Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
Welcome to my monthly reading roundup. Each month, I write up short reviews of books I read that month. Find out which books I recommend and which to skip. Plus, take a sneak peek at the February 2020 book releases and what I’m hoping to read next month.
Since I’ve been slacking and haven’t covered my reading list recently, this month I’m showcasing my reads from January and December.
I know the month isn’t exactly over, but let’s take a look at my January reading by the numbers before moving on to my reviews.
- Books Read: 14
- 2020 Releases: 4 (all Advance Review Copies)
- Genre: 9 Nonfiction, 5 Fiction
- Authors: 10 Female Authors, 6 Male (1 Male/Female Team, and 1 Female/Female Team)
- Format: 1 Audiobook, 2 E-books, 11 Print Copies
- Total Page Count: 4,918 pages
If you pay attention, I only highlight 5 of my 14 January reads. The rest fall into three categories. One: advance copies that I won’t review until the months they release. Two: books I read for last week’s post on minimalism books. Three: a random children’s book my son wanted me to read.
The Only Plane in the Sky
Garrett M. Graff
Reading Challenge: Book Everyone Is Talking About. How did I not read this book last year? When it started cropping up on best-of lists, I knew I had to read it especially since I was planning to visit the 9/11 Memorial. Graff spent years collecting stories about 9/11. In this outstanding book, he compiles quotes from various people together to fill out a brilliant oral history into a timeline of that fateful day.
Let me tell you, this is powerful reading. I had to digest it in small pieces because I started to cry from the very first page. As an older millennial, 9/11 was a defining day in my life, I was old enough to understand that everything had changed. However, reading this account helped me truly understand the absolute confusion of the day. I paid more for this book than I have for any other book. And I have to say, it was worth every penny. If I could rate it six stars, I would.
The Starless Sea
Reading Challenge: 2019 Bestseller. After the success of Morgenstern’s first book, The Night Circus, this love story set in a secret world of magic has been the talk of the book world. Graduate student Zachary Rawlins stumbles upon a mysterious book full of fantastical tales, only to find himself in the narrative. He follows hints to a secret library, preserved by guardians intent on protecting it. From there he finds himself swept into a magical mystical world, and, hopefully, you will be, too. I sure was. Although I wish the book wasn’t quite so long, I was completely caught up in the layers upon layers of the story. I never reread books, but with a story this complex, I might have to make an exception.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life
Jane Sherron De Hart
Reading Challenge: Bottom of Your To-Read List. Respected throughout the law profession for her jurisprudence and consistent legal theory, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has recently taken on almost a cult following. Jane De Hart recounts Ginsburg’s life from childhood to law professor to Supreme Court Justice. Ginsburg made a life of creating opportunities where they hadn’t existed, striking a balance between having an exceptional career and family and fighting gender discrimination.
Jane Sherron De Hart does a great job sharing Ginsburg’s history and how she was able to forge a path thanks to her circumstances. The middle section of the book is rather dense, describing in detail Ginsburg’s brilliant legal strategy. However, the author’s bias flares up and interferes with parts of the third section of the book covering more recent events. In all, I’m glad I read it, but I would only recommend it if you enjoy thicker legal biographies.
The Point of It All
Reading Challenge: Book Recommended by a Family Member. For decades, Charles Krauthammer wrote a weekly column in The Washington Post. Just before his death, he compiled a collection of his best pieces from his published works and speeches into The Point of It All. Known of his neoconservative viewpoint and brilliant mind, Krauthammer shares his thoughts on everything from bioethics to foreign policy. Although you might not agree with all his viewpoints, his book will make you think deeply about the topics discussed. A great read for anyone interested in politics and current events.
Good Leaders Ask Great Questions
John C. Maxwell
John C. Maxwell is considered one of the experts on leadership. In Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, he discusses how asking the right questions can transform your leadership ability, improve your team, and help you achieve great results. While his insights are great and I did take away some good ideas from the book, in general, I found I was not the correct audience. If you are a manager or a business person, I would suggest looking at one of Maxwell’s books on leadership. Else, you won’t get much out of it.
Such a Fun Age
Blogger Alix Chamberlain has built herself a brand empowering women. When she moves to Philadephia, she feels overwhelmed by her two young daughters and comes to rely on her babysitter, Emira Tucker. While watching Alix’s two-year-old, Emira is shocked one day to be stopped by a grocery store clerk, only because she is black.
