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All Books

Author:

Jordan Michael Smith

This is a good book about a fascinating and inspiring man. It looks briefly at what went wrong for Jimmy Carter in the Presidency, but the bulk of the book is about Carter's post-presidency, arguing that Carter redefined what it means (and what it should mean) to be a former President of the United States. It is also the story of a man coming back from a very public and humiliating failure and building a meaningful "second act" in life that made a real difference.

Favorite Thing:
The story about how Jimmy Carter became involved in Habitat for Humanity
Humanity book cover: a picture of Jimmy Carter
Book Length:
Shorter
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
High
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Charles Todd

This is a short mystery that is related to a longer series of mysteries by the same author, but it stands well on its own. It is set in the Scottish highlands, and the setting is like another character in this story. The setting and the main character, Hamish MacLeod, are the stars of the book, but the mystery itself is solid, too. All in all, this is an enjoyable pick if you're looking for a short mystery.

Favorite Thing:
The way the setting felt like another character in the story.
Book Length:
Shorter
Part of Series:
Short story/novella related to a series of long books
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Yoon Ha Lee

This is an action-packed military sci-fi story. It is set in the same universe as longer books, but it stands well on its own. The main character is a special operations type military officer, sent undercover on a mission that involves an old friend. I read this book on vacation, and it was a perfect fit: good, escapist fun.

Favorite Thing:
The little details in the story... like the duck fat.
Extracurricular Activities book cover, and image of a male military office, viewed from behind.
Book Length:
Shorter
Part of Series:
Short story/novella related to a series of long books
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Patricia G. Buddenhagen

This is a deceptively simple story about a woman whose comfortable life is disrupted when an old childhood friend builds a vacation home in the beach community where she lives. But there's more under the surface. Even the protagonist recognizes that the disruption she feels may be entirely of her own making, and both the protagonist and the maybe-antagonist are sympathetic characters. The story made me think about how far childhood can reach into adulthood, and how hard it is to feel truly comfortable in your own skin.

Favorite Thing:
The way the story puts the reader inside the protagonist's uncertainty about what is happening.
Beach Plum Jam book cover, a picture of a jar of beach plum jam.
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Paul Vlitos

This is a fun mystery story, featuring an unconventional London private investigator who thinks he's just taken a dognapping case, but slowly discovers that it is much more than that. If you're looking for an action-packed short mystery with a bit of sardonic humor, this is a good choice. I didn't notice until after I had started reading it that it is part of a series of novellas, so if you're the type who likes to read series from the beginning, go back and find the first one. This story stands on its own, though.

Favorite Thing:
The bit of humor in how the story is told
The Scarlet Ceremony book cover
Book Length:
Short
Part of Series:
Part of a series of short stories/novellas
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Low
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Vandana Singh

This novella has a really original and fascinating premise, in which mathematics can be explored in a quasi-physical state. The universe it builds is one I'd love to revisit, but this story stands on its own and feels complete. The theme about leaving home and whether you can ever really return is explored in a thought-provoking but not heavy-handed way. But the real strength of this novella is the writing, which pulls you along through the story and the necessary world-building detours so expertly that it feels like a leisurely read, and yet I couldn't put it down. In short, this is a great sci-fi novella that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Favorite Thing:
The unique premise and how well it was explored
Distances book cover (a representation of the space described by a mathematical function)
Book Length:
Short
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
High
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Su-Yee Lin

This interesting short story is about a worker in a factory in China, who doesn't know what the factory is making and doesn't really care, until things start getting weird. It is an enjoyable and quick read. I would have liked a little more from the ending, but even so, the story planted some things to think about. This is a good pick for you if you like magical realism and are looking for a diverting short story.

Favorite Thing:
The hint that the factory was somehow selecting the right type of workers.
Dream Machine book cover
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Mona Simpson

This is an interesting short story about a past-her-prime actress who is contacted by the family of her former stepfather. He is dying, and wants to see her. The story follows her response, and the emotions and memories it stirs up. It is a really well-written story. When I finished it, I first wished it would have resolved a few more things, but as it "settled" in my mind, I think that perhaps leaving those things unresolved was central to what it says about family and what we can expect from them.

Favorite Thing:
The last part of the story (I don't want to say more, because I don't want to spoil it!)
Book cover for Steps: text with some small graphic elements
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Sonya Huber

This is a combination of reporting and personal memoir about the direct care industry. The author worked in the industry for several years, and saw both its limitations and its promise first hand. In this book, she describes her experiences as well as the experiences of a woman injured working in a care home, and then reports on the facts about the industry. I wish she had gone a bit deeper in her reporting, perhaps interviewing former residents of these homes and executives in the companies that run them. Still, I found the book interesting and well-written, and I certainly learned from reading it.

Favorite Thing:
The fact that the author shows the promise of the direct care industry as well as its problems.
Two Eyes Are Never Enough book cover. A young woman sitting in a bare room, with her hands over her face.
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Erin Hogan

This short ebook is an excerpt from a longer work, but it stands well on its own. The author takes a road trip to visit "land art" in the American west, and interweaves travel writing, personal essay, and art criticism in her account of the trip. This excerpt covers her first stop, which is to see a piece called Spiral Jetty on the shores of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. I enjoyed the way the book helped me understand the art better, but it there is still a fair amount of art criticism jargon. I was able to make sense of it, and I think most other non-experts will, too. So while the book would have been stronger if the author had found a way to write in more general language about the art, I still recommend it for anyone curious about modern art in general, and large, site-specific installations in particular. As a testament to the book, I am now tempted to try to tack a visit to Spiral Jetty onto an upcoming trip to Salt Lake City!

Favorite Thing:
The fact that I now have a better understanding of the type of art described in the book
Spiral Jetta Summer book cover
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Excerpt from a longer book
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Categories:
Disclosures:
None

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