Hi all – below are the books I read in July. I’m still experimenting with audio books, so there are a few of those sprinkled in there. And as always, there’s quite a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and a bit of YA.
July has been a month – I think that’s all I can say about it. The good news is, I made lots of time to read. The bad news is, that probably means I’m using reading as escapism? Eh, I guess I’ll leave that up to my therapist.
In July I read:
Hillbilly Elegy by: JD Vance*
Testosterone Rex by: Cordelia Fine
Gulp by: Mary Roach
Little Fires Everywhere by: Celeste Ng
The Girl On the Train by: Paula Hawkins
Confessions of a Sociopath by: ME Thomas*
The Daily Show: An Oral History by: Chris Smith
A Man Called Ove by: Fredrik Backman
Every Note Played by: Lisa Genova
Delusions of Gender by: Cordelia Fine
Tuck Everlasting by: Natalie Babbit
Missoula by: Jon Krakauer
A Fighting Chance by: Elizabeth Warren*
Fangirl by: Rainbow Rowell
Obama – An Intimate Portrait by: Pete Souza
Sex Object by: Jessica Valenti
Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them by: JK Rowling
Not That Bad by: Roxane Gay
Gone Girl by: Gillian Flynn
Hard Choices by: Hillary Clinton*
A Thousand Naked Strangers by: Kevin Hazzard
Bonk by: Mary Roach
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by: Rebecca Skloot
A Path Appears by: Nicholas Kristoff & Sheryl WuDunn
Quiet by: Susan Cain
Mom & Me & Mom by: Maya Angelou
*I listened to the audio book
Keep scrolling for a (spoiler-free!) summary of what I thought of each book.
Despite the fact that this says “memoir” on the front cover, for some reason I had it in my head that this was more of a non-fiction study of Appalachia. In some ways it was – I learned a lot about an American subculture that I knew little about – the memoir style made it far more accessible. 5/5 stars.
I’m finding that without the pressure of school, I’m picking up and enjoying a lot more books on science and history, just for fun. This was one of them. Testosterone Rex explores the stereotypes (some of which have become commonly accepted beliefs) about differences between males and females that are attributed to estrogen and testosterone. Cordelia Fine debunks a lot of these myths by citing research on the actual physiological impacts of these hormones, and in doing so dispels many (sexist) beliefs about gender roles. It can be densely scientific at times, but if you’ve taken at least high school biology you should be able to follow well enough, and it is so worth a read. 5/5 stars.
And thus continues my quest to read all of Mary Roach’s books. Gulp explores the alimentary canal, and the science behind everything from our mouths down to our anuses. Yes, it sounds kind of gross. I’ll be honest, at times it is. I don’t love talk of saliva and partially digesting food. But I love Mary Roach’s humorous writing style and I love learning. 4/5 stars.
I had previously read, and enjoyed, Celeste Ng’s first book, so I was very excited to read this, and Ms. Ng did not disappoint. She brilliantly weaves a tale about the moral and societal complexities of abortion, adoption, suburbia, race, what makes a “perfect” town and a “perfect” family, and what it means to be a black sheep. 5/5 stars.
I had seen the movie already when it came out, so the twist ending of this thriller wasn’t exactly unexpected. Regardless, I enjoyed Paula Hawkins writing. Thrillers aren’t usually my cup of tea (I live alone and have anxiety, you do the math) but I did enjoy this book. 4/5 books.
I listened to the audio book, which made this a really interesting and kind of chilling experience. As the title suggests, ME Thomas (a pseudonym to protect her identity) is a sociopath, and she tells the story of how she grew up, how she self-diagnosed (and was eventually officially diagnosed) and the intricacies of the way her mind works. 4/5 stars.
A lot of the most memorable years of the Daily Show were, unfortunately, before my time. I mean, I was alive, but I wasn’t watching a ton of political satire when I was three. My parents loved it, however, so I grew to love it too once I was old enough to appreciate it, and I mourned Jon Stewart’s departure a few years ago along with everyone else. This book combines interviews with Daily Show correspondents and producers and details everything from the Kilborn transition to Trevor Noah’s ascension. 5/5 stars.
This was the first book by Fredrik Backman that I’ve read, though I know he’s becomes quite popular lately, and I LOVED IT. It is so sweet and well written and is full of such heartbreakingly sad and upliftingly happy moments. 5/5 stars.
