I don’t like to set definite reading goals for myself, but I do like keeping track of how many books I can read each month—so, I thought it’d be fun to do a little recap of my reading thus far for the first third of 2019 (can you believe it’s already May?) and also talk about what I’m currently reading and what I plan to read in the next four months!
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I started the year out with perhaps one of the best books I’ve ever read—indeed, The Brothers Karamazov has worked its way up to the top of my favorite books list, replacing the long-standing Anna Karenina. Despite its intimidating length, Dostoyevsky’s prose is easy to read while still poignant, his characterization nuanced and dynamic, his plotting consistent and intriguing, and his themes full of meaning and honesty (for a full review of the book sans spoilers, check out my earlier post). Unsurprisingly, I give The Brothers Karamazov 5/5 stars.
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
I’m not one to pick up nonfiction self-help unless made to do so—I’d much rather read an article or summary online and save myself the time. However, as far as these types of books go, The Confidence Code was pretty good. Kay and Shipman spent a lot of time explaining the science behind confidence, citing a multitude of interviews and studies, and I appreciated how well-researched each chapter was. Also, most of their advice for how to gain confidence was solid, easily applicable, and succinct (I didn’t feel as if the book was too long or repetitive). So, despite the fact that it’s not my genre at all, I give The Confidence Code 3/5 stars.
Eyes of the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 by Juan Williams
History books can be iffy—sometimes you one that’s compelling and full of good information, and sometimes you find one that’s so dense and dry that two pages feels like an eternity. Eyes of the Prize was the former: each chapter was well-written and filled with photographs and interviews with individuals who participated in historical events (like the March on Washington, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Little Rock Crisis, etc.). I think the readability of the book in part comes from the fact that it was based upon a documentary by the same name. There were a few times where I wished the author had given more context or information, and the formatting of the interviews into the book weren’t always my favorite, but overall it gave a good overview of the Civil Rights era and I learned a lot. I give Eyes on the Prize 3/5 stars.
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown
You’re probably thinking, “If you dislike self-help books so much, why are there two of them on the list?” Two words: assigned reading. And, really, if this book wasn’t assigned, I never would’ve finished it. Brown is knowledgeable and I respect that she’s successful in her field, but the way she writes was obnoxious to me and felt as if I was sitting in a corporate seminar where I didn’t understand half of the lingo the speaker was using. Each chapter also felt repetitive, and by the end I couldn’t tell you much of anything that I learned from reading the book except for the summary that was found in the introduction. I bravely give Dare to Lead a tough, whole 1/5 stars.
Coming of Age in Mississippi: The Classic Autobiography of a Young Black Girl in the Rural South by Anne Moody
Memoirs are a newfound love of mine (4/15 of my 2018 were memoirs), so I anticipated enjoying Coming of Age in Mississippi. Indeed, I did—segregation in the South during the 20th century isn’t a subject I knew much about, and reading about Moody’s personal experiences was enlightening (and enraging). It was also easy to read and I whipped through it in a couple of days. However, while it was good, I wouldn’t say it was my favorite memoir, which is why I only give it 3.5/5 stars (I’d still recommend reading it if you happen to be interested, though).
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Oh my. I don’t know where to begin with this book, or how to say it gracefully. Why Not Me? is, to date, the worst book I’ve ever read (I really wonder why I bothered reading it at all). Again, this isn’t my genre at all: I don’t like comedy as a genre any more than I like self-help. But I found the actual content of the book boring, her humor stereotypical and overly vulgar, and I can only take so many cultural references before I want to throw a book in the trash. The book has high ratings, so I can only assume that I’m utterly immune to this genre and Kaling’s personality. Regardless, I give this book 0/5 stars.
Leonardo to the Internet: Technology and Culture from the Renaissance to the Present by Thomas J. Misa
This is the sort of history book that I wish I had enjoyed more than I actually did. Leonardo to the Internet traces different periods of technological advancement, beginning in the era of the Renaissance all the way through the modern age. I learned a lot about technology by reading this book, but the chapters were also very long and written in a way that lacked personality (and, also, needed more commas to make it easier to read). I also wish the book had started sooner and perhaps talked about the growth of technology in a more global sense; however, I do realize a person can only write so much in a book, so I don’t think it’s a slight against the author. Considering those things, I can only give Leonardo to the Internet 2/5 stars.
What Am I Currently Reading?
After so many nonfiction books, I’m really starting to miss fiction (or even just an interesting memoir. However, at the moment, I’m working my way through two nonfiction books and one collection of poetry:
- The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
- Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends (Translated by Ethel Colburn Mayne, Introduction by Avrahm Yarmolinsky)
- The Bronze Horseman: Selected Poems of Alexander Pushkin (Translated by D. M. Thomas)
The Road Back to You has, so far, been helpful in understanding the Enneagram, but I have been disappointed by the abundance of cultural references (which is 100% my own personality) and the sometimes stereotypical descriptions of certain types. The Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky was a delightful surprise—I picked it up from the library because of the cool old cover design, but a friend of mine who loves Dostoyevsky read through the whole book way before I started and highly recommended that I read it, too. I’ve never read the letters of any famous person before but they provide a fascinating look into the personal life, feelings, and ideas that a person has, and it’s something you can’t glean simply from a biography. The Bronze Horseman was also a recommendation from a friend; I’m not sure how I feel about them yet, since I haven’t read more than a handful and haven’t read much poetry in general, but I’m definitely excited to finish the collection.
What Do I Plan on Reading Next?
The summer holds the promise of more time to read the fiction books my heart desires—but picking which ones out of my massive TBR pile is difficult. I’ve decided to try to focus on books I’ve either been meaning to read a while (sometimes years), ones I own but haven’t read yet, or ones that are of the most interest to me. Thus, my tentative list for the summer is:
- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- A River in Darkness: One Mane’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa
- Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
- Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie
- Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
- 1984 by George Orwell
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
- The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
I don’t anticipate sticking strictly to this list—it’ll all depend on my schedule, if I end up wanting to stick with certain books, what I’m in the mood for, etc. I also may find a new book that simply demands my attention or swap one of the above titles for another (there are several by the Bronte sisters that I mean to read, I’d like to re-read The Scarlet Letter, and there are several other memoirs that are of interest to me). But I do think it’s time for me to return to the classics. I’ve missed them dearly.