Reid certainly sparks a conversation about racism and privilege, as both Alix and Emira’s boyfriend have completely different views on the same event. Of all the characters, Emira felt the most realistic, which is a shame because it killed me that she seem to completely lack any ambition. I do wish the writing had been better; the backstories were important, but their placement felt so clunky. If you are willing to forgive the writing a bit, you’ll find it a thought-provoking read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from G. P. Putnam’s Sons through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
The Library Book
In 1986, a massive fire raced through the Los Angeles Public Library Central Branch, raging for over seven hours and destroying hundreds of thousands of books. Susan Orlean weaves together the tale of the library fire, the history of the Los Angeles Public Library, and the behind-the-scenes look at the current library to show the importance of libraries to humanity. I found the topic interesting but the telling, at times, rather dull. With modern sections interspersed at random into the historical sections, the story was choppier than I would have liked.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance
In her stunning first book, Tomi Adeyemi brilliantly blended Nigerian mythology and symbols of the Yoruba religion into a gorgeous young adult fantasy. After Zélie Adebola fights to bring magic back to Orïsha, she must now struggle to unite the Maji against the monarchy, hoping to place Amari on the throne. Even though the book had all the action and romance you’d expect from a young adult fantasy, I just wasn’t feeling it. I had to force my way through the book, and will not be reading the next one.
I’d Rather Be Reading
I love love love Anne Bogel’s blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. I am not afraid to admit that she inspired me to go in a more bookish direction with my first blog. In I’d Rather be Reading, Bogel contemplates the delights and dilemmas of the reading life. You’ll be reminded of the first time you fell in love with a book and of all the joy reading has brought into your life since. I found her descriptions of bookish dilemmas spot-on and loved hearing the book reading in Bogel’s relaxing voice. A must-read for any true book worm.
Southern Lady Code
I almost feel like the subtitle says it all: “Southern lady code – a technique by which, if you don’t have something nice to say, you say something not so nice in a nice way.” In her hilarious collection of essays, Helen Ellis takes you from Alabama to New York with her witty look at her life, all from a Southern girl’s perspective. Some of her essays were downright hilarious, some were mundane and a few were a bit bizarre. However, I will say I’m glad I listened to the audiobook because hearing the narration in Ellis’s Southern accent was perfect.
The Queen of Nothing
The third book in her The Folk of the Air series was one of my most anticipated recent releases. In the first book, Black introduces us to Jude, a human girl living in the Fairie kingdom. During a political upheaval, Jude turns the cruel prince Cardan into the King of Faerie, only to face betrayal. Now exiled Jude must risk everything to save her sister, only to find herself entangled once again in political intrigue. Objectively, it was the weakest book in the trilogy. Plus, the big shocking plot twist with Cardan was admittedly rather bizarre. Despite that, I loved the book and devoured it in one sitting. Overall, I thought it was a fitting conclusion for the series.
The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Almost six years is a long time to spend on a to-read list, so in December I finally got around to reading this modern classic. All I can say is: What took me so long? Set in post-World War II Spain, Daniel receives a copy of the only surviving copy of the book, The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Then Daniel embarks on a quest to discover more of Carax’s history, which many would rather be left concealed. Books like this one remind me why I never want to write fiction; I could never come close to his exquisite use of the written word.
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 February 2020 book releases are right around the corner. Here’s a peek at the February 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 February to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in January?
What books did you love this month? Which books did you hate? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book Lists to Enjoy:
Terra W says
January for me ….
1. Book Becoming a Movie in 2020 – “Without Remorse” by Tom Clancy (yes – super big/long book but so full of action – it’s going to be a good movie!)
2. Goodreads Winner in 2019 – “Daisy Jones and the Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid (loved it!)
3. Less Than 200 Pages – “Color For Life” by Charles Phillips…. (Just one I had on the shelf that have never been read)
4. Published in 1920s – “Mrs Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf (almost done)
31. Audiobook – “The Goldfinch” Donna Tartt (almost 1/2 done)
Wow, you picked two long ones! I loved Without Remorse; I’ve read the whole Jack Ryan trilogy. I’ll be curious to hear what you think about The Goldfinch. It gets such mixed reviews. (I really liked it.)
Terra W says
I finally finished the Goldfinch audiobook today….
URGH!!! lol…. I did like it! I found it poetic and beaufifully written .. (and some parts really make you think)… . I have my favorite characters (Hobie & Pipa) .. and the beginning in New York was probably my favorite … (Vegas with Dad was my least favorite)…. but it was difficult to read for sure (im really sad about the drug use)… and you weren’t kidding about it being really long!!.. Holy! what a book!
Yes! You about summed it up. I have such a hard time recommending to people because it’s so long and so hit and miss on whether you will like it.
Rachel @ Never Enough Novels says
You read so much nonfiction this month! I know that’s stating the obvious but I’m super impressed. I read two nonfiction and that’s a huge deal haha. I’m almost done listening to The Starless Sea and feel the same way as you. Listening is amazing with a full cast, but I still think I want to go back and read the actual book too.
Yes, I’ve been on quite the nonfiction kick. I have another 10 sitting on my nightstand right now, so February might be similar.
CJ | A Well-Read Tart says
How have you not read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo yet?? I am shocked. I think you’ll love it — I can’t imagine anyone NOT loving it. But, as always, I’m eager to read your review.
A friend was telling me about The Library Book as something I might enjoy, but I think I might skip it now. I was worried it might be a bit dull, and it seems it is, haha. Thanks!
I need to read I’d Rather Be Reading. I follow her blog, too, and all book lovers love this book. And, that Southern book sounds pretty entertaining. 🙂
I know! When I first started book blogging, everyone was talking about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. But I just didn’t get around to reading it. And you should read both I’d Rather Be Reading and The Southern Lady Code. I think you’d like both of them. They are both quick reads, and I love that the authors’ read the audiobooks themselves.
Angela Thomas says
This month, I’ve read several books that I’ve had on my shelves for years! Quite a variety and I enjoyed them all.
“Elizabeth is Missing” by Emma Healey
“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy
“Death on the Nile” by Agatha Christie (Book into film in 2020)
“How to Stay Sane” by Philippa Perry (Under 200 pages/ Non-fiction)
“The Bridge of San Luis Rey” by Thornton Wilder (Published in 1920s)
“The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul” by Deborah Rodriguez
Way to go! I have a goal of reading my last few unread books from my bookshelves this year. One down, only 6 more to go!
Fatheya El-Marsafawi says
I’m not very good at following reading challenges because I’m mostly a mood reader. But I’ve read The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn ( which I loved) as a book becoming a movie in 2020; and I read Recursion by Blake Crouch (all I can say is WOW!) as Goodreads winner in 2019. Then my mood won and I read The Stranger Beside Me: the Ted Bundy Story by Ann Rule (a fascinating book!), and A Lie for a Lie by Helena Hunting (first book I read for this author, and I loved her writing). And finally I’m reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (because I love classics) and hope to finish it by the end of the month. That’s it!
With 52 categories, there’s a good chance all your mood reads will fit into a category. Though that gets a lot harder as the months go on.
My challenge books were:
Book becoming a movie – “the Rhythm Section”. Mark Burnell
Best Read 2019 – um, I lost track of which of my reads this was- It’s been a 24 book month t hi s taught me I need to record my challenge books better to share with others – I am used to reading being a solitary pursuit.
Under 200 pages. “Every heart a doorway” Seanan McGuire
1920s -‘Nadja’ André Breton.
The challenge is already teaching me to be more mindful about my book selection and to have some much needed self recognition for areas I am already covering well instinctively. Looking ahead to February I am most excited about the history book. I have realised how this area has been lacking in my reading for many years.
I am so grateful to the introduction to this challenge.
I’m so glad you are enjoying the challenge! With 24 books in the month, I can imagine it would be hard to remember them all. I compulsively track all my reading on Goodreads (and now on the blog), so that’s one thing to look at. Or you could try a reading journal.
Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins says
Ooooh, what an interesting and varied month you’ve had! I loved Such A Fun Age and The Library Book, I’ve read them both recently too, and I’d love to get my hands on a copy of The Only Plane in The Sky – I feel like we’ve finally maybe got enough distance from the events of 9/11 to address it in new and interesting ways in literature. And I’ve just picked up a copy of The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo, so I’ll be jumping in to that one soon, too!
Oh, I’m so excited we’ll be reading the same book! It’ll be interesting to see how our opinions compare.