Reading Better | June.

I added 24 books to my shelves in June (all my 2022 books are shelved here on Goodreads):

  • It was an amazing month for stars! FIVE 5-star and TEN 4-1/2-star books! In a different month, those ten books certainly could’ve been full on amazing and garnered that extra 1/2 star. I did share short reviews for the five 5-star books on Instagram, but had to trim them a bit to meet Instagram’s character limit. What I’ve shared below are the reviews I originally wrote.
  • 16 (67%) were paper, 6 (25%) were audio, and two were ebooks.
  • 13 (54%) were borrowed, two I owned, and nine were purchased (three new and six used). Those 11 books all count toward my Bookshelf60* goal.
  • 17 (71%) were fiction, four were memoir/essay, and three were other non-fiction.
  • My intentions were much better represented – ten check marks for Diversity, 12 for Growth, and 11 for Connection.
  • Six (a record?!) books checked all three boxes: Four Souls, Caramelo, You Make a Fool of Death with Your Beauty, Between Two Kingdoms, The Bread the Devil Knead, and Autobiography of a Face.

Here are those short reviews:

Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy – Grealy’s stunning, beautiful memoir about surviving a malignant jaw cancer (diagnosed at age 9) and almost 40 different surgeries to “fix” her face. The book came out in 1994 and I wish I’d heard about it/her then. After reading, I’m surprised I didn’t; she comes across as larger than life!

Truth & Beauty, by Ann Patchett – Patchett’s memoir about her friendship with Lucy (I cannot recommend the pairing highly enough – read Grealy’s book first). Ann and Lucy were roommates during their time at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Their friendship began then and lasted 20 years (Grealy died in 2002). I’m a huge fan of Ann as a writer; now I wish I had her as a friend. “[Lucy] believed that the most basic rules of life did not apply to her, and over the course of our friendship, without me knowing when it had happened, I had come to believe it myself. The sheer force of Lucy’s life convinced me that she would love no matter what. That was my mistake.”

Four Hundred Souls, edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain – 80 Black writers contributed 80 essays, each covering a 5-year period, to build this “Community History of African America, 1619-2019.” “Each piece has been written distinctly while being relatively equal in length to he others, making for a cohesive and connective narrative with strikingly different – yet unified – voices. A choir.” ~ Ibram X. Kendi, from the Introduction. The writing – every piece – was excellent; the choir metaphor works beautifully with such a talented team. Also, I learned so much … this one is a Must-Read (or listen – the audio is narrated by a full cast and it’s excellent).

Atlas of the Heart, by Brené Brown – I waited months for the audio so I could have Brené read this to me & what a fantastic experience! I used up an entire pad of post-it notes (the book is so gorgeous I couldn’t bring myself to write in it) taking notes. Being able to identify and name our emotions sounds easy, but most folks can only identify a handful. This book explores 87 (!!) emotions and experiences, giving me(us) better tools to navigate life and relationships. Brown has incorporated material from several of her earlier books, but the last section on Cultivating Meaningful Connection is brand new and brings all her teaching together.

Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry – Novel Pairings’ summer bookclub selection was supposed to last through August, but when I finished Part I, I couldn’t put it down. I had no idea an epic story about cowboys driving cattle from Texas to Montana in the 1870’s could be that riveting, but McMurtry won the Pulitzer for this one for a reason. The characters really came alive on the page – men and women – and I cared about them. I laughed out loud at some parts (the humor surprised me), and sobbed at others (I expected that level of emotion and wasn’t disappointed at all). I added this one to my all-time-favorites shelf.

Here are the ♥ notes from my journal:

