I enjoy reading a variety of books for fun. Here are the ones I’ve read since June 2016, along with a few brief comments for each.
A Life Less Throwaway: The Lost Art of Buying for Life by Tara Button: Stumbled across this book in an Oxfam bookshop, and I immediately knew it would be right up my alley. Half of the book is about why we should try to buy things that last us a lifetime and the other half is about how we can do so. The chapters are also scattered with exercises and tips that help with everything from resisting marketing tactics to building a capsule wardrobe.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: My first ever Agatha Christie book. I wanted to read the book before watching the movie. The book had an engaging, charismatic cast of characters, and it was fun to see how the story unfolded, but the ending didn’t blow me away.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: Strolling alone in Old Town Bratislava after deciding on a three-hour pre-flight exploration of the city, I stumbled across a quaint bookshop that called to me. When I came across The Handmaid’s Tale, I recalled my single attempt to watch the television series and thought that reading the book might provide more context and interest. I was not disappointed.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman: I followed all the articles and interviews leading up to the release of this film, but decided early on that I wanted to read the book before seeing the visual depiction. The honesty and emotional sensitivity of this coming-of-age love story made it a beautifully complex story to read. I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: A passionate bookseller essentially forced this book upon meafter I displayed great skepticism, but I’m glad he insisted I give it a read. Coming in at 480 pages, this wasn’t Nigel: My family and other dogs, but the story’s length allowed it to continuously unfold, evolve, and surprise with vibrant style and intriguing characters. It was thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling.
Nigel: My family and other dogs by Monty Don: Intrigued by the beautiful Golden Retriever on the cover, I picked this up in my local Waterstones knowing nothing of Monty Don or his television show, Gardeners’ World. However, a memoir about the special relationships he’s had with his many dogs sounded simply charming. Reading this made me want to live on acres of open land, roaming gardens that I have grown with a puppy or two by my side. It was a heart-warming tale to say the least.
Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed: In contrast to Big Little Lies, I read this book before I watched the movie. And I must say, the book was far more enjoyable. Strayed is vivid, raw, and inspiring. Though I don’t think I will be trekking the Pacific Crest Trail anytime soon, it did reinvigorate my love for breathing in the fresh air of nature.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon: A whirlwind of a day where two teenagers fall in love in New York City. What’s not to love?
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: An incredible read. This book is meant to start conversations. And I especially appreciate that it tells a nuanced story of racial injustice in America from both the perspective of Ruth Jefferson, an African American labor and delivery nurse, and Turk Bauer, a passionate member of a white supremacy group.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: After falling in love with the TV show, I had to get my hands on a copy of the book. Granted, it might have been more exciting had I not known the ending, but I loved being immersed into the world once again.
The Girls by Emma Cline: I finally picked this book up in the Boston Public Library one day after having seen it on so many must-read lists in the past. Although I fell asleep reading it in a comfy chair fifty pages in, once I eventually returned to it, I found it a captivating narration of the Manson murders.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: In the wake of civilization’s collapse, this tale weaves through time and space to tell the story of Kirsten, a member of a show troupe called the Traveling Symphony. It intriguingly considers what our world would look like if smartphones and credit cards were merely artifacts of the past.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I can’t wait for this book to be turned into a movie. I stumbled across it in a donation pile on-campus at the end of the year and definitely did not predict how enthralling of a read it would turn out to be! Set in the dystopia of 2044, this book seamlessly melds virtual reality, video gaming, and 1980’s pop culture to create a fantastical sci-fi journey.
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict: The only thing I wish about this book is that it was not fiction. The story suggests that Einstein’s wife was robbed of her contributions to her husband’s theory of relativity because of her status as a woman, but her actual level of input is disputed. Nevertheless, the story is a captivating, humanizing, and modern portrait of both the famed physicist and his wife, who was an accomplished physicist in her own right.
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg: I loved Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, and this was a worthy sequel. This engaging combination of science and storytelling presents thought-provoking ideas about productivity through a range of stories about Disney’s Frozen, Google, and even a plane crash.
Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong: I love anything that peels back the curtain on the world of television and film, especially when the television show being illuminated is Seinfeld. Hearing more about how Seinfeld came to be, how Seinfeld was, and how Seinfeld still exists was right up my alley.
The Graces by Laure Eve: A fantasy that captured my attention with its combination of mystery and magic. But the twist at the end of the book is what really made it worthwhile!
Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss: This is a must-read. This book sheds much needed light on how the food giants have manipulated the American diet for their own bottom lines. I learned so much, ranging from how Kraft created demand for Philadelphia cream cheese out of thin air to how companies determine the “bliss point” of sugar for maximum pleasure and addictiveness. I look forward to reading this book again and again.
A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder: Wasn’t the most memorable biography I’ve read, but it did capture the story of Kayak.com founder Paul English effectively enough. I also appreciated that the book dug beneath the surface and introduced an element of human vulnerability in its discussion of English’s struggle with bipolar disorder.
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle: Loved this book. It inspired me to stop posting on Instagram and Snapchat and delete my social media apps, which had such a freeing effect. No longer did I spend valuable time and mental energy considering how to curate the aesthetic of my feed.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Man, what a page turner. I unintentionally tore through this book in three hours on a flight home from Boston. You know when you look down at the page number and wonder how you read 186 pages in the blink of an eye? That was this book for me. This suspenseful, sci-fi thriller was an ideal way to kick-off my Thanksgiving break!
Rising Strong by Brene Brown: I fell in love with Brene Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability, so I figured that I should read one of her books. Essentially, the book is about being okay with falling down and being able to get back up. The Rising Strong Process, as outlined in the book, is how to do exactly that.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: I chose to read this book because it centers around the mixed-race Chinese-American Lee family, which has a Chinese dad and White mom. However, the similarities with my family end there. Nevertheless, the mystery of how middle daughter Lydia drowned in a lake grabbed my attention.
But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman: It is safer to assume we are wrong about everything than to assert that we are 100% right about anything. Klosterman challenges normative thinking to theorize possible (and likely probable) ways we will look back on the present and facepalm. Hindsight is 20/20.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid: Not my typical choice, but this suspenseful psychological thriller did keep me turning the page (maybe not the best thing to read before going to sleep). Despite some intriguing philosophical discussions throughout the book, I was not a big fan of the ending.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight: Another great memoir. I never knew the story of how Nike came to be before reading this book, but I feel like I will now have a greater appreciation for what Knight and his gang created whenever I see the swoosh. The emphasis on business for something greater than money and money as a means not an end was also exceptionally refreshing.
Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti: I think I’m on a strong female voice kick, because this memoir doesn’t hold back. Vulnerable and eye-opening, the book is Valenti’s honest description of the sexual harassment she’s endured throughout her life as a “sex object” (i.e. woman) growing up in New York. Not the most uplifting book, but it is consciousness-raising and a must-read for both women and men.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: Took me quite a bit to get into this memoir, but once I got to the part where Jahren begins her key relationship with lifelong friend and lab partner Bill, I was hooked. Alternating between a scientific perspective on the natural world and an honest account of life as a female scientist, Lab Girl was worthwhile.
Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders: A short read–the book is a transcript of his graduation address at Syracuse University–with a simple but resounding message of kindness. Don’t be passively unkind and actively selfish; be actively kind and effortfully selfless.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany: Couldn’t put it down after I picked it up from Costco. Far from the best story of the series, but Scorpius, Rose, and Albus are great additions to the Wizarding World. Nostalgia also prompted me to reread the series. I’m currently on Order of Phoenix.
Unthinking: The Surprising Forces Behind What We Buy by Harry Beckwith: Enjoyed the contemporary references (Malcolm Gladwell, Nike, Kobe Bryant, etc.) used to reveal the psyche of the American consumer and how marketers tap into it.
How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct by Greg Gutfeld: I picked it up because I thought it would be about how to be right, not how to be Right. Nevertheless, it was intriguing to learn more about the conservative perspective from a relatively witty white male Fox News TV host. Some things I agreed with, and some things I didn’t.
Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta: I was drawn to this because of the centrality of tea, but I didn’t expect it to be about a dystopian future in which the scarcity of water forces it to become a commodity. Overall, it was a quick and mildly entertaining read.
The Misfit Economy: Lessons In Creativity From Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters And Other Informal Entrepreneurs by Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips: My biggest takeaways are that camel milk is a thing and there’s a lot to learn from those who hustle, hack, copy, provoke, and pivot. Worth reading if you’re interested in any of the trigger words in the title.
Between You and Me by Mary Norris: A lighthearted and historical perspective of the tenants of grammar through the autobiographical lens of a copy editor for The New Yorker. Topics include spelling, punctuation, profanity, and how it is “between you and me” not “between you and I”.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Self-aware and insightful look at race, love, and the immigrant experience in America, specifically noting the differences between Non-American Blacks and American Blacks, from the perspective of a young Nigerian woman who emigrates to the U.S. for education and work. Worth the near-500 pages of small text. Unexpected love story. Even included the fantastic list of questions from Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”.
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline: Although I felt like I already knew much of what it was addressing, it was nevertheless a relevant and eye-opening look at the horrors of the fashion industry, specifically pertaining to fast fashion (i.e. how most of us shop). Here are some top facts from the book as reported by Huffington Post.
The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick: Good for anyone interested in using social media for business or personal branding. Includes over 100 tips in list format.
The Underground Girls Of Kabul: In Search Of A Hidden Resistance In Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg: Similar to this NPR segment on how Maria Toorpakai dressed as a boy to compete in sports, this book documents the bacha posh–girls who are temporarily raised as boys for one of several reasons including raising the family’s social status in the patriarchal Afghan culture. Intriguing and nuanced read.