Hunger Games is one of my favorite books of all time! And I admit, I am a sucker for a popular young adult series. They are easy and fast reads, even for me, and I really like the dystopian factor.

The Gender Game wasn't as good as The Hunger Games, in my opinion, but I did like the plot--The Gender Game is a dystopian novel where two cities are divided by a toxic river. One side is called Patrus, where men rule the city and females (women who choose to marry) must completely submit to their husband's demands and the city's rules; the other side is called Matrus, where the females are in charge and they remove any male children who they think show "undesirable" traits. By "remove" it is implied that they are sent to work in the mines, and their families may not see them again.

Anyway, like The Hunger Games and Divergent, the lead character is a female teen who has a mission to make life better for all. I liked The Gender Game enough to read the sequel immediately, but it was after that book that I decided to move on.

Working Stiff by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

I have always been fascinated with forensics, and in middle school, I was sure that I wanted to be a forensic pathologist someday (when I learned just how much school was involved, I opted not to go through with it). But I have always been fascinated with death--causes of death, exactly what happens to the body through different types of death, and what you can learn from a dead body. Anatomy was always my favorite subject, and I remember buying anatomy coloring books (meant for college students) when I was in elementary school because I liked it so much.

I read (and loved!) the book Stiff by Mary Roach years ago, which describes what happens to your body when you die by different methods. When I was in Powell's bookstore in Portland a couple of years ago, I came across Working Stiff and it looked similar. Working Stiff is a memoir of a chief medical examiner (forensic pathologist) in NYC. I bought it, and then it sat on my shelf for a while before I read it.

It was a great book! I thought it would be very much like Stiff, but the writing style was completely different and the book felt like more of a conversation with a friend than the informative Stiff. The author writes about different cases she's worked on, even including how she went about identifying the bodies from the World Trade Center devastation. Reading about that was very interesting, and I actually enjoyed this more than I did Stiff.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

My sister recommended that I read this book, and as soon as I saw that it was about life in rural Alaska, I was excited to get started on it. I've never had much interest in traveling, even to other parts of the world. I'm not a fan of beachy places or "heading south" for the winter. While Alaska is part of the United States, making it not very exotic, it's the one place I've always had a desire to visit someday. I have no idea where this desire came from, but I hope to go there one day.

While the plot centers around a disfunctional family who moves to a remote town in Alaska, I was mostly interested in the descriptions of what it's like to live in remote Alaska. About halfway through, I sort of lost interest in the slow-moving plot, and then it really lost my interest with the cheesy (predictable) ending.

This Naked Mind by Annie Grace

I read this in February of this year, after I made the decision to quit drinking for a year (still going strong--today is Day 252!). I wanted to like this book because it was so highly recommended by so many people, but I found it to be very preachy, particularly in the second half, and also repetitive. I did learn a few things and it confirmed that I'd really like to quit drinking for a year just to see what happens, but it was the preachiness that lost me.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

As you know, I have a soft spot in my heart for mental illness/health. This book is about a woman who, seemingly out of nowhere, shoots her husband five times in the face and then just goes completely silent, refusing to speak a word. She is institutionalized and a criminal psychotherapist is determined to find out her story and what happened. If you like psychological thrillers with twists and turns, you'd probably like this book. I enjoyed it!

Vox by Christina Dalcher

This book caught my eye because of its dystopian-fiction genre, and I thought the plot was unique. By law, women are only allowed to speak 100 words per day--and it is enforced by a wristband that counts down their words and will deliver a series of shocks to their bodies if they go over 100 words.

Throughout the day, the counter keeps track of the number of words spoken and the number reduces with each word. The wristbands are even put on female children, who are taught that they need to speak as little as possible.

Women aren't allowed to hold jobs or read or write. Their voices are taken away with ridiculous laws. The protagonist is a woman who (obviously) hates the law and is given an opportunity to do some work for the government; in return, she'll be allowed some privileges. She uses this to try to change the law and give women voices again.

