So far, I’m still on pace to read 100 books this year — I finished 8 in January, and finished #9 on February 1. It’s helping and not helping that I’ve spent the past week not working but crying and arranging a memorial service and graveside service.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan is a great distraction of a book. You will be sucked in to this world and you, if you are anything like me, will enjoy all the characters and root for them despite knowing that, in a book largely about gangsters during WWII, these characters may not all make it. The main character, Anna, also endeared herself to me by becoming the first female deep sea diver in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I would have zero desire to be diving 40+ feet under water in the gear available in the 1940’s but Anna makes it sound fun and freeing to be under water that way. Basically, this is a story about Anna’s coming of age, helping with the war effort, and kind of finding out the truth about her father (who was involved with both Irish and Italian gangs).

I hadn’t planned to read this book until I read the New Yorker article about Egan, and then I decided it would make the list. I like the sort of behind the scenes look Egan gives us — she’s been working on Manhattan Beach for almost 15 years before she finally go it right. Also, you must read this article (and it is much shorter than Manhattan Beach!) because Egan also talks about her cat, Cuddles, who is apparently very dumb — “You have your own survival mood, which is beauty!”

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is less of a recommend. It is better than some women’s literature I’ve read, but nothing amazing. It is based on the very upsetting, very true story about the atrocities committed by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Basically, poor children were stolen off porches, and from unwed mothers in the hospital (in that case with the mothers often being told that their children had died) and then sold to rich people. Children who died in the Society’s care, well they just kind of destroyed the paperwork and pretended they had never existed. So, a downer of a book, although it flips back and forth from the past to the present where a less depressing story unfolds. There is also an incredibly predictable romance in the present. You can skip this one, unless you really really really liked Orphan Train (by Christina Baker Klein), then you might want to read this as it’s got a lot of similarities.

Currently reading: Still reading Prairie Fires and now also working on a few other novels.