Monday, July 31, 2023

July Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 201966 books in 202067 books in 2021 and 41 books in 2022). Recently, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have two-ish hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in July:

  • Think Again by Adam Grant - Back during the pandemic I took part in a book swap (think of it sort of like a chain letter, but you sent your favorite book to someone and then your name got put on a list two people down and then eventually you would get an assortment of books from people you didn't know). I received this book way back then and it has been on my "must read" shelf since. I was finally able to pick it up (the hubby was out of town for work so I was reading in the evenings instead of hanging out with him) and, I've gotta say, I see why the sender picked this one. It was a very interesting read (but I am not sure it will be everyone's cup of tea). The premises is about learning and unlearning. So often (especially in our current climate) things are often seen as black and white - that there are only two ways to think/ feel. The research shows that if you come into a conversation realizing there is a gray area (and acknowledging that fact) that the person on the "opposing" side may be more willing to listen and you may learn more as well. Some of the sections were more intriguing to me, but I appreciated the support the author had to back up the claims he was making. This one will be staying in my personal library and hopefully will be one I read multiple times. I love the idea of staying curious and being humble of what we do and don't know. Flexibility is key! I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • Here's to Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera - Every once in a while I will click into different genres in my Hoopla app to see if anything strikes my fancy. I picked the LGBTQ+ section and noticed that there was a sequel to one of the audiobooks I listened to a while back and thought I'd give it a listen. I'll be honest, I listened to What If It's Us back in November of 2020, so I didn't remember all of the nitty gritty details, but there are enough context clues so it jogged my memory. Just like most of Adam and Becky's other books, I really enjoyed this one (I savor their solo stuff and when they team up!). I absolutely believe that representation matters and everyone should be able to see themselves portrayed in characters in the media (whether in books, movies, comics, etc). No spoilers, but sometimes I feel like at the end of books I wish we could know what happened a few years later (I know, I know, authors tend to keep it open ended because maybe they'll do a sequel or maybe they want the reader to use their imagination), so I was stoked there was an epilogue that gave us a sneak peak a few years after the conclusion of the main story. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Family Outing by Jessi Hempel - When a friend said this book was one of the best she has read in awhile I knew I had to see if it was on my Hoopla app - AND IT WAS! I grabbed it right away and was excited to give it a listen. I ended up gobbling it up all in one day. It is the memoir of Jessi, but sort of her entire family too. Within the span of five years, she came out as lesbian, her father came out as gay, her sister came out as bi, her brother came out as trans and her mom came to find out she had PTSD. Obviously their experiences did not come without difficulties or crises. I appreciate the author's willingness to allow the audience into all the family had to contend with. I also appreciated the fact that although she asked for feedback and approval from her family on this project, she acknowledges that even though this was her family's story, had any other of the members told it, it would have read much differently since it was still from her particular perspective. (I also smiled when there were bits and pieces about Ann Arbor and Ypsi in the story.) I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman - Now that I have officially started training for the Detroit Marathon (it's not until October), I thought I would listen to a running related book (or two) to put me in "the mood" to get my booty in gear. I had this saved on my Hoopla app for a while, so figured I'd try it out. I've gotta say, I wasn't sure what to expect (the title seems to be a bit clickbait-y, right?!), but I really enjoyed it. I loved the first half of the book more (when he was training to run with one of his daughters' for her first marathon). Hearing the process of trying to keep her motivated, training virtually with one another, having to fit in running into their busy lives, etc made me smile. My dad runs and I love any chance I get to run with him, so this pulled at my heartstrings for sure. Don't get me wrong, the second half of the book, where he was training for his first ultra, was great too, but I enjoyed the parts with his daughter a bit more. I did really appreciate the fact that the author (although he is a CNN correspondent, so might be well known in some circles) is a middle-of-the-pack runner. I felt like it made the story more relatable for other "everyday runners". I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

