Thursday, December 31, 2020

December Books

I can't believe my goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (ha, I ended up with 88 in 201777 in 2018 and 67 in 2019!) has morphed into this passion for books. As you can see, my reading has slowed a bit, but my love for books has not! In the past couple years I've added longer distance races (which means more time running/ training and less time reading), we've remodeled our condo (I think it legit took us six months to finish the whole thing... DIY seems to take twice as long {and cost twice as much} as you originally think it will), and I'm now working full time at our local running store (which cuts down on my reading time). Even still, I love getting my read on whenever I can.

Truth be told, I was never much of a reader when I was younger (CliffsNotes were my best friend when it came to books), but recently I fell in love. Although I may not read at the same speed as I previously did when I first caught the reading bug, I still want to keep the hobby going (and what better form of accountability than to post a list of the books I finished at the end of the month?!). I don't have any set number of books I am shooting to read this year, but hopefully a lack of goal doesn't mean a lack of books completed. So, without further ado, let's jump into everything I read in December!


  • The Man Called Cash by Steve Turner - The hubby and I had quite a few hours in the AdventureMobile when we were driving to and from Utah for our Thanksgiving camping trip, so this was the second audiobook we grabbed (we started it on the way home, but it was a little too long so we finished it separately a few days after we got back). We both really like Johnny Cash so thought this would be an interesting listen - and we were right. This biography really dives into the life, love and faith of "the man called Cash". I'll be honest, some of it felt a little disjointed and wasn't in chronological order (with some parts being repeated a bit), but I feel like I walked away with a deeper understanding of not only the man and the artist, but the Christian too. I appreciate that the author didn't sugarcoat over the bad, hard or ugly sides of Johnny's life - it gave a true representation (or I think it did ;)). Listening made us want to watch Walk The Line soon. I would give it an 8 out of 10.


  • Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich - I was feeling a little uninspired with my current list of potential audiobooks, so did a little asking on social media to see what friends were currently listening to. This book made an appearance on the list and I was intrigued. Marshall was an ultrarunner who decided to tackle the world record of running across America (from San Francisco to New York). I'll be honest, I doubt I will ever tackle a HUGE undertaking like this, but it is always amazing to follow along on the journey (from the comfort of my own home). It's also interesting when folks write about firsthand experiences. I guess, if it was me, I would probably try to paint myself in a positive light, but Marshall is very honest about his shortcomings and the role he has played in some of the hurt caused (especially in his family). Obviously someone tackling over 3,000 miles of running has to be a bit obsessed, and I would say this is absolutely the case when it comes to Marshall, but, hey, he was pursuing a passion and trying to see a dream through to the end - MAJOR KUDOS! And, deep down, I may have been jealous of his adventure (as crazy as that is!). I would give it an 8 out of 10.


  • The Year of Less by Cait Flanders - As with the previous book, this was suggested by a friend. If you know me, you probably know I'm all about simple living. I've read quite a few books on the topic, but this one was different. Although Cait shares about her journey of a year-long shopping ban, giving away the majority of her belongings and going out on her own, she also shares the nitty gritty details of why she may have turned to things like consumerism, alcohol, etc in the past. This book isn't simply about decluttering or living minimally (and if that's why you are thinking about reading it, I'd probably recommend finding another option, because this is more about the author's personal quest with tips and tricks sprinkled in along the ride), it's about living with less, consuming less and needing less. Not only was it an encouraging book that nudged me to want to pair down things even more, but it also helped me to ask the right questions. I would give it an 8 out of 10.


  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett - I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but this is another title from the ones friends suggested when I was uninspired by my "to read" list. I didn't know anything about this book other than it was a novel and the audiobook was read by Tom Hanks. I've gotta say, I'm not exactly sure how I felt about it. The storyline jumped around quite a bit (maybe in the written book you can see that there were changes in the timeline, like with line break, but with the audiobook the story just kept right on rolling and I didn't realize we were in a different part for a few minutes) and it was a bit difficult to keep things straight. Also, there didn't seem to be a climactic ending or anything particularly engaging. I listened to this one on my walk to work and on my lunch break (at 1.5x speed), but I didn't find myself necessarily rooting for any of the characters (although I did love the relationship between Danny and Maeve) and wasn't particularly invested. Hey, not every book is for everyone and even though this one wasn't for me, maybe it'll be for you. If you like a slow burn type plot filled with family drama, this might be right up your alley. I would give it a 6 out of 10.


  • If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now by Christopher Ingraham - Yup, another audiobook a friend suggested. This one, unlike the last one, was not a novel. It was actually the story of a Washington Post reporter. You see, he wrote about data sets and one that came across his desk was a list of all the counties in America and ranked them from best to worst (using things like weather, landscape, etc to determine liveability). He wrote an article about the ranking and the community from the "worst" spoke up... A small county in Minnesota, Red Lake Falls, was last on the list but challenged the ranking and got Christopher to visit. You'll have to read (or listen to) the book, but eventually he and his family moves to the area to get away from the hustle and bustle of city living. If you know me, you know I'm all about living simply, so loved this story (and told the hubby about it in hopes that maybe we'd sell our home and move to the country {but somewhere MUCH, MUCH warmer than Minnesota of course}). With the author being a writer for a national newspaper, you can imagine he was able to write a good story (and, seeing as I am a numbers nerd, you better believe I appreciated all of the data he included throughout the book). I would give it a 9 out of 10.