I really enjoyed this book until the very end, when I felt like the ending was anticlimactic and finished abruptly. It was almost as if the author was given two hours to write the ending, and that's what was thrown together. Other than that, though, I really liked the book!

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

A mystery/thriller book that I really enjoyed because I love anything having to do with mental illness. I won't get into the plot too much, because I don't want to spoil anything, but I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers and plot twists.

Contaminated by Em Garner

I was just about to publish this list when I realized that I left this book off--I had forgotten about it! This is another dystopian teen thriller/sci-fi novel (with a female protagonist). A diet company's product caused some sort of virus in people that turned them into an odd zombie-like state. Odd, but interesting and a fun read!

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

I really liked this book, which is interesting because I couldn't relate to it at all. It's not a spoiler in saying that this is about a relationship that seems perfect on the outside but is abusive in many ways in secret. It made me angry, frustrated, and anxious--but in a way that makes a book worth reading. Like watching a scary movie, I love feeling nervous and wondering what's going to happen next! This was a good one. I'm not sure what else to say about it.

An Ember in the Ashes (book one) by Sabaa Tahir
A Torch Against the Night (book two) by Sabaa Tahir

This series (there is a third book, but I haven't read it because it wasn't yet available when I finished the second book) was recommended to me by my friend Sarah, who is a middle school science teacher. She said it was a very popular book with her students, and since I love young adult dystopian novels, I gave it a try. I really liked this! I don't feel that it was too "young adult" as I think that adults would enjoy it just as much. It was definitely a page-turner for me, and I flew through it; then immediately started the next one.

Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic

I've always been fascinated with addiction (I'm pretty sure I've watched every episode of Intervention!) but I was especially interested in reading memoirs of people who'd quit drinking once I made the decision to quit drinking for a year--and that is how I came across this book.

I loved the descriptive writing style of this book! It was very raw and honest. I liked reading her descriptions of how she used to romanticize alcohol, because I think that's something that so many people do (I certainly did, which was the hardest part about quitting drinking).

The only thing I didn't like about this book was that between chapters, she writes several pages about relapse fantasies, some of which are very "out there". I skimmed those as I found it odd and uninteresting--kind of like reading about someone someone else's dream.

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

I really loved this memoir of becoming sober as well. While I couldn't relate to her story nearly as much as others that I've read, I liked reading her thoughts when she was in the depths of her alcoholism. I read about the lies she told herself and others, and how she was able to manipulate people and situations.

It was interested to read about how she had every intention of cutting down or quitting but how it would just not work. It reminded me a lot of food addiction, actually--the promises to yourself about "doing good" the next day, and then it doesn't happen, and the shame you feel for it, etc.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Holy smokes. I thought that marathons were tough. And then I learned about ultramarathons, and I thought those were beyond tough. And then I learned about the CRAZY 3100-mile foot race in NYC, and my mind nearly exploded.

And THEN... I read Into Thin Air, and I was taken to a whole other dimension of crazy people doing crazy things with their bodies. "Climbing Mt. Everest" seemed cliché to me as far as life goals (even the "scary" movies about it make it look--well, at least do-able), and I now I know that it's because I didn't know anything about just how hard it actually is.

After reading this book, you could not pay me enough money to attempt it--not a million dollars, not 10 millions dollars. I do not understand why anyone would have the desire to do it! That said, this book was fascinating to read. It made me appreciate mountain climbing a million times more than before. But I also realized just how commercialized it is now (and has become, especially since the publication of this book), and it's kind of sad that it's not as respected as it once was.

This book took a while to get into--at first, I was wondering why it got such good reviews, because I was bored. But once you get to the action, it's fascinating and well worth the read.

Call Me Tuesday by Leigh Byrne

Confession: I have a morbid fascination with reading memoirs about childhood abuse and how the authors overcome horrible upbringings. I think this all started when I read A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer after seeing him on Oprah. I (thankfully) didn't experience any abuse when I was a child, and when I first learned of things like this happening to real kids, it was horrifying. And ever since then, I am pulled toward these memoirs.

