Book Review 64

Hi Stranger….It’s been a while.

Look how current I am with that opener! I even got an Instagram this week!!! AN INSTAGRAM. What’s next, Snapchatting?!?! Slow down, girl. Get back to those hardcover books :)…

Life is treating me so well lately that I haven’t made time to update this outdated blog. Turns out being a full-time reseller is slightly more demanding than doing it part-time on the side for 7 years. But man, every day is a freaking blast! Never thought I’d be able to say that about my career.

I’ve been able to squeeze in some reading in the evenings and hope you find something below that interests you. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads too.

 

barbarianBarbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

Not a topic I would normally reach for (memoir about surfing) but it was extraordinarily well written. Also made me miss Hawaii like nobody’s business….What a magical place.

 

settleSettle for More by Megyn Kelly

I was blown away by Megyn’s strength in the face of misogynists and their king, our Mr. President. I respected her non-partisan angle and her insight into the workings of Fox News. I’ll still avoid it like the plague it is, but this made for an interesting read from an incredibly successful and strong woman.

 

shiningA Shining Affliction: A Story of Harm and Healing in Psychotherapy by Annie Rogers

This was one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read.  It’s a rough one, though…be prepared. This is not light reading.

 

drugdealerDrug Dealer, MD: How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop by Anna Lembke

I walked away with a lot more from Dreamland (Sam Quinones) – this just felt like one chapter of that amazing book. But it was enlightening to hear the doctor’s perspective and, specifically, how they classify drug-seeking patients.

 

satanicThe Satanic Bible by Anton La Vey

After binging last month on Last Podcast on the Left, I felt like it was probably time to read Henry’s bible. Great reiteration of our core human values and the potential evils of organized religion.

 

to the endTo the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care by Cris Beam

Another rough one – I’m not sure I’d have the emotional fortitude to care for these kids, but this book only intensified my admiration for those that do. Fascinating deep dive into this deeply flawed and heartbreaking system.

 

goodbyeGoodbye For Now by Laurie Frankl

Maybe it was hormones….But there were at least 7 times during my one-night binge that I had to put this amazing book down because my tears were blinding me from the words on the page. Wipe right, keep reading. If you watched Black Mirror’s “Be Right Back” (another tearjerker for me), this is kind of like an elongated version.  In the best possible way. Raises so many questions about personality, death, and technology….and plus, it’s set in Seattle!

 

sosadSo Sad Today: Personal Essays by Melissa Broder

Eh, meh. Nothing tangible from this one.

 

sexobSex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti

I got pretty fed up with this one too. Started off with the right message and tone, but digressed into what felt like a whiny journal entry.

 

mothersThe Mothers by Brit Bennett

Gorgeously written book with wonderful characters. Went on a little too long but wrapped up nicely. One of the better fiction novels of the month.

 

goatmanGoatMan: How I Took A Holiday From Being Human by Thomas Thwaites

Once you get used to his tone, it’s a fun and strange story. Thomas goes all-out in transforming himself into a goat for artistic purposes, and we benefit from his hilarious cataloguing of the process. The actual outcome and trial of his goat appendages felt cut short, compared with all the build-up. But it was entertaining nonetheless.

 

buyingbrideBuying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-order Matches by Marcia Zug

This was an in-depth history for sure – I was amazed at the photos and accounts Marcia was able to find re: historical mail-order brides. I can say now that it’s hard to imagine our country surviving without the organized importation of women. This has always been an interesting topic to me, so it helped to get a more well-rounded view of the system and motives behind it.

 

writing oneWriting on the Wall: Social Media, the First Two Thousand Years by Tom Standage

Loved how Standage wrapped this all together. Also, any chance to look at ancient Roman graffiti is appreciated.

 

difficultDifficult Women by Roxane Gay

Roxane is exceptional. I will read anything she creates. This was an emotional and raw collection of stories – it helped to be able to take a break after a particularly rough one before starting fresh with a new character.

 

working stiffWorking Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of A Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek

This one will stick with you…much like the ash and debris Dr. Melinek helped remove during her cataloguing and assortment of body parts from the World Trade Centers. Or the years of liver rot inside her first autopsy of the day. I don’t recommend reading it while eating, but is absolutely fascinating. Dr. Melinek is my new hero – I really wish I had the stomach to be a medical examiner. It’s a vastly important and underappreciated job. Dr. Melinek brings humanity, humor, and compassion to it every day, making her account a joy to read.

 

separationA Separation by Katie Kitamura

Really beautifully written and follows an unexpected narrative as a woman searches for her husband in Greece to ask for a divorce. Inventive new voice on the fiction scene.

 

homoHomo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Harari

I’m only halfway through with this one, but it feels like I’ve already finished 3 books. Harari packs in a ton of history, philosophy, and information into these pages…it’s a heavy but so far satisfying ride.

 

illusionIllusion of Justice: Inside Making A Murderer and America’s Broken System by Jerome Buting

I absolutely loved the public defenders from ‘Making a Murderer’ so I was happy to see that Jerry wrote a book. It’s not all about the trial itself; he pads it with similar stories from his PD days along with true crime tidbits for the fanatics like me. It truly is an outdated, woefully underfunded, and broken system.

Book Review 63

Been a very busy month, with my full-time venture into the eBay business! It’s going really well so far and I now know what it feels like to be excited to go to work every day. (It feels amazing.) 

Given the workload, I haven’t been able to read as much as I would’ve liked, but still had some great reads this month. It’s helped distract me a bit from the news, if nothing else…  Keep reading, marching, and resisting, my friends!!

 

vegetaThe Vegetarian by Kang Han

Such a strange book, but I’ll never forget it. Graphic raw imagery with unforgettable characters. It had a surreal quality I haven’t experienced in fiction yet.

 

evictedEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Unbelievable but true stories of the endless cycle of poverty. Forced me to recalibrate the importance of a steady rental and place to live, above even that of a job or food. Really fascinating to hear the perspectives of landlords as well as long-term tenants. Very eye-opening.

 

lastvictimThe Last Victim: A True-life Journey Into the Mind of the Serial Killer by Jason Moss

I really admired the tenacity of Jason, who kept up written correspondence during high school and college with some of the biggest names in serial killing (Manson, Gacy, Ramirez, Dahmer). Even more interesting than his glimpses into pure evil was the toll that it gradually took on Jason psychologically and emotionally (especially when he goes to meet John Wayne Gacy in jail). Chilled me to the bone. It was an excellent pairing to Whoever Fights Monsters this month, since Ressler does it for a living and still suffered tremendously from having to face these killers. I can barely make it through the Bundy tapes without feeling nauseous….can’t even imagine.

