On My Bookshelf

One upside to quarantine is having more time to read. At the start of the year, I set a goal to finish 20 books by December and I have already surpassed that number (and it’s only July). A few weeks ago, I googled a bunch of popular online book clubs, booksatagram accounts, and blogs to add to my ever-growing list of “want to read” books on Goodreads. There are so many good stories out there, but three of my most recent reads have really stood out to me and I thought I’d share them. After all, who doesn’t love a good book rec?

If you’ve read any stellar books during quarantine, add them to the comments section! Also, if you have any bookstagram suggestions, share those too. Some of my favorites are Book of the Month Club, Reese’s Book Club, michellereadsbooks and Crime by the Book.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

81ZRCdihglL“If I can’t move heaven, than I shall raise hell.”

Have you ever finished an entire book in one sitting? I have not, but I came close with The Guest List. The story felt like a modern take on Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” set on an eerie and isolated Cormorant Island, off the west coast of Ireland. Guests are invited to gather on the island to celebrate the wedding of Julia Keegan, a publisher of a successful online magazine, and her handsome beau, Will Slater, a rising television star. But on the night of their wedding, someone turns up dead. What was supposed to be the social event of the year, turns into a living nightmare.

The story is told from five different viewpoints: Julia (the bride), Olivia (the bride’s sister), Johnno (the groom’s best man), Aoife (the wedding planner), and Hannah (a guest of the wedding). Each character delves into their fears, secrets, and lies amidst the drink and drug-fueled wedding celebrations. Foley creates a classic whodunit through the narrative that goes back and forth in time from leading up to the wedding to the wedding night itself when the murder happens during a brief power outage.

I thought this book was so much fun. There were constant twists and turns and the slow burn of the narrative had me telling myself “just one more chapter” after every single chapter. I also appreciated that the author clearly labeled each point of view to minimize confusion. I have read my share of mediocre mysteries, but this was not one of them. As much as I thought I had the ending figured out, I very clearly did not. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a page-turning thriller.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

41Qvg3aPEpL“Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”

I don’t normally gravitate towards memoirs, but I watched Michelle Obama’s documentary on Netflix and felt so inspired by her story that I decided to read her memoir. Becoming was intimate, powerful, and surprisingly very candid. Michelle is a phenomenal storyteller – in a wonderfully fluid narrative, she recollects events with exquisite detail. Her writing evokes every type of emotion. So often, we see celebrities and political figures from a lens orchestrated by the media, but it was so refreshing to hear her story in her own words.

The book is divided into three sections: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. Becoming Me recounts Obama’s childhood growing up on the South Side of Chicago, describes her education at Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and ends with her early career as a lawyer at Sidley Austin, where she met Barack Obama. Becoming Us delves deeper into her relationship with Barack as they start a family together while he begins his political career in the Illinois State Senate. Becoming Us ends with Barack being elected the 44th president of the United States. Finally, Becoming More addresses their life in the White House as the first family. Michelle gives her readers an honest look into her life inside the White House and explores some of her most personal thoughts as her husband’s initiatives, bills, and security decisions shaped America from 2009 to 2017.

By the end of the Epilogue, I couldn’t help but feel a new level of respect for Michelle Obama. Throughout her memoir, she emphasizes the importance of young people having role models, and this passion is clearly evidenced by her time as FLOTUS where she worked tirelessly as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, physical activity, and nutrition. I respect her empathy, her compassion, and her desire to make the world a more accepting place. All in all, if you are looking for a book to make you feel inspired, grab a copy of Becoming. You won’t be disappointed.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

51VJZOm85jL“Nina had looked around and realized she would never run out of things to read, and that certainty filled her with peace and satisfaction. It didn’t matter what hit the fan; as long as there were unread books in the world, she would be fine.”

Without sounding too cheesy, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is a delightful read. It’s funny, relatable, and endearing. The story revolves around Nina Hill, the child of a single mother and a girl whose ideal Saturday night is spent with her cat named Phil and her head buried in a book. Nina is perfectly content with her life just the way it is: a job at the local bookstore, a winning trivia team, and a carefully planned schedule. But her life gets turned upside down when she discovers that her father (whom she has never met) dies and leaves her with a huge and disparate family waiting to meet her. Nina finds herself having to step outside her comfort zone to start a new chapter of her otherwise reserved life.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is a story about connection, about opening yourself up to trust, about family and friendship, and about finding community. Abbi Waxman does such a great job of interlacing these lessons between Nina’s awkward interactions and sarcastic inner monologues.

There is a joy that comes with reading a book you enjoy and an equally wonderful feeling of sharing that joy with others. I enjoyed this book so much and would recommend it to anyone. Since being on a reading kick (and feeling somewhat introverted from quarantine), at times I felt I could relate to Nina Hill. There’s so much to love about Nina’s character – a perfect combination of Monica Geller from Friends and Bridget Jones – and infinitely more to love about this story. If you are looking for a book that will leave you feeling happy, buy a copy of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. I promise you will finish with a smile.

What has been your favorite book during quarantine?

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