Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist December 17, 2015

We Should Hang OutJosh Sundquist’s story begins when he is 25 years old and realizes he has never had a girlfriend. Sure, he came close. In 8th grade, he went out with a girl from his youth group for 23 whole hours. In high school, he spent the whole summer hanging out with a girl that he never worked up the nerve to kiss. There was a disastrous prom date and a failed attempt to declare his intentions on a canoe. As he looks back through his love life, he doesn’t understand where things went wrong. In attempt to figure out the fatal flaw in his date-ablility, Josh tracks down the girls who got away and asked them what happened. Their answers lead to a surprising revelation.

Highlights of the book:

  • Josh’s discussion with his extremely conservative Christian parents about him transitioning from home school to public school. My favorite line in the book: “It was a well-known fact among Christian homeschoolers that public schools were bastions of gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, rap music, pop culture, secular humanism, witchcraft, and body piercings.”
  • A golf date that resulted in him trying to correct his prosthetic foot that had gotten turned in the wrong direction.
  • The aforementioned failed attempt to declare his intentions on a canoe in the middle of a lake.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read. I finished it within a few hours. I laughed out loud many times. Even though he struck out a lot, his confidence and his continuous efforts to get out and try again were admirable. I can see why he became a motivational speaker; he has the ability to turn a perceived failure into a story his audience can relate to or at least sympathize with and turn it into a learning experience.

I would recommend this book paired with Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw. Both touch on overcoming adversity using humorous and relatable life stories.

5 out of 5 stars


Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek By Maya Van Wagenen August 11, 2015

Filed under: nonfiction — Bethany @ 10:31 pm
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Popular_comp9.indd“School is the armpit of life.” This was how Maya’s friend Kenzie described it. Maya agreed. Her description of her school was something most of us can understand. There are jocks and popular people and not-so-popular people and cliques and gossip and drama. Maya thought there was no way to change your standing in the social structure of school. But one day she came across an old book from the thrift store. It was written in 1951 and called Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide. She decided to spend her 8th grade year following all of the advice in the book, no matter how embarrassing or complicated. She wrote this book about her experiences. Some things were pretty easy such as stand up straight to look taller and thinner. Some things were hard such as sitting at every table in the cafeteria and talking to everyone in school at least once. She learned a lot, not all of it good, but sometimes with surprising results. This a true story about Maya’s real life and how it changed from one old-fashioned self-help book and a lot of courage.

This was an absolutely charming book about a girl making the best of her situation. I felt like I could relate to Maya’s struggles and wished I would have been as brave and confident as she became by the end. As I read this, I thought of several teens who would enjoy it as much as I did.

5 out of 5 stars


Zeitoun by Dave Eggers July 31, 2011

The story begins in the summer of 2005.  Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun and their four children live in New Orleans.  Syrian-born Zeitoun and his wife own a busy and well-known painting company.  When they begin to hear warnings for a massive hurricane heading their way, they don’t think much of it.  After all, this happens every year.  As the warnings become more dire, however, Kathy decides to take the family north, out of danger.  Zeitoun decides to stay behind, to watch over the houses under construction.  What begins as a small storm turns into a nightmare when the levee is breaks and the city is filled with water.  At first Zeitoun is glad to have stayed behind; he moves their valuables out of harm’s way and rescues those stranded in his secondhand canoe.  One day, Zeitoun and three other men are taken away.  What follows is a horrifying series of events where the men are imprisoned, exposed to inhuman treatment, with no way to contact loved ones.  The most appalling part is that this actually happened.  In America.  In the 21st century.

Zeitoun is a powerful work of narrative non-fiction.  I couldn’t put it down.  At the time, I didn’t really follow what was going on; it was hard to know what to believe in the media reports.  Reading this made me realize just how awful the situation in New Orleans was.  Zeitoun’s story is shocking.  Highly recommended- prepare to be blown away.


Leadership Simple by Steve and Jill Morris June 28, 2011

Filed under: nonfiction — Bethany @ 9:40 pm
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“Great leaders inspire others to follow through their words and actions.”  According to the authors, great leaders use self-evaluation to improve themselves and others; this process is called Lead Management.  The self-evaluation process involves looking at what you want, what you are doing to get what you want, whether your methods are working, alternative actions, and choosing a behavior or action.  Everything that happens is a result of a choice we have made.  When we operate from an internal locus of control, we are able to take responsibility for our choices and become accountable for our actions.  By practicing Lead Management, it can become a way of life.

This was the first of three books I’m reading in preparation for a leadership institute I will be attending next month.  The ideas of Lead Management seemed simple enough and like something the average person could do.  I found the conversational format to be a little annoying, though it was helpful to see what Lead Management would look like in practice.  An appendix contained a review of the concepts contained in the book.


You Can’t Fire Everyone by Hank Gilman June 10, 2011

Filed under: nonfiction — Bethany @ 10:36 pm

Hank Gilman, currently the deputy managing editor of Fortune magazine, writes about lessons learned through years as a manager.  Beginning in college, Gilman learned the best and worst strategies for being a boss.  Lessons such as “Don’t blame others, and don’t take too much credit,”  “Fire fast,” and “Focus on your employees’ strengths” are explained and illustrated through real-life examples.

Gilman has some helpful tips for those wanting to become or improve as managers.  His examples from his own work help readers visualize the techniques, but there were a lot of sports metaphors included.  Entertaining read on the subject, but not especially inspiring.


Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs March 25, 2011

A disturbing look at the life of Augusten Burroughs.  After much fighting, his parents divorced, leaving Augusten to live with his mother.  She is obviously mentally ill and seeks help from an unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Finch.  Burroughs goes on to describe his inclusion into the Finch household, eventually being adopted by the doctor.  The filthy living conditions, unrestricted children, and the general lifestyle of the Finches is horrifying and, at times, shocking.

I am not easily offended, but reading this book made me feel the need to take a shower.  I alternated between recoiling in horror and laughing.


Just Kids by Patti Smith February 26, 2011

Filed under: adult memoir,nonfiction — Bethany @ 11:00 pm
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When she was 20 years old, Patti Smith boarded a bus to New York to try life as an artist.  Her plan was to stay with friends in Brooklyn, find a job to support herself, and learn how to be an artist.  When Patti arrived in Brooklyn, her friends were no longer there and she was homeless, jobless, and hungry.  Eventually Patti finds friendship with a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe, a fellow aspiring artist.  The two lean on one another as they struggle to stay afloat in Brooklyn and find their way in the art world.  Their relationship and their talents evolve with friendships and encounters with a variety of fellow artists including Janis Joplin and Allen Ginsberg and years spent at the Hotel Chelsea.  Both eventually come into their talents, Patti in music, Robert in photography.

Just Kids comes from a promise from Patti Smith to Robert Mapplethorpe that she would write their story.  The book primarily discusses their beginnings and their relationship; it does not go into much detail about them after they become famous.

This book was an interesting collection of memories from the lives of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.  It contains names of many different well-know musicians, artists, and writers that the two encountered.  I think I would have appreciated the book more if I had grown up during that era or had more knowledge of art and music from that time.

National Book Award winner


A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

Part memoir, part cookbook, A Homemade Life demonstrates Molly Wizenberg’s passion for food.  Growing up, her father regularly remarked, “You know, we eat better at home than most people do in restaurants.”  She later realized he was talking about the joy and family togetherness that came from cooking and eating together.  Read about Molly’s memories of growing up with her mother and father, their fateful trip to Paris, her father’s death from cancer, her realization that she needed to follow her passion, and the beginning of her relationship with a fan of her blog.  Each chapter is followed by a recipe that fits the story.

This book combined my interest in memoirs with my love for cookbooks.  Wizenberg is a good storyteller and was able to incorporate recipes into the text without interrupting the flow.


Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin February 12, 2011

Filed under: adult memoir,nonfiction — Bethany @ 9:16 pm
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Wait Till Next Year is a memoir of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s childhood in suburban New York in the 1950s.  She writes about her family, her neighborhood, and her passion for baseball that tied it all together.  Kearns inherited her homebound mother’s love of reading and her father’s love of baseball.  Her interests along with fears of polio, the Korean War, the Red Scare, the introduction of television, and New Yorkers’ fierce loyalty to their baseball teams all shaped Kearns’ childhood.  Years later, the Dodgers’ departure from Brooklyn, her mother’s death, and a disbanding of the neighborhood of her childhood changed things forever.

This was an enjoyable read and a glimpse into the era of my parents’ childhoods.  I appreciated that the author was able to  incorporate baseball history with her own memories in a way that grabs even the non-sports fan’s attention.


My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler January 14, 2011

Filed under: adult biography,humor,nonfiction — Bethany @ 8:53 pm
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The title of this book says it all; My Horizontal Life is a collection of stories about sex and one-night stands.  Chelsea Handler recollects her mistakes and triumphs in a world of drinking, dating, and sleeping around.  Amidst all of the funny and cringe-worthy stories are Handler’s insights on friendship and growing up.

This was a light, fun read.  Readers will walk away feeling satisfied and a little dirty.  Be prepared to laugh out loud.


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