Because I always need yoga...and I sometimes need chips.

12/22/2017

My 2017 Book Reviews - Part 1

Books give me life.


But even though books give me life, and I love to read, I'm: a) not naturally a fast reader; and b) sometimes known (to myself) for not making time to read. But this year, I really kicked it up a notch - with the help of making a visual library of books to read in my Bullet Journal (which also gives me life), coloring a book after reading it, I read on average a little more than 2 books a month. I read self-improvement books during my Miracle Mornings, and I read just-for-fun books in the time I commit for that. Right now I'm on par to have finished 25-27 books in the year 2017, literally doubling what I read last year. So I would like to share my brief reviews on the books I read (inspired by super-reader/virtual blogger friend Lauren). I'm hoping to do this quarterly next year when the books are fresher in my mind. For now, here are the books I read during the first half of the year, and my thoughts on them (and FYI none of the links are sponsored, I just put them in as a reference, should you be interested in reading more/purchasing them!):

1) The Goldfinch - I actually started and stopped reading this fictional novel several times prior to this year because it's pretty long, and pretty heavy. It tells the story of a 13 year old boy, Theo, who lives in New York, and survives a tragic accident. He is temporarily orphaned, meets an eccentric antique dealer, and then shipped off to the west to live with his estranged father. The story goes through his struggles with addiction and details his path to the black market world of art as an adult. Like I said, it's reaally heavy, but the writing is SO GOOD. The story is so rich and captivating, and it's worth the commitment. I didn't end this book feeling warm and fuzzy, but I did feel rewarded and slightly challenged as a reader. Good stuff.

2) Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things - This memoir by Houston local (what what!) Jenny Lawson is exactly what it sounds like. The book is a series of snapshots of Lawson's life, where she describes her battles with depression and other illnesses in a humorous light. One day she woke up and decided to be FURIOUSLY HAPPY about life, even if that meant doing and saying things that may seem ridiculous to everyone else. I found myself literally laughing out loud several times during this book, and also experiencing deep empathy for her experiences. It's a great, easy read.

3) A Man Called Ove - This easily might be my favorite book I read this year. I read this fictional novel in a matter of days while lying on the beach during my honeymoon (UGH TAKE ME BACK). Ove is a cranky man who lives alone and appears to have nothing better to do than give his neighbors citations for various insignificant infractions. As you read on you learn that there are several heartbreaking and wonderful moments in Ove's life that bring him to this point. But a new family moves in across the street, and, along with his many loving neighbors, they change the course of Ove's life. When I first heard this synopsis, I was not intrigued at all. But I am so so SO glad I read it. I laughed, I cried, and I couldn't put it down. The movie is also great, though I definitely recommend reading the book first. This book is quirky, beautiful, and will absolutely give you the warm fuzzies!

4) Why Not Me? - This is Mindy Kaling's second memoir. I enjoyed her first book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and I enjoyed this one. Honestly, I don't really remember a whole lot about it, but she definitely writes in her own voice, which I appreciate. The book is a collection of short stories throughout her life. It wasn't my favorite of funny books, but it was a quick, easy read, and there were several funny moments throughout.

5) Daring Greatly - This was my first Brené Brown (another Houston local!) book to read, and while I definitely found value in it, I don't know that it was the right book for me at the time. I recently finished her book The Gifts of Imperfection and couldn't get enough of it (more on that later!). Daring Greatly focuses a lot on vulnerability and how important it is. I am a person who places great value on vulnerability, so the main nugget I got out of this book was a reaffirmation of that, as well as more of an understanding of where fear of vulnerability comes from (shame). And don't get me wrong, I could always stand to be more vulnerable, and I have to make an effort to do so sometimes. This book DID make me think, and that's never a bad thing!

6) Love Your Life, Not Theirs - In 2016 my financial life was turned upside down after reading Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, which I 100% recommend, over and over again. Love Your Life, Not Theirs was written by Ramsey's daughter, Rachel Cruze. The book obviously echos a lot of what Ramsey enforces with his debt snowball and savings strategies. The different aspect I felt it offered was that it was coming from the perspective of someone in the same generation as me (I avoid the term "millennial" like the plague because I REMEMBER LIFE BEFORE THE INTERNET, PEOPLE). She enforces the whole idea that one of our main problems as a society is that need for keeping up with the Joneses, and now that stretches even further into lusting after people's lives as displayed through an Instagram filter. If you're looking for an introductory, kick-your-financial-butt-in-gear book, I recommend Ramsay's first, but Cruze's is a decent follow-up.

