Library of Progress

What I Read in January | January 31, 2016

I read a lot (obviously) but perhaps due to the volume, whenever someone asks me what I’ve read recently or if I have any recommendations, I have a very difficult time coming up with any titles beyond whatever my current read is. So I thought it would be fun to recount what I finished each month in hopes of cementing them in my memory a bit better. No links or plot summaries because y’all know perfectly well how to navigate to Amazon and type a book’s name into the search box. Here’s my two-cent reviews of what I read in January, listed in the order consumed.

Station Eleven Holy smokes, I could NOT put this down. Brief premise: A flu virus sweeps around the world, wiping out 99% of the global population within just a few days. I loved the way it flipped back and forth between 1) the initial aftermath and the survivors’ horrified realization that life as it had been was never, ever coming back, and 2) life as it had shaken out twenty years post-outbreak. I can’t decide which part I wanted EVEN MORE details on. At one point I did the math and thought, huh, 74 million people left, that still sounds like a lot to me, but in reality, it’s hardly any on a planet this size. That would be like if every single country in the world was decimated save for the United Kingdom. Anyway, it gave me lots to think about. I’m still thinking about it, obviously.

The Desire Map Experience: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul Not a whole lot to say about this. I have enjoyed several of Danielle‘s blog posts so I was excited to read this, but it didn’t hit the mark for me at all. Scattered and simplistic platitudes, and it’s a mess of 4-6 different fonts, sizes, and typefaces per page. Not a cohesive or absorbing reading experience, so I moved on.

Last Night in Montreal I picked this one up because I adored Station Eleven so much and wanted to read more of the author’s work. It wasn’t the same. I was downright depressed by so much spectacularly horrible parenting, and maybe I’m completely heartless, but my feeling is that if one’s already deeply idiosyncratic girlfriend bailed on a relationship after just three months, my initial reaction would be more along the lines of “whew, dodged a bullet there” rather than “better empty my life savings and pursue her all the way to another country in order to ‘make sure she’s okay.'” I later discovered that Last Night in Montreal was Emily St. John Mandel’s first novel, so I’ll definitely read anything that comes after Station Eleven but I don’t think I’ll be checking out any more of her earlier works.

Come Rain or Come Shine My grandma got me started on the Mitford series ages ago…high school or early college, maybe? An Episcopal priest living in small-town North Carolina would ordinarily sound precisely like Not My Kind of Book, but I borrowed my grandma’s copy of the first volume when I was visiting them on spring break and short of my own reading material for some reason. Back in the day, Jan Karon’s writing was truly laugh-out-loud hysterical and I loved them a lot. The overall quality of this series has declined over time but I keep reading, because, well, I’m invested now. This one led up to a long-anticipated wedding between two particularly beloved characters and I’m always a sucker for those, so it wasn’t a bad way to pass a handful of hours.

This is Where I Leave You I have no idea why I downloaded this one, as “dysfunctional family comes together and wacky hijinx ensue” is not exactly my favorite trope. I can get that any time I want in real life, thank you. But this one was hilarious. I was hooked from the very first chapter by the excruciatingly detailed (in a good way) description of what happened when the main character walked in on his wife having sex with his boss. On his wife’s birthday. And he’s holding his wife’s birthday cake. The main character’s father, although he wasn’t exactly present (having just died) reminded me a LOT of the Shit My Dad Says dad, and I liked that also.

French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure I was cleaning out a bunch of samples that have been living on my Kindle for ages, found the first chapter interesting enough, and it was available immediately through my library, so why not. I skimmed heavily at times, as it’s largely common sense advice. I’m not exactly in a stage of life at the moment that lends itself to the level of walking, shopping, cooking, and overall attention to food that she advocates, but I wasn’t overly vexed by the dichotomy as I read, it’s just a fact. I highlighted a few passages I found interesting, but nothing life-changing.

Attachments I “read” this one via Audible and, truthfully, I’ve actually been chipping away at it since November but only just finished this month. I had a really hard time getting into it, maybe because I was hearing the emails back and forth instead of reading them, and it took a lot of concentration to remember who was saying what. But exactly four hours in, it totally clicked and I could simply not stop listening. The ending was 100% worth the slow start.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do This was another audiobook, and it was read by the author, which I always enjoy. I first encountered this one while browsing at Target and was intrigued enough by the title to find out more. I believe it was originally published as an article and garnered enough attention and discussion that it was later expanded into a book. I was particularly interested in Amy Morin’s distinction between mental health vs. mental strength, which she discussed as two entirely different— related, of course, but separate — facets of a person. And Amy knows of what she speaks — her research is of course based on her work as a therapist, but also borne out through a fair amount of personal tragedy she went through in early adulthood, and she spoke frankly about it in the book’s introduction. One gem in particular that I’ve been musing on since I finished reading: “You’re only as good as your worst habit.”

Clutterfree with Kids — This book is is by the same guy who writes the Becoming Minimalist blog and is most definitely geared toward people who have not even begun their minimalism journey yet. As we are already fairly deep into maintenance mode, he was just preaching to the choir. My daughter is still at an age where it’s fairly easy for me to manage her belongings and”disappear” stuff as necessary (or prevent its entry into our house in the first place) to keep us from getting overwhelmed, so I was hoping for more practical tips for when she’ll inevitably gain more autonomy over her own things, and this just wasn’t it. Oh, well.

STATS
total: 9
abandoned: 1
loved: 5
meh: 4
print: 7
audiobook: 2

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