Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday--Favorite Books of 2017

hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

It's that time of year again....time to cull the list of favorite reads from 2017. I read a lot of wonderful books this year.  Here they are in no particular order:

1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Fantastic writing and research and I loved the humanity as we met all of Ms. Lacks family.

2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. The best book and letting you feel what it might actually be like to be clinically and severely depressed. Hits you in the gut.

3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I listened to this. It was a heart-wrenching story. Starr and her family stick with you. They make you think. Beautiful and much needed story.

4. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. Her stories are visceral but necessary. No one can make me feel all the feels quite like Gay. Anyone who thinks it's still OK to fat shame needs to read this. Boom.

5. The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz. It's a beautifully told story about three children (from different backgrounds) in the early 1200s making their way through France and hiding from the King!

6. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. She writes a beautiful memoir about her father while trying to understand him and deal with his death.

7. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathon Allen. This was a fascinating insider's look on how Clinton ran her campaign and how she really messed up. It was sad but a necessary read.

8. The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp. This was a wacky and well-written story about well, the last days of Jack Sparks! It's horrifying and funny all at the same time and I just loved it!

9. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates. So powerful. Coates reflects over the eight years President Obama was in office. It is a tragedy.

10. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. There are no proper words from me about how beautiful and poignant this memoir is. Listen to it. It brought me to tears.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Week-in-Review-- December 11, 2017

The one thing that I do enjoy about this time of year is the excuse to slow down a bit and just be. G and I made Christmas goodies all weekend and we watched at least 3 holiday movies! It's been busy but fun.

Books Finished:

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, and You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie.

Currently Reading:

The Burning Girl: A Novel by Claire Messud. This one is very short and I should finish it either today or tomorrow. It's on a lot of best of 2017 lists so I figured I'd try a few out before 2018 hits with more wonderful books on the way!

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus by Kate Wolford. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte and finally Hamlet by Shakespeare! Whew. We shall see how many of these I can get through before 2018!

Listening To:

Audible just gave out a new title to its members called "The Most Wonderful Tales of the Year." So I'm thinking I'll listen a bit to that this week along with The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan.

I just picked up Lindsey Stirling's new Christmas album Warmer in the Winter, which has been amazing. I also found Loreena McKennitt's A Midwinter's Night Dream which features Celtic winter tunes and vocals. Delightful.


Dark on Netflix. It's from Germany and it's dark and weird and fabulous. It's like Stranger Things on steroids.

All the Christmas holiday movies. G loves Home Alone so we've watched those two many times. Elf has been on the list and Polar Express too while sipping hot chocolate and nomming on popcorn and other goodies.


We made all the cookies and goodies this week. Oreo mint truffles, peanut butter balls, peanut butter blossoms, and good old-fashioned sugar cookies. The frosting wasn't as good as I was hoping. We're making more this week since we ran out and I'll try a different recipe and hopefully that one tastes better! The Oreo truffles didn't quite work out either but we made do. So I'll need to find a better recipe for those. I don't bake a lot so most of this is new. But I like branching out and with DH gone so long, I've needed an outlet and some fun to do with G.

Looking forward to:

DH is coming home Saturday night! Yay! We cannot wait. It has been very lonely at our house without him. G has his rescheduled cooking class on Friday and we're going to a winter solstice celebration on Saturday morning.

Also, it's DH and I's 14th wedding anniversary Tuesday. So I'll probably take G out for some Thai and a little merry-making.

Pics from the week:
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Gingerbread house done!

Dec 8
G got some playtime in with friends!

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Nala loves the head scratches

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We spent all weekend making cookies and other goodies!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Caturday

I wanted to get some cute kitty/animal stuff in for the weekend...

This link will take you to a cute gif of a similar cat settling in for a nap with its huskie. Cat settles in for a nap. 
It's horrible about those fires in California and this story just touched my heart that this man would risk so much to rescue this wild rabbit. I just bawled while watching it.

May we all have a safe and happy weekend!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Mini Book Reviews: Lincoln in the Bardo...

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Goodreads Summary:

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

I listened to this one and I am sure glad that I did. It had a wonderful cast of characters...I think around 166 different narrators!

