One of my goals for 2019 is to read more. In fact, I’ve almost completely replaced television with books.
For me, books are a more immersive experience, and they share so much more information and entertainment than television. A friend and I were discussing this the other day, and she helped me pinpoint something I’ve sort of noticed recently. Because I’m reading more often, TV is actually a little boring to me now – almost like there’s not enough to keep my mind stimulated.
It sounds weird, but it’s true.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are definitely times when I just want to watch a silly show and zone out for a bit, but books have become my primary source of escapism.
Having said that, here are 10 books I read last month, along with a little review for each one.
The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better
Author: Gretchen Rubin
I enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t exactly revelatory for me.
The book is primarily about motivation. The author believes that each person falls into one of four different categories when it comes to motivation. You’re either influenced by internal factors, external factors, neither, or both.
To be honest, I couldn’t really connect with any of the types in the book. When I took the quiz, my results were clearly “The Questioner,” which may explain why I didn’t love the typing system she uses. (She states that Questioners typically question the validity of everything, including her system.)
Gretchen Rubin and I are clearly very different people, though I’ve enjoyed her other books. And, while this one was an interesting read, I just didn’t feel like I learned anything from it.
I don’t feel like I am influenced by internal or external factors, but it’s not because I’m a Rebel, as she supposes. Instead, I believe laziness is the true culprit.
I also don’t love the fact that she created a personality typing system without using any scientific research to back up her claims. That sounds incredibly critical of me, but I’m just being honest. It seems like she just arbitrarily assigned people to her four categories.
I also wonder if we should consider her an expert on motivation since she admits that she has never struggled in this area herself. Though perhaps that’s a little too critical of me.
Overall, this book was a 3-star for me: I’m glad I read it, but I wouldn’t read it again and didn’t feel like it offered much value. However, I’ve heard that many other people enjoyed it, so maybe you should give it a try, too.
Author: Rick Bragg
I absolutely love Rick Bragg’s books. Born and raised in Alabama, he’s a true Southerner at heart, and he writes like it.
His family was dirt poor and struggling throughout his childhood, yet pride and community connected them. Reading his books is like coming home to your grandma’s house – if your grandma was a Southerner, of course.
Believe it or not, this is probably my least favorite of his books, though I still give it a solid four.
It’s a detailed account of the day-to-day life of cotton mill workers before, during, and after The Great Depression. Because his hometown literally revolved around the cotton mill, the story is mostly created from his own memories as well as the stories of his loved ones.
It’s certainly an interesting book; I just prefer his other books, which focus on the home and personal lives of his family.
I got some strong The Grapes of Wrath vibes from this book, so if you enjoyed that book, you might like this one, too – though it’s much shorter and an easier read overall.
Author: Brian Tracy
In fact, though I borrowed it from the library, I actually bought a copy as soon as I finished reading it the first time because I knew I would want to reference it again and again.
The information isn’t exactly new. In fact, I’ve heard most of it over and over again. But it’s presented in a way that feels fresh and engaging. It’s literally packed full of practical advice with very little fluff – though the author does provide motivational quotes to help support his material.
Maybe it’s because I wasn’t expecting much or maybe it’s because I prefer straightforward advice from my self-help books, but this may be my favorite productivity book so far. (And I’ve read a lot of them.)
I read this book in just a couple of hours, and I applied its principles immediately. I made a plan for the following day, and I executed it perfectly.
Starting the next morning, I tackled a task I’d been procrastinating for months. And the rest of my day felt so much lighter! In fact, it’s had a lasting impact. After tackling a few of my biggest, looming tasks, I’ve felt much less stressed and anxious ever since.
I finished the book roughly a month ago, and my “to do” list still feels manageable today. So, I count that a win.
The only thing I dislike about the book is the title. “Eat That Frog” is kind of a silly name for a book, but I’m guessing he was hoping to grab attention (and was probably effective). It comes from a quote by Mark Twain, whom I love, but it still feels a bit off-putting to me. But I could definitely be in the minority there, and it’s a small negative about a book I overall enjoyed.
Author: Rick Bragg
This was my second Rick Bragg book of the year, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than The Most They Ever Had. I still didn’t love it quite as much as my first Rick Bragg book, All Over But the Shoutin’, but it was good enough to warrant five stars on my scale.
This one is an account of his father’s life. Because the author and his father had a rocky relationship at best, it’s eye-opening and somewhat poignant to see him struggle with portraying his father in a somewhat positive light, even though he abandoned his children in the end.
I really enjoy stories that show people from more than one angle. No one is all good or all bad, so it feels incredibly true-to-life when a story features a “real” primary character, with flaws and all.
There were moments in this book when I hated his father and other moments that nearly made me cry with sympathy.
Overall, it’s a great story (and not nearly as depressing as you might assume, considering the subject matter). Rick Bragg has a gift for bringing levity to almost any situation, and he doesn’t disappoint here.
