A Friend’s Reading Challenge: 10 Books in a Week

One of my best friends is an avid reader and often reads voraciously in a very short period. She took a few days off of work with the goal to read 10 books. This sounded like fun, so I thought I’d join her in trying to read 10 books before my classes started a few weeks ago. Well, I failed the challenge by only making it to 9 books. But that’s still enough to merit a blog post, so onward!


  • Books read: 9
  • Fiction: 7
  • Nonfiction: 2
  • Genres: Historical fiction, fantasy, biography, classic, contemporary fiction, literary fiction, memoir, romance
  • Total number of pages: 2,889
  • Audiobooks: 3
  • Ebooks: 1
  • Actual books: 4

Here are the books I read for this challenge, in the order I read them.

  1. The Good Lord Bird by James McBride I love historical fiction that encounters important people and events almost by happenstance, and that’s what happens when young Henry is freed from slavery to (forcibly) join John Brown’s fight for abolition. As a girl. Along the way he meets Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. The book is irreverent, and its satire is complex. But it is often moving and hopeful as it deals with powerful themes of identity, faith, survival, and race.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

2. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly When fantasy novels feature young protagonists, that often means that they’re using the fantasy world to process some kind of trauma that they’re experiencing in real life. That’s definitely what happens here as David mourns his mother and finds another world that is even darker than he could have imagined. This book sort of reminded me of a cross between Labyrinth and Narnia. I wish the book hadn’t been quite so human-centric though and been more interested in the other side of monsters. I felt some of the conclusions it drew were a little easy, but I think it has really interesting themes of sacrifice and a fun, slightly gruesome quest. Side note: The cover of this book is so gorgeous.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

3. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster I saw the film version with Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith before I read the book. I have to confess I thought the movie was rather stale (and I hate the way they did the hair and costuming), but the book was so much fun. I found it to be quite funny and eager to make fun of all the ridiculous characters. Plus the protagonist actually learns something. And gets the guy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh When someone writes a memoir about their experience, there’s less suspense about the outcome because even though they engaged in risky behavior x they lived long enough to tell about it. The author is not a likable person, but she’s kind of deliciously terrible and her standards for her own behavior are so far removed from mine that I found her fascinating. Her journey to sleep (as much as possible) for a year is bizarre and privileged, but ultimately I think she does learn about why it’s worth being awake.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

5. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman Before I read this book, the previous book I had read that was set in Los Angeles was Patrisse Khan Cullor’s book, When They Call You a Terrorist. It’s hard to imagine that these two different versions of LA exist side by side every day–the white, middle-class privilege on the one hand and the poor, Black experience of racism could not be more different. It was a startling contrast that really resonated with me as I read this otherwise kind of fluffy book. It’s protagonist, Nina, is so similar to me in her love of organization and reading and her anxiety… she’s kind of an amplified but eerily familiar version of myself. Sometimes you just need more romance in your life.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

6. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne Though I’m not sure I loved everything about this biography, I did love the way it was organized around objects in Austen’s life and the significance that they had to her and as objects that can be used to describe the time period and give more insight to the way she would have lived.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

7. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi This book was so good. It was my Book of the Month choice from the five that were available in August, and I really loved the way it dealt with identity, family, and love. It was sad of course, following the investigation of Vivek Oji’s death in order to explain what was so extraordinary about their life.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

8. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik Female driven fantasy? Yes, please. On the surface this is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, but beneath that it follows three strong women making their way in very different classes and life situations as they use their wit to protect their families, further their fortunes, and generally kick ass and save the day.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

9. A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler It’s been a long time since a book made me cry, but this one did. I won’t give away the ending, but this story about race in a neighborhood that considers itself to be colorblind will move you. It is tragic and feels all too familiar for the times we’re in.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Have you read any of these books? Did any catch your eye? Let me know in the comments.

Baking for Bookworms: Cheese Biscuits from Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler


I didn’t know very much about Zelda Fitzgerald before reading this book (and obviously this was fiction, though well-researched, so there’s still a lot I don’t know about her), but I felt afterwards that I understood her more, and I understood how difficult life had been for her. I’m sorry to say I’d never really given her much thought before, but now I’m really interested to read some of her work. She was certainly an artist in her own right.

The food mentioned in the book is definitely overshadowed by the booze (both in variety and quantity), but I really wanted to share a food and not a cocktail recipe this week, so I settled on the food that’s mentioned on the first page: cheese biscuits. Interestingly, Zelda isn’t really into cheese biscuits, she’s more partial to plain biscuits she can spread her favorite peach preserves on. Scott however loved cheese biscuits. I think this says something about how Scott was interested in zest and Zelda in a kind of sweetness she was always looking for but never found. That’s probably a lot to read into biscuits.


This mention of the biscuits happens very early in the book, before Scott ever comes into Zelda’s life:

” ‘Hey, Katy,’ I said, coming into the kitchen. ‘Bess and Clara are out there, did you hear ’em?’ On the wide wooden table was a platter covered by a dish towel. ‘Plain?’ I asked hopefully, reaching beneath the towel for a biscuit.

‘No, cheese–now, don’t make that face,’ she said, opening the door to wave to her friends. ‘Nothin’ today!’ she shouted. Turning to me, she said, ‘You can’t have peach preserves every day of your life.'”                                                                                                                             9

I think these biscuits came out really well. They’re drop biscuits because I’m a drop biscuit kind of gal. Rolling and cutting and things–that’s just too much work for everyday biscuits. I also kind of like the rustic look of drop biscuits. These are adapted from Martha Stewart’s.


Cheese Biscuits

  • 2 (up to 1/2 cup more) cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (I used medium, but you could use sharp or white)
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk (or a little over a tablespoon of vinegar mixed with enough milk to hit the 1 1/3 cup mark)
  • 3 tablespoons chives (I used freeze dried)

Preheat oven to 425.

Line baking sheets with parchment or a nonstick silicone mat and set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients in bowl and whisk together. Work the cold butter into the mixture with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it’s all incorporated. Stir in cheddar, buttermilk, and chives until the dough comes together. If the dough looks too wet, you can add a little more flour.


Use two spoons to drop biscuits (about 1/4 cup of the mixture per biscuit) onto trays and bake about 12 minutes until puffed and golden brown. If you put two sheets in the oven at once, you can rotate them halfway through baking.

These biscuits were so good. I mean what can be better than cheese and bread together? Pretty much nothing. These would go perfectly with soup or with almost anything. You can invent lots of excuses.


Are you a drop biscuit lover or a rolled biscuit devotee? Let me know in the comments.