5 Book recommendations from January – March 2020

Besides reading subtitles on TV shows, I also read books. In the last six months, I also finally found a way to get audiobooks to work for me. Here are five book recommendations from the ones I’ve finished in the first 3 months of this year.

In alphabetical order by author last name:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Eleanor has a routine and she sticks with it. On Fridays she drinks vodka and every now and then, she has a phone call with her mom, who calls from prison. She works a boring desk job where she knows the coworkers talk about her behind her back. She has no friends. Then of course, when she gets acquainted with this man at work, her entire life changes – but not in the way you might expect.

The book is an intimate depiction of modern loneliness and trauma. Eleanor was not the most lovable character. I found her to be strange and very uncomfortable. But the lens she views the world through is also so brutally honest it makes me wonder if I may have been living behind a facade myself.

And Raymond, the man she gets involved with at work, offers Eleanor a kind of consistent warmth that Eleanor had not received previously. I’ve written a lot about this kind of human connection on this blog and its vital importance to living a joyful life. I think this book is a much more in-depth exploration of that concept and I found it to resonate very strongly.

Becoming – Michelle Obama

Yes, I am aware that I might be the last person to read the book by the former First Lady. My reason for it is that I am really not a biography person, or non-fiction in general. However, when I ran out of podcasts, my coworker suggested I read Becoming via audiobook. Who knew my life would be forever changed since?

I tried other audiobook novels but never finished any. I’ve tried one non-fiction book, but Becoming was the first audiobook I was able to finish. Michelle (yes, we’re on a first name basis now) was engaging and the timbre of her voice was a warm hug on my early mornings and afternoons being stuck on that Highway 401 traffic. She moved me with the frankness about her feelings of inferiority and the difficulty she had protecting her identity whilst Obama went after his ambitions with the force of a rocket. I connected with her and she made me believe that I am also enough.

It was a long read, however, and I don’t think I would have been able to finish the book had I been reading it on paper. Becoming is the kind of experience you need to have where Michelle is in your ear, talking to you about her hopes and dreams. The audiobook was also mixed wonderfully — great bonus if you care about that at all.

How Not to Die Alone – Richard Roper

Andrew works a thankless public service job where he looks for the next-of-kin for people who had the misfortune to die alone in their homes. His coworkers think Andrew returns home to a loving family, but that is a lie. Then a new face, Peggy, shows up at his workplace and they become friends. Does Andrew keep lying about his actual life, or does he take the risk with Peggy?

I’ve read a couple of magazine features about people dying alone, so I was naturally drawn to this novel based on the synopsis. I was curious about Andrew’s job. The author did a great job in describing his work in a way where I really had a good sense of what exactly Andrew’s day-to-day is like, and let me just say that it is really not a job I want.

Like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, this novel also goes strong on that human connection theme that I cannot seem to get away from. Is it obvious by now that I might be going through a bit of an existential crisis? Anyway, this novel was moving, warm, and made me feel like maybe at the end of it, it will all be okay. We all need a read like that every now and then.

Ghosted – Rosie Walsh

Sarah meets Eddie while she’s on vacation and the two instantly fall in love. And then Sarah doesn’t hear from Eddie for weeks. She frantically searches for him while her friends are convinced that maybe he was never that into her, but she doesn’t buy it. When she finally discovers why he hasn’t been in touch, the two people are confronted with a difficult truth that they were not ready to face.

I’m a sucker for books that involve some kind of big secret, or like maybe a potential past life, or a killer. Maybe all three at once. This novel satisfied those preferences and still managed to surprise me. What struck me was how intensely the emotions were described. I definitely took some mental notes in how the author wrote about Sarah’s experience while Eddie was out of reach — because it certainly made me feel like my novel manuscript did not do emotional exploration enough justice.

It was a quick, enjoyable read. It’s not really the type of book that makes you rethink your life choices, but it sure makes you wonder if there is some big love out there waiting for you, and you just haven’t met them yet because it isn’t your time.

The Sun is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon

Natasha meets Daniel 12 hours before she has to be deported. And of course, they become smitten with one another. What do two teens have to do to stop the world’s forces from keeping them apart?

First of all, besides secret lives and killers, I adore teen romance. The way my heart pounds when I read about cold-blooded murders is completely different from when it leaps and prances when I read about two young people falling in love. It instantly transports me to when I was 15 and my relationships felt larger than life.

Secondly, this novel is much more than just about two young people who can’t stop looking at each other. It touches on losing culture, hopes and dreams, and what the identity crisis that inevitably exists for immigrants. I related to the characters strongly despite not having the same cultural background as them and I rooted for them every step of the way. The novel does go a bit too hard into the histories and theories of certain issues and breaks the fourth wall a tad much, but I forgive it because teen romance. I’d forgive a lot when there’s a good teen romance.

No I don’t use GoodReads but I do have a Google Sheet tracker because I am that person. In the process of getting the book covers, I also discovered that all five books were published by Penguin Random House. Stay tuned for the next quarterly book recommendation to see if I may have a bias for that publishing house.

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