Books of September 2019
Maybe it has to do with the start of the school year, but I was finally able to up my reading numbers again! 19 books down! I’m excited to share some of these with you - and to warn you away from others.
The Sacred Enneagram - 3 Stars. I didn’t go into this thinking it would be such a spiritual book - but I guess I should’ve been able to tell from the name. Another (slightly less) interesting look into the Enneagram - I prefer The Road Back to You which I read earlier this summer. I appreciated this approach from a slightly more religious perspective, and it did provide additional layers that the other book did not. So while the specific spiritual application was interesting, different, and applicable, it didn’t provide much general help or provide any real direction for relating to or understanding someone of a different type - which I think is one of the real strengths of the Enneagram.
Five Little Pigs - 3 Stars. I read this Agatha Christie book in anticipation of going to see a play based on it. While the story was not completely thrilling - it is one of those mysteries set in the past and worked out in the present, it was still better than the script. As they say, books are always better their plays... maybe.
How to Give Up Plastic - 3 Stars. I have to say, I didn’t enjoy reading this book that much. But it has had more of an impact on my life than any book I’ve read in the last several months. It has helped me to be much more conscious about my consumption and also start to formulate plans and goals for 2020 (more on that to come). Plus the very visual image of a plastic straw being pulled out of a turtles nose has definitely made me change my habits.
Lean Out: The Truth About Women, Power, and The Workplace - 2 Stars. I was excited to read this book, unfortunately, I was sadly disappointed. Going into it, I thought this book would be the counterpoint to Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, which I enjoyed when I read it last year. Rather, this book is a halfhearted attack. It seems to condemn women like Sandberg and her desire to advance in corporate America. This book seems to imply that that is the only acceptable career path according to Lean In - but that is not at all the impression I got when I read the book, however, I may be wrong, and if so, I stand corrected. Lean Out, on the other hand, condemns how women are treated in the workplace and yet gives very few actual new ideas on how to correct the situation. The author also points out that very few women want to actually succeed in corporate America - she was clearly one who was not cut out for that life - and that is totally fine. But while she says that she defends women who want to pursue their dream careers, she cuts down women like Sandberg whose desire is clearly to climb the corporate ladder. I admit that it isn’t for everyone - but that’s what some women want. And if we want a real cultural change in the workplace, it will likely come from them.
Appointment with Death - 3 Stars. I needed a lighter book after getting through Lean Out, so I settled for another Agatha Christie book. This one I found to be one of her less exciting stories. The outcome was rather predictable, and as I often say - the romance was forced and over the top. The setting though was different and exciting.
I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life - 3 Stars. As someone who spends much of their spare time reading - I enjoyed this tribute to the reading life. It is well written - vignettes on what life is like as an avid reader. There isn’t much external point to this book I will say, but it was a short and easy read - and kind of paradoxical to read about reading.
Last Night at Chateau Marmont - 3 Stars. I have been on quite the Lauren Weisberger kick this summer. While this story has the same drama, twisting story, and romance as her others, it might have a bit too much of all of them. I was a bit emotionally exhausted by the plot and left rather unsurprised by the happy ending.
The Remains of the Day - 2 Stars. It actually took me a long time to get through this book. It tells the story of a butler reflecting on his years of service around the time that great houses such as his began disappearing in droves. The story is long, written in dense language, and I’m not entirely sure the point of the story. I read this book because Gretchen Rubin had mentioned that it was a good example of an Oliger who was happier and more successful than an Upholder. Since that’s what I went into the book expecting, I spent most of the time looking for that storyline. By the end, I did see it, but I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t been looking. So I’m not sure if I would say it’s worth it.
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact - 3 Stars. I would love to know how Chip and Dan Heath find their topics. They always find something interesting and unique to write about. They are very consistent - they always use good stories and impactful research. But just as with some of their other books, I wish there was a bit more application. This one provided plenty of exercises that could be completed, but I still feel like there is a gap between completing them and being able to integrate powerful moments into my life.
I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough" - 3 Stars. It was interesting to travel back in time a bit in Brene Brown’s growth. She and her messaging has evolved along with her research. I found this book to actually be one of the ones she’s written with the most practical application. This book centers on women and shame - two things that she continues to discuss even now. However, there is less discussion in this book on vulnerability - which I think is such a powerful connection and such an important part of shame resilience, but she just hadn’t started to focus on that as much when this book was published in 2007. So this book is a must-read if you love Brene Brown, but if you want the most impact for your reading time then you can just stick with her newer publications.
Educated - 3 Stars. This book was a tough one. Another emotional rollercoaster, written in extremely vivid language. Tara Westover tells the story of growing up in a fanatical family in the Idaho wilderness. It depicts her struggle to grow up, find her identity and get an education. Almost more chilling is the fact that most of the important moments in this story take place during my own lifetime. Getting into this book about the same time as I finished the book by Brene Brown highlighted the shame and gaslighting that Tara experienced growing up and that continued into her adult life. Educated looks at mental illness, fanatical religion, and who you when you no longer belong to your family. It is heartbreaking, moving, and exhilarating - while also being very emotionally draining.
