January was a wonderfully adventurous, frightening and educational month in book reading. Every book I read felt like hyperbole in text form – the worst, the most unthinkable, the most vulnerable.
I was a voracious reader/listener of audio books last month, and I was particularly thrilled to read Daring Greatly in paperback. It was a treat to hold a book in my hands after so many months of e-book reading.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Three-line review: I originally read this book in high school, but it seems incredibly pertinent to be rereading a book in which women are stripped of their reproductive rights, neighbors spy on each other and a few guys at the top make decisions about everyone’s lives. I listened to the audio book, read very well by Claire Danes, and was riveted by the character development without fully understanding the world in which she was living. I was a big fan up until the end, where the story line takes a weird turn as some strange anthropological study instead of providing any conclusive answers about the questions left hanging in the story.
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Gerard
Three-line review: I highly doubt there is any adventure story that can top this first-person account of a three-year expedition in which five men died after being the second party ever to reach the South Pole. Appointed as a zoologist on the expedition team, Cherry-Gerard describes in incredible detail everything about this experience: scientific details and measurements, weather conditions, travel patterns, ecological and biological discoveries, social gatherings and even an analysis of why the polar expedition ultimately failed. Even though this book got a bit technical at times, it was absolutely gripping and I stayed awake long past my normal bedtime reading.
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Three-line review: Told in a series of flashbacks and present-moment musings, Lucy Barton reflects on her childhood and the relationship she has with her mother while in the hospital for nine weeks. While I like Strout’s easy-to-read writing and voice, I felt like there was no true story in My Name is Lucy Barton, and I didn’t connect with the characters the way I did in The Interestings, which I read last year. I was horrified by the abuse the main character carried with her throughout life, but was incredibly unsatisfied with how she addressed and dealt with it as an adult, making me feel slightly repulsed by Lucy.
Three-line review: This book has come to my attention several times over the last few years, and now that I’ve read it, I fully understand why many consider it so powerful. Based strictly on science and research, Brown explains why vulnerability is important, how people use shame as a way to quash vulnerability in others and how this information can be used in many facets of life. Though a bit heavy on the research jargon every once in awhile, I related to what she wrote and felt mighty uncomfortable with that realization … but isn’t that the point of self-help books?