Whatcha Readin'? Free day for more readin


February 8, 2024

Welcome to a leap year! I recently asked an artist friend what she planned to do with her “free day.” I expected to hear something funny but true like “sleep!” or something inspiring but exhausting like “try a new technique.” Instead, she said, “it’s a Thursday: I’m going to work out and then work.” Wha-wha-wha. How terribly disappointing.

Still, she’s not wrong…there’s this meme going around, you’ve probably seen it: “You can’t read all day if you don’t start in the morning.” This is something I haven’t done in years. Possibly because I have kids, possibly because there’s no end to the things that need doing (Laundry, I’m giving you side-eye), possibly because my attention span has been shortened by social media. At any rate, I’m hoping to spend my free day in a book staycation.

In January I read 13 books, 11 of which were 4 stars or better. Here they are, in no particular order:

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros is the second book in The Empyrean series and is a medium-to-fast-paced “romantasy” (that’s a fantasy that’s also a romance…I learned something new!) that’s driven me to obsession; I cannot wait for book three to be released in December 2024 (possibly, apparently there’s some scandal around the date being released and then deleted?). If you love undaunted heroines and impossible odds, dragons, and battles fought in the mind as much as on the field, this series is for you.

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese is a historical literary fiction book that’s emotional, reflective, and medium-paced. If you love beautiful writing and family sagas, this is the book for you. It’s quite long though, perfect for these cold winter months.

The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson is medium-paced historical fiction that’s reflective and emotional (it’s also the current Thompson Falls Library Book Club pick if you want to read it now). I loved the Native American history and perspective, the idea that we are responsible to more than ourselves, and the questions raised about purpose.

In Open Spaces by Russell Rowland is a slow-paced historical fiction that will appeal to readers who enjoy family sagas. Following the youngest son of a cattle ranching family through his coming of age and evolution to adulthood, the book is both funny and tragic.

There Are No Rules for This by J. J. Elliott is a medium-to-fast-paced fiction that reads like a memoir (and after a bit of snooping I suspect that’s really what it is). Hilarious and beautiful, it recounts the grief between best friends when one unexpectedly commits suicide. If you can handle the cursing (it’s well done, brilliantly spot on), it’s fantastic.

Dolly Parton, Songteller by Robert K Oermann and Dolly Parton is a memoir-esque account of Dolly’s song lyrics and the stories behind them. A fascinating history that’s lighthearted and medium-to-fast-paced, it’s perfect for the Dolly-lovers out there.

Holding Fire by Bryce Andrews is a nonfiction/memoir-ish, medium-paced, reflective accounting of the author's experience with violence and firearms and how the west was “won.” I’d bought the book at Montana Book Fest last year thinking my husband would like it, and then read it myself after he spoke so highly of it. It raises a lot of good questions.

The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso is a memoir that’s slow-to-medium-paced, reflective, and very gritty. The experiences of a young woman dealing with an almost unknown disease that sends her in-and-out of hospitals just as she ought to be building her life. If you can’t handle descriptions of medical things, this is not the book for you.

May Cause Side Effects by Brooke Siem is a slow-to-medium-paced memoir about a woman quitting her depression medications after being on them for 15 years, and after having had them prescribed as a teenager and never altered as she aged. Fascinating for so many reasons, I’d originally read the book because the author gave herself a Goodreads review that cracked me up: “I think I did a pretty good job.”

Behind the Book by Chris MacKenzie Jones is a medium-paced and informative craft book for those wanting more behind-the-scenes info about writing, agenting, editing, the publishing industry, and life after the first book.

I Had a Miscarriage by Jessica Zucker is a medium-paced memoir/self-help that’s emotional and reflective. It has as much to do with grief as miscarriage, and as the author is a psychologist, there’s quite a bit of shrink-work in it. It is a book I wish had been published when I went through my miscarriages, and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to understand what women go through after having one, as well as anyone who has had one (or more).

I’m currently in some stage of reading:

-Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

-Meander, Spiral, Explode by Jane Alison

-Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Last month felt like the longest January that ever January-ed, so the idea of an extra day this month might not be enticing, but you get it whether you want it or not. And just because the free day happens to come on a Thursday doesn’t mean you have to take it that day. Give yourself a staycation one day this month, read something that’s been sitting on your TBR (to be read) for longer than you can remember, and then drop me a line with Whatcha Readin’.

Sunday Dutro is an avid reader and eBook convert living in Thompson Falls with her beautiful family and an enormous “to be read” pile. Reach her at [email protected] or sundaydutro.com.


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