book reviews · Reading

April/May 2022: Recent Reads

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Happy summer to (most of) my readers! I know some places in the world aren’t on summer break yet – hang in there!

As of last week, I completed my first year as a Spanish teacher, and my seventh year total as a teacher. Sure feels good to have those milestones under my belt.

Reading-wise, I’ve been making my way through the Harry Potter series and going back to my tried-and-true historical fiction genre comfort zone – with a few others thrown in the mix. Something about the end of the school year makes it difficult to think about more than the bare necessities, so I’m always glad for a good series and some solid book choices to keep me going in the reading realm.

I don’t have any specific summer reading goals this year, because my biggest aim in reading right now is to find stuff I enjoy and read it – nada más.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.

Nonfiction

The Sleep Solution by W. Chris Winter, M.D.

After reading Why We Sleep back in September 2021, I was curious to read this book, which seemed pretty similar. I love reading multiple books on the same topic to get different perspectives; this is one I’m sure glad I read. Rather than the doom and gloom of Why We Sleep, Winter explains that we’re all going to sleep poorly at different points in our life, but insomnia occurs when we’re worried about it. So his basic advice is to change what you can to help yourself sleep better, and then don’t worry. Rest is still beneficial, even if it’s not a certain number of REM cycles and deep sleep. I needed this practical message to counter-balance the other book. Plus, his humor helps a lot too.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

One of my running pals I raced “with” in Ecuador (meaning that we went to races together, but he always finished far ahead of me) runs in sandals. I could never understand it. He mentioned this book, which I completely forgot about until I was looking up good audiobooks.

Christopher McDougall in his rambling way tells the history of running, the Raramuri people, some amazing ultra runners, and his own running transformation. There’s plenty of cussing because he writes exactly how each person talks without cleaning up the language. There are also references to/descriptions of the Raramuri traditions and some of the runners lifestyle choices that I would not partake in. However, if you can look past those things, it is an inspirational and educational book about running and it’s history.

Though I found his writing style a bit confusing at first (listening on audiobook), I appreciate how he embeds the facts and info into the story part. It makes it more interesting. I haven’t fact-checked him, but being a runner myself, I’m strongly considering trying out the running in sandals thing to see if it takes care of my chronic injuries. As he says a few times, modern running injuries didn’t come about until the modern running shoe did. So…that seems compelling to me.

Fiction

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Nora finds herself hovering between life and death on a day when despair swallowed her up. She finds herself in a strange library where there are countless versions of the way her life might have gone had she made choices differently at certain points.

While there is a bit of suspension of belief required, I wholly appreciated Matt Haig’s nonetheless realistic and compassionate view of depression, regrets, and the importance of the people in our lives.

If you read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and enjoyed it, then you’ll probably enjoy this one too.

Content disclaimers: some sex, alcoholism, depression/suicidal thoughts, a gay brother and his partner, and some vulgar language in a couple of chapters (though it wasn’t all throughout the book, if I remember correctly).

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

Okay, this one was a strange pick for me. It’s my first Elizabeth Strout book that I finished. I think the main reason I kept going was the narration. It was a type of stream-of-consciousness, but it was like the narrator couldn’t ever quite find the precise words for her thoughts or feelings, so she would correct herself and add on. It reminded me of myself and my best friend when we’re talking.

Basically the main character tells the story of her and her ex-husband, except it’s more character-based than plot-based. I think what I found interesting was her reflections on life and relationships. Rather than being all insta-perfect and shiny, they were just…like life is. And that was refreshing.

Content: some cuss words, but minimal. Generally clean, though there are mentions of extramarital affairs and that sort of thing.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

This book is not at all related or similar to the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey, so don’t be alarmed! Actually, this book was recommended to me by a middle schooler while we had some book talk at our school’s book fair. What fun to exchange recommendations with kiddos who share a love for reading!

Between Shades of Gray tells the (fictional) story of a family, which is really a composite of true people’s experiences, and is a lesser-known travesty of WWII. The Soviet Union, in its take-over of Lithuania and surrounding countries, treat those who resist as the Nazis treated the Jews. They sent them to labor camps in Siberia and didn’t provide for their basic needs like food, shelter, medical assistance, clothing. It was horrific. And this story gives us a glimpse into a horrendous piece of history through the steadfast perseverance of Lina, her mother, her brother, and the people they gather around themselves through selfless caring. It’s heart-wrenching, but it has a realistic ending laced with hope.

Kid Lit

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

I read this because several years ago I read the first book, Howl’s Moving Castle, and quite enjoyed it. Although this kept my attention, I did not find it as enjoyable as the first book. It had elements of fantastical magic, such as flying carpets and djinns, etc. However, it was a bit darker and scarier, and I don’t really recommend it. Doesn’t seem worth the reading time, or necessarily great for kiddos.

DNF’d

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

I’ve tried three Bill Bryson books now, and I just can’t do it. I can appreciate some of his humor, and his story-telling way of conveying facts. But for whatever reason, Bill Bryson is just not the author for me. I really wanted to like his books since so many people do, but I am accepting the fact that I am not a fan of his. And that’s okay.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Same as above.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I was scrolling through Libby trying to find good audiobooks (it’s a theme of my life right now), and this one sounded promising. But it was dark and had some promiscuity plus vulgar language and I DNF’d pretty quickly.

It’s supposedly a good story of a depressed teenager whose journal washes up on the the opposite shore of the ocean after a tsunami. It just wasn’t as good as I was hoping.


How about you?

Any oldies but goodies you’ve been reading? Or hot off the press releases?

I’d love to get some fresh ideas!

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