Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

August Books: What I Read This Month

When I sat down to write this post I was pretty sure I hadn’t read much in August. Between completing a massive 15,300 word project and trying to catch up on all of my other projects/work, August was sadly spent with tired eyes and working Saturdays.

And yet read I did. My two hour commute to Oakland twice a week has been keeping me on track. It’s looking like I will actually finish my goal for 52 books sometime in October at this rate.

My August books kept on the same path as previous months. There are three books about the lives of daring women and the way the world treats them in return. And two easy reads intended to soothe the mind after all of its heavy lifting lately.

August Books

August Books – Treading Lightly Book Recommendations

The Rules Do Not Apply

Prior to putting this book on my list I had heard Ariel Levy on the Longform Podcast, which is to say that I knew what I was getting into before I started in. But I still wasn’t really prepared for the gut-wrenching twists that come one after another.

The Rules Do Not Apply highlights the indignity of life, the unfairness of the world, and the power and resilience we have to make our lives into something anyways.

 

Sex Object

Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism was my first taste of feminist text. I read it my freshman year of college and became even more incensed about the injustices in the world (which is saying something since I had already gone through my ‘seethe in the dark listening to metal’ phase).

I thought her latest book, Sex Object, would be similarly research-based. Instead it was a horrifying look into how (mostly) men had treated her throughout her life. It was eye-opening and just as incendiary as Full Frontal Feminism, but it also left me with a deep gratitude that I have for the most part been left alone and allowed to move around the world unbothered. (Note to self, never move to NYC.)

 

I Can’t Make This Up

Apparently I am a sucker for books by comedians or memoirs that are billed as humorous (see Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jessi KleinJim GaffiganTyler Oakley). And yet I never learn. Outside of Fey’s Bossypants, I find the genre to be over-hyped and uninteresting.

I picked up Kevin Hart’s I Can’t Make This Up with optimism. He didn’t write the book himself (which isn’t unusual for a celebrity), but it felt like I was being held an arms distance away being told a version of his life that he wanted to share. Between the book and his most recent comedy special, I am a lot less interested in his comedy and his work in general. He comes across as selfish, and his relationship to his children an the women in his life are problematic to say the least.

Bottom line. I didn’t laugh, and it’s not worth reading.

 

Once and For All

Every summer in high school and much of college I would read a Sarah Dessen book (The Truth About Forever and Just Listen were heavy favorites). I brought the tradition back this summer with Once and For All. It was cheesy, mostly predictable, and not as good as some of her other books. But that didn’t stop me from putting off work for most of a day to finish it.

And to be fair, that’s what I love most about her books – they suck you in and make it easy to forget about everything else for a few hours.

 

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

This book really riled me up. It made me want to be louder, more demanding. It was just the fuel I needed to remind me why it’s important to put my words behind what I believe, stand up for other people, and be the nasty, unruly woman I know I am.

While it featured women I already look up to like Serena Williams, it also gave me a better appreciation for so many others that I’ve never really given any thought or attention to (sorry Nicki Minaj).

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is way better than any cup of coffee.

What I Read This Month: July Books

Summer reading is in full swing! While I certainly don’t stop reading at any point during the year, there’s something special about settling in with a good book on a warm night or indulging in a little more fiction or fun than normal.

My July books are more heavily fiction and soul books than normal. They’re the kind that take you somewhere else, invite you to look out of a strangers eyes, or leave you so wrapped up that you can’t seem to fully come back to your own life when you shut the cover. My books this month left me feeling wonderfully full and yet somehow hungry for more.

July Books

July Books 2017: What I Read This Month

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

This short novela made me cry. Fredrik Backman, the author of A Man Called Ove, Britt-Marie Was Here, and Beartown (below), never meant to publish it. He wrote And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer as a way to work through his own thoughts and feelings, which is probably why it’s such a powerful piece.

The story is about a grandfather and his grandson as they both try to understand what’s happening to the grandfather’s memory. The boy and his grandfather sit in a square that is slowly shrinking and taking familiar objects and views along with it. As someone who has had multiple family members struggle with memory loss and dementia, I couldn’t get enough of the compassion and love that came along with the inevitable frustration and fear. I for one am glad Backman decided to let this one out into the world.

