February 2017 Books

I only read 8 books this month! I worked a lot more in February and just didn’t have as much time to read, plus I was spending more time with Andrew in the evening watching Homeland. I read a book in February that is entering my very small canon of MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS I’ve ever read. I also read some excellent fiction and got a new cookbook! Yay for February!

The Sun is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon, YA Fiction. EVERYONE was talking about how awesome this book was and while I enjoyed it I really don’t get what all the fuss is about.

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite, Robert Kurzban, nonfiction science. I LOVED this book and it’s changed how I see everything to do with the mind. This is going on my “MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL TIME” list! I wrote about it here.

The Rational Animal, Douglas Kenrick and Vladas Griskevicius,  nonfiction science. This book continues with the same topic as Hypocrite, the modular view of the mind and how we don’t have one self but at least 7 distinct subselves in our minds that specialize in certain evolutionary goals. These modules work together sometimes, communicate sometimes, but mostly take turns being the most activated and hence the one in charge of the decisions we make in different contexts. Best part? Some of them are connected to communication centers of the brain and some aren’t, so these modules are making decisions for us that we don’t have conscious access to (intuition?).

Rules of Civility and Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles, literary fiction. I read these back to back as they both became available on Overdrive at the same time. I loved them both and think Towles is incredibly gifted. If I had to pick only one to keep forever, it would be Gentleman in Moscow. The main character and his way of life are described so perfectly. He has something to teach us all about rolling with the punches, finding deep value and purpose in serving others, adapting to what life sends your way, and dealing with adversity. But also it’s interesting to see how values from one generation can become anti-values in the next, not for any other reason than to just be different. This plays out not just on the personal level, but as this book details, on the level of countries and governments.

Even though I liked A Gentleman in Moscow a bit better, I recommended Andrew start with Rules of Civility because it’s a faster paced book. A Gentleman in Moscow is slow and steady, not filled with exciting moments and big questions. It’s the kind of book some people will read and say “….but nothings happening??”. If you like a quicker and faster paced book, I think Rules of Civility is a better choice.

Primal Fat Burner by Nora Gedgaudas, nonfiction health and nutrition. Saw this one on the new nonfiction shelf at the library and since I am already a fan of ketogenic diets and I’ve read her previous book, Primal Body Primal Mind, I brought it home to look over. I’m pretty well read on the subjects of both the paleo diet and ketogenic diets so I don’t read these books to learn more but to benefit from someone else’s perspective on the topic and maybe get some new recipes. Well, I didn’t find more than one or two recipes that I felt suited my life at the moment. I’m not interested in using expense or hard to find ingredients (although I certainly was in the past). If you are the type that already has coconut aminos, free range chicken livers, grass fed marrow bones, and collagen in your kitchen, then this book might work for you. But if you are like me and do most of your shopping at Aldi or Sams’ Club, go ahead and skip this. I would never, ever recommend this book as a starter book on the paleo diet OR ketogenic diets. It’s just way too hardcore. Reading it makes me almost feel anxious. It’s just not my gig anymore to be that involved about every aspect of my diet. Not to say that she isn’t right. A paleo ketogenic diet is probably the healthiest way to eat for most of us. But it doesn’t have to be this difficult.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, general fiction. This was lots of fun to read after three nonfiction books. I felt like her depiction of PTA mom culture was pretty spot on and funny, all the drama and judging and taking oneself too seriously. The book was different and quirky and a great light read.

Bacon and Butter: The Ultimate Ketogenic Diet Cookbook by Celby Richoux, cookbook. I got back on board with keto in February after flip-flopping around for months trying to do this or that with my diet and nothing sticking. Keto is my home base and this time I dropped into ketosis without any trouble or side effects and have been feeling good. I got this Kindle book for inspiration and have tried at least three recipes already, all of which Andrew and I both liked enough to put into regular rotation. It had a lot of good reviews on Amazon and was cheap. Nothing like a new cookbook to get me excited and motivated about being in the kitchen!

And two books I started but abandoned due to lack of interest:

The Likeness, Tana French, thriller. I got this from the library because it was in this blog post about page turners (btw, I’ve read a bunch of the books on that list including Eleanor and Park, Tell Me Three Things, Sea of Tranquility, Dark Matter, and Rules of Civility) . But I gave it about 50 pages and couldn’t get into it. It’s a longer book and I didn’t feel like wasting more time on it, so I gave up. But everyone else seems to like it, so if this genre does it for you, give it a try.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl, YA fiction. I got this on audiobook and listened to it on the way down to Birmingham. It didn’t pull me in and for 3 hours (and then more time on the way home) I felt like the story was still just getting set up. I gave up. I wonder if it’s just not good as an audiobook.


Notable Books of 2016

Well, my reading goal for 2016 was to read less but more difficult material. I didn’t do that. I read my normal amount and continued to simply read what I felt like reading and what was available.

