What to Read in July?

Photo courtesy of Brooke Lark, Unsplash.com

Happy July, Everyone. Too much time has passed since my last post. Time flies, you know. Things are busy at work; I am staring at the computer all day and will hopefully produce useable e-books soon. But when I get home, I don’t feel like looking at another screen. I also upped my workout routine, since my girls and I are planning to run a 5K in a few weeks. My thighs are not happy about this! I’m trying to appease them with banana muffins. I finally found a recipe that I like. The muffins are moist and actually taste like banana. The secret is—unsurprisingly—to use more bananas. Now the husband is happy, too, because I used up all those frozen bananas that kept falling out every time he opened the freezer door.

My reading hasn’t been super-exciting for the past 2 weeks. I am making progress on my #20BooksOfSummer list, and once I have a little more time, I will write about The Great Dissent and La Vagabonde, both of which are great.

I also finished Chernobyl 01:23:40. It was an interesting, even-handed account of what exactly happened at Chernobyl, but I don’t have much to say about it. It is telling that 1) when the proper insulation material was not available during the building of the reactor, they chose to use a highly flammable material as a substitute because they had plenty of that, and 2) there was no emergency preparedness plan because everything was perfect in the Soviet Union and so there was no chance of anything bad ever happening and thus no need to prepare for an emergency. On the plus side, the Soviet Union spared no expense to clean up the giant mess that was made during the accident—although that was of little use to the thousands of people who were intimately affected by the radiation. And support for the victims has greatly diminished since the dissolution of the USSR.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I read Frontier Grit, about daring pioneer women. It was good, but it felt a little too much like a list to me. I wanted to know more about each woman, even though I understand that with few original sources available, this is hard to do. If you like Headstrong, then you would probably like this book as well. As a balance, I also read The Hating Game, which was smart and entertaining and just right for a weekend full of barbeques. The Paperback Princess has a review for you.

So, do I have any plans for this month? Um, not really. There’s a War and Peace read-along being hosted by Laura at Reading in Bed, and while I am not planning to reread this doorstopper, I will follow along and lend moral support by listening to Anna Karenina. (That does make perfect sense, doesn’t it?) I want to read some poetry and get ready for next month’s Women in Translation and Austen in August events.

Mostly, I am searching for just the right book to satisfy my hunger for good nonfiction. I borrowed The Golden Ratio, which I thought was a book about pi, but turned out to be a book about phi. Nothing wrong with “the world’s most astonishing number,” it truly is remarkable, but darn it, I wanted π! Erik Larson aside, do you have any good narrative nonfiction to recommend? And tell me about a great book you read recently. Leave a link in the comments, if you’d like.



  1. You crack me up: with your banana muffins and pi and phi. Good luck with the 5K! As for nonfiction, I finally got around to reading & reviewing the memoir The Glass Castle which is quite powerful and I’m trying to get a library copy of The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit which has been much buzzed about this year. I will get to it!

  2. “I borrowed The Golden Ratio, which I thought was a book about pi, but turned out to be a book about phi.” This is my favourite sentence out of all the blog posts I’ve read today… 😉

  3. When I did my quarterly reflection post on what I’ve read, I realized that I’d read almost NO nonfiction the pat three months. My sole nonfiction was an audio book, the Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) memoir Talking As Fast As I Can. It was good, especially since she narrated it, but I don’t know if you’re a Gilmore GIrls fan.

    I’d really like to read more nonfiction, though – I always say that, anyway, and then I just keep reading mostly fiction.

  4. Since I haven’t been doing a whole lot of reading (or blogging) myself recently, I don’t really have any fresh recommendations for you. The Divine Feud sounds like fun, though. And it’s always fun to see what everyone else recommends!
    I love banana muffins! I’m glad you found a good recipe. The one I use has oats in it, but is still very banana-y.
    Have fun running the 5K! Well, as much fun as you can have running a 5K. 🙂

  5. I mean, you’ve read the James Herriot books, yeah? All Creatures Great and Small, and those books? They’re super sweet and delightful — not the most informative nonfiction ever, but very sweet memoirs of a country vet. If you want proper history, can I recommend Tom Holland’s Persian Fire? It’s a fantastic recounting of the Persian War.

  6. My blogging hiatus has gone on much longer than I expected because I share your lack of enthusiasm for sitting at a screen when I get home. I rediscovered my adoration of Winston Churchill after watching The Crown on Netflix, so I recently read Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard which is about when young Winston Churchill was POW during the Boer War in South Africa.

    My hats off to you and your girls running the 5K. Have fun!

  7. I have so many bananas in my freezer, at all times… gotta be prepared! I use the banana bread recipe in the Joy of Cooking and just make them as muffins. The secret is lemon zest.

    Thank you for the support! How’s the audio of Anna Karenina?

    • Ah, I’ve never added lemon zest to my banana bread or muffins. I will have to try that out. I’m listening to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s rendition, and so far, it is fabulous. Thank Goodness for that, since I have another 32 hours to go. 🙂

    • I don’t like when blogging has to take a backseat, but sometimes, I just don’t have the energy for it, especially when my eyes are too tired to look at a computer screen at the end of the day. Oh well, a few more weeks, and then work should let up again.

  8. Banana muffins are the best. Plus they’ve got to be relatively healthy as far as these things go, right? Out of interest, do you have a link to the recipe you found. I tend to use Nigella Lawson’s version for banana bread, adapted to work for making muffin-sized versions. It’s pretty good, but I’m always open to new suggestions.

  9. I just read about crazy expensive pet fish for non-fiction which was fascinating. The Dragon Behind the Glass by Emily Voigt. I am going to have to check out the Chernobyl book I think, something I’d like to know more about.

    And as I get ready to use up the embarrassing number of bananas in my freezer (10!) this weekend I will tell you I started using the America’s Test Kitchen banana bread recipe. Its amazing and the key is to drain out the banana juice and then boil and reduce it. Extra flavorful! Why do the damn bananas always fall out onto us?

    • Ever since once spending all day on making the ATK’s Spaghetti Bolognese sauce, I am a little hesitant about all of the extra time, effort, and dirty dishes their recipes require. But now I am curious to try out the banana juice.
      I am picking up Jeffrey Toobin’s The Oath at the library today, since you recommended him to me. I think I will add the pet fish book to my stack. Suddenly, I want to know all about fancy aquariums… 🙂

  10. Hey – thanks for the link!

    I chuckled throughout your post – the visual of the bananas falling out of the fridge! Supporting War and Peace via Anna Karenina (totally makes sense)!

    I’ve been reading so much non-fiction but I’m not sure that any of it was really narrative…lots of essay collections and bios. I would really recommend The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine for a really fun summer NF read though!

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