Book List

As a voracious reader, I’ve tried to find ways to effectively track what I read each year. I’ve used index cards, MSWord documents, hand-written notes. I have a tendency to discover books before they’re popular, fall in love with them, and then become disenchanted and embarrassed when Oprah makes them her book club pick. Let’s just agree: I found them first. And I can’t help it if my tastes run popular rather than deep…

I’m also including a rating scale (A-E with A being the best) so you’ll know what I think of them.


  • The Nix, by Nathan Hill (B+ – fun mystery across generations – could’ve scored higher if an editor had chopped the page count – unnecessarily long)
  • The Good Goodbye, by Carla Buckey (B- trashy beach book about two cousins on life support)


  • Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer (C – he’s a good writer but this one was bo-ring)
  • Run, by Ann Patchett (B+ – a story of family and politics set in 24 hrs around Boston)
  • The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, Kelli Estes (D – good elements but clumsily executed and heavily relied on far-flung coincidences)
  • The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood (B – wild ride that involves selling organs, Elvis impersonators and a lot of sex – hard to believe Atwood isn’t 20) 
  • With Love from the Inside, by Angela Pisel (C – death row drama  with compounding lies)


  • White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga (C – interesting novel about life in India, but very dark)
  • Scrappy Little Nobody, by Anna Kendrick (A – great autobiography: funny, clever, interesting)
  • The Chemist, by Stephanie Meyer (D+ – throwaway spy novel with a far-fetched romantic story line – dumb)
  • The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (B+ – YA book focused on BLM told by a girl who has one foot in the hood and one in a fancy school)
  • When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi (A – beautiful reflection on chasing a meaningful life and dying on the cusp of one’s prime – well written)
  • The Christodora, by Tim Murphy (A – Portrait of NYC spanning 40 years from the 80s to the near future with a focus on family, HIV, and addiction; reminded me of A Little Life)


  • All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood (A- – disturbing book with a premise that will challenge your thinking)
  • The Girl in the Red Coat, by Kate Hamer (B – liked the contrasting stories of the mom in England and her kidnapped daughter stuck in religious America)
  • The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy (B+ – a look at love, loss and fertility for women pushing 40)
  • Not My Father’s Son, by Alan Cummings (D – I know a lot of people loved this book, but – not knowing Cummings – I wasn’t interested in discovering his lineage)
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See (C- – I liked learning about Chinese village customs and tea – but too much coincidence)


  • The Fireman, by Joe Hill (C – interesting concept but way too long – just learned this is Stephen King’s son: WHAT?!)
  • The Haters, by Jesse Andrews (B+ – YA story with hilarious dialogue) 
  • Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni (B+)
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance (B+)
  • The Widow, by Fiona Barton (B – pageturner about the widow of a pedophile)
  • Underground Airlines, by Ben Winters (A – former slave turned bounty hunter in a modern world where the Civil War never happened)


  • Radical Candor, by Kim Scott (A – great read for managers)
  • Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (B – fluffy but interesting)
  • The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena (D – trashy page-turner with unbelievable twists)
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,  by Cathleen McCarron (C+) 
  • The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (C – a circus in France during WWII? So much potential but poorly executed – save yourself for “The Nightingale”)
  • I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh (B – I’d give the first half of the book an A because it was subtle and reminded me of Broadchurch, and the second half a D because of sloppy character work, but if you’re looking for a compelling page-turner on the beach – I’d still recommend it)
  • The Waters of Eternal Youth, by Donna Leon (B – Apparently Leon has written almost 20 mysteries set in Venice – I picked this up because I liked the setting – something about the writing struck me as reserved and old-fashioned – maybe a bit like an Agatha Christie mystery. I’ll probably give her another chance and see if I’m swayed.)
  • Waking Up White, by Debbie Irving (A – this should be recommended reading for all “white” Americans – even those who think they have a handle on their privilege) 
  • The Girl Before, by JP Delaney (B – trashy but fun page-turner with an interesting premise)


  • The Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken (A – entertaining look at his campaign, election, and work as a Senator – funny and educational)
  • Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, by JK Rowling (A – reread for the 20th anniversary)
  • This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel (B – story of a family grappling with a transgender child)
  • Best Boy, by Eli Gottlieb (B – portrait of a high functioning adult with autism who lives in a nursing home)
  • Nutshell, by Ian McEwan (A – if you can accept a fetus as the narrator, you’re in for a delightfully wicked crime novel)
  • Bright, Precious Days, by Jay McInerney (C – soap opera take on sex, drugs and NYC after 9/11)


  • I Liked My Life, by Abby Fabiaschi (A- – a mother dies and is able to watch her family in the wake of her death) 
  • The Reminders, by Val Emmich (B – a young girl with a crazy memory and a family friend whose partner died result in an unexpected partnership)
  • Small Great Things, by Jodi Piccoult (A)
  • Who Thought This Was a Good Idea, by Alyssa Mastromonaco (A)
  • The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware (C – beach read thriller)


  • Still Life, by Louise Penny (B – charming mystery set in Quebec – first in a series)
  • The Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah (C)
  • Lost Cat, by Caroline Paul (B – cute illustrated memoir about a, um, lost cat)
  • The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn (B+ – a female spy from WWI crosses paths with a pregnant unwed mother on a quest to find her missing cousin after WWII)
  • Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens (C- throwaway pageturner – a realtor is abducted from an open house)
  • The Heavens May Fall, by Allen Eskens (B – courtroom drama with a distracted detective)
  • All the Winters After, by Sere Prince Halverson (B+ – enjoyed this story set in Alaska – but the ending felt like a let-down)


  • Beside Myself, by Ann Morgan (B- – identical twins “swap” and then one refuses to switch back, with devastating consequences)
  • Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple (C – unfolding over the course of a day, we’re tethered to an overly needy and neurotic narrator who has had a riff with her sister)
  • Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen & Owen King (D – interesting premise, but the execution is overly long and violent – and there were too many characters to keep track of)


  • Greyhound, by Steffan Piper (B+)
  • Heat & Light, by Jennifer Haigh (A-)
  • Cork Dork, by Bianca Bosker (A – entertaining look at sommelier certification)
  • What Happened, by Hillary Clinton (A-)


  • Theft By Finding, by David Sedaris (B)
  • This Is Just My Face, by Gabourey Sidibe (B)

Currently Reading

  • Food: A Love Story, by Jim Gaffigan
  • The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth
  • Designing Your Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans 
  • The Art of Tough, by Barbara Boxer
  • S., by Doug Dorst (also known as Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka)

Among My All-Time Favorite Escapes

Abandoned Mid-Read This Year

  • Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson (I’ve tried this one three times now and abandoned each time. This time I made it 50% of the way through – which is about 600 pages – and realized I just didn’t care about any of the characters, so I didn’t have it in me to dedicate another 25 hours to the book.) 
  • Love Interest, by Cale Dietrich (Young adult book with an interesting premise but terrible dialogue and cliché characters. It had potential, but I abandoned mid-way through.)

Archives from Past Years:


What’s on your reading list? What do you recommend? Please leave a comment to help shape my reading list for the year!


18 Responses to “Book List”

  1. Karen Rita Murtagh February 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    Bel Canto by Ann Patchett Check it out. She writes her characters beautifully and this book had one heck of an opening scene. I myself just finished The Vampire Diaries and am reading Hoot by Carl Hiassen–nothing like choosing literature from the Young Adult section. Atlas Shrugged is going with me on my trip to Colorado next week though. It’s time. It’s past time.

    • pithypants February 26, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

      Bel Canto has been on my must-read list for years, and yet I haven’t gotten to it yet – for shame! I’ll move it closer to the top. (Or maybe download it on Audible?)

      I LOVE Carl Hiassen’s stuff for adults, and I can imagine him being clever for young adults.

      You’ll enjoy Atlas Shrugged… though if you haven’t read The Fountainhead you might want to start with that – it’s more macro and Atlas is more micro, if that makes any sense.

