Oh boy is this late….my apologies. Life gets in the way sometimes. Anyway, without more ado than we’ve already had, here is what I read in May. As usual, there is a nice mix of young adult re-reads, memoirs, fiction, and non-fiction. I used to be a really unbalanced reader, in that I read exclusively only one or two genres. Now I’m trying to read more widely, but without sacrificing depth.
In May I read:
The Chronicles of Narnia by: C.S. Lewis
Adulting by: Kelly Williams Brown
Why Not Me? by: Mindy Kaling
South and West by: Joan Didion
Everything Happens for a Reason by: Kate Bowler
Half-Broke Horses by: Jeannette Walls
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by: Iain Reid
What Happened by: Hillary Clinton
The Rules Do Not Apply by: Ariel Levy
The Immortalists by: Chloe Benjamin
Stardust by: Neil Gaiman
A Child Called It by: Dave Pelzer
What Light by: Jay Asher
Almost Adulting by: Arden Rose
Grunt by: Mary Roach
Hallelujah Anyway by: Anne Lamott
Keep scrolling for a brief (spoiler free!) review of my thoughts on each of these books.
This was part re-read, part seeing for the first time, in that I had only previously read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the Magician’s Nephew. Reading the whole series through is a very different experience, due to its scope (in time and in world building) and the not-so-subtle Christian allegory that went over my head as a kid. I really enjoyed it, and I think it ranks among some of my favorite young-adult/middle grade fiction. 4/5 stars.
It has become a bit of a trend, in my twenties, to read self-help-esque books about being an adult and making the most of your twenties. Is that lame? I don’t know, I like to be prepared…about everything. What sets Brown’s book apart is that it gives you 500+ specific, actionable tips on everything from wedding etiquette to salary negotiations to when and how often to clean different parts of your house/appliances. No matter how well you’re nailing this adulthood thing, there’s probably something in here that would be useful to you. 4/5 stars.
I love Mindy Kaling’s voice. I loved it in Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and I love it here. Why Not Me? was published four years after Mindy’s first memoir, and you can see the growth she has underwent, without losing the core of her humor and enigmatic personality. If you love faux-narcissistic, self-deprecating, witty, and at turns insightful books, this one is for you. It stands out among the deluge of celebrity memoirs/humor books. 4/5 stars.
I have fallen in love with Joan Didion over the past year and was excited to get my hands on another of her compelling works. This one is a bit of a choppier read than others. It’s made up of pages from her notebooks (mostly observations from her travels) and as a result can feel a bit disjointed at times. However, her observations are as poetic and astute as always, and if you’ve never visited the America South, or California, this book will give you an idea of the vibe of both those places. 3/5 stars.
For someone who is not religious, I have a fascination with faith and spirituality. Much of it doesn’t quite click for me, nor does my life seem to have room for any kind of organized religion, but I find many of the principles beautiful and interesting. Kate Bowler, both a woman of faith and a scholar of the Prosperity Gospel, chronicles her experience learning and accepting that she had potentially terminal cancer. She explores how her relationship with her parents, husband, son, etc, and her relationship with faith, changed and evolved over this period. It’s a short read, but a beautiful and compelling one. 5/5 stars.
I loved this book. At the time that I read this, I had not yet read Jeannette Walls hit memoir, The Glass Castle (see What I Read in June) so this was my first taste of Walls’ writing, and her unique family history. Her grandmother’s life story, which Walls tells in the form of a novel due to the gaps in history that she had to fill, reminds me of the Little House on the Prairie books I read growing up, but far more mature and intense. Even if you aren’t drawn to themes of living in the Western U.S. or homesteading, this book is such an adventure, and a chronicle of a strong-ass woman well before her time. 5/5 stars.
Aside from having a title that made my mother concerned when she saw it in the Kindle history, this book is also not at all what it appears to be. I can’t say much without spoiling anything, but what at first I thought would have to do with mental health quickly acquired the vibe of the film Get Out, and then became a psychological thriller, all packed into a very small book. It has more layers than ogres or onions (happy, Nick?) 4/5 stars.
