Book Review Sparking Joy

January Booket List Review

According to the weather app, it feels like -32 degrees outside right now. All that makes me want to do is curl up with a cuppa coffee and a good book and get down to it. There’s nothing like a book that can take you out of your current reality (which happens to be a tundra for us) and swiftly move you into another life. This year, I am rediscovering my love for reading. As a kid, I remember staying up all night devouring books. Junie B. Jones was my advocate, Harry Potter was my first love and Jo March was my childhood idol.

As I got older, I began to read less. In college, I felt guilt whenever I picked up a book that wasn’t assigned reading. After college, I found myself lacking time to read, or so I told myself. As a teacher, I rarely see a child with their head in a book. When I offer free time in the classroom, books are never what they reach for. It makes me sad, and reminiscent for my own childhood. This year, I have decided to read 100 books. I’ve watched a decent amount of Netflix, and there’s a 37.86% chance that I regret the time that I spend on a show. I’ve never regretted a book, even if it wasn’t a book that lined up with my beliefs or values. I’ve always gotten something from a book, whether it was a new idea, or an affirmation to my current beliefs. Sometimes, it was just a laugh, but a much needed one. So here is month one of my reading challenge, punningly titled my booket list (get it? bucket list? booket? book?). This month I read 8 books, and each one gave me something. Keep reading for my very informed and professional review of them all 😉

#1: A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

“Frustrated at never being able to figure out which silver Prius was mine, I put a second Obama sticker on the bumper, because having only one made it indistinguishable from the rest. I suppose, if I really wanted to make it easier to find, I’d slap a National Rifle Association sticker on it.” – Ayelet Waldman

I started the month off with a book that I typically would not have picked up. If I’m reading 100 books this year, I might as well learn about some unfamiliar ideas. This book was everything a quality book should be, in my opinion. It was funny, factual and informative in an amusing way. The author, Ayelet Waldman, described her experience with experimenting with microdosing LSD. She does so in an attempt to improve her moods and make her relationships with her family stronger. The book is written in diary form, describing each day in her 30 day experiment. Her writing is research backed, which left me with fun facts to use at future dinner parties. Did you know that 67% of women who are admitted to psychiatric facilities are admitted the week before their cycle begins? Try that one out next time you find yourself in a lull in conversation. This book was great, and I loved her style of writing. 5 out of 5.

#2: Green Enough by Leah Segedie

After a strong start with the previous book, I was excited to dive into this one. I had heard the author on a podcast I listen to discussing it, and immediately ordered it. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I’m as crunchy as granola. I tend to grab for essential oils before Nyquil. Grassfed beef is my jam, as is organic coffee (the mold people, look into the mold!) This book seemed to be the bible for granola living. I read this book quickly, in part because the author wrote it in an amusing manner (I can’t resist a book that openly curses) but also because a lot of information was repetitive for me. This book has some great tips though, and I left with some new information. Did you know that when companies took out BPA, many replaced it with a chemical that may be even more harmful? You bet your bottom dollar I won’t use plastic tupperware again. I would suggest this book to anyone who is beginning to live a toxic free life. It’s a great starting point, and has excellent recommendations. Also, check out the author’s website! She has lists of toxic free replacements for day-to-day things.

#3: An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

“If I can’t feel, if I can’t move, if I can’t think, and I can’t care, then what conceivable point is there in living?” – Kay Redfield Jamison

This book was the second book I read this month that discussed mood. The author, Kay Redfield Jamison, is a psychologist whose work centers around bipolar disorder. This book was a memoir of her life, as a person figuring out a way to live with bipolar disorder while helping others around her. It was an eye-opening read, which portrayed bipolar not only as a disorder, but as an asset. It explained that many people don’t want to take medication, because it dulls their brilliant minds. It was a beautifully written book that ran through her life from childhood to the present. It was raw and heart breaking at times, and insightful throughout. It was honest and I loved it for that.

