january 2020 books

It’s already time for the first monthly book review of 2020! Although I did not mention it in my list of goals for 2020, I do hope to read at least 2 books per month this year (a slight decline in expectations after last year’s goal of 30 books in 12 months). I managed to finish two books in January and honestly could’ve read more if my library holds had been available a bit more promptly. Anyway, the (somewhat unintentional) theme for this month was “habits,” which is quite fitting for a new year.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

Unlike my usual book selections, this one was not something I heard about on a podcast or read about on a blog–I simply searched for “the year of” on Amazon. Honestly, I just really love a memoir framed by the 12 months of the year. I think this is why I was such a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and Eve Schaub’s books. A year-long self-improvement project is my favorite genre! Anyway, this book is apparently the by-product of blogger Cait’s documented journey to spend less, although the habits developed are repeatedly applied to other realms of addiction: alcohol, food, etc. I quite liked the idea of this project: prohibit superfluous spending and only allow the purchase of true necessities. I contemplated trying it myself at least for a short time but decided that the year we’re building a new house was probably not the best time to take on such an endeavor. Overall, this was a quick read and I enjoyed the author’s telling of her (non) spending adventures. Parts seemed a little redundant and meandering, but generally I think Flanders does a good job of emphasizing that we all truly need less than we think we do. Adopting a few of her rules would probably help us all take a step in the right direction away from unbridled consumerism.

4/5 stars.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I’ll admit that my decision to pick up this book was for both business and pleasure, in a way. Habits are a HUGE part of what determines success in weight loss, which is essentially what I’ve chosen to devote my life to studying. Duhigg is apparently quite a respected business reporter, and I can tell that he did extensive research in putting together this book. I learned a lot about the history of habit-ology (probably not a real word, but it conveys what I mean better than anything else…), and it also resonated on a personal level on several occasions. For example, I have been accused by a few people in my life of being “robotic” or “rigid” because I have routines, and I don’t like straying from them. But I think my love of routine comes from the fact that I have a few key habits that have brought me a reasonable amount of success thus far in life. A passage from the book reads: “Sometimes it looks like people with great self-control aren’t working hard–but that’s because they’ve made it automatic,” (quoting Angela Duckworth of University of Pennsylvania). Some chapters in the book really bored me, particularly the ones centered around a certain football coach and how he transformed his players by incorporating the science of habits into his strategy. However, I did love the section devoted to how corporations use habits (did you know that Target has reams of data to help them predict a pregnant woman’s due date due to seemingly irrelevant shopping habits?!). Generally, I liked this book, as it provides interesting insight into how habits impact our daily lives on a micro and macro level.

4/5 stars.

What did you read in January?

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