Category Archives: Jez

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (2017)

Ranking as the happiest country in the world three years running, the Danish know a thing or two about creating pleasant environments. A Dane himself, there is perhaps no one more qualified to write on this topic than Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. One of the reasons for their happiness is hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), which loosely translates to a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. Some of the ways you can achieve hygge are warm blankets, crackling fireplaces, good conversation, homemade sweets, and candles—lots and lots of candles.

This little book’s pages are packed with ideas for nights on your own or with others; recipes; happiness research; history; travel tips; and Danish wisdom. Check out The Little Book of Hygge today.

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova (2015)

In the US, there are 37,000 individuals affected by a neurodegenerative disease called Huntington’s. This number is relatively low compared to the overall population, but make no mistake, it is a death sentence—a diagnosis made worse by it being considered a “family disease” with a high genetic likeliness that more than one generation in a family will be affected.

This is the case with the O’Briens, an Irish Catholic family, comprised of Joe and Rosie and their four children, all in their twenties. Joe is an old school Boston cop who puts a lot into tradition, but his life is changed when he’s diagnosed with Huntington’s and soon can’t control his behavior or keep his body from doing things without his consent. Throughout the novel, we see Joe’s condition worsen, but we also watch each of his children struggle with the choice to be genetically tested to know if they will develop the disease in the future, or remain ignorant.

The book can be heartbreaking at times, but is leavened by clever humor and sweet family moments. Like Lisa Genova’s other novels, Inside the O’Briens puts a very personal face on a relatively unknown or misunderstood neurological disease, educating the reader through a compelling family story.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

Colson Whitehead’s newest novel seeks to answer one question: what if the Underground Railroad were an actual railroad? This is, unfortunately, where the fantasy ends and the cruel truth of our country’s past sets in. Cora is a young woman who grew up in slavery on a Georgia plantation. When she was a child, her mother escaped, leaving Cora bitter and orphaned and later an outcast. When another slave, Caesar, approaches her with a plan to escape, at first she refuses, but eventually the two set out for freedom together, taking an underground steam train to northern states. Though the planation is behind them, other horrors await as each state is like its own world, not to mention a famous slave catcher is hot on their trail.

The Underground Railroad is by no means an easy read, but it is a rewarding one. Whitehead makes the journey personal through Cora and the people she meets along the way, and his narrative style is unmatched. Additionally, Bahni Turpin’s excellent narration really brings everything into focus. By the end, it will be clear to see why this book has won so many awards and distinctions, including the National Book Award.

I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi (2016)

imjudgingyouPopular blogger Luvvie Ajayi (Awesomely Luvvie) tells it like it is and gives voice to a generation that has mastered the perfect side-eye. I’m Judging You is a collection of humorous essays that will have you laughing out loud or nodding your head in agreement. Some of the topics she tackles are pop culture, dating, racism, fame, and social media.

Growing up in Nigeria and living her adult life in Chicago, Ajayi has a unique view of culture in America, but it will feel familiar to readers all the same. In fact, you’ll likely find that you’ve thought some of the same things to yourself!

Wonder Women by Sam Maggs (2016)

wonderwomenWomen can do anything, and the newest book by Sam Maggs, Wonder Women, proves it. This little book is packed with 60 women who changed history through innovation, invention, and good ole gumption. Amongst these trailblazers are names you might recognize like Ada Lovelace, Bessie Coleman, and Madame C. J. Walker, but the majority will be new to most readers.

Some of my favorite stories are Anandi Joshi, who was both one of the first female Indian doctors and the first Hindu women to come to America; Mary Bowser, a former slave acting as a spy during the Civil War; and Marie Equi who horsewhipped a universally hated swindler/ reverend halfway across the town.

Nestled between the engaging stories are interviews with today’s top women scientists, doctors, and former spies. Maggs guides readers easily through past and present with her conversational style and humorous wit.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (2016)

scrappyScrappy Little Nobody is everything I wanted out of Anna Kendrick’s first memoir: childhood stories, breaking into show business (on stage and on screen), behind-the-scenes memories, and funny anecdotes and asides. The stories range from unique and humorous—such as the time she and her brother went to NYC as young teens for an audition and her parents faxed over their credit card number to the hotel, promising that their children definitely weren’t unattended minors—to personal, as was the case with remembering her grandmother’s funeral.

Kendrick toes the line of “stars: they’re just like us!” presenting scenes from the Oscars, as well as a chapter on why she’ll never call herself a real adult. The author herself reads the audiobook and does so splendidly. This is a perfect read for fans of Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? or Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes (2015)

yearofyesA lot of things are going well for Shonda Rhimes—she is, after all, Shonda Rhimes, the woman who rules Thursday night, the woman behind shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. She gets invited to award ceremonies, presidential dinners, and talk shows—but as her sister points out one Thanksgiving, she never actually does any of these things. She gets invited and she talks about them, but Shonda never, ever says yes. Her sister’s words sit with her for months until suddenly she wakes up on her birthday and realizes she wants to finally do something. Shonda decides, for one year, she will start saying yes to everything that scares her.

Year of Yes is about that journey. It’s partially a memoir of her time in show business, but more than that, Year of Yes is about how saying “yes” changed her life, not just in that she was suddenly making college commencement speeches and losing weight, but also in how she began to think about the world and connect with her family. This short read makes for an excellent self-help book for anyone who has ever felt stuck in their lives and wanted to do more, but was never sure how. It’s encouraging, inspiring, and most of all, fun.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (audiobook, 2016)

grimmsfairytalesThis new audiobook edition of the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is the perfect way to revisit old favorites or discover them for the first time. Included are 21 tales, each read by a talented narrator that perfectly matches the unique feel of the story. For this recording, Books on Tape gathered the best narrators in the business and you’ll certainly hear some familiar voices in this award-winning audiobook. Travelling with young children? This audiobook is the perfect title to listen to!

The Circle by Dave Eggers (2013)

circleImagine if Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Apple were all bought out by the same mega-company. All of your data, from your food preferences to your medical history, would be linked and readily available. All of your work and your social life would be online. Then imagine there are cameras everywhere that you can check feeds of at any moment to keep an eye on revolts in the Middle East or the surf conditions at your favorite beach. All of this and more are possible with the Circle—and this future is not too far off from our own.

The main character, Mae, is a newbie at the Circle, working in Customer Experience, answering tech questions, but her role at the media giant quickly grows as the Circle becomes the center of her life. Readers will follow in awestruck terror as Mae becomes tied up in this world, even at the risk of her parents and former friend, even at the risk of her own privacy. This book is not a thriller, but at times, it might feel like one, as you shout helplessly at the page for Mae and others at the Circle to change their ways. Dave EggersThe Circle – a sci-fi dystopia – will feel all too familiar to anyone concerned with technology, social media, and privacy, and serves as a warning as well as being a page turner you won’t be able to put down.

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (2016)

viewfromEven when writing nonfiction, award-winning fantasy author Neil Gaiman never fails. In this first collection, Gaiman includes a variety of essays, speeches, articles, and introductions. His topics include books, fairy tales, music, authors (living and dead), and writing, just to name a few. The pieces towards the beginning, on the importance of books and libraries, is likely to warm the heart of any reader, and his thoughts on any subject are always precise, intelligent, and beautifully worded. Gaiman manages to put into words the things we’ve all been feeling, but never quite knew how to speak about.

While his introductions to other books might feel incomplete without the books themselves, they were still interesting to read because Gaiman talks about how each influenced his own life or books he’s written that I’ve loved. Additionally, some of these introductions are written for books by authors he has known and it was fascinating to read about these authors I’ve always seen on book spines, but now have a more personal understanding of through Gaiman’s eyes.

Gaiman himself reads the audiobook of The View from the Cheap Seats, and his soothing voice will make any drive more relaxing and comfortable. I personally spent 8 hours on a road trip listening to this audiobook and not once wanted to turn it off, even for a moment.