  • They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera - Hey, I didn't find this one through a friend ;) I found this book because it was written by the same author as of one of the ones I listened to last month. I didn't know anything about it, other than I enjoyed the previous book, but downloaded it and figured I'd give it a shot. The premise is somehow death can now be predicted and folks are called at the beginning of the day to let them know that they will die that day. They are not told when exactly or how, just that it will be their last day to live. This may be a Young Adult book, but it makes you think of very serious topics - like how you would spend your last day on Earth if you knew it was your last. You would think the title would prepare you for the ending, I mean, shoot, you know where the story is going, but it is still heartbreaking nonetheless. I could see a little of myself in both of the main characters and was pulling for them to somehow be the exception to the rule and somehow prove the death predictions wrong. As with all of the other books up to this point in the month, I listened to it on my Hoopla app and liked that the different characters (the chapters switched between the different character's points of view) were read by different performers. You knew that this storyline would really only focus on a 24-hour (at most) time span, but, man, I wished it would have kept going. I would give it a 9 out of 10.


  • The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley - Yep, this one was recommended by a friend and I knew nothing about it before I downloaded it on my Hoopla app. I noticed in the description that it was a murder mystery, but that was the extent to what I knew beforehand. I know I've said this before, but I do really enjoy books that are written from the point-of-view of different characters in the story. I especially appreciate audiobooks that have those characters read/ performed by different voices - it helps to keep things straight, at least for me. This book had five different POV and actually jumped around in the timeline a bit. The entirety of the story took place over the course of four days (December 30, 2018 through January 2, 2019) but even still there was a lot to keep track of. The plot of the book was a group of college friends head off to holiday in a remote part of Scotland and while they are together one of the friends dies (or is murdered)... don don don! I think because the story jumps from person to person and event to event I didn't have too much time to try and figure out exactly whodunit. The book was fast paced and kept me engaged the entire time (especially because I am currently listening to my audiobooks at 1.5 their normal speed). I am normally not a huge mystery fan (I'm a baby and never know if things will be "too scary" for me), but this one was more of a suspenseful mystery than anything else. It wasn't amazing (I'd say the majority if not all of the characters had at least one major flaw that made me not necessarily want to root for them), but it was entertaining. I would give it an 8 out of 10.


  • A $500 House in Detroit by Drew Philp - I have had this book favorited in my Hoopla app for a while but hadn't gotten around to listening to it yet... until now. I don't know about you, but I could lose myself for hours watching HGTV/ home improvement type shows, so when I saw this book was not only about Detroit (I grew up about 45 minutes south) but also about rehabbing and abandoned home, I was all in. The author went to the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!) and decided he wanted to try and make a tangible difference by rebuilding and residing in a house in Detroit. He bought the abandoned house at an auction for $500 and the book recounts his experience. I love that it not only was about the experiences his had, but also about Detroit (and Michigan as a whole). The hubby and I have always said that if we were to move back to Michigan we would probably end up in Detroit or Ann Arbor. The sense of community that Drew found made me consider it a little more seriously (until I got to the winter months where he was frozen and it quickly reminded me why I moved to sunny and warm Southern California ;)). I might be bias because of my heart for Detroit, growing up in Michigan, being familiar with the area the author was discussing, etc, but I really enjoyed this book (even if my home state isn't painted in such a great light throughout it). I would give it a 9 out of 10.


  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera - I was on Amazon and came across this book. I had listened to a few of this author's other books so I guess Amazon threw this one out there as a suggestion I might like. It happened to be available on my Hoopla app so I downloaded it and got to listening on my walk to work. This is definitely a YA book, but hopefully by now you know I am a sucker for that genre. There is a sci-fi twist (which usually I'm not a huge fan of), but it made me think. There is a business that can "make you forget" people/ experiences/ etc by altering your memories and the characters in the story have to decide if the potential side effects or ramifications would be worth it. The main character, Aaron, had me pulling for him the entire story. I felt all the feels in this book and devoured it as quickly as I could. There were quite a few plot twists that I was NOT expecting (which is always a good thing, because predictable books can be rather boring) and the ending was a blow to the gut I wasn't prepared for (but in a good way... if that's possible ;)). Thankful I came across this author because I have thoroughly enjoyed everything of his I've read thus far! I would give it a 9 out of 10.


With that, December (and 2020) 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. This year I was able to get in 66 books [January: 8, February: 5, March: 5, April: 5, May: 2, June: 3, July: 10, August: 7, September: 4, October: 4, November: 4, December: 9]. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list or see if they're on my audiobook app!

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?