Welcome to a new feature here on the blog. Every month I plan to let you know what I read, how I liked it (or didn’t), and also show you some of the books I want to read the following month.
Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!
What I read in January and February
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
This, as you may already know if you’re a reader, is the much-anticipated second novel of the To Kill A Mockingbird (TKAMB; 1960) author. The story picks up two decades after TKAMB, when Jean-Louise takes her annual Maycomb trip to visit her father, during a time when civil rights tensions were shaping the South. This trip, she learns the important lesson that the people we often put on a pedestal of perfection are, in fact, not perfect. They are flawed like any other, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad, or no longer admirable.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it didn’t captivate me as much as I had hoped. Sometimes I found Jean-Louise to be really irritating while also empathizing with her struggles. The fact that I did feel things about various characters is generally a good sign—it means that I was engaged with the story at least! And I certainly wanted to punch a few of those characters, at times.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
This book details Japanese tidying consultant Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method. Rather than decluttering your house bit-by-bit and room-by-room, she argues that doing it category-by-category, and each category in one go, is the key to lasting tidiness. She asserts that you must also not keep anything that doesn’t spark joy for you, and teaches you how to go about discarding things before you even think about putting what you keep away. There are folding methods, storage solutions (very simple and cost effective ones, I might add), and more.
Kondo is certainly eccentric in many of her ideas—her obsession with tidying and cleaning is very apparent. I’m not sure I will ever be the sort of person who takes everything out of her handbag at the end of each day and puts it away, then thanks the bag for all its hard work. That’s probably because I only ever use one bag until I get tired of it, then switch to a different one for months on end. So, while I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says we should do (mostly re: giving thanks to our possessions and what-not), I am totally on board with her method of discarding and tidying. Doing it by category and all at once is definitely a fantastic strategy, and one I have successfully employed throughout January and February as I have decluttered my flat. I’ve never been able to fit so much clothing into my drawers before, but, low-and-behold, folding certain items in certain ways has made a big difference to available space and tidiness.
I enjoyed her particular brand of quirky and found the book quite funny to read. I didn’t take it all too seriously, just enjoyed the ride and took the important points away to try out for myself. And they worked, so, hurrah!
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
Better Than Before is all about habits: how we can use them to change our lives so we are happier, how we form habits, and how we can sustain them. It provides opportunities to learn more about your individual habit tendencies and apply what you learn to form and maintain your own habits. Rubin details her Four Tendencies Framework—Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel—and how to identify which group you generally fit into. Then, throughout the book, most habit strategies she goes into include notes about which tendencies are best suited to use certain strategies. Thus, you can identify what’s more likely to work for you, and what probably just won’t, so don’t bother trying!
I really enjoy Gretchen’s writing—she’s honest about herself, funny, insightful and motivating. If you’re interested in learning more about habits, I definitely recommend Better Than Before to start with. It’s comprehensive and easy to read.
The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
Yeah, I’m on a Rubin kick, no apologies! So, The Happiness Project preceded Better Than Before and chronicles Rubins year-long quest to increase her happiness by making small changes to her ordinary life. There was no major upheaval move across the globe, no massive career change (she’s already done that). This was about taking her current life, appreciating it more, and adding or subtracting certain, generally quite small, things to make it better and, in turn, increase her happiness.
What I loved most about this was that it focussed on what we can do in our ordinary lives to increase our happiness. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering changes that make us happier, but the little things we do in our everyday lives, including our habits, that can make a difference in how we feel. Obviously, this approach is not meant to be a cure for, say, depression (though it might certainly help), but for the average person who’s doing pretty okay, but knows they can feel better, I believe the everyday changes are where the biggest gains lie. Again, Rubin writes honestly, humorously, and offers up many truths that happiness researchers have found. Go forth and be happy!
What I’ll be reading in March
Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now
Rubin’s Happiness Project 2.0, with a focus on home life. I have already begun this. I’m not sure how similar it will be to The Happiness Project—hopefully not too similar otherwise it might get boring.
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
I actually attempted this earlier in February but got distracted by other books, so my mission is to finish it in March! I love books about witch trials, so this should be up my ally.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Laura Markham
While studying psychology, parenting was an area of interest to me, so sometimes I like to break out a parenting book to expand my knowledge. I also see it as a great opportunity to arm myself early with useful information for when I have my own children. After all, we are not magically bestowed with How To Be A Successful Parent knowledge as soon as we have a baby—like anything else in life, it must be learned.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Continuing on my habit research journey. I know very little about this book, so who knows what it will bring, but I look forward to it!
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