  • The Very Nice Box by Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman - This book was on a "trending" list on the Hoopla app, so I thought I'd give it a go. I avoid reading the synopsis of the books prior to starting them, so I had no idea what to expect, but it was entertaining. The main character worked as an engineer at a place similar to IKEA. The story is about her and some of her relationships (the death of her fiance, the ups and downs of her friendship with a coworker, a new love interest in her life, etc). It's a quirky and keeps you guessing. I wouldn't say it was my favorite, I wouldn't say I loved it, but I found it interesting enough that I wanted to keep listening to hear how everything would play out and unravel. I would warn ya - I didn't love the ending. It left me a bit disappointed (it seemed rushed and implausible), but overall it was ok. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • It's One of Us by J.T. Ellison - A friend of mine who is a real big reader mentioned that she loved the twists and turns of this thriller, so I figured I'd give it a go. (Note: I cannot do horror. I always worry that thriller might get a bit too dark or scary, but rest assure, for this scaredy cat, the novel read more whodunit than frightening.) I would absolutely agree with my friend that the author did a good job at keeping you guessing and on your toes. I'd say I guessed most of the "secrets", but it was definitely later in the book than normal ;) [must be thanks to all of those Law & Order episodes I grew up on]. I'll be upfront and say this genre is not my normal go-to, but it kept me interested and I was looking for time throughout the day when I could listen to a few chapters. I also enjoyed how many different perspectives it was written from. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Midwest Survival Guide by Charlie Berens - I don't know how this one popped on my recommended list on my Hoopla app (I mean, I know I'm from the midwest, but I don't think I've necessarily read any books about it recently), but however it happened - I'M STOKED! Now, although the author says that this book is for everyone (from people who live in the midwest to people who may visit one day), I would say if you aren't from the area there might be a few things that go over your head, but nonetheless it is pretty hilarious (and spot on). Legit, I listened to this on my walk to work a couple mornings and I was laughing out loud - thankfully no one appeared to be around because I probably looked a little silly. The author is also the comic behind "The Manitowoc Minute" (I had never heard of/ seen it before, but you bet your bottom dollar I looked it up once I finished the audiobook). PS I normally don't mention the subtitle of the book, but this one was just too good to skip - How We Talk, Love, Work, Drink, and Eat... Everything with Ranch. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Michigan Murders by Edward Keyes - When listening to The Family Outing earlier this month, it reminded me of a book I had in my "for later" list on my Hoopla app. Without giving away spoilers, the mom from the memoir was in the Ypsilanti area during the timeframe these murders took place and when it was mentioned in the book I remembered I had this one saved. Now, I'll be honest, it is NOT easy to listen to. And I go back and forth on my thoughts of true crime (whether we should consider it "entertainment"), but because these murders happened so close to home (even if it was 15ish years before I was born) I was intrigued since I don't remember hearing anything about it growing up (or going to the University of Michigan!). This book definitely isn't for everyone (and you definitely have to be in the right mindset before you start it), but I was gripped by the story from beginning to end. The only thing I was was that there was a little bit more of the "after". These murders occurred in the late 60s and early 70s, so since this book wasn't published until 2010 I would've thought there could've been some follow up on where things stood 30+ years later. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Is Rape a Crime by Michelle Bowdler - I am part of a few “buy nothing/ trade stuff” Facebook pages and this book was up for grabs. The title grabbed me right away (I mean, OF COURSE RAPE IS A CRIME, RIGHT?!) so I covered the Media Mail postage and put it on my shelf. It had been slow at work, so I thought I’d read when we didn’t have customers. Let me tell you, this one is staying in my personal library. The book is split into three parts - a memoir, an investigation and a manifesto. The author of this book shares her very traumatic experience of being raped by two men who broke into her apartment intent to rob the place before finding her sleeping alone. Not only does she share how this violent felony changed and shaped her life physically from that moment on, but she gives the reader a glimpse into the raw and real emotions/ thoughts/ feelings that victims can (and do) have after these interactions. She uses her trauma to help fight for others in a similar situation, who feel helpless and voiceless. Along with trying to enact change on a campus level, state level, country level, she is also struggling with the realities of her personal case (which had gone "cold"). The book takes place over the span of 25 years. It is quite the example of how something that happens in an instant can have lifelong effects. As I mentioned, this book is not just a memoir (but even if it was I still would have given it a high rating), but also a dive into how our society treats rape (which is often a violent crime perpetrated against women). She didn’t want to book to be solely about one woman’s story, but about the system as a whole - shining a light on the inadequacies and urging us to do better. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

With that, July has come to a close. My reading may have slowed down a bit (especially compared to years past), but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read so they're in one place. Feel free to check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

No comments: