January 2018 Reading Wrap

January 2018 Books

I built up quite a stack for my January reads! I didn't read a whole lot in November or December so I think I was trying to make up for it by starting off 2018 with a bang. Unfortunately I'm a little depressed that I didn't LOVE most of these books. I liked all of them, none getting less than three sars, but I wanted more five star reads that would leave me with a major book hangover. But I'm looking forward to February as I've already started a few fabulous book and there's a number of upcoming releases I'm really looking forward to. In the meantime, here are the rankings!

The Immortalists - Chloe Benjamin
I don't use the word lightly when I say this book was spell-binding. I could tell you that I loved this book because the way Benjamin unpacked the themes of family, religion, and destiny really hit home for me at this particular point in my life, but honestly, this is a stunning novel that I would love ten years from now. Benjamin carefully explores four sibling's thoughts and choices throughout their lives after a mysterious woman reveals to each of them the date of their death. Despite each character living wildly different lives and infuriating me on many occasions, I found I could relate to and learn from each one of them. I cried on multiple occasions, underlined many profundities, and suffered from a major book hangover once I finally put it down. 
★★★★★

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter - Sue Monk Kidd
A beautiful, courageously personal, lovingly researched book about one woman's faith struggle and feminist awakening. It took four months of reading, studying, underlining, and journaling for me to finish. I am so glad she shared such intimated detail about her faith struggle so I could learn from her experiences and feel less alone in my own. I've passed this book onto Josh, but I keep stealing it back to look over my notes or reflect on a passage. I know I'll keep coming back to this book for a long time. I'll just tease you with this beautiful quote that I think perfectly summarizes this book: "The only way I have ever understood, broken free, emerged, healed, forgiven, flourished, and grown powerful is by asking the hardest questions and then living into the answers through opening up to my own terror and transmuting it into creativity."
★★★★☆

The Animators - Kayla Rae Whitaker
I went into this book fairly blind, trusting in recommendations from authors and bookstagrammers, only knowing it was about two friends working in the male-dominated animation industry. Immediately I fell for these two women, despite their flaws and sometimes dysfunctional relationship, and couldn't wait to get to know them better. But somewhere along the way, the story started to fall flat for me. It simultaneously felt like too much yet not enough. Twists and turns ensued and I just wished we were back in NYC watching two friends navigate their careers and social lives. That being said, I couldn't stop thinking about this book and loved Whitaker's vibe. I often related to main character Sharon and regularly marveled at the way she put feelings I know so well into words. I look forward to reading more books by Whitaker and won't ever look at animation the same ever again.
★★★★☆

Nasty Women - Edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding
When I first saw Nasty Women I thought it might be up my alley, but after reading Nicole Chung's included "All-American" essay on Longreads, I know I had to get my hands on a copy of the book. These all-female writers kept me busy as I read, underlining all over the place and regularly stopping to discuss with Josh. While not every writer wowed me and I didn't necessarily agree with every point made, I loved how inclusive these editors were, even including two essays on a similar subject but with wildly different opinions. It's books like these that help me become a better intersectional feminist by showing me different perspectives and issues I've never had to deal with so I can speak up and help.
★★★★☆

Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert
I first read this book two years ago, when I first started dreaming up an ice cream business while also trying to find my place as a graphic designer. Even in that awkward place in my life, I found a lot of inspiration from this short book about creativity. I loved the way Gilbert turned inspiration into an actual being you need to nurture and work with. Now as I pursue creative writing, it felt like a good time to revisit a book on conquering your fears to pursue your passions. Firstly, I'm amazed at how vividly I remember most of this book after two years. Secondly, it feels like a whole new reading experience when I have a totally different project to focus on. I love how applicable her advice is to all sorts of pursuits. Like many self-help/inspirational books, this has its share of fluff, repetition, and cheese, but Gilbert offers her own experiences and a lovely new perspective that turns the usual advice upside-down. It's a fun and quick read for anyone who needs a kick in the pants to pursue those creative passions that bring them joy.
★★★★☆

I'm Fine And Other Lies - Whitney Cummings
I received this from Putnam Books and was admittedly wary to read it- I don't normally love self-help books or celebrity memoirs, not to mention I didn't previously know who Whitney Cummings was. But I began reading and found the audiobook at my library to listen to on our 24-hour road trip and I enjoyed myself! Listening to Whitney (we're already on a first-name basis) was like chatting with an experienced, hilarious friend who shares a wealth of helpful and not overly self-assured advice. Not every chapter, anecdote, or tidbit of advice wowed me, but I had fun and enjoyed Whitney's perspective.
★★★☆☆

