Happy October! Is it just me, or did September absolutely fly by?! I feel like I blinked and the month was over. Not sure what it was this past month, but I read two or three books less than I have been lately. When I’m traveling, I have a lot of downtime to read on planes, in airports, on the train, and I didn’t travel as much in September, so I think that’s one of the reasons why I read less. This past month, I’ve also been re-watching Everwood on Hulu—it’s one of my all-time favorite shows if you need a new one—and reading less after work/on the weekends.
That all being said, I hit a really fun milestone this month—I’ve read 52 books this year, which is the same number I read all of last year. My initial goal for this was to read 62 books, ten more than I did last year, but I’ve decided to up it to 75 to make it a bit more of a challenge here in Q4. I’m optimistic I can do it!
I’d love to know what’s been on your nightstand lately—I always get the best book ideas from you. You can also keep up with what I’m reading in real time on my Goodreads—feel free to friend me.
AMERICAN ROYALS // KATHARINE McGEE
This book lives in an alternate reality where instead of becoming President, George Washington becomes the first King of America. Fast forward to the modern day, and the fourth generation of Washingtons are on the throne and America is preparing for its first Queen, Beatrice, to ascend the throne. Her father, the King, is nervous about America accepting its first female ruler, and tells her she needs to start thinking about getting married. So, naturally, they throw a ball where she can meet her potential suitor. Only she is starting to fall for her bodyguard and the suitor she deems most acceptable may or may not be the person her sister, Princess Samantha, has a huge crush on. All the while, their brother, Prince Jefferson, finds his love life at the center of tabloid fodder.
Would I recommend it? Definitely—especially if you loved The Royal We or any other royal fan fiction type books.
THE OPPOSITE OF LONELINESS // MARINA KEEGAN
Marina Keegan died in a car accident on Cape Cod just a few days after her graduation from Yale. A talented writer, her family and friends published a book of her essays after her death. Six of them are short fiction stories and six of them were nonfiction. I first learned of Marina’s writing a few days after after her death as her senior column in the Yale Daily News’ graduation edition, entitled The Opposite of Loneliness, went viral—and I’m so glad I got the chance to read her book.
Would I recommend it? I really enjoyed Marina’s writing and was impressed in the breadth of her work. It also was not lost on me while I was reading it that when Marina wrote her essays, I was younger than her, but now as I read her essays, I’m older than she ever got to be.
THE NIGHTINGALE // KRISTIN HANNAH
It’s a small town in France in 1939 and Vianne tells her husband goodbye as he heads to the front. She believes there is no way the German’s can break the Maginot Line—but then they do, and Vianne finds herself living in Nazi-occupied territory. A German soldier comes to her house one day and demands he billet at her house. Forced to obey to keep her and her young daughter alive, Vianne learns to fight the enemy in her own way as Jews in their community, including her best friend, begin to vanish to concentration camps. All the while, her sister, Isabelle, who’s code name is The Nightingale, joins the French Resistance, putting her life at risk to save others—and eventually leads 30+ downed Allied airmen through the Pyrenees and into Spain so they can get home.
Would I recommend it? 100% yes. This was the best fiction book I read all month, and my favorite WWII historical fiction to date. I could not put it down, and it made me so grateful to live in a free country with food on my table, clothes on my back, and warm shelter in the winter.
THE CACTUS // SARAH HAYWOOD
Susan has a perfectly ordered life—and a reputation for having quite the prickly personality. She’s a lawyer and likes the predictability and black and white nature of her job. Then, her mother dies and she realizes she is about to become a mother herself. All the while, she believes her brother might have unfairly influenced their mother’s will before she passed and taken control of her house so he and his best friend, Rob, can stay permanently. Susan realizes her greatest fear is happening—she’s losing control of her life. While she’s trying to get to the bottom of her brother’s actions, she finds herself finding an unlikely ally in Rob. But can she get out of her own way and lose control for good?
Would I recommend it? Meh—I usually agree with Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks, but I thought this one was just so-so. There are definitely better books out there!
THE ONLY PLANE IN THE SKY // GARRETT GRAFF
In 2016, 15 years after the attack, Garrett Graff published an oral history of the same name in POLITICO in which those aboard Air Force One on 9/11 shared their account of the day. The anniversary of this 9/11, he published an expanded oral history based on thousands of interviews he did with people who lived it. It’s organized chronologically and tells the day as it unfolds. One thing that was striking to me, which I of course, knew, but never really comprehended, was that when the planes hit the Twin Towers, there was a sense of urgency to an extent given the debris and devastation caused by the impact and resulting fires, but few thought or could predict that the Towers would collapse—and certainly not as fast as they did. We know in hindsight everyone there was working under a clock, but that wasn’t as pressing of a thought on the ground.
I also wanted to share an excerpt from the Amazon that gives you a better insight into the oral histories shared in the book than I could, “[it’s a] historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real time: the father and son working in the North Tower, caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger’s last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from rushing into the burning building to try to rescue their colleagues.”
Would I recommend it? Absolutely—go add this to your Amazon cart as soon as possible. I was 10 when 9/11 happened and could not fully process or comprehend the attack our country was under. Now that I am an adult, reading these first-person accounts of what happened on that clear September day have really helped me process some of the trauma and better understand the magnitude of what happened.