december 2020 books

I’m checking in a little early for my December book update, mostly because I found a quiet moment to myself and wanted to seize the opportunity. I anticipate having time to read later this week and thus might actually squeeze in an extra book for 2020…but if this year has taught me anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Anyway, this month’s selections were both non-fiction and both excellent reads. They also have informed my resolutions for 2021 in different ways.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

It seems like I’ve been waiting to read this book forever. I first requested the e-book back in the spring and waited several months for it…but by the time it was my turn, I was too busy to read it! Fortunately, the demand for this title seems to have dissipated a bit, and I was able to borrow it this month. In essence, this book is about when a therapist needs a therapist, specifically, after a particularly abrupt and upsetting break-up. Throughout the book, Gottlieb tells the tale of how she ended up in the profession, why she enjoys it, and why people behave the way they do. I’m a nerd for psychology, so I absolutely loved the subject matter, but I also enjoyed the author’s writing style and the particular patients she chose to expand upon throughout the book. The end result is kind of a perfectly blended personal and professional memoir. The author successfully convinced me that mental health is of utmost importance, whether we acknowledge it or not, and that we humans really thrive on feeling understood. Accordingly, I am thinking that I need to take this lesson to heart, and really make mental health a priority for the new year.

5/5 stars.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

In a similar fashion to the title above, I’ve been meaning to read this book for months now. My turn came up, and (ironically, in retrospect), I felt too busy to read it, so I passed on it. This course of events seems ironic now, because perhaps if I didn’t spend so much damn time on social media, I’d have time to read the books I request! Anyway, it’s probably better that I read this book 1) during a time of the year that’s a little quieter and 2) also after I had watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, with which there is much overlap. To be honest, I’ve noticed in recent months that much of my time with my family is interrupted by those annoying notifications that light up my phone, tablet, and watch at any given moment during the day. Due to changing cultural norms, a behavioral addiction, my personality quirks, or a combination of the above, I am simply incapable of ignoring them. And that’s a problem. I also don’t like the way I feel after long stints on Facebook or Instagram…which ties into that mental health piece I mentioned earlier. Newport presents the case for digital minimalism is a very logical way and provides excellent and mostly realistic strategies to implement the concept into our lives. The key is to have a plan of action. Going “cold turkey” with social media abstinence is likely to leave you feeling bored if you don’t have an idea of what you will do to fill that time. So, I’ve been thinking of ways to occupy my time in 2021 that do not involve “liking” or scrolling but instead allow me to pursue interests and maintain relationships that are important to me. One minor drawback to this book in my mind is that it was written by someone who has not engaged with social media to a great extent; rather, Newport admits to not using popular social media platforms, despite being a young-ish adult himself. (He’s a Millennial, for the record). So, he lacks credibility in only that sense, but he seems to be a subject matter expert through research, if not experience, so I’m willing to give his methods a try.

4.5/5 stars.

What did you read in December?

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