Reading Wrap Up: January 2018

I haven’t done any book reviews since last summer. This is partially because the books I’ve been reading lately haven’t been particularly thought provoking (or at least not enough to deserve a whole post), but also because I’ve been lazy about it

So I’m trying a wrap-up style post with short blurbs of my thoughts on each book I read during the last month. I won’t be posting summaries because that’s what Good Reads is for and also it would make this post too long.

Let me know down in the comments if you’ve read any of these or if you have any recommendations. As you can see from below, I aim for variety in my reading.

Unqualified by Anna Faris

I’m not sure what prompted me to read this book (or listen to it actually since I had it on audiobook). I’m not a fan of celebrity gossip and though I’ve listened to other memoirs by actors and actresses, I don’t think of Anna Faris as being particularly involved in social change movements or even that groundbreaking of an actress. But in the end I liked listening to what she had to say and hearing about some of the work she does outside of Hollywood that I hadn’t known about before. Plus, she’s funny. She definitely doesn’t take herself too seriously and that shows. Would definitely recommend the audiobook if you’re interested in a light hearted laugh with some unexpectedly poignant thoughts.

1984 by George Orwell

I’ve had this book on my “to read” list for a very long time. People reference the whole Big Brother thing all the time and though I understood the reference, it was better to have the knowledge firsthand. It’s not a terribly long book, but it does pack a punch. And it has one of my favorite writing techniques: an unreliable narrator. I would recommend this. Compared to many of the classics I’ve read in the past, it’s less dense and easier to read. And I think it really does shed some light on our current political climate, though that wasn’t why I decided to read it now. It just happened to be available at the library this month.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

This was one of my favorite books growing up and I’d been long overdue for a reread. It’s a retelling of an old Gaelic folk-tale, but more fleshed out and with a few twists. I’ve always liked this story because of it’s deep familial bonds (something guaranteed to make me cry) and the very slowly evolving love story that’s rooted in trust and kindness. It can be a little slow to start, but patience is also a main theme in the book so I wouldn’t let that deter you.

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

It shouldn’t have, but the pace of this book felt a lot slower than some of the other Outlander installments. I think it’s because Gabaldon added new narrators (usually we just follow the main cast), but the new perspectives in this book leave more opportunity for the story to develop outside of the bond between Jamie and Claire. So even though it took time for me to settle in, I’m intrigued by the new webs unfolding in the story.

Sparking the Fire by Kate Meader

This book is the third in a series of romance novels centered around the men and women of a specific firehouse in Chicago. It basically follows the pairing off of the members of a single family and in this third book, the last sibling finds his happily ever after. It’s not that great a book, but if you’re looking for something with a happy ending that doesn’t make you want to gag on disbelief or overly sweet sentiments, then this is a solid choice.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

This is a companion book to Harari’s Sapiens, which I really enjoyed reading last year. However, I’m not sure this book landed it’s point as well. There were some interesting ideas, but since the book focused on speculating about the future of the human race, rather than analyzing it’s past, the arguments felt a little less solid. I really had to suspend my disbelief a little to follow his theory and so I’m not sure I would recommend this to anyone. Absolutely read Sapiens, though; that was incredible.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

I haven’t loved a book as much as I loved this one in a long time. I’m sure my attachment had a lot to do with a personal connection I felt to the narrator (we were both deeply involved in online fandoms), but it was also a very well painted picture of what it’s like to come to terms with anxiety disorders and trauma. I saw a lot of myself in Eliza and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. This is a Young Adult book, but it hits a deeper topic that I think even older audiences could benefit from and appreciate. Mental health is hard to get right for any age group and this one was very well done.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

This book was not the well fleshed out non-fiction book I expected it to be, but instead it was a collection of knowledge and general healthy life advice bound up into a book. It echoed a lot of the themes from Pollan’s other works, including In Defense of Food which I read last year and really enjoyed. I’m very interested in common sense nutrition and Pollan is good at navigating the gray areas between what nutritional science thinks and what it knows. I would suggest watching one of his lectures or documentaries before reading this since much of what was said is better explained in his other work, though I wouldn’t discount this one entirely.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

I read this book in one sitting because it’s rather short and also very engaging. It did a good job of framing a conversation about racial injustice and teaching perspectives, but I have to admit the writing was a little bit of a draw back. I also think that Angie Thomas’ book The Hate U Give hit the nail on the head a little bit harder by giving the situation more background and depth. Stone didn’t really give Justyce a fully fleshed out background and even though it was a small school, all their classroom “discussions” happened repeatedly between the same three characters. The content was good, but it felt formal and stiff, where The Hate U Give demonstrated similar themes with actions over words. That said, if you’re trying to start a conversation, this is a good book to go to because it does break things down in a more digestible way that makes it easy to connect to.

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