Book reviews by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about

I love memoirs.

I love the this-year-I’m-going-do-something-crazy-so-I-can-write-a-book-about-it memoirs.

I love look-at-me-overcoming-this-tragedy memoirs.

I love my-life-isn’t-any-different-than-yours-but-I-can-draw-amazing-beautiful-symbolism-and-meaning-from-mine memoirs.

2015 has been a great year so far for women-written memoirs, and I’ve fallen in love with the five listed below. I highly recommend you find these books at the library or buy them online or steal them from a friend.

(But only if you promise to give them back.)

(Assuming your friend was giving her books the care and love they deserved.)


(Note: Best of Fates does not advocate liberating misused books if you get caught.)

Today I’m going to try out a new way of showcasing books I love. Rather than blather on and on about them making me cry (not hard to do), teaching me something new (ditto), or trying to sound like I’ve taken a single college literature course (nope), I’ve decided to just share the book and a few quotes I loved from it.

Which, hopefully, will give you a real glimpse into its content and style and showcase my perspective in loving it. Which will then you give a better guide into knowing if you’d share my love.

How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

“Alcott never stuck to a woman’s sphere. In real life, she, not her father, joined the Civil War; when she was 30, she travelled five hundred miles to become an army nurse and caught typhoid that nearly killed her. Mr. March annoys me even more now I know that he monopolises the heroism that, if she was really going to write autobiographically, Alcott should have given to Jo.”

“But later I started feeling that a battle was coming, a battle about what kind of woman I was going to be, and that laughter and irony would never win it. Lizzy wins the game of Regency society; she gets a desirable man, and she gets him on her terms. But I was starting to think I didn’t want to win my community’s game; I didn’t even want to play it.”

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

“It seems that most of the Bible’s instructions regarding modesty find their context in warnings about materialism, not sexuality…a pattern that has gone largely unnoticed by the red-faced preacher population. I’ve heard dozens of sermons about keeping my legs and my cleavage out of sight, but not one about ensuring that my jewelry was not acquired through unjust or exploitative trade practices.”

“I looked into this, and sure enough, in Jewish culture it is not the women who memorize Proverbs 31, but the men. Husbands commit each line of the poem to memory, so they can recite it to their wives at the Sabbath meal, usually in a song. “Eshet chayil mi yimtza v’rachok mip’ninim michrah,” they sing in the presence of their children and guests. “A valorous woman, who can find? Her value is far beyond pearls.” Eshet chayil is at its core a blessing – one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally.”

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

“That’s a brutal list, in its immediacy and its relentlessness, and it’s a list that silences people. It silenced me for a long time. To say this is difficult is understatement; telling this story is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But my ghosts were once people, and I cannot forget that.”

“After I left New York, I found the adage about time healing all wounds to be false: grief doesn’t fade. Grief scabs over like my scars and pulls into new, painful configurations as it knits. It hurts in new ways. We are never free from grief. We are never free from the feeling that we have failed. We are never free from self-loathing. We are never free from the feeling that something is wrong with us, not with the world that made this mess.”

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

I’ve also read and highly recommend I Am Malala, which alongside her amazing life story includes Pakistani history from the perspective of those living it.

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

And Girl in a Band, which I found intriguing and inspirational even though I’ve never heard a Sonic Youth song. Sadly I didn’t “read” those two books as much as listen to their audiobooks, so have no handy list of quotes I loved. (I will attempt to be better in the future.)

And if you still can’t get enough female memoirs, here are a few others I’ve read this year that I truly enjoyed: Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, The Glass Castle, Drinking with Men, Aliens in America, The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice, The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?

What’s your favorite female memoir?

p.s. As always, my year time frame applies to when I read said books, not when they were published.

p.p.s. What do you think of the new system? Better or worse or you don’t care about books and I should stop talking about them so much?

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5 Amazing Female Memoirs That You Need to Read & Then Gush Over With Me


 4 Funny Laurie Notaro Books For When You Need A Laugh

Anna gave me a book by Laurie Notaro during sophomore year of college, probably as a gift for birthday or Christmas.

(All I can remember is the book, Anna, and my sophomore dorm room.)

(I assume it was a gift.)

(Anna, if you loaned me a book ten years ago that I then stole, feel free to see me about that.)