      Also – I’m really enjoying “Her Fearful Symmetry” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” if you’re looking for some fun reads. 🙂

    • pithypants March 31, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

      Just finished Bel Canto. Really enjoyed it. Interesting premise and characters. Completely understand how the lines blur and while I didn’t expect a happy ending… Wow.

  2. Karen Rita Murtagh February 27, 2010 at 1:02 am #

    I wouldn’t download it–but then again, I usually save my audio books for stuff that’s not very well-written since I only half-listen while cleaning the house.

    Is “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” part of a series? I keep almost grabbing it but then feel like it’s being marketed to me which I find annoying.

    I have a City job exam tomorrow that requires much waiting and self-entertainment and “Atlas Shrugged” was on my docket. Now I’m going to have to scour my shelves for “The Fountainhead” or read one of my customer support books. Shoot, I don’t like that last idea. I might have to peek into the items brought by my friends last week for donation to Open Books. If they are eventually donated I’m not really stealing from the non-profit, right?

  3. Lee April 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    Not to be too much of a lit nerd, but Le Père Goriot by Balzac is fantastic (and you get to say Balzac a lot).

  4. pithypants April 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    Excellent recommendation, Lee. I can’t wait to carry a little Balzac around with me!

  5. ryanod June 9, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    I just ran across The Hunger Games the other day and was thinking, “Hmmm…might this be an interesting read…?”

    Now I know!

    • pithypants June 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

      Definitely fun teen sci-fi (I’m reading the second in the series now). There is a bit of a romantic story-line imbedded in it that might make guys roll their eyes, but I still wouldn’t go so far as to classify it as a chick-book. I’d be curious to know your take. Reminds me of something we would’ve read and loved in fourth grade.

      • ryanod July 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

        I’ll have to take a look when I get a chance. I’m knee deep in Pride & Prejudice and The War of the Worlds right now. I kind of blew off the classics when I was a kid. Now it’s time to play catch up!

  6. departingdysfunctionjunction July 7, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    What an excellent idea! I hope you don’t mind if I do the same. Like people from my past I hear a book title and think it sounds vaguely familiar, but can’t quite place it…this list idea may be a good source of reference for myself.

    I still have Middlesex waiting for me, not sure why it’s one of those I bought & just left on the shelf.

    I started & never finished (2 times!!) Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. It was a good enough read and I’m not exactly sure why I never finished it…I think I’ve since donated it to GoodWill!

    One book to movie I really loved was Born On the 4th of July. Gritty, well told account of a man’s return from the Vietnam war.

    Congrats on becoming Freshly Pressed…that’s how I found you 🙂

    • pithypants July 11, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

      Thanks for the shout out, and all means, steal-away. Interestingly, “Loving Frank” does a crazy-ass left turn in the last 5% of the book. I was luke warm on it over all, but it left me smacking my head, going “WTF?!” If you don’t already know the outcome, I’d recommend finishing it, just for the pay-off.

  7. thesinglecell September 30, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    I, too, have not finished “Atlas Shrugged” or “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” And I haven’t finished “The Pillars of the Earth,” either, because OMG. We indeed have similar tastes. I shall reference this list often!

  8. thesinglecell September 30, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Wait You finished the ones I haven’t. Fail.

  9. Jenny October 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    I hated The Road so much. I could never understand its critical acclaim. I thought it was horrible.

    • pithypants November 12, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

      It actually made me wish the father was a cannibal and would eat his son. It was THAT frustrating.

  10. Kimberly Choquette Pugliano August 30, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    Have you actually read Outlander yet? That whole series goes down as my favorite series of books ever. If you haven’t read it yet, just push through the first 60 pages or so until she goes. That is all. And let me know if you love it. And him. You can find me EVERYWHERE.

    • pithypants August 31, 2012 at 6:25 am #

      I started it earlier this summer and got distracted by a string of other books. I need to dig back into it. I keep finding it frustrating that she can’t get back to the circle of rocks to get home… thanks for the push to keep going.


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    […] It’s no secret that a lot of my favorite books these days are lent from the shelves of a certain well-read lady in Dupont Circle. I’ve always been someone who doggedly clung to the classics, choosing to […]

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