Some overall highlights of the year:
1.  I have started reading fiction again and have discovered a love of YA (young adult) fiction. In my 20s and early 30s I read almost exclusively fiction and then for some reason completely switched to almost all non-fiction. It’s been a joy to rediscover the joy of reading just for fun.

2. I read a lot of books on the Enneagram and will continue diving deeper into that subject. I recommended one at the end of this post.

3. I will be at roughly 110 books by the end of the year next week, which is on par for the last few years.

Now let’s get to my favorites:


All Things Cease To Appear, Elizabeth Brundage. This was the best literary fiction I read this year. Actually, it might be the only literary fiction I read this year but still. It was beautiful and reminded me why I used to love literary fiction. Good fiction is more true than real life, more illuminating than reality, and just plain magical in the way it can connect us to our humanity.

The Course of Love, Alain de Botton. A fiction book that describes married life better than a non-fiction book on marriage ever could. I wrote about this one here.

Carry On and Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell. The books that introduced me to the wonderful world of YA fiction. I read Carry On first, which I recommend for the sheer joy and surprise that comes from not knowing anything about Fangirl. Fangirl was written first and Carry On is a spin-off but trust me, read Carry On first (but only if you know nothing about either of them). I’m smiling just writing about them because they are so delightful.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. This was so much fun to read! I loved it so much and can’t wait to see it as a movie. I immediately passed this on to my 15 year old son and he loved it, too. If you want to have fun with a book, this is for you, especially if you like science fiction or grew up in the 80s.

The Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay. Another YA novel, but this one is much richer; it’s not just a fun read. It’s a page turner and so engaging and big and just plain good. The characters are all well developed and the story is funny, heartfelt, serious, and real. Plus, love story. Yay!


The Big Picture, Sean Carroll. I think this is my favorite non-fiction book of the year. It’s one of those books that makes you feel it was written just for you. The meaning of life from a scientific point of view? A way to think about meaning and purpose without religion? YES, I’ll take it! It’s a beautiful book and made me feel so happy. I felt like my way of seeing the world was articulated perfectly here.

Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari. A must-read for those who like to keep up on the non-fiction that change the way you think about BIG IDEAS. This book changed the way I think about some big ideas like humanism and the idea of natural vs. unnatural.

Women, Food, and God, Geneen Roth. I didn’t even give this book a star rating on Goodreads yet it is showing up on this list. It’s here because this is the book I can’t stop thinking about even if I don’t want to. I wrote about the book here. I tried to follow her food rules and completely failed and since then I’ve been really deeply thinking about my relationship with food, how it needs to change, and why.

Yoga and the Quest For the True Self.  I really loved this book. I read it after diving into yoga for the first time in my life. I was eager to explore the philosophy of yoga and this was a great introduction to the topic of yoga as a catalyst for change and personal growth. I loved it enough to buy a copy, which only happens once or twice a year.

But What If We’re Wrong?, Chuck Klosterman. I found this on the new non-ficiton shelf at the library and picked it up. The first two essays didn’t do it for me and I almost gave up on the book but I kept going and I am SO glad I did. There is nothing I believe in more than challenging what I believe in, and that is what this book does. It’s a collection of essays that attempt to cast doubt on things we think we know to be true, and it does a great job of reminding us how stupid we all are.

The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones.  An amazing look at the rise and fall of the Religious Right and the end of the era of White Christians as a voting block than can win elections. I read this before Trump was elected and I’ve been thinking about whether the entire book is now not as right on as I thought it was or what. But it is still amazing and still discusses religion and politics in a way that is important, neutral, and fascinating.


One sentence recaps:

An Abbreviated Life. Toxic, narcissist mom ruins everything and blames it on daughter.

Love Warrior: Finding yourself and embracing the deep vulnerability of love.

A Mother’s Reckoning. Depression and suicide can happen in any family and be completely invisible to you.

Switched On. A man with Asperger’s briefly experiences the lifetime of emotions he never felt.

Poser, My Life In Twenty-Three Yoga Poses. Yoga can help you deal with you dysfunction hippie parents.

Finding God In the Waves. Southern Baptist to Atheist to Mystic conversion story.

An Altar In the World. God is out there in nature.

You can see all the books I read this year on GoodReads. For next year, I will probably aim for 100 books again as that seems about the right amount for me. I’m considering spending the money to join the metro Nashville library system so I have more options. $50.00 a year is worth it if it saves me from buying stuff.

I will continue to read Enneagram books as I am able to buy them. I buy physical copies of all of those because I reference them ALL THE TIME. In fact, we are moving in a couple of months, so about 2 months ago I packed away most of our books. But I had to go back into the boxes and dig out my Enneagram books because I use them so much! The newest book on the Enneagram came out a few months ago and is a great introduction. Here it is:

Happy New Year and happy reading! 

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