Rinker Buck purchased a team of three mules and a wagon to travel from Missouri to Oregon with his brother … in 2011. While traversing dangerous terrain, dodging interstates and chasing mules in slippers, Rinker brings the early Oregon trail pioneer’s stories to life in the book “The Oregon Trail” by describing his own modern challenges, and then comparing them to the challenges that the pioneers faced. Woven throughout the book are his memories of his father, giving the book a personal touch I was not expecting. While much of the book is serious, humor is sprinkled throughout, making it an entertaining read.
Three words that describe this book: Entertaining, educational, personal
You might want to pick this book up if: you enjoy American history, travel, or enjoy reading about unusual adventures.
The “Paper Girls” comic series begins with four 12-year-old girls delivering their paper routes in 1988. What follows includes a trip to 2016 to encounter their (gasp) 40-year-old futures. Much time travel and monster action follows, with plenty of inside jokes for those of us who were around in 1988 and remember some of the significant events and changes since then that might be hard to understand if we just arrived from 1988. The colors and artwork are vivid, the characters are funny and lovable, and the story is fast-paced and surprising. This relatively short run comic ended July 2019 — check them all out at once because you won’t want to wait to see what happens in the next one! Also, it was recently picked up to be an Amazon show, and you know you’ll want to read the books before you see the show!
Three words that describe this book: Funny, Sci-Fi, Friends
You might want to pick this book up if: you like the Netflix show “Stranger Things.”
“Neverwhere” is an early Neil Gaiman novel that looks into the depths of London — both in terms of the existential crisis of a young urban professional and what happens when said yuppie discovers there’s a whole world below the London Underground. What follows is a venture-quest full of unexpected characters and situations that are simultaneously completely impossible and totally believable. There are shadings of Terry Pratchett and Piers Anthony, a touch of Lovecraft, and a fair helping of Gaiman’s ability to re-imagine familiar folklore and mythology.
I listened to the audio book and Neil Gaiman’s voicing skills make the story come to life.
Three words that describe this book: imaginative, madcap, down-below
You might want to pick this book up if: You ever wondered if the ragged guy talking to himself in the subway station was actually perfectly sane.
I found “Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter” to be full of helpful, practical, non-judgmental information, presented in a fun style, and not so prescriptive or rigid that it made me chafe at the idea of it. And the author definitely understands that people are busy and not (probably) interested in taking tons of time to get rid of clutter and organize.
Each part of the house has its own section, and suggestions for things you can do if you have 30 seconds, one minute, five minutes, or 15 minutes, plus longer weekend project ideas. There are a few fun quizzes throughout, to determine things like your suggested closet organizing style (mine is “visual,” even though my actual closet is closer to the “super-organized” description). Though I don’t agree with everything (I’m NOT getting rid of my physical books/media/photo albums in favor of digital versions, though I may weed them), there are a LOT of things in this book I’m going to try. In the intro, the author says to take what you like and leave what you don’t, so I feel like I’m totally in line with that!
Three words that describe this book: practical clutter control
You might want to pick this book up if: You could use some fun tips on keeping your house clean and uncluttered in whatever kind of time you have.
“Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered” is a dual-memoir from the hosts of popular podcast “My Favorite Murder.” They tell stories that have been touched on in episodes of the podcast, as well as other topics that have never been discussed. Each chapter is under a certain theme or inside joke often referenced in the podcast, such as “Stay Out of the Forest” or “Sweet Baby Angel,” and it was interesting to see how they incorporated stories from their pasts to jokes on the show. I loved it because it was like hearing words of wisdom from two older friends who swear a lot and have experienced very relatable lives, all while through a lens of humor.
Three words that describe this book: Irreverent. Hilarious. Nostalgic.
You might want to pick this book up if: You love true crime and comedy and swearing.
“Giraffes on Horseback Salad” is a graphic novel depicting a movie written by Salvador Dali, meant to star the Marx Brothers, which was pitched to MGM in 1937, but was never made. The author of the graphic novel, Josh Frank, calls himself a forgotten pop culture archaeologist and used source documents from the Dali and Marx estates to re-create Dali’s vision in graphic novel format, but as if it were the movie. Manuela Pertega’s artwork is fantastical — you may forget that Dali himself did not illustrate this book. While the artwork steals the show, it does feature the Marx Brothers, so there is humor, song, romance and drama. It pits “normal” society versus dreamers, asking at one point, “Reality is the nightmare of the dreamer, isn’t it just?”