Keri: The Early Years by Kat Ward

Another book like the above. A childhood abuse story (this one has several parts; I only read the first one, and then I needed something else to read that was lighter and fun. Maybe someday I'll read the others.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Way way way too many things happening in this book. I’m still not even sure about what I read. Too many characters to keep track of, too many points of view, too many sub-plots. Certainly, way too many unnecessary bits that I thought would be important later on, only to find out they just didn’t fit in. There was no climax or even a big reveal at the end. And at the end, half of the sub-plots were never resolved, so I have no idea what happened. This was given good reviews on Goodreads, so I am in the minority on this one.

Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

I was browsing through my library's digital website one night trying to find a book to read, and this one caught my eye. I love true crime and this was a memoir of an FBI agent who worked in forensics (serial killers, in particular). True crime + memoir = great read for me!

Coincidentally, when I was about halfway through the book, Jerry and I started watching a show on TV called Mindhunter. I didn't realize it until I kept seeing the similarities between the book and the show that the show is actually based on the book. Once I realized that, I was very excited to keep reading and keep watching. I didn't want to watch the show further than I'd read, so I was reading the book quickly in order to stay ahead. Jerry didn't read the book, but he really loves the show.

Anyway, if you're into true crime, this is a must-read memoir!

The Pillars of the Earth (book one) by Ken Follett
World Without End (book two) by Ken Follett
A Column of Fire (book three) by Ken Follett

I saved my very favorites for last. I LOVE The Pillars of the Earth and its sequel World Without End. (I did not care for A Column of Fire, however--so the following is about the first two). I actually read these books way back in 2009 or 2010-ish (when Oprah featured The Pillars of the Earth in her book club).

It took me about a year to read The Pillars because it was a very intimidating 1,000+ pages and I'm a slow reader. Also, my kids were very little and I just didn't have much time for reading. However, once I finished Pillars, I loved it so much that I actually flew through World Without End in just three weeks. I neglected my housework, the work I was doing for a gynecologist from home, and probably even my kids in order to glue my eyes to the pages of World Without End.

These books have a little of everything: drama, romance, war, thrill, history, violence... and I felt all the emotions: happy, angry, sad, hopeful, fascinated, romantic, thrilled, and just plain struck to the core of my being from reading these books. I was so sad to finish reading them a few weeks ago that I haven't been able to get interested in any other books (although I'm slogging through Born to Run right now).

The Pillars takes place in the 1100's and I adored reading about what life was like back then from the viewpoints of all classes of people (not just the royalty that a lot of historical books are written about). It made me want to wear cloaks and drink watered ale and eat loaves of bread and meager stew for breakfast lunch and dinner. I wanted to visit cathedrals to study the structure and awe at the building materials. It made me want to attend mass at a monastery as well as a fleece fair to check out the latest wool.

Read these books (or at least The Pillars of the Earth). You won't be sorry! The once-intimidating 1,000+ pages just weren't enough.

Finally, I'm currently reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I have been wanting to read this for nearly a decade, because it's basically a right of passage for anyone who calls himself a runner. I've attempted it several times, but just wasn't able to get interested. However, there is something different about reading it on my Kindle that is actually making me look forward to reading it. Nothing like The Pillars, but it's been a good read so far. I think I'll actually finish it this time! It's helping me get excited about running again (which is why I chose now to read it).

I can't write about books now without raving about my Kindle Paperwhite. I've written about it before, but I love it so much that I need to write about it again. For years, my sister talked about the Kindle Paperwhite and that I should get one; but I didn't understand what the big deal was. I have an iPad Mini, and I can download books there to read. Also, I was old-fashioned and just liked having the actual hard copy of a book to hold. I look at the computer screen way more than I want to, and I see my phone's screen several times a day. The last thing I wanted was another screen to look at!

