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The Books I Read This Year – February 2015

The Books I Read This Year – February 2015

In 2015, I will be sharing monthly the books I’ve read in the past month as well as the books I’m planning to read in the current month. My goal is to read or listen to 100 books in 2015. In 2014, I listened to and read approximately 60 books, so this is a stretch goal!

I finished six books in February and am halfway through a seventh book. I am hoping that my pace will pick up during the summer when I have a lot more free time and don’t have to go to bed at 9:00. I found last summer that I read for about an hour every morning, which is a big jump up from the 20 minutes I am currently reading five mornings a week. I devote the morning session to non-fiction when I have the highest levels of concentration and read fiction before bed. So, between the morning and evening as well as an audio book in the car, I am reading about three books at any given time.

Small Move, Big Change – Caroline Arnold

Caroline Arnold - Small Move, Big Change

I thoroughly enjoyed Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently by Caroline Arnold and was able to implement some of the strategies described in the book immediately. Arnold’s theory is similar to those we’ve heard many times before – big sweeping resolutions fail and goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. But, she goes on to say that we should reduce all of our bigger goals, like lose weight or exercise more or be on time, to a tiny small action that we can commit to doing every day. In order to be successful at larger goals, we should analyze our habits and actions and figure out exactly where we’re getting tripped up. Then we can address each of these smaller areas one at a time. I plan to share more about how I’ve used this book in my own life in another post.

If you liked The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg but struggle with how to implement new habits in your life, this book might help you make some real progress.

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins - The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was a popular recommendation for readers who enjoyed Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I never read Gone Girl, but I enjoyed the movie, so I thought I would give it a try. The narrator of the story is Rachel, a divorced alcoholic who is also unemployed and possibly obsessed with her ex-husband, his new wife and their baby daughter. As she rides the train back and forth to London on her morning commute, she can see the back yards of not only her husband and his wife but other homes in the neighborhood and creates a fictional life for one couple, in particular.

I won’t give away any of the details of the story, but I will say that the ending has a twist, which I suspected about two-thirds into the book. Still, I didn’t envision just exactly how it would play out, so I found the finale to be satisfying. I did have trouble empathizing with Rachel because she seemed a touch crazy and more than a little pathetic and delusional. But, in the end, I was left wondering if this interpretation of her was colored by her interactions with the other characters and not entirely the truth.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife – Edith Hahn Beer

Edith Hahn Beer - The Nazi Officer's Wife

The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust by Edith H. Beer is a memoir of the Holocaust. Beer grew up Jewish in Austria and survived the war by hiding in plain sight and assuming the identity of a Gentile friend, eventually marrying a German man. I am fascinated by all of the varying stories that have emerged from such a terrible time and appreciate each one for its uniqueness. I found this account to be written very plainly with little embellishment, but the style fit both the author and the story.

What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot is the third book I’ve read by Liane Moriarty (also Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret). Moriarty’s writing style is lighter than I usually prefer, but I enjoy her characters and stories as well as the subtle backdrop of contemporary Australian culture. I finished this book in around three days and would have read it more quickly if I’d had a little more time to devote to it.

This particular story centered on Alice, a 39 year old stay at home mother, who hits her head during a spin class and wakes up thinking she’s 29 with no memory of the past ten years – including her children or her impending divorce. I thought that the last third of the book was by far the best as Alice begins to figure everything out, and we find out that maybe there are two sides to every story. I was less fond of the parallel story lines involving Alice’s older sister, who suffers from infertility, and her adopted grandmother.

The Pecan Man – Cassie Dandridge Selleck

The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck was on my Amazon recommendations list, where I typically find many of the books I read, and it was on sale. I thought that this book could have been really interesting, but in the end, I felt it was a bit boring and flat. I think I was expecting more of a thriller or just a little more mystery, but all of the mysteries were revealed in the beginning, leaving me to wonder about the point of the novel.

Mastery – Robert Greene

I started listening to the first chapter of Mastery by Robert Greene (Audio) before the holidays and finally finished it last week. I had a hard time getting into the audio, but once I did, I found it well worth it. This was the first book I’ve read by Greene, and from the Amazon reviews, it looks like I probably should have read his other works first before attempting to write a review of this one.

Mastery follows my ideal formula for non-fiction: principles illustrated with anecdotes and real world examples. For every idea Greene tries to communicate about how to achieve mastery in life, he follows through with the story of a historical figure (Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci, Marcel Proust, Wolfgang von Goethe) or a contemporary master such as Paul Graham or Temple Grandin. I found these stories fascinating and thought that the way Greene wove together his instructional points with these anecdotes to be smooth and seamless. I will probably go back and read the Kindle version so I can highlight it and really absorb the content.

Book List for March

This list is a work in progress.

Total books read so far in 2015: 10.

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