Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

January Book Reviews: What I Read This Month

The fact that this post is going live a little more than week before the next edition is due is telling. Life can be frustratingly disruptive on the reading and writing front. But no matter, still we continue.

Escape the news, laugh at yourself (and the people toiling away in the gym while you eat a donut), dig into culture, and find a little happiness with these January Book Reviews.

January Book Reviews

January Book Reviews: What I Read This Month – Treading Lightly

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

I did get a few laughs out of Drop Dead Healthy, but I was kind of surprised at the weird knowledge he chose to follow and the lack of sturdy science. That said, it was mostly entertaining just to listen to his thoughts and follow along with his always-a-little-out-there experiments.

 

Big Mushy Happy Lump (Sarah’s Scribbles #2)

There are times when I read a book and I think “Yes, this author and I so get each other!” Big Mushy Happy Lump was just as great as Adulthood Is a Myth. When you can’t take the news anymore or you just want 30 minutes where it’s perfectly alright to laugh by yourself in a corner, I can’t recommend Sarah Andersen enough.

 

The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People

Everyone is obsessed with Scandinavia. Even I can’t help myself. Both with The Little Book of Hygge and the latest, The Little Book of Lykke, I found myself thinking how at home I would feel  nestled amongst the candles, hot drinks, warm cinnamon buns, and bicycles.

This book was less handbook and more of an intentional eye-opener. I loved the stats and examples, and it made me start thinking of ways that I could live a little more like a Dane (preferably somewhere without snow and ample winter sunlight). Be forewarned, it will also make you want to hop on a plane and see what all of the fuss is about.

 

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of those writers that I compulsively read, but he makes me work for it. His books are never well-suited for tearing through, but instead make you reread entire pages and stare off into the distance while you rethink what you thought you knew about the world or imagine a world that owned up to its mistakes and rectified them quickly instead of desperately clutching onto lies and undeserved power.

While it’s true that you can read most of the essays in We Were Eight Years in Power on The Atlantic’s website, I much preferred being able to take my time with them, set the book down when I needed to, and come back a few days later when I was ready again. I may be an outlier, but I also really enjoyed his introduction to each essay where he explained what was going on in his personal life, what he would have done differently, the work that went into the piece, and the parts of it that he still feels strongly about or has changed his mind on.

 

The Mother of All Questions

From the author of Men Explain Things to MeThe Mother of All Questions takes on rape jokes, violence against women, damaging masculinity and femininity, and the power of women who cannot be silenced.

17 Things I’ve Been Doing to Resist

It’s been a full year. A full 356 days of standing up for what I believe in, fighting for what’s right, and bracing myself for the next New York Times notification.

Many of the things below are not necessarily new to my life – some have been around for at least a decade – but they have taken on new meaning to me. Here’s a fairly exhaustive list of what I’ve been doing to resist (in no particular order).

Resist Reading List: Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

1. Reading

Books are powerful. Written language carries weight and meaning beyond the letters on the page. There’s a reason the current administration doesn’t want anyone reading newspapers or getting their right to free education.

Newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books illuminate other perspectives and immerse you in someone else’s experience for a brief moment. They add context and gravity to the things happening around us and help us better understand the real stakes. While I think any reading can be an act of resistance (and self-care!), here are a few of the books I read in the past year that fired me up or gave me much needed understanding:

The first two are must-reads.

2. Supporting Real News

It’s vital to support valuable sources of truth with money. I have a NYTimes subscription, but just remembering to turn off my ad blocker and spending more time with their content can make a difference for newspapers and journalists.

Resist: Bike to Farmers' Market

3. Riding My Bike

Every time I pick up my helmet instead of my car keys, I’m giving this repulsive administration a massive middle finger. Oil money has bought them off, and I refuse to put any back in their pockets. Instead I make every effort to ride my bike and pay for public transit. Each time I buy a ticket for the local train I am voting with my dollars and insisting that we need more funding and investment in our shared resources and sustainable transit. Riding my bike improves my community’s air quality, reduces traffic and road congestion, (hopefully) inspires other people to bike, and makes it safer for everyone. It also makes me really happy.

Who knew riding could feel so damn satisfying.

4. Calling My Representatives

I am lucky to live in a state/region that has politicians who are fighting for equality and justice. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need to hear from the people who support them. Actually calling makes me nauseous (and I totally cried once while talking to a staffer about health care and how much the Affordable Care Act has helped me), but I always feel better when I do.

