December 2021

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi (Length: 280 pages).   I listened to this book and I definitely recommend it as an audibook, as it’s read by the author himself. This is a memoir written by one of the first black fine dining chefs in America, who also happened to be on Top Chef. I’m a fan of chef memoirs anyway, but this particular book showcases a very engaging writing style, and I found Kwame’s journey from the Bronx, to Nigeria, to drug dealing at a private school, to the Culinary Institute of America, then to Top Chef and opening a high-end restaurant in Washington DC to be truly captivating. This book held my interest every minute, and for an audibook and my particular sensibilities, that’s tough to do.

Book #2:

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny (Length: 440 pages).  This is Book 17 in the Inspector Gamache series (my favorite mystery series of all time!), and I really enjoyed this one. This novel is about a controversial doctor who preaches eugenics/mandatory euthanasia of the elderly and those with genetic defects as a means of controlling disease in a pandemic. So, the author’s focus here is a bit heavier than usual, but it’s still set in charming Three Pines, Canada, with all of our favorite characters. And Penny’s writing is as gorgeous as usual, with gems like these: “It’s about what happens when gullibility and fear meet greed and power . . . People will believe anything. Doesn’t make them stupid, just desperate.” This is another winner for Louise Penny, and I hope you check out this series if you haven’t already.

Book #3:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (Length: 231 pages).  I LOVED this book. This was another audiobook that I listened to on my super-fun (!) commute, and it’s absolutely incredible. Written by a neuroscientist/surgeon who is finishing up his 7-year residency when he’s diagnosed with lung cancer. The author writes about his life and his journey so lyrically which must be due to his also earning a Master’s degree in English literature . . . he’s talented in both his right and left brain spheres. Don’t miss the foreword by Dr Abraham Verghese (another talented dr/author who wrote the beautiful Cutting for Stone), as well as the epilogue by the author’s wife Lucy. Yes, this book will make you cry but it’s so beautifully written that it’s a must-read.

Book #4:

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller (Length: 397 pages).   This book was rejected by my book club as it has some heavier topics, but I went ahead and read it anyway, and I’m so glad I did. This is a sweeping, well-written family drama about Eleanor who is still in love with her husband Peter, but starts having an affair with Jonas, her childhood best friend. The book alternates between a few days in the present immediately after the affair begins at the family lakehouse, to Eleanor’s childhood and Eleanor’s mother’s childhood and adult life. There are some tough parts (sexual assault and incest) but none of it is gratuitous, and the novel is so beautifully written while also being a total page turner. The ending is a bit ambiguous, so definitely Google it like I did and you’ll hopefully read the author’s hints as to what really happens at the end.

Book #5:

Rabbit by Patricia Williams (Length: 243 pages).  This memoir came highly recommended by several Bookstagrammers so I listened to it on audio. It’s insanely good! Miss Pat is a comedian, who tells stories about her colorful childhood growing up poorer than poor in Atlanta, Georgia. She had her first child at age 13, sold crack to support her little family, and tried to separate from her own devastating childhood. This is incredibly eye-opening as to what’s happening in America, and I couldn’t stop listening to a minute of this memoir. I give it two thumbs up!

Book #6::

Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler (Length: 210 pages).  This is another audiobook I listened to and it’s written by (and narrated by) a Christian prosperity gospel scholar who is diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. She chronicles her journey (both medical and spiritual) while analyzing gems from her faith such as “Misfortune is a mark of God’s disapproval” and what that means for cancer patients. The author doesn’t ever tell us how she reconciles the prosperity gospel with her own journey, ultimately, which I found interesting (and a bit frustrating). While the content is definitely interesting and worth a read, I will say that the audiobook is NOT the way to go, in my opinion, as the narration is annoying and super-whiny in parts. I do appreciate the author’s dry humor, but probably would’ve enjoyed it more if read in my own voice. 😉

Book #7:

Love at First by Kate Clayborn (Length: 322 pages).  A light and fluffy, yet well-written romance by the author of the wonderful Love Lettering novel. An ER doctor renovates his late uncle’s condo in a small Chicago building full of long-time elderly residents, with the intention to run it as an AirB&B, and sparks fly between him and Nora, the granddaughter of one such resident who has been living in the condo for a few years. Nora wants to keep everything the same, in memory of her grandmother, so this inherent conflict sets the stage for their inevitable romance. The conflict is a bit silly but since the writing is engaging and the character development is sufficiently deep, I allowed it. This is a good choice for anyone wanting a lighter, closed door romance.

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