Sunday, January 31, 2021

January 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 for a paper or test, 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 2017, 77 books in 2018, 67 books in 2019, and 66 books in 2020). In the last year or so, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks because 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 at least two 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 this year. 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 January:

  • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz - I have had this book in my Hoopla favorites for a couple months (I believe I added it in October, when I saw a list of "must read books" for Indigenous Peoples' Day but hadn't gotten around to listening to it) and thought it was the perfect book to start the year off with. When thinking about history I am always reminded of the Winston Churchill quote, "History is written by the victors." And, no matter what side of the aisle you are on, I think we can all agree (or at least I truly hope we can) that indigenous people have NOT been the winners when it comes to the United States. This book is not necessarily a book of the history of indigenous people (especially since there are 574 federally recognized Indian Nations in the United States and there could never be on singular history for "all"), but more of a book about the history of the United States from the indigenous peoples' perspective. I've gotta say, I learned a lot. Obviously I know that the genocidal history of the United States is often glossed over or ignored outright, but there were other pieces that were eye opening as well (like where the term "redskin" came from). There is A LOT of information presented (fact based and detailed), which sometimes was a bit overwhelming, but I appreciate all of the research that went into this book. This is not a lighthearted read, but a very important one. I hope others will not only read this (it'd be great if it was included in High School or College curriculum), but also demand changes enacted, reparations paid and restitution made. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Dumplin' by Julie Murphy - If you've been following me on social media or Strava, you have probably noticed I traded in my early morning runs for bike rides for the first part of the month due to an Achilles issue (thinking it was Tendinosis seeing as I got a nasty little lump on it, probably due to overuse since December was my highest running mileage month). Anywho, while biking I would watch a movie on Netflix and I noticed Dumplin' was a recommended flick and I remembered that I had saved the book in my favorites on my Hoopla app and never got around to listening to it. Well, since books are 95% of the time better than the movie, I thought I should listen to it prior to watching the movie rendition. A feel-good young adult book?! It was just what I needed. The story is about a self-proclaimed fat girl who is a BA and takes on the local beauty pageant. Let's just say it was just the type of "entertainment" I needed to take my mind off of the craziness going on in the world around us. Loved the friendships, the young love, the strong female characters, the realness of being a teen. Willowdean (the main heroine of the story) had me cheering for her from the jump. I loved seeing her insecurities (obviously not that I want people to have insecurities, but they definitely made her relatable), her growth and her triumph. I would give it a 9 out of 10. PS I did watch the movie... and the book was WAY better!

  • Puddin' by Julie Murphy - While grabbing the link for Dumplin', I noticed it was actually the first book in a series! Obviously I had to look into the second installment and, lucky for me, the Hoopla app had it. This one centered on two of the side characters from Dumplin' - Millie and Callie. Not only do I have a thing for YA books, I also love books written from multiple perspectives, so I was stoked to find out this one would be switching back and forth between the two POV. I've gotta say, this one was up there with the first one (I always worry about sequels). Millie was a sweet character who everyone loved in Dumplin' and Callie was more of a villian, and that seemed to ring true in this continuation of the story, but you dive deeper into their lives, and, in the end, root for BOTH OF THEM to succeed! Although I liked the "feel good" feeling in Dumplin', the "teenage angst/ bullying/ cattiness/ etc" in Puddin' absolutely rang true too. I feel like this one was a little bit more predictable, but I still enjoyed it. Here's to hoping the author continues the series. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Out Of Thin Air by Michael Crawley - I was contacted by the publisher of this book to see if I’d be interested in giving it a read. I'm always down to read a running book, so they sent a copy my way. I didn’t know anything about the book other than the title when I received it. The author lived in Ethiopia for 15 months while running and researching this book. He wanted to see (firsthand) what made Ethiopian runners so amazing (and fast)! I’ve gotta say, a lot of what the author found was surprising to me, someone living in a very individualistic society. Much of the success the runners from Ethiopia experience is due to their mentality of TEAM! They train together, they push one another, they take training (and rest) seriously. (Oh yeah, and you can't discount all of the hard work, the elevation, their beliefs, etc that go into the full package.) The stereotype often put forth to the Western culture that runners from “Africa” (because, let’s be real, runners from Africa are largely lumped together) are forced into running based on poverty, necessity, etc is not correct. It was eye opening to see that the successful runners need to come from some sort of privilege or at least with community support or they wouldn’t be able to do what they need to in order to train (running, especially when trying to make a living at it, is not free, and, for the most part, isn’t super lucrative unless you are one of the “lucky” few at the very top). I enjoyed reading about the “secrets” of the Ethiopian runners, even if I don’t think I’d ever really be able to implement them into my own running (not only am I “only” a recreational runner, but I’m also a solo runner, so much of the focus on the team wouldn’t work for me and my running). I appreciate how the author was really willing to dive in and become an active participant and not just an observer. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen - I grabbed this book from our neighborhood free library a few weeks ago and decided since we were having a sunny weekend and had our camping trip cancelled (all of the campgrounds are still closed) I'd take it to the pool for some R&R. This turned out to be a fun little book. I love when seemingly random characters all intertwine in a story - which is exactly what happened in this one. The characters were definitely eclectic (and odd), but somehow they all worked. You definitely aren't reading this type of light hearted crime fiction to come to earth shattering revelations, but it was entertaining (even if it was far fetched). [I read in the excerpt someone called it a "screwball thriller" and I would say they hit the nail on the head!] It was a quick read and kept me interested the entire time. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite - I saw this book available in the "featured" section of my Hoopla app so figured "why not?". I didn't know anything about it before I downloaded it, but, man, was it a good one! Similar to other books that I really enjoy, this one switches back and forth between different perspectives (and, as an audiobook, those characters are read by different performers, which helps keep the POV straight). The book was actually written by a sister duo team and I loved it! It reminded me of That Hate U Give, but with a twist! Don't worry, I won't ruin it for you, but it turned out to be so much more than I was originally expecting it to be. I appreciate that this book forces us to look at phrases like "one of the good ones"... because, like the cover states, ISN'T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?! This is technically a book written for teens, but I promise you that your eyes will be opened however old you are. I would give it a 10 out of 10. 

