January 26, 2017

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If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to read more, come join the totally low key online book club that Christy and I run, Beyond Words! It’s all on Goodreads. In February, we’re reading A Man Called Ove. If you want to join, click here. We’d love to have you.

Here’s how I kicked off the new year of reading:

what i read in january 2017 finding ithaka (1 of 1)

1. I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro

“I cannot express how important it is to believe that taking one tiny – and possibly very uncomfortable – step at a time can ultimately add up to a great distance.” – Tig Notaro, I’m Just a Person

In one year, Tig Notaro almost died from a bacterial infection called C.diff, lost her mother, got diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and went through a breakup.

A few days after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis and a week after losing her mother, Tig Notaro was slated to give a show. A stand up comedian, she couldn’t bring herself to give her usual jokes, so she spoke openly and honestly about what she was going through. Someone recorded it and Louis CK convinced her to sell it as an album. The album, Live (as in, live for today), was an overnight success.

This book is raw and beautiful and emotional and difficult. She talks briefly about her childhood and her parents but focuses mostly on that year and what she learned. I especially loved the last chapter of the book where she talks about how she has changed her life to reflect what she learned during that year. I feel like we are always talking about things we learn and what we want to change, but it’s hard to actually do it. She did it.

The book gets 5 stars for how beautifully written it is, for how incredibly honest and open Tig Notaro is, and for the sheer magnitude of what she endured. It is very difficult to read at some points because of how sad it is, but ultimately, it’s worth it. Highly recommend. I also recommend listening to Live first.

2. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

“Life is full of stories. Or maybe life is only stories.” – Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

This book is hard to describe because it is about so many things and there are a lot of different characters, but Ozeki does it all beautifully. Nao is a Japanese teenager who was raised in California but moves back to Japan with her family after her father loses his job. She is bullied by her entire school, including her teachers. She looks to her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun, for answers about life, while her father deals with depression. She writes about all of this in her diary.

Years later, the diary washes up on the shore of a small island in Canada. Perfectly preserved, the package also includes letters from her uncle who was a kamikaze pilot in WWII. A writer named Ruth finds the book and becomes immersed in Nao’s story, believing that this is part of the wreckage of the tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011. As Nao’s situation gets increasingly difficult, Ruth becomes worried about her and tries to figure out who this young girl is and what happened to her.

There are so many important topics and issues raised in they book. War, time, life, love, religion, identity, family – it’s all there. I learned a lot about Japanese culture, too. 5 stars – highly recommend to everyone.

3. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This was our January book club pick for Beyond Words. I’d been wanting to read this book for a long time. Daniel practically lives in his father’s bookshop. When he receives a book called The Shadow of the Wind, he tries to find more books by the author, Julián Carax, and quickly discovers that someone has been burning every single copy of every single book Carax has written. He goes on a mission to find out who is burning the books and gets involved with some bad people.

I thought that this book would be like Fahrenheit 451, but it was very different aside from the idea that books are burning.

This book has mystery, romance, and lots of twists and turns. Although I figured out part of the mystery early on, I still loved this book. It is very beautifully written and I think that if you are a book lover and/or a writer, you will especially love this book. It was a very slow read and I thought it was a little too long, but I still enjoyed it.

4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

“He says, “Every moment, every breath, contains a choice. But life is imperfect. We make the wrong choices. So we end up living in a state of perpetual regret, and is there anything worse? I built something that could actually eradicate regret. Let you find worlds where you made the right choice.” Daniela says, “Life doesn’t work that way. You live with your choices and learn. You don’t cheat the system.” – Blake Crouch, Dark Matter

In physics, there is the many-worlds theory that I’m not going to even try to explain. Thank you Wikipedia:

“Many-worlds implies that all possible alternate histories and futures are real, each representing an actual “world” (or “universe”). In layman’s terms, the hypothesis states there is a very large—perhaps infinite—number of universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but did not, has occurred in the past of some other universe or universes.” (From here)

Who would you be if you hadn’t gotten that first job? Perhaps there is an alternate reality where you are a writer instead of a nurse. Who would you be if you hadn’t married your spouse? If you hadn’t gone to work today? Would you be a different person if you had gone to Paris instead of the Caribbean for your honeymoon? What if you had slept one hour later today?

All of those little and big things make up who you are, and these are the kinds of questions that this book asks. The book also shows the agonizing things that could happen if we were able to find out the answer.

I loved this book but I also have mixed feelings about it. There were a few things towards the end that irked me, but overall it was a great story with some cool sci-fi. The one-sentence paragraphs annoyed me a little bit, but that style did keep the pace going fast. A good read if you like thriller/sci-fi or are just looking for something different. I literally could not put it down and stayed up way later than I wanted to reading it.

This book really made me think about all of the decisions I’ve made in my life and how different my life could be if I had just done one or two things slightly differently. I could be an entirely different person but I am so thankful that I am who I am.

