Friday, May 31, 2019

May Books

I can't believe my goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (ha, I ended up with 88 in 2017 and 77 in 2018!) has morphed into this passion for books. Let's be real, not having cable TV to keep me "entertained" also gives me more free time to dive into a great book or seven ;) {PS One of my goals for 2019 is to read 19 books, let's see how many times over I can do that.}

There were TWENTY-FOUR books in the first four month, so when I add May's SEVEN that brings my total for 2019 to THIRTY-ONE thus far! If you're interested in what I read (or how I'd rate them and whether I'd recommend you giving them a read), make sure to check out my recaps! {January's BooksFebruary's BooksMarch's Books, April Books}

  • Educated by Tara Westover - Wow. Normally I start these recaps with a little spiel about how I don't remember how I found out about this book (which is still the case in this instance, although I'd have to imagine it came to me from all of the best seller lists I've seen), but this one I had to start with a single word. I wasn't sure what this book was about when I grabbed it, but everyone who saw I was reading it shared similar sentiments - 'you will love it'. Although novels are normally full of drama and keep your attention from beginning to end, memoirs tend to grab at my heartstrings and draw me fully into the story. This memoir is written by a daughter of parents who raised their children in a cycle of paranoia, abuse and fear. Even though the family was part of the Mormon faith, this is not a book bashing the religion or even those who are "doomsday prep-ers". This is a book about abuse and how both the abusers and the abused warp reality to survive. Some of the memories will make you shake your head, some will make you want to scream and some will bring tears to your eyes. Tara's story is one filled with terror, violence and, eventually, hope. Reading about Tara's life reminded me of the quote "Be kind. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.". It takes courage and strength to be able to tell our stories, and I am thankful Tara has been willing to share hers. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Between The World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates - A few days before the hubby and I left for Joshua Tree I saw a friend mention this book as a "game changer". I figured I'd throw it on my "for later shelf" at the library so I wouldn't forget, but noticed the audio book was available and it was only about 3.5 hours long (which would be perfect for the roadtrip). I scooped it up from the library and we listened to it on the way to and from JTree. Other than hearing it was very impactful I wasn't really sure what it was about. This book is written from the father's perspective to a son. The author is telling/ teaching his son about the ways of American culture and how it is essentially built on violence, terror and the backs of others. Although this book focuses on being black in America, I felt like because it was written as a "letter" from a father to a son, it wasn't as pointed as other books that come out blatantly to say "this is what's wrong with America and this is why you suck". (Don't get me wrong, I absolutely believe that the plight of blacks in America is real, despicable and something that needs to change, but some books turn off their readers because the audience doesn't like to be accused of their wrongdoings. The way this book was written I felt like I was observing an intimate conversation between a dad and his boy and was able to take away some very important knowledge without automatically being on the defense.) The hubby and I both felt as though we walked away with a better understanding of the systematic issues blacks (and other minorities) face. I think that the only thing that could have made this book better would have been to include actionable ideas on how to change the broken machine we are all a part of. I read books like this and know things need to change, but have a hard time seeing how I can help. Maybe in a tiny way being able to suggest others to read this book, question our environment and have honest and open conversations is one of the first (of many) steps I can take. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean - I had seen this book on a few "must read" lists recently so I snagged my spot in line at the library (the wait-list was in the double digits when I joined it) and waited patiently. This was the first book I've read by this author, but I know it won't be my last. This was a story that was part mystery, part history. I really enjoyed it. Although I've lived in Southern California for over 13 years, I've never heard about the Los Angeles Public Library Fire in the late 80s. It burned for over 7 hours, had a heat of over 2000 degrees and damaged over a million books. Talk about a sad day in LA! The story did jump around a bit from chapter to chapter, but I really enjoyed how the book titles at the beginning of each chapter described what could be expected (super clever!). A few of the sections on past employees of the library seemed to drag a little longer than I would have liked, but otherwise I stayed interested and engaged the entire time. Shoot, it even motivated me to look and see if there were any positions available at my local library (AND APPLY TO ONE THAT WAS CURRENTLY OPEN!). I love how the research the author did for this book rekindled a love for physical books (especially in the age of e-readers) and the library as a whole. I fell in love with the library a couple years ago, so this book is right up my alley! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Grit by Angela Duckworth - I had seen some of my friends reading this book so I thought I'd grab it from the library. As with most books, the only thing I really knew about the book was the title (and that friends enjoyed it). The premise of the book is that the "secret" behind achievement is not necessarily talent, but a mix of passion and persistence (which she calls "grit"). The author is a researcher so the book is filled with quite a bit of data and research, but I didn't feel as though it was boring or hard to get through. Some of the points she made weren't rocket science (people who like the task that they are doing tend to do it better than people who don't or hard work and perseverance can overcome a lack of talent), but the book did a great job at putting everything together to see how it relates to success. Angela (and her research) believes that someone's "grit score" has the power to predict who will stick with something and see it through till the end. She believes you can grow your grit either from the inside out (by cultivating interests, practicing, finding a deeper purpose and getting back up when you've been knocked down) or from the outside in (with the help of a supportive environment and culture). I felt as though this book was equal parts informative and motivating - although at times I felt like some of the information could have been streamlined or cut shorter and it would have still made its point. If you don't have the time to read the book, I'd suggest watching Angela's six minute TED talk because it touches on most of the research presented in the book. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • Running Outside the Comfort Zone by Susan Lacke - I received an email a few weeks ago from VeloPress (the publisher) about the release of this book. The synopsis seemed intriguing so I reached out to see if I could get a copy to read and review. I hadn't read anything by this author before (she is an endurance columnist), but I'm already looking to see if our library has her debut book because I liked this one so much. Susan felt, like many runners do, that she wasn't a "real" runner. Her hubby reminded her that there are all different kinds of runners and challenged her to determine what kind she wanted to be. She decided to take a year and run races that pushed her limits well outside of her comfort zone (i.e. a nudist 5K, her first ultramarathon, a race where her hubby had to carry her on his back for the entirety of the race, an event that included chasing a wheel of cheese down a steep hill, etc). I loved each and every one of the recaps. Not only was she super relatable and an awesome storyteller, but it may have opened my eyes to a few new races I need to add to my schedule ;). I flew through this book and didn't want it to end. Susan sounds like my type of runner - maybe our paths will cross at some point and we can get in a few miles together! Running ROCKS! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean - After reading The Library Book earlier this month, I thought I would grab one of the author's previous books. I would say that this is written in a very similar fashion as the previous book I read - where it switches between the history of the topic (in this case - plants, flowers and orchids) and the "key characters" (in this case - the actual orchid "thief", John). Although I found this interesting in The Library Book (because I find libraries fascinating), I found it a little boring in this one because I am not a big orchid lover (from the sounds of it, you can't just be an orchid "liker", you are either all in or all out). I would say I found this book pretty dry and slow. I hear it is the story behind the movie Adaptation with Jim Carey, so I'd be interested to watch the film and see if they were able to make it more interesting. Don't get me wrong, I still finished the book, so it wasn't terrible, it just didn't hook me as much as the other one I had read before. The book did remind me how strange the state of Florida and its residents can be! I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • 26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi - I received this book through a giveaway I entered from Represent Running. If you remember, I read Meb's previous book, Meb for Mortals, back in October and really enjoyed it so I was stoked to get my hands on this one. As a person and as a runner I really like Meb. He is kind, passionate and generous. This book was a look inside of the 26 marathons he ran during his professional career. Even though he is an elite athlete, the life lessons he learned during running are relatable to not only recreational runners but to non-runners as well. I always enjoy a little "behind the scenes" peak into people's lives, and this was a little of that. I also loved how he continually mentioned the folks around him who helped make him who he was. Yes, of course running is a solo sport, but there are so many people around us who allow us to do it (from our spouses who pick up some of the slack around the house during training and our friends who are willing to move plans to earlier in the day so we can get our much needed sleep before a long run to our tribe who is there to cheer us on and cheer us up, no matter how a run or race goes). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

With that, May has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list!

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you read this year?


Betsy M. said...

Wow, that's a ton of books you've read. Out of all those, I've only read Educated which I really liked. I'm going to add your other recommendations to my reading list. I am currently reading. Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup.

Organic Runner Mom said...

I want to read Educated and Grit! Good for you with keeping up with your reading!

Georgette said...

Educated and The Library Book were on my list of best nonfiction last year. I love how your dog is all tuckered out in most of your book pics. 😁