what I have been reading (winter break edition).

The Priority List by David Menasche (via Netgalley)

The Priority List was described as a book about a teacher with terminal cancer who traveled to see his former students and find out what impact he’d had on their lives. Inspirational story about teachers? Sign me right on up! But there was a lot of background before he got to the trip, and by the time he went he was so sick and his marriage was falling apart and I just couldn’t connect to it. I wish it had been more about his relationship with his students than about him. Recommended for: someone who can write an inspirational screenplay about an ill teacher traveling to see former students because I would watch the heck out of that movie.

Parentology by Dalton Conley (via Netgalley)

Parentology was billed as a book about the science behind parenting, maybe a little Freakonomics for child-raising. But it was actually about this weird guy and his unorthodox parenting techniques that he justifies using some statistics. I didn’t feel like I learned that much and it was disappointing overall. Recommended for: social scientists.

Now You See Me by Kathy Sanders (via Netgalley)

You know that crazy relative who thinks she should write a book but has no self-awareness? Now You See Me is by a woman who lost two of her grandchildren in the Oklahoma City Bombing, which is terribly sad but does not justify the existence of this truly awful book. She makes everything (even 9/11 and the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma last year) about her, and she is constantly writing as if she knows what other people are thinking. Part of the book is a quest she goes on to find out what really happened during the Oklahoma City Bombing, and she is sure that if she could just get some facetime with Timothy McVeigh she would uncover the truth, bless her heart. There were also some serious clueless moments when she brushed aside the fact that she is apparently estranged from part of her family and when she assumes that everyone in the entire state cares who she is hanging out with. I can only recommend it if you think you might enjoy the ramblings of a narcissist.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbauch (for church bookclub)

Despite the fact that I kill plants, I enjoyed this. It’s about a girl who exits the fostercare system who has a gift with plants and flowers. We had a great discussion at book club about it. Thankful for such smart and thoughtful women in my life! Recommended for: book clubs, gardeners, aspiring gardeners.

The Story of God, the Story of Us by Sean Gladding (via the used bookstore)

Mostly just a paraphrase of scripture. I wish the author had resisted the urge to answer difficult questions about God, because his answers felt very pat and tidy. God’s ways are not our ways! My frustrations were probably theological in nature, since I am not sure we can draw conclusions from all the stories in the bible like the narrator wanted to do. Recommended for: maybe good for a teenager wanting to put the story of the bible in a little more context and chronological order.

My Mistake by Daniel Menaker (via Netgalley)

This book fell between a straight-up memoir and a gossipy tale about publishing in New York. I think focusing on one or the other might have been better. As it was, I felt a little unsure about what I read and why. Recommended for: journalists and editors who like behind-the-scenes stories.

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose (via the used bookstore)

I never even considered going to a Christian college. That stuff seemed crazy town to me – I had some acquaintances who went to Pensacola who couldn’t even walk on the sidewalk with someone of the opposite sex. So I can’t imagine what possessed Kevin Roose, a Brown student, spend a semester at Liberty learning about the subculture. It was fascinating to see his take on things I grew up with (and things that were too conservative for my family, thankyouverymuch). I hesitated to read this because the world does not need another book telling us about the evils of conservative Christianity, but this is a lovely generous take on his time at Liberty and the people he met there. The gold standard for this kind of book is obviously A.J. Jacobs, but Kevin worked for A.J. for a while and it shows in his good-natured approach to being a stranger in a strange land. Super enjoyable read. Recommended for: people who like the “year of” books, people who are fascinated by the impact of Jerry Falwell, people who are tired of the culture wars.

Some of these books were provided by Netgalley but my opinions, as always, are my own.

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