So, looks like I just have to put an actual reading goal on Goodreads and – surprise, surprise – I read. Who knew?
I read (and listened to one) a total of NINE books in January, which means, I already read more than half the number of books I read in 2016. I am also already more than 35% done with my annual reading goal. Fascinating. We’ll see if I can keep this up, but… but… this means I can totally do a monthly book review now, right? Because I really don’t want to wait until the end of the year to recommend some of the books to you (although, if you follow me on Goodreads, you’re pretty much in the loop anyway!).
Your pace or mine? by Lisa Jackson (★★★★★) – This was a great read. If you are a runner, you want to check out this book, especially if you’re not an elite runner and sometimes struggle with the comparison game. Lisa calls herself a “back-of-the-pack”-runner and even though she never finished a race first, she has one of the most refreshing and uplifting perspectives on the sport of running that I’ve seen so far. It puts a whole new spin on what it means to be a runner!
Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes from a Marriage by Maggie May Etheridge (★★★★☆) – This is a short essay about marriage and mental illness. Worth your time.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (★★★★★) – I LOVED this book! It made me feel good about having a “higher” food budget by buying local and organic whenever I can. Of course, it also opened my eyes to the fact that there are gazillion things I can do better and this book has inspired me to try hard. I don’t have a farm where I can raise chickens and plant every vegetable, but even a few potted plants are a good investment! This was not just well researched and a great argument for thinking about food, where it comes from and also what it takes to farm sustainably, but also a well written and funny memoir of one family’s attempt to eat exclusively local for one year as an experiment… which turned out to be the new way of life!
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass (★★★★★) – This is technically a book for children/young adults, but I really loved the story and how it was built around the event of a solar eclipse, this rare event that makes everybody stop in awe in light of the extraordinariness that is nature and the universe. There is a lot of geeky stuff in here that I enjoyed, but it’s also a story of unlikely friendship and how experiences can shape people. The story is told through the eyes of the three main teenage characters – Ally, Bree, and Jack. Although the characters are quite stereotypical, you couldn’t help but like them instantly and it was delightful ‘watching’ them change and grow over the course of the story.
Oh, and have you ever witnessed a solar eclipse? I was lucky to witness the one in Germany in 1999 and it was a once in a lifetime experience. This was a lovely story built around the unique experience of a solar eclipse.
Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng (★★★★★) – This book was amazing. The way Celeste Ng wove the storyline of this family together was beautiful and although the summary reads like a mystery novel (after all, we’re trying to understand the death of a teenager), this is so much more. This book was comprised of everything that makes up a life: love, family, family dynamics, grief, birth, racism, interracial relations, struggles, secrets and truths, sacrifices and the difficulty to find one’s place in the world. It’s a heavy story because we learn how Lydia holds the thread of this family together while simultaneously falling apart under its pressure, but it’s also a story of hope.
I also especially enjoyed the juxtaposition of what it means to be different: as a foreigner (Lydia’s Dad) and as a woman in a society that has not yet accepted women as equals (Lydia’s Mom).
The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley (★★★★☆) – I’ve had mixed feelings about this book. I love Aidan’s writing style, I have been reading her (personal) blog for a long time and I really wanted to like her book. I have only read this one (she has written another one before this one) and while I did enjoy it overall, there were a few things that bugged me. The three main characters – Clio, Smith, and Tate – were likable enough and I wanted to engage in their stories. They all come with some baggage, sure, but also with a huge amount of privilege that ran like a common thread through the whole book. Hotel-building wealthy boyfriends, Yale degrees, rich parents that finance apartments in Manhattan. The struggles (divorce, breakups) almost seemed silly in the grand scheme of things (although I don’t want to downplay the emotional turmoil such a thing can have), and then the topic of mental illness seemed to be thrown in just for good measure. I am a little bit sensitive in this regard because I feel if you bring up such an important topic, the story needs to be an advocate against the stigma (which I didn’t feel was the case). What bothered me most is that all of the “issues” are resolved over the span of the book, which covers about a week in the lives of the characters.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (★★★★☆) – I had no idea about the history of the HeLa-cells which tells you that this book needed to be written. I was a little frustrated here and there with details of the Lacks family (did we really need to know about all the illnesses and lack of education, or was it essential to the story?) and the “jumping around on the timeline” and would have preferred a more chronological approach to the story of Henrietta Lacks, but overall I thought the book was well- researched and gave me a lot of food for thought.
Me before you by Jojo Moyes (★★★★★) – I loved everything about this book. It was a tragedy, with a romantic-comedic twist and it was bittersweet to read. I loved the relationship between Lou and Will and laughed out loud and cried quiet tears at the end. I’ve read that some people thought this booked made the case that the life of a disabled person isn’t worth anything, but I couldn’t disagree more. I felt the topic of assisted suicide just emphasized that in the end, only the person him/herself can make this decision and that nobody can know what it’s like unless they’ve experienced it themselves. For me, the story was hopeful and uplifting in a weird way and I am looking forward to reading the sequel.
And here’s my one audiobook:
What I talk about when I talk about running by Haruki Murakami ( ★★★☆☆) – I was (and still am) really hesitant about audiobooks. I have a hard enough time with podcasts as it is, but I thought I should give audiobooks at least a proper chance. I listened to this book on my (long) runs and since this was a book about running written by a long-distance runner, I found it quite interesting (content-wise), although I am still not quite sure if I like the idea of ‘being read to’. Maybe it also comes down to who is narrating and/or the topic of the book?
I am not sure this book would be interesting to anyone who doesn’t have some sort of connection to running, but I enjoyed some of the thought processes that Murakami described surrounding training, races and running in general.
What are you reading right now? Recommend one book to me in the comments!