14 Books to Read...or SkipBy Gini Dietrich

Here we are. Just two days before Thanksgiving…and my last day of work in November.

Because everyone in the U.S. has senioritis, I thought I’d not do my intended content planning blog post, but do a semi-annual book post.

I recorded The Friday Five with Tom Webster yesterday. If you don’t know his podcast, he interviews people around the web about their five favorite songs.

His tagline is, “Discovering the Music DNA of Interesting People.”

Because I have the music taste of a 15-year-old girl, I had a little fun with it (and I think he was a bit dismayed)…and showed my music DNA pretty much sucks.

I blame this on not watching television or listening to the radio when we were kids. I always had my nose stuck in a book and today really is no different.

So, if anyone wants to interview me about my fiction DNA, I can totally bring it!

14 Books to Read…or Skip

Here are the 14 books I’ve read this year.

I’ve approached this a little differently than in the past. I’ve given you a thumbs up or a thumbs down so you know whether you should bother or not.

  1. The Goldfinch. I am just finishing this book now and it is excellent! As my mom said, “It’s like reading music.” Here’s the thing about it: Even if you don’t love the story (boy loses mom, boy loses dad, boy does lots of drugs, boy loses best friend, boy loses, loses, loses), the writing is like nothing we read anymore. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and for good reason. Everything you’re taught about writing fiction is in this book. You are totally transplanted to the story. I’ve spent many a night up way past my bedtime reading. This is definitely a thumbs up.
  2. Gray Mountain. John Grisham is my guilty pleasure. I realize it’s ridiculous because all of his stories are the same. Gray Mountain is The Firm placed in West Virginia. Same characters (different names). Same bad guys (replace suits with jeans and boots). Same scenario (stolen papers that screw The Man.) I should have saved this to read after The Goldfinch. My brain will need a break. I give this a half thumbs up.
  3. Sweet Water. If you read books on a Kindle, you know that most publishers do this brilliant thing: They give you a chapter of the author’s next book so you keep reading. That’s what happened when I read Orphan Train (see below) so I picked it up after I read Olive Kitteridge. I actually liked this better than Orphan Train, which is a New York Times bestseller. Cassie Simon leaves New York City behind to live on the land she inherited from her grandfather…and to live near her mother’s family; people she’s never known. It’s an interesting story of the ties that bind. I give this a thumbs up.
  4. Olive Kitteridge. I saw HBO was doing a mini-series on this and it won a Pulitzer, so both those things made the decision for me. Rather, though, than being a complete story about one Mrs. Kitteridge (who is not a nice person, but you begin to feel sorry for her), it’s a collection of short stories that involve the cranky, old lady. I’m not sure how this won the Pulitzer. I didn’t like it at all. But, I hear the HBO series is pretty good, so I may check it out while I’m stuck on the trainer. I give this a thumbs down.
  5. Orphan Train. I didn’t like this as much as I did her second book, but it was a pretty good read about Molly Ayer, who is close to aging out of the foster care system and meets an old woman, who was an orphan herself. She helps her clean out her attic one year and learns all about the struggles of a child who rides a train from New York City to the Midwest to find a family to raise her. I give this a thumbs up.
  6. The Fault in Our Stars. When Hazel has resigned herself to the fact that she’s dying from cancer, Augustus Waters shows up in her Cancer Kid Support Group and gives her new meaning to life. I am not going to be popular for saying this, but I thought the movie was MUCH better than the book. (In fact, Mr. D told me I’m no longer allowed to pick movies because he had to chop onions when he watched it.) So I say skip the book and watch the movie instead (which you may never hear me say again). I give this a thumbs down.
  7. The Dinner. This book is set through the course of one dinner, when two brothers and their wives meet to discuss the banality of work and the triviality of the holidays. We quickly learn, though, there is a bigger issue at play with their 15-year-old sons who seem to have participated in a horrific act that has triggered a police investigation and is going to test the sibling rivalry. I give this a half thumbs up.
  8. The Husband’s Secret. In a drunken stupor the night their first child was born, a husband writes his wife a letter to be opened upon his death. Several years later, in the middle of raising three kids, she finds it long before his death and struggles with whether to open it or pretend she never saw it. She eventually opens and reads it and what she finds inside is astonishing. I give this a thumbs up.
  9. Once We Were Brothers. In Poland, a family takes in a boy the same age as their own son. As the boys grow up, they become more than just friends…they become brothers. When the war hits, though, the one boy stays with his family—who is Jewish—while the other goes off to serve in Hitler’s war. Fast forward to today when the Jewish man recognizes civic leader and philanthropist, Elliot Rosenzweig, as his old friend and soon-to-be enemy former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Of course, no one believes Rosenzweig could really be this horrible person and brushes off the claims as coming from a delusional old man. I give this a thumbs up.
  10. Unbroken. From the author who brought us “Seabiscuit,” this is the story of Louis Zamperini, a boy who competed in the Berlin Olympics and then served in World War II. I didn’t like this book so much, I didn’t finish reading it. I never do that. I know lots of people really loved it, but I just couldn’t get through it. I give this a thumbs down.
  11. The Weight of Blood. The author is a family friend so I read this out of obligation, but ended up loving it. Written from a town in the Ozark Mountains, high school graduate, Lucy, learns a deep, dark secret about the mother she never knew; the mother who disappeared when she was a child. When a girl her own age goes missing and her body is displayed for all to see, Lucy grapples with losing her friend and losing her mother. What happened to both is shocking and disturbing. I give this a thumbs up.
  12. The Snowman. Lindsay Bell is a HUGE Jo Nesbo fan so I gave it a whirl. The English translation is a little awkward, but if you can get past that, you’ll enjoy the murder mystery, set in the snowy mountains. Harry Hole, the investigator, discovers many women disappear on the first day of snow every year. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to track a killer who appears only once a year. This is a bit of a guilty pleasure, but a good read for those times your brain needs a break, but you want to keep reading. I give this a thumbs up.
  13. After Her. The publisher got me again with this one! I read Labor Day and then got sucked into Joyce Maynard’s second book. Loosely inspired by The Trailside Killer case, Rachel watches her father’s life unravel as he tries to solve the case of the “Sunset Strangler.” It is a very poignant book about the secrets we learn about our parents as we get older. I give this a thumbs up.
  14. Labor Day. Blah. Skip it. I don’t even want to tell you what it’s about. It was so bad. A guy escapes jail and goes to live with a mother and her son over Labor Day weekend. The mother and convict fall in love and blah, blah, blah. But definitely read “After Her.” It was MUCH better and Maynard redeemed herself, in my eyes. I give this a thumbs down.

That was kind of fun! I’m averaging more than a book a month (I’ve read a few business books, too, as you can see by the image of my Kindle screen above). Yay, me!

Now it’s your turn.

What books have you read this year that you recommend we read?

P.S. Just a reminder there are no blog posts on Thursday or Friday. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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