march 2018 books

April is almost upon us, so it’s time for another book review post! I managed to get through four books this month, though one was relatively short. This month was a bit of a non-fiction jag, so I’m on the hunt for a few novels for next month.

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

I’m not sure what made me pick this one up, as I know practically nothing about this time period or the historical figure on which this novel is based (late 19th century and Andrew Carnegie, respectively)…but I’m really glad I did. I’m a bit of a sucker for romantic, historical fiction (Gone with the Wind remains one of my favorite books of all time), so it makes sense that I enjoyed this book. It tells the tale of how, by a few twists of fate, a poor farmer’s daughter from Ireland ends up serving one of the wealthiest families in America. The book was engaging and refreshed my memory on a few topics from US history class along the way. I deducted a half star because much of the story is told via letters between the protagonist and her sister, and the tone in them is a little too much like a storytelling (e.g., including details that both parties would have already known…so why would it be explained in a personal letter between them?). That might be overly critical, but I’ve read fiction in the past that uses letters to aid in the narrative, and it was more artfully and realistically done.

4.5/5 stars.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I had heard about this book when it was first released (early 2016), but I decided I was still a bit too hormonal to handle such a sad topic. Fast forward to two years later (after interacting with many cancer patients for my research), and I felt it was time I read it. The book is a memoir of a young neurosurgeon, focusing on his emotional and physical struggle with advanced lung cancer. It’s beautifully written, and I literally bawled through reading the final chapter. Like, tears and snot running down my face sobbing. (Seth walked in at this point and was very confused). I recommend this book to anyone who has been touched by cancer (which at this point, is just about everyone, unfortunately).

5/5 stars.

Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower by Mary Ann Mason et al.

Obviously, this book was more of a “professional development” endeavor that pleasure reading, but I thought it was still worth mentioning. I probably should have read this book about two and a half years ago, before I became a mother so as to have an idea of what I was getting myself into by starting a family in the midst of my pre-doctoral training. Nonetheless, this book did elucidate some pretty shocking patterns with regard to discrimination against mothers of young children in academia, particularly in the STEM fields. Basically, if you have a child under the age of 6, you might as well prepare yourself for a hiring process that is 10x harder than it is for anyone else. It’s bananas that that’s the way the world is in 2018, but the statistics don’t lie. The book is well-researched and provides some excellent suggestions for moving forward. However, I knocked off a star because the book is based on a survey from thousands of men and women in the University of California system. I’ll make a wild guess here and say that the UC system is probably a bit different (i.e., more progressive) from the rest of the country in terms of family support policies. I would have appreciated some data from institutions in the American South.

4/5 stars.

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

I think I read about this book on someone’s blog a few months ago, without really focusing on the subject matter, other than that it was geared toward a female audience, particularly mothers. I picked it up without knowing what to expect, and what I found was a bit of a hodgepodge. It’s really a collection of essays, with some focusing on the struggles of motherhood, others on Christianity, and some just funny stories; there are also a few recipes thrown in for good measure. It was entertaining enough, but it was a bit of a contrast to Gretchen Rubin’s highly organized and focused books I’ve been reading lately (see here and here). I suppose that’s kind of the point; we’re not all organized and entirely sure of what we’re doing, but we make it through, nonetheless.

3.5/5 stars.

What did you read in March? 

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