design darling book recommendations

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 5 second rule book review

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

Rating: 3/5

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 book review amanda de cadenet

It’s Messy: On Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women by Amanda de Cadenet

Rating: 1/5

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 book review

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Rating: 2/5

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 book review

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Rating: 5/5

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 book review

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Rating: 5/5

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 book review

The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone

Rating: 3/5

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 book review

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: 2/5

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 book review

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Rating: 5/5

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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17 thoughts on “WHAT I READ IN JANUARY (AND LATE 2017)

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  1. Did you know that The Last Mrs. Parrish is actually written by two sisters and Liv Constantine is their pen name?! The fact that these two women wrote that novel while living in different states absolutely blew my mind. I hope they write more, and soon!

  2. I’m training for a half-marathon and have been listening to podcasts during my training runs but think an audiobook might be a good way to keep me going (and not thinking about how much further I have to go) during the actual race. Any top pics that are in the 2.5-3 hour time frame?

    1. You go girl! What’s great about Audible is it gives you the option to listen at 1x speed, 1.5x, 2x, 2.5x, etc. so depending on the narrator I can usually finish a “7 hour” book in closer to 3.5 or 4 hours. A few that you could definitely get through in that time frame are The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone (would be very motivating during a long run!). Good luck! 🙂

  3. My husband and I had the audiobook versus hardcopy debate several days ago. We agreed that one can still derive value from listening to books, but it is a different experience. One shouldn’t claim to have read a book when one listened to it. I wholeheartedly support your suggestion to listen to novels. I started listening to books when my son was born 7.5 months ago and it has been a fabulous way to get to still “read”, something I love to do, with a baby! I’ve mostly listened to novels and the voices add a new dimension to “reading” that I find very enjoyable. I am on the second book of Harry Potter (my maiden voyage into the wizarding world, I know I’m late to the party) and it is so much fun to hear the narrator do different voices for all the difference characters!!

  4. If you like The Last Mrs Parrish you need to read The Wife Between Us and Woman in the Window. Both are SO good!!!!!!

  5. I read and loved the 4-hour Workweek when it first came out. And we actually did it for awhile and always keep it in mind (we took a year off to travel in…2009?). It’s time to do something like that again!

    We know a friend and former co-worker who had been traveling the world working remote for years on end (to all sorts of crazy places).

    I think more than anything it’s a great reminder that there are so many different ways to live and to look at success and not to get weighed down by your stuff (guilty) and other people’s definitions of success.

  6. This is so helpful considering how many of these titles have been featured across the internet! I thought your take on Mel Robbins’ book was funny because I saw her speak at a conference in 2016. She is an incredible presenter and had the audience riveted, but in the end a lot of her takeaways were to follow up with her book and online resources. She definitely knows how to sell!

    I’m currently listening to The Woman in the Window on Audible (which I feel like is the current Gone Girl) and it’s really good so far. I’m excited to see the recaps monthly!

  7. I just recently got into audio books and I’m so glad I did. Living in New York, I walk so much it’s nice to multitask by getting reading done while I don’t actually have the ability to sit and scan the words. I like it best for biographies and memoirs which are always the most for me to get through, and reading my novels on my iPad. But completely agree self help books are best in hard copy to be able to revisit. Thanks for the recommendations!