Mid Year Favorites: Books, TV, Movies

Thank you to my friend, Lindsey Mead, for reminding me that in other years I’ve written a mid-year favorite books post. It’s hard to believe July is here, which means there’s no denying that the year is half over. Time for my favorites! HOWEVER, I’m not just focusing on favorite books for this post.

I’ve read 32 books so far this year. The few I’m highlighting today are the books I would recommend with no hesitation. I’ve liked others on my 2015 list, even liked them a lot, but these are the few I would put in your hand and say, “If you can only read a couple of books this year, then this one is worth your very very very precious reading time.” 

Please let me know which books have stood out for you so far this year. You know what’s missing on my 2015 reading list? More fiction! I really do not need to read any more essay collections or memoirs this year. I’m ready to dive back into the world of the untrue. You’ll see that my 2015 list is VERY nonfiction heavy and I’m craving fiction again. (But do not send me your published novel to review. I’m way behind on that already and will say, “Thank you for asking, but I can’t. I’m sorry.”)

In the meantime, here is some nonfiction I’ve loved. I’m also recommending some great TV and movies.


UnabrowUnabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer by Una LaMarche

I absolutely loved this essay collection. I had to read it with a tissue in my hand because in many parts I would tear up from trying to hold in my laughter. (I read in bed and the laughing wakes a totally unamused Bryan.) I wrote an entire review of Unabrow for Great New Books so check that out!





Dear Exile Dear Exile : The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean by Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery

I’m a huge fan of epistolary novels, and this was the first nonfiction epistolary work I’ve read that sort of came off like a novel. It was cool to have this personal glimpse into the lives of these two friends keeping in touch while one was in Kenya in the Peace Corps and one was making her way in a new apartment and new job in NYC. I also enjoyed that the letters were written around (I think) 1996, which made me nostalgic for that pre-Facebook, pre-‘e’ everything time.




UnspeakableThe Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum

Excellent collection of essays. Daum has a way of writing somewhat formally but also with a familiar, friendly tone. It’s hard to explain, but what I mean is that she is a professional writer with a serious, solid voice, but she is also humorous and witty without slipping into the ridiculous.






I did not watch or adore much TV during the school year other than Scandal and Parenthood. (I love both even though the plot on this season’s Scandal was a tad too ridiculous and not as sexy as seasons past.)  This summer, however, has been TV gold.

YOUNGER: The new show Younger is based on Pam Redmond Satran’s novel and it can be Younger from TVlandseen, surprisingly, on TVland. I saw “surprisingly” because I didn’t know that channel existed.  I watched the entire 12-episode first season via On Demand. Here’s the premise, which I’m lifting from the show’s site.

TV Land’s Newest original “Younger,” stars Tony(R) Award winner Sutton Foster (“Bunheads”) Hilary Duff (“Lizzie McGuire”), Debi Mazar (“Entourage”) and Miriam Shor (“GCB”). The single-camera project, which is written, executive produced and directed by Darren Star (“Sex and the City”), is based on the novel “Younger” by Pamela Redmond Satran. Patricia Field, who worked with Star on “Sex and the City,” will be a costume consultant on the production.

“Younger” follows 40-year-old Liza (Foster), a suddenly single mother who tries to get back into the working world, only to find out it’s nearly impossible to start at the bottom at her age. When a chance encounter with a 20-something guy at a bar convinces her she looks younger than she is, Liza tries to pass herself off as 26 — with the help of a makeover, courtesy of her best friend Maggie (Mazar). Armed with new confidence, she lands a job as an assistant to the temperamental Diana (Shor) and teams up with her new co-worker and fellow 20-something Kelsey (Duff) to make it in the career of her dreams.

ODD MOM OUT: Although I’m very very very tired of NYC as the setting in books, TV shows,Odd Mom Out and movie, I do find the writing and everything else on Odd Mom Out, about a woman who feels out of place on the Upper East Side, refreshing, fun, and clever. This one is on Bravo and I caught up via On Demand. It’s scripted comedy, not reality TV. (I don’t do reality TV!) I especially loved the scene in this week’s episode when Jill, who does not always feel at home on the Upper East Side, realizes that Brooklyn would not be quite right either.

Orange is the new BlackORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (Season 3): Yes, I’m already done. Yes, it’s wonderfully written and acted. Yes, I loved the Jewish plot line. Some people in reviewland haven’t liked this season. I thought it was nice to see Piper become more of a central side character rather than the protagonist.



INSIDE OUT: I never get to the movies anymore, but I did see Inside Out. It’s so good and worth every rave it has received. I also saw Cinderella, but I’m not sure it was in 2015, and I’m too lazy to Google it.


The Books That Define Summer

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.10.24 AM

Certain types of people remember summer defining books the way others remember summer defining songs. I am one of the book people. Actually, I might be both types. (Summer, 1993, every song on Indigo Girls’ Rites of Passage album.) Anyway, I’m on The Mid this week talking about some of the summer defining books I remember…

Tired of Getting Picked Last

Ask Nina a Question

Hello! Today’s friendship advice question at The HerStories Project comes from a woman who feels that a particular friend only seeks her out when her “real” friends are busy, and she’s tired of being the last call. I hope that readers will chime in, too. Please check out, “Only When Her Real Friends Are Busy” which I…

Meeting Blogging Friends

Meeting Allie from thelatchkeymom.com while she and her family made a stop in Minneapolis on their road trip.

A huge perk of the blogging world is the relationships we writers form with each other. In the realm of online friendships, writers tend to jump quickly from “first base.” If we feel a connection, we may transition within weeks from commenting on each other’s blogs, to becoming Facebook friends on our personal pages, to writing private messages…

Do Listen Read: Nightstand Edition

Do listen read

DO – Come to my challah baking class if you live in the Twin Cities! I will have more dates to share soon. My co-leader, Tzipporah Leah Kalatsky, and I were featured in a gallery spread in Edina Magazine. We have held 14 classes in my kitchen since September 2014. That is A LOT of…

Speak Up or Stay Out of It

Ask Nina a Question

I’m back on The HerStories Project this week with a challenging question to answer. How do you deal with friends or family members who make offensive generalizations or outright racist comments? Today’s question deals with that exact issue, and it’s a tough one. Our letter writer wants to know when she should should speak up…

What’s Next For Me As A Writer?

My four excellent reasons for writing less in the summer!

I tend to write much less in the summer for four good and worthy reasons: Sam, Rebecca, Elissa, and Nate. Without school, we have weeks of nothing going on and weeks with random camps in random locations that all require more time in the car. We have lots of time at the pool and plenty of…

Is Cultural Judaism Enough?

Photo via flickr "bagels" by Ezra Wolfe

Can a cultural Jew pass on Jewish values and identity to the next generation without any Jewish practices in the home? Or with only the bare minimum of practices and rituals, such as celebrating Hanukkah? Many people would say yes and have said yes. Many would also say no. Is there one right answer? No,…