I started this month off with some light reading and then got on a bit of a nonfiction kick. My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise). Have you read any of these? Are any of these books on your TBR list?
The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
The Happiness Project is a delightful book that I re-read every few years. Each re-read is a nice reminder that this is it – our lives are happening right now. We don’t need to wait until such-and-such happens (marriage, children, a raise, etc.) to enjoy it – we should savor our time right now. Another takeaway is that happiness is mostly a choice*, and we can choose how we’d like to frame events and responsibilities in our lives. For example, I used to hate washing and changing the sheets each week. I have since re-framed my mindset such that every Sunday, I look forward to starting the week off with clean sheets and freshly made beds. This book is a good reminder that sometimes it is challenging and thankless to be light and cheerful, but being happy is truly is a selfless thing to strive for. My favorite quote from this book is, “The days are long, but the years are short.” The author has a wonderful blog on happiness and habits if you are interested in this topic.
*I am not including the effects of mental illness in this blanket statement.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? was a fun, light read told through letters, emails, and memos along with some first-person narrative from 15-year-old Bee, daughter of the eccentric and stylish Bernadette. Not a spoiler, since it is in the title: Bernadette goes missing. This book shares snippets of Bernadette’s past and tells the story of how Bee and her father try to find her. This was a fabulous beach read!
The Stranger in the Woods – Michael Finkel
I picked this book up because my husband told me how good Finkel’s first book was and said this one had gotten a lot of buzz. It was a Book of the Month Club pick from March, so I went ahead and threw it in the cart with my April selections. While I liked the premise, I had kind of a hard time getting through this book. If it weren’t so short, I probably would have put it down and picked something else up. The book is essentially a character study of the North Pond hermit Chris Knight, but Knight doesn’t reveal much to the author so Finkel doesn’t have a whole lot of material to work with. To me, the author seemed to have had committed to writing an entire book on this particular topic, so he threw in a bunch of background and research on hermits as filler to get this story to book length when it perhaps would have been better formatted as a long article.
Sidenote: After I wrote this review but had not yet posted it, The New York Times Book Review did a write-up on The Stranger in the Woods in which they also used the word “filler,” which was pretty validating for me as an amateur book reviewer.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
I finally purchased this book on audio after a friend recommended it years back. The story about the woman and family behind HeLa cells was simply incredible and should probably be taught in history and/or science classes. Oprah Winfrey produced and starred in an HBO movie based on this book that came out this month. While I am delighted that the movie will expose an entire new audience to this amazing story, I personally couldn’t finish the film. The book was waaaaay better! (That always seems to be the case though, right?)
Lab Girl – Hope Jahren
I. Loved. This. Book. Chatham picked up a stack of books at the Midtown Reader when we went to Tallahassee one weekend in January. He thought I would like this one especially, and oh boy, was he right!
Lab Girl is a memoir of a female paleobiologist and despite the science-y subject matter, it was a real page-turner. The book is separated into three parts that represent three different periods of the author’s life. Every other chapter the author describes a scientific process in nature using beautiful, poetic descriptions, and then the next chapter subtly relates these biological changes to changes that are going on in her life at that point. I was enthralled with the storyline and blown away with the quality of writing. I wouldn’t expect someone in the maths and sciences to write so elegantly, but as I rack my brain, other examples do come to mind (Dr. E.O. Wilson, Isaac Asimov, Stephen Hawking), so perhaps that assumption is unfounded. At any rate, Jahren’s writing is magnificent and her story is important. I highly recommend this book.
FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you. If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club(which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!