International Women’s Day!

Dearest Readers,

I am sorry that I have been on an unexpected hiatus from this blog. I promise that I have been reading, and have more reviews coming soon (A Gentleman in Moscow, When the Moon is Low, Red Queen Series (1-3), Hillbilly Elegy, and Morning Star to name a few that I am behind on writing reviews for!).

But today I want to celebrate something special: International Women’s Day. This day is especially important to me this year as I get ready to bring a little girl into this world in approximately 3 (!!) weeks. So, before I jump back into reviews, I want to highlight three books that I recommend in honor of women around the world.

Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

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I reviewed this last year, and am still a fan. I missed seeing her when she came through my city a couple of months ago – which I regret. She has an incredible voice and ability to bring humor and passion to every issue that she writes about. This is a great feminist starter book!

We Should All be Feminist by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

we should all be feminists

This book takes about 30 minutes to read, so really, no excuse not to read it. Adichie has a classic writing style, and this feminist writing is even more interesting because of her global perspective. A couple of my favorite quotes:
“And this is how we start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently”

“My own definition of a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.”

Rad American Women A-Z, by Kate Schatz

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I actually found this book as part of building a library in the nursery (have to start them early on feminism!). But it is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone. I learned about some amazing women that I had never heard of, as well as reminders about some of the incredible women who broke glass ceilings of their own like Billie Jean King, Carol Burnett, and Sonia Sotomayor. These are women that the history books may have missed, but it is so refreshing to be reminded of them and keep their stories alive for future generations.

There are other incredible books about feminism, or the women’s right’s movement in general (I also highly recommend When Everything Changed), but these are my top recommendations if you are in the market for some feminist reading this season!

In closing, I am so grateful for those that came before me and fought for women’s rights. And I promise to continue that fight – for my daughter and the daughters that follow. We owe it to future generations to leave the world better than we found it. And through equal opportunities for all women, I believe that a real difference can be made.

And again, I hope to have more reviews soon – thank you for your patience as I get through my final weeks of pregnancy (and trying to stay awake past 9pm!).

Reading Sara on Gratitude (and a book recommendation!)

I know it has been awhile, readers. I have been reading quite a bit – perhaps so much so that I have not had as much time to write about what I am reading. In the coming weeks look forward to reviews on Everything Brave is Forgiven, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, The Mothers, The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko and The Wonder (see?! Lots of reading!)

With the passing of Thanksgiving, I have felt myself thinking a lot about gratitude and how lucky I am to be where I am today in this life. I am healthy, have an incredible circle of family and friends, I enjoy what I do for a living, and I am able to read frequently. Terrible things happen every day. Many people are living in fear right now here in the United States after the Presidential election. I am reminded how lucky I am. I have a warm home, a comfortable bed, and many blessing to count. There is a lot wrong with our world, and I want to work every day to protect those causes that I care most about. But right now, at this time of Thanksgiving and as we near the holiday season, I am simply grateful.

An excellent book to read if you are feeling grateful, or perhaps, ungrateful and need a dose of happiness is Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life. It is short, I promise. But it is full of beautiful musings written with the empathy and compassion that Quindlen possesses so naturally.

Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (October 31, 2000)

No official rating on this one because it is so short, but I highly recommend it. After reading it, pass it along to a friend or make it a holiday gift. Here are some favorite bits of wisdom that I took away from it:

“I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.”

“All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.”

“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.”

“But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at your desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.”

 

 

Reading Sara Review: American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst

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Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (August 2, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10

modern romance

Reading Sara Review: To begin, I was not alive during the kidnapping, crimes and later trial of Patty Hearst. I have heard about it in passing, but this was my first true foray into the madness, the mystery and the drama that unfolded during that time. With that being said, I enjoyed this book; I thought Toobin did an excellent job of staying neutral and relaying facts while also keeping the book interesting. It may be more interesting to someone who remembers it happening, though. While not a long book, it took me awhile to get through it. I took a few breaks and read some other things – but I did come back to it each time because Patty Hearst is an interesting character study.

For those like me that are less familiar with Patty Hearst, here is a quick breakdown. Hearst was an heiress to a publishing fortune, though always struggled to fit in with that society growing up. While attending Berkley as a sophomore in 1974, she was kidnapped by a group of revolutionaries, who called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Because of the high-profile kidnapping, it was a big story at the time. It got more complicated when a few months later a tape was released of Patty saying that she had joined her kidnappers, the SLA.