 

Leaving Time

Years ago I gave up on Jodi Picoult. Her books always followed the same formula: dramatic happening, hunt for the truth, court case, followed by a final twist at the end. I was bored.

She has been slowly moving away from that basic outline, but even so her last few books didn’t really grab me. Leaving Time had been on my to-read list for years, and I decided to finally give it a go. Either it was going in my read pile or it was coming off – no more languishing.

Leaving Time surprised me. I loved that the elephants played such a big role, and I was thoroughly pleased that I never saw the twist coming. The book follows Jenna, a young teen, as she searches for her missing mom. The characters are all deeply flawed, and it only makes you more attached. This book reminded me of why I fell so hard for My Sister’s Keeper and Lone Wolf.

 

Larger Than Life

This novela was hidden at the end Leaving Time, and it gave a bit more background to Jenna’s mom’s life studying elephants in Africa. It was good, but it wouldn’t be as interesting if you haven’t just read the full novel.

 

Beartown

I tore Beartown to shreds. The opening pages foretell of two teenagers in the forest with a gun, and I could not help but sprint to the end to find out who is out there and if anyone would come out of the trees alive.

Set in a ‘hockey town,’ Beartown made my heart ache for a place unlike I’d ever lived in or really visited. This book made my palms sweat and my heart race. It felt more like watching a thriller than reading a book. I hate to say it, but Fredrik Backman is becoming an even better writer (and I already loved his work). I’m ready for the next one to hit the shelves.

 

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

Roxane Gay pulls you into her body and lets you feel the weight of her skin, the stares that follow her everywhere, and the physical exhaustion of carrying around her armor and her experiences. This book left me feeling blessed and privileged that I have never fought my body or struggled with it. I have always been able to look it in the eye and be at relative peace.

Hunger was a look into a life completely different from my own in so many ways. Her honest discussion of her weight and the baggage that comes with it was intense and exhausting. I would like to think that this book gave me a greater capacity for compassion for people whose lives and bodies are so different than my own, and to some extent that’s true. But it also gave me a great sadness that so many people struggle with their self-image and have not found joy in some of the things that bring me the most happiness.

 

Milk and Honey

milk and honey was my first poetry book of the year… and probably my first since it was required reading in school. I can’t believe it took me so long to pick up Rupi Kaur’s collection. Each poem hit me right at the core and left me feeling comforted and hungry for more. I can’t wait for her new collection to come out. I’m seriously considering buying my own copy so I can read it over and over again. It has by far been my highest rated book of the year.

 

Thrill Me

When I was growing up Penn & Teller had a TV show that took you behind the scenes and showed you how some of the most mind-boggling magic tricks were done. Thrill Me was the big unveiling for some of my favorite books. Benjamin Percy breaks down the tenets of a great story and pulls scenes and tidbits from famous books and movies to make his points.

Thrill Me is meant to be a book about craft. It’s intended to inspire you to improve your writing, but more than anything it made me appreciate the books I read and see the true effort that goes into the magic on the page. This book is great for anyone who loves behind the scenes peaks or ‘how it’s done’ pieces. And Percy’s writing and essay structure pull you in just as much as the books he demystifies. Book nerds like myself will love it.

 

The House on Mango Street

Would you judge me if I told you that this book had been on my to-read list since high school? I don’t know how it got on there, but I’m glad I finally picked it up. Although to be honest, I enjoyed Sandra Cisneros’ description of her first apartment and what it meant to her to have the physical and mental space to write even more than the story itself. The novel is made up of quick stories, and the pacing kept me completely hooked. I ended up reading the entire book over the course of my commute to and from Oakland.

 

Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook

I had high hopes for this one, but it turns out my boyfriend and I don’t really waste that much food. Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook covers the basics like meal planning, smart shopping, and freezing before something has time to go bad. It  also offers tools to help you figure out where your food waste is coming from and help you avoid it.

