My Favorite Love Stories

I really wanted to do a post on love stories this week, and yes, that is what this post is about, but going through my Goodreads shelf, I realized I don’t really read many love stories. It surprised me because a good love story is pretty much my #1 criteria for tv shows, movies, and even songs sometimes, but I did some digging and here’s what I came up with — unconventional love stories, which definitely cannot be classified as romance ūüėČ . (If you don’t get the wink check out my Who I Am as A Reader post.)

My favorite love story ūüėČ My boyfriend and I on our cross country road trip last year


Ignoring our current president (because that makes me want to throw this topic out the window), a presidential love story is one of my favorites. Non-book related, I loved the romance with Fitz in Scandal, and one of my favorite movies growing up was The American President. Now I need to watch that again.

Deadwake by Erik Larson

Deadwake is my number one nonfiction book suggestion when anyone asks for a narrative nonfiction reccomendation. One of the things that stands out to me about it, is the way Larson was able to describe Lyndon B. Johnson’s love story as part of the overarching WWI and Lusitania storyline. It’s a love story for the ages, so if you enjoy narrative nonfiction with a hint of love, this one is for you!

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Another nonfiction choice, this one of our 44th president, Barack Obama. Becoming is Michelle Obama’s memoir that I¬†absolutely adored (you can find my review for that here), but one of the great parts about it is how she talks about her love story with Barack. I love so many things about it – from the way they met, to how they communicated throughout their time apart, to the sacrifices that were made behind the scenes on both sides. One of the best parts about this book is that it is Michelle’s story, and I don’t want to take that away from her at all, but I love their love and wanted to share that here.

Love When You Need it the Most

You guys know I am a sucker for these next two titles. There’s nothing more satisfying to read about than someone getting exactly what they need to be happy in life. That’s not always a relationship, but in this case the love stories told are really special and I think so important for the people involved.

All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

This one is certainly controversial – it involves the daughter of a drug dealer and an employee of said drug dealer. The age difference is huge, and some (most) may say inappropriate. But a love story has never hit me to the core like this one did. This one made me want to scream LOVE IS LOVE (and not at all in the usual context for that statement). This book is an all time favorite of mine.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

There are many relationships in this book – not all of them healthy and loving – but there is one that really sticks out to me, and that is between Leni and her classmate Matthew. Leni’s home life is complicated and precarious at best, and her finding a supportive and loving companion is one of the most beautiful parts of this story. I highly recommend it!

Friendly Love

Enchanted Islands by Allison Ahmend

This book is truly unique, and in my opinion, beautiful. Set in World War II in the Galapagos Islands, Frances is hired by the military to be Ainslie’s wife and act as a spy on the Germans who they suspect are also using the island as a military base. Their set up requires them to live off the land and depend so heavily on each other for so many aspects of life. What develops is a beautiful friendship and relationship. This book is a bit of a slow burn, but if you can’t tell I think it’s one of the most well done books, and this is a relationship not to be missed!

That’s it for now — as promised, these books are not your traditional feel good rom coms, but they’re all wonderful romances within even better books. If you’re looking for a love story to round out your February TBR, I hope you’ll give one of these a try!

Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairing

One of the bookstagrammers/book bloggers I enjoy following is Simone and Her Books, and earlier this year (maybe January) and I remember her asking, “Do you ever get in periods of reading where you just stay in one part of the world for a while?” As I considered the question, I realized I was in my third book set in North-East Asia and that reading them in sequence was enhancing my experience so much more. So for this pairing challenge, I want to talk about the two book told about Koreans — both in North Korea and Japan throughout the 20th century. The third book I read during this period was The Leavers by Lisa Ko, which is a favorite of mine, but I think the other two mesh better for¬† cohesive pairing.

