The Half-George Vanderbilt Challenge: 2013 Edition

george-vanderbilt-john-singer-sargent-1895It’s time once again for an update on my annual attempt to make George Vanderbilt proud. Last year, I stalled at 47 books, so I was determined to finish this year’s challenge. However, seeing as at various times this year I worked full-time, wrote a book of my own and had a baby, my ability to read 50 books was not a foregone conclusion. Another unforeseen challenge to this goal came in August, when my husband and I finally succumbed to the Game of Thrones juggernaut and George R.R. Martin took over my reading bandwidth for several months. I took to reading what I call “internet junk books” to catch up on my numbers. The upside to that is it allowed me to revisit many of the blogs I first began reading in college and “find out how they all ended,” as Vera Charles would say.

My ratings and reviews for this year’s full list are available through my Goodreads account. Here are my top five picks for this year, accompanied by the reviews I posted on Goodreads:

7544639Honorable Mention: Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF, by April Winchell
I’ve always thought this blog was hilarious (Next Etsy trend: hand-knit gloveless fingers, anyone?), but this book is even better. The author’s commentary had me literally rolling over laughing. An added bonus: the what-were-they-thinking crafts in this book prove that the eccentric stuff I buy really isn’t so bad.

161419245. Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan
Dad is Fat just might be the perfect book for busy parents. It’s a series of (extremely) brief essays that will make you laugh out loud about everything from the logic of snaps on baby clothing to the (lack?) of logic behind the author and his wife raising five children in a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. If you know Gaffigan’s stand-up routines, you’ll recognize a few recycled jokes, but it seems like he’s used this opportunity to flesh them out a bit more. I just can’t figure out how someone who has five kids and enjoys napping and eating so much found time to write a book!

113875154. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Reading this book as a former victim of middle school bullying and as a currently pregnant woman was an intense experience for me. My heart went out equally to the main character, August, and his parents for the lifetime of negative experiences they’ve all had to endure because of the cruelty of others.

Wonder is one of the few books I’ve encountered that accurately captures how psychological and social bullying plays out in school settings. I thought it also did a good job of showing the power of words, actions and forgiveness for both kids and their peers and parents and their children. I was relieved that this book had a happy ending; it would have been absolutely heartbreaking if it didn’t.

63079643. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin
Well, apparently Jon Snow knows a thing or two.



118700852. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
I didn’t review this book for Goodreads, but I was struck by Green’s ability to write from the point of view of a teenage girl in such a realistic way. The movie version was filmed in my hometown this year, so I’m very much looking forward to the adaptation.


160020281. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas, by Jim Ottaviani
A great intro to the life’s work of Louis Leakey’s three best-known proteges. This book brought out the ten-year-old in me…I just wanted to keep reading and socking away more trivia about some of the scientists I admired most as a kid.

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