Resist: Shop at Farmers' Markets

5. Eating My Values

I’ve been vegetarian for more than a decade. This year we’ve made an even bigger push to eat local foods by skipping the grocery store and getting our produce at our farmers’ market instead. Our veggies are from fields around the area and our money goes straight to the farmers instead of filtering through Amazon’s pockets. I refuse to give Monsanto or other massive agro-companies my money. We buy organic to protect our local environment, the workers, and ourselves. We’ve also been paying attention to foods with big carbon or water footprints and trying to eat them less.

Resist: Ditch the Trash

6. Working Toward Zero Waste

In general packaged foods don’t fit my values or come from companies I feel good supporting. Even more so, I can’t stand the idea of sending chip bags and granola bar wrappers to a landfill where they will either end up in the ocean or be buried in other plastic junk longer than I will be alive.

Reducing our trash has pushed us to support local business and farmers, discover new resources around us, reuse what we already have in different ways, and slowly cut down on our environmental impact. (You can see more about the changes we’ve made here.)

7. Refusing to Support Companies Who Support Hatred, Racism, and Sexism

A simple Chrome extension let’s me know when companies support the current administration. Before I purchase anything I do a quick search to make sure that the company ethically produces their goods, has sustainability practices, and aren’t in favor of the current regime. (Here’s a good list to get you started, compilations of dirty donors, or dive into the ultimate list of people and companies to boycott.

8. Keeping an Ethical Wardrobe

Creating an ethical wardrobe is about more than just buying from ethical retailers. Instead I have been taking good care of the clothes I already own. I have refused to buy from companies who don’t use sustainable materials and practices, don’t treat their workers fairly, and don’t pay fair prices for their raw materials. For much of the year, I just didn’t shop at all. When I did need something, I checked for used options first.

9. Reducing Online Shopping

Online shopping is a hard habit to break. I still research every purchase online before I buy it, but I’ve been trying to make purchases in a store rather than online. Sure, online shopping may be cheaper on the surface, but going to stores (especially when I ride my bike) saves carbon and helps starve oil companies. It takes untold amounts of oil to get all of our Amazon packages to us. Most things I can easily buy within 10 miles of my home. This also helps me cut down on packaging/waste.

 10. Supporting Independent, Ethical, Environmental Business

You don’t just have to shop to do this. I’ve been including more business that I believe in in the things I write (especially for other publications), following them on social media, and telling my friends about them when they’re looking for something in particular.

11. Staying Off Twitter

I refuse to fuel or partake in the distracting name calling and hatred that goes on in the space. It goes without saying, but not following the president and never retweeting him goes a long way. He takes power from people listening to him. Even retweets that are meant to show his idiocies or dispel lies turn into proof that people care what he says and that he’s being heard. Let him yell his lies to an empty void. (Related: Why I deleted my Facebook.)

12. Ignoring Clickbait

I refuse to teach publications that it’s okay to use the frequently unfolding horrors to drive clicks and revenue. I will not let publications get away with stories meant to inflame or needlessly entertain. This includes political ‘you won’t believe!’ stories, almost all celebrity stories, and anything that looks like it came out of a tabloid. I can’t stand the current president’s obsession with this “tv ratings.” I’m not watching. (That doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention or informed.)

13. Listening to New Voices

I’ve spent an outrageous amount of time listening to podcasts in the last 12 months. Top of mind are Seeing White from Scene on the Radio, Pod Save America (and its offshoots), and Call Your Girlfriend. They keep me up to date about what’s going, tell me how I can help, and help me understand the world a bit better. I’m also a big fan of the Small Victories newsletter that highlights the progress and good things that are happening.

14. Talking

There have been some falling outs in the last year over social and political beliefs within my extended family. But that hasn’t stopped me from seeing how important it is to talk to the people in my life candidly about what’s happening, how it’s affecting everyone, and what we can do to help one another.

15. Supporting Public Services

The library is one of my favorite places. It is one of the public services that I use the most, and I am so thankful for it. We have a great library system in our county. Not only does it mean I can read 79 books without having to spend a dime, but it offers so many programs to the entire community. When I go stir-crazy at home it’s the first place I pack myself off to for some quiet work or a much needed browse.
There are so many other things that fall into this category, but the others that I use or try to visibly support is bike access/parking in my community, public transit, and farmers’ markets and other open events.

