I love talking about books and sharing what I’m reading, so we decided to do a regular book review of everything I finish reading each quarter. Q1 2020 was interesting because I went from being crazy busy mid-quarter to holed up at home social distancing. Here’s what’s been on my bookshelf (In Order of Completion):
- American Royals by Katharine McGee-I’m a big follower of the British royal family, so this book was a fun read for me. It imagines what could have happened if George Washington had been America’s first king instead of its first president. It’s a lighthearted, fun read in the vein of Gossip Girl or Crazy Rich Asians and pulls loosely from several royal families’ histories. I’m eagerly waiting for its sequel to be released this fall.
- The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel-I loved Life of Pi, which is also by Yann Martel, so I was excited to read this one. I was hoping for some of the deep exploration of humanity/thought provoking character development that we got from Life of Pi. The High Mountains of Portugal is more like three short-ish stories which are loosely connected, so you don’t get to spend as much time with the characters. It definitely made me think, but I was left struggling to figure out what the broader theme of the novel is. It was a quick read, but I have to confess I was a little unsatisfied at the end.
- The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cronn and Suzanne Stabile-Various friends have mentioned the enneagram to me over the years. It’s a personality typing system focusing on nine primary personality types. I started listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast back in November and in the introductory episode Elsie and Emma talked through their enneagram types and mentioned this book, The Road Back to You. After figuring out my enneagram type (I’m a five-The Investigator), this book helped me understand some of the behavior and thinking patterns I’ve noticed in myself but never been able to explain. It also helped add some context around the parts of my personality I don’t like. Taking an enneagram test is something fun to do if you’re bored, and if you’re looking for a deeper explanation of the enneagram system, this book is a great place to start.
- The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare-One of the items on my bucket list is to read all of William Shakespeare’s work. I decided to take a big chunk out of that goal this year by making reading one Shakespeare play a month one of my 2020 New Year’s Resolutions. I started with The Winter’s Tale in part because it’s the play Carmen acts in during her summer theater program in the fourth Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book. I enjoyed reading this one but was really bothered by how the women in the play are cast aside and kind of replaceable. It was also jarring because it starts out with the trajectory of a tragedy but then shifts to a comedy by the end.
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott-This is a great book of advice/guidance on creative writing. It’s also just a really fun read; Lamott has a great voice and sense of humor, and there were several parts that made me chuckle. I always have multiple creative writing projects in varying states of neglect and would love to publish a novel some day. This book helps break down the writing process piece by piece and inspired me to change how I’m thinking about my writing. It was extremely helpful for making the process less intimidating and for helping me have grace with myself when I feel like what I’m writing sucks.
- King Lear by William Shakespeare-I read King Lear for class when I was in high school but didn’t understand it very well. I decided to re-read it as part of this year’s Shakespeare project now that I’m older and (hopefully) wiser. I think one of the noteworthy things about this play is the female characters are more interesting. Reagan and Goneril (Lear’s daughters) are the main villain characters, and they’re great, behind-the-scenes manipulator villains.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez-This was the first thing I’ve read by Garcia Marquez. My understanding based on conversations I’ve had with friends is most people either love or hate his writing style. I would describe it as “meandering magical realism,” and I really liked it. This is the kind of novel you read to just live with the characters, not for majorly gripping action. I particularly liked the world this book conjures and could picture it very vividly.
- The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare-This is another one I had to read for class in high school. I thought it was funny then, but this time around it really annoyed me. Petruchio’s “taming” of Katherine is just downright abusive. 10 Things I Hate About You is a much better telling of this story. Also, side note: If you’re reading Shakespeare, I highly recommend the Folger Shakespeare library’s editions of Shakespeare’s plays. I’ve read several different publishers’ editions of various plays, and I think Folger is the best for adding context and helping with comprehension. They have great content in the introduction and footnotes, plus well-organized annotations within the text and summaries of each scene which helps if the text is particularly tricky to comprehend.
- Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion-I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to say about this book. I can’t exactly say I liked it because it got under my skin and made me extremely uncomfortable. With that said, I’m really glad I read it because it’s important to me to read books that make me uncomfortable. I read to expand my worldview, and these kinds of the books do that better than any other. Didion’s writing style in this book is fantastic; it has a depth and clarity to it that helps you get into the minds of her characters. I did enjoy that element. Before you proceed, I will offer a warning: this book has some extremely graphic discussions of reproductive rights and mental health. If you’re not sure if you want to read it, the introduction of the book is available in the Amazon “Look Inside” excerpt and will give you a more specific sense of what to expect.
What are you reading right now? What have you finished recently that you absolutely loved? Talking about books is one of my favorite things in the world, so please leave us your own book review in the comments below or connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to get weekly updates of our new content, including these quarterly reading roundups.
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