Books I Read This Week 2019 – 14

Some fantastic reads this week! Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The Self-Love Experiment (2 stars): I started this book because it was recommended in a list I had read over the summer. Pretty soon after, I thought I should stop. I don’t shy away from self-help, not even the woo woo kind, but this book was getting under my skin pretty much right away and that’s generally not a good sign.

The author is telling her own story and applying the learnings she talks about to her own life situation, which in her case is dealing with her body/weight issues so a lot of the examples she gives are around that which normally I’d be interested in except at some point she says she cleaned out her car and then dropped 10 pounds. At which point I stopped the audio book. (If i were reading a book, I might have thrown it out the window.) I understand she was trying to make a point but no, just no.

So I stopped.

And then, I decided to tackle it again (honestly, not sure why.) And here’s what I will say: I wish the author hadn’t narrated this book. I think that was one of the things that didn’t connect with me. The narration experience is a big deal on audio. I also wish she would have brought a few other examples from other people because here’s the thing, even though this is totally the author’s journey, there’s very little sharing around the actual journey. There’s a lot of here’s where i was and here’s where i am now, isn’t that awesome!? And here’s what I now believe. But none of “here’s what helped me get there.” She even says that she can’t tell us get there but man once we do, it’s awesome.


She didn’t even really help me figure out how to design my own self-love experiment. She didn’t highlight all the things she tried. The journey itself felt like it was completely missing from the book, for me. So then it became just her examples of her negative thinking and then her awesome accomplishments. Which fell flat without the growth curve in the middle.

I did like some of her principles and i also liked her letter about what she learned. I think this book had potential and I know every book is a labor of love and it’s hard work, I don’t want to discount that hard work. It might be a super-useful, life-changing book for someone else. It just wasn’t for me.

Creative Selection (4 stars):  What a fantastic, fascinating read.

I’ll be honest, I checked this book out in the past but didn’t feel like reading it. I work in Silicon Valley, use Apple products and have worked with Apple before, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read a book about Apple in my spare time, but someone at work told me this is one of his favorite books and when people tell me that, I usually read the book.

This book is a very fast read. I started and finished it today. It’s about the design process, like the title says, but the two areas the writer has worked the most in is browsers (which I’ve worked on as well so it was fascinating to me) and the keyboard for the iphone and later ipad. The storytelling is excellent and keeps you engaged the entire time.

If these types of stories fascinate you, I am confident you will enjoy this book.

American Kingpin (4 stars): This is not the kind of book I would have ever picked up on my own. I usually don’t read nonfiction (at least not as often as I read fiction.) and I hadn’t heard of The Silk Road, and this is not a topic that would have fascinated me enough for me to pick it up naturally. (Even the cover didn’t call to me.)


A colleague at work recommended it as a book he loved so I checked it out of the library and once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. It was compulsively readable and an absolutely fascinating story. Even more fascinating that he had no computer background and didn’t really scale his life up at all as he accumulated piles of money. Quite a character.

I am glad I read it and will be thinking about this story for a while.

PS: This is why I ask everyone their favorite books. I’ve found so many gems this way. If you read this, I’d love to know your favorite book, too!

The Urban Sketching Handbook: Working with Color (4 stars): I have read and enjoyed several Urban Sketching books in the past and this one was no exception. This book sits at the intersection of useful and inspiring. There are two major sections. The first one covers key areas around color like pigments & mixing, color & value, color relationships, etc. And then the “galleries” section covers things like mood & atmosphere, light & shadow, etc.

The author does a fantastic job of covering the basics without dragging it out. If you know absolutely nothing at all about color, this book doesn’t really do a step-by-step. It’s more structured as: introduce a concept, give an example on how it’s used, and then encourage practice with an idea or challenge. It’s intended to be practical and not super instructional.

For me, it was the perfect mix of enough instruction and inspiration. I especially liked learning some new-to-me things like what a local color is and then the specific examples the author showed when she used several techniques in one drawing. Once I saw her break it down, it helped clarify the concepts for me. I immediately used some of her ideas in my next sketch (especially the ones on how to paint a sky.)

And finally, the variety of sketches, both by the author and by other sketchers, is the best part of this book. There’s a huge range and you are guaranteed to find something that inspires you.

Overall, this is another winner from The Urban Sketching series.

With gratitude to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

The Penguin Lessons (3.5 stars):  I really enjoyed this little book about a rescued penguin. There isn’t too much depth in this story but there are some lovely anecdotes and some beautiful scenes and if you’re a penguin fan like I am, you won’t be sorry you read it. Doesn’t everyone wish they had a pet penguin (safely of course)?

Before She Knew Him (3 stars):  Messed up is likely the best way to describe this thriller. There were parts where I seriously considered putting it down but it went so fast that I couldn’t really get myself to stop. I apparently wasn’t listening closely enough to figure out the twist, either. In the end, i liked it ok but these thrillers that are so super plot focused just never leave me satisfied.

You Do You (3 stars):  This book was due at the library in 24 hours so I decided it was now or never. I had tried to read Knight’s previous books and had not been successful so I am not even sure what made me want to tackle this little book.

This book, as the title might suggest, focuses on being who you are. Celebrating what makes you, you and leaning into it instead of shying away from it/covering it up, etc. It’s fully aligned with one of my areas of focus this year so it was right up my alley.

There’s profanity in this book, which doesn’t bother me one bit but I know it can trigger some. She’s straight and speaks with confidence. Her message is not one I disagree with but like so many of these books what she doesn’t really outline is how to get there from here. In some of these cases where I might be hesitant to make my move, what holds me back isn’t that I don’t know these things, it’s that I can’t myself to do them 🙂 so the lecture doesn’t help me.

Anyhow, these books consumed occasionally aren’t bad in my opinion. But, of course, action is what really moves life forward in the end.

Dare to Disappoint (3.5 stars):  My son’s English teacher sent this book to me when she found out that I grew up in Turkey. I immediately fell in love with this little book mostly because there’s so much of my childhood in there.

The author/artist grew up around the same time I did so a lot of the history she covers overlaps with mine and it was such a walk down memory lane for me. There were many parts where I chuckled out loud remembering so many little bits of my own story.

Her story is very different than mine for a multitude of reasons, I grew up in Istanbul (to her Izmir) and have very different parents and I also am not Muslim. I went to different schools and left the country to attend college in the US. But even with all that, there was so much here that reminded me of my own upbringing, of the truths we held to be true at the time, of the way my country developed and shifted and changed shape in those years and how we shaped who we were under that umbrella.

There are some terrible moments in this book but most of them are mentioned without too much depth. I couldn’t decide if that bothered me or not. Likely, I was too busy having my own walk down memory lane and if this weren’t a story that hit so close to home, I would have wanted more depth. My biggest beef with this story ended up being the ending. I felt like there was so much detail in her story and then when the ending came, it all fell flat for me. I wanted to see how her story evolved as she shifted and evolved. Even if it were some sort of epilogue. I was so invested in her by this point (which says a lot about the graphic novel) that I felt let down.

Overall, this story had a personal impact on me so it’s very hard for me to gauge if others will love it. But since the original recommendation came from an American, I think others will like it as well.

When All is Said (4.5 stars):  I loved this book.

When I originally started listening to it (in the first 5 minutes to be fair) I wasn’t sure if I would like it. So I put it down. A few weeks later, I decided it was time to tackle it again and I am so glad I did. This book had a similar feeling to John Boyne‘s The Heart’s Invisible Furies which was one of my favorite novels of the last five years. But it was lighter and a faster read.

This is the story of Maurice Hannigan who is now old and sitting at the bar of a hotel and telling the story of his life through five specific toasts he makes. He recounts some of his saddest moments and some of his happiest and the people whose lives had a profound impact on the choices he’s made in his life and the impact his choices have had on others’ lives.

There is so much gold in this book. So much introspection. So much perspective. It’s kind, deep, honest and true. It shows how all humans suffer and how all humans are flawed and how the experiences we have impact so many of the choices we make in life. It made me think a lot about the consequences of the reactive decisions we make in life. It made me think about my own life and all the places where I made choices which were to “get back at” or respond to a life event at the time of my childhood. All the stories I am still holding inside myself. It made me realize that others’ likely have their own stories of those same moments and what life was like for them.

It made me think deep and wide and revisit so much of my own life. And if that’s not a fantastic book, I don’t know what is.

And there we go, a good week of reading. Here’s to another good week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

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