Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and has been hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl since January 2018. Head over to her page to find categories for future weeks and participate!

I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday! I thought this particular week would be interesting to write about because it gave me an opportunity to talk about some of the books that I read during my blogging hiatus, thus filling in that gap of time in your mind. I didn’t read a ton over those few years, but the good thing about not reading a ton (and really, we should talk about this) is that the books that you do read, you tend to enjoy a whole lot more. Whether that’s because we pick better books or we’re just less judgmental, feel free to let me know in the comments after seeing these ten, 5 star picks.

(ordered by date read from oldest to newest because i hate picking favorites)

Educated

by Tara Westover

Date Read: January 5th, 2019

I loved this book. I first heard about it because my mom was reading it, and then my teammate was reading it, and suddenly our entire team was passing the book around and reading it. We all loved it because it was the type of book that everyone can love. Westover wrote about her extraordinarily unconventional childhood growing up off the grid in such an honest and emotionally evocative way that everyone reading the book instantly fell in love for Westover and was rooting for her ultimate success.

Goodreads Summary: Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it. 

And Then There Were None

by Agatha Christie

Date Read: January 6th, 2019

Let’s start off with a classic. And Then There Were None is arguably Agatha Christie’s most famous novel, and with good reason. Although I adore anything psychological thriller-esque, “catch the killer” narratives are not exactly my favorite subgenre. This book transcended that to make a name for itself as a book about people, where each of the twists were unexpected and yet made sense. The nursery rhyme thing worked without being too cliched. Overall it was just a really solid book if you enjoy the mystery/thriller genre.

Goodreads Summary: First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a little private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. A famous nursery rhyme is framed and hung in every room of the mansion:

“Ten little boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine. Nine little boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight. Eight little boys traveling in Devon; One said he’d stay there then there were seven. Seven little boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in half and then there were six. Six little boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five. Five little boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four. Four little boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three. Three little boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two. Two little boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one. One little boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.”

When they realize that murders are occurring as described in the rhyme, terror mounts. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. Who has choreographed this dastardly scheme? And who will be left to tell the tale? Only the dead are above suspicion.

The Testaments

by Margaret Atwood

Date Read: September 10th 2019

I’m just going to come right out and say it. I don’t think Atwood wrote this book. I think it was ghostwriting based on her ideas and her narrative, and I think it was ghostwritten by a YA writer who couldn’t help but put their own feel on the story. That is no disrespect towards Atwood, it is just that the narrative feel of this was veryyyyy different from The Handmaid’s Tale. That being said, I think I was the perfect audience for this book. As someone young enough to still be semi in the YA world, but old enough to have read and loved Handmaid’s Tale years before it came out on Hulu, I was poised to embody both of these two worlds. The story was well written and I really enjoyed the plot details and the way it added to our perception of Gilead.

Goodreads Summary: When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her–freedom, prison or death.

With The Testaments, the wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades.

On the Come Up

by Angie Thomas

Date Read: December 22nd, 2019

Every book that Angie Thomas writes is incredible. Every single book she writes is filled with characters that you fall in love with and want the best for. This particular book was really fun for me to read because the main character, Bri, is an aspiring rapper who joins freestyle rap battles, and the actual rap lyrics are in the book. This definitely launched a phase of me trying to freestyle rap (alone where nobody could hear me obviously) because Thomas made me completely embody the emotions of Bri, and Bri wanted to be a rapper so badly that it sounded like something I should want too.

Goodreads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families

Milk and Honey

by Rupi Kaur

Date Read: January 11th 2020

This book was such a quick read that I think it’s worth it even if you don’t like poetry. I know it gets made fun of A LOT and it’s probably for good reason- the poetry isn’t particularly incredible and it was free verse, which is much easier to make fun of. But it was deeply personal and I admire anyone who has the confidence to put their words on the page, and the skill to find the words to explain the way they are feeling. I thought this book was beautiful, the poetry was beautiful because of the emotion it forced me to feel, and I don’t feel bad about giving it a 5 star review.

Goodreads Summary: Milk and honey’ is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. ‘milk and honey’ takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Date Read: April 2nd, 2020

Yet another book I read in one day, but this one wasn’t because it was short. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a must read for any wlw / sapphic identifying person, as well as anyone who enjoys reading about 1950s-1990s celebrity culture. Evelyn Hugo is just such a dynamic character and sometimes we hate her and sometimes we love her but we are along with her for the journey of her life, regardless of where it goes. Taylor Jenkins Reid has such a special ability to capture complex female characters in a way that lets us fall in love with the whole version of someone, particularly when that someone is a celebrity or type of person we are used to idolizing. I am in love with her character building, and Evelyn Hugo is one of my favorite books ever.

