Reading 2022

We love books. We really love books. It’s rather surprising it took us until 2022 to decide to formally regale you with our current and past favorites on the regular.

Atomic Habit of Showing Up!

Our summer book reading has come to an end, but as you know, that doesn’t mean we are laying down the books anytime soon. There are all kinds of readers: those who only read books they can hold in their hands, those who only read on a Kindle or other device, and those who listen only to audiobooks.

Maybe like you, I fall into ALL of these categories. I don’t like to get bogged down into the semantics of whether listening to an audiobook is, in fact, reading or whether reading on a digital device is somehow less than.

If you are learning new things and being entertained in some constructive fashion, I am here for it.

As such, I have been putting in a lot of miles, so most of my book consumption has been of the Audible variety. I have listened to several in the last few weeks, and eventually, I will get to tell you about all (or most) of them, but today I want to tell you about Atomic Habits: An Easy Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear.

I know you may think that book has been out for a minute. This is not new! 

And you would be correct.

The reason I want to encourage you to read it if you haven’t yet or maybe even re-read it (or listen) is for this: he highlights the art of showing up!

We have talked about showing up in all its various forms on this blog numerous times. It often comes off as a phrase that gets overused to the point it stops having any resonance, such as being authentic.

We focus so much on the outcome, and, of course, we are attempting to build new habits to get a particular payoff. But those payoffs often come more slowly than we would like. But we can build tremendous confidence, esteem, and trust within ourselves when we start by keeping the commitment to ourselves of showing up.

It reminds me of the story that Elizabeth Gilbert is somewhat famous for sharing.

“I made a vow to myself when I was about 15 years old that I would be a writer. I didn’t promise the universe that I would be a good writer; only that I would WRITE. So I write. And I release the outcome, because the outcome is none of my business. Most of what blocks us is fear about criticism, fear we aren’t good enough. But forget about that — what matters only is the process.”

I love all of what she says but what she ends it with is the real genius: what matters only is the process.

Or what I would call showing up!

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Summer Reading

Well, you’ve had a lot of extra time to get your reading done, so how did you do?  Were you able to get through several books?  All of them?  I read a lot, but I still managed to skip two of the reads.  G read them and gave them a thumbs up, so I might have to circle back to those.

The final books I read for the summer were The Getaway Girls and The Grace Kelly Dress.  They were both light reads, but one was definitely more entertaining than the other one.

Let’s start with my review of the least entertaining.

The Getaway Girls

By Dee MacDonald

I chose this one mainly because it was about three women who live in the United Kingdom with one specifically from Glasgow, Scotland.  Our youngest is studying abroad in Glasgow this semester so I thought it might be interesting.  Sadly, the most interesting part of this story was the British slang that was used throughout.  

When 70-year-old Connie sold her floral shop, bought an RV to travel to Italy, and accidentally invited two other women in their 70’s, I thought it sounded promising.  While there was some mystery, intrigue, and a little love story thrown in, it wasn’t quite the fast-paced drama or attention to detail that I prefer in a book.  The ladies were charming, and while I cared about them and their trip, there are much better ways to spend your time reading.

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The Grace Kelly Dress

By Brenda Janowitz

This is a beautifully written book about a tradition that we don’t see very much anymore; the handing down of an heirloom wedding gown.  This book is set in three different time periods around three different women; 1958 in Paris when the dress was originally made,1982 in Long Island, and 2020 in Brooklyn.  

Each chapter goes between Rose, the matriarch of the family and the one who was originally commissioned to make the dress which was inspired by Grace Kelly’s wedding gown, Joanie, who desperately wants a dress like Princess Diana, and Rocky, who really doesn’t want to wear a dress at all.  

While the dress is the central theme that ties this story together, the character development is so good that you feel like you truly understand each of these women.  While they share a common history, they have different desires, heartbreaks, and secrets that come out little by little in each chapter.  This book will keep you coming back until the very end and leave you wanting a little more.  This was definitely worth the read.

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The Giver of Stars

By Jojo Moyes

The Giver of Stars is a historical fiction novel based on the organization, The Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky, which Eleanor Roosevelt created in the mid-1930s.  These women traveled by horse to deliver books to the outskirts of their small, rural town of eastern Kentucky, often in terrible conditions and in spite of much resistance. 

The story of these five unlikely friends from completely different backgrounds inspires to say the least.  These women overcame seemingly insurmountable odds in a time when women really didn’t have that many rights.  Women were supposed to be at home raising families and not outside their homes distributing literature on horseback.

