The Girl Who Fell to Earth

The Girl Who Fell to EarthThe Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria (2012)


Sophia Al-Maria’s mother is a white woman from Washington and her father is a Bedouin from Qatar. As she grows up, Sophia is caught between these two cultures and families – not fully fitting into either – as she tries to figure out her identity.


I got this book because it was on sale, I liked the cover, and it was partially set in Washington. 😛

The concept of the book was interesting and I liked it, but I really wish there had been more depth. I wanted to read more about things like how Sophia’s father got by on his own when he traveled to America and what it was like to experience 9/11 in the Middle East, but these were just glossed over. Characters other than Sophia also felt superficial.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Memoirs
  • Coming of age stories
  • The Bedouin
  • Arab vs. American culture
  • Teenage angst

Yes Please

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler (2014)


Comedian and actress Amy Poehler shares personal stories in this memoir.


This isn’t the type of book I’d normally read, but I needed a memoir for the Seattle Public Library Summer Book Bingo and an audiobook for the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge, so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. Amy Poehler narrates the audiobook herself with the assistance of some famous special guests.

Yes Please was funny, honest, and enjoyable, but it’s not going to stick with me.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Amy Poehler (duh)
  • Celebrity memoirs
  • Humor
  • Saturday Night Live
  • Behind-the-scenes of acting
  • Parks and Recreation

The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the BoatThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is a New York Times bestseller by Daniel James Brown that was published in 2013.


The Boys in the Boat tells the story of the University of Washington’s 8-man rowing team that shocked the world by winning the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

In an age when Americans enjoy dozens of cable sports channels, when professional athletes often command annual salaries in the tens of millions of dollars, and when the entire nation all but shuts down for a virtual national holiday on Super Bowl Sunday, it’s hard to fully appreciate how important the rising prominence of the University of Washington’s crew was to the people of Seattle in 1935.

They were the poor sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers coming into adulthood during the Great Depression. Rowing was thought of as a prestigious sport for upper class boys on the East Coast. Through exhaustive hard work, determination, and team work, the UW rowing team overcame some impressively tough obstacles to become not just American, but world, champions.

The US Olympic rowing team in 1936
The US Olympic rowing team in 1936


I went into this book as someone who knew nothing about rowing, wasn’t a sports person, and preferred fiction to non-fiction. The fact that I really enjoyed this book should tell you something about how compelling The Boys in the Boat is.

It was maddeningly difficult, as if eight man standing on a floating log that threatened to roll over whenever they moved had to hit eight golf balls at exactly the same moment, with exactly the same amount of force, directing the ball to exactly the same point on a green, and doing so over and over, every two or three seconds.

There is so much detail in this story, coming directly from the rowers, their families, diaries, video footage, and other records. Although the book focuses primarily on one rower, Joe Rantz, it also tells about his dysfunctional family, teammates, coaches, the man who crafted the rowing shells, and the time period (the Great Depression, Hitler, the Dust Bowl, etc.).

Even if you don’t think this is the type of book for you, I encourage you to read it.

You might like this book if you like…

  • Rowing (obviously)
  • Pacific Northwest history (1930’s)
  • Rooting for the underdog
  • The rise of Nazi Germany
  • The Great Depression

Book trailer

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on EarthChris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, became an internet celebrity during his last flight to the International Space Station in 2013. He shared what life on the ISS was like with those of us stuck on Earth through his “How to” Youtube videos, “Ask me anything” posts on Reddit, photos from space, Twitter account, and the first music video recorded in space, Chris Hadfield’s cover of Space Oddity.

After he got back from the ISS, Chris Hadfield published a memoir, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, which became a bestseller.


Chris Hadfield wanted to be an astronaut since he first saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon when he was 9 years old. He knew it was an impossible dream (Canada didn’t even have a space program yet and NASA only accepted U.S. citizens), but he thought that if he worked toward it anyway, maybe it would be possible some day down the road.

I tried to imagine what an astronaut might do if he were 9 years old, then do the exact same thing. Would an astronaut eat his vegetables or have potato chips instead? Sleep in late or get up early to read a book?

Since Chris Hadfield knew he was unlikely to ever be an astronaut, he made sure that he enjoyed and made the most of every step in his career. And when he did finally become an astronaut, he kept the same mentality toward space flight — that it might never happen, but he would work toward it and enjoy the process.

If you start thinking that only your biggest and shiniest moments count, you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure most of the time. Personally, I’d rather feel good most of the time, so to me everything counts: the small moments, the medium ones, the successes that make the papers and also the ones that no one knows about but me. The challenge is avoiding being derailed by the big, shiny moments that turn other people’s heads. You have to figure out for yourself how to enjoy and celebrate them, and then move on.


I started following Chris Hadfield on social media while he was on the ISS, because I’ve always been fascinated by space and he does such a great job kindling that fascination. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth not only gives insight into what it’s like to be an astronaut, but Chris Hadfield also shares life lessons that would apply to anyone. I really liked this book. It’s interesting, insightful, and funny and I don’t think it could have been written by a more humble guy.

Book trailer

Twelve Years a Slave


Twelve Years a SlaveTwelve Years a Slave is a memoir by Solomon Northup, a free-born black man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. For 12 years, Northup worked on cotton and sugarcane plantations in Louisiana before he was ultimately rescued and able to go home to his wife and children.

I can speak of Slavery only so far as it came under my own observation — only so far as I have known and experienced it in my own person. My object is, to give a candid and truthful statement of facts: to repeat the story of my life, without exaggeration, leaving it for others to determine, whether even the pages of fiction present a picture of more cruel wrong or a severer bondage.


Twelve Years a Slave is truly a remarkable narrative and I was blown away by the amount of detail it contained. Solomon Northup provided fascinating and painful insight into what slave life was like.

So we passed, hand-cuffed and in silence, through the streets of Washington — through the Capital of a nation, whose theory of government, we were told, rests on the foundation of man’s inalienable right to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.

I read the enhanced edition by Sue Eakin, who spent her life researching Solomon Northup’s story. When she was twelve, she read a copy of the book, which had disappeared into obscurity by then. Eakin dedicated her life to researching Solomon Northup’s story and she breathed life into it again by republishing in 1968, annotated with her extensive research notes.


Solomun Northup’s story was turned into a movie, 12 Years a Slave, which received the Academy Award for Best Picture earlier this month.

Obviously, there are some deviations from the book in the movie (like omitting Northup’s escape from Tibeats through the swamp), but, for the most part, it stays very true to the book, even quoting some of it verbatim. Definitely worth seeing.