Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

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


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks December 21, 2012

Filed under: adult non-fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 12:49 pm
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Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksYou’ve probably never heard of Henrietta Lacks, but she might very well be the reason you’re alive today.  In the early 1950’s, she was admitted to the colored ward at Johns Hopkins with a cancerous tumor.  Doctors took some of the cells from her body for research.  Those cells never died.  Henrietta’s cells, known as HeLa to scientists, still exist today and have been used to develop everything from a polio vaccine to in vitro fertilization to gene mapping.

Neither Henrietta nor her family knew that her cells were taken or used by scientists all over the world.  Many years later author Rebecca Skloot became intrigued with the story and contacted the family to find their perspectives.  She discovered how little they knew about their mother, her cells, and the impact on their lives.  Ms. Skloot spent a decade writing the untold story of Henrietta Lacks and her family, especially her daughter Deborah.

This is a fascinating true story of science, bioethics, the horrifying experiments done on African Americans by doctors in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and the resulting contributions to science.  It is both a human interest story and a lesson in the ethics of medicine.

5 out of 5 stars


Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard July 19, 2012

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President:  President James A. Garfield is not as well known as Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy, but the story of his assassination is just as dramatic.  Discover how Garfield became president, the madman Charles Guiteau who shot him, and the doctors who unwittingly took Garfield’s life.  This  is a tale of politics, history, human strength and character, invention, genius, and ignorance.

This was a long but fascinating story of James A. Garfield.  I knew very little of this president, but he had an interesting life and an excruciating death.  His peril effected several important inventions from which we continue to benefit.  The book was well-written, both informative and entertaining.  I would highly recommend the audiobook; the reader, Paul Michael, did an amazing job bringing the drama and suspense to life.

5 out of 5 stars


Put ‘Em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton June 22, 2012

Filed under: adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 10:05 pm
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This cookbook is billed as “a comprehensive home preserving guide for the creative cook from drying to freezing to canning and pickling.”  It contains step-by-step directions for different methods of preservation as well as recipes.  It caters to the beginner, filled with reassurances about the safety and ease of home preservation.

The author’s anecdotes add a personal touch to this comprehensive, easy-to-understand cookbook.  I’m inspired to try canning!


AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller June 12, 2012

Filed under: adult adventure,adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 10:56 am
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In 2003, David Miller (trail name AWOL) left his unsatisfying job as a software engineer to hike the Appalachian Trail.  His wife and three daughters at home, he hiked alone the 2,172 miles from Georgia to Maine.  Part journal, part travel guide, Miller’s story tells of the pain, the joy, and the friendship he encounters along the way.

After reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, I was ready to learn more about the reality of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The day-to-day accounts of the distance he traveled, the shelters he slept in, the equipment he used, and the towns he visited gave a realistic look at what it is like to thru-hike this trail.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is considering a long-distance hike or would like to read a well-written account of AWOL’s experiences on the AT.

5 out of 5 stars


A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson May 24, 2012

Filed under: adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 5:47 pm
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Shortly after moving to New Hampshire with his family, Bill Bryson discovered a trail.  Upon further investigation, he realized it was the infamous Appalachian Trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine.  After some research and many visits to his local outdoor supplier, Bryson is prepared to hike the 2,100 mile trail.  His sometimes surly, out-of-shape friend Stephen Katz decides to join him.  The two set out on a hike that is much more than either of them were prepared for.  Along the way, they meet wild animals, fellow hikers (some more normal than others), and some frightening small towns.  The story of Bryson and Katz on the trail is interspersed with well-researched information about the National Park Service and the history of the AT.

After finishing Cheryl Strayed’s book about the Pacific Crest Trail, I wanted to know more about the Appalachian Trail.  Bryson’s book was just the thing.  It was interesting, funny, and honest.  Whether you are an avid hiker, a couch potato, or something in between, I would recommend this book.

4.5 out of 5 stars


Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know By the Time She’s 30 by Pamela Redmond Satran and the Editors of Glamour

Fifteen years ago, Glamour magazine published a list of 30 things a woman should have and know by the time she’s 30.  The list was so popular, it went viral before going viral was even a thing.  This book expands upon the list by including stories, observations, and comments on each item on the list by celebrities, authors, and other well-known women.

Since I just turned 30 myself, I decided to see how I fared with the items on the list.  Some were meaningful, some were kind of silly.  None were really inspirational to me.  I especially had a hard time relating to the stories by celebrities such as Taylor Swift- she’s not even close to 30.  I can see why people enjoyed the list, but this book just wasn’t my thing.

2 out of 5 stars


Wild by Cheryl Strayed May 3, 2012

In her devastation after her young mother’s death, Cheryl’s life falls apart.  Her family scatters, her marriage ends, and everything she used to believe is lost.  While running an errand at the hardware store, she runs across a book that will change her life.  The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California sticks in her mind until she makes a decision: she’s going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  Shortly afterward, she straps on her heavy backpack for an 1,100 mile journey through the Mojave Desert in California to the northern border of Oregon.  She has no experience as a long-distance hiker and encounters many wild animals, extreme weather conditions, and hardships on the way to healing her broken spirit.

This book was well done and really held my interest.  I don’t think I would attempt a trip like the one she describes, but it made for a great story.  It’s similar in subject to Eat, Pray, Love, but better.  I would recommend this for any adults who like to read memoirs, books about travel, or stories about life journeys.

5 out of 5 stars


What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? by The Buried Life April 30, 2012

Filed under: adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 1:02 pm
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Reminiscent of Post Secret, this book contains handwritten and hand-drawn contributions from participants in the project.  Each page has a separate “wish” from someone.  The story of the four young men of The Buried Life and their project is interspersed throughout the book.

I was really excited about this book, thinking it would be similar to Post Secret.  The project itself seemed interesting, although I didn’t really understand where all of the “wishes” in the book came from.  The Buried Life guys seemed inspired by their project, and it seems like they were trying to help others.  The book itself just fell flat for me.

2.5 out of 5 stars


Bossypants by Tina Fey January 25, 2012

Tina Fey started her life in show business at Summer Showtime, an acting camp that did double-duty as a refuge for gay teens.  With a short, less-than-glamorous stint at the front desk of the YMCA, she went on to do an improv show in Chicago.  After a nerve-wracking interview with Lorne Michaels, she became a writer for Saturday Night Live and later created her own comedy show, 30 Rock.  Sprinkled throughout the book are stories of her childhood, memories of her near-death experience on her honeymoon, tips for a successful fashion shoot, opinions of Photoshop, tales of motherhood, and her true feelings about Sarah Palin.

This book was hilarious yet poignant and had a nice balance of truth and sarcastic asides.  I really enjoyed it and found myself laughing out loud more than once.  I would definitely recommend this to any adult, especially those who have seen her on TV.  Her voice really shines throughout the book.


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