In the past whenever I’ve kicked off monthly round ups or goals, it always features an introduction where I talk about how fast the month was – and this post is no exception. Despite February being a month of ups and downs, I feel like the last 28 days have just whizzed by. Maybe it is down to it being a shorter month or perhaps because January felt like an eternity in comparison but, I can’t believe we are into March already. I managed to get through 8 books this month, just one short of my January record but none the less, I’m glad I’ve been managed to get through as many as this without even realising it. The standard of the books I’ve read or listened to in February has been so high, with the lowest rating being 3 stars. I’m so excited to share these with you so, without further ado, here are the books I managed to get through.
One of my 2018 reading goals is to read more non-fiction. It has been tough to integrate into my bookshelf, purely since it is a genre I only read once in a while. Then it dawned on me. I listen to a helluva lot of podcasts, so why not try audiobooks? What I Know For Sure was my first of the year and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I have huge admiration for Oprah. What I Know For Sure contains essays on subjects such as joy, gratitude and power. Littered with personal stories and words of wisdom, I found the book both insightful to Oprah’s life and career while maintaining the right balance of advice too. At the time when I started listening to this, I was emotionally unsettled but, Oprah’s positivity was infectious and my mindset became much more positive. It is a must-read for anyone who is an Oprah fan or is looking for a spiritual, inspiring book to read. If you read this, I’d love to know what you thought of it.
Another audiobook this month was Wishful Drinking by the late Carrie Fisher. This was a short but funny memoir about her extraordinary life. I’m a huge Elizabeth Taylor fan so I was intrigued to see what she wrote about the notorious scandal of Elizabeth and her dad, Eddie. It was pretty brief to be honest which I expected. Carrie shares snippets of how she began in Star Wars, to her battle with drugs and touches slightly on her bipolar disorder. I rated this 3 stars. The book was funny and very witty, however, it just felt like something was missing. Normally when I read a memoir, I start to understand or feel like I’ve gotten to know that person whereas with Carrie’s book, I didn’t feel that at all. I also wish she spoke about her mental health struggles in a bit more detail as it was one of my main reasons for wanting to read this. All in all, a very humorous tale of her wacky life but not one I’d rush to recommend.
When I started my pursuit of reading non-fiction, it was a no-brainer that I would finally pick up one of Roxane Gay’s books. Bad Feminist and Hunger have been on my TBR list on my Good Reads for a long time. I decided to start with Bad Feminist after learning that Hunger was a much more intense read. Bad Feminist is a collection of essays where Gay discusses her evolution as a woman of colour and what it means to be a feminist today, with plenty of pop culture references. After only a couple of chapters, I’d fallen in love with Roxane’s writing style. Her sentences were well crafted, witty and felt so personable. There was, however, one chapter where Roxane discussed weight which was centred around a book she had read. Without delving into too much detail in case you want to read or are reading this, I just didn’t like the tone of it – mainly because it was undermining someone’s experience with weight struggles just because they were thin. It was close to home for me as someone who has had struggled with my body. Maybe I’m just very sensitive but it just rubbed me up the wrong way. After reading this, I felt like I disengaged slightly from the book but there were some great essays in there about the state of feminism today. Roxane Gay excels at her craft and if you like essays around pop culture and what life is like as a woman today, I’d recommend it.
An extremely bold statement here but, this is already my favourite book of 2018. It’s going to take something really magical to knock this off the top spot for me. I heard about this book back in November and pre-ordered it to arrive on my kindle the day of its release. It has since been chosen as Oprah’s Book Club selection for the month of February. The story follows Roy and Celestial, a newly married couple who tied the knot just a year and a half previously to the fateful night that changed everything. While staying at a motel after visiting Roy’s parents, the police burst into their room early in the morning and arrest Roy for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. That everyone close to him knows he didn’t commit. The rest of the book tells the tale of the ripple effect his incarceration has on their marriage and his fight for freedom. I connected with every single character in this book. Tayari Jones’s writing style is flawless and I fell in love with this book just a few chapters in. It’s thought-provoking, heartbreaking and beautifully written. This book gave me all the feels and it is my first 5-star rating of the year. If there is one book you consider picking up out of all of the books I’ve read this month – make it this one. It has set the bar so high for the rest of the books I’ll read this year.
