Monday, September 30, 2019

September 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 FORTY-ONE books in the first eight month, so when I add September's SEVEN that brings my total for 2019 to FORTY-EIGHT thus far! If you're interested in what I read (or how I would rate them and whether I would recommend you giving them a read or not), make sure to check out my previous monthly book recaps! {January's BooksFebruary's BooksMarch's BooksApril's BooksMay's BooksJune's BooksJuly's Books, August's Books}

  • Life After Suicide by Dr. Jennifer Ashton - This book happened to be sitting on the "new" table at the library when I was in printing something off and it grabbed my attention. I have always had an ache in my heart for people touched by suicide (I fundraised for many years on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Although this book is written by a doctor (she is actually an OB-GYN), it is not a clinical or medical book - it is a book about her personal story and her life after suicide. She also talks to other survivors and shares some of their stories as well. This book touches on some important topics but also has a few issues (I found her name dropping of some of her friends a little excessive and also her lifestyle hard to relate to - but obviously it does further prove the point that suicide does not discriminate). It was a quick read with a handful of helpful takeaways, especially if you know someone affected by suicide. We need to remove the stigma around mental illness and suicide, as well as embrace those affected! I would give it a 7 out of 10. 

  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - If you've followed my reading journey, you probably know I'm a fan of the YA (Young Adult) genre. Maybe it's because I never read a ton when I was younger, maybe I like the drama (but not the sex scenes in the adult books), maybe it's because the characters tend to feel more innocent, the settings can be more fantastical and the emotions are often downright nostalgic. Whatever the reason, YA books are my jam and I am loving Angie Thomas! She is the writer of The Hate U Give (which was recently turned into a movie) and I loved her from the moment I opened that book. This novel is set in the same neighborhood as the previous book but goes a different direction. I sort of love that she allows the heroine to have her fair share of slip ups and mistakes (like all kids do) before really finding her footing in life. Although I will never fully understand the black experience, I appreciate authors who are willing to shine a light on the realities (and help others not only recognize what's going on, but come alongside as part of the solution). Now if only she could release another novel already ;) I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans - The hubby and I had a road-trip planned so I thought we should grab a audio book from the library (during our last trip we listened to a crime doc podcast and I was ready for a change - especially since the one he found for this trip seemed a little too scary for me). I was interested to listen to this book because it was written from the perspective of a millennial (well, she is on the cusp between Generation X and Millennial, but claims more of the millennial title) about why she believes those in her demographic are leaving the church - and specifically her journey in her Christian walk. At times I felt the book brought up some great points (how maybe having an "open table" policy for things like taking communion might welcome more people to meet Jesus), while other times I felt they were a little wordy and didn't add a lot to the story. I appreciated when she would add her personal experiences into the "debate" because I actually found them more interesting than the statistics or generalized hypothesis she threw out. I do have to say, I am thankful she took a stand on a few topics that are near and dear to my heart and has zero qualms about still calling herself a Christian. I don't know that I'd really recommend this book to others (maybe it was the fact that I was driving and at times it was hard to focus on the nitty gritty details she was getting into), but I enjoyed it enough to not search for a radio station. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Hurting Like Hell, Living with Gusto by Victoria Stopp - I received a DM on Instagram a couple weeks back from a friend who mentioned she was an athlete with fibromyalgia and actually wrote a book about her experiences. She asked if I'd be interested in giving it a read and of course I said yes. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in ninth grade after fracturing a vertebrae in my back (cheerleading stunt accident). I have always said I would never wish this "disorder" (fibromyalgia is considered a disorder of different symptoms, but it is hard to diagnose because it's symptoms are similar or associated with other conditions) on anyone,  but it is "nice" to hear someone else's experience with the crapiness that is fibro - especially someone who is an athlete. I found myself doing a lot of head nodding and agreeing throughout the book - even though her experience was not the exact same as mine. I appreciate that she was willing to put her story down on paper and let others come along side during her journey. Chronic illnesses, especially invisible ones, are hard to handle - not just physically but mentally and emotionally - so knowing there are others out there going through the same thing (or at least something similar) can make you feel not so alone (and it can serve as a reminder that maybe you can get through it too). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig - I don’t remember how I came upon this book, it must have been on a list I found somewhere, but I recently picked it up on one of my Link+ hauls. This was a quick read (although there are approximately 250 pages, the pages themselves are small and the chapters aren’t necessarily traditional chapters {some are short, some are lists, some have inconsistent spacing}). The book delves into the author's battle with depression and anxiety, things that have worked for him, things that have not worked for him, etc. Although the topic of mental illness can be (and is) a very serious and sometimes heavy subject, I was left with a feeling of hope and appreciation for life. With all of the stigma surrounding mental illness, I really appreciate the author’s bravery to bring into the light the raw struggles he has gone through and how dark things really can get. The book reads somewhere between a memoir and self-help book. Whether you battle depression or anxiety (or a host of other mental illnesses) or know someone who does, I think in reading this book you will see how real and all-encompassing the darkness can be and how loving and kind we should be to everyone because we have no idea the demons others may be battling. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Dreamland by Sam Quinones - I think I saw someone I follow on Instagram reading this book so I thought I would pick it up. Opiate addiction is a huge problem near where I'm from, so I am always interested to learn more about the epidemic. I sort of love that this book is written for teens (although I didn't realize that when I put it on hold at the library) because the addiction seems to be starting more and more with that demographic. This book dives into the history and reality of the OxyCotin and heroin epidemic that swept the midwest and eventually the nation. It is very interesting to see the differences between this "war on drugs" and others like crack - it's sort of like it's a race thing (okay, okay, maybe you sensed the sarcasm and disgust in my words... if not, please know, I absolutely believe the way that we as a society treat white vs. black drug users/ addicts is absolutely screwed up... and that's putting it nicely). I flew through this book in a single afternoon. I sort of wish there were more personal stories about how the drugs and addiction affected those involved, but realize this was coming at the topic as a more historical and informative narrative. PS I also appreciate that the author ends on a high note (no pun intended) on how Portsmouth, one of the "Ground Zero" locations for the epidemic, is on the rebound. Here's to hoping we continue to battle and recover. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg - I came across a list on my library's website for "books about kindness", and saw this title so so you know it was right up my alley. Aw, it was so cute! Like the list I found it on stated, this book is definitely about kindness. It's a story about Arthur, a man who recently lost his wife and how he is continuing to get on without her. It's about love, grief, friendship and healing. I'll admit, I got teary-eyed a couple times. It was a super quick read - it only took me a couple hours. Sometimes you just need a feel-good story to restore faith in humanity (even if it is just a novel). It was a heartwarming story that made me wishing we all had an Arthur in our lives ;) I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, September 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?


Kali said...

I recently read Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris and it was amazing! It’s about 2 Canadian women who cycle the whole Silk Road from Turkey to Tibet. I’m now recommending it to everyone!

Elizabeth Cousino said...

I went to college with Victoria! So glad to see her book making the rounds.

Love your monthly book lists :)