Hey friends. Long time no chat. Happy May! I’m back… for today, at least. 🙂
While I haven’t done much any blogging lately, I have been doing some reading, so… let’s talk about that…
I read six books in February and March, and six books in April (hey spring break)! As usual, I got most of my recommendations from Laura Tremaine and Annie B. Jones (and, apparently, Reese Witherspoon); and it’s pretty diverse in terms of content — some self-help/motivation, some nonfiction narrative, some thrillers, some literary fiction, and some “light” fiction. Just the way I like it!
Atomic Habits by James Clear
This book has gotten a lot of attention lately, and it’s for good reason. I’ve read quite a few books on habits actually, but this one definitely did introduce some new concepts, and I had a few “aha” moments while reading. In particular, I appreciated the way Clear connects our habits to our identity. For example, I have a habit of being late everywhere I go because I believe I am a person that is consistently late to things… On the contrary, I began identifying myself as a “writer,” once I developed the habit of consistently writing (here) and had the “evidence” (in the form of blog posts, followers, etc.) to back-up that identity… Anyway, this book was a quick, easy read that offered some new perspective on a subject I was already interested in and some practical tips for breaking and starting habits. I recommend!
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
The Great Believers is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It was my Book Club pick for February, and it was the first book we’ve ever that was unanimously adored… Honestly, it’s that good. There are two distinct storylines presented — one follows a community of gay men in 1980s Chicago at the peak of the AIDs epidemic, and the other takes place in modern Paris as a middle-aged woman (the sister of one of the men from the 80s) searches for her estranged daughter. The result is a powerful, beautiful, and incredibly well-researched novel. Honestly, I was kind-of amazed by Makkai’s ability to make every character so alive and to, so effectively, weave together the past and the present while also informing me about a topic I had very little prior knowledge on. This is a must read!
The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel by Liv Constantine
I listed to this on audio as just something “light” while I did house work etc. over the winter. Essentially, it is a “psychological thriller” type book that felt like a perfect mash-up of Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, and Behind Closed Doors. The story was definitely well-crafted and kept my attention, but it wasn’t my favorite just because it felt so familiar.
The Dreamers: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker
This book was very different from my normal fiction choices – a little science fiction/fantasy-ish – but I ended up reading it pretty much in one sitting. I loved it!! The premise is a college-town that is overtaken by a strange “sleeping illness” that is spreading quickly and cannot be explained. The style is very lyrical – almost poetic – but also scientific and mysterious. It really is unique and beautifully written. While I agree with my friend Erika’s comment (hi Erika) that I’d have appreciated more answers/closure at the end; overall, it’s been one of my favorites so far this year. Fair warning though, I recommended this to my mother-in-law, and she said it was the “worst book she’d ever read” so…. who knows. Haha!
How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
It’s been a while since I’ve read a parenting book, and I really enjoyed this. I didn’t agree with every single thing the author said (of course), but I found that my parenting philosophies already lined up with hers in many ways, so I appreciated the practical tips for “raising adults.” There was a lot of talk about raising teenagers – which makes sense – but I guess I would have liked a little more about how to start this early too. Overall, a very worthwhile read that gave me lots to think about and felt VERY timely given the recent college admissions scandal in the news (which literally broke while I was reading this).
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Of all the books listed here, this is probably the most “popular one” these days. Prior to reading, I had heard SO many people rave about it!! To be honest, I’d actually put off reading it because I had heard it was very descriptive and “nature-y” (my word), and I’m not really into that. Then, our Book Club chose this for March, and I ended up being glad I read it… I did NOT love it the way some people seem to (definitely not one of my top for the year so far), but I did find the story compelling and the writing beautiful (although, yes, too wordy at times). Side Note: I listened to this on audio and the narration was great, but I had to speed it up to 1.5x, because it was soooo slow. At that pace, it was just right! 😉
Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
I admit, my feelings about Rachel Hollis have swung from being all-out obsessed (after reading Girl Wash Your Face in January of 2018), to being a little “overwhelmed” or even “annoyed” by some of her social media hype etc. in the last few months… I debated not even reading Girl, Stop Apologizing, but I am so happy I sucked it up and did. Nobody quite does motivational book writing (and narrating – I STRONGLY recommend this on audio) quite like Rach! She’s still got it, y’all!