There were many characters to keep track of, made more confusing by their nicknames. I wished Toobin would have stayed consistent with which he used. Many of them were extremely central to the narrative, but I kept forgetting who they were – what their background was. Sometimes Toobin would gently remind the reader, but it felt too late, I wasn’t emotionally connected to any of them. Except, certainly, Patty Hearst.

Hearst did not agree to work with Toobin on this book, so we still do not know what happened in Patty Hearst’s brain during those years. What was made clear was that she benefited greatly from her family’s money, her fame, and being a pretty white woman. This does not condemn her – there is other evidence that does that (in my opinion), but it does remind us about the unfairness of the justice system.

It is especially interesting to me how the people involved with the SLA quite literally grew up, moved on, created careers and had families – and for those still alive today, want to be left alone to move on with their lives (Hearst included). Just because they were young, does that mean that they shouldn’t pay for their crimes? Or does this prove that people can change, and perhaps sending people to prison is not always the right way to rehabilitate people? I don’t know all of the answers, but Toobin did an excellent job of keeping me interested in Patty Hearst and her kidnappers.

 

Reading Sara Review: Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

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Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 5, 2014)

Reading Sara Rating: 7.5/10everything everything

This book of essays by Roxane Gay was one of the most delightful things I have read so far in 2016. Gay is honest, hilarious, and smart. She described throughout these essays many of my own thoughts and opinions – but in ways that I could never express so eloquently. I had multiple lines highlighted in almost every chapter because what she wrote resonated so deeply with me.

Gay takes the approach of being a modern woman, wanting to be a feminist, but not feeling like she is as good at it as she is supposed to be (whether it was her obsession as a youth with the Sweet Valley High books or her love of totally inappropriate rap music). Most women that I know struggle with this on some level. Yes, we want equal pay. And no, we do not think rape jokes are ever funny. But we like shaving our legs and we enjoy wearing cute dresses.

It makes me sad that feminism is the new “f-word” and that it comes with expectations and stigma. Reading these essays helped me to forgive myself for not fighting for women’s rights every single day, but reminded me of the importance of speaking up and speaking out – not being a bystander in the world today. In the United States, there is a lot happening in the political world that scares me – and it is a refreshing reminder that as women we have influence and voices.

Here are a couple of quotes from Gay that gets to the gist of this wonderful book, and I think expresses a lot of what women struggle with today and if you like this and agree, you’ll enjoy these essays.

“I bought into the grossly inaccurate myths about who feminists are – militant, perfect in their politics and person, man-hating, humorless. I bought into these myths even though, intellectually, I know better.”

“It’s great to remember that reading is my first love.”

“This may also explain why in high school I became utterly devoted to Beverly Hills 90210, which took the Sweet Valley High formula and elevated it to high art.”

“Like most people, I’m full of contradictions, but I also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman.”

“I am just one woman trying to make sense of this world we live in. I’m raising my voice to show all the ways we have room to want more, to do better.”

 

 

 

Reading Sara Review: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson

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Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (August 18, 2015)

Reading Sara Rating: 9/10

Girl at War Rating

 

Amazon Book Description: Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

 

Reading Sara Review: Just Mercy is the type of book that is heartbreaking to read – but everyone needs to read it. As a humanitarian, a responsible adult – frankly, as a human, we must understand the disparity in our criminal justice system. Bryan Stevenson tells this story so well. I warn you: it’s a hard book to read. It is unfair. But it is also inspirational because there are people like Bryan Stevenson fighting for fundamental human rights and justice.

The stories that Bryan tells about his clients, their families and their stories are moving to the core. It is also moving to read about Bryan’s story – his coming of age and creating a career and organization – we watch him grow as the book continues. Highly recommend for anyone looking for a serious read, and something that will inspire you to make this world a better place – for everyone.

Reading Sara Review: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhink

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhink

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Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: Dey Street Books; annotated edition 27, 2015

Rating: 8/10

RBG Rating

Amazon Book Blurb: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg never asked for fame—she has only tried to make the world a little better and a little freer.

But nearly a half-century into her career, something funny happened to the octogenarian: she won the internet. Across America, people who weren’t even born when Ginsburg first made her name as a feminist pioneer are tattooing themselves with her face, setting her famously searing dissents to music, and making viral videos in tribute.

