Tuesday, August 31, 2021

August 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 201777 books in 201867 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 August:

  • The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver - I read Mason's debut novel earlier this year and gave it two thumbs up, so when this one popped up on my Hoopla app I knew I needed to give it a try. This is definitely a heavy book. It deals with death and grief. It's raw and feels very authentic (even though at times I wanted to shake the teenagers to get them to "grow up", but that's teenagers, right?!), which makes sense when you listen to/ read the author's note at the end of the book. Can I just say it hit me in #AllTheFeels?! Liam, the main character in the story, lost their brother in a tragic hit-and-run accident and is now having to not only work through their loss, but also the other changes going on in their life (i.e. friendships changing, learning more about their brother, new family dynamics, etc). I'd say Liam was hard to like at points... but grief is a personal and immensely difficult emotion to wade through, so I understand if they were "off". I think my heart broke more for Marcus than Liam, but maybe because he was a more likeable character in my opinion. Even still, this book hit me in the gut and helped to remind me how precious and fleeting life is, so we need to live every moment to the fullest and tell those around you how much they mean to you. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Logical Family by Armistead Maupin - I'll be honest, I had never read any of Armistead's previous works, but I am always down for a good memoir and when the synopsis mentioned he was an icon in the gay movement I knew I wanted to give it a go. He was one of the original activists in the LGBT community. I can see how he made a living as a journalist and writer - his storytelling ability is pretty amazing! This book read like a conversation with an old friend - casual, warm and witty. His life is very fascinating (from being in the Navy during Vietnam to living in San Francisco during the 1970s) and I always appreciate a behind-the-scenes peek into someone's "real life". I also loved that some of the characters in his Tales of the City series were based on real people in his life (along with actual experiences). After I finished with this, I immediately went onto my Hoopla app to add all of the books in the series to my "For Later" list. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Running & Being by Dr George Sheehan - I was excited about this one. I am always down for a good running book and this one caught my eye while scrolling through some of the "running/ sports" books available for download on my Hoopla app. Well, I'll be honest and say this one was a big disappointment for me. Now, don't get me wrong, some people may love it, but I felt like it was just too much philosophy and not enough about actual running. The only section that I really enjoyed was when he was talking about the Boston Marathon and I think that's because I've had two amazing races there (albeit two very different experiences) and it brought me back to those runs. It might also be that the author and I are two very different runners. Although he talks about "enjoying the run", he runs every race (or at least this is the way he made it seem) at 110%. He crosses the finish line and normally ends up on all fours, gasping for breath or needing someone to hold him up. That type of push and drive may be inspiring to some (and in some instances it definitely is), but I think if that's the type of runner he is, we might not jive on all philosophies behind running. There were actually quite a few points in the book where I even questioned if I wanted to finish and that rarely happens! I did end up listening all the way to the end, but I'm bummed it didn't live up to the expectations I had. I would give it a 4 out of 10.

  • The Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff - After the previous letdown of a running book, I needed something to redeem my sports reads and came across this one. I didn't know anything about the author or her journey across New Zealand, but I figured it sounded interesting (I always love following along on people's adventures on the AT, PCT, etc so thought this was right up my alley). I am so stoked to report that this one was great! The audiobook was read by the author and she's AMAZEBALLS (and loves the term as much as I do, hehe). I love her energy and enthusiasm for running AND life. She sounded like someone I could be immediate friends with (wouldn't it be fan-freakin'-tastic if I came across her in my running journeys one day?!). The book read like a race recap and I appreciated hearing the highs AND lows of her six month, 3,000 kilometer trek across New Zealand. As can be expected, once I finished (let's be real, the feelings were already there within a chapter or two) my mind was already trying to think through if and how I could make a run like this happen for myself. I've actually already recommended this book to two friends who I hope love it just as much as I did. I also added it to my list of physical books I would like to add to my personal library! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - If I remember this correctly, I got this in a swap from someone who I sent some of my finished books to a while back. It's been on my bookshelf for a while (I think I started it last fall and then life got busy and I mostly went to audiobooks because I didn't have a ton of time to sit and read a physical book) and I finally picked it back up. If you can't tell already, I really enjoy firsthand accounts of people's journeys on gnarly adventures. This is the recounting of a journey on the Appalachian Trail. I sort of love that it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns. Don't get me wrong, I would never wish harm or travesty on anyone, but sometimes I feel like these type of adventures get romanticized and it isn't exactly reality. Sometimes there is despair, sometimes you get lost, sometimes your body hurts and you just can't keep going, sometimes you run out of water and want to give up (and sometimes it really is picture-perfect ;)). This book has a little history, a little about the land and a little about the hiking Bill did. I'll be honest, a couple of people mentioned how much they LOVED this book when they noticed I was reading it... and although it was fine, I wouldn't say it was my favorite (maybe it was the author and his humor, maybe it was the air he had about himself, I'm not sure but something rubbed me a bit the wrong way), but to each their own! I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - I had heard a few friends talk about really enjoying this book, so when I saw it at my local free library I figured I'd give it a go. Thankfully I had some down time and could finally pick up a physical book and get through it. I'll be honest, sci-fi is not normally my go-to genre, but I was pleasantly surprised that this story turned out to be more about love and family (with a little sci-fi thriller tossed in for good measure). Maybe I liked it more because the science fiction took a backseat (don't get me wrong, the idea was pretty "out there", but once you get passed the overall idea, the details are all about the relationships). I was also a little worried that this plot would be over my head, since I am not a quantum scientist, but thankfully the author did a good enough job explaining the main points in layman's terms that I didn't feel too corn-fused. It was definitely an interesting idea - what would have happened if you would have made a different decision when it came to your job, your relationship, your evening plans, etc?! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, August 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's the best book you've read lately? 

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