Overall I enjoyed the facts about food waste and the impact it has on food security, the environment, and spending. I wish it had talked more about creative ways to use things like kale stems and used coffee grounds. To be fair, we already compost what little we can’t use and we very rarely throw out food that went bad in our fridge. I’d recommend this book if you feel like you are struggling with food going bad or you want a few tips on how to make your kitchen more food-efficient. Otherwise it’s not really anything new.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

What I Read This Month: June Books

My June books are full of quick picks and epic slogs. Regardless, I’m fully back on my reading habit. My numbers this month are shamelessly filled with a couple of tiny books, but the ideas they presented and the topics they covered were heavy and brain-intensive.

June Books

What I Read This Month: June Books

Hope in the Dark

I requested Hope in the Dark from my local library the day after inauguration –as did just about every other human in the Bay Area. It wasn’t easy to get my hands on this puppy. Hope in the Dark didn’t quite uplift me as much as I had hoped, but it was still a much needed reminder to see the whole picture, pick up our protest signs, and keep fighting for what’s right.

It also gave me a bit of a history lesson into events that happened when I couldn’t read and was oblivious to the world around me.

 

The Gene

Ug. This book took me well over a month of near daily reading to slog through. If you’ve read more than one of these posts you know that’s highly unusual for me. The Gene is a monster of a book with nearly 600 pages.

The jacket promised a woven tale of science and personal stories, but instead it was mostly science with random tidbits about people that are mentioned once and forgotten. I couldn’t get into it.

It just didn’t live up to the hype for me. The worst part? After all of that time reading I only vaguely understand genes better. I also remember very little of the history of the discovery. Unless you are a major science reader or are particularly enraptured by genes, I wouldn’t recommend this one.

 

Hidden Figures

There was something special about reading Hidden Figures on the plane home from Iceland (and then on the train once I was back to work). I mistakenly expected the book to be a bit more cinematic (more scene building, more time spent with one or two characters from a more personal vantage point), but I still really enjoyed it. The history is incredible, and I loved reading about the men and women I had never heard about before.

Next up, the movie!

 

Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It

Prepare to have rage course through your veins so fiercely that your chest hurts and your palms sweat. Prepare to launch yourself aggressively into discussions about sexual assault and rape cases currently in the news. Prepare to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and determined to create change.

Asking for It left me feeling like my chest was on fire. I wanted to reform the legal system, fundraise to have every rape kit tested, and do whatever else it took to prevent sexual assault in the first place and have it properly handled when it did occur.

This book should be a must read for anyone who doesn’t think rape culture exists – and for everyone else who sees rape culture and its insidious effects every day. I want it to be required reading for all politicians, police officers, and emergency department personal. It should be sent to every man/woman/robot who forwards emails to women warning them about the dangers of wearing their hair in pony tails or walking through parking lots.

Please, just read it.

 

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

This book scared the shit out of me. It gave me cold sweats and made my heart pound against my chest. On Tyranny opened my eyes to what’s really at stake. Whether or not you believe the current president is intentionally marching us toward a tyrannical government, Yale University History Professor Timothy Snyder provides a clear view of the past and an eyes-wide-open state of our world today.

On Tyranny hit me so hard that I wrote down the core messages in my journal so I can refresh my will to resist and enliven myself to do something about the things that make me angry and restrict rights.

You could easily read this in one sitting, but I found it best to read it a couple of lessons at a time.

 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

For some reason I thought this book would be dumbed down and make it easy to understand the workings of the universe. I was wrong.

I struggle with understanding the micro-scale and the absolutely massive macro-scale of the universe. My boyfriend, who likes time/space, really enjoyed the book however. If chemistry and physics make you warm and fuzzy, this is the book for you.

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

After languishing for years on my to-read shelf, I finally picked up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The forward of the edition I found did a complete disservice to the book. It left me thinking the book was going to be boring and a lot like Pride and Prejudice (one of my least favorite books).

I can’t really explain why, but I got wrapped up in this book. I would read it during my two hour journey to Oakland and want to read it the entire trip back too. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of those classics that is actually worth reading.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

What I Read This Month: May Books

I have a million and one excuses for this month, but it really comes down to two things: I worked too much and I spent what little free time I did have playing Zelda.