However, borrowing actual books from the library has actually become much less convenient than "checking out" electronic books from the library. With ebooks, I can have it instantly; I don't have to wait for the library to open, drive there, check it out, and then remember to return it on time. So, I started downloading books to my iPad Mini.

This worked out fine with the exception of a couple of things: 1) The iPad Mini is heavy. It doesn't seem like it would be a big deal, but my hands and wrists were hurting so badly from carpal tunnel syndrome that I hated holding anything heavy. 2) I couldn't see the screen in the daylight, so reading outside was nearly impossible. It's like my phone--the glare just makes it hard to see.

My sister mentioned the Kindle Paperwhite again, so I started looking into it to see what was so "special" about it versus my iPad Mini. I ended up getting a really good deal on it, so I bought it and I hoped it would solve those issues for me.

It FAR succeeded my expectations! I am a true convert--I much prefer ebooks to hard copies now. My Kindle Paperwhite is actually LIGHTER and SMALLER than the paperback version of most books. I can hold it up while I'm lying in bed on my back and my hands don't get painful or numb.

Also, you know how when you're reading a book and you're at the beginning or end of it, where there is a period of time that it's awkward to hold? One side has a few hundred pages and the other has a dozen, and it just feels uncomfortable to hold.

And the best part is that I can use it outside and see it just as well as I can see a paperback! The background of it actually makes it look like you're reading a paperback book.

I can download books from my library and have them sent to my Kindle immediately, so there is no need to purchase books in order to read on it (assuming your library system has a digital library). Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can get Amazon's "First Reads" for FREE--each month, you are able to choose from about 5-6 books (early access) and download one for free to keep! You don't have to pay for this if you already have Amazon Prime.

The Kindle Paperwhite that I have is the 10th generation and holds 8 gigs of storage--that equates to roughly 6,000 books! I will never even come close to filling it up in my lifetime.

Anyway, I know I am raving on and on, and I sound like a huge commercial for the Kindle Paperwhite... but I promise you that I am not promoting it for any reason other than that I love love love mine. (If you buy one through my link, then I may get an affiliate percentage, but that is not at all the reason I am promoting it. However, if you're going to buy one anyway, it'd be awesome if you chose to use my link: Kindle Paperwhite 10th Edition)

If it wasn't for the Kindle Paperwhite, I most certainly would not have read 27 books since January 2018. That may not sound like a lot to some of you, but I was averaging probably one book a YEAR until I made this goal to read more.

And some of these books have gotten me excited to read more. (Oh! I also love how small my Kindle Paperwhite is--it fits inside my very small purse, so I can bring it to doctors' waiting rooms, therapy appointment waits, etc.) Just yesterday, I brought it to Eli's baseball game to read while his team warmed up.

For my birthday, Jerry bought me the cutest cover ever for my Kindle. Isn't it perfect for me? (Here is the link for that as well--there are lots of designs, not just the cats)

SOOOOO, I know this was an uber long post, but if I wait until there are 40 books on my list, it's going to be even longer. Have you all read anything good lately? Do you use a Kindle Paperwhite? Most importantly...

What are your top three very favorite books?

(Also, if you're interested, you're can find me on Goodreads here. I don't keep up with it like I'd like to, though.)


  1. I read "The Pillars of the Earth" because you had recommended it several times, and it sounded good. It was in fact very good! I haven't gotten the sequel yet...some of the reviews talk about too many rape scenes and such, and I haven't decided about it. I'm not that sensitive, but I can't decide what level the reviews are talking about. I'll probably get it eventually.

    1. I was concerned about that, too, because I was thinking of recommending it to my dad. I didn't remember much from the first time I read it, so I read the reviews before reading it again and I was kind of surprised. After reading it the second time (I just finished it recently) I honestly don't understand the people who said there are too many rape scenes. I *think* I recall one, but it wasn't horrible enough for me to remember any details about it. The sequel certainly isn't any worse than Pillars in that regard!