Notorious RBG, inspired by the Tumblr that amused the Justice herself and brought to you by its founder and an award-winning feminist journalist, is more than just a love letter. It draws on intimate access to Ginsburg’s family members, close friends, colleagues, and clerks, as well an interview with the Justice herself. An original hybrid of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and illustrations, the book tells a never-before-told story of an unusual and transformative woman who transcends generational divides. As the country struggles with the unfinished business of gender equality and civil rights, Ginsburg stands as a testament to how far we can come with a little chutzpah.

 

Reading Sara Review: RBG is a total badass. I am so glad that interest in her has risen through the internet, and that this book came to be. This book is not the only biography on Ruth Bader Ginsburg – but with its modern twist, it is an excellent choice if you are interested in learning about one of the great leaders of our time.

It cannot be understated how much influence Ginsburg has had on today’s political climate in the United States (and I don’t mean this extremism that seems to be floating around right now during the Presidential Primaries). She pushed boundaries, she changed policies, and she followed her dreams – had a trying career and a baby when that was unheard of for that time. Ginsburg trail-blazed for many women today. She speaks her mind, but in a kind, and compassionate way. She has friends on both sides of the aisle. And she works hard. She has earned her rightful place because of that hard work.

I am not surprised that Ginsburg has become a viral sensation, but I am glad that she has. Her life has been far from easy. She has worked hard, and is passionate about her beliefs – and it shows. I don’t have much else to say except: read this book. Learn something new. You will be glad that you did.

“RBG believes that ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made.’” Don’t you?

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Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: Modern Romance, By Aziz Ansari

Book & Wine Wednesday

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Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari

modern romanceHardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: Penguin Press (June 16, 2015)

Rating: 7/10

modern romance

Reading Sara Review: I might be late to the game with this book because most Ansari fans have probably already read this book. I recommended it on my Holiday Gift Guide for your single brother – but I will also recommend it to you – because it is fun for people whether or not they are in a relationship.

Ansari partnered with sociologist, Eric Klinenberg, to take a look at how romance, dating, and relationships have changed in the digital age. The change in the dating scene is something that I talk about with my friends often (even though many of us are married!). The stigma of meeting people online has drastically reduced in the past ten years but that doesn’t make it any less stressful for single people to meet each other and make a connection. I not only love my husband but am also grateful that I do not have to be a part of the dating game in this day and age, it honestly sounds exhausting.

Ansari is hilarious, which makes this book enjoyable. When I first picked it up* I was not sure how it could be so long. How long can you talk about the current dating world? Isn’t a lot of it obvious? People base their opinion of people off of text messages; people are often looking for something better than the person they are dating, and with all of the choices out there – how are people supposed to choose just one person? Luckily, Ansari keeps the reader engaged through his humor, his constant talk of food, and his insight that he gathers through focus groups across the world.

Read this if you are interested in sociology, the dating world, or Ansari himself – you won’t be disappointed. But, as a heads up, there are some parallels between his new Netflix show Master of None and this book and some of his more recent stand-up comedy. A lot of the same points are made, or similar storylines – but that did not make it less enjoyable for me. I have enjoyed watching Aziz Ansari evolve and grow up. His humor is still excellent; it has just matured as he talks about important issues (feminism, relationships, and family).

*I recommend the actual book of this one (hardcover now, or you can wait for a paperback).  I have multiple friends who have listened to the audiobook (which Ansari reads himself) and said that it was funny, and he makes fun of the reader quite a bit for listening and not reading it. However, there are graphs and charts throughout that you miss out on via the audiobook. I have not personally had good luck with reading charts on my Kindle, but an iPad or another device might be better.

Wine Recommendation

If you are single in this world, I hope that you like wine. I bet you need it. If you are not single, I hope that you like wine too, because wine is delicious. Ansari travels a bit for his research to LA, Wichita, New York, Argentina, Japan and France. I think that this book calls for a spicy Malbec, and not just while you are in the Argentina chapter.

I love Malbec because you can have a really great bottle for under $20, and it is still more exotic than a Cab or Merlot (to impress friends or dates with, naturally). The 2011 Tilia Malbec is a classic in my book, and I have found it for as low as $11.  Whether you have this glass before a date, or with your date, it will be interesting enough to be a conversation starter.