Many things happened when we crossed into the second quarter of the year. Two of them are: we moved to a new country and into a house with just Scott and me; and we got library cards. These meant I had fewer responsibilities, more time, and easier access to books. I tend to forget the stories so I wanted to write a review of each book that I read so that I’ll remember them. Well, that’s ambitious, and I don’t feel competent about writing reviews. So I’ll just put them altogether in a list and write a few sentences about what I think of each one. I also didn’t keep track of all of them so this might be missing one or two. But here goes, in no particular order.
*Note: This list reflects my habit of flipping between two to three books at a time because I like light random easy reads to mix with long serious novels.
1. The Bean Trees (TBT) by Barbara Kingsolver. If I had a favorite author, it would be her, but mainly because of a book that she wrote a decade later. This was her earliest work. I’ve read it once before. And then some time later, I read Pigs in Heaven (PH). And I found out from the blurb on that book that it’s actually a sequel to TBT. But by this time I already forgot what TBT was about so I read it again. This has a similar theme to her other books that have an element of social justice in them. [Read again: Yes. Recommend: Yes.]
2. Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling. “Written by famous people” is one of my go-to book genres. I like to know what people would say about themselves, and if they’re actors, I like to know what they are like apart from the characters that they play. I find Mindy funny, witty, and introspective. [Read again: No. Recommend: Yes.]
3. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I didn’t like her wildly successful first book, but I really liked this one. She was ambitious on this one, and she pulled it off. It’s a well-researched, brilliantly written historical fiction. It’s about a botanist, something right up my alley, so that was an extra point in its favor. [Read again: Maybe. Recommend: Yes.]
4. The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane von Furstenberg. This was the memoir of the designer of the famous wrap dress. I wanted to like this, but I couldn’t even finish it. It was not clearly structured. There was a different theme for each chapter but I’d catch myself reading about something that she already said in a previous chapter. Something about working hard, her mother’s influence on her life, refusing to be defeated by adversity, etc. I think she wanted it to be this inspirational book but saying the same thing over and over waters down the message. [Read again: No. Recommend: Worth a try, as most books are.]
5. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. The standup comedian wrote this, but most of the content was based on interviews, focus group discussions, and surveys he carried out with sociologist Eric Klinenberg. It’s a mix of insights on modern romance based on studies and personal experience. There’s enough scientific rigour to make his points legitimate, but written in a way that makes it relatable. I’m not a millennial, nor am I a Westerner, but it’s helpful to gain insight into how that demographic navigates romance in this day and age. [Read again: No. Recommend: Yes.]
6. Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making it Work by Tim Gunn. This was an easy read. It’s a mix of advice and anecdotes. Most of his advice is decent, and I like Project Runway so it was nice to read about the show. But other parts read like secrets that you’re not supposed to know about, and that made me slightly uncomfortable. I found the message contradictory too, because the book was about being nice and polite, but here he was gossiping about other people. [Read again: No. Recommend: Hmmm…]
7. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaleid Hosseini. Brilliant, just like his two other books. This is not my favorite among his works, but it definitely does not fall short of the bar that he already set. I love stories that span years, even decades, and seamlessly weaves the individual stories of multiple characters. And Hosseini is a master of that. [Read again: Maybe. Recommend: Yes.]
8. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I read this long after its publication. Long after the hype. It was…ok. Maybe it’s also because I’ve streamed an online course that delved into the science of happiness, so I was familiar with most of the studies that Rubin mentioned. There were some helpful tips, but the others were just okay. But then again, she only wrote about her own experience and what worked for her, in the hopes that it would work for others too. And it was just okay for me, which is not a reflection of the merits of the book, but of how different we are as individuals. [Read again: No. Recommend: Yes.]
9. How to Boil Water by Food Network Kitchens. I found this book refreshing because it’s for beginners. It’s part recipe book, part instruction manual. It has information on how to pick fruits, how to carve a turkey, how long to roast certain vegetables and what goes well with them. Some I already know, some are intuitive but also good to be explained more clearly. There were very simple recipes (like for baked potatoes), but also for an entire thanksgiving menu. But it’s not daunting because it takes you through every step. [Read again: Yes. Recommend: Yes.]