Three words that describe this book: Surreal, Funny, Unique
You might want to pick this book up if: you like surreal art — even if the humor or the story doesn’t appeal, the artwork is worth checking the book out!
I really enjoyed “The Rescue Artist,” which I read for the 2019 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge book of non-violent true crime. The story of the theft of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” from Norway’s National Gallery in Oslo in 1994 (the same morning the Olympics started in Lillehammer) is the through-line of the story, as well as profiling Scotland Yard Art Squad detective Charley Hill, who eventually recovered the painting. The story meanders into major art thefts and art thieves in history, how those cases were often worked (or not), Munch and his works, museum security and more. I actually liked how it wandered around topics, always coming back to “The Scream” and Charley Hill. It’s how my brain works, but might be annoying to some who like a straight-line story.
However, in a classic case of judging a book by its cover, I first saw the paperback version of this title at a bookstore, which drew my eye with its brightness and the dynamic illustration on the cover, plus the pull-out quote about it being fast-paced, rollicking and beautifully written. Then I realized it would work for one of the Read Harder challenges, so I requested it from the library, which only had the hardback with a much less interesting cover! So even though I was enjoying it when I read, and it was pretty fast-paced and well-written, etc., I found myself loath to pick it up because the cover turned me off so much! So, it took longer than it should have, but I’m glad I finished it.
Three words that describe this book: art theft investigation
You might want to pick this book up if: You enjoy art, true crime written with some humor, detective work, or mysteries.
Hurston’s 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is a classic work, and it contributed to the Harlem Renaissance. The novel follows the romantic life of Janie, who searches for a lasting love throughout her life. Janie marries three times and each of her relationships is unique, with none of her three husbands meeting her expectations or needs, but all in different ways. Janie is stubborn and determined, but faces expectations from her husbands and society in general to be more subservient to her men, something she wrestles with and even rebels against. The novel also explores African American life and culture in the early to mid-twentieth century. The setting of Eatonville, Florida, is based on Hurston’s own upbringing in this African American town. Eatonville was — and is — unique because it was a haven for African Americans in an era of segregation and white supremacy. Hurston also uses heavy dialect throughout the novel, which can be hard to read, but reflects her desire to highlight African American language and culture. The Harlem Renaissance is still often remembered as a time in which African American men flourished artistically, but Hurston’s work reminds us that African American women contributed to the arts as well.
Three words that describe this book: Historic, romance, African American culture
You might want to pick this book up if: You enjoy classic literature, especially from African American and/or women writers
“Introverted Mom” was not only informational, on the topic of motherhood and introversion, but was also inspirational. Not only was it humorous and insightful, it opened my eyes to my own particular challenges and how to view them as gifts instead of burdens. Her encouragement and tips have given me fuel to embrace my introversion and taught me how to better meet my own needs so I can meet the needs of those who need me. I also enjoyed her look into the lives of some of my favorite women authors (Austen, Montgomery, Alcott) who were also purportedly introverted as well, and how they navigated their social and familial worlds with their special gifts. This is a book I will read and reread with pleasure, likely garnering new tidbits each time.
Three words that describe this book: Encouraging, humorous, insightful.
You might want to pick this book up if: You are a mom, a homeschooler, an introvert, or any combination of the the above, or know someone who is. In fact, I would suggest this would be a good read for husbands, whether introverted or extroverted, in understanding their introverted spouses better. Very easy to read and enjoyable!
Following around 12 different characters through past and present, “There There” introduces dynamic and complex characters as they come from different lives, experiences and histories to arrive at the Big Oakland Pow Wow. Although difficult to follow at times with the wide range of characters, I loved this book as it is so necessary to make Native stories known and to seek out and amplify their voices and perspectives. It explores historical trauma and reveals how these characters grapple with their identity as urban Natives all while confronting erasure of that identity.
Three words that describe this book: shattering, poignant, important
You might want to pick this book up if: you would like to further understand and recognize urban Native identity and challenge your own perceptions by listening to Native voices