March was an odd month. I slogged through a few clunkers but simultaneously discovered a new favorite author. Such is life! I offer a few thoughts on each book below. Hope these help you guide your own reading!
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro
This book is hot right now, but I have to confess that it didn’t do a lot for me. Dani Shapiro tells the story of what happened after she discovered her father was not her biological dad–a heartbreaking premise. However, I felt disconnected from the author–even though I could appreciate the pain she was feeling from her discovery. I listened to her interviewed on Happier by Gretchen Rubin, and I felt more connected to her then. I almost wish I had heard the interview first. I wonder if I would have liked the book more.
That being said, it explores the theme of what makes us who we are, which I always find fascinating. Plus, it’s a quick read, so it’s worth picking up.
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
One of my colleagues recommended this book, and I’m so glad that he did. It is a compilation of letters that the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to a young man who asked for his help. Every page (heck, every sentence) holds an insight about life, creativity, poetry, love, etc. I could go on. After I finished it, I added it to my altar so that I could read a passage before each meditation and bought a copy for my best friend. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Hormonal: The Hidden Intelligence of Hormones
You can probably guess what Hormonal is about, but I’ll offer a brief summary. Women face shifting hormones throughout the month, which, Dr. Haselton posits, affects our behavior. She goes beyond the, “Hey–don’t talk to the Boozy Gardener. She’s hormonal” and discusses the actual chemistry happening in our bodies.
I wanted more out of this book than what I got. The tone was too young and flirty to be taken entirely seriously, and I do not understand why so many popular science authors do this. I understand that they are trying to bring their work to a larger audience, but I think they lose their authority when they write too casually (at least for me).
That being said, I think this is an important, under-studied topic, and I appreciate the author examining how our fluctuating hormones interacts with our behavior.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Get me in the fan club; I am officially a proselytizer for Naomi Alderman. This is one of the best books that I have finished in awhile. I picked it up for one of my book clubs (I’m in three), and I’m so glad that it was suggested. I had to keep forcing myself to slow down so I wouldn’t get too far ahead of the group.
A speculative work, it answers the question of what would happen if women gained the power to shoot electricity out of their hands. The ending was inevitable but unexpected. It is told through four points-of-view, and a few people on Goodreads said they didn’t care for some of the narrators, but I thought they were all necessary and offered unique insights.
Get this book immediately. You won’t regret it.
Equality for Women = Prosperity for All by Augusto Lopez-Claros
I read this book for a different book club. It’s an ambitious work that attempts to explore inequality on a worldwide scale and argue that the world will be a better place when women are granted political and financial equality. If this topic is new to you, I recommend you pick up this book to understand the global landscape of the economy and women’s rights.
However, there were a few problems. First of all, the authors conflate sex and gender from page one. Secondly, they make a lot of assumptions about “what women are like.” If you do not yet know why these two things are problematic, comment below. I have some other book suggestions you should pick up first.
Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us by Ross Rosenberg
The title of this book says it all. There is a lot of important information in here about what attracts some of us to sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists even after their facade has fallen. It is also a quick read, so it’s a good way to get information in a short period of time.
That being said, much of the information is repetitive (I think it would have been an excellent long magazine article). Also, like so many other self-help books (and Hormonal above), the language is just too cutesy and casual for a serious topic. More disturbing, there is a whiff of victim blaming in a few passages that is hard to look past.
For a better look on the same topic, I recommend Women Who Love Psychopaths, which I’ll write more about next month. I’m nearly done, and while there is a pretty off-the-wall section about “evil,” it gives the topic the gravity it deserves and better researched information and data.
The Sun and her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
This book of poetry gets an unenthusiastic, “Meh. It’s okay,” from me. I liked the illustrations, and some of the lines resonated with my human experience. A few lines seemed derivative of better works, and there wasn’t anything particularly compelling. It was as if I was reading a really bright college student’s journal. That being said, it kept me entertained on a long road trip.
Ghost Girl by Amy Gerstler
This book of poetry gets an enthusiastic “READ IT” from me. I love Amy Gerstler. She creates the most concrete images and stories in her work. While I preferred Dearest Creatures (which I’ll review next month–just finished it last night), you cannot go wrong with anything she has written. “An Offer Received in this Morning’s Mail: (On misreading an ad for a set of CDs entitled Beethoven’s Complete Symphonies.) may be my new favorite poem.
Kindfulness by Ajahn Brahm
Ajahn Brahm is a Buddhist monk, author and hilarious man. This book discusses how to bring “kindfulness” to your mindfulness meditation. There are funny, quick stories and specific practices. I am on a quest to transform from a “control freak” to a “kindfulness freak.” After I finished, I immediately bought a copy for myself and BF. Another highly recommended work.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tart
Much like Jane Eyre, this is a book I started with great promise and could not bring myself to finish. The writing is gorgeous, and the first threads of the plot are strong. Our protagonist, Theo, becomes an orphan when his beloved mother is killed in an explosion at the art museum.
It peters out after that. Theo drifts from one scene to the next and only makes (by my count) maybe two or three decisions on his own. So much happens to this kid that I kept thinking of one of the favorite lines from Steel Magnolias, “When it comes to suffering, she’s right up there with Elizabeth Taylor.” When will your bloodlust be satisfied, Donna Tart?
I made it to Page 517 before giving up and skimming to the last 50 pages. Seeing how it all ended, I’m not sorry I missed those pages.
I’m not afraid of a long book. I have read all of The Song of Fire and Ice, and like everyone else in the world, wants George R.R. Martin to finish the rest of the damn series. This book asked too much of me, though.
That wraps up March! Do any of you have a recommendation?