  • You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson - I've had this book on my "to read" list for a while (I'm not sure when or how I came across it), but I finally downloaded it. I'm bummed it took me so long because I loved it! It's a coming-of-age story, focused on prom (and all the shenanigans/ drama associated with it) in a Midwest town. As I'm sure you know, I'm all about YA books and this one was no different. I love that this book wasn't just about love, but also about friendship, health issues, sexual orientation, racism/ homophobia, etc! It was definitely an emotional rollercoaster, but I was there for it all. Hit me in ALL THE FEELS! The author did such a great job with the character development that I felt like I knew each and every person involved in the story. And yay for minorities being the main characters! We need more representation in mainstream literature! I'm pretty sure I shed a tear or two towards the end of the book. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Decluttering At The Speed Of Life by Dana White - I love a minimalist lifestyle; it just helps me feel less anxious when I have less clutter. I saw this book on my Hoopla app and I thought it might have some great insight... and I was right. The author goes room by room with her tips on how to declutter at the "speed of life". She isn't bashing other systems, but she believes her way to declutter and simplify helps because there are visual differences (and you aren't making more of a mess) however far along you get. Although much of the info was repeated, it helped because it really hammered the point home. I also love that she goes through possible pitfalls or hold ups that people may have in different rooms. I think the idea that struck me hardest was the idea of "containers". Our containers (whether they are a bookshelf, a dresser or the house as a whole) only hold so much stuff, so we need to figure out what stuff needs to take precedent. Put your favorite things into the container first, then you can add in others if you have space. Once your container is full, the extra needs to go... It takes the emotions out of it - it's just the facts - you only have said amount of space. If there is something in the remaining stuff that "needs to stay" then you need to take something out of the container that you need less. Although I have like ZERO emotional attachment to things, I think a concept like this is great for folks (like my hubby) who can't seem to let things go because the memories or feelings associated with the item. Another thing I loves is that the author is not telling you HOW MUCH stuff you need to declutter (that is the size of the container doing that) or WHAT stuff you need to declutter (as long as it fits in the container and doesn't go above your "clutter threshold" you're good). And, of course, after listening to the book I did a bit more pairing down of items in our closet and around the house. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates - A friend of mine mentioned she had heard an interview (or maybe a podcast) with Melinda and Brené Brown, raved about it and recommended folks pick up Melinda's book. #RealTalk - I didn't know anything about her other than she's Bill Gates' wife. Well, my Hoopla app had the book available so I grabbed it as my last download for the month. I didn't know anything about the book (didn't even know what the topic was until I saw the title), but even still, I grabbed it, jumped in head first and I loved almost everything about it. Like the subtitle mentions, Melinda believes that empowering women can change the world... and, I've gotta say, I wholeheartedly agree! This book focuses on a few main topics that Melinda believes can be HUGE gamechangers - family planning, schooling, unpaid work, child marriage, women in the workplace, etc. I love how Melinda doesn't just talk the talk, but she seems to walk the walk too. Obviously she is in a much different realm of influence than most of us, but I love that she isn't just suggesting we need to throw money at issues and they will go away. There is research, there is legwork, there is understanding and empathy that need to go into trying to fix gender inequality. Her goal isn't for women to take men's places or to be better than men, but to be EQUAL to men... AMEN SISTA FRIEND! I also appreciate that she offers suggestions at the end of the book on how anyone can "get involved". I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, January 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've read lately? 

No comments: