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.
Have you ever looked at a bestselling book and wondered if it’s worth the read? We’ve all picked up that hot new release only to discover it can’t truly deliver what the book jacket promises.
Every year, I compile my Read This Not That list of bestsellers worth the hype. But my list only contains 7 books worth reading and 7 that are not. Considering how many books I read a year, so many excellent books, and some not so great reads, don’t make the list.
I asked myself: Why not give monthly book recommendations?
Welcome to my monthly reading roundup, Worth the Read. Each month, I write up short reviews of all the books I read that month. Find out which books I recommend and which to skip.
I know the month isn’t exactly over, but let’s take a look at my May Reading Roundup by the numbers:
- 2019 Releases: 5 New Releases (including 2 Advanced Review Copies)
- Genre: 5 Nonfiction, 6 Fiction
- Authors: 8 Female Authors, 3 Male
- Format: 1 Audiobook, 1 E-book, 9 Print Copies
- Total Page Count: 3,368
But I didn’t write this post to show off my reading. I wrote it so you can hear my thoughts on the books I read this month. Plus, take a sneak peek at some of what’s coming soon on the book blog.
May Reading List
For our 2019 Reading Challenge, we are reading one book a week from a list of 52 categories. Here are the five books I chose for May:
If you have an insane amount of money (say from creating Microsoft) how do you use it to change the world? Over a lifetime, Melinda Gates, co-founder of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has discovered that the key to alleviating poverty, decreasing childhood death and even increasing food production all comes back to empowering women. The statistics throughout the book are staggering, and Gates makes a strong argument for how empowering women affects so much more than you would think.
Unfortunately, the writing itself is not particularly compelling in this April 2019 book release. While Gates is an admirable woman, her own story is … shall I say … kinda dull. I wouldn’t say you should completely write off the book, but don’t expect a book you can’t put down. Just one that will make you ponder how our world works.
Verdict: Worth the read … excellent food for thought if not compelling writing
Karen Thompson Walker
An ordinary if somewhat isolated college town in California suddenly comes down with an epidemic. People are suddenly falling asleep and cannot be awoken by any means. Scans show unusually high brain wave activity indicating that the sleepers are dreaming. I loved the premise for this story, and the suspense as people slowly start to fall asleep kept me wanting more.
Sadly, that ends up being literally the whole story. You are introduced to a large range of characters and follow along as they each slowly succumb. Throughout the book, I kept expecting there to be more, but it’s not until the last 30-50 pages that any plot movement comes into effect. By then, it was just too little too late.
I feel like the author missed her chance. She should have either gone more into the nightmare logistics of the epidemic (à la One Second After) or added another 100 pages transitioning the story to a secondary level. As it was, I have to say, I felt extremely disappointed with this January 2019 book release.
Verdict: Skip … never fully developed
Do you have a topic that you just can’t seem to get enough of? I will read any and every book on minimalism and decluttering. Knowing me oh so well, my best friend lent me a copy of Pete Walsh’s treatment on the subject.Having read so much on the topic, I will have to admit that I was not impressed. Walsh’s decluttering method seems doomed to failure from the get-go. His very first step requires a high time commitment and felt rife for a confrontation between family members as you pull everything out and decide what stays and what goes.
However, the book was not a total waste of time. I was impressed with his last chapter on going deeper into decluttering after the initial work is done. I am at that phase in my minimalism journey, and he inspired me to finally tackle the areas I’ve been putting off – like digital clutter and my filing cabinet.
Verdict: Skip … read Marie Kondo instead
When I wrote about the March 2019 book releases, I mentioned Oprah Winfrey’s book because, well, she’s Oprah Winfrey. I couldn’t find much about the book – no reviews or comments – but I assumed that given Oprah’s name, it had to be good. Well, you know what they say about assuming.Here is how her description really ought to read: “Coffee table book with pretty pictures, great textured pages, and quotes in a gigantic font. All wrapped in token chapter introductions by your favorite celebrity. It will look pretty, but contains nothing of substance.” Someone is laughing all the way to the bank with this one.
Verdict: Skip … most disappointing read of 2019
I’ve mentioned before, but I don’t swear at all. I just never have. Consequently, I was extremely wary of this book, thinking it might end up being complete trash like You are a Badass. Frankly, I ended up having to completely skip the beginning of the book. As Manson introduces his topic, he drops F-bombs left and right, almost like a blogger keyword stuffing for SEO.
Luckily, the swear words tailed off considerably once I got into the meat of the book, which allowed Manson’s original idea to fully shine. He hypothesizes is that the key to life is not to be happy. Instead, the key is to embrace the limitations, flaws, and suffering of life. You’ll be left with plenty to think about after reading this anti self-help book.
Verdict: Worth the read … a totally original self-help book
The American Dream. Many hope for it, but how many truly find it? Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel details the lives of Cameroon immigrants living in New York City: Jende Jonga, who is trying to apply for legal status under a false asylum claim; his wife Neni, struggling to finish schooling in hopes of becoming a pharmacist; and their son Liomi, trying to balance his American-ness with his Cameroon side. In the days preceding the Great Recession, Jende gets lucky enough to get a job as chauffeur to Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive.
Mbue brilliantly paints a fascinating look at immigrant life – the struggles with the immigration system, the desire for a better life, the balancing of cultural differences and the financial burden that comes with being poor in America. Through her writing, Mbue asks you to ponder what really brings happiness, and is the American dream all it’s cracked up to be?
Verdict: Worth the read … a fascinating look at immigration
Thirteen-year-old Jojo is trying to figure out life as a half-white half-black teen in Mississippi. When his family learns his father is being released from prison, his mom Leonie, a struggling drug addict, packs up Jojo and his little sister for a drive up to the state penitentiary where Jojo encounters the ghost of a boy who was killed as an inmate. Combining a dysfunctional family character study with a haunting ghost story, Sing, Unburied, Sing has won rave reviews from critics.
What impressed me most was how much everything about the book was expertly crafted to convey the story that Ward wanted to tell, not necessarily the story you wanted to read. A hauntingly deep look into death, life, and family, Ward knocks it out of the park with her beautiful writing.
While the story definitely threw me for a loop with its use of the supernatural, I was in awe at Ward’s ability to build and weave such a powerful story. She is an excellent writer, and I look forward to reading her other works.
Verdict: Worth the read … exquisitely crafted story
For my 2019 Reading Challenge, I needed to read a book written in the 70s – the decade before I was born. Looking through the lists, I decided I ought to explore more of Stephen King’s works. I loved The Green Mile, hated Carrie, and heard about tons of his other books. My neighbor is a huge Stephen King fan, so I decided to go with his favorite Stephen King book, ‘Salem’s Lot.
‘Salem’s Lot was the second book Stephen King ever published, after Carrie. He depicts the tale of Ben Mears, a writer returning to a town of his childhood to write his next book. As a boy, he had a supernatural experience in a haunted house in Jerusalem’s Lot and thinks it would be a great inspiration. Though as he starts his book about the power of evil, strange happenings start to take over the small Maine town.
Even though it’s mentioned clearly in the jacket cover, I don’t think I will mention the mystery. Going in, I had no idea what the book was about, and I felt it was so much freer to have the story unfold before me without preset expectations.
Though I don’t expect to read many more horror books, I was impressed with how well Stephen King can set a scene. He draws you into the setting and mood and perfectly portrays the overwhelming dread as the impossible becomes all too real. A great read for any horror fan.
Verdict: Worth the read … if you like horror stories
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 June 2019 book releases are right around the corner. Here’s a peek at the June 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 June to see which ones I read.
What books did you read in May?