It was a great story on grief and penance. I've never read anything by Saunders so his style was very different and it was hard to get into the flow of the story so it wasn't my favorite but I can appreciate why it's been a lauded work this past year.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

Goodreads Summary:

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

Amazon lists this as 100 top books to read in a lifetime and I wholeheartedly agree. After I finished listening to it, I ordered the book and am going to reread the hard copy. She has so many beautiful things to share on vulnerability and how that truly, in practice, lead to a transformative life. I especially identified with the parenting section.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Corinne La Mer isn't afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They're just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn't belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne's house, cooking dinner for Corinne's father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine's plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn't know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.

G and I both enjoyed this fantastic tale from the Caribbean. It had a great group of kids who care about each other, a big bad to get the best of, and growth for everyone involved. I try to read books to G from varying genres, sex, and diversity. And this one was perfect.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine--growing up dirt-poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me is a powerful account of a complicated relationship, an unflinching and unforgettable remembrance.

Wow. This memoir blew me away. Alexie takes us along for the journey while he processes the death of his mother and his relationship with her. But we also learn along with him the complexities of his mother, all the good and bad and in between. It's gut-wrenching. I listened to this and he breaks down a few times while reading his poems and thoughts. It's a must-read for all humanity. Alexie for world leader!

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette- smoking, wish- granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved- ones’ bones from cremation ashes. With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning— including a glowing- Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre— and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.

Doughty travels around the world to see what other cultures do to celebrate and mourn their dead. I enjoyed the closer-up details of what these cultures do. She added a nice personal touch and let her thoughts be known. She muses on western culture and our lack of true ritual when it comes to death. We hold no spaces for our dead and those grieving. She inspires me to face death head on and search out my own held space for the present and the future.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man's enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again...

I wanted to get this read before I saw the new movie adaptation. I'm glad I did. It was fun to see how Hercule Poirot solved his mysteries. It wasn't great but it was fun!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Nonfiction November Wrapup

I enjoyed sharing my nonfiction reads of November with others. It was fabulous to get new books on my ever-growing TBR pile and to meet new bloggers. But the one thing I didn't get to...my reviews. So without further ado, here are my mini-reviews.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

I'm still processing this book...that's kind of the theme of the whole book, though. How we ignore death and dying and never process it until it's too late. Well, that's kind of what I've been doing after I read this. I've known I needed to write a reviews and I've put it off and put it off. Ha!

"Looking mortality straight in the yes is no easy feat. To avoid the exercise, we choose to stay blindfolded, in the dark as to the realities of death and dying. But ignorance is not bliss, only a deeper kind of terror."

"Death drives every creative and destructive impulse we have as human beings. The closer we come to understanding it, the closer we come to understanding ourselves."

Doughty has tried to turn the funeral industry upside down by providing a good death for those who want it. Her stories bring love and humor to death. She has started a death positive movement The Order of the Good Death. She wants everyone to accept mortality and to come at it head on.

"Whether my mortality caught me at twenty-eight or ninety-three, I made the choice to die content, slipped into the nothingness, my atoms becoming the very fog that cloaked the trees. The silence of death, of the cemetery, was no punishment, but a reward for a life well lived."

We are mortal; let's face death head on, not with a sense of dread or terror, but one of acceptance and knowledge of a full life.

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates offers up eight articles he wrote for The Atlantic during the eight years Barack Obama was president. He adds in new introductions for each one and a final epilogue.

I don't quite know how to quite sum it up properly. America is the great tragedy. Our country was built on the backs of slaves and genocide and we as a nation have never come to terms with that. It's a cycle that is perpetual. We can see it now with Trump in power and his cronies in the senate and congress.

"He was deliberate to a fault, saw himself as the keeper of his country sacred legacy, and if he was bothered by his country's sins, he ultimately believed it to be a force for good in the world. IN short, Obama, his family, and his administration were a walking advertisement for the ease with which black people could be fully integrated into the unthreatening mainstream of American culture, politics, and myth. And that was always the problem."

Can we ever come together and look into the eyes of our terrible past and present and move forward from that point with eyes wide open? Or is our country doomed to this tragedy until we are no more?

Coates knows how to lay it all out simply and profoundly. This book is a must-read.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I listened to this one and that means it's going to be difficult to mark passages and go over them. But I can tell you that this was a powerful book. I cried during many passages as I was driving around town.

I felt her loss. Her year of dealing not only with the sudden death of her husband but also the illness of her daughter was horrible. It was a sad reminder of how our culture wants us to grieve but not too much. Get over it and move on and don't let us know how much you are grieving because it makes us uncomfortable and we don't know how to handle that....

I want to pick up a hard copy and reread and mark it up. Beautiful and profound.

Week-in-Review--December 4, 2017

This last week was plagued with cold sores and injuries! Poor G has some serious mouth ulcers--he's prone to them and he got injured Thursday and had miss have the day. We got some lunch and a little breakfast on Sunday. We also made some plans for snowflake making and gingerbread houses this week that we're both looking forward to.

Books Finished:

None! It's been a rough week but I'm almost done with Sherman Alexie's memoir. I should finish off Krampusnacht as well.

Currently Reading:

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone by J.K. Rowling (reading with G), From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus by Kate Wolfold, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, and Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini.

I'm really enjoying Wildfell Hall. I watched the BBC version a few years ago and fell in love and knew I wanted to get to the book. It does not disappoint. Anne Bronte wrote about a very taboo subject for her time, even for our time. Bravo.

Listening To:

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. I could listen to him for hours.


Six Feet Under by HBO. This is good. They offer up so many thoughts and ideas about death and how we as a society handle them...sometimes great and most of the time not so great.

I also finished up the third and final season of Broadchurch this weekend. Talk about a binge-watch! Whew. Really well done season on rape and its effects.


Paper snowflakes, gingerbread houses! Cornbread! Maybe a peppermint chocolate cocktail for movie night this week! Holiday cards are sent, calendars are ordered!

Looking forward to:

G's cooking class was canceled last weekend but it's in two weeks so hopefully that doesn't fall through. We didn't see Coco but we are looking forward to making some fun winter themed goodies this week and cookies on the weekend to give to neighbors and friends.

Pics from the week:
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G made a fun crown out of his magformers!
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Nala is not amused

Dec 3
G chose his ornament...he loves his kitties

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Tried to spice up my Facebook profile pic for the holidays! I threw on some snowflakes for full effect!

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G celebrated his friend's bday Saturday with unicorn cake!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Nonfiction November-- New to My TBR

This is it! The last week. I'm going to extend my week until Dec. 3rd in order to make sure I finish off From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty. I've thoroughly enjoyed every week's writing prompt. I've loved visiting other's posts and gaining new insights and, of course, books to read.

This last and final weekly prompt is hosted by Lory at The Emerald City Book Review.

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston. I'd heard about this from various sources but I got interested again from Julzreads in her year in review post.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore. Kim from Time 2 Read read it this year.

Travels With Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski. This one sounded so fascinating when I read about it on Brona's Books.

Exodus by Leon Uris from Julzreads.

How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana from Heather at Based on a True Story.

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyaltov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar from Julzreads. Amazon had a sale this last week and I picked it up for my Kindle!

I picked up a few more too but I cannot remember which blogs I pulled them from. I will remember to keep track next year!

Now I need to finish up my nonfiction reading book reviews!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday--Winter TBR List

hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week is all about the winter TBR list. What are my top ten? Or even ten I want to try to get to? Technically Fall lasts til the end of December but by the time Thanksgiving is over, I'm onto that winter TBR list...

1. Krampusnacht: 12 Nights of Krampus by Kate Wolfold

2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare...(this was my classic spin...)

3. From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

4. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I bought the annotated edition and want to keep working through it this December

6. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley. I enjoyed the first one in the series. This one is number four but it's holiday-related and I love cozy holiday mysteries.

7. I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

8. Words on the Move by John McWhorter

9. The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan

10. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown or her new one Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.

OK, a couple more... The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden and When the English Fall by David Williams...I may try to get to these in January when the holidays are over and I need some exciting stuff to get me warm. I got these over the cyber deals on Kindle this weekend and hope to get to these this winter as well! So at least twelve!