At the end of April I started contracting with a magazine in Oakland. This has meant that I spend four hours commuting three days a week. In theory this would be a great time to read, but in reality multiple transfers and rude people who talk on their phone on the train often make it a frustrating experience. Top that off with too much work and I end up trying to squeeze in as much productivity as I can out of my disjointed trek across the bay.

When I did have time to presumably sit down and read, I often chose instead to sit down with my boyfriend’s Nintendo Switch and play Zelda instead. Why? Because my brain has been fried and I’ve really enjoyed playing it. I spent more time playing Zelda on our trip to Iceland than reading. This was aided by the fact that I was quite jet lagged and reading ended up with me falling asleep or not remembering the last 10 pages. No regrets there.

Cafe Skuld, Husavik, Iceland

[If you were going to read in Iceland, this little cafe in Húsavík would be the perfect spot. Or you could get on a boat and see whales like I did.]

May Books… Er… Book

All of this is to say, I read one book this month. And I’m slightly ashamed about it. I was close to finishing another book, but its technical science has slowed me down considerably. Look out for that one in June.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

Ah, another Fredrik Backman book. I just can’t get enough of these. His characters are lively and vibrant. So far every one of his books has fully sucked me in. My Grandmother was no different. I loved Elsa and her view of the world. Her grandmother would tell her fairy tales from a land she made up, and Elsa would in turn see the whole world through the lens of the fairy tale.

Add to that her grandmother’s antics like breaking into a zoo to cheer up her granddaughter and you have the making of a hilarious, touching book. Once I did pick this book up on our trip, I couldn’t stop. Not even Zelda could keep me from finding out what was going to happen next.

If you happen to be able to read this in Iceland or a Scandinavian country I highly recommend it. I read this mostly in Reykjavik and the story came to life for me. While it’s set in a small town in Sweden, the apartment buildings and bright colors of Reykjavik matched wonderfully.

What I Read This Month: April Books

I’m a little late on this one, but nonetheless I did actually read in April. Maybe not as much as I wanted or as consistently, but there are still April books worth mentioning. Spoiler alert, there’s actually fiction in here.

My April Books

What I Read This Month: April Books

The Borrower

As someone who practically grew up in the library or with a book in hand, The Borrower spoke straight to my heart. The story is about a young librarian and her star reader, Ian. The boy’s obsession with books and his mother’s oppressive censorship hit home for me. While my mom never limited what I could read, my elementary and middle school certainly made its opinion clear about the books ‘good Christians’ should read and those that are straight from the devil.

My heart went out to this little kid, but the author does a great job of showing all of his sides. His drama. His manipulation. His self-centeredness. His fear. His desire to escape.

I had to suspend my disbelief a bit more than I would like with this one, but overall I still enjoyed it.

 

Britt-Marie Was Here

I’m still talking about A Man Called Ove, so I was more than excited when another one of Fredrik Backman’s books arrived for me at the library. Britt-Marie didn’t disappoint either. I loved the humor of the story and the quirks of the characters. It’s an easy book to tear through, and I dare say a good one for a long flight if you happen to find yourself in that type of situation.

 

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

While Joan Didion’s piece, Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream, was part of the required reading for my college magazine journalism class, Slouching Towards Bethlehem was my first real dip into her writing. I was left mostly confused and feeling like I was standing just outside the main group at a party. I could pick up things here and there, but in general I was too far out of touch with the culture and time to know what was going on.

 

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016

The first Best American collection I read took me more than six years to finish. Not so this time. If you like stories about the impending catastrophic earthquake predicted to hit the Pacific Northwest or why sports bras are typically so shitty, this one is for you.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

March
February
January
Best Fiction and Nonfiction Books of 2016

You can see all of my book reviews here.

What I Read This Month: March Books

Where did this month go? March flew by, and all of the little books I read certainly helped speed it along. My March books are certainly an odd mix. I have been trying to read more of the books that I put on my Goodreads list from years ago (like One Day and Gulp). It’s kind of fun to go back in time and read the books that had caught my attention, although some of them fall a bit flat. Turns out we’ve both aged.

March Books

In honor of spring, I read books about deep winter, death by indigestion, and parenting. I’m really selling it aren’t I?

March Books 2017 Book Reviews

Difficult Women

I will read pretty much anything Roxane Gay writes. She has a strong voice that comes through whether she’s writing searing essays or stomach-turning fiction. The short stories in Difficult Women were arduous to read. The women in each story face horrors, try to put themselves back together, and seek out destruction. I was’t prepared for it.

It’s a must to pair this with something uplifting. And maybe don’t read the news while you’re working through it either. In internet speak, the whole thing is potentially triggering. Gay doesn’t make the stories go down easily, but her writing will drag you in anyways.

 

One Day

I finished One Day early in the month, and I’m still mad at David Nicholls. I was fully sucked into this book until he started dropping bombs three-quarters of the way through. By the end I didn’t like any of the characters and I was disenchanted with the whole story.

Is the movie less frustrating?

 

The Little Book of Hygge

The Danish concept of hygge (hue-guh or hoo-gah depending on who you believe on the internet) is right up my alley. I’ve been fully into hygge long before it took over the entire world, I just didn’t know there was a word for it.

For some reason I thought The Little Book of Hygge was a list of great ways to create some hygge. Instead it broke down the cultural importance of hygge and the typical activities that Danes consider hygge. I still enjoyed the book and I came away with a great deal of kinship for people in a country I could never survive in.

I hope this concept continues to catch on. I’m much happier sipping a cup of tea in a comfy, warm room than trying to hear people over the cacophony of a loud bar. Can we all just agree to spend more nights at home with a good book or a great friend?

 

Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Pink and I have never really gotten along (not the singer – we still don’t run in the same circles). Even though I refused to wear pink as soon as I could semi-verbalize my distaste for it, I still fell hard for the princess complex and their damn plastic high heels.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter explores the heavily gendered toys that are marketed to children and how they impact their play, friendships, and word view. This book was just as eye-opening and scary as Peggy Orenstein’s more recent Girls and Sex.

I have got to stop reading books about how hard it is to raise intelligent, well-rounded, well-adjusted, socially-conscious children. It makes me feel terrified at the prospect of being tasked with it myself – like keeping them alive and relatively happy isn’t hard enough.

 

The Science Writers’ Handbook

I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to be a journalist or a nonfiction writer. It thoroughly explains everything you may need to know and it answered a lot of my (endless) questions about making freelance work. From what to look for in a contract to the importance of a good home office setup, The Science Writer’s Handbook felt like having a friend and a mentor patiently explain the mysteries behind ‘working for yourself’ full time.

 

Gulp

When I first heard Mary Roach talk about Gulp with John Stewart (way back when he was on The Daily Show), it didn’t grab me. It sounded gross and not very interesting.

Well, multiple Roach books later and it seemed like the right time to bite. It wasn’t my favorite of hers, but it still captured my attention and gave me a few laughs.

 

Eat Pretty

Books like Eat Pretty always remind me to eat better and to pay attention to how I’m treating my body. However, this book was a bit flat for me. It was gorgeous to look at, but I didn’t get anything new or life-changing out of it. None of the recipes in the book grabbed my attention, and most of it was things I had already heard. I would recommend Skin Cleanse over Eat Pretty, but it is a great reminder to eat more healthy fruits and vegetables.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

February
January
Best Fiction and Nonfiction Books of 2016

You can see all of my book reviews here.

What I Read This Month: February Books

My February books kept me afloat this month. They gave me a break from my own chaotic, self-doubting mind. The books I read this month were either full of much needed advice and encouragement or they were the perfect escape from my overwhelm.

February was my busiest month ever as a freelancer. I worked more hours than I have at any job in years. I’m not saying this to complain, despite the fact that most of this month was downright miserable, or do a weird ‘I’m so busy’ brag. But rather, I’m trying to explain just how much these books meant to me.

The fact that I read at all this month is something worth celebrating. There were days where my brain had turned to mush and my eyes were deep in the throws of revolt. But without fail I started nearly every morning with at least 15 minutes of reading. Those 15-30 minutes were often the best part of my day.