We’ll start with the fiction choice: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

Pachinko tells the story of a Korean family living in Japan during World War II. As the war progresses through the attack on Pearl Harbor and on through the bombing of Hiroshima, the book showcases Korean values, why a family would choose to relocate from Korea to Japan, and how Koreans are treated as Japan starts to close their borders. It was incredibly compelling and emotional to read and I absolutely loved it. One of my favorite things about this book was the authors note, in which Lee wrote about the time she spent in Japan and how the book was influenced by hundreds of interviews over the course of her time living there.

And now, the nonfiction: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick.

Nothing to Envy is the work of an investigative journalist living in South Korea who connected with defectors from North Korea. Through her relationships, she’s able to tell a horrifying story about the conditions in North Korea in the 1990s. These stories are truly beyond belief – imagine being so hungry that you blend grass in a blender to try to drink it. I won’t ruin any more of the shock but its fascinating to not only understand how bad it really was, but how they got there.

I hope you enjoy these two books and learn about a side of history not always taught in the West! Happy reading!


Top Five Favorites: Nonfiction

It’s November! And I’m excited to be participating in Nonfiction November, so to kick that off, I wanted to share some of my favorite nonfiction reads. There are so many others I could mention, but I’ll leave you with five for now, and hopefully talk about more over the course of the upcoming month!

Each of the books below opened my eyes to a world I hadn’t known before and that is why I love reading. I’ll just write a few notes on the books here, but I’ll link to their Goodreads Page so if you’re interested, you can check them out there!

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

My high school had truly amazing history classes for a high school, and I read this one for a class called African Issues. This is probably the only book I read in high school that I read every page of on the day it was assigned, and enjoyed it. I was obsessed with this book and wanted to get Beah to come talk at our high school. Unfortunately Beah was in high demand and couldn’t make it, but the fact remains that learning about the Boy Soldiers and the Sudanese Civil War was life changing to someone growing up in Western Pennsylvania. Can’t recommend this book enough!

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Erik Larson was a go to author for me after reading Devil in the White City in high school (it was a required summer reading selection!). I found Dead Wake to be insanely readable and eye opening. Larson is able to share intimate details from both a presidential romance and the experience of being in a German U-boat in WWI. It was a truly remarkable work of narrative nonfiction and I didn’t want it to end.

The Profiteers by Sally Denton

This book is the definition of an eye opener. In my senior year of college I took a course called “History and the Environment”. It was an absolutely fascinating class that tied things going on in nature, with those going on in politics. One major topic we focused on was the oil and the Iraq War. As an engineering major, some of this was over my head, but all the holes were filled in when I read The Profiteers. I read this right around the 2016 election and it felt so timely — and when the CEO of Exxon was appointed as Secretary of State, I felt that I understood the motives completely and knew exactly why I was not OK with it. If you want to be clued in to the financial motives spearheading politics, check this book out.

Ranger Games by Ben Blum

I haven’t read a slew of military nonfiction, but I imagine this is one of the most open and honest books in the genre out there. Written by a close cousin of Alex Blum, a former golden boy turned criminal by way of the army, the answer at the heart is what happened to Alex when he left home to become a U.S. Army Ranger. While this book is not for the feint of heart, its dives incredibly deep in to the psyche of our soldiers going through this intense training process. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to everyone I know.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

I posted about this recently, but I’ll just repeat a bit of that here:¬†This book is a nonfiction account of a town in Montana that had way too many rapes of high school and college students. Be prepared for a brutal read ‚Äď this book takes you through trials where no details are spared, but if you want to know the¬†facts¬†about rape, read this book. I mean, let‚Äôs be honest, you¬†don‚Äôt¬†want to hear the facts necessarily (because they‚Äôre hard to hear), but they‚Äôre so important.¬†I learned so much and my life has never been the same.

Do you read much nonfiction? Do you have any recommendations for me?















Nevertheless She Persisted: Stories of Strong Young Women

This week I read/listened to Where The Crawdad’s Sing — the hottest book of the moment (it was already a hot book of the moment and then Reese choose it as her September Book Club selection). I absolutely loved this story, and while it’s very unique, it is also reminiscent of two of my other most favorite books –¬† All The Ugly and Wonderful Things and The Great Alone. Even saying them out loud makes me want to¬†hug the books close to my heart!

