Books I Read This Week 2019 – 33

Thanks to travel, some awesome reading 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 Most Fun We Ever Had (4.5 stars): This is exactly the kind of book I love. It’s a long multi-generational family story so you get completely immersed in each of these characters. I loved each character and I also loved that the story goes back and forth in time so that their stories unveil piece by piece and there are moments the reader knows more than a particular character and other moments where you’re confused and wondering what happened in the past that made this characters be where they are in this present. As all the pieces came together, I had already fallen in love with each character and didn’t want the story to end. I loved this one. It’s the perfect book to immerse yourself in during a long day.

The Dutch House (4.5 stars): “Disappointment comes from expectation, and in those days I had no expectation that Andrea would get and thing less than what she wanted.”

Ann Patchett’s novels are always a journey and this one is no exception. This story starts with two siblings Maeve and Danny who live in a giant house with their family and some help. The mother leaves and the dad ends up marrying another woman who has two younger daughters of her own. Everything in the story winds backwards and forwards in time from there. 

This story told from the little boy, Danny’s, perspective takes the characters from their child years all the way to old age. There is so much here to talk about, but there were three most resonant themes for me. One is about the strong bond between the two siblings. The way their lives were completely intertwined with each other. The way they would drop anything at the drop of a hat and be there for each other. The way their love and support for each other was 100% unwavering and unconditional. It was palpable in the whole story.

“Mothers were the measure of safety, which meant that I was safer than Maeve. After our mother left, Maeve took up the job on my behalf but no one did the same for her.”

The second theme was of sacrifice. The theme of saints. Is a parent leaving her kids but then out there saving the world a good parent or a bad parent? What does it mean if she is helping those who need help but abandoning her kids in the process? So many questions that are hard to answer here.

“In the city of constant stimulation, we had failed to give them the opportunity to develop strong inner lives for those occasions when they would find themselves sitting through the second act of The Nutcracker

And finally, the theme that was most resonant for me: living your life in a particular way just out of spite. There’s so much in this book done out of spite. Done out of resentment and anger. When we carry all this with us, it shapes our whole life and then these terrible things people did to us end up continuing long after they are not in our life. And this book has such strong examples of what it looks like to live with all that.

Every character in this book is 3-dimensional and you can feel them moving in the story. The house itself is definitely another character and looms over the story just like many of the paintings mentioned. It shapes everything. I loved every page of this book even if the ending wasn’t all I wished it were. 

Thank you to netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Notes to Self (3.5 stars): These essays were raw and honest. Even though the author and I have very little in common in the paths we’ve taken, choices we’ve made, and misfortunes we’ve encountered, what I appreciate the most here is that she’s willing to write openly about subjects we usually are not “supposed to” talk about. She is willing to be vulnerable and real about some of the toughest moments of our lives. There are things that happen to us and things that we chose to do and in both of these categories, our worthiness gets revisited again and again. This collection is a reminder to me that one of the ways we heal is by choosing to talk about such things. We make it less of a mystery, we release the shame associated with it, and most importantly, we feel less alone. Any book that makes me feel less alone in the world is a gift.

Has Anyone Seen the President? (3 stars): This is a super-super short read. It’s a tiny glimpse into one day in Lewis’ life where he gets to go to Washington and spends the day with Bannon. Nothing new here at this point. I have his longer book, too, which I assume will not be very different but might at least have a bit more depth. I always enjoy a Michael Lewis article so it was still a worthwhile read.

Searching for Sylvie Lee (3 stars): While I read this whole book in one breath and enjoyed it very much, I didn’t end up connecting with any of the characters and I also didn’t feel like I had enough context, depth, or development of character for the resolution of the story to feel satisfying. Having said that, I really loved the juxtaposition of all the different cultures in this story and I enjoyed the fact that it alternated between the two sisters. I loved many of the details that highlighted the cultural choices the characters were making. It’s a story about family, betrayal, and love but I think above all, it’s a story about how things are not how they seem and how we don’t know much about even the people we’re closest to in our lives. And how secrets can be so damaging to our relationships, our lives, and our perspective.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (3.5 stars): The language in this novel was wonderful. Lyrical and visual. The story was also an amazing read but it was so sad and so tough that I had a hard time reading it. I had to put it down several times. This book covers many issues from immigration, race, gender, identity, language and grief. It has parts that are graphic and some really heart-wrenching scenes. I am glad I read it but it was a hard read and I didn’t find myself connecting to it. Still really glad I read it.

