One Book South Dakota: Kitchens of the Great Midwest

I didn’t know what to expect with Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. I decided to read it simply because it was designated as the 2017 One Book South Dakota. I loved it. The author beautifully combined food, gender roles in the Midwest, and interesting characters in a quick, yet moving novel.

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Food is such an important part of our culture. This book looks at how the food we eat defines us geographically, and socio-economically. It also looks at the relationships we build and what really defines a family.

One of the most moving pieces in the book features Pat Prager, a sweet church lady and unappreciated housewife who enters her bars in a fancy Minneapolis baking contest. She is shamed by the younger, more sophisticated foodies.

This is where the main character, Eva Thorvald, shines as an interesting, yet dimensional protagonist. Eva gives Pat, and Midwestern home-cooking the respect they deserve. Stradal packs a lot in this short novel, and I was hanging on every word. At the end I was torn between wanting him to pen a sequel and wanting to just leave it at what the story was for fear of ruining a good thing.

My Ranking: NPR’s Top Books of 2016

I recently finished the books off NPR’s list of the 10 best books of 2016. This reading list definitely didn’t wow me as much as this list of books I read last year. When Breath Becomes Air and The Underground Railroad were absolutely amazing so definitely make time to read those.

Now I’m going to take a little break from reading from lists and treat myself to some mindless crime fiction. Any recommendations?

Do you ever read from lists? If so, what are your favorites?

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(Image from amazon.com)

Here are my rankings, with number one being my favorite.

10. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

9. Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel

8. Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

7. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

6. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

5. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

4. Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

An Update on My Reading Goal: Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962

I have finished all the books on NPR’s list of the 10 best books of 2016. The final book I read from the list was Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 by Blanche Wiesen Cook.

I started this book the morning of my scheduled C-section with my second daughter. I was in the mood to read about strong women and I have long-respected Eleanor Roosevelt. I have not read the first two volumes of this biography, which were published in 1992 and 1999, but the author does a great job of bringing us up to speed prior to diving into what is probably the most influential period in Eleanor Roosevelt’s life.

Three months later, I finally finished the book. It’s good, but it’s nearly 700 pages long. It’s well-written and details much of the amazing work Eleanor Roosevelt did. Stay tuned for my ranking of the 10 books on this list.

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(Image from amazon.com)

Here is the updated list:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

 

An Update on My Reading Goal: Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs

Does anyone else suffer through an occasional crappy book because the thought of not finishing something you started is agony? That is what I did with the most recent book I finished off NPR’s list of the 10 best books of 2016.

The Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel received great reviews, but I just never fully engaged with the book. Jane Jacobs was a journalist and activist focusing on the problems city planning methods caused for many communities in the 1950s.

While I appreciate the general idea of the book (that one person really can make a huge difference when it comes to social awareness and change), it just read like kind of a dull college research paper. Maybe skip this one unless you don’t have a problem with walking away from an unfinished book.

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(Image from amazon.com)

Here is the updated list:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

 

 

An Update on My Reading Goal: Underground Airlines

The most recent book I have read off NPR’s list of the 10 best books of 2016 is Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters.

Winters introduces us to a modern-day America in which the Civil War has not taken place and slavery still exists in four southern states.

The story centers around Victor, a former slave forced into working as a bounty hunter for slaves who have escaped north.

The government has enacted laws against violent slavery, yet neglects to address the ethical issue of people owning people.

Winters explores these ethical injustices and reminds us of the impact history has on our current ways of doing things. A few times I felt like the character development, especially that of Victor, fell a bit short, but all-in-all, the book is intriguing and worth the read.

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(Image from amazon.com)

Here is the updated list:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel

 

 

An Update on My Reading Goal: Born to Run

The most recent book I have read off NPR’s list of the 10 best books of 2016 is Born the Run by Bruce Springsteen.

I don’t know much about Bruce Springsteen and have never really been a big fan, but I do love rock musician biographies. I have read many. This one started as most of them do, with the musician’s modest upbringing and hard-knock beginnings playing gigs in dive bars.

But Springsteen’s honest description of his battle with depression, rocky relationship with his father, and love for his three children make the book an interesting and inspiring read. I was most touched by his writing about his mother. He writes about her with the respect and devotion we all hope our children will have for us when they are grown.

Born to Run has all the elements I enjoy in a rock biography, but in the end it’s something more. Even though I don’t really listen to The Boss, the book was well worth reading.

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(Image from amazon.com)

Here is the updated list:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Home going by Yaa Gyasi

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel

 

An Update on My Reading Goal: Homegoing

The most recent book I have read off NPR’s list of the 10 best books of 2016 is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

This story spans centuries telling the stories of decendants of an African family. It is beautifully written and fast-paced. Some of the family members are sold into slavery while others become slave traffickers themselves.

There are hardships and triumphs throughout the book. Gyasi creates interesting characters and keeps the reader hooked with the way their stories are intertwined. Read this one.

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(Image from amazon.com)

Here is the updated list:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel