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What are we reading in February 2020?

Annie Deighnaugh
15 days ago
last modified: 15 days ago

I'm working my way through The Body Keeps the Score, written by a doctor about both the physical and psychological symptoms and results that come from trauma: child abuse, neglect, violence as an adult, war, etc. I'm finding it very interesting, and I'm learning a lot. This is for our book group. I think it will yield a lot of good discussion.

If anyone is interested, there is a podcast of him discussing the book:

As always, it's helpful if you bold titles if you can, rate the books 1-5 and say whether you think it'd be good for book group.

So what are you reading?

Comments (82)

  • Bunny

    Running, yes, you're so right. And she spent her entire life being told "but you don't look Jewish." Thanks for the recommendation. Although most of the hard facts come out very early in the book, she writes in such a compelling way, I couldn't put the book down. She felt like a very real person to me.

  • socks

    norar--what a coincidence you should mention Trustee from the Toolroom!! I haven't thought of that book in decades but stumbled across a copy in a used bookstore just a few days ago and remembered how I liked it. It's next up for re-reading, something I rarely do.

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  • runninginplace

    I lovelovelove this monthly topic because it yields suggestions for books I would never have encountered. Latest example: Trustee from the Toolroom is currently waiting for me to pick up from the library. Sounds like a wonderful premise and with the praise from those who have read it I have to explore this book.

    Thank you again Annie for starting this ongoing conversation and thanks to everyone who shares wonderful book tips. It's a reader's online heaven up in here that's for sure.

  • Bestyears

    I echo everything runninginplace wrote! I'm a big Dani Shapiro fan, and am pretty sure I've read everything she's written. For those who enjoyed Inheritance, and may not know, Dani hosts a podcast now -about family secrets! Family Secrets Podcast

  • Bunny

    Bestyears, thank you for the podcast recommendation. Since my AppleWatch forces me to walk every freaking day I've discovered podcasts help keep me going.

  • Sueb20

    I just finished The Lake House (Kate Morton). I loved it. Lots of twists and turns over about 70 years in a family. The end maybe tied up a bit too neatly but still, I enjoyed it while sitting on my lounge chair on vacation!

  • Iris S (SC, Zone 7b)

    My copy of Doug Tallamy’s “Nature’s best hope” arrived in the mail today, can’t wait to start it. His Bringing Nature home really inspired me. So expect me to dig up more of my lawn really soon :)

  • czarinalex

    I just finished 'Where the Crawdads Sing' by Delia Owens. It's a fiction book about a young woman who grows up alone in the marshes of North Carolina. It is a murder mystery and a love story. It beautifully describes nature. I particularly enjoyed the poetry throughout the book. One of my favorites in a while.

    I read Inheritance by Dani Shapiro last month. Bunny is right.. its very compelling. Both of my children were adopted at an early age, so I particularly enjoyed her thoughts on nature vs nurture. What makes each of us, us.

  • jojoco

    I just finished "The Weight of Ink". Could have used a sherpa with that one. Parts of it were so beautifully written and the general plot was engaging. But I found I didn't care much for the modern day characters and that some of the proposed plot arcs just stretched plausibility too thin for me.

    My copy was from the library and I considered slipping in a note that said "Abandon all hope ye that enter." Given the topic of the story, a found note could surely enrich the next reader's experience. Or not.

    Now I am reading "The Girl with Seven Names." I think the topic is fascinating, but I find the writing to be distractingly unpolished. Yes, I know English isn't her first language, but she did have a co-author on it. But like I said, the topic is a complete page-turner for me.

    Next up is "Dutch House". I'm really looking forward to that one,

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    jojoco, I agree completely on the weight of ink and the girl with 7 names.

  • Bunny

    Jo, I agree with you on The Girl with Seven Names. Unpolished writing, but fascinating story.

  • Mimou-GW

    I am reading Jenny Slate's essay collection Little Weirds. I'm smitten but recognize it won't appeal to everyone. Even though it is written from a painful place it is poetic and tender.

  • jojoco

    I'm halfway through The Girl with Seven Names and quitting. Too much "and then, and then..." Just can't fall into a reading rhythm. I'm going to google the story and probably watch a TED talk. That's the beauty of non-fiction.

    Life is too short and my TBR pile is huge.

  • Olychick

    I finished Olive Ketteridge this morning and enjoyed it very much...I especially liked the end of the book where the publisher interviews the author and Olive together. Clever. On to Olive, Again, when it's available at the library. I think I'm 9th in line now.

  • bob_cville

    From a local bookstore I got the book Existence by David Brin. I started it back at the end of December, and am finally getting near the end of it, 800 and some pages later. Its a different take on a "First Contact" story, where instead of coming to Earth the distant aliens record themselves into holographic crystals and spew them across the galaxy. Their goal is to find other civilizations and pass on the technology of how to make many such crystals, and to convince them to copy all of the alien intelligences to the new crystals, and add in copies of humans, and to send those crystals off across the galaxy in the same way.

  • jim_1 (Zone 9A)

    An older book on the shelf that the missus bought (1977), The Etruscan Smile by Velda Johnson. A quick read (less than 200 pages), that takes place in Tuscany, a place where I have been.

    Jack Reacher is a character by Lee Child. I have read many of the books and just completed three of them (one a day, due to inability to do much after shoulder surgery): Make Me; A Wanted Man; and The Midnight Line.

    Next up are a couple Virgil Flowers books by John Sandford.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    I finished The Body Keeps the Score. I found it interesting but dense...3.5 stars. The earlier chapters were better than the later ones. It's about how trauma affects the brain and thus the behavior, from child abuse and neglect to PTSD, and how the lack of understanding and a good diagnosis leads to patient mistreatment and far more expensive treatments as nondrug treatments such biofeedback and EMDR are sidelined. I did gain some new insights. This is for bookgroup so I suspect it will lead to interesting discussion.

    Next up is American Beauty by Edna Ferber....about a Polish immigrant family growing up in CT. It's from 1931. For those of you who don't know, she wrote Showboat, Giant, Cimmaron, and won a pulitzer for So Big.

  • sjerin

    I need to read books without horror, gore or sadness. :) Life by itself has enough of that. I just finished the Spellman Family series and really enjoyed them. Now I'm on the hunt for something else with humor....any suggestions?

  • Olychick

    sjerin, I really, really enjoyed The Whole Town is Talking, by Fanny Flagg. It might fit your criteria.

    Also, The Rosie Project.

  • Bunny

    sjerin, have you ever read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? When my mom gave me the book, I thought, oh dear, with a title like that, I don't think so. It turned out to be really good (I've read it twice) and I think it meets your criteria.


  • Annie Deighnaugh

    I needed something light in between dark stuff, and recommend anything by Dave Barry...laugh out loud funny. And if you're looking for funny and touching, go for Billy Crystal's Still Foolin' 'Em. Best in audio version as he narrates it and it includes some of his stand up routines. Also Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, also great in audio as he narrates it. Another fun one are the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich...and they're are many.

  • runninginplace

    For funny I"d suggest The Rosie Project and its sequels The Rosie Effect and The Rosie Result (I didn't know about the last one, have to get it ASAP!).

    They are all very funny, warm and upbeat but with a good message about love and acceptance. Definitely fit your criteria sjerin.

    I also adore the David Rosenfelt Andy Carpenter series although there is some violence, but only for the bad guys. Andy's a wealthy lawyer who only takes on unwinnable cases and all the books also feature his much loved dog Tara and a cast of hilarious supporting characters.

    And if you want a classic that's one of the funniest things I've ever read, A Confederacy of Dunces may suit. It is hilarious! I'd say it well earned that Pulitzer.

  • salonva

    Just jumping in to add my agreement with

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

    The Whole Town is Talking

    Confederacy of Dunces

    I loved those - especially Guernsey

    I might add-

    The Story of Arthur Truluv

    I liked The Rosie Project well enough but I did not love it.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    Just finished American Beauty by Edna Ferber. What a sweet tale. She was such a good writer, and so much of this story I could relate to. Really enjoyed it. So thankful one of our local libraries isn't prone to throwing everything old out. I believe I was reading a first edition.

    Next up is most likely Red Notice.

  • Bunny

    I just now finished The Dutch House. Love love loved it. Loved it. That is all.

  • 4kids4us

    I just finished Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. Despite its high ratings on Goodreads, it sadly didn’t live up to my expectations. Given its tragic premise (young boy is lone survivor of plane crash that kills nearly 200 people including his family), I expected to be emotionally tied to the the main character’s journey of recovery. I’m not sure what was missing but I did not find it very compelling. There were moments of beautiful writing, but not enough for me to give it more than a 3 star rating. I would have like better character development.

    Moving on to The Air You Breathe by France de Pontes Peebles. It begins on a sugar plantation in Brazil. Not sure where I originally heard about it.

  • salonva

    Well, I stuck with Harry's Trees and just now finished it. Parts of it were truly beautiful and inspiring and touching, but there was a lot that just seemed to go on and on and on and then some. I usually don't critique the writing as I am more into the story, but I think if this could have been less wordy and just abbreviated, I would have liked it a lot more. I give it 2 to 3 stars. When I went to mark it as completed odn Goodreads, I saw it has 4.18 stars. Usually anything over 4 stars is really excellent in my experience. Honestly, I find that more than 3.5 is a really good book. I did stick with this one but it took a lot of effort to go back to it.

    My next read will be There, There which a few of you have recommended previously.

    I have recommended The Address several times because it's such a great read. I promise. sorry if it feels like I am getting commission on it but really, it's so so good.

  • sweet_betsy No AL Z7

    Just finished all 740 paperback pages of Songs in Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris. It was a slow starter since it had so many characters I found it hard to keep them all straight. It is a gritty tale about a divorced mother living on the edge who gets taken in by a criminal con man. I was waiting for the woman to wise up and for the con man to get his but it took a long time. I almost felt as if the author got tired of writing and quit. As a result the ending was unsatisfactory. There are several issues in the book that would provide good discussion for a book group but 3 stars is about it for this one.

  • runninginplace

    I just got back from spending time in Tudor England via Tombland, the latest CJ Sansom Matthew Shardlake novel and while it was as always an excellent reading experience it was a MAJOR commitment. Most of the book is taken up by a chronicle of a real life obscure commoners' uprising that occurred during the reign of Edward VI, the child of Henry VIII whose brief reign was overshadowed by that of his sister Elizabeth I. While the history was interesting, the digression literally was book length itself, so by the time the author finished he had taken 800 pages to tell both interrelated stories. Whew.

    I wanted to follow that up with something completely different and am absorbed in Long Bright River which is a very topical novel about two sisters in Philadelphia; one a cop and the other an opioid addict. I"m finding it an absorbing if not a happy read because the characters are very well drawn and there's a meaty suspenseful plot as well.

    Next up is American Dirt which has gotten a huge amount of press for a campaign against its author who has been accused of cultural appropriation. This is seemingly based on a non-Hispanic woman writing a book about a Mexican mother and child trying to leave the country after a violent attack. I can't help but think there's some PC run amok here; if every author is precluded from using imagination to create characters the literary world is dead. And censorship is still that regardless of which faction is practicing it!

  • kkay_md

    Just got my hands on The Yellow House ("a major memoir about a large family and its beloved home" according to the NYT) and will read The Dutch House, too. Just finished Normal People and found it curiously lacking. It seemed to drone on and on without any changes in overall mood, somehow. Must read Circe, which I got for Christmas and haven't cracked open yet.

  • Bunny

    kkay, I loved Circe so much, as well as The Song of Achilles that precedes it.

  • Rusty

    I, too, recently finished "Songs in Ordinary Time", and have very mixed reactions to it. It ranges from ho-hum boring, "Do I really want to finish this?", to "I've got to read just one more page right now!". There are a lot of characters, but they all tie in to make the story complete. I was surprised at the ending, not what I expected at all. But I thought it fitting.

    Also read "The Art of Love" by A. B. Michaels. No, it's not a "how-to' book, it's a novel that takes place in California in the 1800's, involving a young, very talented female artist and a miner that actually struck gold. I enjoyed it a lot.

    "The Image Seeker" by Amanda Hughes (Book 3 of Bold Women of the 20th Century) takes a young woman through the Dust Bowl, The Great Depression and Nazi Germany. I found the writing to be a little stiff, or maybe awkward would be a better word, but the story itself is very good.

    Then I tried to read "Eleos" by D. R. Bell. The author obviously did a LOT of research for this book. So much so that I couldn't finish it. It involves three generations of Armenian Jews, beginning with an Auschwitz survivor. While I would like to have seen the mystery solved, I just couldn't plow through any more names, dates, and details.

    When I put "Eleos" down, I needed something very light that didn't need much thought or involve emotions, so I'm now reading "An Event to Remember. . . Or Forget" by Melissa Baldwin, which fulfills both those requirements quite well. It's simply entertaining.


  • nickel_kg

    Recently finished The Saxon Twins, by Helen M. Stevens {currently free if you have Kindle Unlimited}. This is Stevens' first fiction book, she's written quite a few (amazingly beautiful!) embroidery books. It's about a boy and girl as they grow up in the kings' courts in the late 900's. I wasn't expecting much, figuring a person is probably either a good author OR a good artist ... but Ms Stevens is both. Recommended if you enjoy early English history, or the pageantry and intrigue of thrones. First in a series, I will be buying them all.

    I'm continuing to enjoy Peter Lovesey detective mysteries. He's a prolific author, I'm just starting to read him, so am happy!

  • jlsch

    Just finished The Murmur of Bees and loved it. It takes place in northeast Mexico during the Mexican Revolution and the 1918 flu epidemic. The pacing is slow, but beautiful writing, great character development and magical elements. It was a bit slow in the first half but stick with’ll be glad you did! This is the first book of Sofia Segovia’s to be translated, and I’m hoping there will be others.

  • Bestyears

    Salonva, I just downloaded a sample of The Address -can't wait to start it. Do other people know about the free sample available for Amazon Kindle books. I find the sample length varies a bit by book, but generally it is long enough for me to determine whether or not I want to keep reading.

  • Bunny

    Bestyears, yes, both Kindle and iBooks have had the sample feature for years. It can be very helpful in test-driving a book.

  • caflowerluver

    Reading the latest in the series, number 19, of Special FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast novels by the authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. They are murder mysteries with a touch of the macabre. The first several books were quite good, then they went off track for awhile. The last couple seem to have returned back to the quality of the earlier books. They should be read in order.

  • jlsch

    Caflowerluver, the Pendergast series is not my general fare, but I’ve loved most of them and consider them my guilty pleasure! I have to get the next one now that you have mentioned it. Thanks.

  • chisue

    A little slow getting going, but I'd recommend it anyway. Three stars.

    The Words I Never Wrote, Thynne.

    A pair of very close -- and naive -- English sisters are separated when one marries a German industrialist, in the early days of the Third Reich. The other woman becomes an internationally reknowned journalist who cuts off correspondence over her sister's failure to recognize the evil around her in Germany. They reunite following the fall of Berlin. The 'Words' are in the form of a novel the journalist writes after her sister's death -- never published and discovered by a third woman many years later, hidden in the case of an old portable typewiter.

  • 4kids4us

    Being Black History Month, I decided to focus on African and African American authors this month. First, I read My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite first, which I think several of you have read.

    I just finished thought What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. I can’t even begin to describe this novel that read like a scattered collection of thoughts. It was clear to me that the author has talent, but the book did not really fit its description. It was very short and a quick read, but not really one that I would recommend.

    Today I started Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue which won a literary award and was nominated for several others when it initially came out and has been on my TBR list for several years. It’s about a couple from Cameroon who come to the US for a better life. They find employment with a wealthy NYC family but eventually discover troubling secrets that threatens to destroy all of them. It’s very good so far (I’m about 20% in).

  • caflowerluver

    Jlsch - You're welcome. The new 2020 book is titled Crooked River.

  • beaglesdoitbetter

    I didn't know there was a new Rosie book out. I LOVED the first two and I am downloading the new one as we speak! So excited!

  • justerrilynn

    I just finished Tisha by Robert Specht and enjoyed it very much. I think it was recommended by Olychick? Anyway, it's a real life story of a teacher in 1920's Alaska.

    Before that...another good read, The Storytellers Secret. A New York Journalist travels to India after several miscarriages as well as a marriage breakdown. While there she finds herself and gets answers to her families past.

    Good read!

    Next, A Long Petal Of The Sea by Isabel Allende. This is a historical fiction about the Spanish Civil War to date.

  • Olychick

    justerrilynn, wasn't me, but I'll add it to my list!

  • watchmelol

    I am reading a collection of Dr. Dolittle. The first three books. Never read the series as a child. Reading it as written in the past, not the updated version. Takes me back to my childhood when I read all the Oz books. I have seen reviews that the updated "more acceptable PC versions are well done. I may get those for my grand children although I believe they should at some time be exposed to literature as it was written not as we wish it was written.

  • jemdandy

    I'm reading another swashbuckling adventure by Clive Cussler titled "Typhoon fury". As usual, his main character, Juan Cabrillo, Captain of a very special sea going vessel, and his crew gets into tight scrapes with narrow escapes. This time, they are battling a bad guy who has designs to take over the Philippines, and then use this as a base to conquer the world a piece at a time. It is centered around a drug that was developed during WW2 but never brought to fruition because its was highly addictive and withdrawal effects were terrible and life threatening. It was deemed to dangerous to continue its development. Files about it were squirreled away in military archives and forgotten. Somehow, this bad guy found a cache of pills and became a user. He becomes near super-human, addicted, and desperately wants to find the chemical formula.

    I class this book as adventure with science fiction equipment, mixed with accurate geography and historical events. The drug is science fiction also. The book, "Typhoon Fury", is one in a series of books called the Oregon files, the Oregon being a special ship disguised as a tramp steamer.

  • IdaClaire

    I'm almost finished with "Emily, Alone" which I've enjoyed even more than "Henry, Himself". Both books beautifully capture the ordinary lives of ordinary people and present them as unique works of art.

  • salonva

    @watchmelol I remember reading the Doolitle books and absolutely loving them. It's great that you are reading them now and enjoying. I have tried to read some of the beloved books that somehow escaped me back in the day. Along those lines, I read Anne of Green Gables , even Winnie the Pooh , oh and Where the Red Fern Grows and a few others which I adored. Somehow I did not read them growing up.

  • texanjana

    I just started Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow. It is engrossing so far.

  • blfenton

    I read Henry Himself recently and really enjoyed. I have Emily Alone on hold.

    I can't remember who recommended the following two books but I read Bel Canto which is based on a Japanese embassy hostage situation in Lima during 1996-1997 and it was really interesting.. I have to admit that I did rush through a couple of sections but it really makes you think about the Stockholm Syndrome.

    I have to thank whoever recommended Once Upon a River as I loved that book. The characters captivated me, the story was interesting and I loved reading the words that the author used to tell the story. It takes place in 1887 England in a couple of villages on the Thames and the river itself plays a central part of the story. I was happy to sit down for 3-4 hours (which I seldom do when reading a book) and just immerse myself in the language of the story and its characters. It isn't a murder mystery but the story is about the mysterious comings and goings of a 4-year old girl.

    It is a book I would read again.

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