Books of April 2019
Please note, some of the links contained in this post may be affiliate links. That means, if you purchase through the link, I will receive a small percentage of the proceeds at no extra cost to you.
I didn’t read quite as much this month, but I got lots of extra podcast listening done instead… I may or may not have binge-listened to all of Laura Vanderkam’s new podcast, "Before Breakfast". Somehow I had missed out on the fact that it even existed, so of course, I had to catch up. It wasn’t that big of a feat since the episodes are all less than 10 minutes, but they are full of helpful advice and tidbits. So if you’re productivity-obsessed like me, then you have to subscribe.
Beyond staying on top of all of my podcast listening, I managed to read the following 20 books. Take from my input what you will:
Help Me: One Woman's Quest to Find Out If Self-Help Really Can Change Your Life - 3 Stars. I shared quite a bit about my feelings for this book in my post - Personal Development vs. Self-Help. But to summarize it here, this was an interesting book about an interesting woman’s journey. I don’t necessarily agree with her starting points, actions, or conclusions - but as I said - it was interesting.
Micromastery: Learn Small, Learn Fast, and Unlock Your Potential to Achieve Anything - 2 Stars. This book intrigued me. I’m sure we’ve all heard the question - “would you rather know a lot about a little, or a little about a lot?” Well, this book definitely takes the latter perspective. It discusses by mastering the key elements of just about anything, you can achieve micromastery. You don’t have to go to culinary school to become a truly great chef, the book says - rather just master the art of making an omelet. After all, that is the test of a great chef. This book was filled with specific examples of things to master - however, none of them really stuck with me. Most of the examples were things for I had no interest in - so I figured that I must be a person who would rather have deep knowledge on fewer subjects. At least, that’s what I thought. I would soon be proven wrong, but more on that later.
In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars - 3 Stars. If being in a situation like the one mentioned the title of this book would scare you, then this book is probably for you. It’s all about seeking and pursuing our greatest calling — scary as it might be.
I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star - 4 Stars. I consider myself a Hollywood memoir connoisseur, and this book does not disappoint. In fact, it may be one of my favorites (if not my absolute favorite… hush, I’ll never tell). Judy Greer is an actress that we all love, whether or not we know who she is. Her story is fascinating. Juxtaposed against the tales of many other famous actors, Judy had success right from the start. She has worked quite steadily as an actor for her entire adult life. She has a happy family, hasn’t experimented much with drugs or alcohol, is dedicated to her career, and has had great success (most Hollywood memoirs definitely don’t include all of these components). However still, most people recognize Judy without knowing who she is. The idea of success was the most interesting part of this book for me - would I like to be a Judy? A wonderful actress (or insert any other job title here) who was successful and happy, but never having had a hugely recognizable and defining role? Or would I rather struggle and scrimp for years, and then finally break out and be known? I’m not sure I know the answer, but Judy’s story is beautiful and humble and now I just want someone to give that girl an Oscar.
A Tribe Called Bliss: Break Through Superficial Friendships, Create Real Connections, Reach Your Highest Potential - 2 Stars. I read this book as part of the Happiness Project Experience for April. The theme was friends and I had this book on my list for a while, so I thought this would be a good time to check it off. I hadn’t gotten around to reading it but knew I wanted to. So when I finally did, I was seriously disappointed. The book seems to laud the idea that following the steps it lays out is the only way to have a serious, meaningful relationship with female friends… if it’s not clear, I disagree… and won’t be following the steps in the book.
What the Most Successful People Do at Work - 3 Stars. Listening to this Laura Vanderkam book launched me into binging her podcast. Since I hadn’t read any of her books in a while, this was a great refresher. I know a lot of the ideas have been covered in her other books and much of productivity literature at large - but What the Most Successful People Do at Work is interesting, concise, and effective. If you need a boost at work, this book would be a good push.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance - 2 Stars. Just as I studied micromastery at the beginning of this month, this book is really all about its opposite - macromastery (yeah, micromastery definitely sounds better). It is all about the idea of dedication and hard work being the key components to achieving success. I don’t disagree with the ideas of this book, they make sense - it is hard to make progress on something if you don’t work at it. However, the book was long and somewhat boring. I also didn’t necessarily like that it seemed to frame success as something you could only achieve after years of hard work (I can thank Micromastery for that perspective). Grit also seemed to say that people who couldn’t just get stuff done were failures. As an Upholder, this isn’t something I really struggle with, but I know some people do. However, I know they can achieve everything that they want, with the right structures - they definitely aren’t failures. Regardless, I have some small goals and some big goals, so it helped me to realize that I fall somewhere between undying grit and micromastery. And that's exactly where I want to be.
Cozy Minimalist Home - 2 Stars. This book has some interesting ideas and advice. If I were moving, I would likely follow some of the steps for decorating a room and the order she recommends placing things. However, I didn’t completely agree with her description of minimalism and the idea that it can’t be cozy.
