Book Chat

Reading Life: January 2018

The first month of 2018 has come and gone already… and we’re halfway through February already, oops. My goal of reading every day is still going strong, and it’s reinvigorated my reading life; I always forget how much a good book improves my mood until I make the time to read. But even though I’m tracking my daily reads with photos, I still struggle to sum up my thoughts in these monthly posts. I overthink each review and let the post linger in my drafts folder for days on end… but in the spirit of “good enough” I’m finally pressing the “publish” button even if it’s not perfect. And I’m keeping things more casual by using photos I’ve taken of each book as I read it; hope you like the change!

January 2018 Thoughts

Finished:

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, by Anne Bogel

Start date: 11/21/2017
Finish date: 1/12/2018
Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy blog
Genre: Nonfiction / Self Help
Format: Paperback
2 stars

I liked the premise of this: an avid reader does the research on the most popular personality frameworks for you and compiles the most important and helpful tidbits. But even though I love Anne Bogel’s blog and podcast, my hopes were way too high and I was ultimately disappointed. I think when it comes down to it, even though the writing was serviceable and sprinkled with fun literary references, Bogel’s perspective felt very narrow, with examples confined to her own personality and a small circle of friends. It’s a good starting point if you want to find one personality framework to look into further, but each chapter gives a very basic summary that you could find just as easily online, and doesn’t add much depth. Maybe it’s because I’m in a new phase of life without the anchors of school and work that I’ve relied on to give me clues to my personality for so many years, but I had a really hard time identifying myself in most of her descriptions. But one thing clicked, at least: I’m really interested in exploring the Enneagram now.

My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout


Start date: 1/1/2018
Finish date: 1/6/2018
Source: Parnassus Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback
4 stars

I picked up an autographed copy for my birthday last year, but my conflicted feelings about Olive Kitteridge held me back (review from way back in 2010 here) until I decided the new year was the perfect time to give it a go. On the surface, it’s a stream-of-consciousness story, like a fever dream, that doesn’t seem to be about much of anything, but then a sentence would hit me like a gut punch out of nowhere. I had to read it slowly to really let each sentence sink in. This one really snuck up on me, but by the end I was very moved. I struggle to give it a star rating because I feel like the writing is so subtle that I had to work to read between the lines, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “favorite” in the sense that I’ll ever read it again; but then, that’s the downfall of something as superficial as a rating system anyway.

After Many Years: Twenty-One “LongLost” Stories, by L.M. Montgomery, edited by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christy Wooster

Start date: 1/2/2018
Finish date: 1/27/2018
Source: Amazon.com
Genre: Fiction (Short Stories)
Format: Paperback
3 stars

Each of the short stories in this collection haven’t been printed since their original publications in magazines throughout the early twentieth century… and honestly, I’m not sure they needed to come out of oblivion. L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorite authors, and I love the lesser-known novels she wrote for adults in addition to the beloved Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon, so I was hoping that this collection would uncover some new insights, but many of her commercial writings lack depth. Some stories aged better than others, most of them set up one (well-trod) punchline, and only a couple really stood out to me. I already knew that Montgomery reused a lot of material, so many plot points or characters from her short stories also wound up in in the books that I know and love, which was interesting from an academic point of view but didn’t add much enjoyment to the reading experience. I wish I liked it more, but it was still comfort reading to visit her world.

I’m counting this one as “A book by a favorite author” for my 2018 Reading Challenge.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Start date: 1/13/2018
Finish date: 1/15/2018
Source: Gift (from me to Sam)
Genre: Memoir
Format: Hardcover
5 stars

This one is so hard to write about; I don’t feel nearly qualified to express my thoughts and feelings. The author writes a series of estates to his fifteen-year-old son about what it means to be black while living in America. The reading experience was tough and uncomfortable at times, but it left me with so much to think about, and that’s a good thing. I’ve grown up in the same country, but with a completely different experience; I couldn’t help but feel defensive at first, reading as someone “who believes they are white” but I tried to focus on listening to his story and his truth. He writes with so much anger and sadness, and it’s completely justified. That’s the hardest part: everything he says is true, no matter how hard it is to read.

A quote:

You would be a man one day, and I could not save you from the unbridgeable distance between you and your future peers and colleagues, who might try to convince you that everything I know, all the things I’m sharing with you here, are an illusion, or a fact of a distant past that need not be discussed. And I could not save you from the police, from their flashlights, their hands, their nightsticks, their guns. Prince Jones, murdered by the men who should have been his security guards, is always with me, and I knew that soon he would be with you.

To challenge the police is to challenge the American people who send them into the ghettos armed with the same self-generated fears that compelled the people who think they are white to flee the cities and into the Dream.

This book fills the “book by an author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own” category for my 2018 Reading Challenge.

The Principles of Uncertainty, by Maira Kalman


Start date: 1/18/2018
Finish date: 1/18/2018
Source: McKay’s Used Books
Genre: Graphic Novel/Memoir
Format: Paperback
3 stars

This one was weird! It was colorful and quirky and a super specific memoir of sorts; reading it directly after Between the World and Me probably didn’t do it any favors.You may know Kalman from her illustrations of the iconic The Elements of Style, but I wasn’t familiar with her name; that probably made a difference, too. An artist’s mind is an interesting place to explore, but I can’t say that it left with a lasting impression.

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi


Start date: 1/20/2018
Finish date: 1/30/2018
Source: What Should I Read Next? Podcast
Genre: Memoir
Format: Hardcover
5 stars

A powerful memoir, from another heartbreaking perspective: a neurosurgeon on the verge of accomplishing everything he’s worked toward, discovers that he has terminal cancer, and has to reconcile his extraordinary potential with the time he has left to live. There’s really no point trying to describe his musings on life and death, but I loved what he had to say. The writing is beautiful; it feels like he was meant to write this book, although I can’t help but wonder what he would have added or changed if he’d had more time. The epilogue, written by his wife, was especially poignant.

This book was my “memoir, biography, or book of creative nonfiction” for the 2018 Reading Challenge.

Still Reading:

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles


Start date: 12/4/2017
Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy blog
Genre: Fiction
Format: eBook

I like this story set during the roaring 20s, but I can’t seem to find the time to read eBooks anymore. I’m putting the physical book on my library hold list, so hopefully I’ll be able to make more progress.

Sourdough, by Robin Sloan


Start date: 1/31/2018
Source: What Should I Read Next? Podcast
Genre: Fiction
Format: Library book

I liked Robin Sloan’s first book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (review from 2014 here), and this new release explores the intersection of the foodie and startup worlds in the Bay Area – sounds fun!

Books read in January: 6
Books read in 2018: 6
Still reading: 2

So that’s what I’ve been reading during the first month of 2018!

I’m always looking for more book recommendations – are you reading any good books?

The Amateur Librarian is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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4 thoughts on “Reading Life: January 2018

  1. I really want to read between the world and me, and I think your little blurb on here is definitely the push i​ needed. I’ll start reading it tonight!

    Ps. I love your blog. You’re a new favorite!

    Like

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