Weekend reading

Erin Kodicek on January 31, 2020
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In this week’s edition, a rousing read for women frustrated with the medical establishment not taking them seriously; a literary antidote to get us through the rainy season; an espionage thriller ala John le Carré; the story of the youngest sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant; and this year’s Overstory.

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The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness: A Memoir by Sarah Ramey

This memoir is funny, instructive, shocking, and for those that have experienced health issues with no diagnosis, I can only imagine what a massive comfort this book could be. For almost a decade Ramey experienced crippling health issues (think blinding pelvic pain, fatigue, excruciating body pain) that were never diagnosed – or, rather, snubbed as being all in her a head, and untreatable ‘women’s issues’. For years, Ramey was mistreated, misdiagnosed, and belittled by doctors (which was ironic because she came from a long line of doctors) – and so she takes it upon herself to research her symptoms and get to the bottom of what makes her and so many others sick. She is a determined and entertaining narrator and one that holds no punches when it comes to the medical establishment’s history of ignoring and minimizing women’s health. --Al Woodworth


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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but it’s been pretty darn rainy here in Seattle. I’m not usually someone who is affected by weather, and I tend to prefer moody weather to sunny and hot. But this streak of grey is getting even me down, so I’m turning to books for some help. While I am a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin’s podcast and general philosphy, I admit I’ve never read what I think of as her seminal happiness text, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. So this weekend, as we’re moving into February, arguably the gloomiest month of the year, I hope to get some tips on how to be happier from the grande dame of happiness herself. If you’re not as familiar with Rubin, one of her suggestions is to create Personal Commandments list, and her number one commandment is “Be Gretchen.” As a highly flawed person/mother/wife/employee/friend/you name it, this speaks to me in a profound way. Bring on the sunshine! --Sarah Gelman


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American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

Chris Schluep has been talking up American Spy for a while now, and then it popped up on the list of 2020 Edgar award nominees, and then I read that Ta-Nehisi Coates called it “clever, bracing, darkly funny, and really, really good.” Sold. Inspired by a real-life coup d'état, it starts in 1986, when Marie Mitchell, a young, black intelligence officer with the FBI joins a shadowy task force bent on intervention in Burkina Faso. I’m just a few pages in, but this blend of spy thriller, family drama, and love story seems like the perfect answer to a rainy weekend. --Vannessa Cronin


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Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America's Youngest Sommelier by Victoria James

I started Wine Girl (March 24th) a day ago and have been a little surprised at how much I’m enjoying it. I love wine, but am not very knowledgeable about it so wasn't sure if this memoir would grab my interest, but believe me, it has. Victoria James’s life does not look anything like what I imagined as the background for a sommelier. Which is fantastic! James became the youngest sommelier in the country at the age of 21 and she has had no shortage of chaos and hard knocks, but she tells her story with ease and now I kind of want to know her in real life.  Can wait to finish work for the day, open some wine, and get back to this book!--Seira Wilson

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Greenwood by Michael Christie

It’s true that reading will teach you things about yourself. One of the things reading has taught me is that I am apparently a fan of big novels written about trees. Richard Power’s The Overstory. Annie Proulx’s Barkskins. Karl Marlantes’s Deep River.

These are all towering achievements that populate a special grove in my mind. Which might be why I’m enjoying Michael Christie’s Greenwood so much. It’s a multi-generational story that actually starts in the future and works its way back through four generations. There’s a lot more going on here than just the wind whispering through the woods. But in the background are always the trees. --Chris Schluep

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