Limitless Mind (5 stars): “In every moment of our lives our brains have opportunities to make connections, to strengthen pathways, and form new pathways.”

I’ve highlighted almost every page of this book. None of the concepts around growth mindset were new to me. I took a course by the amazing teachers at Stanford almost 5 years ago when my son was in elementary school and the concepts resonated with me then. I believed in it and wanted to encourage my kids to think this way.

“This approach illustrates a key takeaway – when you hit a barrier, it is advantageous to develop a new approach and come at the problem from a new perspective.”

But none of it brought it home the way this book did, for me. Even though parts of it were repetitive, I needed that repetition, I needed to hear the ideas again and again so I could internalize them in the right way. I’ve been taught the opposite messages my whole life, it’s going to take a long time to unlearn and repetitive exposure to these ideas and examples is a start.

“The difference between positive and negative interactions frequently depends on three aspects of being unlocked: having an open mind, asking analytical questions, and embracing uncertainty.”

There are parts of a growth mindset that I think I already do naturally. I am not afraid to ask questions, try new approaches, and I will often work on having an open mind. But uncertainty is almost never my friend. And yet, even there, I have many examples in my life when I’ve taken a big uncertain risk and have learned more in the process.

“If you settle into routines and do the same thing everyday, it is unlikely that your brain will grow new pathways and connections.”

This one was hard on me, I am a person of routine. I do so much of the same thing every day. So it’s a reminder for me to try one new thing every day. However small or big, it means I am growing and creating new connections in my brain. 

“So my final advice for you is to embrace struggle and failure, take risks, and don’t let people obstruct your pathways. If a barrier or roadblock is put in your way, find a way around it, take a different approach…Do not accept a life with limits. Instead of looking back on things that have gone badly, look forward and be positive about opportunities for learning and improvement. See others as collaborators, with whom you can grow and learn. Share uncertainty with them and be open to different ways of thinking.”

I am going to print this quote and frame it both at home and at my desk at work. I don’t want a life with limits. I want to grow and learn and thrive every single day of my life in every area of my life. I am eternally grateful to Jo Boaler for the reminder of the mindset I need to practice to ensure my life can be limitless.

with gratitude to netgalley and harper collins for an early copy in return for an honest review.

Do the Work: Unf*ck Yourself Workbook (4 stars): “When you’re in a constant conversation about why you’re stuck, you’ll embolden and embellish it. It will become the altar at which you’ll sacrifice your entire life experience.”

Gary Bishop’s no nonsense approach works for me. There’s nothing he says that I don’t know deep down or haven’t heard before. But he cuts to the chase and gives it to you straight. I don’t mind the cursing, in fact, it helps me get to the point faster.

“You have to hold yourself to account for your own purpose; no one is coming to save you or lift you up or inspire you. That’s your fucking job.”

No one. I do the work, or it doesn’t get done. I keep having to learn this again and again.

“You are a space for life to happen, a wild and wondrous environment for miracles and hardships and everything in between. You are a moment, a loud bang in a burst of time that trails to a whisper and then disappears into the abyss.”

In the end, this is the truth that matters most. No one is coming to save me and I can’t save anyone else. I owe it to me to live my best life because I only get one. And I am here for a moment, I want to make that moment as magical as it can be. I don’t want to waste it with anxiety or worrying about how I look to others or all the other noise in my head. I want to feel alive and I want to breathe every one of those moments I get.

“Do the work.”

And here I go. Off to do the work.

Thank you, Gary, thank you edelweiss and HarperOne for the advanced copy.

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