Goodreads Summary: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

We Were Witches

by Ariel Gore

Date Read: April 20th, 2020

I read this book for my Intersectional Feminist Memoir class, and it was probably my favorite book (among many incredible books) that I had the opportunity to read for that class. Gore’s writing is just so completely and utterly beautiful that I could not draw my eyes from the page. Is the story interesting? Yes, and I loved hearing about Gore’s life. But what made this book so good is that Gore is an absolutely astonishingly gifted writer. I would read anything she wrote from now and for forever.

Goodreads Summary: Spurred on by nineties “family values” campaigns and determined to better herself through education, a teen mom talks her way into college. Disgusted by an overabundance of phallocratic narratives and Freytag’s pyramid, she turns to a subcultural canon of resistance and failure. Wryly riffing on feminist literary tropes, it documents the survival of a demonized single mother figuring things out.

Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng

Date Read: April 25th, 2020

This book got turned into a Hulu series that I watched half of and then gave up on, but the book itself was really really good!! I think this one is very interesting because a lot of people don’t view it as a hero/villain narrative, but I most definitely do and I think this was well executed! Pitting family against each other and showing us the inner dynamics of the way people interact behind closed doors (but not the doors of the people directly involved) was a really interesting way to look at an issue that we normally only see splashed up in headlines. I would compare Ng’s intent in this book to that of Jodi Picoult’s in her writing- it takes an issue that’s debated and distills it down to a human story. What makes this book different is that it was about so much more than just the adoption story.

Goodreads Summary: Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost . . .

Dawn

by Octavia E. Butler

Date Read: October 6th, 2020

This is the first book in a series, and ordinarily that’s a big turnoff for me, but this was another book that I had to read for class (this time Apocalyptic Storytelling) and I’m so glad I did. Butler created such a compelling narrative that drove this story along even when not much was actually happening. It was an alien book that somehow didn’t feel completely impossible. The way the main character was grounded in realism made the alien even more surreal while still making us feeling like it could truly happen one day.

Goodreads Summary: Lilith Iyapo has just lost her husband and son when atomic fire consumes Earth—the last stage of the planet’s final war. Hundreds of years later Lilith awakes, deep in the hold of a massive alien spacecraft piloted by the Oankali—who arrived just in time to save humanity from extinction. They have kept Lilith and other survivors asleep for centuries, as they learned whatever they could about Earth. Now it is time for Lilith to lead them back to her home world, but life among the Oankali on the newly resettled planet will be nothing like it was before.

The Oankali survive by genetically merging with primitive civilizations—whether their new hosts like it or not. For the first time since the nuclear holocaust, Earth will be inhabited. Grass will grow, animals will run, and people will learn to survive the planet’s untamed wilderness. But their children will not be human. Not exactly.

One Life

by Megan Rapinoe

Date Read: December 29th, 2020

I have a lot of respect for what Rapinoe has done in her life, and this novel has only increased that. Part memoir and part plea for other majority group (white/straight depending on the topic) people to take a stand for others, this book successfully executes on everything you would expect from a Rapinoe memoir. The conversations about her childhood formed and interesting background for her later activism, and there was even some good (if 10 years delayed) gossip about Rapinoe’s dating life pre-Sue. This will definitely be more interesting to you if you’re a USWNT fan, but even casual followers will gain something from reading it.

Goodreads Summary: Megan Rapinoe, Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion, has become a galvanizing force for social change; here, she urges all of us to take up the mantle, with actions big and small, to continue the fight for justice and equality

Megan Rapinoe is one of the world’s most talented athletes. But beyond her massive professional success on the soccer field, Rapinoe has become an icon and ally to millions, boldly speaking out on the issues that matter most. In recent years, she’s become one of the faces of the equal pay movement and her tireless activism for LGBTQ rights has earned her global support.

In One Life, Rapinoe embarks on a thoughtful and unapologetic discussion of social justice and politics. Raised in a conservative small town in northern California, the youngest of six, Rapinoe was four years old when she kicked her first soccer ball. Her parents encouraged her love for the game, but also urged her to volunteer at homeless shelters and food banks. Her passion for community engagement never wavered through high school or college, all the way up to 2016, when she took a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, to protest racial injustice and police brutality – the first high-profile white athlete to do so. The backlash was immediate, but it couldn’t compare to the overwhelming support. Rapinoe became a force of social change, both on and off the field.

Using anecdotes from her own life and career, from suing the United States Soccer Federation alongside her teammates over gender discrimination to her widely publicized refusal to visit the White House, Rapinoe discusses the obligation we all have to speak up, and reveals the impact each of us can have on our communities. As she declared during the soccer team’s victory parade in New York in 2019, “[T]his is everybody’s responsibility, every single person here, every single person who is not here, every single person who doesn’t want to be here, every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree…. It takes everybody. This is my charge to everybody. Do what you can. Do what you have to do. Step outside yourself. Be more. Be better. Be bigger than you’ve ever been before.”