BOOKS | What I've Been Reading Vol.1

What I really enjoyed about doing #NaBloPoMo in January was writing about things other than beauty. Like most people, I have other interests that I don't often get to feature with one of them being books. I was always a big reader as a child and loved going to my local library to indulge in books. My tastes tend to vary, but I stick mostly to fiction with the exception a few autobiographies or historical accounts. If I read an easy or junky book (ahem, the Brandi Glanville tell-all), the next book I read will be more "meaty". I have always advocated for literacy at a young age as it generally helps with your spelling, vocabulary and writing especially now that we are living in a time of instant gratification where we use emoticons and shorthand to communicate. Reading a book forces you to slow down and disconnect and is something I have been guilty of not doing as evidenced by my many failed Goodreads Reading Challenges over the last couple of years. Reading more was one of my goals for 2020 and so 1/3 of the way into the year, I am on track and enjoying it so here are the first five books I have read this year!

1. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

"Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside."

I purchased this book a long time ago when it was still considered "new and hot" and with a teaser like that, it seemed like it was going to be an interesting read when it came to the balance of family dynamics. As someone whose parents divorced in their late 20s and then remarried younger partners, I thought I could relate a little bit to some of the awkwardness that is sure to arise when someone new enters the family fray, but though there were promising moments, I never felt pulled in or even LIKED anyone or their relationships. Sure ongoing feuds were buried with a few funny things along the way, but it was just one of those books were when I never felt fully invested in the characters or fully understood their motivations. It was a relatively easy read especially when Valentina (the glamorous blonde) was in the picture since she had a big personality that dominated over all the other characters, but I would not read this again.

2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

"In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare."

I didn’t know much about Michelle Obama before her time as First Lady and although I really liked the Obamas, after this book, I have a newfound respect for both of them. I like that Michelle didn’t mince words when it came to the gruelling schedule and demands of being a First Family including details like just wanting to see the rainbow of lights celebrating Equal Rights for Marriages from their porch without being seen by the public. The Obamas were the first Presidential family I saw on Ellen A LOT and they seemed like approachable normal people. I like that Michelle wanted to stay relatable to everyone because of her upbringing and it sounds like she worked hard to get to an Ivy league school when being black and female already set you at a disadvantage at that time. She must be so sad to see the state of things now and I can’t even imagine what the Obamas are thinking now with the Trumps in charge, but I found this book to be both informative and enlightening

Holy Lands by Amanda Sthers

"A witty, heartwarming, and heart-wrenching epistolary novel, soon to be a major motion picture starring James Caan, Rosanna Arquette, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, about a dysfunctional family--led by a Jewish pig farmer in Israel--struggling to love and accept each other."

Quick read and I found it quite funny! The book is setup as a bunch of emails and letters to members of the family and when I initially picked it up at the library, I just thought it would be a fun break between my more serious books, but in addition to chuckling in public, I found myself tearing up during more touching exchanges. How witnessing such brief interactions between family members made me feel like I knew them is beyond me. I saw some reviews of this book that really tore it apart and maybe my literary tastes aren't as refined as others, but I found myself wanting to know more about the characters and wishing that there were more letters when I got to the last page. I will definitely be seeing the movie because there were so many gaps between letters that I wished someone would have filled in for me like a reaction to surprising news.

4. One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair

"A witty, comprehensive history of facial hair, documenting its continuous rise and fall as a trend. With style recipes, information on care and upkeep, and hundreds of pictures of famous bearded men (and women!), One Thousand Beards provides an insightful, light-hearted, and well-groomed look at facial hair." 

I like historical books (I loved History of the World in 5 Glasses) and even though I don't personally have facial hair, I do have a fascination with the history of beauty and grooming. While I did take away a few fun tidbits like the first tweezers being clam shells, I found this book difficult to follow because there were blurbs of random fact bubbles along the margins which reminded me of my old biology textbooks where I felt the urge to read EVERYTHING on the page for fear the information might come in handy later. I also found that ideas would jump around or at times would just be a list of celebrities or historical figures who had sideburns, moustaches or beards of a certain length. Lists aren't that interesting and I really had to force myself to finish this book despite starting it over a month ago. Maybe if I were someone with a beard, I would have found this book more interesting.

5. The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy

"In an unnamed city, the Elysian Society allows paying clients to reconnect with their lost loved ones. The workers, known as bodies, spend their days in a numb routine, wearing the discarded belongings of the dead and swallowing pills to summon spirits."

This was one of the staff picks at the library when I went to return the book about facial hair and it sounded interesting. I will admit that this is the first book in a long time that I had to schedule a time to STOP. The chapters were setup almost like thriller style page turners so not to be too TMI, but there were times where I had to go on with my day and I had to "blue ball" myself at the end of a chapter! The concept of bringing back the dead and counselling people in their grief that way was something I found fascinating. The book focuses on Edie, a "body", and her obsession with a client, Patrick Braddock, when he comes to her to speak to his dead wife. I had SUCH high hopes for the ending of this, but I was disappointed with the decisions of the main character and how it wrapped up. Maybe some might see how it ended as character growth and I suppose there was a bit of that, but I couldn't help feeling let down.

As you can see, the first five books I've read have been a bit all over the place, but maybe you've read some of them or would like to now! Find me on Goodreads and let me know if there are some books I just HAVE to read!

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