I had a long list of books planned for the January reading list but was only able to get through four of them. I pushed some of them to February but in the meantime, here are reviews for the books I finished. This month was a great mix of fun, emotional, and business-centered books. I started with Nora Ephron’s, I Remember Nothing, which I have wanted to read for a long time. I love a collection of essays and this book did not disappoint. Braving the Wilderness is so timely and touches upon so many things I think about often as a parent and human being regarding belonging, bullying, vulnerability and more.
Such a Fun Age is the fictional read I needed to unwind and escape into another world, which coincidentally is not too far from my own world since it’s based in Philadelphia. Lastly, Work Party is a great career-centered book for creatives and entrepreneurs. Reading every night has allowed me to close out the day in such a peaceful way. Being able to share my reviews here with you makes it even better. Let me know what you think about this month’s books!
Also, what are you reading? I love getting new book recommendations. Have you read these books? Comment below with your thoughts!
January Reading List
I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron is one of my favorite authors and chances are that you’re familiar with her work too. She has a way of writing about the minutiae of everyday life in a relatable and hilarious way. When I read her essays, I find myself nodding my head and laughing out loud, even when she writes about things I haven’t yet experienced. Ephron received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle and wrote bestselling books such as I Feel Bad About My Neck, Heartburn and Wallflower at the Orgy.
I Remember Nothing is a collection of essays with just the right combination of self-deprecating humor and accurate insights of what it means to be a woman growing older in our society. I was laughing at her story on having a meatloaf dish named after her and other things that annoy her. She also wrote about things she will and won’t miss in her life, which immediately made me reflect upon my own life. She very much has a blogging type of style to her writing, which is interesting considering the book was published in 2010, before blogs became as popular as they are today.
Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown
I think we have all felt a sense of not belonging at one or many points in our lives and struggled with how to address it. In Braving the Wilderness, social scientist Dr. Brené Brown writes, “true belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” After hearing Dr. Brown speak at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, I felt like I needed to read everything she has ever written. The book has over 1700 reviews on Amazon and 4.5 stars so clearly it has some mass appeal. The author discusses the feeling of loneliness in our society, which is fascinating considering how connected we all are via technology and social media. Her writing and TED talks (how I first discovered her work) are vulnerable and insanely relatable. Most importantly, she perfectly intertwines her research and storytelling approach to present issues that most people, if not all, experience. The book is particularly poignant considering the political climate and how we are all so divided based on who we support politically and what we believe in.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when the author tells a lasting story from her childhood and follows it up with this incredible summary: “Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them to construct their own stories—stories that almost always cast them as alone and unworthy of love and belonging.” How frighteningly accurate and important to understand as a parent. I consider this a must read, whether you’re working through your own issues or thinking about how you will handle your child’s sense of belonging. I did find some of the chapters repetitive so there were a few times that I paused and switched to another book. Overall, I found the book to be moving and valuable for those trying to understand their place in society.
Such a Fun Age, By Kiley Reid
I have mixed thoughts on this book. The author, Kiley Reid, is from Philadelphia so I was excited to read the book and purchased it immediately at a local bookstore in Philly. To summarize, there are two protagonists in the novel, Alix Chamberlain, a mother of two who has built a lifestyle brand and Emira Tucker, her children’s babysitter. One night, Emira is babysitting Alix’s toddler and while they are at a local grocery store, she is confronted by a security guard who accuses Emira, a black woman out with a white child, of kidnapping the child, Briar. A bystander films the entire thing and the rest of the book outlines the resulting repercussions.
I appreciated the nuances behind the narrative and what it says about race and privilege in our culture. However, I couldn’t help but feel that the characters were parodies of themselves. Granted, these people exist in varying capacities in the real world, but in the book they felt like stereotypical versions of a well-off mother and her employee. The mother, Alix, is portrayed as an out-of-touch privileged and insecure woman who painfully lacks self-awareness and is so focused on her career that she pays little attention to her children and does not take the time to see or understand them for who they are. The babysitter, Emira, is lost and aimlessly living her life, not really sure of what she wants to do with her career but she knows she doesn’t want to be a babysitter forever. She also feels like she’s the only one who truly understands Briar and is therefore hesitant to leave her job.
The interaction between the two women is always awkward and as a result the dialogue feels forced. While Alix is obsessed with Emira and desperately wants her to like her (she does some seriously questionable things in the process), Emira is wary of Alix. Both women feel like they know everything they need to know about the other person and they never really take the time to truly get to know one another. Their relationship felt superficial at best. Furthermore, the story was wrapped up quickly at the end. The women felt even more like extreme versions of what could have been complex and dynamic characters. There is also a big reveal towards the end that makes one of the characters feel one-dimensional.
What I loved about the book was that through this experience, the characters were able to reflect and learn more about themselves, some more than others. I also found it fascinating that through it all, Alix felt like she was doing what was best for Emira but she never really understood that she was doing it for all the wrong reasons. The story provided a nuanced picture of people who have good intentions but end up acting in misguided ways that have hurtful consequences. It also shed light on the domestic biases that exist in this country that no one really talks about. I don’t want to give too many details away but I definitely suggest you read it for yourself and come to your own conclusion. Then come back and let us know what you think. 🙂
Work Party, by Jaclyn Johnson
Jaclyn Johnson’s Work Party has been on my reading list for a while. Johnson is the founder and CEO of Create & Cultivate, a digital platform and conference geared towards millennial business women and creators. This is a great read for anyone thinking about turning their side hustle into a business or really entrepreneurs at any stage. The author shares her experience with breaking up with a business partner at age 24 and how she bounced back while eventually building a multimillion dollar business. She’s direct and funny in a millennial type of way, while offering concrete steps on what is involved with taking risks and filling the white space in your industry.
I think it’s also important to keep in mind that when we read someone else’s success story, it’s not a fairytale in which everything magically works itself out overnight. Sometimes it’s easy to draw that conclusion based on how stories are presented. I appreciated that Johnson did not do that and actually went into the details of how she went from a business gone sour to creating a successful company that benefits so many other women building their own businesses.
To find the books mentioned in the post, you can click on the images above or go directly to my Amazon shop page to see what I’m reading next. You can find previous book review posts here.
Photo: Joe Mac