Becoming a Life Coach - 2 Stars. I was also super disappointed by this book and I had been looking forward to it for months. Instead of being a handbook or any kind or an encompassing discussion, it is rather an interview-based book that doesn’t even consistently portray the interviews. It leaves entire sides of the industry untouched and undiscussed… and it doesn’t have that much to say on actually becoming a life coach.
The Power of a Half Hour - 2 Stars. I really disliked this book too. It is based on the most basic and obvious principle ever - that you can accomplish things in a given period of time. Whether the given period is 15, 20 or 60 minutes - you can still get a lot done - 30 minutes isn't the only important time increment. Plus this book had an added extra spiritual component that didn’t really add much.
A Study in Charlotte - 3 Stars. I was half attracted to this book because who doesn’t like reading a book where one of the main characters has their name (in case you don’t know, or need a reminder, Charlotte is my real name)! I also was intrigued by this modern twist on Sherlock Holmes - you know how I feel about mysteries! Besides, this isn’t just any updated Holmes and Watson story. This series is set in an alternate universe in which the famous detective actually existed and his adventures were chronicled by his very real sidekick. The main characters in this series are their great-grandchildren who meet at boarding school and - of course, solve mysteries. The great Charlotte Holmes has inherited most of the same faults as her forbears - almost too many. It feels at times like some of the traits are just being recycled. But the actual story is fun and exciting. I’m not totally sold on the main characters yet (even if one of them shares my name), but I’m excited to see how the rest of the franchise develops.
Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption - 2 Stars. I knew an average amount about bitcoin going into this book. Now... I know a little more. I definitely wouldn’t say I totally understand everything and am still not ready to invest. Especially considering what has happened to the bitcoin market since the publication of this book. It still is not as big or mainstream as I think the author, or subjects of the book, clearly hoped. And the market is definitely more volatile. But even in the book, bitcoin is the sideshow, really just part of the story to show off Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. This book tells the narrative of the Winklevoss’ twins redemption. Once supposedly cheated out of large shares of Facebook and shut out of the Silicon Valley market, bitcoin was their ticket back to the top - not that the twins were underdogs to begin with. This book says that Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss have been consistently misrepresented by the media… but I’m not sure I would say that this book represents them accurately either. There is definitely a slant. If you have questions about the Winklevoss’ journey with bitcoin, then this book is probably for you - if you’re just curious about bitcoin, there’s probably a better option.
The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love - 3 Stars. I read this book as part of the Happiness Project Experience for September. Although I question some of the studies, and some of the major points of the book are pretty obvious (for example, that we shouldn’t pick a life partner based on their income or looks), it presents an interesting approach to finding true love. If you want a step by step process to choosing a partner who you are statistically likely to succeed with, then this book probably would interest you. If you don’t operate that way or want help actually finding other people who may or may not be your prince(ss) charming, then I’m sure that there are other books.
The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in "Healthy" Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain - 2 Stars. I have mixed feelings about this book. Some of the ideas make a lot of sense. I’m intrigued by the idea of plants attacking those who consume them in the only way they can - on the chemical level. However, I’m not sure that the steps prescribed in this book are the only way to live a healthy life. Besides, the entire end of the book is pretty much just an advertisement for all the supposedly life-changing products the author has created to solve all of our health woes.
Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms - 3 Stars. No, I’m not a mom. But I am someone who is aware of their tendency towards prioritizing work over rest and am always interested in the idea of better and more effective time management. Plus, this book was recommended by Tess Wicks, a podcaster that I love, who isn’t a mother either, so I was curious to read it. Since I do love time management so much, none of the ideas presented in that vein were very new to me. However, the idea of energy management was very engaging. I love the idea that we are designed to focus on different things at different points in the month and am going to try and implement some level of that into my life.
The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont - 3 Stars. When I put this book on hold at the library, I wasn’t even totally sure what Chateau Marmont was. Little did I know that it would be the second book I would read about the place in one month (the other being Last Night at Chateau Marmont). I enjoyed the shift from reading mainly about people and their ideas, as I tend to do, to reading about a place, and how it was shaped by people and their ideas. Chateau Marmont has had a very long and convoluted evolution, along with Hollywood and many of the stars who stayed there. Since this is a new book, I appreciated how it chronicled the history of the Chateau through 2019, including how the #metoo and #timesup movements have impacted it and its aura. And I’m now convinced even more that Last Night at Chateau Marmont was a disappointment because what happened there in the story would never have been acceptable or allowed in real life.
I’m happy to report that my new system for balancing my podcasts and reading is working perfectly! It actually let me add another podcast I’d been wanting to start. Not sure how much more I’ll be able to expand that number - but you all will be the first to know.
Until next time,