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  3. I have way too many favourite books to pick a top 3 but I HIGHLY recommend "Educated" by Tara Westover if you like books about overcoming childhood abuse.

    I couldn't put it down and completely dropped the ball on all my real life responsibilities because it was so engrossing.

    1. I agree that this was an incredible book. It seems nearly unbelievable in today's society, but I grew up in a rural area and I can totally see how some families could become so insular that bizarre behavior becomes normalized.

  4. I was disappointed in The Wife Between Us too because since my name is Vanessa, I knew all the nicknames. It wasn't awful, I just saw the whole thing coming immediately.

  5. I have to agree with your opinion of Catcher in the Rye. While I haven't read that one in particular, I have tried any number of classic books and have never really liked any of them.

    I have been working on one book series since January of this year, listening to the audiobooks. The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan. Listened to straight through, it would be over 17 days. I listen while in the car, and for a half hour each night, at a minimum. I'm about halfway through the final book in the series right now. It has been an adventure. I love these books, but reading or listening all the way through the series is a major commitment.

    If you enjoy some of the more young adult type books, you might like the Tomorrow series, by John Marsden, which is set in Australia. It is a series, but the books are relatively short and fast reads.

    Patricia Wrede is a favorite author of mine too. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles are children's books, but are some of my all time favorites that I re-read regularly. Some of her other books are great too!

  6. I didn't care much for the "classic" novels when required to read them for high school or college. I didn't have enough life experience to understand some of the themes of loss and conflict. But as an adult, I'm trying to read one classic a year. Two years ago it was Anna Karenina - which was a tough read, and frankly didn't end that well for poor Anna. Last year it was The Great Gatsby which I ended up loving. This year, I'm thinking maybe Moby Dick. But if I was going to recommend a couple of books . . . I love A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling. Paddle to the Sea is technically a kids book, but it's amazing - but not on the Kindle. Check out the book because the illustrations are fabulous!

  7. I LOVE to read! But I mostly enjoy chick lit and easy light reads. I sometimes feel judged for always having a romance novel in my hand lol. But at the end of the day, after working all day, making dinner, cleaning the house, I just want to sit down and relax with your typical cheesy romance story ;)

    So that being said, if you want to read any chick lit, my absolute favorite is probably the Confessions of a Shopaholic series. The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is also a great one that includes mystery too! And anything by Jennifer Probst. Love her books!

    This is a great list! I am curious to check out The Pillars of the Earth because of the reviews but I'm also worried at how long it would take me at 1,000+ pages! Haha

  8. The Woman in the Window is up next for me! I made a goal this year to read at least 12 books. I'm on my 5th book right now... I have two small children and a full time job so I don't always get to read but I want to get back into it. I used to always have a book with me. I recommend A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown. It's an autobiography that I read probably 10 years ago but it has stuck with me all this time and I think about it often. You mentioned being a sucker for people that overcame child abuse and this one has that and more!

  9. Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed this post :) It's not a memoir, but "Livia Lone" by Barry Eisler is an incredibly well-written book about a woman overcoming childhood abuse and taking revenge on everyone who abused her. It's dark and graphic, but you root for her the whole time and the payoff is very satisfying. Continued happy reading to you, Katie!

  10. Love, love, love this! Thank you so much for sharing your list. I can't wait to add some of these to my own reading list!

  11. I think we found the same recommendation lists! Woman in the Window, Vox, The Silent Patient, and The Great Alone all got checked off my reading list. You should check out No Exit by Taylor Adams (thriller), Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman (starts with someone digging a grave), and Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus (YA thriller). I liked them!

  12. Kristin Hannah's book The Nightingale, also Jane Kirkpatrick's book All together in one place. Two books that draw you into the story and make you feel like you are there.

  13. I just read The Lying Game by Ruth Ware, great book if you like mystery type but also a quick read!


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