Week 6: Recommendation Request! (also, mysteries, audio-books, and delightful stories)

Sorry for the lack of an extra post this past week – in between celebrating my birthday and relocating to Montana, things have been pretty busy. However, all that driving meant that I got through a number of books I have been excited about!

I would love to get some recommendations from anyone reading about books that you LOVED from other countries, or books published by smaller presses in this country that highlight diverse, interesting authors! Thanks so so much!

Books I read this week:


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

This is a beautiful and touching book – it starts as the simple story of an older English man who decides on the spur of the moment that he needs to walk over 700 miles to see an old friend who had written to him saying she is dying, but it becomes a much deeper examination of human motivation, grief and faith. My favorite of this week for sure!


Raven Black and White Nights by Ann Cleeves (both on audio-book)

These are the first two books in Ann Cleeves Shetland quartet, about a Detective Inspector names Jimmy Perez who lives in the Shetland Island, way up north in Scotland, where even mainland Scotlanders are considered to be neighbors and the sun doesn’t completely set in the winter. These books are acclaimed for their lyrical descriptons of the landscape, but I also appreciated the multiple perspectives and complexity of the characters in the mysteries. Cleeves manages to capture the enjoyably “cozy” mystery quality of a good Agatha Christie without ever falling back on the more claustrophobic house guest cast of suspects.

Both the books are great, and the character development of recurring characters is strong enough that I think reading them in order is important. I discovered this book through the TV show Shetland (currently available on Netflix) which has adapted many of the novels for the show. For readers of Louise Penny and Agatha Christie, here is another place based mystery series that might catch your fancy!


The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (on audio-book)

I listened to this on audio-book, and while I liked it a lot, I think much of my enjoyment from listening to Carrie Fisher herself narrate her thoughts with her wry and sarcastic sense of humor. The ability to add inflection to her words added immensely to my amusement and my understanding of the author herself and the events she was describing.  I did find myself feeling sad and sympathetic towards her 19-year-old self, and I think there were meant to be more of these, which I think would have helped alleviate the sense of pity and concern that I left the book with, even knowing that Carrie Fisher had become the women she was when she passed away last year.

Overall my verdict is that if you love Star Wars or Carrie Fisher, this is a worthwhile book to read, but you will like it more if you take the time to listen!

What went well

I made it through a number of books this week, and really enjoyed all of the ones I finished. This was a pretty white week however, although I branched out in terms of reading international authors, which I always find valuable. I also liked the reminder that I can take a break from hard-hitting literary novels and still be able to complete the challenge.

What didn’t go so well

I want to actually read this week. As much as I love audio-books, I also love watching my progress through a physical book, and I have been missing that. I also really struggled to find good epics not written by white men when I was looking for audio-books, and was incredibly disappointed in the diversity of recent Audie award winners.

What I am planning on reading next

I’m in the Yellowstone area, so I am itching to pick up some good natural history books this week, and for my birthday I was given a book called Women in Wonderland: Lives, Legends, and Legacies of Yellowstone National Park, and I want to get to the Terry Tempest Williams book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World.  I also have loved reading books by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and I have a book of hers called Gathering Moss. I have loved the Shetland series, so I may start the next book in the series called Red Bones.


9 thoughts on “Week 6: Recommendation Request! (also, mysteries, audio-books, and delightful stories)

  1. ahhh I missed your entry last week but I know why you couldn’t do it!!! so happy that you finished Harold Frye I appreciated your concise and accurate review. When I started that book, I liked it but did not expect the depth of human experience portrayed by the end. Looking forward to hearing about your Yellowstone book. What a great birthday gift for you!!!


  2. I rarely have time to read things that are not associated with something I’m writing– and most of the stuff I do read can be classified as research articles or chapters in edited volumes. It’s really pitiful–I used to love reading. I went looking for some easier to digest things on my shelves (many shelves). I found a book I read– “Please Look After Mom” by Shin Kyung-sook. I actually read that. It was depressing but worth reading. You could try her newer book, too.

    I recently finished “Intimate Distance” by Michelle Bigenho… but it’s about Andean music in Japan and it took me about 5 years to finish. Okay, full disclosure, I have to write a book review and they (an academic journal) remembered i hadn’t done it (b/c the book turned me off and I hoped they’d forget)… so it’s not like I wanted to finish it.

    Ummm, you could learn more about Korea! If so, I’d recommend Park Chan E.’s “Voices from the Straw Mat” about pansori singing– really well written. Laurel Kendall’s “Shamans, Nostalgia, and the IMF” and “Shamans, Housewives, and other Restless Spirits” are both really good.

    Tomie Hahn’s “Sensational Knowledge: Embodying Cutlure through Japanese Dance” is one of my all time faves. And if you wanted to challenge yourself, Marilyn Ivy’s “Discourses of the Vanishing.” Kristin Surak’s “Making Tea, Making Japan” is on my list to read, it’s supposed to be great. Can never find time, though.

    Just sort of random recommendations, because I applaud the project, I’m really glad your mom told me you were doing this.^^ But I asked some friends, who probably have better recommendations than me. And if I think of something, or visit Lopez and see my boxes of books from back when I read for fun, I’ll send you some more recs.


  3. Oh, my friend Winnie already answered– she said: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.


    1. Thanks so much for all the suggestions. I have read a few of the suggestions, and heard of some, but there are a lot of ideas that are completely new! Love A Year Of Reading the World!


  4. Octavia Butler, said a friend– and I also LOVE Octavia. All of her work.

    “ursula le guin and sheri s tepper if she likes SciFi”

    Another friend wrote “Ruth Hogan and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie” and a someone else seconded Chimamanda.


  5. My poet friend Sonja says:
    Hild, Nicola Griffin; White Trash, Nancy Isenberg; Lab Girl, Hope Jahren; The Orchard, Adele Crockett Robertson (OMG, it’s such a well written book); Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer; The Fire Next Time, James Balwin; The Fire This Time, Jessamyn Ward; Citizen, Claudine Rankin; Upstream: Selected Essays, Mary Oliver; Take This Man, Brando Skyhorse (hysterical); A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley; Holy the Firm, Annie Dillard. And i cannot help recommending a couple of simply breath taking poetry collections – Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay, and Similacra, Airea D. Matthews (I just reviewed this one, newly out, and it’s so damn smart).


  6. And more: Cynthia said “No critical theory? Ok, then strike Anzaldua and Trinh Minh Ha. Old poetry faves of mine – Audre Lorde, Sandra Cisneros, Lucille Clifton, Olga Broumas. Recently been reading Laili Long Soldier’s Whereas (her poetic response to the US government’s pseudo apology to Native peoples hidden in a 2009 defense appropriations bill) and Deborah Miranda’s Bad Indians (a poetic experimental tribal and family memoir).”

    Jennifer said: “Zora Neale Hurston “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. Ought to be required reading, period.”

    Tim said: “Gina Apostol’s Gun Dealers’ Daughter”


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