16. Refusing Greed and ‘Me First’ Attitude

This obnoxious, toxic behavior is what got us here. We’re all trying to grab what’s ‘owed’ to use before the next person can, and it’s destroying our societies and our happiness.

I’m actively working on not getting mad at people who cut in front of me when driving, being mindful to hold open doors, wave other people through at stop signs, and generally reassess whenever I feel like I have to have something before someone else gets it. This also includes not chasing after the latest and greatest things and instead being thankful for the things we do have.

17. Recognizing Humanity

American society is weird. We pride ourselves on giving each other personal space and being self-reliant individuals. And yet we close ourselves off from others and ignore the humanity in the people around us. I’m all for gliding through the background unnoticed, but there are times when I think it does more harm than good.

This one is as easy as saying ‘hello,’ ‘thank you,’ or even ‘good morning.’ Start with people who hold doors open for you and move on to every service worker who helps you, homeless people, or strangers on your commute. Talk to the person in your office that you’ve never actually met. Get to know the people who take care of your yard or your local park. If an introvert like me can do it, anyone can.

Noticeably Absent:

This year I didn’t make it to any protests. I let my still healing ankle and fear get in the way. 2018 seems like a good year to change that.

 

November and December Books: What I Read

Phew, what a year.

This list concludes the rambling reviews/thoughts/complaints/useless nonsense I have written for all 79 of the books I read in 2017. (Yes, I too wish it was 80. Although that seems greedy given that I had originally set out to read 52.) More than any year in the past, these posts have reflected my worries, my hopes, my weird obsessions. These books have offered me comfort, answers, and a nice dose of ‘well at least it’s not that bad… right?’ I hope you were able to sneak in a little bit of that too.

2017 Reading Stats

For the curious:

Books read:79
Fiction: 32
Nonfiction: 44
Poetry: 3
Average length: 297 pages
Total pages: 23,432
Shortest book: 78 pages
Longest book: 707 pages

November and December Books

I got a bit behind on my monthly book posts, so you’ll have to excuse this massive post with both November’s and December’s list.

November and December Books: What I Read This Month

Say What You Will

This book was not what I expected, and two months later I’m even less sure what I think about it. I enjoyed that the focus of the story and the narrater is a teen with cerebral palsy who can’t talk or walk without assistance. For the most part it was a believable story that does a good job of keeping you engaged. Unfortunately there were times where it was just a bit too over the top for my taste.

 

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Add this to the list of things I fear and hope I never need to draw on. Jon Ronson digs into the frightening world of public (typically online) shaming and what it really looks like in the aftermath.

The main things I learned from So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: women have their bodies and lives threatened, while men are made fun of and have their masculinity challenged. Women are more likely to be permanently marked by a public shaming, while men can move in on mere months and go back to having the life they had before. Being called out on the Internet can ruin your life, especially if you are a woman who relies on public acceptance for work.

Perhaps not a great vacation read, but I think it’s an important issue that we all need to be more aware of before we jump on the shame wagon and attempt to obliterate people off the internet.

 

Sourdough

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore turned out to be a tough act to follow. Robin Sloan’s new book, Sourdough, is also set in the Bay Area and features distinctly dystopian views of the world. The story follows a software engineer as she leaves behind a start-up job that makes her miserable in favor of learning how to make sourdough bread.

I enjoyed Lois and her oddities, and I can’t say I don’t agree with some of Sloan’s views on where our tech-fueled culture is headed. But I can’t lie. I was dissapointed that Lois had to choose between her career that she excelled at and a new passion. The whole book had me on edge. Maybe no one wants to read a book where women can carve out professional success while still having a fully functional personal life, but I felt like the plot followed old tropes.

 

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement

I dragged my feet on We Were Feminists Once. I take issue with some of the underlying premises of this book, but I too sat in a class only a handful of years ago where I was one of two women, out of 20, who raised their hand when asked if they considered themselves a feminist.

Andi Zeisler chronicles the commodification of feminism and the glaring misunderstanding of what it means. (Apparently she was spot on about that one. Why did so many people have to look up ‘feminism’ this year?)

It didn’t revolutionize my world, but I do think it’s an important read to understand the last decade and where we need to go from here.