So since last week, I shared some books that reflect on the more negative sides of society, today I wanted to share some characters that left me full of hope!

For any who may not¬†be familiar with these books, I’ll give you a quick synopsis.

All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is the story of Wavy, the daughter of a drug dealer, who is growing up essentially without parents, or at least without any parents of influence over her life and well being. She develops a relationship with an older man, Kellen, who is both mixed up in the drug business and a shining light in Wavy’s life. It’s a story of Wavy acting well above her years, and fighting for herself even though society and logic try to keep her away from Kellen.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is the story of Leni, a spunky young girl with a dad who’s a Vietnam war POW, struggling to fit in in regular society– with a dangerous and violent side to his personality. Given the opportunity to move to a small town in Alaska, Leni’s family seizes the opportunity, but so much of the burden is left on Leni’s shoulders to prepare the family for winter when the family can’t do it themselves.

Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owen is the story of Kya, a young girl left to fend for herself after both of her parents have abandoned her for another life. Uneducated and left to starve, Kya fights for herself using her wit and unwillingness to fail. This book has the added element of a murder of someone in the town where Kya grew up — a boy who was in Kya’s class for the one day that she went to school — but this story is primarily the story of Kya’s strength in getting through her misfortune.

Wavy. Leni. Kya.

What you’re getting in these book isn’t just a young strong female — each of these books shows you a side of life you wouldn’t otherwise see, paired with beautiful writing, wonderfully crafted to describe the scenery so perfectly, a few guardian angels (in various forms — because though these girls are strong, we all get by with a little help from our friends), and of course¬†the strength of the young female protagonist.

So I just wanted to share that – This week in particular, reading about the strength of young women with zero privilege¬†whatsoever, is pulling on my heartstrings and bringing me back to all the strong young female protagonists I’ve loved before.

Required Reading Regarding Brett Kavanaugh

Alright, internet. We’re getting political. A couple weeks ago I wrote a post on “diverse books” and mentioned that I don’t like to talk about political or serious things if I feel like I may not know exactly what I’m talking about. But here’s the thing — over the past year, I’ve read two of the best books I’ve ever read that have taught me the importance of spreading knowledge of the prevalence and effects of sexual assault in our society.

I agree that it’s obvious – men shouldn’t rape women, and men who rape women shouldn’t be appointed to the Supreme Court (and yes, I know it was an attempted rape). But beyond the obvious there is so much that can be learned from reading about this topic. So I have two recommendations for you:

IMG_20180501_182446_668 (1)

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

This book is a nonfiction account of a town in Montana that had way too many rapes of high school and college students. Be prepared for a brutal read – this book takes you through trials where no details are spared, but if you want to know the¬†facts about rape, read this book. I mean, let’s be honest, you don’t want to hear the facts necessarily (because they’re hard to hear), but they’re so important.

This book will teach you that a rape between friends is a rape, that someone who commits one rape is extremely likely to commit rape again, that being raped can ruin your life, that rape victims feel a disproportionate amount of guilt, and that trying to get a rape case prosecuted is so much harder than it sounds. Seriously though, I learned so much and my life has never been the same. I’ve never been so blown away by a book, and I cannot. stop. thinking. about. this. book.

So read it — here’s the amazon link, because trust me it’s worth it. AMAZON LINK.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Does this blog really need to talk about Beartown again? (For real, if I need to I will.) This book is one of the most informative and moving pieces of fiction of I’ve ever read. Central to this story is a rape – ok sorry I ruined the plot twist, but you probably saw that coming. The response from the community – her family, her friends,¬†and her enemies rings so true after reading Missoula and this book moved me beyond words. If you think you want to be understand what a rape victim goes through after the event, this book will illustrate that for you, and you’ll be better for it.

So again – please read this book. It’s one of my absolute favorites and I think it’s so important. Some of my best friends and book club pals have read it and not one has disliked it, so if you don’t trust me, trust them. And here’s the AMAZON LINK. Just do it.