♥ reading a book with my eyes and ears. All five of those 5-star books were ones I had on paper and audio. I sat with Atlas of the Heart open on my desk and let Brené read it to me. The other four I alternated between the paper and audio (it’s not as seamless as Kindle’s whisper-sync, but if stop reading at a chapter break, it’s not too hard to switch back and forth) for a fully immersive experience. It took me a week to read Lonesome Dove and I loved that I could spend all my reading time on that one book!
♥ Beth O’Leary. I was so close to DNF’ing The No Show because the male character just seemed like a three-timing jerk and who needs to read about that?! … and then I read a sentence that shifted my whole perspective. She’d cleverly led me to make some assumptions that turned out not to be true. Now I know to trust her and I’ll certainly read whatever else she writes!
♥ Timing! I read Sea of Tranquility just a few days after (re)reading The Glass Hotel. There were enough connections between the two books that made me glad Hotel was fresh. I picked up House on Mango Street after reading Caramelo and wish I’d read them in the opposite order (also wish I’d been able to read Mango Street in high school like so many of my much younger reading buddies!) to appreciate Cisneros’ growth as an author.
♥ Joan Didion. so glad I finally read one of her novels. She’s an author I need to explore further – both her fiction and non-fiction.
♥ Growth. I learned about indigenous history and culture. Mexican history. Carribean culture. cancer treatments. American history, especially the parts influenced by and/or inflicted upon Black Americans. grief, sorrow, longing. and 84 other emotions and experiences. Chinese history and culture.

My monthly TBR is still working! Here’s a look at what I finished last month and have planned for July. All the books I didn’t get to in June shifted into this month. I really stuck to that June plan, likely because Lonesome Dove took so long I didn’t have time to get distracted, and only read one other book – Trust.

Finally, I had every intention of getting this post up before lunch, not bedtime, but I got distracted today … procrasti-piling 🙂 Katie is coming over Saturday morning to help me re-shelve the books. I’m hoping to have the yarn re-housed before then (it’s moving to the armoire in our guest room).

I’d love to hear about a book (or two) you’re excited to read this month … especially if it’s one I’m planning to read, too!

*My Bookshelf60 project is to read sixty books I already own (as of May 16) in these last six months before my birthday. When I wrote my May post, I only counted one book … which wasn’t right – the actual count for May was 4. plus June’s 11 makes 15. July’s TBR includes  7 more. I have a ways to go!

10 thoughts on “Reading Better | June.

  1. I finished The Painted Drum today – loved it.
    I also loved Autobiography of a Face and Truth and Beauty. I read them side by side years ago. I am also an Ann Patchett fan.
    Looking forward to your bookshelf reveal. How fun that Katie is helping.

  2. Quiet was life-changing for me and I enjoyed This Time Tomorrow. I’m excited to read more books by Helen Humphreys. I enjoyed The Lost Garden and just finished The Evening Chorus, which was exquisite. She’s a Canadian author so her books are a little difficult to find but well worth it!

  3. What a wonderful month of reading! I’ve had Grealy on my TBR for so long, thanks for the nudge. I started The Painted Drum yesterday – oh goodness. I can’t wait to really dig into it.

    Good luck with your reorganization! It looks like a fun project. I wish I could help with it! 🙂

  4. I’ve been meaning to read Truth & Beauty and Anatomy of a Face for years. Thanks for that recommendation — and for the order to read them in! I see a couple of books I really enjoyed in your July TBR.

  5. I continue to be amazed each month at your reading Mary! Wow!! You read a lot. And such varied and wonderful books. I hope you share pictures of your newly shelved books! So nice that Katie is helping you.

  6. My daughter brought me five books she’s read recently and loved. I’m 2/3 through the first: “This Time Tomorrow” which I’m loving–a very different time travel novel. Next up is “Cartographers.” Then I’m hoping to continue with the rest she brought: “Horse” by one of my favorite authors, Geraldine Brooks, “The Measure,” and “Woman of Light.” I don’t read anywhere nearly as fast you as, so I might not finish before we leave for an international trip, but these are the books on my TBR list. “Atlas of the Heart” and “Trust” are also on my list.

  7. so nice you are enjoying your books, I am having a good reading year I’m trying to read all the books I MOVED from our old house. Once I read them I then move them out. Slow and steady!

  8. Oh, my. This post took my breath away. Lucy Grealy was one of my grad school instructors; I had her the year before she died. (Ironically, my daughter’s English class read her memoir this past year….) Such a complicated life :(.
    (One funny thing–Lucy always called memoirs ‘me-mores’. That always makes me chuckle when I think of it.)

  9. Mary, you blow me away with your sheer number of books and the way you really delve into the book(s). We have a lot to talk about!

  10. I’m enjoying the 1st Inspector Morse book better than I thought I would and I have a few other mysteries on my nightstand that I’m looking forward to reading.

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