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January 2021 Wrap-Up

I think January is the strangest month of the year ---- trying to remember that is in fact a new year, attempting new years resolutions, surviving the cold and post-holiday blues all make for a long and weird month. I think I said this last January too but I had some really intense highs and lows the last few weeks (is that just normal for all of us at this point?), but I survived and am excited to share the books I was able to read this month.


Poetry is a strange genre for me. Some of the most moving and memorable words I have ever read were poetry yet a lot of the time, the poetry I pick up cannot capture my attention. I saw the cover of this book on bookstagram and loved it (I'm a sucker for nature book covers).

I've heard of Mary Oliver and although I haven't been picking up much poetry lately, I decided this could be a good one to try. However, as much as I wanted to like her work, I was so incredibly bored with this book of poetry and essays. Oliver pulls a lot of inspiration from Whitman and Thoreau and I can definitely tell, but most of her writing was too descriptive for me and there was not enough connection to reality and meaning. I can see why people love her so much and if you enjoy nature poetry, I think you might like this one but if poetry isn't your thing, I don't know if this would help elevate the genre for you.

Rating: 4/10


Malcolm Gladwell is probably the most unique journalist/academic I have ever encountered. I think my first exposure to him was reading his 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success about five years ago, and when I discovered he had started a podcast, I checked it out. If you're a podcast junkie like me and enjoy ones along the lines of Radiolab and Invisibilia, I think you would love his podcast Revisionist History. Hearing Gladwell go deeper into his obscure opinions is such an engaging experience and I highly recommend you checking it out.

However, I have to say I was a little disappointed by Tipping Point. Hilariously, this 2000 book goes into physical and social epidemics and why they happen (this COVID pandemic is laughing at us right now). Gladwell goes deep into the strange phenomenon that occurs when one small thing builds up enough that it tips over a system and spreads far and wide. The topic definitely captured me and there were parts of the book that were more intriguing than others but overall, I wasn't eagerly consuming this book. I think it actually took me a few weeks to get through which is not normal for me at all. There were topics that I was somewhat confused as to why he spent so many pages on them. For instance, he explains that tipping points require what he calls a 'stickiness' factor and he uses Sesame Street as an example of 'stickiness.' He says the show blew up because the producers made sure the key components of the children's show were catchy and memorable. It was a cool example to dive into but he spent many, many chapters on it and by the end, I was kind of fed up with the ridiculously detailed examples of studying Sesame Street. Gladwell is a strange guy and you can definitely feel his quirkiness more in his podcast but he often goes way too deep into small details and then has rigid opinions that he does not like to give up on. He also uses academic studies or papers to support his rigid opinions even if it's obvious to a lay audience that he is using the study way out of context. I will point out that Tipping Point is over twenty years old and it does seem that Gladwell has evolved as I thoroughly enjoyed Outliers from 2008.

Regardless, if you've been curious about Gladwell, I would definitely recommend checking out his podcast and especially Outliers. I have a few other books of his on my shelf that I will still read because I do enjoy his writing and I'm hoping the more recent the book, the more artful the delivery.

Rating: 6/10


I've come to realize over the last year or so (having to analyze all the books I read when I write about them for the blog) that one of my favorite genres of fiction is magical realism. Growing up with a lot of fantasy, sci-fi, and magic, I feel as if the elements of the genre are in my blood. Now that I'm a full blown adult, I'm discovering that I still love so many of the same things I did as a child, just with a more mature twist. Magical realism takes things I love best about fantasy and folds them quietly into the real world, giving that wondrous feeling that magic exists somewhere if you're observant enough to find it.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a quirky novel that follows a man named Weylyn Grey, who was orphaned and raised by wolves at age 11. His story is told through the eyes of those around him, people he's made an impact on one way or another, showing them that magic exists for those willing to see it. He goes on adventures, falls in love, and struggles to find his place in the modern world.

I adored this book. The prose is enchanting ---- simple but impactful. The characters are memorable and complicated and eccentric. It's a charming story that is approachable and engaging until the very last page. It's one of those books that feels more needed in this hard time that we're in because the story, though filled with magical realism, is truly just about the real and messy parts of life that somehow end up being the most beautiful.

If you're looking for a world that it is easy to slip into and enjoy the whole way through, that leaves you hopeful, I couldn't recommend Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances enough.

Rating: 8/10


Sedaris is definitely one of my favorite authors (post coming about my favorite authors very soon). There is almost no other author that is guaranteed to make me laugh out loud with every one of his books. My favorite of his is still Calypso but this one comes in a close second.

If you don't know Sedaris, he is a comedy writer who is unashamed of sharing his ridiculous internal monologues and strange yet relatable life experiences. He is crass, often vulgar, always gives way too much information, and stubborn as hell, but my goodness is he hilarious. Topics in this book include his big family, growing up in Raleigh, being gay, moving to France and learning French, and every single chapter brings me joy and belly laughs. It feels like you're sitting on the couch drinking wine with your best friend when you read his words. I adore him.

I think we could all use some laughs right now and if you're not afraid of vulgarity and absurdity, give Sedaris a try.

Rating: 8.5/10


I've definitely prefaced this in a post before but I feel like I should do it again ---- my favorite books don't necessarily mean they are of the highest quality. I think a lot of us can agree that some of those classics that teachers tried to make us read in school, though objectively were some of the best books ever written, were not enjoyable to read. I will never judge anyone for the books they end up reading and enjoying, and especially the ones that make them feel warm and less alone in this world.

I've read a lot of books by Katherine Center and I consider her writing the adult version of Sarah Dessen novels. Inevitably, both of these women are some of my favorite authors. They both do a fantastic job of centering stories around strong, complicated women who struggle with many different kinds of obstacles. While love is always present in their stories, it is almost never the main plot point that is pushing the action.

What You Wish For is probably my favorite of Center's novels. The story is about Sam Casey, a school librarian in a small town who, when we meet her, is struggling with epilepsy and the loss of her principal/surrogate dad. When he is replaced by a man from Sam's past who is strict and rigid about rules, her and the close-knit town join forces to help him loosen up and realize the beauty of chaos.

There were some details that didn't make sense and the ending was a little too perfect but overall, this story was ridiculously engaging and heart-warming and easy to fall into. There's almost nothing I love more than when an author gives the most mundane details to a scene, like what someone is wearing or the color of the mug they're holding. It gives life and dimension to a story and makes it seem more real and tangible. Center does a great job with those details and I love that there were some tough plot lines that provided non-romantic conflict.

While Center's writing might not win prestigious awards or push readers to think deeply about topics, it does feel real and warm and consumable. I finished this book in a few hours because I didn't want to put it down. And ultimately, that feeling is what keeps me coming back to books again and again.

Rating: 8.5/10


If none of these books pique your interest, you can shoot me a message through the 'Personalized Recs' page. Tell me some of your reading goals, favorite books, or what you want to read more of and I'll send you some recommendations I think you'll love.

Stay safe, stay sane and happy reading!


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