Suffice it to say that this was not a beach read.  In fact, at the halfway point of this novel, I feared it was going to meander along without any real plot.  It did indeed redeem itself in the second half, and who doesn’t love a good tale about the strength of female friendships and fighting for what you believe in?  These women came together to support one another and their surrounding communities in a way that only women can, with love, empathy, kindness, and humility.

I recommend giving it a read, but maybe when you are ready to hunker down on a fall day rather than on the beach with a drink in your hand.

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Cover Story

By Susan Rigetti

I am not going to lie; I started to write to all of you about this book before I even finished it. I had about 40+ pages to go, and I was pretty sure I had it all figured out. I was being a smug book reader. The kind who assumes they have the plot all figured out by page 100. By that point, I was already lamenting the profound stupidity of the protagonist. But I also reminded myself I was enjoying fun and soapy summer reads and not studying the prose of Albert Camus, so I adjusted my attitude.

Overall, I was entertained by the plot and the process of the book. It was an easy end-of-the-day read before lights out. During the day, however, periodically, my mind would ponder the characters, and I would wonder what the hell was wrong with the protagonist Lora Ricci. But I didn’t want to ruin the read or, frankly, the escape, so I would return dutifully to my suspended disbelief so I could continue on that evening to read. 

All of that completely changed in the final 40 or so pages of the book. What was up is now down and all turned around. I will summarize by saying, my smugness faded away, and I was left rethinking the whole book, wondering, how did I miss that?

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

By Taylor Jenkins Reid

This is one of those books that I have heard about over the last few years but really didn’t know much about. It didn’t take long to see why it was a bestseller. When you mix a Hollywood starlet with seven ex-husbands who are ready to share her life story with a young journalist who seems to have been plucked out of obscurity, you get plenty of intrigue, mystery, and reasons to stay up late reading. You soon realize that Evelyn choosing Monique to write her authorized biography is no accident, but you have to wait until the very end to find out why.

This book will make you question what you would be willing to do to escape a terrible existence and how that one decision could affect all of your subsequent choices.  What would you do for love, success, power and to keep all of your secrets hidden?  Would you be willing to marry seven different men?  Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is for sure: You won’t be able to put this book down until you get all of the answers.

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When We Believed in Mermaids

By Barbara O’Neal

It’s possible that nobody needed a feral girl summer more than me, or maybe I just needed it as much as anyone else. One reason I share that is I realized quickly that I couldn’t even remember the last time I read a fiction book. I read all the time and used to read fiction almost exclusively but over the last decade, little by little I began to read more non-fiction like memoirs but then that rolled over into reading as a way to learn, to improve and I have gotten a little stuck there.

When Lowi suggested a Summer Reading List I was all for it. “When We Believed in Mermaids” provides an easy entry. In some books, it feels like it takes you a while to lean into the characters, but not with this one. I fell right in. Within 10 or so pages just enough breadcrumbs have been dropped for me to be curious. Just how was this all going to play out?

I am not going to spoil anything for you so feel free to read what’s next without concern I will ruin it. Kit’s sister, Josie, died in a terrorist train attack 15 years ago. Yet one night on the news, Kit impossibly sees her sister’s unmistakable face in video footage of a nightclub fire – half a world away in New Zealand.

This book takes you along on the recent adventures of a search for a sister but also backward to reveal all the ghosts, regret, and lament of the past. 

As I mentioned, I am not an expert on fiction these days but it hooked me enough that I stayed up way past my usual bedtime to keep reading, something I hadn’t done in years. It’s the perfect easy read for a summer that keeps calling for relief.

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The Hotel Nantucket

By Elin Hilderbrand

I decided to kick off my summer reading with the quintessential summer author, Elin Hilderbrand’s newest book, The Hotel Nantucket.  

The story centers around a restored hotel on the island and its newly assembled staff.  The first part of the book is purely an introduction to all of the characters and at one point I thought I might need a chart to keep up, but alas it turns out to be just the right number of people to keep it entertaining.  Each one of these characters comes to the table with their own backstory and a common goal of making it to the end of summer with a 5 key review from the famous, although undercover, Hotel Confidential author, Shelly Carpenter.

There is love, heartbreak, scandal, redemption, mystery, challenge, and even a ghost story to keep you on your toes.  While I admit I was trying to read this first summer book in a few short days so I could write about it, the second half of this book flew by.  I had a hard time putting it down and eventually gave up and just read until I finished it.  

There is love, heartbreak, scandal, redemption, mystery, challenge, and even a ghost story to keep you on your toes.  While I admit I was trying to read this first summer book in a few short days so I could write about it, the second half of this book flew by.  I had a hard time putting it down and eventually gave up and just read until I finished it.  

If you are looking for an easy-breezy read that will leave you feeling lighthearted and hopeful, this is your book.  There is nothing heavy, political, or even that thought-provoking in this book. Take it at face value and enjoy the ride.

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Lowi & G Summer Reading List!

For the summer, we are doing something a little different.  Rather than writing a book review, we thought it might be more fun to engage everyone in some summer reading.  The library district always hosts a summer reading program for kids, but what about the adults?

For the past couple of weeks, I have scoured book clubs and online reading groups for this summer’s must-reads and compiled my own list for Lowi & G’s Summer Reading Program.  There are 7 books on the list.  I know, that seems like a lot, but you can pick and choose and go in any order you wish. For those of you who read all 7? We might just send you a little something from Lowi & G. 

We haven’t read any of these books yet, so we will be reading right alongside all of you.

Let us know how it’s going and we can’t wait to hear about your favorite.

Cover Story By Susan Rigetti

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo By Taylor Jenkins Reid

When We Believed in Mermaids By Barbara O’Neil

The Hotel Nantucket By Elin Hilderbrand – Release Date: June 14th

The Grace Kelly Dress By Brenda Janowitz

The Getaway Girls By Dee MacDonald

The Giver of Stars By JoJo Moyes

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The Last Thing He Told Me

By Laura Dave

Before I give you my next book suggestion and synopsis, let me just say that while I read a lot of fiction, I do so with the intent of being entertained or even escaping life for a few precious moments.  If I read historical fiction, which I also love, I know that it will likely lead me down a rabbit hole of looking up historical facts about whatever time period I am reading.  Non-fiction books are usually their own kind of entertainment, but with a work or learning component involved.  I expect proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation as well and if all of these components are present, I am happy.  

I have the ability to read a book and enjoy it even if it does cause me to suspend belief in reality at times.  If my entire goal is to poke holes in the storyline, I would likely never be satisfied.  I realize that sometimes you read a book that is truly lackluster and has so many gaping holes, it distracts from your entertainment pleasure, but most of the time, a New York Times Best Seller hits the spot.

I have always read reviews online before reading a book.  They used to be a valid way to determine whether I wanted to read it.  That is no longer the case.  I can no longer find a book review on Amazon, whether it’s a quick summer beach read or a critically acclaimed novel that hasn’t been absolutely trashed in the review section.  If the reviewers are to be believed, there isn’t a book out there that is worthy of your time or money.  So, do what you will with these book suggestions.

All that being said, The Last Thing He Told Me will require some suspension of reality and a little don’t ask questions attitude.  It was a New York Times Best Seller and one of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club books, so apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was entertained by this book.

Before husband and father, Owen Michaels, goes missing, he gets a note to his wife, Hannah that simply says, “protect her.”  That’s it.  No other details, hints, or clues as to why he has left or where he has gone.  All she can decipher is that she must protect his daughter. Hannah, who has only been married to Owen for a year, and her stepdaughter, Bailey, who already have a tumultuous relationship, are left to find the missing pieces of the puzzle.  Almost immediately, there are raids by the FBI, arrests, and countless unanswered calls to Owen.  

Hannah and Bailey take you on a journey to try and uncover the truth while also trying to stay out of harm’s way.  There are many twists and unexpected turns along the way.  It is a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.  While you may be left wanting more, it will leave you asking yourself what you would do in this situation.

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Golden Girl

By Elin Hilderbrand

Golden Girl, by Elin Hilderbrand, is one of those books that not everyone is going to love.  Hilderbrand is known for her trademark books based in Nantucket that are great for summer days on the beach. That is not this book.

This one hit a little differently right from the beginning. The main character, Vivi Howe, is in an accident early on and throughout the chapters, we watch as the chief of police tries to figure out “what happened” and “who done it?”

Alongside this mystery is a more personal story. It’s about a 51-year-old mother who has 3 mostly grown children trying to figure life out. Sometimes, you don’t need a perfectly well-thought-out story to relate to what is happening. I was hooked right from the start.  As parents, we always wonder if we have done enough and this story begs the same question of Vivi.  She watches as her kids struggle with the pain of growing up, making wise and unwise decisions and wondering how it will all work out

This book will keep you turning the pages right up until the very end as you try to figure out for yourself who did it, is everyone going to be okay, and do our own kids have everything they need. Make sure you have the tissues ready just in case it hits a little too close to home.

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Deep work

By Cal Newport

This week I want to tell you about the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport but first, I have to share that based on Lowi’s recommendation I am reading The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and I am gripped. This book is wrecking me with its ravaged tale of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s but at the same time, I cannot get enough. I am about 80% done and I wake up in the morning wondering if I have time to get a little further because I have to know what happens to these characters. I know this is not how book reviews are traditionally supposed to go but I put the G in Lowi & G so I am taking creative license.

