What I Read in December
December 2018 wrapped up my biggest reading year yet. I finished 158 books (and lost track of how many I DNF-ed!)
I read a whopping 18 books last month (my second best of the year to May’s 19), including a couple that will be on my list of favorites.
What I Read in December
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman’s work can sometimes be a bit over my head. This was an exception where I not only enjoyed, but also understood the entire novel! It’s beautifully written, and invokes feelings of confusion and frustration so often felt by children trying to learn the ways of our world. As always, Gaiman creates a dreamy fantastical world that overlaps with our reality. His characters are often tested by creatures and circumstances beyond belief. Like many of his others, this story has both darkness and light. There is despair and hope, loathing and love. It was a wonderful reading experience.
The Everyday Empath by Raven Digitalis
This was more accessible that the author’s previous book, and again provided me with a ton of resources and techniques to keep in my empath tool box. Raven writes with a friendly tone, and explains complicated concept in a straightforward manner. He provides citations and resources in places where the reader may need or want to seek further information. What I appreciate most about his writing is that he is not instructing us on how to merely survive bring an empath, but to see it as the gift it truly is.
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
This officially replaces The Gifts of Imperfection as my favorite of Brene’s books. I have long been aware of the power of shared connection and the pain of braving the wilderness, but didn’t have the language to explain what I was experiencing. This book was validating, affirming I’m on the right path in standing up to speak my truth when it’s scary, and seeking connection with strangers (even when it feels weird.) If you are continually looking at signs that you don’t “fit in,” and craving belonging, this book will point you in the right direction. It’s clear that in a time when our world feels more divided than ever, there are ways to bridge those divides without compromising our own values.
Ariel by Sylvia Plath
For the ReadHarder challenge category: A book published posthumously This is my first experience with Plath’s poetry, though I’ve read The Bell Jar. These poems felt different, though I can’t say I feel like I fully understood them all. There is a manic energy to most of them, a frantic pace, and almost other worldly vibe. It’s as if I can’t understand what she’s trying because I’m not in the same mental state. Perhaps I am overthinking it because I know she was working on these poems at the time of her death. There are several about her bees and their hive, which I found touching. As always, her writing is sparse and intense. I would like to read more of her poems to have a better feel for her body of work as a whole.
Mo’ Meta Blues by Questlove
For the While I Was Reading Challenge category: A memoir or biography of a musician you like This goes above and beyond being the memoir of one man’s life. It’s part music history, part cultural history, exploring the evolution of hip-hop. There’s a little history of Philadelphia and the city’s role in music history as well as the East Coast/West Coast rap culture. Questlove’s discussion of music and artists overlaps into discussion racial and political issues. There’s so much going on in this memoir, yet it remains obviously 100% about Questlove’s passion for music from his earliest days. Whether he is a listener, performer, creator, producer, or DJ doesn’t matter-his intense curiosity about how music comes from an artist is a beautiful thing to witness. The writing is fairly straightforward storytelling, though his personality shines through.
You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero
Jen Sincero’s work came into my life at a time I truly needed it, and continues to resonate with me. Her You Are a Badass books have been invaluable tools on my path to personal development. I’ve also taken one of her online courses and a year later, still refer to the content regularly. If you haven’t read Sincero’s original Badass book, definitely start there. These reminders won’t pack as much punch if you don’t have the base and understand where she’s coming from. Instead of entirely new content, YAABE presents Jen’s Badass material in a condensed format, in short digestible blurbs. Designed to be read cover to cover, or in a randomly-turn-to-a-page-and- see-what-you-get style, this new book is exactly what us Badasses have been needing.
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
My feelings on the book are quite mixed. I listened to the audio book, read by Haddish, which was incredibly inconsistent. There were times her narration was downright difficult to listen to, sounding forced and monotone. Then there were other parts when she did a fantastic job, speaking casually, doing voices, and adding great humor.
About half way through, the tone changed. I credit this to her transition from tales of her difficult childhood to adulthood. Her self confidence and resilience as she embarks on a career in comedy are downright inspiring and many of her anecdotes are hilarious. She tackles many important, difficult topics, such as molestation and domestic violence. I don’t feel it was always done with the right tone, but it’s a huge accomplishment for her to have shared these stories.
Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count by Karen Wickre
The concept for this book is absolutely brilliant. As a social introvert, I struggle with wanting to meet people and make connections, yet being drained by the process. Here, Wickre shows that my natural tendencies aren’t abnormal or wrong, and it is possible to make/maintain connections and still stay true to myself. Her writing is conversational and straightforward. It’s clear she understands what she’s talking about! There are tons of examples and references for the reader to utilize as needed. I especially appreciate the breakdown of how to use social media in a healthy way, for maintaining connections. There’s guidance on every possible aspect of networking and connecting.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick
For PopSugar Challenge category: A cyberpunk book This novel is a pure joy. A little reminiscent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide, there’s a bit of whimsy here, though much darker. Dick’s futuristic Earth makes a ton of sense to me, maybe that’s because I’m a lot closer to it than he was when he wrote this! Our hero of sorts, Rick Deckard is the classic every man: beginning to question his own humanity, thanks to a job that he likes but requires him to do “bad” things, unsure about the state of his marriage, and desperate to own a real live animal, which have become status symbols.I was surprised at how readable and relatable this novel is. I appreciate how Dick was ahead of his time, I can’t imagine how mind-blowing it would have been to read in this 1968! I will definitely give some of his other works a try.