7) A Hundred Thousand Worlds - This was a charming and unique little novel. It tells the story of a former cult sci-fi star Valerie, and her cross country stops at different comic book festivals, with her son Alex in tow. They meet a crazy cast of characters along the way, and Alex doesn't realize that there may be another reason his mom is taking him across the country that she's not telling him. When I first read the synopsis I wasn't that intrigued, but it had great reviews, so I decided to give it a go. And I was really glad I did!

8) The Power of Now - I've had this on my bookshelf for quite a while and have been wanting to read it, so I finally read it this year, and....I didn't love it like I thought I would. I am such a future-thinking person that I'm always having to remind myself to be in the moment. I was hoping this book would help me do that, or maybe provide me with different meditation techniques. It was a little more abstract and less "how-to" than I was hoping it would be. I think this is the kind of book that would be good for a study group or book club, to really talk through some of the sections. Ironically enough, I often found my mind wandering while reading the book, and I would have to re-read paragraphs. FOOD FOR THOUGHT. This book receives wide praise, though, so I do think it's worth a read, and you may get a lot out of it.

9) Getting a PhD in You - If you are just starting out on a goal-setting journey, this is a great book to start with. Think of it as "Goal Setting 101." Since I do a lot of goal setting on a day-to-day basis during my Miracle Morning I found some of the exercises to be a little redundant. It wasn't bad to have the refresher though, and there were some aspects I found to be new and interesting, like mirror affirmations.

10) Big Little Lies - This was another one of my top 5 books of the year! I tore through it on the plane ride home from our honeymoon (I swear I didn't just read during my honeymoon, I also drank, FYI). A murder takes place at the beginning of the book, and the novel focuses on three different female characters. I've read two other Liane Moriarty books, and loved them as well, but is was definitely my favorite. Her books feature strong female characters and great feminist themes, and this one was so juicy! SUCH a page-turner. The HBO series is also great, but do yourself a favor and read the book first!

11) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Okay, so I borrowed this on e-reader from the library, and I had no idea it was a script for a play. So when I opened it, I was like, huh? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a former theater major, so reading plays is not a foreign thing to me. And it's definitely different from reading the Harry Potter books. It read a little cheesy to me, but I say that knowing it probably translates really well on a stage. It tells the story of Harry and Ginny's son Albus, and the many struggles he experiences as an outcast at Hogwarts. No it isn't HP 1-7, but reading it did fill a sort of void and gave me insight into the adult lives of our beloved characters, which was very nice.

12) The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck - The subtle book with the not-so-subtle title! This book refers to itself as the "Anti-self help book," and I found a lot of the ideas in it to be pretty interesting. I am someone who is constantly pushing myself to be better, having to often pull myself out of the future. This book - peppered with lots of F-Bombs and humor - claims that the idea to always push ourselves to be better and happier ironically ends up making us unhappy in the end because we are never good enough. It advises you to know your limitations and find peace within them. Since I'm addicted to self-help, I couldn't totally get behind everything as a whole, but there were some pretty valuable nuggets in this book. The author talks about how he once bought a guitar and had dreams of becoming a rock star, but he never put the time and effort into practicing and later on felt like he failed his dream. He then realized if it was actually his dream, he would have made it happen. This caused me to reflect on past regrets I've had of not succeeding in certain things, like making a living out of singing and acting in New York. If I had wanted it bad enough the constant rejection, hauling my laundry up and down 4 flights of stairs between the laundromat and my 600 square-foot 2 bedroom apartment (that cost a small fortune), waiting tables til 1:00 am only to wake up in 3 hours to stand in line in 30 degree weather for 2 more hours just to sign up and audition 4 hours later, and meal after meal of packaged ramen noodles would not have deterred me (NYC living, man). So yeah, I'd say it wasn't a bad read!

And that's the first half of my 2017 in books, in a nutshell! I am no book-reviewing expert, and my opinions are obviously just that - my opinions. So take everything I say with a grain of salt. Even if a book isn't necessarily enjoyable for me, I always think there's value or something to be gained from reading. So stay tuned for part 2!

xo and namaste! - Kim
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