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Friday, January 31, 2020

January Reading Challenge Update

Reading Challenge Update- January

These are the books I have read in January and my general impressions of them.
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The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking.  The Scandinavian concept of "hygge," which is roughly translated to mean cozy and comfortable, has always been appealing to me. When I saw this book sitting in Barnes and Noble one day a few years ago, I was immediately drawn in to the subject as well as the beauty and simplicity of the book itself. The author, Meik Wiking, is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and he has been studying  what things contribute to making Denmark the happiest country in the world. 
        I was recently writing to a penpal about my old apartment and how it didn't feel like "home" to me. I may have written about it on the blog before too. Based on this book, I think I would feel very at home in Denmark (and a lot of other Scandinavian countries.)  It talks about the fact that people like to just get together to be themselves and be comfortable- to share their time, food and fun. Nothing fancy many times, just good company and comfort- and candles, warm drinks and yummy foods- like cake. I just found myself reading this book and thinking, "Yes, I like that. That's what makes me feel like myself." I also realized that I have some pretty "hyggelig" places in my new house that I already love. This book includes ideas to make your home and places of employment a bit more hygge. It includes recipes and ideas of things to do. I enjoyed it a lot. If you like being casual and comfortable (with other people too), I'd recommend reading through this book.
The Orphan Train- by Christina Baker Kline. 2 good books in a row! Score. My friend Mary, who is in a book club with me, let me borrow this book. It tells the story of 2 women- Molly, a seventeen year old girl with a reputation who is in foster care, and Vivian, a 91 year old widow who lives alone with some hired help. When Molly is required to do some community service for stealing, her boyfriend hooks her up with a job to help clean out Vivian's attic. They begin to unpack the boxes and uncover some memories and similarities.
         Family history is a very interesting topic to me. I like to see where people come from and "what makes them tick." I had heard of the orphan train before but I definitely did not know all of the details. I've actually wondered if my great-grandfather might've been involved with something like this since it's impossible to find any records on him. I found myself relating a lot to the characters and in how they relate to other people.
A River Runs Again- by Meera Subramanian. In all honesty, I got this book from Goodreads a very long time ago, maybe 2015. I was behind on my reading so it went on my TBR shelf. I'm using this as my Keyword Reading Challenge book. The keyword was water, but it's okay to use things related to that word. This book was a slow read for me,but I enjoyed it very much. I don't know a lot about India, only what I've seen on the news, in papers or from friends. I am friends with a few Indian families and friends but have never experienced India myself.  Honestly, this book may lead to some interesting conversations with some of those friends. I regret not reading this when I got it because stats from 2015 will obviously be a little different now. (Hopefully for the better.) 
       This book was very informative. It brought up a lot of topics I have honestly never really thought of, or was just ignorant about. Some of those things had to do with water shortages in India (and how most of their yearly rain falls within 100 hours during monsoon season!), how different cultures dispose of their dead, the importance of vultures, pollution from cookstoves, how technological advances also have to be mindful of cultural practices, etc. It was kind of fascinating to me. With that being said, I would consider myself a nerd and I love to read. I struggled with some of the Indian names because I lack familiarity with them. In most cases I knew immediately what the author was explaining, but realistically, I didn't know if the name of a place or person might've had a larger significance than just a name. (For example, was a place names after a significant event in India or was there a symbolic meaning.) I like to read before bed and sometimes I needed more mental energy to be able to process everything than I had that night.

Hillbilly Elegy- by J.D. Vance- I suggested this book for my book club. I had heard some good things about it. Many people said it "was like Educated," which I hated, so I was hoping for good things. Basically, it tells of the author's experience growing up with his family. This family is not exactly what I would call functional, but there were definitely things that were relatable to me. In terms of good qualities- there were people in the family who were very loyal to one another, people who encouraged upward mobility and growing up to become something larger than people thought you might accomplish, and people who stepped up in times of need. On the negative side, there were dysfunctional relationships, addiction, poverty, and feelings of inadequacy just because of the life you were born into.
         Although many of the people in the book were pretty disturbing, I appreciate J.D.'s honest look at his life. So many people think that they "had a bad childhood" so there is no hope that they will be a functional human. Some people use their experiences as an excuse to not have to try in life. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that your past does not affect your life, but I'm not a believer that you are doomed forever or that someone know owes you something. I think what I liked about this book is that J.D. basically says "Here's my life" and shares both good and bad aspects and how those affected him as a person. Looking back, there are aspects of his life that he knows really affected him negatively, like his relationship with his mom, but also that there are many parts of his life that he appreciates and has shaped him as a person. I found it interesting to read about his experiences at Yale and not feeling like he fit in when he was with what his family (and maybe even himself) would consider "outsiders."
       I like books that explain why people are who they become. The author brings up some points about entitlement in America and a lack of work ethic, which I agree with. All in all, it was a good read. There was a lot of swearing with some of the "stereotypical hillbilly" people, which might be disturbing for many readers, but I think it was probably an accurate representation on who those people were in public as well as in private.

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The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell. Unfortunately, I have finally read a book during this year that I didn't enjoy. Although I'm usually okay with thrillers and suspense, this story did not pull me in at all. I didn't really like many of the characters and didn't particularly care about any of them. The victim in the story had a cool device on her wrist that looked like a watch that the cops were trying to figure out, but that was probably the most interesting part of the story to me. I finished it but it took way longer than I wanted to.

Goodreads Challenge 5/60
Keyword Reading Challenge 1/12.

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