Books I Read This Week 2019 – 46

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.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts (3 stars): As many other reviews also said, this story starts strong and then just fizzles. The premise is quite intriguing and I liked all of the characters a lot, too, especially Dex who was a pleasure to read. All in all, the story didn’t finish as strong as it started and I think it could have been a third shorter while still staying strong. I still enjoyed my time with it.

Everything My Mother Taught Me (5 stars): Alice Hoffman was the whole reason I requested the Inheritance series from netgalley. I’ve been a fan of Hoffman and her wonderful writing. This story did not disappoint. 

Adeline’s dad dies when she’s twelve and her mom accepts a job looking after two lighthouses. Her mom is selfish, unkind and is pretty much looking out for number one. This is the story of all the havoc she causes when she enters the lives of the three families living at the lighthouses and the impact it has on Adeline and the story of Adeline’s redemption. Mothers and daughters are always complicated and it’s just so in this powerful story.

This is one of the five books in Amazon’s Inheritance series. “A collection of five stories about secrets, unspoken desires, and dangerous revelations between loved ones.”

Can You Feel This? by Julie Orringer
Everything My Mother Taught Me by Alice Hoffman
The Lion’s Den by Anthony Marra 
Zenith Man by Jennifer Haigh
The Weddings by Alexander Chee

Thank you to netgalley and amazon for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Weddings (3.5 stars): This one wasn’t my favorite of the series, but I did enjoy it quite a bit especially all the little details around weddings and the pressure they put on the attendees and how the dynamics of what it means to attend a wedding as a gay couple has changed. It was interesting to read.

The main character goes back and forth in time giving glimpses to his history with the groom and glimpses into the struggles around finding your identity, your belonging and being unclear about where you stand with a person and then the awkwardness of being at their wedding (such a special occasion) after not having seen them for years and years. There’s so much packed into a short story. 

This is one of the five books in Amazon’s Inheritance series. Thank you to netgalley and amazon for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Lion’s Den (3.5 stars): “Honesty comes in an infinite variety, none crueler than a teenager’s tedium.”

This story of a father-son relationship. A boy who’s father took an action that put his whole family’s life in jeopardy and forever changed the rest of his teenage son’s life. A father who is both famous and infamous. Who’s both revered and reviled. A family who didn’t make the choice but was thrust into the consequences. 

“I’d forgotten conversations with Jimmy Massaro are spectator sports. He has an uncanny ability to speak to himself even while looking you in the eye.”

This is a story about this boy coming back to be with his dad as he dies. The story of what it means to forgive, to turn one’s life into a story, to have your whole identity wrapped up in something that was never even your choice. The consequences of ego. Does time heal wounds? So many questions in such a short story. 

“The good news is that adolescence is a disorder whose physical effects are invariably treated by time. Emotionally and psychologically, it is, for some, incurable.”

This is one of the five books in Amazon’s Inheritance series. Thank you to netgalley and amazon for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Zenith Man (4 stars): “Harold Pardee was as close to a stationary object as a person could possibly be.”

I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I liked this story a lot and it stayed with me after I finished it. This is the story of Harold’s wife whom he finds dead one morning and due to her recluse nature, no one has ever met her (except one person) and knew about her existence. There is a lot of suspicion around her death but how can Harold prove he didn’t kill someone whom no one even knew existed? It’s a weird but still intriguing premise.

This is one of the five books in Amazon’s Inheritance series. Thank you to netgalley and amazon for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Can You Feel This? (5 stars): As a mother, this was one of the stories I enjoyed the most. I could feel all the hesitation, excitement, joy, anxiety, worry, frustration the main character had and the helplessness around trying to nurse your baby and not being able to. There were so many moments in this story that I loved, the best friend who comes in and takes charge, the cleaning lady who ends up being the only one who can actually help, the lactation consultant who is harsh and unhelpful. On and on, so many real characters that stay with you long after you’re done. A powerful short story. This is one of the five books in Amazon’s Inheritance series. Thank you to netgalley and amazon for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Big Dreams, Daily Joys (4 stars): I’m a huge goal-setter and have at times followed Elise on different online platforms. I was excited to read her book on goal setting/getting things done and it did not disappoint. I liked how clear she was with some of the concepts:

“There are three reasons why you don’t get your to-do list items accomplished: lack of time, lack of communication, or lack of interest.” 

Yep and it’s helpful to know which is in which state so I can be clear so that I know what I need to do to move them to a different state.

Even though she quotes the idea from someone else, I loved the idea of looking at my life as an inbox and seeing what’s noise and what’s spam and what I actually signed up for. Lately I’ve been obsessed with the signal to noise ratio in several areas of my work, no reason I can’t think the same way about my life as a whole.

“The fact that you made something you didn’t love today doesn’t matter when you have to make something again tomorrow. This is the power of daily creative projects. You can’t dwell because you have to keep going.”

Yes! This is exactly why I love working on daily projects. It takes my ruminating self out of the equation. I can’t spend too much time overthinking it. I do it today, I move on because I have to do it again tomorrow. This is how I treat my daily drawing for insta: some days I love it and other days it’s a disaster, either way I move on. 

I also loved the five-year plan. I’ve never made one and five years still seems too much to me at this stage of my life, but three doesn’t seem undoable and I think it would still be hugely valuable so I am planning on taking some time with it.

All in all, if you’re a planner and doer and like having projects, I recommend this pretty and inspiring book.

Payoff (4 stars): “As people feel connected, challenged, and get more recognition for their efforts, the total amount of motivation, joy, and output for everyone grows much larger.”

I don’t think it’s possible for Dan Ariely to write a book that’s anything but fascinating. His areas of study are so interesting, so relevant and his work is always so thought-provoking. This short book is no exception. This book focuses on motivation. How we’re motivated, why we’re motivated that way and what’s the best way to motivate your employees. As always, the answers are not intuitive. The strongest motivators are trust, acknowledgement, goodwill, long-term focus, and creating meaningful things, legacy, etc. This is a short book to read and yet impactful, my favorite kind of nonfiction.

Half-Truths and Semi-Miracles (4 stars): This tiny short story is really just an appetizer of Anne Tyler but I am such a fan that I’ll take appetizers. I know she has a new book coming out in 2020 as well thankfully! This is the story of Susanna who has a gift for healing people, or does she? My favorite thing about Tyler’s stories is her ordinary characters that you fall in love with and root for and journey alongside. I can’t wait for her new novel. If you’re like me and will enjoy any sampling of Tyler, you’ll love this.

Worry-Free Living (3 stars): I have mixed feelings about this book. While I really enjoyed the topics of each of the essays and really loved the lessons and thought-provoking perspective, the writing itself felt really choppy and off to me. I am not sure if this is a translation and was just poorly translated or if the author’s style is choppy like this. But either way it made it harder for me to connect with the text.

Here’s an example:

“With that said, if you want to avoid divorce, my advice for you is to offer your partner praise.” 

If this said something like, “regular and genuine praise fuels a marriage and helps foster love,” etc. I’d totally be feeling positively encouraged to do so. And yet this phrasing makes me anxious and worried that I better do what he says or I might not be able to avoid divorce. For a book about worry-free living, it’s making me worry!

I understand it’s not intended this way (or I hope not!) but because there are many examples like this, it’s hard for me to connect with the content as much as I’d like to. 

With gratitude to netgalley and IRH press for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone’s A Critic (4 stars): This was a funny, ironic little story bashing both critics and mass-reviewers (in my opinion.) In fact, I feel like Weiner had fun with a bunch of different concepts in this short story. It’s about the changing face of literary criticism, about critics themselves, about the changing ownership and perspective of publishing and how to cater to new audiences. It’s about revenge, too. But most of all it read to me like Weiner was just having fun writing it. I had a lot of fun reading it.

Universal Methods of Design (4 stars): If you’re interested in design and design methodology this is a fantastic resource. With 125 research methods, it’s absolutely a comprehensive reference with short explanations and clear examples of each method to ensure you can see the application of each method. I really enjoyed my time with this book and as someone who works closely with the User Experience and User Experience Research teams, I feel like I understand some of the methodology so much more clearly now. with gratitude to netgalley and quarto publishing for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

All This Could be Yours (3.5 stars): Attenberg’s novel was painful to read. I find her to be a good writer and her characters always seem real, albeit so different from me that it’s a bit hard for me to connect with them. I still find myself enjoying her writing, her characters and her stories because they feel honest and real. I might not connect with the characters’ choices or actions but I connect with their pain and suffering and frustrations etc because I can almost acutely feel it come off the page. This novel was no different. At its center the toxic Victor and the pain that toxicity caused to everything and everyone around it. How we carry our scars around with us for a long time and how this type of damage can pass from generation to generation. It’s painful and observant and sad and anger-inducing. Which is why it feels so real.

Love Poems for Married People (4 stars): I loved, loved this little book of poems. They are funny, so-well-observed, and so sweetly genuine. I connected with some much more than others, of course, but as a whole I felt it was deeply delightful. Many of these are laugh-out-loud funny, several are really sweet and the very last one is an homage to his wife. I guarantee you will enjoy at least one poem in this set.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (5 stars): This was up there as one of my favorite non-fiction reads of this year (Invisible Women is going to hold the top spot there). It was honest, interesting, funny at parts, sad at others and just a fascinating book to read mostly because it wasn’t too shy to talk about the parts that most people choose not to share, the ugly, the hidden, the parts of our life that make us look less than great that we wish we could sweep under some rug. There are a handful of patients and Lori’s own story of her seeing a therapist. There are details but no names, it’s not sensationalized but more tender, open and imperfect. I appreciated her therapist insights, her peek into the thinking of a therapist when you’re a patient, and her experience with getting her own therapy. The story is compellingly told and I found myself wanting to keep listening, not out of morbid curiosity (as this could have easily become) but out of genuine care.

And there we go, a lot of reading this week, due to many short reads. Here’s to another 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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