Books of May 2019
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I knew May was going to be a pretty hectic month, so I didn’t think I’d get much reading done. But I got much more accomplished than I thought I would - 25 books checked off the list. And they helped me to check off something else even bigger and more exciting!
Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together - 2 Stars. I didn’t necessarily feel like I fell into the target demographic for this book. I’m comfortable and happy with what I make, but my life is by no means extravagant. Regardless, I was intrigued to read the advice and see what I could learn. Unfortunately, the answer was - not much. I do consume my fair share of literature and other material on how to be financially stable, and that was just repeated in this book. A young adult who is totally financially clueless probably could use this book, but anyone who feels like they have their financial life mostly under control can do without.
Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything - 3 Stars. As someone who loves personality tests, I was super excited to read this book. If you’re looking for a primer on some of the major frameworks out there, this book is perfect. It helped me to learn more about some of the tests I wasn’t super familiar with and even expanded my knowledge on some I thought I knew pretty well! This book certainly isn’t all inclusive, but it’s a good starting point.
Poirot Investigates - 3 Stars. My mom and I enjoyed listening to this book on a short trip we took. It’s really not so much a book, as a collection of short stories. It was fun to see great mysteries compressed into a single chapter and to hear the story of one of Poirot’s failures!
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - 4 Stars. If the hallmark of Agatha Christie is a draw dropping moment, this book does not disappoint. My mom and I were kept guessing until the bitter end and were still surprised!
Building a Storybrand - 3 Stars. I read this book because it's frequently mentioned in entrepreneurial circles and because it was one of my Happiness Project Experience goals for May. It provided an interesting look at marketing and creating a cohesive brand. However, liked I mentioned last month with another book, I thought that the overall message of the book was somewhat obvious - your brand should be centered around your customers, and thus, your messaging should be customer-centric also. But despite that, I really enjoyed the last section of the book. It provides a step-by-step plan for marketing your newly created brand message. I thought that this would be highly relevant to any company as long as they know what their message is and who needs to hear it. And if they don't, the first two parts of the book would be helpful to them too, I guess.
13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do - 3 Stars. Just like its counterpart written for women, this book is full of solid advice for building a stronger and more resilient mind. I think that I preferred 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do because I felt that the topics and advice were more pertinent. Not that I have in any way mastered the 13 things mentioned in this book - far from it. Now, combined, I have 26 things that I need to work on to build my mental strength and that feels like a lot. But I can’t be overwhelmed by that because that’s definitely not something that a mentally strong person would allow to happen.
You Do You - 3 Stars.As I’ve shared before, these books are fun and light - nothing to be taken too seriously. This one, in particular, seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time previewing what was to come. The beginning laid out the different sections, the sections started by laying out the different chapters, and even some of the chapters started with layouts of different frameworks. If I had just read the actual content and figured out where it was going on my own, the book would have been only half as long. As I read this third book by Sarah Knight, I wondered again (as I have while reading all of her other books) which tendency she belongs to. Is she an Upholder who decided to direct her energy in a new direction? A Rebel, even though she seemed to live very unrebel-ly for the first half of her life? Or is she an Obliger who has fully embraced her Obliger rebellion? I don’t know, but I’d be super curious to find out.
The Secret of Chimneys - 4 Stars. I’ve found that Agatha Christie novels are one of the few ebooks I can download onto my phone that I am actually motivated to read on a consistent basis. This was the second book this month where the narrator provides a surprising twist - I’ve read a lot of mystery books, but not many writers utilize this strategy and it is always a thrill when they do.
Bored and Brilliant - 2 Stars. The (ironic?) thing about reading this book about boredom was that I often found myself just that - bored. But I doubt that was on purpose. I found this book to be dense on research and not very engaging. It lays out a 7-step plan for cutting back on cell phone use. While I normally just roll my eyes at this sort of thing, the plan did seem to be something that would work for someone who has that as their goal. However, I don’t think that my phone is the most interesting thing in my world. I feel like I have time to think, be by myself, and be bored - whether or not I put my phone in the equation.
The Year of Magical Thinking - 2 Stars.I’d heard great things about this book, but I’m not entirely sure what all the hype was about. It is a well-written story of pain, loss, and grief. Maybe its because I haven’t recently gone through any major loss, but the story didn’t strongly resonate with me. Instead, it reminded me of Option B, which tells a similar story but also provides the tools for resilience needed for someone going through a similar situation. The latter is definitely the book I will reach for the in future when I need a treatise for handling my grief.
Almost Adulting - 3 Stars. I expected this book to be a bit like Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 535 Easy(ish) Steps - but it isn’t. It’s much more the autobiographical story of a young YouTuber in the LA suburbs trying to manage her newfound freedom and responsibility. Her story is fun and interesting - however, the occasions when she tries to incorporate some of those adulting steps are the weaker points of the book. While we can certainly learn something from everyone, there are more reliable sources of advice than this book - but with her YouTube background, she certainly knows how to tell a story, and that is the real backbone of this book.
The Moment of Lift - 2 Stars. This new book by Melinda Gates has an over 6-month wait at my local library, so I knew I should probably read it sooner rather than later. The stories in the book are moving, the facts are staggering, and the action that the Gates Foundation is taking to help around the world is significant. I don’t agree with all that Melinda Gates has to say though, especially as it relates to the church, and unfortunately, without that, the message loses a lot of its potential impact. I also felt that the book significantly lacked the engagement factor. For those readers who, like me, don’t have billions of dollars at their disposal - what can we do to make a difference and an impact?