Week-in-Review--November 28, 2017


Happy Thanksgiving! G was off for most of the week. DH was gone all week, and this week, next week, and the week after that....

Wonderful friends came over Wednesday night for games and frivolity. G was able to play with his friends. We ate pizza, drank sangria and eggnog jelly shots, and played Trivial Pursuit 90s edition!

Thursday was up at my sister's house for turkey, potatoes and gravy, homemade rolls and honey butter, and lots of yummy pies. Most everyone in my family does not drink nor have they ever had any alcohol. But my son has been around it and knows how to be safe. So in the line to get some sparkling apple cider my son asked if it had alcohol in it. My sister's friend was manning the line and said: "Of course not! There would never be any alcohol here!" Yup, that my son. I was proud of him for being safe. I always try to keep things interesting!

Friday we visited my mom and dad and my niece and her daughter since she was down for Thanksgiving. We played games and caught up. It was a nice afternoon.

Saturday we went over to another friend's house for some ham and more potatoes and gravy and laughed and talked and played.

Sunday we got all of the Christmas stuff up and the Thanksgiving stuff down! Well, we didn't get to the lights outside the house but everything inside is done! Whew...

So it was a full week of visiting and eating! I didn't get to a lot of blogging, unfortunately, so I am trying to make up for that this week...but then there is the X-mas shopping and holiday cards making...

I'm also trying to gather up all the fun things to do here in Utah over the next few weeks. I love this time of year and want to enjoy it by having it mostly planned before next week...wish me luck!

Books Finished:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown and We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Currently Reading:

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone by J.K. Rowling (reading with G), From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty, Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus by Kate Wolfold, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, and Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini.

Listening To:

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. I could listen to him for hours.


Six Feet Under by HBO. This is good. They offer up so many thoughts and ideas about death and how we as a society handle them...sometimes great and most of the time not so great.


I'll be making chicken tortellini soup tonight. It's G's favorite. Cornbread and honey butter went over well this last week so I'll probably whip up more with the rest of the buttermilk this week.

Looking forward to:

G has a fun cooking Christmas-themed class on Saturday morning. He'll be getting pics with Santa and cooking up some fun treats and making an ornament. He's pretty excited about it. Later that day he'll have a birthday party as well. It's going to be another exciting weekend! If we have the energy we may go see Coco on Sunday!

Pics from the week:

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Nonfiction November Week 4--Nonfiction Favorites

Welcome to Week 4 hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey.  

Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

I generally gravitate towards science-related books, history, and memoirs. I enjoy books that keep me engaged and interested, narrative nonfiction does that pretty well, and a lot of my favorite history books have been written like this.

I love memoirs because they are usually funny, poignant, and short, with a little moral to the story and lessons learned along the way.

While I'm no scientist nor did I excel in science classes in college and high school, I am still drawn to science book, pop science books in particular. They explain fascinating concepts that laypeople like me can attempt to grasp and while filling me with wonder and excitement.

I do have quite a lot of favorites over the years so these are just a few I decided to feature.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay is a memoir you will never forget. It's the most straight forward treatise on compassion and humanity I've ever read. While I will say I usually go for memoirs like Bossypants by Tina Fey and Yes Please by Amy Poehler (two of my faves), this one forces you to feel.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable was a pleasant surprise. I'd heard great things but decided to give it a try last year and was blown away by the brilliant writing and the complexity of Malcolm X. It gave me an incredible appreciation for him and what he stood for while also bringing into context his many flaws.

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Two of my favorite history books are Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht and Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz. Doubt focuses on well, the history of doubt and critical thinking throughout written time. So many great thoughts from amazing people are all brought together in this volume. Marriage focuses on the evolution of modern-day marriage. How it's only been recently that anyone ever married for love. Fascinating and eye-opening, to say the least.

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I love Carl Sagan! These are my two favorites. His prose is beautiful and his humility and excitement for his subject is contained on every page. He was a soul lost too soon.

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Pop astronomy! Phil Plait is for you! He's funny and explains things so well. These were both surprisingly fun to read.

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If someone wants to know more about evolution, this is the book I recommend. It's clear and concise and just fun.

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