Skip to main content

Book a Week with Jen Three: The Wrap Up

Last night, as I finished up reading Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman, I started thinking about what I'd say in the review. Then I remembered - oh right - I'm already done the series.

That's how this installment of Book a Week with Jen has gone. It wasn't exactly an afterthought, but it wasn't an undercurrent of the year. When I first took on this challenge in 2007, I threw myself into the project. I was at a very dark spot in my life, and forcing myself to read a book a week, I wrote about those books and my life, and it helped me heal.

This year wasn't awful, but it started off rotten. I ended a long term relationship, briefly moved back in with my mother, then lived in a scarcely furnished house (the house I had bought in 2007 then turned into a rental because that relationship was supposed to be "it") while I put my life back together. I had an off year work wise at the exact time my expenses rose because I was living alone again. I nearly broke my foot running. I got screwed on a book deal. So, no, I wouldn't put 2013 on my best list.

But there were bright points. I ran my fastest marathon ever. I published a long form piece of journalism that I had been trying to write for two years. I traveled to Anchorage, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego for the first time in my life. And because I was in a bad mood on Valentine's Day and decided to make fun of the only guy at the running event in jeans, I have a boyfriend and a New Year's Eve date at the Four Seasons tonight. I never would have renovated my house if I had not left then moved back in. And I am oh so happy to be home.

Very little of this came out in reviewing these books, which is okay. It was a nice side project to have, and I think that I've inspired you to pick up some books you might not have heard of otherwise. And I re-read The Prince of Tides specifically because of this project, which has sent me down a long path of re-thinking my approach to writing.

Now, some observations.

Most of the books I read were written by women. This was not by choice, and I didn't notice this until I was 3/4 of the way through. I stay out of the debates about men and women in writing, and whether or not women are seen as lesser writers. There are too many people screeching about it already. I pick what I want to read because I want to read it, not because of gender, the same way that I don't think it's a big deal that the Philadelphia Inquirer gave me, a woman, a sports column.

The pull of eBooks is getting stronger. Because I like to line up the books as I read them, eBooks were not eligible for this series, but they're hard to ignore - hell, I even wrote one. I don't like reading on a screen, but I did download a few novellas to read on my iPhone through a Kindle app so I'd have something to read on PATCO when I either forgot to bring my book or a book was too big to fit into my purse. I will most likely be doing this for flights from now on, or at least having one book on my iPad and one in my carry on.

I love reading. This might sound obvious, but one of the things I didn't do that much when I lived with someone else was read. As soon as I moved out, I started reading before bed again. It's a routine that gets me ready to sleep. I also no longer have cable, so my transition from work day to free time is to sit on my couch and read instead of watching TV. I like it this way.

And now, my top picks of the series.

Best Fiction: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer.
This book knocked me on my rear. I thought about it for days after I read the last page. Deciding to leave a relationship that was supposed to end in marriage is a hard choice, and it left me asking a lot of "what ifs" - not just about this relationship but those that had come before. The "what ifs" happento Greta in this book, with a time travel bend thrown in. I loved it so much that I gave it as Christmas presents. Please go read it if you haven't already.

Best Non-Fiction: Ingenious by Jason Fagone.
Can we build a better car? I didn't think I'd really care, but this book sucked me into a world of dreamers and schemers who think that the answer is yes. It's an eye opening read, but a fun one too. I never thought I'd be saying that about a car book, but Fagone is such a good story teller, that he made me car. That's the sign of a great book.

So that's it for now. As always, I'm not sure what I'll use this space for in the future. And thanks for reading along. Now go read a book!


Popular posts from this blog

Welcome Back to Book a Week with Jen!

Hello hello! Yes, the rumors (that I started) are true. On New Year's Day, I fired up the old Book a Week with Jen blog, gave it a new domain, and I'm going to be writing about my reading habits once again. If you don't know me, my name is Jen A. Miller , and I'm a freelance writer and author. I've been freelancing now for 17 years, and in that time, have written hundreds of articles, three books ( two about the Jersey Shore and one about running ), and two ebooks ( both about freelance writing ). If you're not new around here, wow a lot has changed. I wrote a memoir , picked up a regular running column for the New York Times , and put that back down again. I ran a lot of marathons, and got into ultra marathoning, which lead me to run my first 24 hour race on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day 2020/2021 . My first dog, Emily, died in 2017 . I sold my first home, lived out of my car for a year traveling the country , scooped up a scruffy cattle dog mix in Ida

Book 5 of 52: Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen

I don't always try to match my reading to what I'm doing, but when I go to Florida, I try to pack at least one Florida weird book. There was no better novel to bring with me to read on a ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park , than Carl Hiaasen's Stormy Weather . Hiaasen was writing about #floridaman before #floridaman was a thing (and when this - # - was the pound sign).  Stormy Weather is set in 1992 in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, which is still the most destructive hurricane to have ever hit Florida, and only one of four hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. still at Category 5 strength. According to the Miami Herald , Hurricane Andrew destroyed 63,000 homes and damaged another 101,241. Such disasters bring out the best in humanity but also the worst. F raud flowed into South Florida in Andrew's wake . That's where  Stormy Weather comes in. From an advertising executive who yanks his new wife away from their Walt Disney World honeymoon to r

Book 11 of 52: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

In my travels, I've accumulated photos in what I call the "Plants Where They Shouldn't Be" series. They're of weeds, flowers and trees growing in places that look uncomfortable: poking out of lava that's OK to walk on but warm enough to generate steam, growing around a mile marker on the road, sprouting on the back of a parking sign - that kind of thing. On the cheesy side, they're reminders that we can flourish in the most unlikely circumstances. On a more realistic end, they show that humans are constantly battling back nature, and that someday we'll probably lose the fight. I thought about those photos when I read  book 8 of 52 Station Eleven  (and watched  the HBO Max adaptation ), which show a world without 99.99 percent of our current human population. The story focuses on people, of course, but set them in a world where the things humans have created - electricity, internet, buildings, bridges, roads - are being taken back by nature. A Jersey Sh