Keep Going by Austin Kleon
Advanced copy received from NetGalley, expected publication April 2, 2019 I enjoyed Kleon’s previous works. I appreciate his honest approach to being a creative type: It isn’t easy, and it’s what we are called to do, so it can take work to find balance, and continue creating when we don’t feel like it. I like Keep Going best of Kleon’s books because it’s broken down into 10 chunks that address different aspects off living a creative life. As always with his work, there’s humor, unique poems and illustrations, plus plenty of quotes and advice from other creatives.
Someday is Not a Day in the Week by Sam Horn
Advanced copy received from NetGalley, expected publication date March 12, 2019 One of my favorite reads this year, and such a refreshing alternative to all the other “live in the now” guides out there! I thought I was living my best life and focusing on my goals, when in reality, I probably knew in my heart that I’m not making my passions a priority on a regular basis. Horn’s guidance lit a fire under me! What I appreciate most about her approach is how she breaks life down into chunks, and peels back the veil to show how we are waiting for Someday to arrive. She provides small, achievable tips for how to go after what you want each day. There are exercises designed to walk us through evaluating our happiness, and how we’re actually spending our time. The author uses casual language and personal anecdotes, along with examples from other people in her life, to demonstrate the concepts she is describing.
I am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
My favorite of the series so far. I might have said that about the last two also! I adore Flavia, and am constantly in awe of Bradley’s ability to convincingly narrate as this smart, witty 11 year old girl. As always, his story telling is top-notch. Here, the setting of Buckshaw at Christmas time is sheer perfection. There are many different components that come together to make this story so rich. While it’s fun and silly at times, it’s also serious and heavy. I can’t wait to get to Flavia’s next adventure!
The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
To witness any form of art which is so obviously part of the creator’s healing process is a gift. And those reviewers who have dismissed this collection as not being poetry, have obviously not used art as a tool for helping themselves, which is a shame. This is a collection of powerful poems, though sparse in words they say a great deal. There is a story here, of abuse and injury, grief and loss, love and healing, and every stage in between.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
There’s so much going on here, on so many levels! There were parts I loved and parts I hated. Nine people meet at a retreat at a facility well known for physical and spiritual benefits of their programs. With the resort owner and her staff, there are 12 characters we get to know, and learn how their stories intertwine. This made for an enjoyable first half of the novel. The resort director is trying a controversial new protocol with her guests. The results are some serious WTF moments for the reader, while the guests are thrown into circumstances they definitely did not sign up for. Moiriarty’s strength is weaving these powerfully character driven tales that are incredibly compelling, even if you aren’t loving the story-line. The characters here are relatable, complicated humans with in depth backstories, and dirty secrets. At the core, this novel is about human nature, and how we make choices and deal with their consequences.
Vacationland by John Hodgman
My husband and I listened to this audio book on our annual Christmas drive to his parents’, and we both were gasping and crying with laughter multiple times. Of course I expected it to be, though Hodgman far exceed my expectations. This isn’t simply a comedian’s book. Often those are stand-up routines put in writing. These stories are excellently written, Hodgman’s humor is sharp and smart. Occasionally self-deprecating as he points out how his “problems” are due to his privilege, his honesty makes him relatable. I can see myself listening to this audio book again for entertainment and to pick up on subtle jokes I may have missed.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
I was expecting Michelle’s honesty and grace, which is on every page. What I wasn’t expecting is such eloquent, skilled writing. I found the details of her early life interesting, although they didn’t always make for compelling reading/listening. Once I got to the half-way point, the pace picked up and I was enthralled. She does a great job of telling things from her own point of view, not veering too far into what Barak’s motivation. I now appreciate her advocating for healthier eating for kids and lower income families, knowing the backstory. It’s an inspiring read, particularly at this point in our political cycle.
The Couple on Cedar Close by Anna-Lou Weatherly
Advanced copy received from NetGalley, expected publication January 19, 2019 So my phenomenol reading year ended with a dud. To be frank, this novel reminds me of a porno, all action with a poor attempt at a plot. There’s violence and gore, betrayal and illicit sex, one whammy after another without much chance for the reader to get drawn into a story. The bummer is, there’s a lot of potential here. The characters are interesting, and there could have been a lot of drama and intrigue. Instead, I figured out the “mystery” early on and while I was curious to see how the whole thing wrapped up, I wasn’t hit by any “twists.”
What did you read in December?