Book Review: Unbelievable

unbelievableUnbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History
Katy Tur
Memoir/Documentary/Current Politics
305 pages
Published September 2017

This was my pick for the “song lyrics in the title” prompt for the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge. I feel a little like “Unbelievable” is a bit of a cop-out for the prompt, but it was already on my to be read list, and it works. And the book is fantastic.

This is the story of Katy Tur’s time on the campaign trail as one of the journalists covering Donald Trump’s campaign. It is, as she says, unbelievable. When it begins, she thinks it will be very short – as most of the American public thought. No one thought Trump would wind up being the Republican nominee. But as she attends rallies, and watches the vitriol of his supporters – which occasionally gets turned on her, as a member of the “lying, fake media,” she begins to realize he could, in fact, win this thing.

We experience Tur’s shock as he calls her out by name multiple times, leading to death threats by Trump supporters, and security being assigned to her specifically. Through all of this, Tur continues to do her job as a journalist, reporting on the travel, the rallies, the information from sources within the campaign as they criss-cross the country and promise ridiculous things.

I was worried at first that the book would be a dry rehash of the events, but it is far from it. Tur speaks with a refreshing, absorbing voice. Even knowing the outcome – that Trump is elected president – it’s a page-turner that didn’t let me go until the last page. Unbelievable is a fast-paced, fascinating book by a first-class journalist.

From the cover of Unbelievable:

Called “disgraceful,” “third-rate,” and “not nice” by Donald Trump, NBC News correspondent Katy Tur reported on—and took flak from—the most captivating and volatile presidential candidate in American history.

Katy Tur lived out of a suitcase for a year and a half, following Trump around the country, powered by packets of peanut butter and kept clean with dry shampoo. She visited forty states with the candidate, made more than 3,800 live television reports, and tried to endure a gazillion loops of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”—a Trump rally playlist staple.

From day 1 to day 500, Tur documented Trump’s inconsistencies, fact-checked his falsities, and called him out on his lies. In return, Trump repeatedly singled Tur out. He tried to charm her, intimidate her, and shame her. At one point, he got a crowd so riled up against Tur, Secret Service agents had to walk her to her car.

None of it worked. Facts are stubborn. So was Tur. She was part of the first women-led politics team in the history of network news. The Boys on the Bus became the Girls on the Plane. But the circus remained. Through all the long nights, wild scoops, naked chauvinism, dodgy staffers, and fevered debates, no one had a better view than Tur.

Unbelievable is her darkly comic, fascinatingly bizarre, and often scary story of how America sent a former reality show host to the White House. It’s also the story of what it was like for Tur to be there as it happened, inside a no-rules world where reporters were spat on, demeaned, and discredited. Tur was a foreign correspondent who came home to her most foreign story of all. Unbelievable is a must-read for anyone who still wakes up and wonders, Is this real life?

The Canada Reads 2018 Longlist is out!

I’ve been looking for more books to finish up my Read Canadian challenge, and conveniently, the Canada Reads 2018 Longlist came out today, January 8th! There are fifteen books on the list, one of which I’ve already read. (American War by Omar El Akkad)

I just put Saints and Misfits on hold at my local library. It’s about a Muslim teen struggling with being sexually assaulted. The Marrow Thieves is another dystopia, in which most of humanity has lost the ability to dream, but the bone marrow of North American Indigenous people can restore it. So it’s being taken. Forcibly. My library also stocks that one, so that’s on my list! Tomboy Survival Guide is a memoir written by someone outside the gender box – and I love reading books about minorities. My library doesn’t have it, but I did find it in the Marina state-wide network. So it should be getting shipped to my library eventually! I’d like to read Out Standing In The Field, the memoir of Canada’s first female infantry officer, but neither my library nor the Marina network has it. I’ll keep an eye on it. The Clothesline Swing is about a pair of gay Syrian refugees, and Marina has it. I’m also interested in Mark Sakamoto’s Forgiveness: A Gift From My Grandparents, about his grandparents’ lives. One was a prisoner of war in Japan in WWII, while the other was a Japanese-Canadian sent to an internment camp in Canada during the same period. It’s not available through my library, though. Who knows? By the time I finish the ones that are available through the state system, the others might be, too.

The rest of the Longlist:

Several of these sound interesting, too – Seven Fallen Feathers is about racism and First Nations peoples. Dance, Gladys, Dance is apparently a humorous book about a woman and a ghost. The Measure of a Man is about a tailor remaking his father’s suit to fit himself. Scarborough is about a poor neighborhood, Precious Cargo about a man’s experiences driving a school bus of special needs kids. Brother is another book about racism, masculinity, and inner city violence. Suzanne is a portrait of the author’s grandmother, and The Boat People is the story of a boat full of Sri Lankan refugees that lands in Canada.

I’m excited to knock out the rest of the Read Canadian Challenge. I wasn’t really sure what to read next, so the Longlist coming out was EXCELLENT timing!

PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge

So I’m going to attempt the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge this year, in addition to my personal goals. I’m going to list off the prompts, and the books I have chosen for the prompts so far. I’ll come back and check them off on my master list, linked in the sidebar. (And link to my reviews.) I haven’t picked out every book yet, to leave room for books I find interesting throughout the year.


A book made into a movie you’ve already seen – Heinlein’s Starship Troopers
My husband’s been encouraging me to read this one, but I HATED the movie. He says the book is quite different. We’ll see.

True Crime

The next book in a series you started – Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
I read Rolling in the Deep, a novella starting this series, a long time ago. Thought it was a standalone, I’m really happy to learn she continued to write more in this world!

A book involving a heist

Nordic Noir – the princess of burundi by Kjell Eriksson
Found this at Baltimore’s The Book Thing, and it’s a winner of the Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Crime Novel, so I thought it would fit!

A novel based on a real person – Paula McLain‘s The Paris Wife or Circling the Sun

A book set in a country that fascinates you

A book with a time of day in the title – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I’ve been meaning to read it.

A book about a villain or antihero

A book about death or grief

A book with your favorite color in the title – Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

A book with alliteration in the title

A book about time travel – A Wrinkle in Time
It’s time I re-read this, before the movie comes out!

A book with a weather element in the title

A book set at sea – Avi‘s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
A childhood book my husband loved.

A book with an animal in the title – Turtles All The Way Down
John Green‘s newest that I’ve been wanting to read, and have a hold on at the library

A book set on a different planet

A book with song lyrics in the title – Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur
A book about a journalist’s experience on the Trump campaign

A book about or set on Halloween

A book with characters who are twins – something about Jacen and Jaina Solo

A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym – Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin writing as Murray Constantine

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist – The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
I also have a biography of Radclyffe Hall, so I’ll probably read them consecutively. I might use one of them for the advanced prompt of an author with the same first or last name as you.

A book that is also a stage play or musical – Harper Lee‘s To Kill a Mockingbird
A classic I’ve never read

A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you – Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
Canadian-Jamaican author, so it fits my Read Canadian Challenge as well

A book about feminism – Colonize This! Young women of color on today’s feminism
A book that’s been on my reading list for a while, and I recently bought from a used bookstore

A book about mental health

A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift – No is Not Enough
Given to me by my mother-in-law for Christmas.

A book by two authors

A book about or involving a sport

A book by a local author

A book mentioned in another book
I’ll probably pick one after I read Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, since it’s about reading!

A book from a celebrity book club – The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Oprah’s Book Club List

A childhood classic you’ve never read – Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Another suggestion from my husband

A book that’s published in 2018 – I’ll probably have a bunch of these to choose from, but currently it’s between The Girl in the Tower and Fire and Fury.

A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner – Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (2016)
It looks amazing, and there’s a second book in the series now. 

A book set in the decade you were born

A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to – Blackwing by Ed McDonald
An ARC I won through Goodreads but didn’t get around to

A book with an ugly cover

A book that involves a bookstore or library – Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Won a Kindle copy from Goodreads

Your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenges
This will probably be a book with a cat on the cover, from 2017’s Challenge. Because cats.



A bestseller from the year you graduated high school – Tom Brokaw‘s The Greatest Generation

A cyberpunk book

A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place – Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
Spotted in the Atlanta airport on my way home from holidays with my in-laws

A book tied to your ancestry

A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title – Roald Dahl‘s James and the Giant Peach
Another childhood book of my husband’s that I’ve never read

An allegory

A book by an author with the same first or last name as you – To the Elephant Graveyard: A True Story of the Hunt for a Man-Killing Indian Elephant by Tarquin Hall

A microhistory

A book about a problem facing society today

A book recommended by someone else taking the PopSugar Reading Challenge

Looking Forward: 2018 Reading Goals

I’ve been browsing through various reading challenges to find one I might like to do in 2018. I’ll be finishing up the Read Canadian Challenge in July. (It’s from Canada Day to Canada Day.) I wasn’t sure whether I just wanted to beat a number, or go with a more restrictive challenge. I think a mix of both is where I’ve ended up, along with two more specific, personal goals.

So first, 100 books. I read 85 in 2017, so 100 doesn’t feel like that much of a stretch. I’ll set this as a goal on Goodreads.

ColonizethisSecond, I like the looks of the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge. There are 50 prompts total on it, so that’s only half my goal, leaving me with plenty of space to read whatever I want that doesn’t fit on the prompts. My next post will be a master list of prompts and the books I’ve chosen to fit them. As I review them, I’ll link from the master list as well.

Third, I want to read more of the books on my Civil Rights and Activism list on Goodreads. I have 152 books on it, only 5 of which I’ve read. I’ll start with Colonize This! since I found it at a used bookstore recently. (Incidentally, that qualifies for a couple of categories on the PopSugar list as well! The recommendation is one category per book, no doubling up, so I’ll have to pick which category I assign it to.)

americaFourth, I’m going to read America, a US history textbook I picked up. My history and science education were never the best, and I’ve been trying to remedy that most of my adult life. (I worked through a biology textbook a few years ago, and I have a Zoology textbook I should work through as well.) America has 36 chapters, so if I read 3 chapters a month, I’ll have read it by the end of the year. I’m going to try to come up with activities to do about my reading, because I absorb things more permanently if I actually DO something with the information. Not sure what I’ll do yet, but we do live in Maryland so there is a lot of history around us. We might try to make some trips to historic sites, or go to the American History Museum or the American Indian Museum in DC again. We also haven’t been to the African American Museum yet.

Fifth, I’m also going to try Booked 2018, the seasonal Litsy Challenge. There are six prompts per quarter, so that only adds two books a month. Should be doable, and I might be able to make books double up between this and the PopSugar Challenge.

I think these five goals will keep me pretty busy this year. I’d like to do a few more Literary Landmark posts, so I may try to do some research into local authors and literary places. I unfortunately missed 2017’s Baltimore Book Festival, on account of being incredibly sick, but I’m hoping to make 2018. I know there are more Book Festivals nearby, so I’ll look into those as well. I’d like to do more non-book review, book-related posts.

What about you? Are you doing any Reading Challenges this year, whether organized or personal?