In accordance with my 2018 resolutions, I’m continuing my efforts to make time for leisure reading. I read three books this month, which I think is respectable, given that I’m in the midst of a busy time at school. (Or, perhaps I’m more driven to find an escape during these stressful times?) Anyway, here are a few thoughts on this month’s reads:
What She Ate by Laura Shapiro
I’ve forgotten who recommended this book, but I’ve been on the waiting list for it at the library since September–so I had high hopes for it. In essence, it’s a collection of mini-biographies of six women throughout history, told through the lens of food. When it actually came time for my turn to read it, however, I had trouble continuing it. I don’t think I particularly enjoy the author’s writing style, and I found three of the women’s stories incredibly boring. I rarely begin reading a book without finishing it, but I seriously contemplated it a couple times with this one. What turned it around was the chapter about Eleanor Roosevelt. I’ve read enough about her life to know the basics, so I liked having a more in depth understanding of her through her dreadful White House menus. The other two women whose stories I raced through were Eva Braun (Adolf Hitler’s mistress) and Helen Gurley Brown (long-time editor of Cosmopolitan magazine). It’s a great concept for a book, but I would have chosen to feature different women.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A few weeks ago, we had a snow day, and I was desperate for somewhere to go with my rowdy two-year-old. So, we went to the library. I had a few books in mind that I wanted to find, but Caleb had other plans–he started screaming as I browsed the biographies, so I abandoned the mission and took him downstairs to the children’s section. On our way out, I passed by the “current materials” shelf and grabbed this book. I read Backman’s Beartown last fall and liked it, so it seemed like a reasonable choice. I’m so glad I picked this up. The story centers around a widower and how he finds meaning in his life after his wife has died. It prompted me to think about how I might go on living without my spouse, so it conjured up all sorts of depressing emotions. I cried a few times. BUT, it does have a pleasant and satisfying ending. I took off half of a star because I was not pleased with how the author depicted one obese character, Jimmy. His descriptions served only to continue hurtful stereotypes of people with obesity as lazy, binge-eaters. Reading those few sections just made me mad. All that being said, I do generally like Backman’s writing and will be tracking down more of his books in the future.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
I’ve heard about Gretchen Rubin several times in the past few years (most notably on Sarah’s blog), but I never got to reading any of her books. Maybe it’s because of my recent milestone birthday, but I’ve been much more introspective in 2018. I’ve spent some time thinking about what I want my life to be, and my Project 365 has led me to focus on what brings me joy. So, all of that is to say that this book seemed like a good fit for my current life situation. Gretchen is a lawyer-turned-writer who seems to share my love of lists and plans. She structured her quest for happiness as a year-long resolution with smaller goals within each month. There’s a chapter for each month–this logical organization appeals to me. Overall, her goals are well-researched, and many are ones that I would like to incorporate into my own life as a wife and mother of a young child. I don’t think that a happiness project of this scale is achievable for the average person, particularly for someone who does not work from home as she does. However, I don’t think the author’s intention of the book was to encourage everyone to take on such a detailed project. It’s also worth noting that not many (if any?) of the goals involved serving others (outside of immediate family and friends). I can’t speak authoritatively on this, but I’m fairly certain there is research to indicate that volunteerism enhances happiness. Anyway, I liked the guiding principles of this book enough that I am considering buying a hard copy to keep on hand as a reference. I plan on reading her book The Four Tendencies next.
What did you read in January? I always need suggestions!