Sunday, April 30, 2023

April 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 April:

  • Cultish by Amanda Montell - I had this book saved in my Hoopla app for a while, but finally got around to downloading it. The topic intrigued me, because the book wasn't necessarily about cults (or at least not in the way that most people think that a book would be about cults), but about the language that many groups use - groups from Heaven's Gate and Jonestown to CrossFit and CorePower Yoga. I found the whole listen extremely fascinating! Each section was about a different subset, ranging from legit cults or multi-level marketing to Scientology or social media. The author really knows her stuff and not only is everything well researched, but her humor and curiosity made the book feel more like a conversation than a nitty gritty analysis. She definitely has an opinion and makes it known, but I wouldn't say that it is overtly one-sided. It definitely makes you think and I believe that's what good books require. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Running While Black by Alison Mariella Desir - I have had this book on my Amazon Wishlist for a while and was finally able to snag it (I traded some running goodies in one of the "buy nothing groups" on Facebook for it). Let me just say, WOW. This book was incredibly eye opening. Don't get me wrong, I am not oblivious to the fact that the life experiences of Black people (runners and non-runners alike) are extremely different from white people, but there were quite a few things that I read that made me shake my head. For example, I have often heard (and said myself) that "all you need is a pair of shoes", but Alison Mariella Desire points out that is a very privileged perspective. We need access, safety, location, etc, etc, etc. Or how the running world has touted the Boston Marathon as a pinnacle of running, yet how it is a very exclusive, often white, cisgender male and heterosexually focused event. I don't want to "give it all away", but I very much underlined, took notes and added the book immediately to my personal library as a must keep. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Read This to Get Smarter by Blair Imani - I have followed this author on Instagram for quite some time now and have wanted to get my hands on her book (this is her third book she has authored thus far). I love her Smarter In Seconds series on her IG account and feel like I always end up with at least a nugget or two of eye opening information or insight. Now, I'll be honest, although it was a very informative book, it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. You see, I was hoping that the book would dig deeper into some of the topics she covers on her social media, but I felt like it was a little more surfacey. Don't get me wrong, it is a great resource and definitely a good jumping off point, especially when someone is getting familiar to things like race, privilege, gender, secual orientation, etc, but I was hoping for a bit more. It's super approachable and understandable, so can be a great conversation starter. I don't think I'll keep it in my personal library, but hope to gift it to someone else (who will hopefully keep the trend going while we all get our learn on ;)). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Storyteller by Dave Grohl - The hubby, pup and I went to Mammoth for a long weekend and I let Ryan select the audiobook. I sent him a couple of options and he decided this was the one he was most excited about (PS In case you couldn't tell from the two prior pictures, this trip is also where I read those books... but since we finished this on the drive home it shows up after them in the recap). I love when memoirs are read by the author because you can really get an idea of their passion (at least in my opinion). I'll be honest and say that I don't know much about Dave Grohl (other than he's in the Foo Fighters), so learning all of his backstory was very interesting. He shares lots of stories (and, as the title suggests, he's a great storyteller) and kept us both entertained the entire time. I also appreciate that although he has a lot of famous friends (and name drops a bit), he is really inspired by them and even fans out over some of them. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala - After a few more "serious" reads I thought I'd hit up the cutesy Young Adult romance genre for an easy listen. I had this title saved in my Hoopla app for a while so thought I'd give it a try. I might not know much about the cosplay world, but I love making me fun running costumes and watching those fashion design reality TV shows so this was sort of a mash-up of all that. The storyline jumped from "then" and "now" which I really enjoyed. It was an intriguing way to relay the past of the relationship and how the main characters arrived in their present situations. I thought it was a cute story and one that I'd totally watch if it became a Netflix movie ;) There were no earth shattering revelations, but that's not what I was looking for. I wanted to be entertained with high school-ish drama and that's exactly what I got. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt - This was in the "new and trending" section of my Hoopla app so I figured I would give it a go. I hadn't read the synopsis, but noticed it had like 4.8 stars so figured it was worth a few hours (the audiobook was a little over 11 hours, but I currently listen to them at 1.75x speed, so more like 6.5 hours or so). I've gotta say, the star rating wasn't too far off. I really enjoyed this novel. It was told from the perspective of three different characters and it was pretty cool to see how all of the storylines wove together by the end. I'll be honest and say I had guessed some of the plot while I was listening, but for the most part I was looking for time during my day to try and see what would happen next. I'd definitely recommend it (maybe for a vacation or poolside read) - very cute and unique. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness - I hope this isn't a controversial statement, but I've never watch Queer Eye (the original series or the reboot), but I have seen Jonathan Van Ness on some of the accounts I follow on social media and when his memoir popped up on my Hoopla "recommended" list I thought I'd check it out. I didn't know much about Jonathan prior to listening to his story (which he read, by the way), but I've gotta say, he captivated me. I appreciate that he dove into the difficult times he went through and tried to draw attention to some often stigmatized topics (especially in the LGBTQ+ community). He was real, raw and relatable. He started the book by mentioning he was worried that if we saw the "full" him, he feared people wouldn't like him - but I think that people can only TRULY like us if they know the real us. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Wordslut by Amanda Montell - At the beginning of the month I listened to Cultish and my Hoopla app recommended that I check out this title by the same author. I really enjoyed learning all about the linguistics of cults (or cult-like language), so I was stoked to get that one a whirl. Don't get me wrong, I was absolutely engrossed on the subject matter and how language can be gendered (with everything from the insults thrown around to the way we discuss sex or our bodies), but for some reason I enjoyed the first book a little more than this one. Many of the topics Amanda raised definitely made me think a little more in depth, which is great, but it felt a little longer than it needed to be. Even still, I found it very interesting. I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

With that, April 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? 

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