Cleopatra - 3 Stars. If anything, this book reminded me of my dreams to be an Egyptologist. After moving beyond dreams of being a ballerina, little me aspired to roam the sands of that far off country, exploring tombs and temples, and deciphering hieroglyphics. This book is a fascinating overview of the life of a major player in world history. But the book constantly reminds the reader that we know very little about that ancient time, much less than we would like. But that does not mean the book is without conclusions or vivid detail. If anything, I appreciated this reminder that Cleopatra, like everyone else we meet, cannot merely fit into the box of “powerful ruler”, “subservient queen”, or “nothing more than a seductress”. She was an incredibly nuanced woman, with great depth. Unfortunately, much of that has been buried by the sands of time.
Still Foolin' 'em : Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? - 3 Stars. Billy Crystal is always great for a laugh, and I’ll admit, this memoir is one of the few that has made me laugh out loud. It’s always nice to see a person who has managed to achieve their dreams while keeping their family and sanity as their top priority. His jokes may at times stray into the vulgar, but maybe that really just made me uncomfortable because it was Mike Wazowski's voice telling them.
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life - 3 Stars. I’m all about books that help us plan to meet our goals. And I want everyone to have a well-lived, joyful life. If you feel like you are lacking in those areas, particularly in the work realm, this book might give you the direction you need. Actually, however, what stood out most about this book for me was the idea of three categories of failures: screwups, weaknesses, and growth opportunities. I will definitely be utilizing that framework in the future. These books can sometimes be irritating because they say that their method is THE ONE WAY to create a life that you love, but this book skirts that issue and never says it outright which I appreciate.
Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey - 2 Stars. As someone who binged pretty much all of Downton Abbey and is thrilled about the movie coming out in September, I was curious to hear about the true story and background. I was a bit disappointed though to see how little correlation there was. The time period, the ways of life, and the Abbey are the same, but that’s where the similarities end. Both stories have many of the same themes - heartbreak, perseverance, and hope. But those are strong themes in life, not just these two stories.
The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body - 3 Stars. I was a bit skeptical going into this book, and even more skeptical when most of the content turned out to be stuff I learned in high school biology. But it was actually a good refresher and I found myself taking more opportunities to move while I was reading the book, so even if all of it hasn’t stuck, I still consider it a win.
Spider’s Web - 3 Stars.A quick ebook read in my downtime, and I was still surprised at the end! Just as the story takes place in an evening, you can read this book in the same amount of time.
Hit Makers: How to Succeed in an Age of Distraction - 3 Stars. If you’ve ever wondered why certain impressionist painters rose to the forefront of history, why certain songs gain great popularity, and some brands thrive - this book can help you understand. I say "help" though because it admits that so much of the science of popularity remains a great mystery. While that in itself is kind of disappointing, it will be interesting to see how the research expands in this area in upcoming years.
The Big Four - 3 Stars. Since this is one of the few international Agatha Christie novels I’ve read, I probably should have been more impressed by the grandiosity of the story and plot, but I wasn’t. It was good, but not spectacular. And I’m not a big fan of the great Sherlockian move pulled in this book either.
Profit First - 3 Stars. Most people know that the best way to save is to put the money aside before their income even hits their bank account. But not many people think of running their business the same way. I’m totally convinced that this is one of the best methods to run a profitable and growing business. Despite the constant prodding in the book, I haven’t implemented the system yet for my organizing business - but I will!
The Man in the Brown Suit - 3 Stars. It was fun to read an Agatha Christie book from the female perspective. This doesn’t happen often, so it’s always a treat to read female characters written by this great woman. The romance aspects of this book deeply annoy me, but I know that Agatha Christie isn’t a romance author and for that I’m thankful - the mystery, on the other hand, is good.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us - 2 Stars. I was a bit disappointed by this book after enjoying Daniel Pink’s other book When so much. This one just seemed to be a compilation of much the motivation theory research which is covered in more depth and detail in other places. I also am hesitant to fully lean into any books and theories on motivation that don’t at least acknowledge the Four Tendencies because I think that framework provides key insights. The book ends with a list of other related books to read, and while on some level I understand this, it also just feels like the easy way out.
The Dumb Things Smart People Do with Their Money: Thirteen Ways to Right Your Financial Wrongs - 2 Stars. I’ll save you a lot of time. If you want to make sure you aren’t making any of the mistakes listed in this book, just read the table of contents. The chapters have lots of examples and explanations, but they really aren’t necessary to understand the things you shouldn’t be doing with your money. Just run through the table of contents like a checklist, and you should be set.
This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See - 2 Stars. I really didn’t enjoy this book either. As a 200ish page definition of what marketing is and how it works, it’s just fine. As anything that provides great value beyond common sense - eh, not so much. Maybe I’ve just consumed a lot of books on marketing recently, but they all seem to say the same thing, without much variation. And this book is even worse because it lacks any real practical application.
I got A LOT of reading done this month. Next month’s list will be much shorter because... I’ve met my reading goal - 100 books! That means I’m going to take most of June to read Les Miserables. I have a couple books to finish before I dive in, but I’m excited to start and can’t wait to give my full report.
Until next time,