December Reading List

December reading list from philadelphia lifestyle blogger tanya kertsman

I’m really excited to share the December reading list because every book was fantastic. For Know My Name and Catch and Kill, I was up all night eagerly turning the pages and wanting more. Not Just a Pretty Face was the education I was desperately craving to understand the cosmetics industry and how to shop for personal care products in an educated way. Modern Love is a collection of essays, my favorite type of book, that was relatable, thought-provoking, and always emotional. Despite it being a light reading month (I blame Netflix), I enjoyed each book included below and would recommend any of them.

To find the books, you can click on the images below or go directly to my Amazon shop page to see what I’m reading. Are there any books you read recently that you loved? I’m currently making my way through the January reading list and would love some new additions.

December Reading List

Know My Name, by Chanel Miller

Everyone needs to read this. I was staying up until 3am reading this book and tried to read it every chance I could. That includes kids’ naps, middle of the night wake-ups, while waiting in line at the grocery store, anything! The author, Chanel Miller, was formerly known to the public as Emily Doe. She was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner on Stanford’s campus while she lay unconscious behind a dumpster in 2015. Years later, she wrote a captivating victim impact statement that was posted on BuzzFeed and viewed by eleven million people within four days. After a grueling trial, Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail. The short sentencing and Chanel’s powerful letter lead to changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case.

In the book, she chronicles her story and experience with isolation and shame following the incident and throughout the trial. It also exemplifies how the criminal justice system, and much of the public, is inherently biased against victims. Often times, much of the blame was placed on Miller, from questions surrounding what she was doing at a fraternity party to what she was wearing. Going through the trial and sharing her story with the world took an immense amount of courage. She truly did not have much to gain by sharing her story. On the contrary, having to relive everything she went through was an incredible struggle. I really appreciated learning about her experience as a victim of a crime she had no control over. Throughout much of the book, I felt frustrated and angry with the culture we live in. I’m thankful the author was able to share her story of resilience and that she was able to continue living a full life no longer defined by someone else’s mistake.

Catch and Kill, by Ronan Farrow

Catch and Kill is the epitome of a page turner and a scary depiction of how rich, powerful men get away with despicable behavior. With over 1500 reviews on Amazon and a 4.5 star rating, I felt like I had to read this book for myself. Although I had read coverage of Harvey Weinstein in The New Yorker when the story first came out, reading about Farrow’s investigative process and what happened behind the scenes to break this story, was fascinating. Weinstein has been paying people off and blackmailing other powerful figures for decades to cover up his abuse of women. That apparently includes a major television network that had their hands on this story for months but decided not to run it.

Weinstein hired private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to follow victims and journalisms, including the author of this book, to collect information and try to suppress the story before it went public. Two private investigators from Black Cube, an organization run by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence groups, met with the actress Rose McGowan, to get information from her. She was one of the more outspoken victims of Harvey Weinstein and publicly accused the film executive of rape. One of the investigators acted under a false identity and pretended to be a women’s rights advocate while establishing a friendship and secretly recording their meetings. Journalists hired by Weinstein would interview women and subsequently report the details back to Weinstein. The entire time I was reading this book, I could not believe it was non-fiction. I’ll leave you with two quotes that I believe summarize some of the key takeaways of the book:

 “I like to be able to read the news and not think somebody’s holding a gun to the reporter’s head deciding what they write,” he said. “Coming from a society where the news was controlled by those in power, I never, ever want to allow this to happen to the country that gave me and my wife and my son a chance.”

“You know, the press is as much part of our democracy as Congress or the executive branch or the judicial branch. It has to keep things in check. And when the powerful control the press, or make the press useless, if the people can’t trust the press, the people lose. And the powerful can do what they want.” 

Not Just a Pretty Face, by Stacy Malkan

Published in 2007, Not Just a Pretty Face is an in-depth look into the toxic chemicals used in beauty and skincare products. For a long time, I had the mentality that the creams, lotions, foundation, lipstick and everything else I put on my body on a daily basis must be safe because it’s on the market and used by millions of people. The more I read about cosmetic safety, the less I believe that to be true. Stacy Malkan is a cofounder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition working to eliminate hazardous chemicals from personal care products. From lead in lipstick to coal tar in shampoo, she investigates how powerful and unregulated the beauty industry has been for decades.

Now a $532 billion industry, Malkan sheds light into the potentially harmful chemicals used in our everyday products and which companies are dedicated to changing their formulations. All women and men should read this book and become familiar with the products we use, including the personal care products we use on our children. If there is one thing I took away, it’s that health and safety is no longer just about the food we ingest. We should be questioning everything and reading all ingredient labels. That includes body wash, baby bubble bath, baby wipes and everything else that touches our bodies.

One caveat-I would love to see an updated version of the book. Since it was published in 2007, some statistics are out of date but nonetheless, this is a powerful read!

Modern Love, Edited by Daniel Jones

Modern Love is a collection of essays that were previously run in the New York Times “Modern Love” column. I found out about the book after hearing about the series on Amazon Prime. Immediately, I started with Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s essay, You May Want to Marry My Husband (page 134 if you’d like to skip right to it). It was so beautifully written and I found myself crying while reading her words. Although I can easily connect to other people’s stories and often find similarities with my own, I don’t often cry about them. This was different. It is a truly unforgettable story and was on my mind for weeks after I read it. I don’t want to give too much away because I think you should experience the author’s story for the first time as you read it for yourself. I will say that I read it again a few days later out loud to Julian and I could barely get through the words without choking up. Rosenthal also wrote the children’s book, Dear Girl, which I read often to Perry and now think about the author and her story.

Another beautiful essay that I can’t forget it Now I Need a Place to Hide Away, by Ann Hood. You’ll never be able to hear another Beatles song without thinking of this story. Fortunately, the collection of essays is more not just about stories that make you cry, although there are plenty of those. Some love stories are about ghosting or the effect of parenthood on a marriage and keeping score, and others are simply universal struggles that affect anyone who has ever fallen in love, in any form. It’s an emotional read with essays you’ll find yourself thinking about at random times of the day long after finishing the book.


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