Updated: Apr 7, 2019
Welcome to my first blog post! I once read that Mark Zuckerberg reads a book a week, and since then, I've challenged myself to do the same. I loved reading when I was a kid, but like most adults, lost interest (and time) to read as an adult. By taking on this self-imposed "Zuckerberg Challenge," I've reignited my love of both books and learning.
It took me a while to actually gain the stamina to read a book a week, but once I did, I became hungry for all sorts of different books all the time - hence the name of this blog! I really have become gluttonous in my book purchases and am constantly on the look out for the most intriguing new reads.
My hope with The Gluttonous Shelf is to share a little bit about how each book I read affects my life, and maybe encourage a few of you out there to take on your own "Zuckerberg Challenge." Whether you used to love reading before the responsibilities of adulting became overwhelming (**ahem, me, ahem**), or never had much interest in books but want to work on becoming a bibliophile, I hope this blog inspires you and maybe gives you some book recommendations.
Now, without further adieu, here are the books I read last month:
"Bad Blood" by John Carreyrou
"Bad Blood" describes the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, a now-defunct medical startup that was going to disrupt the healthcare industry as we currently know it. Due to her (and most people's) fear of needles, Holmes wanted to invent a device that could run hundreds of medical tests using a single finger prick. Just as Steve Jobs helped make computers more personal by moving them out of the office and into people's homes, Holmes hoped that her device, The Edison, would bring lab testing to people's homes, making the process more personal and less intimidating. But the problem was that The Edison didn't work - and Holmes knew it. Yet she continued promoting her device, speaking at TED Talks, landing on the covers of magazines like Time and Forbes, and building a board that included high powered men such as George Shulz and Henry Kissinger.
Carreyrou's book explores how the pressure to compete and win in Silicon Valley sometimes causes us to overlook the things that don't make sense. The story of Elizabeth Holmes is fascinating, and even though the details involved in blood testing can be complicated, the book was entertaining and intriguing. It also makes a great companion to the HBO documentary, "The Inventor."
"Daisy Jones & the Six" by Taylor Jenkins Reid
So good I read it in one day!
"Daisy Jones & the Six" tells the story of the sudden rise and even faster fall of the fictional rock band of the same name. The characters are straight out of your typical "Behind the Music" episode: Daisy is a young, beautiful woman who is a talented songwriter and singer without even trying. She's also a terrible drug addict, whose selfish exploits push everyone away and lead to awful decision-making.
Billy Dunne is (almost) what you'd expect from the lead singer of a rock band. He too is a talented songwriter, who cares more about the art than his own band members at times. He is capable of partying hard and running away from responsibility, but by the time he meets Daisy, he is a recovering addict, desperate to be a good husband and father while also creating one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
While the story could easily slip into another version of "A Star is Born," or dramatized version of the Fleetwood Mac story, Reid still manages to surprise you. The book is written in a documentary-style format, and just like human memory, some facts are disputed. While Billy and Daisy are our story's protagonist and antagonist, the supporting characters are still layered, complicated and interesting. There are even a few small but fascinating twists that change the story's mood.
Love and relationships can be complicated. Sometimes that's not all you need. And sometimes love isn't enough. Read "Daisy and the Six" before the miniseries airs on Amazon next year.
"Cherry" by Nico Walker - 1/5
So I hated this book. I wish there was another way I could say that. But I can't. Because I absolutely hated it. I read it because the New York Times listed it as one of the best books of 2018, and because the author, Nico Walker, is currently in prison for the same crimes as those committed by the protagonist in his book (however "Cherry" is a novel, not a memoir). As much as I tried, I just could not get over the misogyny and crudeness of .
"Cherry" is about a drug addict who goes to Iraq, comes back, and starts robbing banks to support his drug habit and new wife. And that's really it. There's not really much of the story to tell.
Obviously the guy is emotionally wounded from the beginning and obviously Iraq only made matters worse. He and his wife, Emily, are just as much addicted to each other as they are their drugs, and their dysfunctional relationship is the only thing keeping either of them going. Maybe because I'm a female and I like a good cause and effect situation, I really wanted to know why the main character (who is nameless, a la Prince in "Purple Rain") was so messed up. I also wanted some kind - any kind! - of resolution at the end of this. But neither of those things ever happen.
As I mentioned, this book is full of really crass language and descriptors, I suppose as a way to explain the main character's apathy and depression. But without any explanation of why the character was so unhappy, it was difficult for me to feel anything but disgust for him.
"The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin - 2/5 stars
So this may be blasphemous for someone who is trying to be a serious bibliophile, but I love a good self-help book. I will read anything claiming to help me live my best life. And as a new mom, who also works full-time, and is therefore constantly trying (and failing) to find some balance and sleep, I'm currently riding the self-help train more than ever.
Here's the thing: I wanted to like "The Happiness Project." Oftentimes books claiming to bring abstract things like "more happiness" or "more peace" into our lives are full of nontangible or unrealistic ideas (i.e. meditating for 90 minutes a day; another book I read a few weeks after I had my daughter suggested I keep my groceries in my neighbor's freezer). Rubin does a good job of making happiness seem actually attainable by setting a happiness goal each month, and then creating actionable steps to achieve each week in order to meet that monthly goal. This makes happiness actually seem possible. This is a good thing.
Now the bad: the book itself was fine. I think what I disliked was the author herself. One time I was watching Oprah and some expert was saying that the things you don't like about others are qualities you have yourself. I can admit that I didn't like Gretchen because she's too much like me. She's clearly a very Type A, organized person and I am too. But I don't want to read about someone who's as organized and uptight as me in my spare time. If anything, I need more tips on how to relax, and not new ways to fill up my calendar.
Also, the book is written from her standpoint, explaining what she did to achieve happiness. I get that the point is you can apply her formula to your own life, but it would have been nice if she was writing more externally, if nothing else because her life seems hard to relate to. Her "arguments" with her husband were laughable and usually ended with them embracing each other, which is nice and something we can all aspire to, its not really the norm. And while I would totally come up with a goal and actionable steps each and every month, I recognize that most people would not.
I think the point of "The Happiness Project" is to show us that happiness - just like marriage and parenting - is hard work. It's not so much a state of being - something that you just are or are not - but a choice, something you have to work hard for each and every day. Brene' Brown books espouse the same message, but in a much more realistic and humble way.
"The Immortalists" by Chloe Benjamin
This is a good example of a book that just did not live up to the hype. "The Immortalists" was on many "Best Of" lists last year, and a story about four siblings who find out the exact date of their deaths as teenagers, sounded fascinating.
Unfortunately, the story was predictable. I was actually surprised by the lack of inventiveness used for the first sibling's death. The second sibling death initially seemed exciting, but eventually whimpered out. The deaths of the last two siblings attempted to make up for the first two, but I was admittedly checked out by that point.
Similar to "Cherry," I found the sexual details off-putting and unessential to the story. In fact, I found them downright distracting.
I think "The Immortalists" was well written and a great idea. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it before all the accolades.
Rating: 2/5 stars
What your favorite books last month? If you've read any of the books above, what did you think? Leave your comments below!