January Reads

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Book 1:
"Small Great Things" by Jodi Picoult
Ruth Jefferson has been a labor and delivery nurse for more than twenty years. She cares about her work, and she's good at it. So she's surprised when a couple requests that she be banned from touching their newborn child. Why? Because of the color of her skin. The parents are white supremacists and don't want an African American nurse. To Ruth's surprise, the hospital complies, and Ruth is reassigned to a different patient. Then the next day, while Ruth is alone in the nursery, the baby goes into cardiac distress, and Ruth has to choose the lesser of two evils: Does she obey orders or intervene?

I'd been eager to get my hands on Picoult's newest book since it came out in October. The dozens of holds on the copies at my library made this pretty difficult. Thankfully, I got my own copy for Christmas. Hallelujah.

This is one of those books that I'm just glad exists, especially in today's world. It's a timely novel that battles issues of race, discrimination, and privilege. When I explained the plot to people, every one of them was surprised to hear that it takes place in present time.

As usual with Picoult, it really made me think, especially in mentioning active racism – hate crimes, slurs, etc. – versus passive racism, which we might exhibit without even realizing it. For instance, hearing an offensive, racist comment and not calling the person out on it. Letting things slide. Not speaking up.
What if the puzzle of the world was a shape you didn't fit into? And the only way to survive was to mutilate yourself, carve away your corners, sand yourself down, modify yourself to fit? How come we haven't been able to change the puzzle instead?"
Rating: 4/5

Book 2:
"The Introvert's Way:
Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World"
by Sophia Dembling
As the title suggests, this book is about living life as an introvert. It's not wrong, it's just different. As an introvert, I found it to be both relatable and empowering. It's a good book for anyone to read. Introverts will feel comforted, extroverts will get more of an understanding.

I like that even when explaining why introverts do certain things or act a certain why, Dembling doesn't necessarily excuse it. For instance, she discusses how introverts tend to be quiet and that people will make their own assumptions about what the silence means. It's often misunderstood as a sign of boredom or the person being rude. While that's not our fault, Dembling recommends that we pay attention to our body language and try to control that message a bit.

Though some parts were a bit repetitive and came across as slightly judgmental toward extroverts, I don't think that was her intention, especially since she concludes the book by saying that people are who they are, and both personality types should respect each other.
Introverts don't get lonely if they don't socialize with a lot of people, but we do get lonely if we don't have intimate interactions on a regular basis."
Introverts' need for copious amounts of time alone is one reason we don't have a million friends. Friendships require time to maintain, and too many friendships take too much time. But numbers of friends are irrelevant to loneliness."
Rating: 4/5


Book 3:
"Holding Up The Universe" by Jennifer Niven
"Holding Up The Universe" tells the story of two different characters with their own different struggles. Libby Strout is trying to overcome her label of being "America'a Fattest Teen." She's returning to high school after being homeschooled and is hoping nobody recognizes her. Meanwhile, Jack Masselin is struggling to recognize his classmates, or his own brothers for that matter. Jack has face-blindness, which means he can't recognize faces. He can see them but can't identify who they belong to. After a high school prank puts them both in group counseling, Libby and Jack are forced to spend time together, which might not be such a bad thing.

This is a story about self-acceptance, self-confidence, and self-love, all of which are important to promote, especially in the young adult audience. Some parts were a little cringey or over-the-top, but that's pretty much how adolescence is. Niven does a good job of writing teenage characters who actually act like teenagers.
It is my job in life, apparently, to teach gawking, laughing girls lessons about kindness."
Rating: 3/5

Book 4:
"Undiscovered Gyrl" by Allison Burnett
Katie Kampenfelt: Undiscovered Girl Gyrl. She's just graduated high school and is taking a year off before starting college. Why waste the time and money when she doesn't even know what she wants to do? And so begins her year of blogging, telling strangers about her boyfriend, her job, her alcoholic father, the professor she's trying to seduce, and all of the secrets in between.

I stumbled upon the movie "Ask Me Anything" with Brit Robertson one night on Netflix. I thought it was pretty decent, so I added the book to my to-read list. It's a well-written book with a great character voice. The entire story is told through Katie's blog posts, and they all read like an 18-year-old's blog would read – the occasional typo or spelling mistake, inappropriate comments, and unrealistic thinking. And wow, that ending.
Only on the internet can a person be lonely and popular at the same time."
Rating: 3/5


Book 5:
"The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F*ck"
by Sarah Knight
The subhead says it all: This book is about how to stop spending time you don't have with people you don't like doing things you don't want to do. Maybe you hear that and think, "I don't do that, so it's not a problem for me," but it's big things and small, so maybe you do and don't realize it. The magic comes from Knight's two-step NotSorry Method: (1) deciding what you don't give a fuck about and (2) not giving a fuck about those things, with the goal of gaining time, energy, and money.

At the heart of her NotSorry Method is not being an asshole, which I think is great. We can't completely disregard anything and everything that we don't care about. Sometimes we have to suck it up and do things for other people. Because of this, we have to ration out the fucks we can give so when a suck-it-up-and-do-it moment comes, we can afford it.

I like the way Knight walks you through the process and provides examples. It's not just talk, it's real strategy. I gave it three stars because some tips were unrealistic (not too helpful) and some humor felt forced. I found myself just wanting to get through it toward the end. I didn't agree with everything, but hey, that's just a difference of opinion (ayyy, full circle).
If you're like me, you've been giving too many fucks about too many things for too long. You're overextended and overburdened by life. Stressed out, anxious, and maybe even panic-stricken about your commitments. The life-changing magic of not giving a fuck is for all of us who work too much, play too little, and never have enough time to devote to the people and things that truly make us happy."
Rating: 3/5

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