Like most books I’ve been given as gifts, I took forever getting around to reading it and then loved it and bought everything else from that author I could find.

All of Laurie Notaro’s books are collections of humorous essays.

(Well, she has a couple of novels, but I’m not recommending them because I’ve never read them because I really prefer my favorite authors to stay in their assigned niches.)

(I’m fairly demanding of those I love.)

4 Funny Laurie Notaro Books For When You Need A Laugh

Notaro’s I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies): True Tales of a Loudmouth Girl is the book about her 30s and job interviews and Halloween parties and her mom’s love of QVC.

4 Funny Laurie Notaro Books For When You Need A Laugh

We Thought You Would Be Prettier: True Tales of the Dorkiest Girl Alive  is the first Laurie Notaro book I read and while Anna told me it wasn’t as good as her others (Anna isn’t the best at selling gifts), it’s always been my favorite.

(Maybe because it was my first.)

(That’s always a special book bond.)

This book was published in 2005, so a lot of the essay subjects are, perhaps, a bit dated, but they still make me laugh.

4 Funny Laurie Notaro Books For When You Need A Laugh

I have legitimately used parts of Autobiography of a Fat Bride: True Tales of a Pretend Adulthood to give life advice to my friends.

This is the book where her essays deal with meeting her husband and their love story.

(I’m a huge sucker for humorous, real-life love stories.)

4 Funny Laurie Notaro Books For When You Need A Laugh

The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life is Notaro’s first book, the one that established her tone and subject matter and hilarity.

It is also the last one I read, because I enjoy being contrary.

But it’s totally deserving of its hype and if you want to see where the humor started, it’s highly recommended.

What are you reading?


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4 Funny Laurie Notaro Books For When You Need A Laugh


7 Hilarious Bill Bryson Books To Read This Summer

I love almost all book genres.

But there’s a special place in my heart for books that make me laugh.

And something about summer – the fresh smells, the piercing light, the outdoor events – makes me want to take a break from depressing, heavy books and curl up with something that makes me chuckle.

One of my favorite authors for such a read is Bill Bryson.

7 Hilarious Bill Bryson Books To Read This Summer

I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away was the first book by Bill Bryson I ever read.

It’s a collection of different articles about living in small-town, Northeastern America after having spent all of his adulthood in Great Britain.

We were staying with family friends in North Carolina and I was in high school when I picked this book up off their coffee table and fell in love.

It’s stories of post-office visits and home improvement kerfuffles are funny and sweet and exposed me to two different worlds (both his British expectations and his small town American realities were far from my own experiences).

7 Hilarious Books By Bill Bryson You Should Read Today

In a Sunburned Country is my favorite Bill Bryson book.

It’s his travel book of Australia and if I’m ever in a party conversation about the continent-country, it’s like all my knowledge originated in this book.

Which says something tragic about my ignorance and education, but that shouldn’t distract you from this hilarious tale.

7 Hilarious Bill Bryson Books To Read This Summer

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail is a tale of a man and a friend and the a not-very-fun hike.

Bryson decides that he should walk the Appalachian trail and gets his friend Katz to walk with him, which at least gives him the appearance of not being the worst in-shape person on the walk.

I find the book hilarious, but I should warn you – it’s entirely about Bryson’s experience and not very much about the trail, so if you’re looking for a guide or even a good perspective on the trail, you might want to look elsewhere!

7 Hilarious Books By Bill Bryson You Should Read Today

 The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir is somewhat different from most Bill Bryson books, being a childhood memoir, but is similar to his travelogues, in that in reads as a journey through 1950s America.

It’s a time with which I’m not particularly familiar, so possibly didn’t get as much joy from the references as intended, but I still enjoyed it as a humorous trip through an older Des Moines.

7 Hilarious Books By Bill Bryson You Should Read Today

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a more recent Bill Bryson book – he now tends to write far more about facts and studies and things he’s learning than about places.

Maybe for that reason, it took me a few years after initially picking up this book to bear down and dive in and finish it. And then I loved it.

He interviewed scientist after scientist and put together this book to answer any question you have about the development of the world and its current status.

(I lived in fear of Yellowstone for years after.)

What’s the main thing you look for in a book?


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5 Hilarious Bill Bryson Books To Read This Summer