Reading Lately: December 2019
December was a crazy, busy, social month for us. Between our respective office Christmas parties, drinks with friends who were in town, family gatherings, and one Harry Potter themed dinner, we ate enough free cookies to last us all year. It was wonderful to see everyone, catch up with old friends and make new ones, and it's so nice to remember what we value most: the people in our lives. We both tend towards working too much, and even on break I can feel myself itching to be productive. This season is always a reminder that our value isn't in our work or productivity, it's in our relationships with family and friends.
Despite the busyness I read a lot this month, mostly in an effort to reach my 100 book goal by the end of the year (which I did!). Some are shorter books, but what helped me read so much was that so many of them were fantastic, mind-blowing, life-changing reads (plus a lot of re-reads). Mostly I think I got lucky that several holds I'd had for months came in at the library at the same time. It made December reading a delightful escape, and ended the year with a literary bang.
Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
In 2 words, Burnout is about women and stress. It starts out by explaining what, physiologically, stress is, and why we evolved to be stressed. As we were evolving we would be stressed for short periods of time, then complete the stress cycle by coming down from stress and recovering from it in a variety of ways. We weren't meant to be stressed for long periods of time, and a big problem with modern stress is that we don't complete the cycle and de-stress. The book then talks about a variety of common stressors and how to manage them, from small things (drink more water) to bigger life changes (move so your commute is shorter). The whole book is crowded with research and study citations, many of them by the author Emily Nagoski herself.
What I loved about this book is how compassionate the authors are. They wrote the book after each experiencing extreme stress in different ways (Amelia was hospitalized), and they wanted to help other women manage their own stress based on what they've learned about it. The tone of the book was warm, and of course the data and science was thorough without being dry. After reading this I've started to make sure I see friends more often and talk about what on my mind, and am starting to identify when I'm stressed and take notes. In the era of commercialized self-care this may seem like just another product tryin to get a piece of the pie, but it's genuine and actionable. I've already got it on hold to reread it.
Side note: The audiobook was narrated by the authors, who are twins! They alternate chapters, and hearing it in their voice made the book hit home that much more.
RIYL: Brene Brown, Radio Lab, putting too many things on your todo list
I could listen to Lindy West read a phonebook, and I'm sure she'd make it equal parts funny, insightful, and inspiring. West's debut book Shrill introduced me to fatphobia, and the idea that our concept of beauty is enitrely learned and contrived by companies. I can't say I overcame or even confronted my own relationship with my body and food, and my anxieties around being fat. But I did start to think that the pressure to be thin was manufactured, and realize my worth wasn't tied to my weight. 'The Witches Are Coming' has the same smart, witty tone that 'Shrill' did, with a slight pivot in topic to feminism in modern culture. West covers #MeToo, Trump, abortions, misogyny, racism, and more with humor and intellect, and her writing is riveting and inspiring as always. This book felt like it was written for me, in it's references, and subjects, and points of view. I found myself chorusing 'Amen' after every single chapter - whether you already agree with her and want a rallying cry, or don't agree with her and are wrong, you should read this.
RIYL: Reading, happiness, pizza
Holidays on Ice: 5/5
I read 'The Santaland Diaries' every year around the holidays, an irreverent tradition, and it never fails to make me laugh and get me in the holiday spirit. My favorite part is the elf-training David suffers, followed closely by Snowball the flirty elf. If you haven't had the pleasure I highly recommend the seasonal treat, particularly the audiobook which is narrated by Sedaris himself.
Harry Potter books 2, 3, and 4: 5/5
J. K. Rowling
I've waxed poetic about HP enough on this blog. Needless to say rereading the series has been a wonderful mood boost during a stressful season.
The Idea of You: 4.5/5
Wowza this book was 🔥🔥🔥. A thinly veiled Harry Styles fan-fic, 'The Idea of You' follows Solène as she meets and romances Hayes Campbell, an ultra-famous boy band member. Every scene is laced with sexual tension, and about 40% of the book is fantasy-inducing sex scenes. I only read about 2/3 of the book, until I could tell conflict was brewing, then stopped. But those first 2/3s were fun.
RIYL: Call Me By Your Name, forbidden romance, The Weeknd
Rob Thomas, Jennifer Graham
I've never the Veronica Mars TV show or movies, but knew the premise and that I'd be apt like it. Since so much of what shines in Veronica Mars is the dialogue, the books are (I'm guessing) a bit toned down from the wit and snappiness of the show. But I can definitely see why it's done so well - Veronica is witty but flawed, and the mysteries are interesting without feeling contrived. It was easy to listen to both these books over 3 days, and I hope they come out with more!
The Unhoneymooners: 3/5
Pretty classic modern romance novel. Assumptions are made, lack of communication causes conflict, hate-to-love. It was wonderful to escape dreary December and read about Hawaii for a few days though, and I did like and root for both the hero and heroine. Enjoyable but unremarkable.
This reminded me so much of George and Lizzie in that it was about a middle-aged couple who's relationship had hit the rocks and forced them to reflect on how they met in the first place. The main characters were also mostly similar in the demeanor (though with meaningful differences - I'm not accusing of plagiarism!), and the story followed a similar format of flashing back. This book was sweet if not great, and while I wish that the heroine had gotten together with her best friend instead of her husband I suppose that's just how some books go.
I honestly appreciate that this book is funny, and get why it's part of the zeitgeist. I think I was just too stressed to enjoy the silly humor, and even then that it just wasn't quite for me. I'll still quote it just as much as before though.
I don't think I got this book...it was supposedly a heart-warming Christmas novella, reminiscent of 'A Christmas Story'. A wealthy man who has dedicated his life to making money is confronted by death, and rethinks his priorities. It was a little too poetic for me though, and the story between the lines got fuzzy for me. Ultimately it was forgettable and just kind of weird.