Here’s my belated Books Read in … post. A few good titles, a few so-so ones. Hopefully April will be better.
Let Your Mind Run, by Deena Kastor
Kastor, elite runner and winner of the Chicago and London marathons, almost quit running in college. She had shown a lot of natural talent for the sport, but didn’t understand how to practice to get better, or how to develop the mental toughness necessary to succeed. In this very readable memoir, she describes how she trained her brain, alongside her body, to turn her talents into victories. I enjoyed this book (which will be out April 10) as a runner, but also as a writer always trying to get better at my craft. I think anyone who understands the value of practice will get a lot out of her story. As a side note, I have read a lot of celebrity memoirs in my life that are…not good. This one was good, which is a testament to Deena and her co-author, long-time Runner’s World contributor Michelle Hamilton.
The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
I picked this up at the same SFO book store where I got the book on octopuses in January (I am becoming quite a patron of their nature section!). While there were some interesting factoids about how trees communicate with each other, I will admit that I found my attention wandering. I started thinking of this as a good book to read when trying to fall asleep at night. (I keep hoping Modern Mrs. Darcy will do a list along those lines! Books that won’t keep you awake.)
Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski
This book by the famed sex educator was on the Modern Mrs. Darcy list of 50 contemporary books every woman should read. She said it was the most clicked-through title, probably because the subtitle promises that it will “transform your sex life.” I am happy to report that I don’t feel I need such a transformation, so perhaps my biggest take-away from this book is that sometimes other people consider dirty dishes, a burgeoning inbox, and four shrieking offspring to be major brakes on their level of desire. Who knew? Perhaps this explains why I wound up with four children.
You Are A Badass, by Jen Sincero
After reading Come As You Are, I decided to go all in on reading best-selling self-help books. I had seen this one referenced various places, and even mentioned by some serious people as thought-provoking. After reading it, I decided that we must all look for different things in our self-help material. I’m glad other people found it helpful. To me, this came across as basically The Secret with four-letter words thrown in. Maybe I’m jaded about the genre but…Perhaps my reaction also had to do with a particular annoyance: self-help writers who want to buy a luxury car, and do so, but then feel the need to make it be the culmination of a narrative of self-actualization. As opposed to them just wanting a car and buying it, as a normal person might do.
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons
This was a suggestion from the What Should I Read Next? podcast. It’s a satirical novel (from many decades ago) based on the whole genre of proper London ladies going off into the countryside and trying to make sense of their rural relatives. Generally a fun read.
The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
I had this on my book shelf for years. According to Marie Kondo, I should have dumped it since the time to read it was the time when I got it. But I did not dump it, and I’m glad I didn’t, because I really enjoyed it. This is the tale of Joe Rantz, a poor boy from rural Washington, who helps lead the University of Washington crew team to collegiate championships, and then the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He (and the team) encounter various hardships along the way, just as the country is falling apart during the Great Depression, but they pull off a victory and greatly annoy Hitler in the process. One fun part of reading this sports story when I did: I was on the plane to Seattle/Tacoma, and then in that region for a few days, and that’s where the bulk of the story takes place. So there was a nice little tie-in there.
Oranges, by John McPhee
Many decades ago, John McPhee began writing a short article for the New Yorker about this every day fruit. He wound up with so much material that he felt the need to write a book. While I don’t drink much orange juice, I definitely learned a lot about concentrate, and the business of citrus farming, and the danger of hard freezes. Quirky and fine for an airplane read.
Now I’m reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. Re-reading, really, as I read it in college. It’s taking a while! I started on March 22 or so and I’m only at page 350 (there are 700-some odd pages). So that’s one reason March’s list is short. Hopefully I’ll finish by April 30.