Another audiobook conquered in February was The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. I’m ashamed to admit, I hadn’t heard of Jon Ronson until the beginning of 2018. Yes, I know, what rock had I been hiding under? I discovered his podcast, The Butterfly Effect, that I HIGHLY recommend if you’re looking for a new podcast to binge on. I decided to seek out more of his work and discovered The Psychopath Test – a book that sounded right up my street. The book follows Jon on his adventure into the world of madness. Along the way, Jon meets Robert Hare, the inventor of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist – the criteria of personality traits etc that would define someone as a psychopath. He teaches Jon how to spot psychopaths and explores some of the traits on the list and why these are key in the diagnosis. As well as meeting various medical professionals, Jon also meets Tony – a prisoner in the Broadmoor high-security prison in the UK who confesses he faked mental illness in the hope of getting a lesser sentence and instead, ended up in the most notorious prisons in the UK, with some of Britain’s most dangerous criminals. This book was absolutely fascinating and I learned so much from it – especially around mental health in general. Jon narrates this book and there is something about his voice I just find so calming. One to check out if you have an interest in mental health.
I bought this book back in December but, confession time: I was a little intimidated by it. Firstly, it’s just under 700 pages which is waaaay bigger than any book I would usually read. I’d also heard that Donna Tartt’s writing was a little pretentious. But, I decided to put my reservations aside since the book has been majorly raved about online and let me just say, the hype is more than justified. I don’t think I can describe the storyline with much justice, so here is a snippet:
“Under the influence of their charismatic Classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality, their lives are changed profoundly and forever.”
This was such an incredible read for so many reasons. I connected with each member of the group in a different way and enjoyed the dynamic of their relationships evolve. I also loved the main story and didn’t know which way it was going to go – it has been a while since a book has kept me on my toes. Tartt’s writing as it turned out, wasn’t pretentious in my eyes whatsoever and she is an incredibly talented writer. So much so, The Goldfinch, another novel she has written, is now top of my wishlist.
A book that featured in my recent haul, Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh is an amazing, charming, thought-provoking read all about one of the simple pleasures in life: food. While stripping food back to basics and talking about how much joy it can bring, mindful eating and not attaching guilt to certain foods, it has helped me change my outlook on food. The book also talks about key issues around eating disorders, classism, race and food snobbery and will make you consider things within these topics that you didn’t think about before. It was a quick read and my favourite thing about the book is how Ruby romanticises food. It’s charming, endearing and educational and I’d really recommend giving this a read. I’m looking forward to trying some of the recipes too.
My last book of the month was Brave by Rose McGowan. This book has been highly talked about in the media, given that Rose McGowan is a victim of Harvey Weinstein and has been a key contributor to the #MeToo movement – alongside her own #RoseArmy. From discussing her childhood, where she grew up in Italy raised in a cult, to coming to America, her turbulent relationships with family/friends/boyfriends to her career and then the abuse she suffered, this is a very graphic tell all that made for an at times uncomfortable read. After finishing this, I’m really conflicted on my opinion of Rose. I admire her bravery. For her to come out against someone as powerful as Weinstein is huge and within the book, it is very clear the effect the assault had on her self-worth. However, I can’t help but feel that Hollywood and acting, years prior to her meeting with Weinstein, wasn’t the right place for Rose. It was evident it wasn’t the right environment for her and part of me wonders why she continued. She was young and had the chance to start over yet continued to stay in an industry that she had so much resentment for. It was a tough read but I wouldn’t be in a rush to recommend anyone to read it.
And .. breathe! It feels like I’ve been writing this post for an eternity but there were a few books within this post I really wanted to do justice. Have you read any of these books? What did you read in February? I’d love to hear your thoughts below or you can tweet/IG me at @amysbookshelf. Thanks for reading.