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Book Report // September 2016

I recently joined a book club, so now I’m reading books I definitely would not have picked myself. And that’s always a good thing, even if I didn’t end up loving the books. Here’s what I’ve read:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Okay. So I didn’t know this book was nonfiction until the end when I read the Writer’s Note. Wow. This book is incredibly well researched and well written. That being said, I didn’t love it. Part of the subtitle includes the word “hope,” and, to me, there wasn’t much hope in this book. Not that I need everything tied up in a bow; I’m fine with stories that, well, show the truth. And the truth of the matter in this story was, people’s lives are hard (understatement), unfair, and much of what happens to them is good or bad luck. I guess I just was really rooting for some hope, but there just wasn’t a lot. It’s an eye-opener, for sure.

The Buried Giant

I was really into this book for the first 25%. And then it lost me for much of the middle. And then I liked it again at the end. I’d describe this book as kind of fantasy, kind of based during the middle ages. In this story, a fog settles over the villages, making people forget their memory. Two of the protagonists set off from their village to find their son. The story follows their trek and the people they meet along the way. There are ENDLESS metaphors and parallels and such in this book. I liked the points the author made about memory, if it’s beneficial to sometimes forget, life, death, etc… That being said, I probably would have quit this book if it hadn’t been for book club because at times it was difficult to follow (I think this was on purpose, hence the memory theme). However, this was a great book club selection because we all got to chatting about what we understood, didn’t understand, all the weird and dark parts of this book, etc…

Love Warrior

This book could not possibly be MORE different that the other two books I read. I’ve read Glennon’s blog on and off throughout the years, and I enjoyed her first book, but I actually wasn’t sure I had much interest in reading this one. But then I figured I’d give it a try since I do love Glennon’s writing. I just wasn’t sure I’d find anything that resonated that much with me in this one.

WRONG!

This book isn’t just about Glennon’s marriage and her husband’s infidelity. It’s about SO MUCH MORE. Loving yourself. Acceptance. What is love really? Body issues. What does beautiful mean? And what about sexy? And how about sex and the complicated feelings around sex? I loved this book, I loved Glennon’s honesty, I love how she could take such a complicated topic and make it resonate and not ever sound self righteous or point blame.

I’m currently reading Truly, Madly, Guilty and loving it. Next on my radar: Dark Matter. What are you reading?

Book Report // July 2016

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It seems this month’s book theme was: family. So if you’re into that, here are some good reads.

When Breath Becomes Air

This book. So gut wrenching. So good. I think with books like this, it depends on what you bring to the table. If you have a lot of history and experience with terminal illness, you might feel differently (or might want to not read this book). While sad, I also found it deeply inspiring. I can’t imagine what his family went through, but I appreciate his profound words and thoughts on life and death and everything in between.

The Nest

On a very different note, this book is about four, entitled, grown ups who act like children. I read this for my book club, and we all agreed that while we liked it…we don’t think we’d recommend it. It was well written and there were definitely interesting themes. I particularly liked the theme of family and the different roles we play in our family and the secrets we keep and why. But overall, I didn’t find that anything in particular about it stuck with me.

Miller’s Valley

This was my favorite reads of the month. This was my first Anna Quindlen book, and I loved, loved, loved this book. I love a good coming of age story, and this is a good coming of age story but with so much depth about family and secrets. Mimi Miller, the main character, ranks up there as one of my favorite of main characters of all time. I related to Mimi’s love for her family and her role in the family. If you pick up one book this month, pick this one.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

I was on an Anna Quindlen kick after Miller’s Valley, so I decided to try out her non-fiction. This is a memoir about her life and the lives of women today. I found it funny and real and honest and she said so many things I’ve always thought to be true (at least for me). A quick and sweet read. Highly recommend.

I’m currently reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Hope, and Death in a Mumbai Undercity for my book club. What are you reading?

Book Report // May 2016

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May was a great book month. I loved every book I read. I’m currently reading Anna Quindlen’s Lot of Candles, Plenty of Cake, and I’m really enjoying it. I’m also putting together a list of books I want to read this summer. Dan sent me this article in Wired featuring a lot of books that look good. What’s on your summer reading list?

The Nightingale

This book was beautiful and gut wrenching. It follows the story of two sisters during World War II in occupied France. I loved this story because it hit many themes that got me thinking about my life. First, the complicated relationship between the sisters given their age differences and life circumstances. Second, complicated family dynamics. Third, the importance of friendship and how far you’d go for a friend. Fourth, how these woman faced the unthinkable and what would I have done? I could go on and on. I loved this book and it stirred up a lot of emotions. Great read.

The Good Girl

I feel like I’ve read a bunch of books along the lines of kidnapping grown women (or in the case of Gone Girl, a fake kidnapping), and I don’t know what it is but those types of stories intrigue me. I guess because they remind me of Law and Order, which I LOVE. So here’s another kidnapping story, complicated by family dynamics and lies. Also a weird relationship between the kidnapped woman and her captor. The story switches narrators, which I like. Overall, a good page turner.

The Luckiest Girl Alive

Another win! I had no idea where this book was going. It started off like it was just going to be about this shallow girl getting married and the issues surrounding that. But then the story evolved to how she got to this place in her life, going back to an incident that happened when she was in high school. You learn bits and pieces about that incident as you go, and you don’t find out exactly what happened until the end. It was dark and twisty, and I loved it. I’m sure some people won’t like the narrator. But I did. Yep, she was super flawed and did some questionable things. But I thought the author showed how someone can be mean and nasty and also vulnerable.

What are you reading? What’s on your reading this for this summer?

Book Report // April 2016

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I read through my library holds in April, and now I’m fresh out of books to read! Help! Suggestions needed.

Here’s what I loved in April:

The Year of Yes

I love all Shonda Rhimes TV shows, and I knew a little bit about her before I read her book. I knew that she was a super cool person and super successful and also a mom of young children. Shonda, tell me all your secrets! HA! I loved this book. Her writing style is so funny and engaging. I loved all her personal stories and her message of empowerment. Yes, please, Shonda! This year, my word is BIG, so I’m all about going BIG and saying YES. If you’re looking to get inspired to do the same, this is a great place to start.

10% Happier

I LOVED THIS BOOK. LOVED. I’m already super into happiness and happiness research, and since my Spirit Guide, Gretchen Rubin, recommended this book and is friends with Dan Harris, I had to read it. And I loved it. Dan Harris is a reporter for ABC News, and he writes about his crazy past with drugs, alcohol, and his obsession with getting to the top. After experience a panic attack live on air, he decided to make a change. He wondered if it was possible to be happy, be successful, and be a zen-like person. This is his personal story, and his story of how he got into meditation, something he’s super passionate about. He just started a podcast, 10% Happier with Dan Harris, that I also love.

Where They Found Her

This is the second book I’ve read by Kimberly McCreight (the first was Reconstructing Amelia, which I also liked). This story is about a woman getting back on her feet after the loss of her second child. Just as she’s starting to get back into her life and work as a writer, she takes on a writing assignment for her paper about the abandon body of a newborn baby. The plot twists and turns from there, featuring lots of different characters, which eventually relate to each other. Since I like books like that, I really enjoyed this one.

I’m in desperate need of book recommendations for May! Hit me with your ideas!

Book Report // March 2016

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Whoops! I forgot to post the books I read in March…in March. So I’m posting them now. I’ll be back at the end of April with what I read this month.

So many good books. Let’s get to the recommendations!

The Fates and the Furies

At the start of this book, I was into it. Then around 20% in, I wondered if this book was worth finishing. I felt like it went from interesting characters and stories to…weird. And I didn’t like the characters anymore. Usually I’m all about quitting books I don’t like. But I felt compelled to finish it for some reason. Around 50% I was back on board, and I’m so glad I finished it. It was weird. But in a compelling way. I went back on forth on the characters, but by the end, I loved how this book showed people and situations in so many dimensions. Things (and people) aren’t always as they seem! After I finished reading it, I thought a lot about the themes and characters, so for me, I think that means I like it.

The Girl with All the Gifts

I had no idea what this book was about, and it took a bit of reading before I figured out what was going on. I won’t spoil it, but I can say it’s one of those ends-of-times books. I don’t usually love those, but this book was more about the people, which is what I love. And I loved all the characters, which is rare. I loved the message of the book, and it made me think a lot about love and friendship and humanity. A super good read.

The Martian

I saw the movie before I read the book, but even though I knew the ending, it was still a good read. The main character is just the best. He’s a good mix of funny, smart, clever, self deprecating, and determined. I don’t like reading sciency stuff, but this wasn’t too much science for me. Got me thinking a lot about what would happen to me if I was stuck on Mars. I don’t think I’d do well on Mars.

I’m currently reading On Writing. What are you reading?

Book Report // February 2016

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Lots of good books to report this month! Let’s dive right in!

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

I think this book was recommended for people who liked Gone Girl. Since I liked Gone Girl, I decided to give this a try. The premise drew me in: a woman struggling with motherhood tries to get back on her feet by taking a job as a reporter for a small town local paper. She usually writes soft, human interest pieces, but when the body of an infant is discovered, she ends up taking this hard news story. It’s a hard story for her to take on for several reasons, one personal reason in particular. And then the story unfolds from multiple vantage points, keeping you guessing who this baby belongs to, and how it ended up dead. I like these kind of twisty stories where you’re trying to figure out who did it and you’re also piecing together how all these people relate. Definitely one of those reads that I didn’t want to put down and finished in a couple days.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

So often on the podcast, the guest mentions pairing down her to-do list to only what’s essential. That message has been resonating a lot with me lately. I can’t do everything. And when I try, it’s a mess. The author advocates really thinking through what’s essential. And saying no to everything else. For people pleasers, this is going to be a tough pill to swallow. But he offers advice on how to say no and that, actually, his research shows that people are actually okay with you saying no.

A message I latched on to in the book is to really think about what you’re doing. Are you just moving from one obligation to the next without thought? Do you really need to be doing that? Why? As an upholder (based on Gretchen Rubin’s Better Then Before habits quiz), I tend to uphold things because that’s just my nature. I’ll keep a habit because it’s easy for me to maintain it, and I seldom think “is this essential? Do I even want to be doing this anymore?”

If you don’t feel overwhelmed in your life, or if you don’t feel like you need to pair down, then you probably won’t get all that much out of this book. But I love to read different perspectives on time management and personal fulfillment, so while I don’t 100% subscribe to everything in this book, it did get me thinking about what’s important to me and if I’m actually prioritizing those things.

MWF Seeks BFF by Rachel Bertsche

I LOVE books like this where the author sets out on a project and then takes us along for the ride. I also love friends, so the author’s pursuit of going on 52 friends dates with the goal of finding a new best friend for life intrigued me.

I liked the author as a person, and I wanted to be her friend. I loved how beautifully she wove her personal stories, friend date stories, and research into her book. The book felt thoughtfully put together. And there is a lot of introspection and discussion on friendship: what makes for lasting friendship, the importance of friends, the difference between what you get out of a marriage versus a friendship, etc… Lots of interesting facts and studies.

The book did feel long. She did have to get through 52 people! But I enjoyed reading about all her friend dates, and I rooted for her to find a BFF.

It also got me thinking about my friendships and the importance of nurturing those friendships.

I’m currently reading The Luckiest Girl Alive and Rising Strong. What are you reading? Any recommendations?