Admittedly, some (a lot?) of this felt a little repetitive from Girl, Wash Your Face & her blog/podcast, and I thought there was a lot (too much) talk of money/wealth as a sign of success; BUT, in general, I still took a lot from this. Especially on audio, Hollis comes across as relatable AND inspiring. She is VERY honest, and, for the most part, I really appreciate that she practices what she preaches and makes no apologies for going after (and getting) the things she feels like she deserves. She isn’t preaching the gospel – this IS NOT a “Christian” book – and she shouldn’t be treated as an idol. Rather, she is a successful woman sharing what has worked for her and being PROUD of her accomplishments. Sometimes that pride comes across a little too strong, but as long as you can keep things in perspective (take what works and leave what doesn’t), it’s a great book. I got some practical advice and finished it feeling ready to tackle a challenge.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
|I read this to my tenth grade English class, and we all really liked it! It was the perfect read aloud – especially during Poetry Month (April) – because of the verse style, and it kept their attention and went quickly. Jason Reynolds is a powerful writer – his themes make us think, and his use of language is *perfect* for the classroom.*|
Daisy Jones & The Six by Tara Jenkins Reid
This is another book that’s gotten a lot of hype lately, but I think it is well-deserved. I’ve enjoyed other books by Tara Jenkins Reid, but this one was super different in terms of subject-matter and style. It’s about a rock band – which is NOT something I’d typically choose to read about (unpopular opinion: I don’t even really like music), but this book was SO good. I didn’t want it to end!!! It’s written like a really long interview piece in Rolling Stone or something, and it feels SO SO real — I can’t even tell you how often I wanted to Google the band to see pictures etc., but they don’t even exist! The character development is great, the plot is well-developed, and the unique format makes it easy/quick to read. ALSO, word on the street is that Reese Witherspoon has picked this up to turn into an Amazon Prime series so… you’re gonna read it ASAP! (P.S. I’ve heard a lot of people rave about the audio format for this one -several actors read the different parts, so I started it that way. However, I found the audio way too hard to keep up with, and I liked the written form MUCH better. To each their own I guess.
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka
I read this over spring break in preparation for a Social Issue Book Club unit I started with my 10th graders when we came back. It came highly recommended from several trustworthy book-ish sites, and it’s a National Book Award Finalist, so I knew it would be good; BUT, I was a little nervous about it being a graphic novel (believe it or not, I’d never read one before)… I’m happy to report though, that I found the format SUPER easy to get in to, and I really enjoyed the book. It is a memoir about the author’s experience being raised by his “colorful” grandparents because his mom was a heroin addict and his dad was out of the picture. The topics it addresses are very real and important – especially for young people – and the style makes it incredibly accessible (almost fun, really). I also found out after the fact that Krosoczka wrote one of Sam’s favorite graphic novel series – Lunch Lady, so that was a fun connection for us, though he will NOT be reading this any time soon. Haha. Overall, I recommend this for anyone, but especially teens — by now, I’ve had five students read the book, and they all loved it too!!
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks
This was another thriller-ish “quick read” that I listened to audio. The premise really interested me — a girl who takes part in an anonymous psychology study on human morality and ethics — and the plot, which took several unexpected turns along the way, kept my attention. The storyline was, for the most part, original and the character development was good. There was no MAJOR twist, but the end was satisfying and it did make me think some about my own morality and ethics. 🙂
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start-up by John Carreyrou
Bad Blood is a long form investigative journalistic piece about Elizabeth Holmes – the founder and CEO of Theranos, a multi-billion dollar start-up that claimed to be revolutionizing blood tests – who has been in the news (and in a popular documentary and podcast) a lot recently after she has been charged with fraud. Carreyrou, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was the first to break the story of Holmes’ bad technology and misleading business. This book is the work of years of interviews and research that ultimately led to the charges against Holmes (and all the other “media” attached to her story). Overall, I typically enjoy this type of research-based-but-narrative-driven writing, and I found this very interesting! My only complaint was that it was a little too scientific and a bit too long to fully keep my attention for all 300+ pages. In other words, you could probably save yourself some effort and just watch the documentary or listen to the podcast instead; but I don’t think you’ll regret reading the book either. Haha.
So far, I’ve read 18 books out 52 (my goal for 2019), which Goodreads tells me is slightly ahead of schedule. 😉 Luckily, May – July is typically my best reading time (for obvious reasons), and there are SOOOO many good books and book lists coming out just in time for summer, so I’m hoping to keep up a strong pace. In fact, I will probably finish this one and this one over the weekend. 🙂
If you want to follow my reading in “real time” make sure you’re tracking #samandscoutreads on Instagram, and follow me on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/39685855-elizabeth
I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the books I mentioned above and/or what you’re reading lately!
*Not that anyone really cares, but for the record: I only include books that I’ve read “for work” when it is my very first time reading them, and I read them cover-to-cover. 🙂