I’ve been having so much fun swapping book recommendations with a bunch of you over Instagram stories and several of you have asked if I’d start sharing more book reviews on the blog. I’m planning on posting a recap of what I’ve read at the end of each month, but today I wanted to round up all the books I’ve read since the start of my third 101 in 1001 list in October (so the title of this post is for consistency’s sake and not because I somehow managed to read seven books in 31 days — next month will just cover my February reads!). I’ll be giving each one a rating out of five stars and a little background on why I would or wouldn’t recommend it. Enjoy! 🙂
The key insight of this book could be summarized in maybe one-tenth the page count and the tone is a little salesy, especially if you choose to the audio book version and have to listen to the author spell out links to her website in virtually every chapter. That said, I was fired up by the narrator’s motivational tone and inspired by her experience of conquering anxiety and depression. I’ve also since used her 5-second rule on a number of occasions when I wanted to procrastinate or sleep in, so while this book wasn’t rocket science, it did have one very actionable takeaway.
It’s Messy: On Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women by Amanda de Cadenet
Oh man, I so wanted to love this book. I’ve watched several episodes of Amanda de Cadenet’s show The Conversation and love how she gets well-known celebrities and politicians to open up on universal topics like careers, finances, mental health, relationships, and sexuality. But her book had me wanting to bang my head against a wall. First, her own life story is riddled with so many poor choices as to be insanely frustrating for a reader to relive, and second, she’s an impressive conversationalist whose core competency sadly doesn’t translate as well to written form. I admire her as a person — and I’d listen to a podcast of hers any day — but just not as an author.
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
I enjoyed The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin’s first foray into the self-help space, but unfortunately found her second and third books on similar subjects a little redundant. The premise of this book is that people can be divided into one of four personality types based on habitual behavior, and because I failed to strongly identify with any one of them off the bat, it was hard to engage in the particulars of each type. And while I love personal anecdotes about self-help tips that have helped a given individual, I found this book riddled with sweeping claims about human tendencies and lacking in the compelling statistical evidence needed to back them up.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Before you click away from this post thinking I disliked every book I’ve read so far, know that this one gets rave reviews from me. I (like so many of you, it seems!) love a good psychological thriller and this one was particularly eerie. The story of a reporter who goes back to her hometown to investigate two children’s murders, the book ends with a major plot twist and a particularly haunting detail that I couldn’t get out of my head for weeks after reading. I’ve since learned the book is going to be made into an HBO miniseries starring Amy Adams — start reading now so we can have a virtual viewing party!
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
So many of you recommended The Last Mrs. Parrish after I finished Sharp Objects and holy hell, it did not disappoint. This book had me alternately riveted, repulsed, and terrified — I’d sincerely caution anyone prone to nightmares against reading this before bed. Told from the alternating perspectives of two central characters, the story takes a totally unexpected turn halfway through that had me racing to get to the final chapter. My friend Jen says she was captivated by the storyline but not overly impressed by the writing, but I listened to the audio version and found it very well delivered. We both marveled at the author’s creativity in concocting the most horrifying details — I’m not sure what it says about me that I couldn’t put this down besides that I’m a total sucker for suspense. I have a hunch this would make for a hit movie… maybe that’s why Reese Witherspoon made it her January book club pick?!
The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone
This (audio) book is really a seven-hour pep talk as opposed to a work of any literary finesse. It seems to borrow heavily from Art Williams’ rousing 1987 speech (which I featured forever ago in this post) and the author has the tone of a football coach at half-time, but I can get into that sort of thing, particularly at the start of the new year. As his title suggests, the author insists that all his success has come from working ten times harder and dreaming ten times bigger than any of his competitors, his younger self included. This conclusion is of course a giant cliché, but if you’ve ever found yourself, say, watching clips of Miracle for a surge of motivation, then the cliché is at least an inspiring one.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I was intrigued by the construct of this book: two parallel storylines, told in alternating chapters, spurring from a single choice made on the protagonist’s first night back in her hometown. But the characters were so one-dimensional that their relationships were devoid of conflict and therefore any real intrigue on my part (example: her high school sweetheart saying something to the effect of “there’s nothing that could make me not love you” literally one day after their reunion ten years later… what?!). I kept reading with the assumption that one scenario would prevail over the other in the end, but (spoiler alert) each storyline had a cheesy picture-perfect ending that left me basically wishing I hadn’t wasted my time.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
This book became a cult classic close to a decade ago, but I picked it up after reading my friend Brighton’s rave reviews and found it as massively thought-provoking as she did. My husband and I listened to it in the car together and both found ourselves wishing we had a hard copy to highlight and mark up as we went along. I’ll say that while we both aspire to work much more than four hours per week, the book offers compelling evidence against saving all your adventures for retirement and helpful tips on creating passive income to allow maximum flexibility for where you are in life right now. Yes, the title is the literary version of clickbait, but don’t let that hold you back from some valuable insights and exercises within.
P.S. A couple of you have asked whether I can really count listening to audio books as reading, and I do see your point. My husband and I agree that reading an actual book (or electronic copy) would be incrementally more valuable than listening in the car or while we walk the dog, but we finish at least ten times the number of audio books in a given period of time, so we don’t mess with a good thing. If you’re on the fence about audio books, I’d recommend using them for novels (or anything you’d read to unwind, pass time on a commute, etc.) vs. business advice or self-help books where you’re more likely to want to underline or take notes. I’d love to hear how you read (and what you’re reading) in the comments!
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