OK, I feel better. I just had to get that out. As I was saying, I read Deep Work by Cal Newport, and while not the same style of gripping read as The Four Winds it captured my attention all the same. In essence, this book is about our loss of focus and how our environments do not lend themselves to single-tasked, dedicated, concentrated work. The kind of work that fuels outcomes we all desire whether it’s completing a work project that we can be proud of, writing a book, or working through a mental challenge in a consistent and organized way.

With all the dinging, chirping, ringing, and alerting distractions create, not to mention all of the interruptions of the human, animal, and Netflix variety it’s no wonder we have trouble maintaining our focus. You may have even zoned out during that sentence. 

Newport gives tried and tested steps toward building pockets of time into our days and/or weeks that allow us to, well, work deeply. To fall into an idea, a creative endeavor or otherwise, and not climb back out until we are good and ready. Sounds a little crazy and awesome, right?!

If you have deep work that you have on the back burner, turn up the flame but first get this book.

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American Dirt

By Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt is a novel that has been the center of much controversy since its debut in 2020.    It’s a suspenseful page-turner that grabs you right from the start and won’t let you go until you know the characters are safe. 

The book opens with an introduction to Lydia, who is running her bookstore in Acapulco, her husband Sebastián, who is an investigative journalist writing about the cartels, and their young son, Luca.  They have a comfortable life and even when Lydia befriends a man who turns out to be the head of a cartel, they still feel relatively safe. 

The next day, Sebastián and the rest of Lydia’s family are gunned down by the cartel while she and Luca hide in a shower.  With the clothes on their back and very little money, they begin their harrowing escape. Within days they find themselves on a journey north with hundreds of other migrants seeking refuge in the United States. It’s a story of bravery, sacrifice, maternal love and a relentless determination to find safety.

Regardless of your views on immigration or even if you find these fictional characters believable,  you will find yourself moved by this story.  You can’t help but think about the countless mothers and small children just trying to find a better life across the border.  It’s definitely worth the read.

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The Great Work of Your Life

By Stephen Cope

“The Great Work of Your Life” by Stephen Covey in a word is disruptive. It grabbed my attention on the first page and never let me go. It did, however, take a while to read it because I needed to digest and consider the ideas he presents in this book.

In the simplest synopsis possible, this book is about your calling in life and how we must ultimately look within to connect with it. He lays the groundwork for this consideration in a multi-layered approach. He begins with the backdrop of the Bhagavad Gita and then places one pivotal story over the next until it’s a complex mosaic of how dharmas (callings) are realized in this life. You don’t need to be familiar with the Gita or anything else in order to read this book as the author connects the dots and leads you along with all the pertinent information. 

I think this book falls into the category of the book you need to read but may not always want to read because it calls your attention to the parts of your life from which you want to avert your eyes. Once you see the ways you are living out of alignment, you can’t unsee it; you can no longer ignore it. But conveniently after reading this book you also don’t want to ignore those areas. You feel inspired to live into your contribution to this life.

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Green Lights

By Matthew McConaughey

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey is a somewhat unconventional autobiography that reads a little like fiction with his crazy stories of growing up, while at the same time giving you a lesson in how to live your best life.  

My husband and I listened to this book on Audible during a road trip last fall. I’ll be honest, I am not sure I would have enjoyed it nearly as much if I had read the book on my own.  Some words need to be heard in the way the author intended them rather than your own interpretation.  If you have ever watched a movie or an interview with McConaughey you know that he has a way of speaking that captures the listener right from the start.

We talk a lot about overcoming fear and not creating roadblocks to life and McConaughey is a perfect example of someone who has never let either get in his way.  He fully admits he had looks, athleticism, confidence, and talent on his side, but mostly he was willing to work hard, take risks, and always be looking for what he calls, “greenlights” to push him to the next level.  Through the stories of his life, we are able to see the moments when he took the risk.  While some endeavors didn’t pan out the way he expected, he continued to look for opportunities to make his situation better.

The moral of the story?  Look for reasons to say yes and go live your life.  And while you are at it, grab Greenlights for your next dose of inspiration.

“We all have scars, we’re gonna have more. Rather than struggle against time and waste it, let’s dance with time and redeem it. Cause we don’t live longer when we try not to die. We live longer when we are too busy living.” Matthew McConaughey

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The Four Winds

By Kristin Hannah

You might think that we only read non-fiction, self-help books, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Okay, we read A LOT of books from that genre, but I love historical fiction.  It’s my favorite kind of escape.

