Books of July 2019
I don’t know if it’s the heat and humidity but it’s definitely affecting my reading! Either that or it's my increase in work hours… I’ll blame it on both. Regardless, I still got 15 books finished.
And since it’s summer, I tried to diverge a bit more from my usual diet of personal development and nonfiction to spend more time in the fictional world. I’m always glad when I do, so even after summer ends I’m going to try to keep incorporating more novels into my life.
How To Skimm Your Life - 3 Stars. Since I’m not a subscriber to the Skimm, I figured I might as well read their book to get a feel for their style and perspective. It was a fun book with silly illustrations and puns throughout. As an overview of all of life, it has some significant gaps (as any book does when trying to give you tips on everything from time management to wine selection while also teaching you about the political scene across the entire world). While it gives a good summary of all the topics that it covers, it doesn’t really say anything new. So as a good refresher, this book is great, as an encyclopedia - not so much.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World - 2 Stars. This book tries to walk the line between Angela Duckworth’s book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and Robert Twigger’s Micromastery. I’m not having it. There may be some situations when it’s better to learn how to do lots of little things, and other areas where it’s okay to only understand it generally - or just not know anything about it at all. But I think that’s up to each person to decide for themselves. If you disagree, this book might just be for you.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard - 3 Stars. Since discussing habit change is one of my favorite pastimes, you’d think I would love this book. Yes, it is full of ideas and suggestions but I’ve come to the point where any book that discusses habit change without discussing Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies is already at a disadvantage. On a related note, even when a friend of mine (Questioner) was telling me about this book months ago, I said that it sounded like a book written by Questioners and for Questioners. When I read the book, I had pretty much the same impression. Not that some of the strategies mentioned wouldn’t work for people in any tendency, but it definitely seems to approach the topic from a Questioner perspective. So if you want more ideas about how to shape your life, this might be a good place to start - especially if you’re a Questioner.
The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? - 2 Stars. I know plenty of people who swear by Seth Godin - but I didn’t enjoy this book by him either. Again, I felt it was just discussing generalities or things that are pretty common knowledge - i.e. that it takes creativity and courage to thrive and succeed. But since Mr. Godin doesn’t read negative reviews anymore (per this book), he will never need to know that I didn’t really like this book.
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World - 3 Stars.I was skeptical going into this book about cutting back on our integration into digital media, even more so when I realized that the author is completely outside of that world - he has never had social media and I think (if my media-fried brain is remembering correctly) he still uses a flip phone. But I was surprised, at least partly pleasantly. The research and some of the tips in this book are really helpful. And just as in other areas in my life - I love the idea of minimalism, so the idea of applying it to our online lives is not new to me. The thing I disagree with most in this book is the specific steps laid out on “how to be a digital minimalist”. I definitely disagree that this is the only way to become one or to have a healthy relationship with technology. If it’s something you want to try - then that’s great! But it’s certainly not the best or the only way. The upside is that it has made me more intentional about reaching for my phone.
Ordeal by Innocence - 3 Stars. Agatha Christie - at last. Not nearly as many of her books this month… and I was a bit disappointed in myself that I didn’t see the twist in this one coming. I try not to guess, but I always have lots of ideas, and this one wasn’t even on my radar.
The Gifts of Imperfection - 3 Stars. As someone who is recognizing the pull of perfectionism more and more in her life, this book was what I needed. The 10 aspects of wholehearted people are brilliant and I love the research and stores behind them. Brené Brown does a wonderful job once again… but this was only the first time I’d learn about these 10 things this month.
City of Girls - 4 Stars. As I said, since it’s summer - I broke out a few more novels! This one was amazing. I haven’t loved everything by Elizabeth Gilbert, but this new release was great. It tells the story of a young girl finding her place in New York in a pre-WWII world. The theater, showgirls, and scandal all paint such a vivid picture about life in that time and set the stage for a wonderful story. The entire book is written as one long letter which provides a unique perspective. I also appreciated its ability to zoom out and summarize large chunks of the story before zooming back on specific moments.
When Life Gives You Lululemons - 4 Stars. Another novel! And another great one. This one is a bit less real life, although I guess it is probably a reality for some people! Three women from across the country are untied to fight for themselves and their families and ultimately - to build the lives that they want. And I love hearing about people doing (even in fiction) more than pretty much everything.
100 Side Hustles: Unexpected Ideas for Making Extra Money Without Quitting Your Day Job - 3 Stars. I don’t know why this book didn’t resonate with me more. It is a great compilation of photos and stories of people who are hustling outside of their day job. As one of those people, I can relate to some of their triumphs and struggles. As always, there is a range of creativity and profitability in the people profiled in the book, but if you’re looking at jumping into the side-hustle world, this book could provide some ideas and direction.
The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage - 4 Stars. I searched for this book for the longest time. And I recently discovered why, it’s actually not a book, which explains my difficulty in finding it. It is actually a compilation of presentations by Brené Brown. Just like her Netflix documentary, I highly recommend this audiobook (since that’s basically what it is). Like that documentary, it summarizes so much of her research and shares many of the best stories. It also discusses the 10 habits of wholehearted people discussed in The Gifts of Imperfection. Like I hinted, I preferred this version. That’s because it has so much more context and application. Plus, I love hearing it directly from her as opposed to just reading it.
Thinking, Fast and Slow - 2 Stars. I have heard both this book and its author, Daniel Kahneman, lauded in countless books I’ve read in recent years. So I decided it was about time I read the source material itself. This was a very long book, full of research - most of which I've heard discussed in those books that I mentioned. The ideas behind the research and theories are very interesting, but maybe since I waited so long to read this book, or maybe because I’ve heard it discussed in so many other places - I didn’t really enjoy it. It covers very important research but there is a lot of it in the book and at times it can be quite dense, while any application and stories are pretty nonexistent.
It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle - 3 Stars. When I read the introduction to this book, I was skeptical. It didn’t quite seem like it could be real. By the time I had finished the first section, I was totally fascinated by the ideas presented. The thought that trauma can be inherited was totally new to me and I’ve spent a lot of time since thinking about my personal and family history. The rest of the book, however, that delves into actually finding out what our personal traumas are, I found to be less engaging. I’m not entirely sure why that is. It may be because I don’t feel controlled by any particular trauma, or simply because I didn’t take the time to do all of the exercises (I felt like there were a lot). Either way, it’s a super interesting concept and if it intrigues you - give it a read.
The Devil Wears Prada - 4 Stars. I love this movie. I don’t know if it’s the story itself, or the fact that I first watched when I was in England, in curled up in bed and sipping good ol' British tea. Either way, I decided to give the book a chance, and I was not disappointed. It is a good read, a bit shallow at times, but definitely a unique perspective on work, goals, relationships, and growing up.
A Simple Favor - 3 Stars. When I saw the preview for the movie based on this book, I was intrigued… Now that I finally got around to picking up the book, I’m glad I did. It’s a thrilling story with a twisting plot. And it is only with the multiple narrators that you can really get a full perspective of what is going on. This book is nice because even though none of the characters are perfect people (far, far from it) you can still empathize with them throughout the story. I loved this book to the very end. Literally. The ending was quite disappointing. As many modern novels do, they leave you with no real sense of closure, and in this case - no contentment either. Maybe it’s my upbringing or my lingering naivety, but I still love a happy ending. But the book ends in upheaval (sorry for the spoiler) and that’s a feeling I never like being left with.
I’m on my way to starting August off strong with a huge stack of books on my nightstand and lots of downloads ready to be listened to - and great excitement to see what I’ll learn next.
Until next time,