 

The Sun and Her Flowers

Rupi Kaur is the poet I wanted to be when I was 13. I say screw the establishment’s uproar and turned up noses. I’m all for more accessible, heartfelt poetry that so many women can see their own lives in.

 

The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown

Tears were shed. Socially inappropriate laughs burst out. This collection of true short stories that were adapted from live tellings gave me a much needed hit of unforgettable performances.

 

The Chemist

I enjoyed The Chemist more than I’d like to admit. Since leaving her job at a secret government group, the main character is on the run stay one step ahead of everyone, including her previous boss wants her dead thanks to the secrets she helped them uncover.

I liked the premise of the book. The main character’s paranoia felt right at home, and her problem-solving skills were believable (and often humorous). The chemistry portions of the book made it feel fresh and less like a shoot ’em up spy movie.

My gripe? Stephenie Meyer yet again made a book that could be about a woman fighting for the control of her life into a story about how said woman gives up everything to follow a man. You can see the love story coming from the first brush, and it annoyed me.

 

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

Something about The Song Machine just didn’t work for me. Its sweeping coverage of song making since the ’60s left me feeling unmoored and bored. There’s no connection with the people he writes about, and it often felt like he spent too much time on certain people and decades. I wish that it had been more about individual songs or albums. It was just too hard to grasp if you aren’t obsessively following producers and the charts for the past 20 years.

It was interesting to read about how song writing and making has completely transformed into a corporate group effort. The assembly line has been brought in, and it robs the most popular hits of their individualism and soul.

If you do love the top 20, you will hate this book. It will show you that every song you listen to is heartless and made like a shitty inexpensive sports car. All flash and no lasting power.

 

Lust & Wonder

Pure love. I first read Augusten Burroughs in high school, and this autobiography had me flashing back to sitting against a locker while desperately trying to devour as much of Running with Scissors as possible before I had to go to class.

Along with David Sedaris, Burroughs perfectly hums along with my humor. His life choices drive me absolutely insane, but I don’t want him to stop telling me about them.

 

Artemis

Artemis is one of the books I looked forward to most this year. I still recommend The Martian to people, and I was hoping this one would be just as good. I was so desperate to read Andy Weir’s latest that I actually bought it (it was one of the maybe four books I bought all year).

The plot is outlandish as Jazz Bashara, Artemis’ unofficial smuggling expert, takes on her biggest project yet. But overall it’s easy to be fully onboard with the world Weir creates and his community on the moon. The book was great fun.

 

Girl Up

Written for teens, this book is a handbook for carving out your life in a sexist world. Laura Bates acts as a friendly guide and a wise older sister as she breaks down some of the most frustrating and unfair things girls come up against. Her advice is spot on, and I enjoyed the humor she was able to bring to what are often stuffy, overly serious, scarring conversations.

 

Adulthood Is a Myth

I think Sarah Andersen and I should be friends in real life. But the kind of friends where you mostly text and only see each other in quiet, uncrowded places. My introverted soul nodded along to every page of this fun illustrated book.

 

Ramona Blue

Set a little more than a decade after Hurricane Katrina, this YA novel brings together race, poverty, and sexuality without it feeling forced or preachy. From her off-kilter friends to her fierce protection of her sister to her constant push and pull with her hometown, it’s hard not to dive right in alongside Ramona as she struggles to choose her future and let her family stand on their own. Julie Murphy managed to make Ramona Blue entertaining and relatable even when tackling the realities of being stuck in the wake of a disaster.

 

Want more? Here’s everything I read in 2017

October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

My Top Books of 2016 and 2015

You can see all of my book reviews here.

More Like This

10 Best Books to Read on Vacation

How to Make Time to Read

 

October Books: What I Read This Month

Hellooo, fiction. I’ve finally done it! In October I read a whole five fiction books. That might just be my most yet.

But fear not! I didn’t go too crazy. There are 4 non-fiction offerings and a book of poetry thrown in too.

October Books

October Books Reviews

Double Bind: Women on Ambition

It was fascinating to hear women talk about their ambition and drive or try to skirt around the issue altogether. These essays were eye-opening and hopefully helped me better come to terms with my ambition. I haven’t ever really been one to shy away from going after what I want and being upfront about it, and this book made me thankful for my upbringing and the work I have been able to do so far.

