The short summary of what I have been reading is: a bit of everything! From celebrity memoirs (Jessica Simpson, I admire your honesty and authenticity) to long-awaited sequels that are more relevant now than ever (yup, The Testaments was truly worth the wait) to self-help books, I started 2020 off strong in my reading goals. I am aiming to hit 40 books read this year!
Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness
This book was recommended to me by a friend who works in mental health who had enjoyed it and recommends it for anyone struggling with the isolation and loneliness we can feel in our seemingly uber-connected world.
It is also a deeper look into how in order to escape loneliness we have to really show up for ourselves, first and foremost. Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do, but Brené's writing hits you right in the solar plexus and guides you through her own experiences doing just that: showing up for herself.
Life is challenging. I think we have all been feeling this lately now more than ever (especially this January, where I saw a plethora of memes going around about how people were ready to cancel 2020 already!). It's these challenging times that facilitate our growth the most, though. Here's a quote that has been helping me through the last few months. I hope it helps you too.
Margaret Atwood's The Testaments
It took 34 years but The Testaments was worth the wait. Picking up 15 years after The Handmaid's Tale left off, the wonderful thing about this book for fans of the TV adaptation is you can see Atwood's hand in the script development for the show. Once the show passed the events of The Handmaid's Tale novel, Atwood consulted on future scripts, and we see the fleshed out character of Aunt Lydia as she has appeared on the show in one of the narrators of this novel.
It is shocking and yet a sad fact we have come to accept that the novel's themes, which we once felt were a dystopic future so far from our reality, are now closer than ever to becoming our truth. It is more important now than ever that we pay attention to these shows and books, which are truly art depicting life - and art depicting what life could soon become.
Karma Brown's Come Away With Me
It's so hard to write about this one because I do not want to spoil it for you. Essentially, go into the book expecting an Eat Pray Love exploration of a young couple navigating their way through tragedy, and the awful ups and downs that come with grief and the journey through it. It is Brown's first novel and it's definitely an achievement.
Anthony Horowitz's The Word is Murder (#1 in Hawthorne series)
My mom and I share a love of a good murder mystery, particularly a British one (for some reason they just do these so well! Whether Netflix binges - hello The Stranger! - or in novel format). So when she visited over Christmas and had devoured this novel on the plane, I asked her to leave it for me.
It is an interesting style, in that Horowitz inserts himself into the narrative, creating a blurred line between reality and fiction. He refers to meetings he has to consult on film scripts he actually wrote, and talks about his wife and his other work projects - all of which exist! Yet the plot is (thankfully!) fictional, as is the detective character he works with - Hawthorne - and the book will keep you guessing "whodunit" until the very end. It's the first in his Hawthorne series, and it definitely made me want to read more.
Jessica Simpson's Open Book
The celebrity memoir is something so frequently done poorly. Whether they are not well written, or whether they struggle to relate the experiences of someone living in the public eye to someone who struggles to pay rent, they can fall short. The secret to the sauce of what makes this memoir work so well is Simpson's unfailing openness and honesty. She truly shows up in this book, as her whole and authentic self. It means she does spill a lot of tea...but it never feels gratuitous, or like she's doing it to sell books. It feels like she just doesn't know how to tell her story without being completely honest.
Her openness in discussing her issues with addiction are also refreshing too, and the amount of self-reflection and inner work she has done is evident, as she is so clearly self-aware, even when looking back at some of her darkest moments. You don't have to be a super fan to appreciate the takeaways this book leaves you with.
Beth O'Leary's The Flatshare
This would translate to the screen so well! It's a romantic story in the vein of The Holiday or some other meet-cute, based around a girl (Tiffy) trying to break away from a controlling and emotionally abusive ex but without much money to afford her own flat in London. A hospice worker (Leon) who works night shifts and spends the weekends at his girlfriend's also wishes to save money and advertises his one-bedroom flat as a flatshare.
Essentially, Tiffy has the flat from when she gets home on weekdays until she leaves in the morning, and on weekends. Leon takes the flat to sleep in on weekdays. They communicate purely through notes for the longest time, until they finally meet...you can guess the rest but there are many dimensions to what seems like a relatively simple love story.
It's a nice light read if you have just come off self-help explorations, murder mysteries and Atwood's dystopic novels!
These are the main books I have enjoyed so far this year and would recommend (there were some others that weren't so fantastic that I will leave off, but my Goodreads account is here if you want to share reads!).
- Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think?
- What are the top books you would recommend right now?
- When life feels challenging, do you find yourself choosing more introspective reads or lighter books?