This was a beautiful portrayal of a complex family and marital relationship, further complicated by a disease that subjugated other needs and opportunities for reconciliation and forgiveness. 5/5 stars.
Like Testosterone Rex, this book explores the scientific evidence that either backs up or refutes many beliefs about gender roles. This book doesn’t focus as much on the ubiquitous role of testosterone, but takes a broader approach. 4/5 stars.
This was a sweet, quick read that would make a great bedtime story for children. While I think it’s meant to be a children’s/middle grade book, the writing is beautiful so there is definitely an appeal for older audiences. 5/5 stars.
This wasn’t an easy book to read. In fact, most of the time it was downright aggravating. Jon Krakauer explores the “rape crisis” in Missoula, Montana, largely involving University of Montana students, and how the victims, perpetrators, public, media, and law enforcement handled it. 4/5 stars.
Elizabeth Warren narrates her own audio book, and it makes for a fierce and fiery reading experience. You learn a lot about Senator Warren’s early life and rise to political candidacy, and it also serves as a kind of primer to the 2008 financial crisis and bankruptcy policy and law. 4/5 stars.
Like Eleanor & Park, Fangirl is a brilliantly written, sweet and quirky love story. I love Rainbow Rowell’s writing, and her unapologetic way of embracing fanfiction and fandom. 5/5 stars.
Not gonna lie, I got a bit teary looking through this book of breathtaking, intimate portraits of Obama’s presidency because I just miss him so damn much. 5/5 stars.
I read a lot of books about misogyny and rape culture this month, and I can’t really say I enjoyed them because, as a young woman, they frustrate me, scare me, and piss me off. That being said, they are also so important and necessary. Jessica Valenti shares her lifetime of experiences with various kinds of misogyny and how she handled it, in a book that is part-memoir and part-cautionary tale (not about your behavior, but about the behavior of men.) 4/5 stars.
I still haven’t seen the movie (I KNOW, I’M SORRY, I’m just battling my inner Harry Potter purist) but I did really enjoy the screenplay. It’s got a whimsical feel that was lost in the darkness of the later Harry Potter films. 5/5 stars.
I adore Roxane Gay and her writing. This is an anthology that she edited of essays concerning rape and sexual abuse. It is not an easy read, but an important one, especially given the candor and vulnerability of the essayists. 5/5 stars.
Like Girl on the Train, I knew what the twist ending of this thriller was going to be, but Gillian Flynn masterfully weaves together multiple perspectives, revealing things to the audience just a beat before the characters to create page-turning suspense. 4/5 stars.
I listened to the audio book, which was read in part by Hillary Clinton and in part by someone who sounded remarkably like her. It is a comprehensive debrief of her time as Secretary of State, discussing policy in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. As an international relations and foreign policy nerd, I loved this insider look. 4/5 stars.
Kevin Hazzard details his career as a paramedic in Atlanta, Georgia. Not for the queasy, this book provides a stark look at a stressful and adrenaline-fueled profession. 5/5 stars.
Alas, the last Mary Roach book on my list. I’ve now read everything (until she publishes something new.) If you’re squeamish about very frank discussions about sex, this might not be for you. But if you’re curious about scientific research on female arousal and penis implants, then this is definitely for you. 4/5 stars.
I devoured this book, which tells the story of Henrietta Lacks (the woman whose cervical cells became the He-La cell template) and her family, as they struggle with the ethics of their mother’s cells doing immeasurable scientific good, but also being taken without her consent and with no compensation for her or her family. 5/5 stars.
In this book, Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn explore the myriad ways that NGO’s and private donations can be used most effectively to help those in poverty. They focus a lot on economic empowerment and development aid organizations. It’s full of great information, and provides an optimistic outlook that will inspire you to give more. 4/5 stars.
Finally! A book celebrating the introvert! Susan Cain examines how and why an extroverted personality has become socially dominant and considered preferable, and then highlights the value of many introverted traits. 4/5 stars.
Maya Angelou’s writing is, of course, amazing, and I think she’s at her best when she’s writing about her own life experiences. This book (the last installment of her autobiographical works) details her complicated relationship with her mother, and her journey to becoming a mother herself. 5/5 stars.
I hope you enjoyed these reviews! Please let me know if you’ve read any of these books and your thoughts on them.