An Open Book: What I Read in September

Wow. September.

What a doozey of a month. September was a marathon-length spring for me … but I still found time to read.

In fact, if I don’t spend at least 30 minutes reading before turning off the light at night, I’ll toss and turn for hours. I read throughout the day as well, but no day is complete if I don’t finish it by closing the cover of a book (even if it’s an e-book).

How about you? Is reading part of your daily routine?

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: I’ve never given much thought about how or why people gather and what makes those gatherings meaningful (or not). This book definitely got me thinking about the importance of intentionality when people come together, but I’m also not convinced that gatherings like birthday parties need to be so carefully scripted. While this book provided some interesting and useful pragmatic tips for planning and hosting get-togethers, there was a lost opportunity to discuss more holistically the history and importance of gatherings.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1/5 stars)

Three-line review: This book is on tons of must-read entrepreneurial lists, but it needs to be scrubbed off those lists and wiped off the face of this planet. This was first published in 1936, and its disgusting sexist, machismo, offensive vibe definitely reflects that. Don’t follow the guidance in this book; instead, be yourself and be proud of who you are and what you stand for.

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: Gottschall is a good, engaging writer, and he did a great job packing this book with examples of how and why storytelling works. I found it interesting and insightful, yet it seemed to end before it really hit its groove and full potential. I think there’s a lot more to say about storytelling beyond fiction.

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: Every once in a while I read a book and wonder when the story is actually going to start; The Sheltering Sky was one of those books. The story centers around a strange trio of American tourists traveling through North Africa for no known reason or agenda, then veers off in weird directions involving infidelity, paranoia, incest, and sex trafficking. Just as the desert is an overwhelming, mysterious, and unforgiving, so too is this book.

The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: A beautifully written esoteric, lyrical story told through a diverse group of storytellers. This is the tragic tale of a baby girl born into an Arab-Islamic family desperate for a boy, so she is raised to be the boy her father never had. What follows is a twisted story of self-discovery and self-identity entwined with personal struggle told through the lens of everyone but the main character.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: I know Márquez is an acquired taste for some readers, but he’s one of my favorite authors, and I loved this book as much as any of his others. Full of rich detail and held together with high tension, I devoured Chronicle of a Death Foretold in a single sitting. This story only spans a few hours and just over 100 pages, but Márquez is such a masterful storyteller that I felt intimately connected with the main character, especially, as he met his untimely but predicted end.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: Of the many racism-related books I’ve read over the last few years, this one felt least accessible. While packed with terminology that is essential to know, this book got a bit weighed down conceptually at times, which made it harder for me to understand. I very much appreciated Kendi’s examination of racism on a spectrum, though; it’s a rare but important consideration that is largely missing from recent conversations on race relations.

King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: Is it weird to have really enjoyed and appreciated a book about a truly despicable human being? Kudos to Hochschild for not sugar-coating the absolute monster King Leopold was — and for going a step further and examining the violent history of colonization beyond Belgium’s unethical land grab. We need to stop glorifying colonizers, and I appreciate the author’s relentlessness in researching the stories of those who are not represented in biased history books.

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