Turtles All The Way Down - John Green
I should preface by saying I don't typically read YA and when I do, I'm rarely super impressed. It's just not my favorite genre. But I'd heard good things about John Green's latest and was particularly intrigued by the themes of mental illness. So I grabbed a library copy and jumped in! I really enjoyed Green's depiction of compulsive thoughts and struggling with mental health, as well as how he portrayed its effects on Aza's relationships. I honestly would've loved a book just about that. What I didn't enjoy was the unnecessary mystery and over the top philosophizing of these few teenagers. Their language and seemingly endless knowledge about authors, astronomy, art, medicine, diseases, poetry, and more at the age of seventeen felt incredibly inauthentic to me. Overall it was an enjoyable enough read and one I'd recommend to Green's target audience, but not necessarily to everyone as a whole.
★★★☆☆

They Both Die At The End - Adam Silvera
Again, YA is not my jam so don't let this discourage you too much if you are a fan of YA. Thanks to a system called Death-Cast that can somehow accurately predict the date everyone dies, two random boys in NYC receive a call at midnight informing them that sometime in the next twenty-four hours they will die. Left with only that information, we watch as they come to terms with their sentence and live out their last day. I really enjoyed the concept of this book, but i wish it had been explored a little more as it left me with so many questions and thinking of loopholes in the story. I occasionally found myself bored or confused by the decisions these characters made and more than once I was incredibly annoyed by their personalities. But Silvera had me emotionally invested to the point that I may have shed a tear or two at the end, despite the title's very clear warning.
★★★☆☆

Getting Off - Erica Garza
When I first read the prologue of this memoir of sex and porn addiction, I was hesitant to continue. I felt blinded by the sheer rawness of it all, how she bares all without apology. I knew it would not be an easy or comfortable read and that it would challenge me. But then she said this: "Sometimes I wonder- if there had been more research and more discussion about sexual addition in women, would I have changed my behavior? Had there been more available examples of vulnerable, open, honest, women sharing their journeys, would I have been more willing to embrace the possibility that I wasn't alone and unfixable?"
I can't imagine how hard it must have been to write so candidly about something so rarely talked about, an addiction rooted in shame and loneliness. An addiction that's largely seen as a man's problem (and, lately, a man's excuse for violence and inappropriate behavior towards women). Garza is an excellent storyteller that kept me hooked and feeling for her, relating to her. I especially loved how she peppered her story with facts and surveys about sex and porn addictions so I learned more about the problem at large. It was, in fact, a very rough read, but I'm glad Garza shared her story so I could learn from her. 
Thanks to Simon Books for sending me a copy of this book.
★★★☆☆

Delicate Edible Birds - Lauren Groff
I've read some stories by Groff in the past and didn't love them, but she's so well-loved and respected in the literary community, I thought for sure I just needed to give her a proper chance and read her collection. But I still think I'm missing something. I absolutely loved the first story in the collection, "Lucky Chow Fun" and really gained a lot from it. But most others fell flat for me. Often I found myself bored until some big moment in the middle and then I'd get bored again. I just think hers is not my style. That being said, I always learn a lot for my own craft when reading short stories so I don't regret this read at all! And I'm still willing to give her another shot as I've heard great things about "Fates and Furies" and the literary world is already buzzing about her book to be published later this year.
★★★☆☆

The Disaster Artist - Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
We saw The Room for the first time a few months ago while we were in Austin and become OBSESSED. Over the next few days, we couldn't stop quoting it or scrolling through the IMDB reading the facts about the production. It is truly the most bizarre movie I have ever seen. I mean, how did a movie as awful as that even make it onto the big screen?! This book certainly answered all of my burning questions. Hilarious but heartfelt and filled with raw humanity, actor Greg Sestero tells about his friendship with producer/director/writer Tommy Wiseau and dishes the behind-the-scenes details of creating The Room. Sometimes the writing felt over the top, repetitive, or bogged down with needless detail, but it was entertaining and did the job of explaining how such a movie came into existence. I do recommend James Franco's "The Disaster Artist" for a condensed look, but if you want to know ALL the mind-boggling details, pick up this book.
★★★☆☆