 

while cityWhile the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and A Young Man’s Descent Into Madness by Eli Sanders

Absolutely heartbreaking story of mental illness, murder, and the criminal justice system. Took place in our own city of Seattle so it felt even more chilling.

 

im thinkingI’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

One of my favorites of the year so far. Massive twist and one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. Started it in the evening and couldn’t go to bed until it was done. Luckily it’s a short read, but it’ll stick with you for a while.

 

ifiredI Fired God: My Life Inside–and Escape From–the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult by Jocelyn Zichterman

So much respect for this woman. She suffered remarkably in the hands of the IFB and came out an advocate for cult survivors. If you need a reminder of the destructiveness of organized evangelical Christianity, look no further. (Well, the reminder is probably not needed at this exact point in history, but it was an excellent and infuriating read nonetheless…)  

 

resthyRest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

This makes an unshakable case for the importance of taking breaks, vacations, and midday walks. I’m terrible at doing all of those things, so it was an excellent reminder that the quality of your work is impacted negatively by the quantity of time spent doing it. This runs counter to our cultural expectation of working 9-5, plus sending emails at 10pm to show what a good worker bee you are. Using examples of some of the most prolific artists, scientists, and writers in history, Pang argues that focused and targeted time spent working (while dedicating the rest of your time to hobbyist pursuits, exercise, family, and even daydreaming) produces the best results and happiest people.

 

confidenceThe Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It… Every Time by Maria Konnikova

Really interesting book about con artists. Anyone who enjoys Psychology Today will appreciate this read.

 

whoverWhoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert Ressler

Fantastic read by one of the FBI’s most talented criminal profilers. Ressler interviewed the basest of humanity over the course of his career (Kemper, Speck, Gacy, etc.) and used this information to create a behavioral profiling system which started with the childhoods of those who would grow up to become serial killers. It gives you a true glimpse into the heads of serial killers, and a better understanding of the situations and tragedies that create these monsters. Ressler is a national hero.

 

socioThe Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us by Martha Stout

Great timing for this book, given that we’ve elected one to lead our country. Turns out that many successful CEOs and political leaders are sociopaths, since they can easily overlook the emotional impact of their decisions. Appreciated Stout’s clinical analysis of the traits and cultural impact of these people.

 

womaninThe Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Fun thriller with a surprise twist. Definitely inspired by Gone Girl and Girl on the Train but it still stood on its own. Also reaffirmed that I never want to take a cruise.

Book Review 62

Howdy book nerds! It’s been a while, but I’ve thankfully been able to distract myself from these terrible political times with some fantastic books. Hopefully some of these can warm up your winter months as well. Or at least help you decompress from holiday chaos.

In related news, I left my soul-sucking job in October and have ventured into exciting new small business territory. I had no idea it was possible to be happy during working hours!  I also celebrated my freedom with adventures to New Mexico with my mom and Boston to visit one of my longest-term friends, so life is good :).  

And now, in no particular order…

 

whatfWhat the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves by Benjamin Bergen

This was a topic I initially thought might be too specific to encompass a full book. But Bergen’s lighthearted analysis of the psychology (and importance) of swearing, along with the cultural and historical discussion made for a really F-ing fun read.

your-heartYour Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

I loved parts of this book so much that I literally stopped breathing. The language and characters are powerful and confident and unforgettable. Set in the middle of the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, Yapa tells a multifaceted story from all sides (police, protesters, WTO representatives, media, etc.).  It absolutely deserves all the accolades it’s received so far. I’ll never forget this one.

door-to-doorDoor to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation by Edward Humes

This was an enlightening and terrifying slap in the face. Humes’ breakdown of the distance traveled by a fraction of the parts that make up an iPhone is worth the read alone. I’ll never look at mail delivery the same way (or coffee, or cars, or even aluminum soda cans). Highly recommended.

todaywillbeToday Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Not a fan of the latest book from Semple. Extremely unlikable character combined with forced jokes made for a disappointing read.

spontaSpontaneous by Aaron Starmer

This was one of the better YA books I’ve read in a long time. Features a unique and hilarious voice. The ending fell a little short for me, but I liked the premise (seniors in high school start spontaneously combusting). Really curious to see what the movie version will look like…and how they’ll get away with showing so much gore to children.

fine-artThe Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start A Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills, and Leave A Positive Impression by Debra Fine

I got the sense that this book would be most beneficial to single people in the dating scene, but there were still some good takeaways. The biggest one being, PRACTICE.

omnivoreThe Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

This would’ve been a great appetizer for the vegan lifestyle I’m following now, but it was a good complement nonetheless. Extraordinarily well-researched, with tons of scary nuggets about the fast food industry, corn, and factory farms. Pollan’s exceptional writing helps the reality go down a little more smoothly.

boss-of-youThe Boss of You: Everything A Woman Needs to Know to Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business by Lauren Bacon

This was my favorite of the small business guides I read last month (not going to list the others, since they all said essentially the same things). I enjoyed the female perspective and unique obstacles women face in the entrepreneurial world, but mostly I just appreciated the honest, no-bullshit voices of Lauren and Emira.

hillbilyHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

I totally get why this is receiving every positive book review imaginable. Vance sheds light on an area and group of the country that is marginalized and mostly hidden from me and my other western hippies. Fascinating perspective from a wider lens, as Vance reflects on his upbringing, struggles, and accomplishments. Exceptional writing.

girlwith-lowerThe Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

I was already a big Amy fan, but this book actually made me respect her even more. Her passages on domestic violence, gun laws, online trolling, and media’s objectification of women were clear-headed and bitingly honest. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised given her style of comedy, but I was really impressed with her writing and topics.

crosstalkCrosstalk by Connie Willis

There were parts of Willis’ sci-fi novel that resonated with me, but I ultimately left feeling unsatisfied. Ambitious premise that could make for an interesting episode of Black Mirror.

thewonerThe Wonder by Emma Donoghue

I didn’t really enjoy this one. The Irish accents were extraordinarily distracting and i just couldn’t bring myself to care what happened, or how the mystery unfolded. Definitely didn’t live up to Donoghue’s Room.