Other Feel Learn Wonder content on Beartown: Beartown Review, Us Against You Review, Meeting Fredrik Backman, Should You Read Beartown?

And finally I just have to point out that both of these books are written by men, so the proof is in the pudding that not all men are bad, but also.. some of them are. Read these books. Be educated. Be passionate. Fight back.


The Book Lovers Guide to San Diego

I’ve been surprised recently at how frequently I’ve seen people on my instagram and blog feed making trips to San Diego! I’ve been here for a year or so now and started to explore the bookstore scene. I wanted to share that with you, but while I’m at it, I thought I’d just give you all¬†of my favorite places — so here we are THE BOOK LOVERS GUIDE TO SAN DIEGO!




First things first – you want to check out the local bookstore scene. You are in luck! We have plenty- including new, used, Amazon Books, and a common stop on many authors’ book tours!

The Book Catapult

Neighborhood: South Park
Description: A light and airy neighborhood bookstore! Amazing new releases and very friendly staff.
Special Events: Every third Sunday of the month is Coffee with the Catapult and any book mentioned is 20% off!

Bay Books Coronado

Neighborhood: Coronado
Description: This independent bookstore has been open for 25 years! This bookshop has more of a traditional dark oak feel – not dissimilar to the architecture of its neighboring Hotel Del.


Neighborhood: La Jolla
Description: Probably the most infamous of all the San Diego bookstores, this bookstore is a common favorite of locals as well as authors on tour!
Special Events: Check out their events calendar because there is always a good event on Рthis summer there have been so many amazing authors including David Sedaris, Fredrik Backman, Kimmery Martin, and Gail Honeyman!

Amazon Books

Neighborhood: UTC (for non San Diegans that means Рin the mall very close to La Jolla)
Description:¬†I haven’t been here, but I was so excited to hear to San Diego had an Amazon books! The look and feel of a bookstore, with the advantage of discounted books!

Verbatim Books

Neighborhood: North Park
Description:¬†I’m not historically a used book person but this store is wonderfully curated with a huge selection. Plus, they buy books for a good price.


Once you’ve purchased your book, you’re probably on the hunt for a place to enjoy it, right? I bring you my favorite coffee shops. (Note there are more great places, but I wanted to keep this list reasonable!)

Holsem Coffee

Neighborhood: North Park
Description: Definitely my favorite coffee shop in San Diego! The decor is adorable and the drinks are so creative without just being sweet.
What to Get: Any of their signature creations! My personal favorites are the Banana Bread Cold Brew and the Mint Matcha Latte

Heartwork Coffee Bar

Neighborhood: Mission Hills
Description: A small independent coffee shop in the adorable Mission Hills neighborhood.
What to Get: Their chai tea latte (and dirty chai tea lattes) are made with a housemade mix, which is delightful. I also love their nostrum sodas made with syrup from a local company. Pineapple tumeric ginger is my flavor of choice!

Communal Coffee

Neighborhood: North Park and South Park
Description: An open air patio with excellent coffee, decor, neighborhood feel and bonus: a flower store.
What to Get:¬†I’ve only been to the South Park location where the menu is limited but delicious, but the North Park location is known for their sweet and savory toast options!

Achilles Coffee Roasters

Neighborhood: Downtown
Description: A high end outdoor coffee outpost offering craft coffee, as well as food for breakfast and lunch.
What to Get:¬†I’m not a pour-over person (mostly due to lack of experience), but I love their cold brew creations. My favorite is the “dealers choice,” which comes with cold brew, cream, vanilla, and cinnamon.


My favorite kind of shops are kind of eclectic giftshop places. Candles, homewares, fun books, plants, etc – and luckily there are several of these in the San Diego area!


Neighborhood: North Park
Highlight: So many plants – including an area to arrange your own succulents, constantly changing selection and arrangement, great card selection!

Seaside Papery

Neighborhood: Coronado
Highlight: Great prints and California/National Park themed gifts! Lots of stationary too!