Despite the tears after going to bed and the ice-cream-after-lunch days and the downright shocking amount of work I powered through, I somehow managed to read five books this month. In doing so I also realized that my dream job might actually be getting paid to read engaging books all day. If you’ve figured out a way to make that a reality, please let me know.

In the meantime, prepare yourself for some long, rambling thoughts on this month’s books.

February Books

What I Read This Month: February Books

Relativity

This fiction was straight nourishment for the heart. I loved the way that 12-year-old Ethan saw the world (both literally and figuratively). The switching perspectives/ narrators kept me hooked and made it even easier to root for them all, even when I felt conflicted about it. Be prepared to have a greater appreciation for physics and a deep desire to watch Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey with Neil deGrasse Tyson after reading this one.

 

Voices in the Ocean

For as long as I can remember I have always loved to be in and around water. I used to dream about being an oceanographer (didn’t realize it was mostly about staring at maps on computers) or a marine biologist until the realities of the math/chemistry required and the amount of time I would spend living in a lab set in.

This book was for the 10-year-old marine biologist inside of me. Voices dives into the complex world of dolphins and our fascination with them. It both filled me with a sense of appreciation and awe for our oceans and the incredible animals that live in them, and it also made me feel depressed and helpless about the current state of our oceans and the horrific things we do to their inhabitants.

I loved Susan Casey’s The Wave (and have made just about everyone I know read it). This book didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I still enjoyed it. Lovers of The Cove and Blackfish will likely enjoy it.

 

Tools of Titans

Another massive tome from Tim Ferriss, Tools of Titans lays out the best lessons, advice, and habits from the world-renowned guests on The Tim Ferriss Show. I read this one in little chunks throughout the month, and I feel like it’s one that might be worthwhile in going back to. It’s packed with great information (and things that will never apply to my life).

While I recommend picking it up, I will say that if you are a regular listener to the podcast it can feel repetitive (you’ve already heard the interviews, and much of it is direct quotes from guests). It’s also, purposely, all over the place. Advice directly conflicts, people disagree on how to get to the same place, and a lot of it may not be helpful at all.

I think I should also say that I’ve generally been cooling on Ferriss lately. I’m not interested in taking adaptogens or biohacking my body, and he seems to be going further and further into quick fixes and magic pills. A lot of the things that excited him the most in this book just didn’t click with my lifestyle or interests.

 

A Man Called Ove

Oh man, I loved A Man Called Ove. It caught my eye on the shelf at the library, and despite no time and lots of other books in my arms, I just couldn’t help myself.

I’m so glad I picked it up. This was my favorite book of the year so far.

This grump felt like an alternate-reality version of me. I cracked up constantly, and the dark humor was top-notch for me. The curmudgeon inside of me felt perfectly at home inside the pages. This book was the highlight of the month. It’s obvious why A Man Called Ove a best seller in so many countries.

 

Scratch

I have yet to learn that books about writing, especially how to make a living at it, are never uplifting. I have not once finished a book about writing and thought, ‘yes, of course I can do this and it will obviously be easy!’

Scratch was real. Cheryl Strayed exposed the debt that was quickly sinking her and her husband before Wild came out. Sarah Smarsh showed that not being able to afford a haircut means that a best-selling novel is right around the corner (or something not even close to that but that’s the version I need right now). Austin Kleon turned ‘selling out’ on its head and made me regret being terrible at visual arts.

The writers in this book talked straight to the voices in my head that have the same doubts, fears, and ambitions. They constantly made me face the reality of what I’m trying to do (not great timing on that one), and also showed me that they all started here too: broke, tentative, unsure, and desperate for someone, anyone, to help them figure out how to make this work.

While the book is great for anyone who wants to know what their favorite writer’s life is really like and what writing looks like behind the scenes, it’s written for aspiring fiction writers. I still found it helpful for non-fiction, especially the general commiseration about the lack of pay across writing and the terror of setting out on your own.

What I read this month: January Books

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

January Books

No Baggage

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.

 

Future Sex

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.

 

Carry On

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.

 

Homegoing

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.