I’m not one to shy away from the political or controversial, so I’ll just come out and say that I voted for Hillary, and I’m a fan and supporter of her, despite the vilification she has undergone during her decades in the public eye. So, still reeling after the election (yeah, I know it was almost two years ago – time doesn’t heal all wounds) I was very excited to get my hands on this. People who already have a negative opinion of Hillary will likely come away from this book thinking it a cheap attempt to clear her name and whine about the injustice of the election. However, I thought she did a pretty good job of balancing her indignation and hurt over everything that happened, while also accepting responsibility for any failures of the campaign that could be contributed to her personally. It is only one viewpoint, and obviously an inherently biased one, but it’s worth hearing her thought process, from the campaign up through the election and its aftermath. I don’t think we can pretend that substantive policy was a core part of the campaign, so I really appreciated the chance to actually hear her stance on important issues. Haters be damned – this book reminded me why I respect and admire Hillary Clinton. 4/5 stars.
I seem to be allergic to happy memoirs. Of course memoirs detailing difficult parts of life are so valuable and offer so much wisdom, but they’re undeniably difficult to read. And this is no different. Ariel Levy’s marriage and family life were not easy, and she embodies the idea that there are times where no amount of strength or resilience will make things any more than barely bearable. Yet here she is, writing about it with clarity and insight. 4/5 stars.
This book has already received a lot of hype, so I won’t echo too much of it here. But it’s one of the newer, more touted books that I’ve read recently, and it did indeed live up to the hype. The character development is superb, as is Benjamin’s ability to take a somewhat supernatural concept and ground it in reality and the real-life challenges that people face at every age. 5/5 stars.
I hadn’t read this before, but I had seen the movie (which as an aside, please watch the movie, it stars Robert de Niro as a gay space pirate, what more incentive do you need?) Gaiman’s writing is, as always, a wonderful blend fairy tale and occasional snark, which makes it both nostalgic and enjoyable to read at any age. 4/5 stars.
See above for my attraction to heavy memoirs. In A Child Called It, the first in a set of three books chronicling Pelzer’s life, he summarizes his childhood during which he endured horrific child abuse at the hands of his mother, and negligence at the hands of his father and siblings. The following two books cover Pelzers journey away from this, first in the system as a teenager, and then as an adult. By no means an easy or pleasant read, but an important reminder of what can happen behind closed doors. 4/5 stars.
This is very different from Thirteen Reasons Why – that’s important to know right away. What Light is Asher’s take on the young adult Christmas time romantic fling. It’s sweet, don’t get me wrong, and it has a measure of depth. If you liked Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle, you’ll probably like this. 3/5 stars.
Arden Rose, for those who don’t know, is a Youtuber who makes videos about body positivity, sex positivity, relationships, and life as a twenty-something. They’re really good, you can see her channel here. This is the first book she’s written and she provides her advice, tested through trial and error, on being an adult. I especially enjoyed her take on being a morning person, and on relationships. 3/5 stars.
I adore Mary Roach. She writes non-fiction about topics that shouldn’t be interesting, and yet she makes them so. damn. interesting. This particular book looks at the science of war, including chapters on how the U.S. military makes and tests new clothing for shoulders, and the way vehicles are designed to minimize damage from IEDs. As always, Roach’s humor is respectful when necessary, and shines through the rest of the time to carry you through the book. 4/5 stars.
See above for my feelings on faith. Anne Lamott has also become one of my favorite writers in the past year, and I especially love her take on faith and organized religion. I still consider myself an atheist, but her version of Christianity is probably the closest to something I could see myself getting on board with. In this book, Anne Lamott discusses mercy, using anecdotes from her own life and journey. They’ll be something you’ll want to underline or highlight on nearly every page. 5/5 stars.
Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for What I Read In June.