#4: Slow by Brooke McAlary

“Be a curator of your life. Slowly cut things out until you’re left only with what you love, with what’s necessary, with what makes you happy.” — Leo Babauta

Intention is a such a buzz word, but it’s also something I am striving for this year. I want to be intentional, with my words, my actions and my times. This book was on my radar last year, but I didn’t want to pay full price (I know, I’m cheap AF). I was in a thrift store in Logan Square and came across it for $1.99. HELL YES. I bought and immediately devoured this book. The author, Brooke McAlary, also wanted to live with intention. Upon opening the book, one would think it was a book on minimalism, but it isn’t. It’s a book on happiness, and how adding things in, and cutting things out, can lead to it. While I did think the book was a bit, er, fluffy, I did find some takeaways. This book made me realize the lack of presence I have in the moment. After reading this book, I would catch myself in that state, and bring myself back down to earth. If you’re looking for inspiration to lead a more intentional life, this is a great book to start with.

#5: When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

“Just Like Canada, with Better Bacon.” – Steven D. Levitt

My husband got me into this genre of book when we first started dating. A few weeks into seeing each other, I went on vacation with my family. He handed me a stack of books, which included the original Freakonomics. That book, to this day, is still one of my favorite reads. I would describe the genre as business pop – a fun take on “boring” concepts. This book was a collection of blogs that the authors had publishes on their website. It was a quick read, that left me with a new understanding of why certain things in the world are the way they are. (Sidenote: after reading this book, I have now read all 5 Freakonomic books. Does this make me a freakonomic?!) This book is great if you don’t have much time to read, as each entry is at most, two pages. Give it a shot, you’ll leave with some fun facts!

#6: Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

“Just when we think we have a system, …the system collapses. Just when we know our way around, we get lost. Just when we think we know what’s coming next, everything changes.”  – Anthony Doerr

Spring break this year will be spent in Italy, thanks to a great deal I found on Google flights. I enjoy reading books set in places that I will visit – it adds to that wonderful feeling of anticipation to get there. This book was part history, part travel guide and part parenting 101. The author describes his experience winning an award that involved a year in Rome, soon after the birth of his twins. It was beautifully written, but slow at times. I enjoyed how he discussed the narrative of Rome, especially from an American viewpoint where nothing in our country has much history. It was a fun read, but not an incredibly memorable one, in my opinion.

#7: Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman

“Let’s all commit ourselves to the basic civility of minding our own business. Failing that, let’s go back to a time when we were nasty and judgmental, but only behind one another’s backs.”  – Ayelet Waldman

After reading her book on microdosing, and telling my husband how hilarious I had found it, he bought me this one. Some people online reviewed it poorly, saying it was too personal, but as a nosy person, I loved it! Ayelet Waldman discusses her experience as a mother of four, but more importantly, discusses what the role of a mother is in today’s society. This book was honest about motherhood, and didn’t attempt to use rose colored glasses, which was refreshing. As a person who has not yet experienced motherhood, it was soothing to know that it isn’t expected to be perfect. As a woman who wants children and a career, it was encouraging to know that it can be possible to be successful with both. It was funny, sarcastic and informative, similar to her other book. Go check it out (checkout her Instagram too, because she is quite funny on there as well)!

#8: Becoming by Michelle Obama (duh)

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”  – Michelle Obama

This book was a holiday present from one of my best friends, and I absolutely loved it. I’m 24 right now, and unsure of what is next for me in my career. It was reassuring that at 24, Michelle Obama felt similarly. This book went through all the phases of her life. She wrote about her upbringing on the South side. She wrote about her time at Harvard and how unfulfilled she was as a lawyer. She discussed how she didn’t (and still doesn’t) like politics. It was honest and that it all that I can ask of a memoir. It also had pictures in the middle, for visual learners.

So there we have it folks! Those were my reads for the month of January! I enjoyed them all, for an assortment of reasons, and don’t regret a single one (digression: I did watch 20 minutes of a show called Yummy Mummy on Netflix, which I completely regret). Let’s see what words come my way in February!

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

Lemony Snicket

Leave a Reply