I’m excited to share another couple of months worth of reads with you today!
In April and May, I listened to:
- Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man by Mark Kurlansky. I’ve had a couple of Mark Kurlansky books on my to-read list for a while and checked out Birdseye while I’m waiting in the library queue for another title. I never would have checked out a biography of Clarence Birdseye otherwise. Random, I know, but it was really interesting. Some of the technical aspects of food freezing aren’t thrilling (unless that’s your thing), but as a whole, it’s a great topic for a book.
- Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher. I’m a huge fan of Carrie Fisher’s books and have really enjoyed all of her memoirs. Wishful Drinking remains my favorite. She covers the most territory in it, and it’s by far the funniest. The Princess Diarist and Shockaholic are definitely worth reading, too.
- Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly. I love Scott Kelly’s narrative on his year is space because he doesn’t romanticize it and does such a good job covering all the little aspects of life in space. You get a completely picture of what life is really like, not just what you see on the highlight reels on the news. In classic memoir form, he skips around a bit on the timeline, which is a little confusing.
- You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. Very generic and utterly forgettable. Sincero breaks down her points into a lot of little chapters, I think to make it less overwhelming. But I was left feeling like there wasn’t much substance. It wasn’t as bad as something like Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes. However, there are much better books for people looking to turn their life around, like 10% Happier by Dan Harris.
- Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist. Present Over Perfect isn’t a self-help book. It’s a memoir. Niequist doesn’t appear to know how to write anything besides a memoir, as Bread & Wine was essentially a memoir, too. I think it is possible to blend memoir and self-help effectively (again, see 10% Happier). Niequest doesn’t achieve that effect. Her writing style also drives me crazy, and it gets distracting. She uses multiple adjectives all the time and often adds a metaphor as well. Bread & Wine worked a little better for me because Niequist did manage to stick to the food theme and drive home a few key points that I thought were worthwhile.
- Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? by Billy Crystal. Still Foolin’ ‘Em is one of those fantastic celebrity memoirs that has everything you want. It’s funny, it’s genuine, it has just the right balance of personal stories and celebrity gossip. His dry sarcastic wit is priceless. The live segments of the book reminded me of David Sedaris, and I mean that in the best way possible. Crystal talks about the projects that you want him to talk about, like The Princess Bride. Listening to it, I kept alternating between hearing Miracle Max (The Princess Bride) and Mike Wazowski (Monsters Inc.).
- Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. I’m a big fan of the show Orange is the New Black (the first few seasons anyway) and have always been curious about the book. There are a lot of elements of Kerman’s story that are better in her book than in the show (typical). She does a great job describing many of her fellow inmates, creating a base for a lot of the strongest early characters in the show. You also get a better sense of what day to day life in prison is really like from sleeping arrangements to showering to eating to visitation hours. I like Kerman herself more, having read her book, even though she still drives me a little crazy.
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson. The self-help theme among my audio book choices was not intentional. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck was more philosophy-based than a lot of books of this nature, which was a refreshing change of pace. He really does present a different approach to this topic. Manson offers a more in-depth, personal approach than Sincero does in You Are a Badass. He isn’t as skilled at taking a wide ranging approach to his topic matter as someone like Malcolm Gladwell or Atul Gawande. However, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck was still a solid read.
In April and May, I read:
- Naked by David Sedaris. Since I read Sedaris’s diaries, I’ve enjoyed his other books even more, and Naked was no exception. With such extensive back story about his family in his diaries, I have more appreciation for his stories. Sedaris’s writing is so consistent across his collections.
- Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them by Ross W. Greene. My background is in education and while I don’t read a lot of education books these days, it remains one of my passions. Lost at School should be required reading for all education students and teachers. Greene’s strategy for helping kids with behavioral challenges is also applicable to parents and anyone else who works with kids – social workers, pediatrians, therapists, etc. The strategy is straightforward and doesn’t require a lot of time or resources, making it easy to implement in virtually any setting.
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Little Fires Everywhere is truly mediocre. I don’t read a lot of popular fiction because nine times out 10, I’m disappointed. The more I think about this book, the more I don’t like it. The characters have weird, distracting names and are poorly developed and stereotypical. A lot of the plot is painfully predictable. I don’t read books thinking “hmmm, I think I know where this is going,” but Little Fires is definitely one of those books. Ng introduces a number of minor characters who serve no purpose whatsoever. She sets up a fair amount of plot and characters, and most of it goes nowhere. Of course, a lot of the elements of the whole adoption and custody battle side of the story were way off track. She did nail a few elements, but they are few and far between. Among other aspects, I don’t think the way that Ng portrays the birth mom or adoptive parents is fair at all. It’s the type of book that gives people misconceptions about adoption, which angers me.
In April and May, I re-read:
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. Yep, just Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because it’s so long. Obviously, I’ve read a number of other books as I slowly worked my way through it. I enjoyed re-reading it more than I enjoyed reading it the first time. This time around, I had more appreciation for why the book is the way it is and how it fits into the series. It’s still not my favorite in the series, but that’s okay.
Right now I’m taking a little break from re-reading the Harry Potter series, so I can read Jordan Peterson’s book (at least part of it anyway) before we see him on tour this month. It’s been fun plowing straight through Harry Potter, but it’s good taking a little break before starting book #6.
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What have you been reading and loving lately?
I’m always looking for new suggestions!
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