What I read in July

I finished another 5 books in July, three of which I loved. Two were ok, but left a little bit to be desired for me. Read on to find out why.

Yes we (still) can by Dan Pfeiffer (★★★★★)

I really enjoyed this book and Dan’s perspective on what happened in the political arena over the last few years. This book probably won’t hold much weight over time, but reading it just now in the aftermath of the 2016 election, it shed a lot of light on the Obama years (I miss him), how government works, how tedious the jobs of staffs and advisors can be and how critical it is to have a stable person in the White House.

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Amy Waxman (★★★★☆)

This was a really neat book and I enjoyed Amy’s humor. It’s hard to write a book about grief that is also laugh-out-loud funny without it coming off as “trying too hard”. But this story was so well written. This book deals with Lilian’s loss of her husband, her struggle to keep her life and the lives of her two daughters afloat. In her job as a textbook illustrator, she’s asked to attend a gardening class for an upcoming book about flowers and vegetables, and it is there where Lilian makes new friends and meets the handsome class instructor and for the first time allows herself to imagine a new future for herself. The story conveys hope and the notion that there might always be something good waiting for you around the corner. I also enjoyed the gardening tips at the beginning of each chapter.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (★★★☆☆)

I know that this is a classic young adult novel  and I was looking forward to reading this book, but unfortunately for a first-time adult reader, this books fell flat for me. I felt that it was lacking depth, narrative, and some sort of context. The resolution of the story was ‘too simple’ and too abrupt. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this more as a kid, but especially because I am not a big fan of science fiction to begin with, this needed a little more of a punch to make an impression on me.

Educated by Tara Westover  (★★★★☆)

I really wanted to give this book 5 stars, because Tara’s story is hard to read and hard to wrap your head around in this day and age. The odds she overcame are incredible. How can you “judge” a memoir by anything less than by the story itself? However, even though the content is intriguing and her writing is fantastic, it still didn’t pull me in enough to stay engaged the whole time. Why I feel everything Tara wrote about was important to fully understand her story, I felt that Part I and II could have been shortened. I also felt that there was some information that didn’t quite add up in my mind (but I am sure that despite all the details in her story, there was still a lot she didn’t share in more detail). I really enjoyed Part III (where she connects and comes to terms with her upbringing) the best.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (★★★☆☆)

I wanted to love this book more. I think it’s a very relevant book in this day and age and it touched on some very important issues surrounding the global refugee crisis. While the book explores the trauma and desperation felt by people who leave their home country behind to find a better future somewhere else, I felt detached from Saeed’s and Nadia’s experience. The most excruciating part, the journey from A to B, was completely omitted (replaced simply by “doors” that the migrants walk through) and even though the experience of refugees in detention camps was described, I could not really warm up to Saeed’s and Nadia’s plight. The trauma they experienced and the subsequent shift in their relationship, the way they cling to each other and push each other away at the same time, was comprehensible, and yet, fell emotionally flat for me. I think this was a missed opportunity on the author’s part, as it would have been so critically important for the subject matter of this book to create an emotional connection between their story and the reader. Also, what’s with the run-on sentences?

Have you read any of these books? What was your favorite book last month? Leave a comment, and then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch.

  1. Sounds like a lot of great reads here! I had heard of Yes We Still Can so I’m glad to hear it’s a good read, it’s definitely on my list! I hadn’t heard of a few others here, like Educated. I like a good memoir so I might have to check it out even though you thought it fell flat in a few places. I still need to get a review up of a dystopian book I read called The Rending and the Nest, it was really interesting.

    1. I’d definitely recommend Yes We Still Can if you feel remotely nostalgic for Obama :)

  2. I felt the same way about “A Wrinkle in Time” – & felt weirdly guilty about it, on top of that! I felt like I was supposed to love it. “Exit West” is on my bookshelf & my to-read list, but now I’m wondering how I’ll feel about it. I’ve heard great things & so-so things…

    1. Oh, I am glad I am not the only one. It was … weird.

  3. I’m glad you liked The Garden of Small Beginnings. I thought it was such a delightful read and I also loved the gardening tips. I did not care for Exit West at all and was surprised it ended up on so many ‘best of’ lists last year. I also felt very detached from the characters’ stories. Educated became available from the library on my kindle but I have another book I need to read first so I don’t know if I will get to it before it’s due… I’m hoping I can so I can see what all the hype is about!

    1. I am glad to hear you kinda felt the same about ‘Exit West’… I wanted it to be so much more.
      And I am curious to hear what you think about Educated (if you get the chance to read it)

  4. Thanks for sharing. I definitely miss Obama. Sigh.
    I read A Wrinkle in Time for the first time as an adult too, but I really did like it. It’s a series, if you didn’t know…which might make you think about it a bit different. LOL I’ve only read this one though.


    1. I think (?) I knew A Wrinke in Time is a series.. but I don’t know if I want to read any more LOL

  5. I’m so glad that you loved Yes We Still Can – I need to read that book ASAP. I adore Dan Pfieffer, and I have no doubt I’ll love reading his thoughts. One of my good friends recently read A Wrinkle in Time for the first time as an adult and had the same feelings as you, so I think it’s one I’ll skip. :)

    1. I am sure you’ll love Yes We still can… it was well written

  6. Your reading list is so different from mine. To be honest this month none of your books intrigues me. But it’s ok. My TBR list is way to long anyways.
    My reading months was slow. Probably because I challenged myself to read books outside my comfort zone and this just takes forever. Not really getting into them but I am not a quitter. I know better reading months are on the horizon.

    1. Oh, how do you mean it’s different? I usually pick book by recommendations from others and by what is available at the library, so it’s often a very wild mix of genres and topics.

      1. I don’t know it seems like you read a lot of “heavy” stuff on social and political topics. I wish I could do that but reading is relaxing for me so I need happy places and worlds that most likely don’t exist. So I read about fairy, magic and dragon and time travel and every once in a while historic fiction.

  7. I’ve been meaning to read A Wrinkle in Time again. I loved it as a kid and am curious to see what I would think of it as an adult. I’ve also heard from a handful of friends that reading it later in life if you never read it as a kid is tough.

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