 

Ask the Passengers

Yet another blast from the past, Ask the Passengers was on my list for years and I finally got around to devouring it. A.S. King does a great job of pulling you into the story and keeping you hooked. Astrid’s life feels relatable, and her small town filled with strife maybe a little too real. The book is a little odd or over the top here and there –which is a bit of her style – but overall it was a fun read.

 

The Refugees

What took me so long?!? Viet Thanh Nguyen’s latest book is a collection of short stories about people who have left their country of birth behind in search of a new place to call home. The stories go from harrowing to humorous, but each one left me wanting more. I fell hard for Nguyen’s writing thanks to this quick read. More please!

 

The Bees

Full disclosure: I chose this book because of its cover. It’s gorgeous!

The inside cover compares The Bees to The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale, and I’d say that’s pretty spot on. It was such a weird, unexpectedly thrilling book. The main character is a bee that’s born into the lowest class of her hive. The class warfare and struggles felt surprisingly real and tenable. I wasn’t sure I would get past the first chapter, and instead I almost missed my train stop because I was way too engrossed in Flora 717’s escapades.

 

Turtles All the Way Down

Oh, John, why am I such a sucker for your books? I just cannot resist diving deep into the fantasies John Green creates. Turtles All the Way Down is not nearly as good as some of his past (in my opinion), but it was also a relief not to sob until my eyes looked like watermelons.

Turtles was still engrossing and it stuck with me after I’d read it (as have some of the main character’s biggest paranoias… so thanks for that.) It’s worth the few hours it took to read. (PS. I’m not so secretly proud of how fast I got this one from the library. Love that place.)

 

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011

I love Mary Roach, which is why I read this anthology full of science and nature articles from six years ago. Overall, it left me depressed that some of the biggest concerns of 2011 are still running rampant today or completely swept under the rug where they’re rapidly rotting the floor out from underneath our feet. Unless you’re a huge science writing nerd, I’d wait for the 2017 version to come out soon.

 

Grace and the Fever

I first stumbled across Grace and the Fever on a bookstore date (which I highly recommend if you haven’t gone on one yet). It seemed interesting, the cover was catchy, and the library had it, so I read it.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. At times I was extremely frustrated. It frequently stretched my suspended disbelief too far. I couldn’t come to terms with the weird romance between a fangirl and a pop star. To be fair, this is also just not my area of expertise and interest. I would not be able to name the Jonas Brothers (are they still a thing?) or any other boy bands of the current times. I think I really was too old (and out of touch) to be interested in this one. I would recommend Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (about books and fan fiction) instead.

 

The Princess Saves Herself in this One

Hooray for accessible poetry and young, female voices. That said, I had some trouble really jiving with The Princes Saves Herself in this One after reading Milk and Honey recently (which I loved!). The themes were similar and I found it impossible to not constantly compare them.

 

Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Yes! I knew when I put this book on my list years ago that it fit the way I felt about fast fashion exactly. Cheap clothes = poor wages, low quality products, and environmental ruin.

And I still loved reading Over-Dressed. Elizabeth Cline renewed my interested in finding true quality (mostly from vintage clothing made before fast fashion and shoddy clothes-making techniques hit the scene) used clothing, ethically produced items, and manufacturers that fit my strict standards. It’s one of those books that is an absolute must read if you care about social justice, fair/living wages for all people, environmental protection, and living your values.

Expect to see (many more) posts about this in the future. It’s something I’m really excited to go into more detail about and something I think we don’t talk about enough.

 

Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times

Some of these letters hit me hard, and others really fell flat. It was odd to read people’s thoughts and feelings from the wake of the election nearly a year later. My vantage point from the future did not give me any comfort. It’s worth picking up from the library to see if there is something in here for you, but overall, not electrifying.

 

Want more recommendations?

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

September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

September Books: What I Read This Month (+2 More)

Every month I swear I’m going to write more posts between these book ramblings, and yet each time I sit down to write one I’m reminded that I have yet again only one post sandwiched between them. Unsurprising to anyone, it turns out that writing thousands of words a month for other places (most recently here and here) leaves me with little time or words for myself.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on reading less, and yes, I am coming up with a plan to set aside a few more words for you. Stay tuned.

September Books

Can someone please explain to me how it is already October? I can’t keep up. Somehow I managed to hit my original reading goal for the year – 52 books – at the beginning of this month. So in true perfectionist/chronic over-achiever form, I have of course made it even higher.

