January Round-up

I read 11 (!) books in January, 7 non-fiction and 4 fiction. 7 were on my Kindle, and 4 were in print, including 2 from my “Read It or Lose It” list!

Radio Shangri-La: What I Discovered on my Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth by Lisa Napoli. I have been interested in Bhutan, since I read about it in Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss, so I was interested to see what Napoli had to say about her time there. She went to help Bhutan’s fledgling radio station, and her view of Bhutan was very interesting, but I think I especially enjoyed her musings on being middle-aged and single. I feel like there isn’t a lot out there about that particular life experience, even though it is pretty common. If you are interested in Bhutan, or in honest depictions of single life, pick this up, but otherwise, it’s skippable.

The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell by Mark Kurlansky. I am slowly working my way through everything Kurlansky has written (my favorite so far is The Basque History of the World, but they are all interesting). I like the way he looks at history through a particular lens (in this case, the history of New York City as seen through the lens of oysters). Really interesting.

Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson. Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, adopted by a Swedish family, and became a chef as a young man, eventually landing in New York City, so you can imagine that he has a pretty interesting life story to tell – and he tells it well. Definitely worth picking up.

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) by Mei-Ling Hopgood. Hopgood looks at what a bunch of other cultures can teach us about parenting in this book – from Argentina (where Hopgood, an American, lives) where the kids stay up LATE (no thanks!) to China where the kids potty train early (requires a healthy tolerance for pee and poop on the floor) to a pygmy tribe where fathers handle almost half of all child care (although Hopgood still refers to the parenting done by fathers as “babysitting”, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. It’s not “babysitting” if they are your kid!). It’s neat to see how other cultures handle different things, and it helps me to feel like there is no one *right* way to do things. Instead you are free to figure out what works best for you.

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang. I requested this book from the LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program, because I like a good food memoir, but this was so much more than that. Huang writes about growing up in the South as the child of Chinese immigrants (not that easy, as you may imagine). He was a kind of wild kid, and the book definitely has a Bildungsroman quality, which I loved. I really appreciated how direct Huang was in his discussion of race, especially about racism again Asian Americans, which I feel like you virtually never hear discussed. Our life experiences are very different – I’m sure I missed a lot of the Hip Hop references and I only know who a few of the basketball players that Huang discussed are, but his desire to learn and to figure things out definitely resonated with me. I really liked the book. (This was one of my Read It or Lose It books, so yay!)

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. This is a book that has gotten a lot of well-deserved press. It’s well written, very well researched, interesting to read, and holy crap is it depressing. The Dust Bowl? It sucked. And people lived through it. Through a decade or so of dust that killed everything in sight, including often people. There is a strong environmental message to the book, without it being judgmental of the farmers who (unintentionally) destroyed the land. Worth reading – but have some fluff ready for when you need a break.

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich. Ah, Janet Evanovich, always providing me brain candy when I need it most (and after The Worst Hard Time, I needed). A solid addition to the Stephanie Plum series.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Jenny Lawson is a blogger known as The Bloggess. I don’t actually read her blog, but I find that I usually prefer books by bloggers that I don’t read (otherwise it seems like you reading stories you’ve already heard before). Lawson is quite funny, and this was an enjoyable read.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. This is a fiction book that examines World War II and German Guilt through the eyes of a women who was a child in Weimar during the war. It was a good book, but I read a lot about World War II and Nazi Germany and I wouldn’t say it was exceptional.

Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie. Having finished all the Miss Marple books, I thought I’d start working my way through Hercule Poirot. I have to say – I don’t like Hercule Poirot as much. Not sure if I will continue my way through the series.

Defiance: Resistance Book 2 by Carla Jablonski. This was my second “Read It or Lose It” book that I read this month, and I liked it. This is another WWII book, this time a graphic novel about the Resistance (told from a child’s perspective) in Vichy France. It’s part of a trilogy, and I will definitely pick up the third book at some point to see how the story ends.

January Round-up

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