4 Book recommendations from April — June 2020

I did not read as many books this quarter compared to the first of 2020. April was a difficult month for me and I didn’t touch a single book. As well, with the ongoing pandemic and working from home situation, I haven’t listened to any audiobooks since March.

In alphabetical order by author last name:

The Gifts of Imperfection – Brené Brown

A researcher’s guide to living wholeheartedly and cultivating self-love and self-acceptance.

I normally shy away from self-help books because they rub me the wrong way. However, I decided to pick up this book as per my therapist’s recommendation after we talked about my tendency for perfectionism. I found this book to be helpful because rather than taking on a “you can do it! you just have to believe in yourself” angle, the author/researcher takes years of qualitative research findings to inform the conclusions that she draws in the book. Having data to back up the “advice” makes the book a lot more palatable. The author also presented the information through an anecdotal lens that was not patronizing and overly preachy, which I appreciated.

There were numerous concepts about what it means to belong, and how vulnerability fits into experiencing joy and being authentic. The lessons learned are highly applicable, even though it would take years of work to really cultivate and be good at the concepts explored in the book.

What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty

Alice Love collapses during a spin class and when she comes to, she’s forgotten the past 10 years of her life. She doesn’t remember the children she gave birth to, she doesn’t remember that she’s in the midst of a nasty divorce.

The book made me wonder if I were to wake up tomorrow and have forgotten the last ten years of my life, if I would be horrified to find out what has become of it. The book was mainly through Alice’s point of view, but there were interwoven narratives from other women in her life. Those narratives gave additional perspectives on the nature of ebb and flow in relationships with people. I found it gave some insight into the ways we can treat people when we’re unhappy in our own lives and how that can drive a ridge in between them.

It was an enjoyable read, even though the plot was full of issues I could not relate to. The book was a good reminder that while time is passing faster the older I grow, ten years is more than enough for everything to turn topsy-turvy in my life. Nothing is permanent, not the good and not the bad.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – Phaedra Patrick

Arthur’s wife has died for a year and one day he discovers a charm bracelet that raised many questions about the past life of his wife. He embarks on a journey to learn about who his wife was before she met him.

The book was a calming read despite the premise being something that is very heavily plot driven. While lots of events happened, the tone of the book never shifted from being quiet and subdued, much like the protagonist. There is something very charming about following the transformation of someone who is initially resistant to change into someone who doesn’t stop questioning and seeks adventure. Life can start passing by in a flash if you aren’t careful and this book was a good reminder to not get too complacent with the comfort of routine.

There aren’t a lot of books about older people and this was a welcome change. The depiction of grief, loneliness, and a longing for change resonated strongly despite the significant differences between myself and the protagonist.

Chemistry – Weike Wang

A Chemistry PhD student is struggling to finish her degree, while managing a long-term relationship with her well-adjusted boyfriend who doesn’t seem to understand her anguish.

This book was very moving and really nailed what it feels like to be an immigrant navigating familial pressures, especially that to succeed. There are lots of bits that are talking about the Chinese language and proverbs and life lessons which especially resonated with me. I felt like the author really saw who I am as a person and the book felt incredibly personal. I related with the protagonist strongly even though we are very different people with a different upbringing.

It was a quick read that sent me on an emotional rollercoaster. I’m talking about the kind where on one page I’d be laughing and a few pages later, I am full-blown sobbing on my rug. We always say representation matters, but it’s not until moments like those where I am in the thick of it where I truly understand why representation is important. It means the author sees who you are as a person. The author’s words echo your lived experience and describes what you have felt but had been unable to voice.

I adored this book and it is definitely my favourite from these few months. I loved the experience of it so much that I purchased the book after I returned the library e-book that I read on my phone. I’m usually not a book buyer, let alone buying a book I’ve already read! But I look forward to revisiting this book down the road to see if it still tugs at my heart like it did the first time around.

Half a year has passed now and we’re at 25 books so far for 2020. The books were a lot more fun in the first quarter of this year, but I was also just in the right mood for discovering new books. Let’s see what the rest of the year brings for me.

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