My September books are an odd mix of books I took on vacation (definitely not your traditional beach reads) and young adult fiction. As a bonus there are two books I completely forgot to include in my August list.

September Books

Always Happy Hour

I’m actively trying to like short stories. This set left me frustrated with every single character and their complete disregard for their lives. Each and every woman was portrayed as being stuck with no motivation or care to change anything including shitty relationships, joblessness, and no momentum whatsoever. They made Nick Miller look overzealous and ambitious. It was depressing and infuriating.

 

Mosquitoland

Sometimes you need an over-the-top young adult fiction to get lost in. Mosquitoland hit the mark. It was captivating despite some obvious plot points. For the most part it’s easy to get behind Mim and follow her ride from Mississippi to her former home in Northern Ohio. Stepmothers, vomiting, painful divorce, kind strangers, danger – this book had it all. I definitely stayed up too late one night to finish it, if that’s any indication.

 

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir grabs you by the elbow and takes you through her childhood in Tehran. She explains the revolutions, the political riots, the secret Western hideouts, what was in fashion, and most importantly, what it was like to come of age in a country torn apart by war and oppressive regimes.

Persepolis had been on my list for years, but I picked up this month because I have very little understanding of what it’s like for there to be war outside of your doorstep. To have your family imprisoned for fighting for their rights. To have your entire culture and life structure changed right as you start to grasp it. To have to leave your home behind.

I for one need more books like Satrapi’s right now.

 

The Boston Girl

I am unbelievably late to this party. The Boston Girl made its way onto my list in the height of its popularity three years ago… and then languished there. I’m so glad I finally decided to read it. The library just happened to have The Boston Girl available on e-reader when I was on vacation, and it turned out to be a great ‘beach’ read.

After burning myself out on historical fiction in my early teens, I tend to avoid the genre altogether. But this doesn’t feel anything like that. It read like a memoir in the best kind of way. I loved following Addie as she grew up in the early 1990s in Boston. Her desires and dreams felt so relevant, especially since much of the book takes place in Addie’s early teens and twenties. She tells her life story, not unlike How I Met Your Mother, and keeps you engaged until the very end.

 

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

Yes, I did read this on vacation. In many ways it was oddly comforting and relaxing. Here was a president who had his shit together and a staff member who in a lot of ways is just like me.

Alyssa Mastromonaco’s look back at her time working for President Obama was much more humorous and insightful than I expected. The book is broken up into the life lessons and qualities that supported her along the way. Although more than anything I was buoyed by the knowledge that Alyssa was a woman who fought her way through and surpassed even her own expectations.

The book feels honest – if a little too self-deprecating. She’s upfront about what didn’t go so well (IBS disturbances and stealing from Buckingham Palace included) and willing to laugh at her own expense. If you like Veep, you’ll enjoy it.

 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Mandy from SEVEN years ago put this on her to-read list. In a diligent effort to clear it out, I’ve been slowly making my way through the older items. I think I would have liked it better when I was in high school, but it wasn’t bad as a quick read to get lost in.

Overall Please Ignore Vera Dietz was just odd enough to be interesting, although there were some comments/lines that were borderline racist. A.S. King does a remarkable job at building urgency and ushering you along through the pages.

 

No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need

Naomi Klein’s latest is so vital and so important (so much so that it’s going to be in a much longer post soon). In the meantime, you should 100 percent read this. It will leave you feeling like you understand what’s going on around the world and give you the tools to stand up and fight back. No is Not Enough is at times depressing (there isn’t much uplifting about the current White House staff and their pasts), but it gave me the power of knowing what to expect and what can be done to stop it. You seriously need to read it.

 

Bonus Books

Somehow I forgot to include two books from last month, so they are getting thrown in here instead.

The One-in-a-Million Boy

Loved it. A young boy scout’s death incidentally kicks off a grand adventure for the 104-year-old woman he was volunteering for and his father who is struggling to make sense of his son and who he himself really is. The One-in-a-Million Boy is heartbreaking, humorous, and just the right amount of hopeful.

 

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works

I really connected with Dan Harris in Minimalism, but this book did not do it for me. I was dissapointed it. He doesn’t come off well (nor should he), and it didn’t inspire me to start meditating (the whole reason to read it). Not for me.

 

Want more recommendations?

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

August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

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.

Want more recommendations?

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

July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

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.