5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

“She talked to me because we had the same chemicals in our blood: shame, anger, greed. Unjustified nostalgia.” – Gillian Flynn, Dark Places

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was much darker and more disturbing than Gone Girl, to me, but I was hooked from the beginning and couldn’t put it down. I was really intrigued by the initial premise. When Libby was 7, her entire family was murdered. She testified that it was her brother who did it, but years later, someone comes into her life who believes her brother was innocent and makes her question everything she thought.

I felt like I could sympathize with the main character, Libby, even though a lot of people seem to see her as unlikable. There are a lot of twists and turns and I only figured out small parts of it. The way that it was written from the perspective of multiple character was really interesting to me, switching back from the past to present. If you are a fan of thrillers, I highly recommend it. I think that Gillian Flynn is a fantastic writer and that her books are really well written, but I need a break after this one.

6. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

“Politics is ugly. Never doubt what small men will do for great power.” – Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl

Aside from that highly relevant quote, don’t bother to read this book. It was gross. I’m not even linking it to Amazon. I can definitly handle things that are messed up and hard to read, but there didn’t seem to be a point to any of it in the book. It left me feeling icky, and like I hadn’t gotten anything out of it.

So what have you read lately? Linkup with Christy and me!

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28 responses to “Books I read in January”

  1. Audrey says:

    Hmmm… A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki sounds really interesting! You read some pretty heavily, thoughtful books this time around! One of these months I promise I’m going to read the book for the book club! Promise!

    • Carolann says:

      Somehow I skipped my book reviews for December. December was a lighter month for me! Well, I read a couple of thrillers which were just fun and quick. I think that you would really enjoy A Tale for the Time Being! I’ve never read anything like that book. My book club in Hawaii read it this month and I’m excited to talk about it with all of them this weekend.

      Have you read A Man Called Ove? That’s what we’re reading in February for Beyond Words. And if you have any suggestions for books you might want to read for the book club let me know! We haven’t been getting many suggestions.

  2. Carly says:

    Shadow of the Wind was definitely a lot darker than I was expecting towards the end, and I agree with you that it seemed to be on the long side. The writing was so good and even though I had trouble following at times, he did such a good job bringing everything together in the end.

    • Carolann says:

      I was honestly wondering where this was going to go and I was a bit confused at some parts, but I loved the ending. I’m really glad I read this book even though I definitely had some issues with it. I hear that there are a few more books in this series that are currently being translated to English. I am curious to see what they are about!

  3. Jen says:

    I’ve heard amazing things about Dark Places, it is definitely on my list!

    • Carolann says:

      It’s sooo good! But it does get creepy and disturbing — just a warning! If you like thrillers like Gone Girl you will love this book.

  4. Emma says:

    *Gets out her kindle and goes a little order crazy*

  5. I’ve heard SO MANY good things about Dark Matter. I have it and I can’t wait to read it!

  6. Amanda says:

    I ended up just going and reading the synopsis of Dark Places online because I know I can’t read it but I wanted to know what it was about! I’m glad you liked it 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      Haha! Crazy story, right?! I want to know how people come up with these plots. I never would have thought that up. Even though I know what happens, I don’t think I could ever watch the movie version. For some reason these kinds of things are easier for me to read than watch.

  7. Duckie says:

    Wow, such interesting books! Definitely going to add some to my TBR list now!

  8. Christy says:

    I hadn’t heard of any of these, except The Shadow of the Wind! I’ll have to check out A Tale for the Time Being! What part of the mystery did you figure out in Shadow??

    • Carolann says:

      I think you would like A Tale for the Time Being. It’s a really weird, different kind of book. I knew who was really burning all the books, but I’m not sure if that was supposed to be obvious maybe? I am usually not good at guessing and I usually don’t try to guess, so maybe we were supposed to figure it out?

  9. Cait says:

    love this and def adding them to my book list! thanks my friend!

  10. I’m so sad that I didn’t get to linkup with y’all this month because I loved Shadow Of The Wind so incredibly much! We read it for my work book club as well, and we all couldn’t stop talking about it! It was so beautifully written and I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next! I definitely want to read more books from the series, and hopefully I’ll find the time to! I’m very excited for A Man Called Ove, and will hopefully get it soon!

    • Carolann says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the book anyway! I’ve been wanting to read A Man Called Ove for a while now so I am really excited it’s out next book.

  11. I’m in the middle of Dark Matter right now and it is HURTING MY BRAIN haha. But I’m enjoying it so far!

  12. Laura says:

    The only one of these I’ve heard of is Dark Places but I’m going to have to check some of the others out too!

    • Carolann says:

      Dark Places was sooo good! If you like thrillers I highly recommend it! I had never heard of A Tale for the Time Being until someone in my book club recommended it, but I think it’s one of my favorite books. It’s weird and different, but I liked it a lot.

  13. Sorcha says:

    You did really well on January reading. I’m definitely going to investigate some of these books more. I never have enough on my to be read list.

    • Carolann says:

      Me either! I currently have 6 books out from the library…. I am challenging myself to read them all before I have to take them back!

  14. I’ve always wanted to read A Tale for the Time Being and it’s been on my Bedside Table list forever!

    • Carolann says:

      Mandy, I think you would love it! I had never heard of it before my Hawaii book club decided to read it. I could not put it down and I learned so much about Japanese culture.

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