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don't Have with People You Don't Like Doing Things You Don't Want to Do - 2 Stars. They say this book is a parody - and in a way it is. In other ways, it isn’t. This may be a book that walks that line too well. As a professional organizer, the idea of mental decluttering fascinates me. However, I definitely don’t think that the one idea purported by this book is the best way to achieve that. It may be one way, but it certainly isn’t the only option. This book is interesting and light, but if you want a similar book minus the expletives, check out Year of Yes.
Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married - 4 Stars. I heard Abby Ellin interviewed on Happier with Gretchen Rubin and I instantly knew I had to read this book. Abby shares her fascinating story and the stories of dozens of other people who have been duped. It was amazing to hear about these people and their lives, as well as much of the research that has been conducted around lying and fake identities. However, this book seemed to lack some conclusions, which was probably my greatest disappointment. But I won’t lie (I know, I know, bad joke), you should read this book anyway.
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business - 3 Stars. I have much the same comment for this book as I did with the last Charles Duhigg book I read, the one about habits. It is full of fascinating research and stories, with very little application. Since I have a minor obsession (hmm, maybe a micromastery?) with productivity, I loved to hear the studies and examples the book mentions. However, I think most readers would struggle to know how to apply much of it to their actual life - but not to worry, there are dozens of books I can point you to if you want some help in that area. So overall, if you are looking for advice and not information, you should probably steer clear of this book.
Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do - 3 Stars. Again, this book walked the line between actual self-help and satire a bit too well. It’s a fun and amusing book, if you can get past the expletives. So if you read it with that in mind, you’ll likely enjoy it. But if you’re looking for actual help and advice? Read something else.
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing - 4 Stars. This book was fascinating. I’ve brought it up in almost every conversation since I read it. Especially the recipe for a perfect nap. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing is the perfect blend of research and practical application. Whether you’re a morning person or a night person, or someone slightly in between (which most of us are according to the book), then you should definitely read it.
Company of One - 2 Stars. This often-mentioned business book has some decent tips and advice. However the main idea, to be an approachable, customer-oriented business - whether you are actually a company of one or a company of a thousand and one - seems obvious. Companies that care about their clients and consumers are the ones that grow and scale in the long run. I didn’t need this book to tell me that, and you don’t either.
Text Me When You Get Home - 3 Stars. Since I hated the first book about friendship I read this month so much, I thought I would give another one a shot. It turns out that maybe it wasn’t just that book that I disliked, but this entire genre. Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate my friends. I understand the value of authentic connection, vulnerability, and deep female friendships. However, I think that both A Tribe Called Bliss and Text Me When You Get Home take it a step further than that - to idolization. I don’t believe that the formula in A Tribe Called Bliss is the only way to have real friendships. And I don’t think that putting our friends as our emergency contacts, per Text Me When You Get Home, is the real hallmark of a devoted friendship. I will say that this book was more interesting and well written than the first, but it’s still not required (or really even recommended) reading.
Hustle Believe Receive - 3 Stars. I would definitely say that I’m skeptical when it comes to the idea of manifestation, however, I’m always looking for new books to read about mindset - and this one came up. The ideas behind this book were interesting and so was the author’s story. The other 51 stories in the book vary, some are great - others not so much. But I can see how many of these principles could help you achieve the life that you want. And that brings me to what I appreciated most about that book. Sarah Centrella says that we can manifest the things that we want in life, by working super hard to get there (that’s the hustle part). That I agree with. I can appreciate the value of dreaming, setting goals, and visualizing. Those are all huge steps to getting closer to achieving your dreams. So if you want a practical book about mindset and manifestation, look no further. I definitely plan to implement some of these ideas.
The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer - 2 Stars. I’m always looking for books with advice about how to be more effective - this book, however, might have had too much. It had some good studies and stories, but also very heavy in science and statistics, making it less digestible. It also didn’t totally agree with parts of this book since reading Body by Science (which I do recommend), so I would pass on this book and read that instead.
Go Ask Ali: Half-Baked Advice (and Free Lemonade) - 3 Stars. I’m not very familiar with Ali Wentworth and her work, but I’m always looking for another Hollywood memoir. This one was light and funny, but not much else.
Sparkling Cyanide - 4 Stars. I love Agatha Christie, as you definitely know by now. I picked this book up at random and it was wonderful. It was especially nice to diverge from the usual detectives. The story is told from varying perspectives, which moves the plot along and always keep you guessing.
All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending - 3 Stars. Yeah, definitely a bit of a Laura Vanderkam binge this month… this book was a great collection of some money perspectives not taught in conventional personal finance literature - however, since I don’t tend to read conventional personal finance literature, I was familiar with most of the ideas. But if you wonder about the financial benefits of having a smaller house, more kids, and not raising chickens - this book is perfect. It gets less engaging as it goes along, but still worth a read.
I may have some new favorite books thanks to April… however, I also had to read some stuff I really didn’t like. But I guess that's part of the fun of reading - you almost never know what to expect. And that’s about as adventurous as I get.
Until next time,