Books I Read – Winter 2019

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I laid out a pretty simple reading plan in January: Prioritize the books I own by genre and read them in order. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing & it’s working. (I’m astonished.)

However, the success of my reading plan created another problem. Usually when I finish reading a book, I post all of my underlined quotes on my Commonplace Book & then write a review here on Interpret As You May. But that’s a big time commitment & I know I’ll never keep up.

Here’s my solution: At the end of each season, I’ll write one big summary of the books I read. So that’s four blog posts a year, which I can easily maintain. If a particular book strikes my fancy & warrants its own blog post, I’ll write one. But otherwise, this will be my running list of books read. Enjoy!

Books I read in January, February & March 2019:

  1. Heart Talk by Cleo Wade
  2. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  3. Becoming by Michelle Obama (audiobook)
  4. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  5. The Nature Fix by Florence Williams
  6. The Year of Less by Cait Flanders (audiobook)
  7. Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat

Heart Talk by Cleo Wade

I saw Cleo Wade speak at Book People last year when this book came out. I got a hug and signature from Cleo & then waited 6 months until I started reading the book. At first, it was my bath time reading. The book I read with candles burning and classical music playing while laying a bubbly tub. But it was taking me forever to finish. So, I decided it was time to just read the thing. I took it with me to the park this weekend and finished the final 100 pages in pure bliss. It’s really lovely and now I want to buy it for all my girlfriends.

“We can enjoy our successes with less ego and more generosity by remembering that our purpose lies in what we bring to the world, not from the accolades the world brings to us.”

Heart Talk by Cleo Wade – Page 103
  • Grade: A
  • Words to describe it: Beautiful, uplifting, encouraging, life-affirming

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

This was a gift that sat on my shelf, mostly because it intimidated me. I’ve never been one for science, but have recently realized past interests shouldn’t keep me from current curiosities. So, also at a park outing, I cracked this book open and I was hooked instantly. I realized I indeed know nothing about science. But Neil deGrasse Tyson is just the man for the job of introducing it to me. I kept reading tidbits out loud to Brian, I was so amazed.

“For many, the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements is a forgotten oddity – a chart of boxes filled with mysterious, cryptic letters last encountered on the wall of high school chemistry class. As the organizing principle for the chemical behavior of all known and yet-to-be-discovered elements in the universe, the table instead ought to be a cultural icon, a testimony to the enterprise of science as an international human adventure conducted in laboratories, particle accelerators, and on the frontier of the cosmos itself.”

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson – Page 116
  • Grade: A+
  • Words to describe it: Awe inspiring, educational, down-to-earth, thought provoking

Becoming by Michelle Obama (audiobook)

I’m not sure I have much more to add to about Michelle Obama’s autobiography that hasn’t already been said. It’s inspirational, interesting, and worth every moment. I listened to the audio book, so I ended up spending 19 hours listening to Michelle herself tell me her life story. I’m so thankful for that time.

  • Grade: B *
  • Words to describe it: Intimate, personal, charming

*This is a tough one to grade, because I loved it. But I read so many good, interesting books this season, that in comparison this actually ranks as my least favorite of the bunch. And not everything can be my favorite.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

I love Austin’s work, both in print & his continuous sharing online. His books are full of heart & soul, and require minimal time commitment. It honestly took me about an hour to flip through this book. Yet, its words and lessons are still resonating weeks later. I’ve already preordered his newest book, Keep Going, and am excitedly waiting to dive in. If you need a quick hit of inspiration, I can’t recommend Austin’s work enough.

“Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know.

Best of all, when you share your knowledge and your work with others, you receive education in return.”

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – Page 119
  • Grade: A
  • Words to describe it: Creative, humorous, approachable, shareable

The Nature Fix by Florence Williams

I’ve been on a quest to find sustainable ways to maintain mental health without the use of pharmaceuticals. Last year, I read Lost Connections by Johann Hari. This year, I picked up this book by Florence Williams. I got a little preview of the subject matter when I downloaded the 3-Day Effect for free. (Thanks, Audible Original promo!) That wasn’t near enough to satisfy my curiosity, so I bought the full book and am so glad I did.

The book uses a fantastic structure to make its point: following time spent in nature, starting at 5 minutes, to show the increasing impact of nature on our health. Florence takes you along with her on her adventures around the world, through Japan, Utah, Finland, and Singapore and more. She talks to people, gets perspectives; she even goes back into literature to weave scientific exploration with expressions of the human experience. It’s top-notch reporting, in long form.

“Distilling what I learned, I came up with a kind of ultrasimple coda: Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe.”

The Nature Fix by Florence Williams – Page 254
  • Grade: A-
  • Words to describe it: Smart, meaningful, challenging, realistic, empowering

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders (audiobook)

I’ve been trying to come to grips with my debt and personal possessions for awhile. Every year, I try to set new intentions to spend less, consume less, and own less. It’s been a slow, long process. But two things kicked my butt into gear this year: (1) Marie Kondo’s Netflix special and (2) The Year of Less by Cait Flanders. (The book actually mentions Kondo, even though the actions in it were before the book even came to America. It’s an interesting chicken & egg situation that just shows how intertwined topics like clutter and finances can be.)

Cait is what I would consider your standard blogger/digital writer, turned published author. This is not to diminish her writing, but to put it in context. This book falls directly into my sweet spot. It felt like the book was written specifically for me and I loved every moment of it. (I had the same experience reading Lindy West’s Shrill.)

“The truth I was learning, was that we couldn’t actually discover what we needed until we lived without it.”

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders – Chapter 9
  • Grade: B+
  • Words to describe it: Personal, relatable, actionable

Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat

Technically this isn’t on my 2019 reading list, because I started it way before Christmas. But I finally made it cover-to-cover and would be sad to leave it off the list. Salt Fat Acid Heat is a back-to-basics book about food. Part history book, part science book, part memoir, part cookbook, accompanied by gorgeous illustrations and charts throughout. I learned so much about cooking. It’s inspired me to remain adventurous in the kitchen, trust my instincts, and keep trying new things. I’m also now trying to sign myself up for a butchery class.

“When making foods from far-off lands, perhaps no ingredient is as important as curiosity. Cooking, and eating, foods from places we’ve never seen is as good a way as any (and better than most!) to expand your horizons, to remember that the world is a big, beautiful place of endless magic and surprise. Let curiosity lead you to new books and magazines, websites, and restaurants, cooking classes, and of course, cities, countries, and continents.”

Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat – Page 199
  • Grade: A+
  • Words to describe it: Practical, informative, funny, foundational, necessary

It was a great season of books! I learned so much, was so inspired, and I can’t wait to see where my Spring books take me next.