Gold Leaf

Neighborhood: South Park
Highlight: Great kids section, amazing smelling candles, so much decor inspiration!

Grafitti Beach

Neighborhood: South Park
Highlight: Laid back and natural vibes Рbohemian clothing and a new natural beauty line

Casual/Al Fresco Dining

And finally – no trip to San Diego would be complete without good food, good beer, and abundant sunshine. Here are some of my favorite spots!

Crack Shack

Neighborhood: Little Italy
Description: Fried chicken sandwiches and local craft beer in a beer garden setting. What more could you ask for?
What to Get: The firecracker sandwich is amazing if you like the heat!

Panama 66

Neighborhood: Little Italy
Description: Modern american fare and local craft beer in a beer garden setting. Bonus: a fenced in grass area which is great if you have kids who want to run, or adults looking to drink good beer on the grass.
What to Get:¬†Honestly, it’s all amazing! I’ve enjoyed several of their soups and sandwiches so far.

Mitch’s Seafood

Neighborhood: Point Loma
Description: Fresh seafood options in the heart of the marina village! + 32 oz local craft beer while sitting on a dock over the water, watching fishing boats come in and leave and the sea lions that tend to travel with them.
What to Get:¬†The swordfish sandwich is my absolute favorite thing on the menu. It’s fresh and local too! I don’t recommend the tacos or the octopus.

Pizza Port Ocean Beach

Neighborhood: Ocean Beach
Description:¬†Delicious pizza at one of San Diego’s favorite breweries. Warning: NOT NEW YORK PIZZA.
What to Get: I have strong feelings on this. Half Lahaina (no canadian bacon, add bacon), Half Monterrey. Also the wings are good and super cheap on Wednesdays.


Neighborhood: Del Mar
Description: A modern and airy brewery with firepits on each table and a focus on good food!
What to Get: Highly recomend the Naan Mi. And the charred broccoli.

South Park Brewing

Neighborhood: South Park
Description: A local favorite for us! Great rotating beer list of consistently good beer. Board games, sunlight, and a taco stand.
What to Get:¬†IDK. They used to have the¬†best food and recently got rid of their kitchen and I’m still upset. I’ve heard the taco restaurant is good and you can still order food from the bar next door, so idk go for the beer, games, and sunlight and eat there if you want or change to any of the great neighboring restaurants after you’ve had a couple brewskis!


So there you have it! Let me know if you have any spots I should check out or if you’re planning a trip to San Diego soon ‚̧


Should you read Beartown?

SPECIAL NOTE: Beartown and Us Against You made such a big impression on me that I’m dedicating a week to them. Check out the other posts here:

Clearly reading Us Against you has thrown this blog for a loop! I’ve been passionately writing about Beartown, Us Against You, and Fredrik Backman himself for the past week. Nonetheless, I’ve found myself struggling to recommend this book to people around me. I’m not sure if they would enjoy the writing style, or if they would enjoy the heartwrenching nature of the story. Maybe they don’t want to read about domestic violence and feel sad and vulnerable — but at the same time maybe they¬†SHOULD.

So to answer my own question, the short answer is – YES. But it’s more complicated than that.

Ready for the long answer?

To address the writing style that I brought up earlier — Backman said that many of his editors told him “you’re not supposed to write exactly what people are thinking.” At first, I’ll admit that the style didn’t work for me, but as the book went on, it made every emotion resonate so much stronger. I was feeling feelings while reading them on the page and the combination was powerful. Recently, I’ve seen so many Instagram reviews saying “how did Backman write exactly what I was thinking?” The people seem to like it!

But more to the meat of the issue — is the content for everyone?

When I met Fredrik Backman, I asked him if he had a favorite book – kind of expecting him to say he couldn’t choose – but he said the Beartown series was the book he was¬†most proud of because so many people told him not to write it.

His editors told him that his audience knew what he wrote — heartwarming stories about curmudgeons — and this this would be way too out there for them. They also told him there would hate mail from the group of people he was criticizing in this book.¬†His response was that maybe his audience should be exposed to these truths.