My most recent foray into historical fiction came in the form of Kristin Hannah’s novel, The Four Winds.  This is an epic story that follows one woman’s journey through the course of The Great Depression and more specifically the Dust Bowl which lasted about a decade.   It’s a story of hope, love, poverty, despair, resilience, strength, and ultimately, survival.

Elsa, the main character,  loves her family more than anything and after years of struggle makes the difficult decision to leave her home in Texas in search of a better life in California. She is a hard-working American, who like so many during that time, was forced to live in poverty and had to fight for the ability to just feed her children.  This book will draw you in and not let you go until the very end.  Make sure you have the tissues ready.

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Big Magic: Revisited

By Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s February and we are talking magic. It only makes sense that we would talk Big Magic. Lowi and I re-read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert recently. During our revisit, we often commented that we couldn’t believe how much we forgot, missed, or simply didn’t appreciate from our first go-round. 

I think that’s one of the often unappreciated aspects of books. They stay the same. They hold the same wisdom from beginning to end throughout time. But we change. What we can take in. What we can hold or understand on any given day or time in our life varies. 

Reading this book almost makes me want to go back and re-read every book I have ever read wondering what I have missed. What could I not fully absorb when I read it the first time.

It’s unlikely that I will do that because there are so many books to be read the first time. 

But what I am more likely to engage in is the idea of the beginner’s mind. It’s a common phrase in eastern philosophy, yoga, meditation. What it essentially means is to stop assuming you already know everything. We enter so much of our lives already assuming we know.

We know the day is going to be wholly bad because we hit traffic. We know that our spouse is going to say just the thing to set us off. We know that our boss is going to make us do a report we dread. We think we know.

When we already know, we aren’t beginners. When we already know, we certainly aren’t leaving any room for magic or surprise. We are clamping our blinders down hard because we know.

This month, we invite you to revisit Big Magic, if you like; or maybe give an old favorite another perusal. What I remember most this time from Big Magic is essentially this: Go do, create, make whatever you want because everybody else is worried about their own stuff. They don’t care if you fall on your face. They don’t really care all that much of you succeed either. Follow your bliss. Create because you can. 

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The Happy Runner

By David Roche and Megan Roche, MD

Deciding what book to share with you was difficult only because I questioned whether all of you would think I am boring. I think it’s possible that at times I am, in fact, boring. For many years, likely a decade, I rarely read non-fiction and now that’s almost entirely what I read. I am not averse to having someone tell me a phenomenal and fantastical story, it’s just that I also have a penchant for learning. One of the books I read most recently, is The Happy Runner and the primary reason I wanted to share it with all of you has nothing to do with running at all. Feel free to exhale in a sigh of relief now.

One of the driving philosophies of the book is how to learn to enjoy the process of running and let the quest of making it fun be more influential than results. Hence, being a happy runner. As someone who is often incredibly attached to results and is loathe to relinquish the outcome, this was an approach I needed to snuggle into. We’ve all heard it, enjoy the journey; trust the process; be unattached to the outcome; don’t rush to the end. All of these aphorisms are saying the same thing: enjoy the process. And yet in this results-driven culture that can be a rebellious and elusive idea. But who among us couldn’t be served better by being more focused on cultivating joy in the day-to-day instead of reserving joy when we meet an end? We save the celebrating for when the finish line is crossed, the diploma is in hand, the promotion has been bestowed. And then what? It can be a letdown. It can be defeating and deflating. In the Happy Runner, the overarching question is Why? Why are you running? Is your answer compelling? Does it cause you to feel enjoyment in the process too?

We can apply the same “why” to any area of our lives. Ultimately let’s enjoy the ride and the destination. 

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The Art of Gathering

By Priya Parker

As you know, G and I are avid readers and we love to share any and all of the wise words with you.  As we enter 2022 and change things up a bit, we will have a little section called, what we are reading so you can decide for yourself if it is something you might be interested in reading.  The first book of the new year is The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker.  I read this as I was entering the holidays and it definitely gave me pause as I planned for any gathering this past season.  While this book might feel a little over the top for your ordinary gathering of close friends, it does force you to ask important questions like what is the purpose of the gathering, who is invited and who is NOT invited, how to be a proper host and how to make your gathering interesting by coming up with thought-provoking questions. There were times when reading this book that I thought, I just want to have friends over for pizza and the game, not host the heads of state.  While my gatherings are much smaller in scale it has made me step up my game and think about what I want out of each gathering. Definitely worth the read, but maybe borrow it from the library.
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