commonwelathCommonwealth by Ann Patchett

Patchett is a master of the written word. Her latest didn’t disappoint, about the combination and dissolution of two families. Unforgettable characters.

undergroundThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Breathtaking novel from Whitehead. Absolutely deserves every bit of positive praise and award it’s gotten so far. I could barely put it down.

gold-fameGold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

The imagery of this was unlike anything I’ve ever read. Watkins is not shy with her descriptions and characters. Refreshingly sharp.

swing-timeSwing Time by Zadie Smith

I know…I’m arriving late to the Zadie Smith show. But I understand now why she is so beloved. Her language is crisp and confident, and her characters are believable and believably flawed.

but-whatBut What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman

Chuck is so fun to read. His curiosity and dedication to questioning the questions made this an utterly enlightening and ground-shaking novel for me. A well-rounded and thought-provoking take on our country’s past and current state of affairs.

shecameShe Came From Beyond! by Nadine Darling

This was one of my favorites of the month. Stunning, hilarious, and solid debut novel from Darling. Such well-developed characters, too!

harmonyHarmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

The ending of this felt a little rushed and forced, but otherwise Parkhurst spun a good yarn. It definitely helped give me a better insight into the daily lives of families with kids on the autistic spectrum.

Review 60

Like last month, I’ve ranked this month’s reads from best to worst.

 

thelastoneThe Last One by Alexandra Oliva

I was sucked into this story immediately, and the suspense and twists kept coming until the final page.  A group of ‘ordinary’ people are participating in a Survivor-esque reality show (except WAY more gritty and messed up) at the worst possible time. I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers, but I was definitely impressed by the creativity and outstanding writing of Alexandra.

 

huntingHunting Season: Immigration and Murder in An All-American Town by Mirta Ojito

Fascinating and depressing exposé on violence towards immigrants in America.  The story centers on the brutal murder of an Ecuadorean immigrant in 2008 and the anti-immigration hatred that surrounded and led up to it.  Exceptional writing and research by Mirta.

 

imjustI’m Just A Person by Tig Notaro

This is essentially a paper version of Tig’s documentary, but it was a nice reminder of her resilience, honesty, and incredible sense of humor in the face of terrible events and sicknesses (well, and all the others times too).  She’s pretty awesome.

 

unseenThe Unseen World by Liz Moore

This was a unique and ambitious book; a combination of mystery, sci-fi, and coming-of-age.  I really didn’t like the ending, but enjoyed everything leading up to it.

 

thinklikeThink Like A Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain your Brain by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Quick but engaging read, featuring the casual style of their previous books.  It outlined some interesting research around quitting, habits, incentives, and even a memorable chapter on training for hot dog eating contests. There were definitely some real-life takeaways from this one, and it would make a great complement to the podcast “Hidden Brain.”

 

mylifeMy Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Gloria is such an inspiration, and I really enjoyed hearing her story through her own words.  It fell flat about ¾ of the way through, so I feel it could’ve been condensed a bit, or more detailed in specific sections.  But that’s my only feedback; I otherwise enjoyed the ride!

 

etiqEmily Post’s Etiquette:  Manners for a New World

A few great takeaways and reminders, especially in our age of selfies and general selfishness. Easy to read and navigate, but still felt a little stuck in the past at times.

 

allisnotAll Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

This was the perfect book for a weekend camping trip, but it was hard to connect with the characters at all, especially the long-winded narrator (I won’t spoil you by telling you who it is…you don’t learn until several chapters in).  The twist was disappointing and I found it really hard to empathize with everyone except for Jenny.  I liked the potential parallels with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” both of which raise interesting questions about memory and trauma.  Sounds like it’s going to be made into a movie, which might actually work better than the two-dimensional characters on the page.

 

gruntGrunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

I was more intrigued by the topics of Mary’s other novels, but this one was similarly entertaining and informative.  Sometimes I feel like Mary Roach has the best job in the world.

 

hopefulsThe Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Easy read, but I found the characters hard to relate to and pretty annoying.  It also confirmed that a career in politics would be a terrible fit for me.

 

littleLittle Labors by Rivka Galchen

I didn’t take away much from this book, though I know it’s getting rave reviews.

 

longweekendThe Long Weekend:  Life in the English Country House, 1918-1939 by Adrian Tinniswood

Once I got over my disappointment that this was NOT set in the late 1800s (my fault for not reading the full title), it was actually pretty enjoyable.  Such a fascinating period of history.

 

richandRich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

I enjoyed it while it lasted, and the strains on the friendship as Lauren and Sarah grew up felt real.  Reading it went down as smooth as the mixed drinks these socialites inhale.

 

trulymadlyTruly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I’m sad to say that this was definitely the worst Moriarty book so far.  Her others have been so fun and twisty and perfect summer reading.  But with this one, it really felt like she was reaching, and the “drawn-out” suspense went on so ridiculously long that NO twist could have made up for the lengths she took to draw it out.  Skip this one and go straight to her earlier works!

 
howtosetHow to Set A Fire and Why by Jesse Ball

I was really not a fan of this character or her crappy friend or the ending or her parents or any of this.

 

The one downside to structuring reviews in this way is that I’m always going to end on a slightly grumpy, pessimistic note.  So I’ll leave you with the happy news that I have quit my job and will be starting a new adventure very soon!!  Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Review 59

I’m going to try something different this month, and rank the list from my favorites to never-agains.  I had a bit of free time on the 22-hour hell-ride to and from Tokyo, so I happily powered through a few eBooks on the journey.  Happy reading!

 

alltheAll the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of An Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister

Exceptionally well-researched, fascinating, and in-depth dive into the new normal: independent working women who dare to dream of more than marriage and children.  I absolutely loved the exposes on early feminists and suffragists who not only predicted the current state of affairs, but played an absolutely instrumental part in laying the groundwork.  Essential reading for modern men and women – I wish it were three times as long.

 

healthyatHealthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest Lived Peoples by John Robbins

Few books have had an immediate life-changing impact on me, but this one definitely did. With the support of science, medicine, and decades of research, John Robbins makes an unshakable argument for restructuring your diet.  He examines several disparate communities with striking similarities: a diet of primarily vegetables, no processed sugar (only fructose from fresh fruits), minimal to no meat, and no dairy or eggs consistently leads to longevity.  And not just longevity, but absence of the dreaded but expected perils of our modern American society:  cancer, diabetes, poor eyesight, nerve damage, heart disease, and obesity.  Absolutely fascinating, and a great motivator for the current 90%-vegan diet I’m on (still making some exceptions for salmon and butter on popcorn).

 

beneathBeneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove

Those of you who know me might be surprised by this pick: I have a whale phobia.  But in a recent effort to get past my phobias and feel some healthy discomfort, I forced myself to face this one head-on.  It ended up being an eye-opening book, not only helping me gain appreciation for whales as a species, but also exposing me to the unbelievably terrible practices of Sea World and any facility that holds captive sea animals.  It was a well-written, emotional, and believable account from an ex-trainer.  I even watched “Blackfish” after this, with no emotional repercussions. In fact, there were also whales in the movie we watched last night (“Racing to Extinction” – highly recommended if you want to cry yourself to sleep).  Big strides!

 

iletyouI Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

This book had some of the best plot twists I’ve ever read in my life. I had a blast reading this, and highly recommend.  It’s a heart-racing thriller of a novel.

 

theyearofThe Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

While Helen’s writing style/personality annoyed me at times, the shining light of Danish goodness shone through. I would do just about anything to relocate to Denmark, and this memoir cinched it.  They’ve got so many things sorted out (healthcare, daycare, education, work/life balance), but I’m also a massive fan of their culture and mindset. Quirky and enlightening.

 

itwasmeIt Was Me All Along: A Memoir by Andie Mitchell

This was a strange memoir to read while in the land of small portion sizes and the largest number of slender people I’ve ever seen in my life (i.e., Japan), but it offered a raw, honest account of life as an obese woman in America.  Not just the physical and emotional effects of obesity, but also the all-consuming power of addiction.  Very well-written and easy to empathize with.

 

fluxFlux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in A Half-changed World by Peggy Orenstein

You’ll notice some overlap in my topics this month, and while I did enjoy Peggy’s book, they’re all kind of blending together at the moment.  Exceptional writing and research, with lots of realities to reflect on.

 

forever barbieForever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of A Real Doll by M.G. Lord

God, I loved every page of this. It’s amazing how much Barbie reflects the current times; a new one came out every year since her inception in the 50s.  See visual here:  http://www.boredpanda.com/faces-barbie-evolution-1959-2015/.  I loved learning more about her history and the impact on pop culture and women’s movements.

 

laborofLabor of Love: The Invention of Dating by Moira Weigel

Chockfull of historical tidbits and Victorian eccentricities, this was a remarkably smooth read for its ambitious topic.  It offered a really interesting (and accessible) perspective on social movements, in particular first-wave feminism.

 

bodyprojectThe Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg

Well-researched and full of takeaways.  I especially enjoyed the comparison of New Year’s resolutions from 19th century women vs. those today.  We have clearly become so much more focused on our bodies as a direct reflection of our worth.  It’s depressing, but Brumberg offers a deep and introspective history of this current state of affairs.

 

cinderellaCinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

Peggy exposes the fabricated and disgustingly profitable industry behind girly, princess culture.  While the personal stories and interviews are certainly enlightening, I was more fascinated by the sections on advertising and the consequences of persisting “girlie-girl” mentality and expectations into adulthood. Thought-provoking.

 

thegirlsThe Girls by Emma Cline

This was a wonderfully original, visceral book. Difficult to put down and impossible to forget.

 

labgirlLab Girl by Hope Jahren

Hope is a badass!  I was so impressed with her accomplishments in science, and how she overcame numerous struggles to get there.  Her intentionality is admirable – it’s not “luck” that got her her own lab and her dream job.  It’s her grit, ambition, and intelligence.  We need more examples like her in the world of women.

 

sweetbitterSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

There is a ridiculous amount of hype (and controversy) surrounding this book, and I guess I’m not entirely sure why.  The writing was definitely solid, the characters memorable, and the grimy sweaty life of a waitress was believable. Definitely a new spin on a coming-of-age story, and I enjoyed most of it. Worth a one-time read.

 

laroseLaRose by Louise Erdrich

Louise is such a masterful writer, and this book was no exception to her rule of awesomeness.  Definitely made me want to re-read her earlier works.

 

otherhoodOtherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness by Melanie Notkin

Fascinating take on the current ‘new normal’ of single women having children on their own, or delaying motherhood by freezing their eggs.  A bit ‘cheerleader’ at times, but Melanie’s is ultimately a strong voice in support of these choices and alternatives.

 

cookupThe Cook-Up: A Crack Rock Memoir by D. Watkins

Once I settled into the jarring casualness of the prose, I found the situations enlightening in ways I will never experience first-hand (thankfully).  Brutally honest depiction of Watkins’ career as a drug kingpin and hustler in Baltimore.  Critical and unique first-hand perspective on the crisis of being black in America, with a secondary expose on the devastating effects of drug crime.

 

man and wifeMan and Wife: Stories by Katie Chase

Wonderful writing, and I remember enjoying it in the moment.  But the actual storylines floated away after I finished the book – maybe I’m just more of a novel girl, vs. short stories?

 

brittmarieBritt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

I’m still not sure why this new Backman book didn’t jibe with me, but I think it just came down to the main players. The writing is solid but I just couldn’t bring myself to care about or empathize with Britt-Marie. I’d definitely recommend Backman’s A Man Called Ove instead.

 

thelittleThe Little Friend by Donna Tartt

This book read at times like an episode of True Detective – I felt my heart racing and spine tingling at many points throughout the pages. However, I found that it fell flat about halfway through (sadly similar to Tartt’s The Goldfinch).  I was holding out for the ending to wrap it all up, but it felt forced and was wholly unsatisfying. There was some great imagery in this book, though, and Tartt’s writing is truly a joy.

 

bedwetterThe Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman

I love Sarah’s self-deprecating and unfiltered style, and this book definitely fell in line with her comedy.  Fun read for the bus, especially if you aren’t ashamed to laugh out loud alone in public.

 

ordealOrdeal by Linda Lovelace

I knew very little about Lovelace going into this, but certainly left with more than enough details about the extreme abuse and degradation she suffered during her rise to fame.  The story is fascinating, but the writing quality sadly doesn’t match the intensity of the story.

 

facubg'Facing the Music: And Living to Talk About It by Nick Carter

The Backstreet Boys will always hold a coveted place in my heart. Their perfect vocal harmony seems to mirror the deep and honest bonds they have with each other.  Nick was not my favorite Backstreet Boy, but he’s the only one with a memoir (so far).  Inspired by the exceptional 2015 documentary about their reunion (Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of), I spent a night creepily catching up on their adult lives, and came across this memoir about Nick’s battles with alcohol, drugs, partying, fame, and a broken family. It’s good but not great.

 

essentialEssential: Essays by the Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

My brief obsession with the Minimalist Podcast ended with the realization that every episode was essentially the same.  I’m in full support of a minimalist lifestyle and am committed to lessening my load of physical and psychological garbage.  I applaud Joshua and Ryan for promoting these tenets, and probably would have gotten something out of this book if I hadn’t already powered through the podcast.  However, if you’re just starting on this path, you’d be best off just visiting the minimalists’ website – this book literally copy-pastes online segments onto the printed page.

 

50great50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality by Pepper Schwartz

I think this will be the last Pepper book I read – her writing style doesn’t match up with her real-life firecracker personality. Not a lot learned, either. Disappointing.

Review 58

girlsinGirls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

This was the perfect book to read while trapped at the airport for 4 hours waiting for my flight. Lighthearted but also raised some important issues facing our generation of women.

 

howtoHow to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims

I was inspired to read this after hearing about parents showing up for their kids’ job interviews.  Julie confirmed that this happens, as well as so many more amazingly crazy things unique to our current generation.  This definitely shed some light on the realities and causes of over-parenting. Frankly, it was terrifying.  Newsflash: doing everything for your child is setting them up for utter failure once they enter the “real world.” Julie includes lots of research studies, interviews, and real-life cases to back this up. Very well-written and genuine.

 

goingclearGoing Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

This was a great supplement to one of my favorite documentaries (same title).  This book inspired the documentary, but takes a much deeper dive into the upbringing and life of L. Ron Hubbard.  It’s also a fascinating study in the extremes of human/group behavior and the damaging effects of blind belief.  I particularly enjoyed the Paul Haggis sections, because he was so honest about his disillusionment and ultimate break from the church.

 

trashedTrashed by Derf

Wonderful graphic novel about the impact and lifecycle of the garbage we create.  I learned a lot about landfills and the daily life of a “garbage man.”  There’s a reason they’re paid the big bucks!

 

bigfixThe Big Fix: Hope After Heroin by Tracey Helton Mitchell

Brutally honest depiction of Tracey’s descent into heroin addiction, and the further lows she went to acquire drugs.  Her path to recovery – like that of most addicts – was not a straight line, and required multiple attempts.  She now dedicates her life to addiction education and harm reduction, and spends the last part of the book discussing this in depth.  I really respected her ability to reflect honestly about her choices, as well as the ravaging effects of opioid addiction.

 

thenestThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Delightful book about a dysfunctional but endearing family.  Believable characters and lots of twists!

 

gildedrazThe Gilded Razor by Sam Lansky

Raw memoir about prescription drug addiction, from the perspective of a privileged white male.  Fantastically written, very moving.

 

psychopathThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

Strange but fascinating adventure into insane asylums and the validity of scientific methods behind identifying psychopaths.

 

intheplexIn the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy

Absolutely amazing expose on Google as a company and its founders.  And I’m not just saying that because Google is watching my every move…. :)  Really well-written, researched, and consistently engaging.

 

ontheOn the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks

Fantastic memoir by one of the best writers I’ve ever encountered.  What an accomplished, varied, and incredible life he led!

 

sugarliningsSugar Linings: Finding the Bright Side of Type 1 Diabetes by Sierra Sandison

I’m all about T1D books, but this one was pretty disappointing.  Terribly written and sickly sweet.

 

lastannivThe Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Not my favorite of the Moriarty books, but she still proves to be a terrific light read with fun twists.  Slightly less believable than her other novels.

 

americanhouseAmerican Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

Intensely good.  Started and finished it in a coffee shop over the weekend, not even stopping to check the time.

 

cheapskateThe Cheapskate Next Door:  The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means by Jeff Yeager

Not that I needed any more convincing, but this was a fun reminder that being frugal has massive impacts on your wellbeing and future.  Some characters in here were a little extreme in their thriftiness, but I admired the drive behind it.

 

americangirlsAmerican Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales

As soon as I put this book down, I wanted to read it again.  Nancy is an exceptional researcher and writer, making the girls she interviewed come alive on the pages.  Almost too alive, though; the realities of teenage girls’ lives at this current moment in time are TERRIFYING.  I have never been more grateful to grow up without smartphones, Snap Chat, and Facebook.

 

girlsandGirls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein

This was a terrific complement to Sales’ book above, covering similar themes.  It goes down smooth:  Peggy is amazing at condensing down studies and interviews into a palatable plate of information.  The aftereffects of the metaphorical meal, though, will stick with you for a while. She brings up incredibly important issues about American sexuality and health education, as well as the conflicting expectations about girls’ roles in relationships and family.  Peggy draws on the perspectives of a wide range of women, while making clear the consistent issues facing women today.  Absolutely unforgettable.

Review 57

Featuring slightly shortened reviews this month…it’s been a busy year so far.  But thanks for reading!  I hope you find something fun to brighten up these cold gray months.

 

h is for hawkH is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Gorgeous writing, I didn’t want it to end.

 

a thousandA Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedics’ Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard

Great stories, they definitely stick with you.  Gave me an even greater appreciation for the work of paramedics and programs like our Medic One in Seattle!

 

the nestThe Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Extremely disturbing fantasy/horror story for YA.  Utterly original and unforgettable.

 

between worldBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Heartbreaking letter to his black teenage son on the state of racism and civil rights in America.  Poetic, enthralling, and so well written! Definitely a stand-out of the month.

 

big magicBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Two thumbs down. Liz is ridiculously self-righteous in this book, and her concept of ideas floating around waiting for the right “owner” is ludicrous.  Huge disappointment, and learned nothing.

 

pen and inkPen and Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald

Quick read, fun idea. Plus, anything Cheryl Strayed contributes to (introduction and chapter in this) has my instant backing. That woman is a goddess.

 

a billionA Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire by Ogi Ogas

This book could’ve been 10 times longer; there is SO much more to say about human sexuality, differences between female and male brains, and the neuroscience and psychology behind kinks…especially using the data available to us from the internet.  This honestly just felt like an introduction to a much bigger topic, but I still learned a lot and enjoyed myself.

 

my name is lucyMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Strout’s Olive Kitteridge remains her best work, in my opinion.  I was pretty disappointed by this one – the plotline and characters were swept off the page as soon as I closed the cover. Nothing stuck, other than the apathy I felt while reading it. Save yourself the energy.

 

this house ofThis House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial by Helen Garner

Exceptionally well written and engaging.  Fascinating to see the theatrical aspects of the courtroom and the damaging long-term effects of one tragic accident.

 

reasons to stayReasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Interesting perspective on the thoughts and daily reality of a clinically depressed person, but I ultimately wasn’t a fan of his writing or attitude.  I know that isn’t very empathetic (given his circumstances and suicide attempt), but that was my feeling upon finishing the book.

 

gratitudeGratitude by Oliver Sacks

Super quick read, and packs a powerful punch.  Written in the weeks before his death, Oliver displays an admirable depth of positivity and curiosity until his final breaths.

 

a mothersA Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Susan Klebold

This was my favorite book of the month – and of the year so far.  I’ve always been fascinated by the Columbine massacre and the psychological depths of humanity. Susan’s perspective (she’s the mother of Dylan Klebold) on the massacre is unbelievably compassionate and fascinating to read.  It was so good and engaging that I stopped breathing a few times. Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

 

the shapeThe Shape of the New: Four Big Ideas and How They Made the Modern World by Scott Montgomery

Great, far-reaching perspective on the creation of modern society.  Inspired lots of flashbacks to 10th grade history class: this was a good refresher for me on the Enlightenment, rise of capitalism, and the Industrial Revolution.

 

$2.00 a day$2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin

Eye-opening and well-researched book on the state of many families in America.  I was so discouraged to read about the cyclical nature of poverty and the injustices waged against them by big (and small!) companies.

 

be frankBe Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

I had fun with this book, but the character of Frank rubbed me wrong.  I just didn’t find him believable at all.

 

why not meWhy Not Me? By Mindy Kaling

She does it again!  Mindy’s new iteration of her last book is hilarious, and accompanied by awesome photos of her on set and chilling with the president.

 

refundRefund: Stories by Karen Bender

Great collection of short stories; many could’ve been expanded into their own novels.

 

down the rabbitDown the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of A Former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison

I loved every second of this book.  I have hours of happy memories watching “The Girls Next Door” at the gym in college, and Holly was by far my favorite Playgirl.  Her take (ultimately pretty negative) and expose on the mansion and lifestyle is fascinating.  Props to her for breaking away and pursuing her dreams! Well-written and super fun to read.

Review 56

hypThe Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

Moriarty is the best travel reading; highly recommended for long plane rides! She creates such unique characters and I love the plot twists that have become her staple.  This one was a little long-winded for me, but had an interesting premise:  a hypnotherapist falls in love with a man who has a stalker.  Hearing the stalker’s perspective was an interesting choice, as it’s a voice rarely heard in literature.

 

youreYou’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day

My respect for Felicia went up exponentially after reading this book, and I was already a big fan of hers.  She’s an incredibly hard worker, ambitious, determined, confident, but also empathetic and genuine.  I loved her tone and discussion of the #GamerGate scandal.  The intro by Joss Whedon was also a highlight.

 

hungerHunger Makes Me A Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein

Confession: I’d never listened to Sleater-Kinney (Carrie’s band), going into this book.  I read this because “Portlandia” is frequently brilliant, and Carrie went to the same school I did growing up.  I have a strange fascination with celebrities, especially if they have a slight (however slight!) connection to me.  Her honesty and self-deprecating humor made this a terrific read, even if I’m not a groupie of Sleater-Kinney.

 

lightofThe Light of the World:  A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander

Devastating, and so wonderfully written that I stopped breathing at times.  Elizabeth weaves the most beautiful images of her life with her husband and two children, both before and after his death.  Poetic yet simple; sad yet optimistic; depressing yet full of life….After Joan Didion’s breathtaking The Year of Magical Thinking, this is the next best novel I’ve ever read about losing a spouse and the love of your life. NOT recommended for reading in public or on an airplane, speaking from experience.  I stored my tears in the fake fleece blanket, since the tissues weren’t enough to stop the flood.

 

alittleA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Holy crap, the reviews for this book were NOT overstated.  This is absolutely exceptional, ground-breaking literature.  I loved that it focused centrally on the friendship between four young men; a grouping that’s typically broken up by marriages, moves, and jobs.  But the four characters in this novel – and those who rotate or plant themselves in their lives – are absolutely unforgettable.  One of the best books of the year so far, hands down.

 

fuirFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Hilarious, and very honest about her battles with mental illness.  Jenny has a new fan.

 

soundThe Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner

Wasn’t impressed with the writing, but the story was crazy interesting.  Ruth escapes from an LDS breakoff polygamist cult later in her life, and tells the story of her childhood here.

 

troubleTroublemaker:  Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

I’m not quite done with this, but expect to finish it tonight. Leah is remarkably honest about her experiences with the Church of Scientology, which only further cemented my disgust towards that group.  She was involved in the church from a very young age, and the tactics used to control constituents managed to keep her tied to it for many years.  I very much admire her for taking a strong stand against them.  This is a perfect complement to the exceptional HBO documentary, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.”

 

univThe Universe: Leading Scientists Explore the Origin, Mysteries, and Future of the Cosmos

Phew, this book is DENSE.  Space is dense too, so I guess that’s appropriate.  I just felt out of my element reading this, without any science background.  My only credentials are an undiagnosed addiction to “Cosmos,” which inspired me to learn more.  Sometimes I just feel like what we know about the universe is already SO hard to believe, but I can’t get enough of it.  I have mad respect for people who have dedicated their lives to the nebulous task of piecing out the history and future of the universe.

 

argonThe Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Incredible writing, in a very memorable format that I’ve never seen before – her footnotes are on the side of the paragraph!  Eye-opening views on family and gender for someone who is pretty traditional in my experiences.  Very powerful and well-written; lives up the hype.

 

healthgapThe Health Gap: The Challenge of An Unequal World by Michael Marmot

Tons of great information and reminders in here.  It made me feel incredibly grateful for my health and access to an amazing medical team.  It’s absolutely heartbreaking that most of us live in a world without adequate medical care or health education, but Marmot takes us on an important journey into the causes and potential fixes for this crisis.  Very comprehensive.

 

witchesWitches of America by Alex Mar

Man, this starts out SO well.  I was completely engrossed in Alex’s uninhibited dive into American pagan and witchcraft groups …. That is, until she starts studying to become a witch (in a non-ironic way).   The baffling claims and beliefs of these groups and individuals will take your breath away.  I appreciated Alex’s ability to ask questions and be respectfully curious, since the ‘witches’ and ‘warlocks’ eventually trust her enough to be themselves.  I just feel like she took her journalistic obsession a little too far, though it’s still an interesting crash and burn.  The capacity of humans to deceive themselves in their search for meaning is boundless. (example:  one ‘necromancer’ she spends an evening with, digs up dead bodies from cemeteries and beheads them while chanting spells. Yes, really.)  Overall, though, I loved this book and the depths it went to understand this unbelievable community and human psychology.

 

alltheAll the Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank

I’m not sure what all the hype was for, but I wasn’t a fan of this book.  I found the characters needlessly irritating.

 

helloHello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

Interesting premise: a brutally honest Christmas card draft outlining the main character’s anxieties, miseries, and depression is accidentally sent out to her entire email list.  I liked the way Monica wove together the stories and characters affected by the email.  Perfect for lighthearted beach reading.

 

youknowYou Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

Stories from the homefront, inspired by Siobhan’s real-life experiences living on an army base while her husband was deployed.  Nothing really stuck with me from this collection.

 

livingLiving in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-abortion Terrorism by David Cohen and Krysten Connon

This well-written book follows the lives of physicians and staff at women’s health clinics where abortions are performed.  It also discusses the intense and fatal violence enacted on these workers, both historical and ongoing. I want to use this book to pound in the faces of anyone who protests outside of these clinics; they are the true villains of this story.  I firmly believe in a woman’s legal and individual right to choose, but that’s not really what this story was about and that’s what made it unique.  Instead, this focused on the humble heroes who come to work every day in spite of personal threats, attacks, and unbelievable violence against them, to allow women the opportunity to continue making that choice.

 

bigquesBig Questions From Little People–and Simple Answers From Great Minds

I know this is meant for children, but MAN there are some amazing questions and answers in here.  The responses are written so simply that they actually stick.  Now I actually have an answer if someone ever asks why the sky is blue J.  I also have a renewed respect for people who are geniuses but can explain their specialty to children…and inspire them to learn more!  True teachers, right there.

Review 55

claspThe Clasp by Sloane Crosley

Though the characters themselves were pretentious and hard to connect with, I appreciated Crosley’s ambitious debut.  Fun to read. It was hard to connect with the Guy de Maupassant plot line and importance, though.  It felt forced and unbelievable at times, and a little slow-going.

 

americasAmerica’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System by Steven Brill

Tough to get through, mostly due to the layers of corruption and inefficiency that comprises our healthcare system and insurance companies.  Interesting behind-the-scenes look into Obama’s healthcare policies and the history behind them.

 

dear mr.Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

Eh, wasn’t really feeling this.  Surprisingly good writing, though, and easy to read.

 

outlineOutline by Rachel Cusk

Beautifully written, and unique platform for a story.  Also made me want to visit Greece REALLY badly…

 

happierHappier at Home:  Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon A Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin

Clearly bouncing off the success of her Happiness Project, Rubin embarks on an adventure to make her home a happier place.  Lots of good reminders and ideas in here, but not a highlight of the month.

 
eileenEileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

This is the most uncomfortable book I’ve read in a while.  The main character is depressed, disgusting, disturbing, pathetic, and brutally honest with the reader.  I feel like the plot was building up to something much bigger than I was presented with, but I appreciated the depth of Eileen’s character development and flaws.  Unsettling and dark – it stands in a category of its own, for books I’ve read so far in my life.

 

hereHere by Richard McGuire

Surprisingly emotional, for such a simple idea.  Beautifully laid out graphic novel following the events and occupants of rooms in a house over the course of time.  Highlights the transience and permanence of family and self.

 

braveBrave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

Beautiful collection of quotes from one of the best female writers out there. I would read anything she creates, even if it’s a collection of things other people have created.  Would make a fantastic gift!!

 

projmangProject Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogon

Simple layout, lots of pertinent information, and highly relevant for my job and career.

 

wildA Wild Swan, And Other Tales by Michael Cunningham

Not a fan at all.  There’s nothing of substance to gain from reading these ‘modernized’ versions of well-known fairy tales.  The art was STUNNING, though!

 

thetruthThe Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

Henry is a pretty unlikable character, but I loved the pacing of this book and its thrilling twists and turns.  Very original and great writing.

 

missoulaMissoula: Rape and the Justice System in A College Town by Jon Krakauer

I’m a huge Krakauer fan, and he didn’t disappoint with this expose on rape and justice in our modern world. He takes a deep dive into the victims’ lives and trials, and there were some pretty appalling and unsettling results.  I learned a lot about the college legal system, psychological effects of rape, and shocking leniency for rapists (especially popular football players).  Not the lightest reading, but absolutely essential for beginning to understand the legal process, and the ongoing victimization of women in college and beyond.

 

thirteenThirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann

Not my favorite of the McCann books, but – god! – he can write.

 

hausfrauHausfrau by Jill Essbaum

A tale of desperation, depression, and complexity – Anna is initially hard to connect with and the plot moves slowly, but soon digs deep into your brain and is hard to leave behind at the end.

 

homeisburnHome Is Burning: A Memoir by Dan Marshall

Favorite book of the month, hands down.  Hilarious and heartbreaking memoir about Dan’s dying parents: his mother has cancer and father dies from ALS during the course of the book.  He has a unique ability to express his true emotions while also making light of a morbid and devastating reality. I rarely have to take breaks from books this well written, but I couldn’t even see the pages through the teary blurriness.

 
carryonCarry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell

Somehow, Rainbow’s books are getting worse and worse over time.  I was even more disappointed in this than Landline because its ideas are directly stolen from my beloved Harry Potter.   She’s a two-hit wonder, it appears….stick with Attachments and Eleanor and Park if you want to see the Rainbow at its peak.