Backman illustrated the point by saying “Look at me. I’m white, I’m a male, and I’m a pretty big dude. I look like I could play hockey. I look like the group of people I’m criticizing and that’s the only reason I could publish this book. I could have published this book under a female pseudonym and I would have received death threats.” It was so moving to realize how right he was. (And to be clear, he has received hate mail, but no death threats to date)

Aside from the commentary on sports culture and rape, there is an underlying plotline about a gay man and how his community deals with his coming out. Backman talked about this plot line with so much love and during the signing, the man in front of me, who was gay, told Backman that he hadn’t read these books yet, but hearing him talk about them was so important to him. You could feel the sincerity in his words and the impact it had on Backman himself to hear this feedback. It was a really special moment and while my heterosexuality is never something that is attacked, I am also glad this book exists.

I think the perfect way to summarize all these feelings is actually an instagram caption that I read on my friend Molly’s page. She sums it up so well and I whole heartedly agree.

“It leaves me wondering if the obligation to write and read stories that bring (necessary) attention to the epidemic of hate and violence against anyone who doesn’t fit into the mold of the white patriarchy will ever go away. And it makes me sad that the answer to that feels, right now, like a resounding ‘no.'” – @readmollyread

So please PLEASE¬†please¬†read this book ‚̧

10 Things I’ve Learned About Audiobooks

If you’re new around here, I recently won a one year subscription to Scribd Unlimited and am trying to make the most of it!

I wrote my first month thoughts here, but have continued to learn more and thought I would share my overall thoughts in one concise post! A couple items are repeats/updates but overall they are all new thoughts!

  1. My favorite audiobook styles have become are narrative nonfiction and alternating narrator fiction.¬†¬†Narrative Nonfiction (such as I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara) can feel like a long form podcast, and Alternating Narrator Fiction (such as The Confusion of Languages or An American Marriage) can keep things interesting with varying voices and perspectives.
  2. I love listening to parts of books I’m reading in hardcopy while I’m doing chores around the house. I genuinely don’t mind cooking dinner or washing dishes as much anymore because I’m still getting in quality reading time! I thought switching between audio and text would throw me off but as long as you finish either medium at the end of a chapter it hasn’t been an issue for me.
  3. I love having unlimited audiobooks through Scribd so I can listen to books I already have on hardcopy without spending more money for the audiobook too.
  4. I was able to listen to a book without falling asleep on a solo roadtrip!
    I recently drove from San Diego to Phoenix and I listened to a book for most of my driving time! This was new to me and something I was nervous about. I’ve never been an audiobook person before so used to fall asleep when I tried, but it worked surpringly well on my last road trip! I made sure to pick a book with a ton of suspense so there was no way I would fall asleep in the car. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (before he was caught) was perfect for that.
  5. A good way to finish the book you’re not loving? Use the strategy of “I’m not loving this in text, I’m going to put it on 1.5x audio to finish it”.
    It works sometimes – such as when I was listening to A Piece of The World and just having a hard time focusing but enjoyed the story, but I tried the strategy for The Immortalists, it didn’t change anything and I just had to stop listening at a certain stage.
  6. I’m having a hard time finishing audiobooks!
    The last two audiobooks I’ve listened to, I’ve stopped both with about 35 minutes to go, with no real desire to start listening again. Does this happen to you? I think there’s just such a lack of finality with audiobooks that I just kind of gave up. I will add they were both nonfiction so the end would have just been wrap up etc, with no big reveal or conclusion and I just never didn’t feel compelled to finish it! (is that bad?!)
  7. I can listen to audiobooks on my walk to work with bluetooth earbuds!
    They are the Otium T2 Wireless Earbuds, and for only $30 they are SUCH a steal! The major negative review for them on amazon is that the battery life is horrendous, and I have to agree – it’s not great – but that’s just where technology is for a device this small! They’ve been fine for my walk to work and also for cooking dinner, and the sound quality has been great so far! Highly reccomend.
  8. Scribd gets so many new titles each month!
    For May, they got new titles from some of my FAVORITE authors, such as Paula McLain and Jon Krakauer, and they also got some brand new releases such as A Higher Loyalty by James Comey and Educated by Tara Westover. Very cool!
  9. I still desperately wish the Scribd app had a cast funtion.
    I would love to listen to my audiobooks on my google home speakers but it doesnt have the functionality to do that yet. Major bummer! I can listen as I cook by using my wireless earbuds, but trust me I’ll be so stoked the day I can listen to audiobooks on my google home.
  10. And finally can I love audiobooks and reading? YES!
    Audiobooks are not replacing my love for reading on paper but they are totally enhancing it! They’re giving me another option and a way to maximize my reading efficiency ūüôā