Authors: Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
I wanted to love this book because if I did, I could knock out a year’s worth of work in just a few months. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Unfortunately, I only gave it three stars, and if I’m being honest, I originally planned to give it just two.
There were a few problems that caused my low review:
- There isn’t much information in the book at all.
- The book is geared towards working professionals, specifically managers and CEOs (but oddly enough, it’s not helpful for entrepreneurs unless you work with a team of other professionals).
- Most of the information and advice isn’t new or especially helpful.
- There’s a lot of repetitive information.
- After reading the whole book, the process for accomplishing 12 months of work in 12 weeks still isn’t clear to me.
I bumped my review from a two to a three somewhere towards the middle of the book because the advice got a bit better. Still, I’m struggling to remember anything from the book at all, which makes me think maybe I should have stuck with my “two” rating after all.
I don’t think I can recommend this book, which makes me sad because the title seems so promising.
I’m reviewing these two books together because they’re both parts of The Bible.
I’m following “The One Year” reading program my church offers through their app, which features roughly one or two chapters per day from the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.
It feels odd to review books of the Bible, but I do actually have a few things to say.
I much prefer Genesis to Exodus. Genesis is full of interesting stories, while Exodus starts out promising but eventually starts sounding more and more like Leviticus, which is by far my least favorite book of the Bible (it’s nothing but legalese).
However, I do enjoy most of Exodus. It’s only when they start discussing the dimensions of various aspects of the Tabernacle that I begin to lose interest a bit.
Matthew is one of the three Synoptic Gospels, meaning they tell the same stories from different points of view.
I’m pretty far into Mark now, too, and I can definitely tell some differences in the writing styles.
Matthew is more illustrative and detailed with his writings, and he also paints a bit of an artistic picture with all of his stories. Mark, by contrast, is more straightforward and less immersive.
I love both books, and I can’t choose a favorite. It’s important to see things from multiple perspectives, and I’m eager to read John to see how it compares as well.
I love reading about Jesus’ life because the stories show him for who he was: a being who was truly part God and part man.
Author: Marie Kondo
Okay, I’m going to make a confession here: I’m not sure I read all of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’ve been implementing the KonMari method all over my home, so it’s probably surprising that I haven’t read the whole book, but I do have plans to read it (again?) soon.
However, while I can’t remember much of substance from the first book and am not even sure I finished it, the second book was pretty helpful.
It offers quite a bit of guidance for your tidying journey. While I don’t agree with all of it, it’s nice to at least understand the author’s motivations. For example, she gives her one exception to the “spark joy” rule (valuables, in case you’re wondering). There are a few other little tidbits that I found helpful and enlightening.
If you’re planning to do the KonMari method anytime soon, I recommend this book. I ranked it a five because it’s fairly practical. If you’re not going to “tidy up” soon, then it probably won’t be much use to you.
Author: Rick Bragg
I didn’t realize I read three Rick Bragg books in one month, but it is what it is.
This one was by far my favorite of all the Rick Bragg books I’ve read so far.
Warning, though: It will make you hungry.
The book is a dedication to the art of Southern cooking. It’s a journey through the lives of Rick’s great-grandfather, grandmother, and mother, as well as a few other family members, as seen from the kitchen table.
At least one recipe accompanies each and every chapter, and you may feel tempted to try several of them. (Some of them are less appealing, like the one with pigs’ feet or possum.)
If the food alone isn’t enough for you, it’s also got a healthy dose of Mr. Bragg’s dry wit and Southern imagery. I, personally, love it all, and I highly recommend this book. It’s light-hearted enough to make you laugh while also staying true to the plight of the truly poor during the Great Depression.
If you don’t have a Southern mama or grandma who can fix you some beans and cornbread for dinner tonight, this is the next best thing.
My Reading Challenge
Thanks to my husband’s encouragement, I originally started this year with a goal to read 75 books. However, the more I read, the less I care about the number and the more I read for reading’s sake.
I’ve already finished 30-something books this year, so I’m sure I’ll hit my original goal, but that doesn’t feel important. I just love reading, learning, and hearing different stories and viewpoints from different people.
If you’d like to follow along with my reading journey and maybe share some of your own books and reviews, we can be friends on Goodreads. You can find my profile here.
I’ll probably bump up the reading speed in March because I have a backlog of books at the library. I’ve waited months for several of these titles, so it’s kind of a “read ’em or lose ’em” situation.
I can’t make any promises about which ones I’ll finish, but my current list includes:
- Robin by Dave Itzkoff
- Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg
- Time Management by Brian Tracy
- Rising Strong by Brené Brown
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
- Choose Joy by Kay Warren
- Jesus on Trial by David Limbaugh
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- The Enneagram by Helen Palmer
- Principles of the Enneagram by Karen A. Webb
You’re welcome to read with me or come back here next month for my reviews. If you’d like more book reviews, click the links below: