Last year’s books were all so good that I was feeling a little uninterested in reading for parts of this month. I didn’t want to be dissapointed. (There isn’t anything quite like following an amazing book with a lackluster read. It feels like such a letdown.)
I shouldn’t have worried. While not every book blew my mind this month, I have regained my insatiable hunger for books. Despite not feeling it for a while I still ended up reading eight books this month. Not too bad.
What I Read In January
I’m all for packing light, but I never considered taking no bags at all. No Baggage is the story of a woman’s (real) travels through eight countries over three weeks. More than the story of her trip, I appreciated her openness about her struggles with depression in the years before her trip and what it was like to finally make it out of that. Also, their extremely light travel made me think hard about what I will pack for my next trip. (Spoiler, I’m definitely still going to travel with layers and tooth paste, even if it means I need a bag. Sorry, Clara and Jeff.)
The 4-Hour Body
Tim Ferriss recommends just reading the 150 pages that interest you the most in his massive book. Well I hate being told how to read a book. I read the whole damn thing, index and appendix included. So there, Mr. Ferriss.
I doubt I’m going to “lose 20 pounds in 30 days without exercise,” “increase fat-loss 300 percent with a few bags of ice,” or gain “34 pounds of muscle in 28 days without steroids.” But I didn’t read it for those things anyways.
Things I didn’t like about The 4-Hour Body:
- It often feels gimmicky and too good to be true
- It’s based on self-experimentation and the experiences of a select few people
- The advice is often contradictory depending on what outcome you are going for (losing weight vs gaining muscle vs just being a stronger, better athlete).
- So many supplements and unnatural substances!
Things I liked:
- I really appreciate Tim’s self-experimentation beliefs and his encouragement to find your own answers. It’s refreshing to have someone remind you that you know your body best and you are your best hope of figuring out what works for you.
- His chapter on injury prevention and finding imbalances was right up my ally.
- The book was a nice reminder to find your minimum effective dose, but things often felt too reductionist. Sure, maybe I could increase my strength or muscle mass in less than 2-hours a week, but that completely leaves out the other benefits of exercise like enjoyment and stress relief.
Bottom line? Tim was probably right about only reading the parts that you are the most interested in.
I picked up this book after hearing Emily Witt talk about writing it on the Longform podcast. I expected an open-minded, curious exploration of the ways that people seek out and experience sex. And it was sort of that, but it was also a snaking journey of her realization that she may never have the life she thought she wanted.
Future Sex left me feeling depressed and like her searching was still unresolved.
Come as You Are
Through sheer fate of the library request system, this month turned into a bit of an exploration of female sexuality. Overall Come As You Are was interesting, but not life changing. It was definitely geared toward women who were experiencing particular problems or frustrations. It was relatively interesting, and I certainly learned things, but I don’t think this is one I will be widely recommending to my friends.
Designing Your Life
Designing Your Life left me with mixed feelings. I expected to feel uplifted and ready to create the life I want. Instead they (unintentionally) destroyed my fall back plan and added a lot of items to my to do list.
Overall, I really recommend it. They lay out clear steps toward creating a life that will leave you fulfilled and happy. Just be ready to do a lot of work and not have them hand you any easy answers.
So good. If you can set aside Harry Potter and try to forget about how magic works in that world, Carry On will suck you in. I never read fantasy, despite reading it as a child. I only picked this up because I can’t get enough of Rainbow Rowell, and it was the story the main character in Fangirl writes fanfiction about. Even the boy, a master fantasy/sci-fi reader, enjoyed it.
This was a rough way to start the year. I finished Homegoing on New Year’s Day, but it stuck with me long after that. No part of this book is easy. I had to take breaks and come back to it when I was ready to absorb more. People do horrible things to each other, and it’s a lot to take.
The writing is beautiful. I love the structure of the book as it follows the decedents of two half-sisters. You hear from so many people, but the story feels like one. Read it, but be kind to yourself and know when you need some space.
Female Chauvinist Pigs
In an effort to read some of the books that I added to my to-read list in 2012 (or before…), I picked this up before the holidays. Originally published in 2006, Female Chauvinist Pigs felt almost nostalgically dated and also a little too relevant. It’s a bit too outdated to be a really important read, but in a way it felt like a precursor to Girls and Sex.