If this hasn’t been enough to convince you to sign up, I’ve had multiple friends sign up and tell me how lifechanging it has been. Take the plunge and sign up¬†with my referral code for 2 free months!¬†(Also this is totally not sponsored, just pure love for my scribd subscription)

How to Read About Conflict in Foreign Countries

This year (and it’s only been 2.5 months!) I read two books that completely blew my mind. I relearned the fundamental fact that “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

The first of those books was Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a fictional memoir about the Japanese occupation of Korea throughout the 20th century. The second was¬†Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, a non-fiction account of “ordinary lives” in North Korea. I learned SO much.

I found out about Nothing to Envy on an Instagram post, suggesting that someone participating in the #harpiesreadtheworld reading challenge may use this for the category of Read a Book About A Country the US is in Conflict With. Which got me thinking, What do I look for in a book, if I want to learn about another country and their history?

I’ve learned through past reading experiences that when I’m reading about a place I don’t know too much about, I really love feeling like 1) the book is well researched, 2) the book is fully set in reality, and 3) I need significant context to feel like I understand the entire story.

Pachinko and Nothing to Envy squarely worked for me and while they covered both genres of fiction, and non-fiction, I learned so much from both of them.

To illustrate, some recent books that have been popular but hasn’t worked for me are Exit West by Mohsin Hamid¬†and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Both books had moments of magical realism in them, that lost me, made me feel like I wasn’t learning because the story wasn’t real. And speaking of context, Stay with Me by¬†Ayobami Adebayo and The Alice Network didn’t dive quite deep enough for me or provide me with enough information that I can feel like I really learned a lot.

So, getting back to the positives, here are books that I would recommend to get serious context in to conflict in other countries.

Happy reading – and happy learning!

What you should pick for your BOTM Extra

It’s January 24th, so naturally I’m already gearing up for next month’s Book of the Month selections.

I bought my mom a Book of the Month membership for Christmas, and got a free book credit in the deal, so I’ve been trying to figure out what book I should get. Whenever I go diving through the BOTM archives, I’m just reminded of all the books I’ve loved so far!

Since I’m doing The Unread Shelf Project, I think I’m going to buy a book I’ve already read to have on my shelf (Tossing up The Woman in Cabin 10 or Into Thin Air) But, if you have found yourself in a similar situation – or just want to add an extra to your box here are my top five suggestions!


If you’re looking for a well researched, slow-burning, character rich, historical fiction novel: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (my review)


If you’re looking for a book that will destroy you and put you back together again, while making you consider different types of relationships from your own: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (my review)


If you want to experience life on the Galapagos Islands, with a touch of WWII espionage intrigue: Enchanted Islands by Allison Ahmed


If you’re looking for the quintessential unputdownable thriller: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware¬†(Confession: I don’t own The Woman in Cabin 10, yet, but these are her other two that I read this past summer!)


If you want a new [fictional] best friend: The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne


Honorable Mention: The Animators, The Couple Next Door, and The Profiteers.



I cannot recommend any of these enough and I’m so grateful for BOTM for bringing them in to my life!

(If you’ve been considering Book of the Month but haven’t taken the plunge, use my referral code!¬†You’ll get a sweet deal, and I’ll get a free book)