 

bignewThe Big New Yorker Book of Cats

Wonderful comics; skimmed the essays.  It’s not like I need more reasons to adore cats :)
wakingupWaking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris

Harris is a master. This came at a really good time, when I’m trying to make some healthier choices for my body and mind.  Meditation seems to be a central force for reaching this kind of understanding. Plus, it was a great reminder of some of the powerfully negative forces of organized religion.

 

wihtoutyouWithout You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent by Anthony Rapp

Loved this so much.  I’m a massive fan of Rent and so appreciated the behind-the-scenes look at the development of the show and the instant success of what started as a very low-rent (ha!) production.  Super sad tribute to Jonathan Larson and an emotional memoir about Rapp’s mother’s struggles with cancer during his rise to fame.  His writing is powerful. It was fun to find all the similarities between him and his character (Mark), as well — this solidified for me that there isn’t a better actor to play his role.

 

wornstWorn Stories by Emily Spivack

Beautiful idea – Spivack asked writers to pick a piece of clothing with an emotional connection to them, and write a short story about it.  The range in voices and backgrounds made it really fun to read.

 

originsThe Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution by Faramerz Dabhoiwala

Extremely comprehensive and well-researched book, on a topic that has surprisingly little written about it.  Kudos to Dabhoiwala’s ability to detail Victorian sexual mores – lots of fun facts and pictures as well!  My favorite part was the epilogue, actually, when he finally compares our current views on sexuality and gender with those of the past.  Notice that I called it “current” and not “modern” – there’s still a long way to go, but understanding how we got to this point through history gave me some new perspective.

 

chasingChasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari

Absolutely fascinating book detailing the rise of the heroin epidemic and drug criminalization through the perspective of doctors, drug dealers, and addicts.  This was a deep and startling dive into an ongoing crisis.

Review 54

armadaArmada by Ernest Cline

I’ll start this off with the worst book I’ve read in months.  It was extra disappointing because Ready Player One was disturbingly good.  This one just felt overwritten, with too many obscure references and no character development.  Sorry Ernie.

 

leanredLearned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman

Enough negativity – I’m focusing now on the positive!  This book is SO GOOD, and a great reminder that positive thinking impacts not only your external relationships and success, but also your lifespan and health.  Well written with lots of research examples and case studies.

 

superSuperhuman by Habit: A Guide to Becoming the Best Possible Version of Yourself, One Tiny Habit at a Time by Tynan

Pretty mediocre, but I admire Tynan for his commitment to writing every day and making the most of the hours allotted to him.  He’s a bit superhuman in his own right, though (check out his blog to confirm!), so his advice should probably be taken with a grain of salt.  A great reminder to get my bad habits under control though – or at least focus on awareness and gradual progress.

 

the heartThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is one of the best novelists I’ve ever encountered.  She doesn’t disappoint with her latest book, which I ripped through while we were in Victoria BC over the weekend.  Very hard to put down.  This is a sci-fi masterpiece that feels the closest to our actual society of all of her books so far.  She wove together a believable dystopian future, with relatable characters and a thriller-like plot.  Fantastic winter reading!!

 

inshortIn Short Measures: Three Novellas by Michael Ruhlman

This was a unique reading experience for me:  Ruhlman composes three (seemingly) disparate stories about relationships, loss, fidelity, and aging, all of which bring up powerful emotions and musings in their own right.  The characters are well-fleshed out and distinct, and the writing is smooth and compact. However, it’s the interconnectedness of the stories that makes this book unique:  after turning the last page, I immediately felt the connection between each of the stories.  It made me think about how all of us are connected in some way through our experiences, desires, and fears … I found this a powerful and memorable reading experience.

 

outkidsOur Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam

A sociological masterpiece. Putnam effectively (and in great detail) analyzes the impact of the inequality gap in America on our children’s future.  The biggest result of this inequality gap is an opportunity gap for those in the lower and upper income thresholds, as diversity in schools and experiences have lessened.  His argument is well-composed with tons of evidence…A slightly depressing and detailed discussion, but well worth it.

 

witchThe Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff

A textbook of a book, with the same exceptional research and minute details of Schiff’s Cleopatra.  As a non-religious person, this was a fascinating exposé on the terrifying effects of group-think and superstition on a society.  It seemed pretty far-removed from my daily reality (the descriptions of possession and witchcraft are unbelievably detailed and strange), but Schiff weaves an empathetic story of our country’s forefathers and their unwavering commitment to Christianity.  The last section was actually the most fascinating part of the book: how neighbors and leaders came to terms with the execution of innocent people and the contradictory and wide-reaching methods of identifying a “witch.” Highly recommended!

 

wondering whoWondering Who You Are: A Memoir by Sonya Lea

I imagine that Sonya’s story is one of the worst things that could happen to you:  Your husband (Richard in her case) is not only diagnosed with cancer, but the extreme surgery he undergoes to eradicate the cancer is botched, and temporarily cuts off oxygen to his brain.  This resulted in severe amnesia: When he wakes up, he has no recollection of marrying you, of having children with you, or building a life and successful career.  Sonya expertly weaves in the history of their partnership with the realities of bringing home someone without memories and with an entirely different personality.  It brought up so many thoughts for me re: true identity, relationships, and the definition of commitment.  I admire both of them for their perseverance – they are a testament to humanity’s ability to adapt.

 

cityonCity on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

Yes, it lives up to the hype.  Hallberg is an exceptionally talented writer, but – even more than that – one of the best storytellers I’ve ever come across.  It’s astonishing to me that this is his first book.  It’s a bit of a commitment (over 900 pages) but totally worth it, especially in the cold winter months when you can curl up under a blanket with a cat on you.

 

afteryouAfter You by Jojo Moyes

This is the long-awaited follow-up to Me Before You, which was a tearjerker masterpiece of a book.  Moyes pulled through with an acceptable sequel, but my interest in the plot and new love story wafted away as soon as I closed the page.  It’s a quick and enjoyable read, but don’t expect it to have the emotional impact of her initial novel.

 

screamScream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear by Margee Kerr

I loved this!!! I’m still thinking about it weeks later.  Margee is a thrill-seeker, a haunted house owner, and a sociologist studying the science of fear.  There were so many great stories and experiences in her book (um, did you know this exists?), but I also really enjoyed her discussion of eliciting fear in controlled environments, and its impact on our development, happiness, and brains.  There were some fascinating societal comparisons of fear as well, particularly between American and Japanese horror.  Extremely difficult to put down; recommended reading for anyone interested in the psychology of fear.