Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether or not I recommend them.
My nine year old keeps remarking how time has just flown by this year.
I beg to differ. I have felt every day of these last six months, having my children at home ALL THE TIME! Thank goodness my mother moved nearby or I might have completely lost my mind.
But now the kids are back in school, at least parttime, and we again have some structure to our days. Which will likely mean less time spent reading in the future.
So enjoy my gigantic August reading list while you can. I’ve been bingeing 2020 releases and researching for next week’s book list. (See if you can guess what the topic is!) No promises what my September reading list will look like.
August Reading List
Ella Berman’s debut novel shows the pain and confusion of a victim of sexual and emotional abuse. Former child actress Grace Turner is just trying to survive after being chewed up by Hollywood. When she is asked to present a lifetime achievement award to her former director Able Yorke, she wonders if she has the strength to finally reveal the truth about the manipulative director. An important topic in the #MeToo era, I stayed up half the night reading this powerful story. I’m glad I could read about Grace’s complicated emotions but sad that I live in a world where abuse in Hollywood is all too common.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Berkley through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Elissa R. Sloan
Almost overnight, Cassidy Holmes and her band The Gloss become a pop phenomenon. But with success comes overbearing media attention, band drama, and utter loneliness that eventually results in Cassidy’s suicide. Jumping back and forth between past and present, Sloan’s fantastic debut novel reveals the dark side of superstardom and the intense pressure we, as fans, exact on celebrities.
In 1918, Nurse Julia Powers struggles to manage an Irish maternity ward ravaged by influenza and short-staffed by the war. With the help of volunteer Bridie Sweeney and controversial Doctor Kathleen Lynn, Julia tries her best to save the lives of expectant mothers as they bring new life into the world. An interesting character study, Donoghue’s novel reflects the strain of being a healthcare worker during a crisis. A heartbreaking story that vividly describes the details of childbirth, The Pull of the Stars will remind you how hard life has always been for women.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Little, Brown and Company through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Sue Monk Kidd
Acclaimed author Sue Monk Kidd imagines a bold narrative about a fierce, intellectual Jewish woman who is the wife of Jesus. From a young age, Ana knows that she is meant for more, desiring to be a scholar and a voice. Although Kidd is a remarkable writer, I didn’t really get the point of this book. To avoid blasphemy, Kidd leaves Jesus out of the narrative as much as possible, so why even have Ana married to him? In humanizing Jesus, she makes sure Ana is not around for any of the miraculous parts of Jesus’s story, i.e., his Resurrection or any of his miracles. The story rides the line where it will irk the faithful, bore the atheist, and those in-between may or may not enjoy her thought experiment.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Viking through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
A gothic horror story set in 1950s Mexico. Sign me up! Noemí Taboada receives a frantic letter from her cousin accusing her new husband of trying to poison her. To help, Noemí travels to their estate in the Mexican countryside. She doesn’t fear her cousin’s husband or father-in-law, or the creepy house that is giving her nightmares.If I only had one word to describe Mexican Gothic, it would be delicious. Moreno-Garcia pulls you in with her rich details and perfect character descriptions. Noemí serves as an excellent protagonist, keeping things light as everything gets darker around her. Because the ascent is so much fun, I was willing to forgive the over-the-top ending.
After tackling zombies, Max Brooks now has a slow-burn examination of the legendary Bigfoot. In the aftermath of Mount Rainer’s eruption, Kate Holland’s diary is discovered detailing a firsthand account of a Sasquatch massacre of a high tech eco-community. Although Devolution wasn’t as good as the masterpiece that is World War Z, I still found this violent and rather gory monster story riveting. How will we survive the winter? evolves into How will we survive a band of murderous Sasquatch?
After shooting her mother, Rachel Cunningham has spent the last 15 years in a self-imposed exile living in a psychiatric facility. Now Rachel begins to question all of her memories. What if she is innocent and her sister is the wicked one? Dionne brings Michigan’s Upper Peninsula alive and I was enthralled but flashbacks of their mother’s story. Yet, the novel quickly reveals that Rachel’s sister Diana is the psychopath of the story. Thus, the book rides on building toward an epic showdown, which, unfortunately, didn’t quite pull off, falling into typical cliches for a mystery novel.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from G. P. Putnam’s through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Ibram X. Kendi
A Book About Politics. With the renewed interest in the Black Lives Matter movement, Kendi has penned the premier work on racial justice in America. Kendi’s premise is that the opposite of racist policies is antiracist policies that actively aid in creating more equity between races. Using history, law, ethics and, science, Kendi shows what an antiracist society would look like and helps illustrate how we can contribute to the building of a more equitable world.
Kendi is not shy from pointing out his own flaws, prejudice, and even racism as his views have grown and changed. He understands that humans are multi-faceted. A person is not racist – they can hold racist beliefs or uphold racist policies. I loved how he points out that we can only associate attributes to individuals, not entire races. Just with any other book, I didn’t agree with everything Kendi said, yet he gave me plenty to think about and I know his book will reshape my opinions going forward.
Mary Laura Philpott
Essay Collection. What do you do when you’ve successfully got it all – marriage, children, house, and career – and still don’t feel happy? With her keen observations on modern adult life, Philpott recounts her internal midlife crisis with wit and humor. A thoroughly enjoyable audiobook, hearing Philpott’s narration felt as if I was in the middle of a heart-to-heart with a close friend.
