January 2020 Books in Review

So this year I am trying to review books every month. One, because sometimes within 3 months I’ve already forgotten the gist of the book and my thoughts on it. (Sad, but true). Two, because I’m a cheater pants and for my goal of blogging every week, if I up the frequency of my books in review blogs, I don’t have to be creative as often on what to write for other blogs.

January’s books

  • The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey
  • The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World*
  • No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet*
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Sourdough*
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
  • World War Z*

*Audiobooks

Biography

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey

By: Candice Millard

I love this author’s treatment of biographies. This one is intense and fantastic. From 1913-1914, Theodore Roosevelt, his son Kermit, and some adventuring colleagues set off on an adventure to Brazil, set on exploring the area of the Amazon. As he arrives and employs explorers in the area, he hears of a river–the River of Doubt–that had not yet been charted. Ever the adventurer, he and his company embarked to become the first to chart the dangerous and unknown waters of this tributary to the Amazon. As they and their supplies had originally been prepared for a different adventure, his experience is riddled with difficulties, tragedy, and intrigue. This was a wonderfully written and gripping account of an adventure that seems quite unbelievable. I loved learning more about Brazil and Teddy. Definitely recommended.

Business-ish

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World

By: Melinda Gates

Audiobook reader: Excellent. It’s Melinda herself so it has all the right emphases on the important points.

Melinda Gates shares the lessons she’s learned and stories of those she’s met as she’s worked with the Gates Foundation philanthropic efforts. She shares how she focuses her time and attention on the needs that she feels are most pressing. And she showcases some of the great needs around the world and the work being done to meet those needs. An inspiring read, albeit challenging as well, because there is often so much that still needs to be done to improve conditions for people all over the world–especially for women.

No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work

By: Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

This is a great and fun read filled with humor, fun graphics, and emotion! Yes, emotion. I can’t even tell you how many times at work people say that we need to take the emotion out of our decisions or that I need to not be so emotional. If I lose my emotion entirely, though, I lose some of my passion! Of course, there are ways to present emotions appropriately and effectively and that’s part of what this book is about. But it’s also just about realizing the workplace is crowded with emotion and learning to handle different situations. Interestingly enough, one of the points made is to dial back at work and not be SO passionate about your job, which can help you live a healthier life. Hm. My fave quote from it I posted in last week’s blog but I’ll post it again.

“A sense of belonging is not the same as feeling similar to everyone else…Belonging is when you feel safe and valued for embracing what makes you different.” 

Sci-Fi

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

By: Madeleine L’Engle

Audiobook Reader: Excellent

The next in the A Wrinkle in Time series, this follows Charles Wallace as he travels with the unicorn Gaudior throughout many stages of time, attempting to unravel a mystery and change the necessary moments in time that will save the world from nuclear war. Through his special connection with his sister Meg he is able to piece the connections together. Beautiful writing and spiritual introspection.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

By: J.K. Rowling

As expected from my last round of reviews, I finished up the rest of the HP series (although I must have been close to finishing up the Order of the Phoenix at the end of the month because I don’t remember reading 3 HP books this month but I know I finished the series, haha). This round around there were fewer tears in the expected parts because I knew what was going to happen. But I feel there were more tears with the continuing understanding of grief than before; I just felt things differently. And SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THESE: this time around, I was way more understanding of the Harry and Ginny relationship. I expected it so I felt and saw it more all along the way and I liked it. I am still confused by Ron and Hermione, haha, but I saw things earlier for them, too. A lovely read, and my dear friends will be missed until the next time.

Fiction

Sourdough

By: Robin Sloan

Audiobook reader: Great!

Lois Clary is a robotics software developer. She is living the life in the big city of working more than enough and eating not the good stuff. As she gets to know the hole-in-the-wall restaurant delivery man/owner, she gains a friendship that lands her with the starter to her favorite sourdough bread. Thus starts her adventure into learning how to actually bake. It took me a bit to get into this book because I was kind of annoyed by the character at first, but then I started to see her change, and I really wanted to see where she’d go! This left me with an insatiable need to learn how to bake sourdough bread, but like Lois found in the beginning, it sure is an awful lot of work to do and I haven’t made the time to do it yet. Also, I felt personally called out by this book. There’s a nutritional drink that all the developers use as meal replacements so they don’t have to worry about food at all. I have often thought that would be a perfect solution for me, but the book seems to expose the strangeness. Darn.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

By: Maria Semple

This is a quick and fun read. The famous architect Bernadette Fox has basically been in hiding for years. When her best friend and daughter, Bee, meets a goal in school, Bee asks for a trip to Antarctica. Crazy things happen and Bernadette goes missing. Told through a series of letters and pieces that Bee is trying to link together to find where her mom went, the book explores how extraordinarily crippling failure can be. While there were some things I didn’t love about the book, it is quite compelling because, seriously, where did she go?

Adventure

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

By: Max Brooks

Audiobook readers: Excellently done. Many voice actors who are very talented. Warning: way too many bad swears

This is the work of a journalist who spends his time getting first-hand accounts from survivors all over the world about how the zombie war started, how it spread, and the methods and means that finally got it under control. A friend recommended the audiobook because it is really interesting with all the different voice actors for each of interviews. But let me warn you again–there are many, many swears, and the very worst of swears, too. So, I probably don’t know if I should recommend this. Also, I like to surprise people by the genres I read. Yes, I read about zombies, too, apparently.

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One Reply to “January 2020 Books in Review”

  1. Love it, Liz! I’ve been wanting to read The Moment of Lift- good to know the audiobook is so enjoyable. I’ll have to check that out (literally). And I loved Sourdough and Bernadette!! My reaction was the same- let’s make bread!

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