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Summer Summary: September 2015

Wondering what this Summer Summary thing is all about? Here’s the context!

Summer Summary Badge (erinreads.com)

In this final Summer Summary, I’ll cover what I read and listened to in September of 2015. As with the previous four installments, rather than go in reading order, I’ll list the books in order from favorite to least favorite. Title links will take you to Goodreads, if you’d like more of a summary than I’ve given.

#1: Rising Strong by Brené Brown (narrated by the author)

I love Brené Brown’s work. That’s all there is to it. So of course I was thrilled to receive her newest book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program! Every time I encounter her work, I’m inspired to engage with what she teaches. She has a way of imparting what she’s learned through her research in a way that’s inviting and honest, and she’s always right there with you — never on a high horse looking down or preaching from the safety of a pulpit.

In Rising Strong, she looks at how to recover from our falls in a way that leads to a more fruitful, healthier resolution than most of us know how to achieve. Highly recommended, whether you’ve already encountered her books/TED talk or not.

The Verdict: Amazing

#2: It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario (narrated by Tavia Gilbert)

It’s What I Do is a photojournalist’s memoir — and not just any photojournalist, but one who is drawn to documenting conflict, war, and their impact on the people they touch. Addario has worked in places like Afghanistan and the Congo, risking her life to do the work she can’t help but do, and in this book she traces her career from its beginning.

I think what I appreciated most about this memoir is the insight it gave me into why someone would risk her life to take pictures. The calling Addario clearly feels to tell a particular kind of story through still images is something I’ve never felt — yet with her words, she’s able to help me understand. I’d say it’s well worth the read.

The Verdict: Enjoyable

#3: Icebreaker by Lian Tanner (narrated by Anne Marie Gideon)

Petral is a young girl living on a ship that’s been tracing the same course for three centuries. Everyone but her has a place among the ship’s three classes, making the “Nothing Girl” invisible to all but a few of its crew; Petral’s only real friends are two talking rats. No one can remember what the ship’s purpose is, so it just keeps on circling — until one day a strange boy is rescued from the ice and taken aboard.

I liked how creative Icebreaker is. It’s not really like anything I’ve read before, so I couldn’t work out what to expect. A surprising number of characters are vividly drawn, and Tanner even manages to get in some character development alongside the rather fast-paced plot and without the story dragging on forever. Supposedly this is the first book in a trilogy, but it doesn’t end with a cliffhanger — thank goodness! I received Icebreaker through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.

The Verdict: Enjoyable

#4: Sapphique by Catherine Fisher (narrated by Kim Mai Guest)

Sapphique is the second book in what I believe is meant to be a trilogy; Incarceron, which I reread (okay, listened to) in August, is the first. Sadly, I didn’t think Sapphique measured up to Incarceron. It was interesting enough, I suppose, but kind of meandering and muddled, too. I feel like I’ve already forgotten a lot of what happened, and it’s hardly been a month! I’ll probably listen to the third book, if there ends up being one, out of curiosity, but I won’t be rushing to read it.

The Verdict: Mediocre

#5: Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum (narrated by Mozhan Marno)

After all the buzz surrounding Hausfrau, I had to read it. I had almost zero idea what to expect, as I tend to avoid reviews of books I’m planning to read.

It’s about Anna, an American living in the suburbs of Zürich with her Swiss husband and their three children. Her life looks picturesque, but in truth Anna is a mess. The three things that occupy her time, aside from her family, are German class, psychotherapy…and a string of affairs she can’t seem to help getting herself into and struggles unsuccessfully to extract herself from. By the time she snaps out of her own skewed world, there are parts of her life that have broken irrevocably.

I found the novel to be intellectually intriguing, but it did not make my list of favorites by a long shot. I think the biggest problem is twofold. First, I didn’t actually like any of the characters. That’s not always a problem, of course, but on top of that, I didn’t really care what happened to any of them. What I did like was the book’s structure, with memories and “sound bites” from the main character’s therapist filling in holes and adding commentary throughout. And the reader somehow fit the book, which is always nice!

The Verdict: Mediocre

#6: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (narrated by Emily Woo Zeller)

Yes, I finally succumbed to the peer pressure and read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It kind of…left me scratching my head. There are things I agree with, sure, and ideas that sound worthwhile, but suffice it to say I’m not a convert. Would my clothes really be happier if I thanked them for keeping me warm each day? Is the answer really to get rid of every single thing that does not give me a thrill of pleasure when I touch it? Is there actually room in my (very small) closet for most of my possessions as well as a shrine to any secret interests I want to hide from my friends AND my bookcase(s)? (I can answer that one definitively: NO.) There were a few parts where I actually giggled out loud, like when she said some people have as many as 40 unread books as though it were some ludicrous, unimaginable number. Also, that my socks would rest so much more easily if I would fold them instead of balling them.

I know Kondo’s approach has worked for a lot of people. Perhaps I shouldn’t knock it until I’ve tried it, but I don’t think I’ll be implementing the KonMari method any time soon.

The Verdict: Mediocre

Average for the month: another high mediocre. Honestly, I wasn’t blown away by much of what I finished this month. Eh…it happens!

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  • http://www.readinginwinter.com/ Kristilyn Robertson

    This is an old post, but I just had to comment! I loved your thoughts on The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up … I KNOW my socks wouldn’t be happier in balls. Heck, I’m sure they’d just be happy getting matched up, or being less holey … And when I read the whole 40 unread books part I thought of the couple hundred on my shelves that I haven’t read yet. It *did* inspire us to purge, but I didn’t thank everything and I did get a little more ruthless when cleaning my bookshelves (though I went from about 500 unread books to about 250. Let’s not get too crazy.). Great post!