More serious than most her age, seven-year-old Elsa is bullied at school for being different. Her only friend is her crazy grandmother, who unabashedly does and says whatever she wants. When Elsa’s grandmother dies, she leaves Elsa a series of apology letters to deliver to various people. A journey that will show Elsa that her grandmother’s imaginative fairytales were based on real life and that Elsa is stronger than she ever could imagine. This sweet book with an extremely long title is perfect for anyone who wants a sentimental read.
Modern Classic. While writing a story about the overcrowding on Mt. Everest, investigative journalist Jon Krakauer got much more than he expected. Climbing to the summit on May 10, 1996, Krakauer’s group was engulfed by a storm that ended up claiming five lives. With his firsthand account of the glories and dangers of climbing Mt. Everest, Krakauer will have you gripped to the page as you follow along with his expedition. A heartstopping modern classic that anyone with an outdoor mindset will love.
In The Gown, Robson takes a peek behind the scenes at the women involved in making Queen Elizabeth’s famous wedding dress. While working together as embroiders, an unlikely friendship sparks between Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, leaving behind a mystery that will plague Ann’s granddaughter Heather. Unfortunately, I downloaded this book as an audiobook, and I just don’t have time to finish audiobooks anymore. I loved the part I listened to, so I’ll have to get a print version someday.
Annoyed that Sheryl Sandberg’s famous book, Lean In, didn’t account for women of color, Minda Harts started her own mission to help Black women navigate the corporate world. In The Memo, Harts lays out a career guide that navigates the struggles of women of color. In some sections, Harts gives extremely helpful and specific advice, especially about networking and mentorship. However, several sections contained advice so general as to be mostly unusable. A great read for women of color or those in the corporate world, I will say that it made me extremely grateful that I don’t have to deal with office politics.
In our ultra-connected society, distractions are everything. In all this connectedness, we are losing the ability to work deeply, instead of getting sucked into the busyness of shallow tasks. Yet it’s this increasingly rare deep work that has the biggest impact on your success. Cal Newport outlines the importance of working deeply and suggests strategies to eliminate and balance distractions in your work life.
Newport’s concept of Deep Work is spot on – you need that concentrated focus to really dive into your big tasks. This just made me so angry, because realistically Newport’s book should be title “Deep Work for Men.” After reading Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women, the gender inequality in Newport’s work was glaringly obvious. I wanted to scream at the author that the only reason these men could do deep work is because of all the women doing the invisible work in their lives.
I know Newport didn’t intentionally set out to write a gender-biased work, but the fact is, he did. Women are rarely mentioned at all in the book, and of the scores of examples of people successfully working deeply – only one is about a woman. Maybe I’m being too harsh. There’s a huge chance that if I reread many of the productivity books, I’d see this same glaring problem, although I didn’t notice at the time.
Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
Former Silicon Valley nerds Knapp and Zeratksy have established a simple 4-step system to help you make more time in your life for what’s most important. The authors give plenty of relatable tips on how to avoid distractions and build energy so you can focus on one important goal each day. Make Time is quirky and extremely relatable, a combination of Gary Keller’s The One Thing and Catherine Price’s How to Break Up With Your Phone. If you haven’t read many productivity books, it could be a good place to start.
Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
Moran and Lennington want you to throw annual plans out the window and instead subscribe to the idea of a 12-week year. In all, the 12 week year is just a system to force yourself to accelerate your goals. By focusing on mid-range goals, you don’t give yourself enough time to procrastinate until later, but you do have enough time to make a significant difference. Not the most original concept, but a fair one to try if you find deadlines motivating. It did inspire me to participate in a Fall Sprint this year where I plan to overhaul my homepage and write massive amounts of content in the next 12 weeks. 3 Stars.
Vanderkam uses her research about people’s daily schedules from her book 168 Hours to convince that mornings are the secret to success. When you are fresh for the day you can get more done with fewer distractions since everyone else is sleeping. Although generally packaged together with two other short guides, apparently I only got the extremely short title piece. The 1-hour audiobook felt like listening to an interesting podcast episode.
If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll at least know that’s the worst thing you’ll do all day. Tracy wants you to modify that statement so that you can start your day doing your most challenging task. Then you’ll know it’s all uphill from there, and you’ll find that you can get much more done. Eat That Frog! is a simple primer that summarizes the findings across the industry without offering any original content.
Book With a Color in the Title. In the world of marketing, good isn’t enough. You need to be remarkable – a purple cow. Godin points out that playing it safe won’t work anymore – you can’t just buy a million tv ads to win over audiences. Instead, you need to be unforgettable, else you’ll find yourself invisible. All in all, it was an okay read. However, since it was published in 2002, it was fascinating to see what Godin got right (the fall of tv as we know it) and what he completely missed (he thought cell phones were a dying market).
If you want to get massive results, you need to take massive actions!! Do 10 times the work to get 10x the results!! I threw in exclamation points because it felt like Cardone was yelling at me through the entire book. And I didn’t listen to the audio version. Cardone is the perfect example of toxic masculinity – a condescending sexist jerk full of useless and cliche business jargon. Please don’t ever waste your money on him.
One of the best perks of being a book blogger is receiving advance review copies (ARCs) of upcoming book releases from publishers.
At the beginning of each month, I cover all the new book releases coming out, and the September 2020 book releases are right around the corner. Here’s a peek at the September releases I’ve already read.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.Be sure to come back in September to see which ones I read.
What books did you read in August?