I started this year with the goal of reading twelve books — a book per month. While I was not able to keep up with that aspirational pace, I did manage to get quite a few books in. And so without further ado, here’s my take on the books I’ve read this year.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The reason I decided to read this book is actually kind of silly but I ended up loving the book so much that, quite frankly, I don’t even care. You see, I’m a quote junkie. I have an entire board on my Pinterest dedicated to quotes I like. One day, a few years ago, I came across the quote to the right. It really spoke to me and once I found out that it was from Steinbeck’s East of Eden, I decided right then and there that I would read it.
The book is essentially a re-enactment of the Book of Genesis — particularly the fall of Adam and Eve and the fallout between Cain and Abel.
I’m the kind of person who likes to underline sentences or quotes that make me take a pause from my reading and reflect for a moment. By page two, I had already decided against that because if I were to do that, the book would be almost entirely underlined. I felt such a deep connection with so many of the characters because of how much their internal battles and struggles resembled my own. I was also incredibly impressed with all of the insight Steinbeck gives into the human psyche throughout this book. That being said, I do wish there were more multidimensional female characters because the main female character in this book — who represents Eve — is just straight-up evil.
I do plan on rereading this book several times throughout my life and I think it’s safe to say that it has already become one of my all-time favorite books.
Paper Girls Volume #1 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang
Okay, so this one is not technically a “book” — it’s a comic book and it was recommended to me by my friend who has basically recommended the majority of the books on this list.
I’ve not really had much exposure to the comic book medium since the only graphic novel I’ve ever read was Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (also great, would definitely recommend).
I found this comic to be exceptionally confusing yet also quite intriguing. It’s about a group of newspaper delivery girls, time travel, and aliens. I think? Honestly, I would be surprised if anyone walked away from the first volume having any clue as to what’s going on in the plot. That being said, I think it was cool to see really complex, young female characters as the protagonists of a comic book which I hear is not all that common. I definitely plan on checking out the next volume.
Oh, and the artwork is really neat!
Between the World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates
This book was yet another recommendation by my friend (I wasn’t lying when I said he recommended most of the books on this list) who said it would be a good follow-up to Homegoing (which he also recommended). Ta-Nehisi Coates is being heralded as the James Baldwin of our generation. The book is part memoir, part letter to this son. In it, Coates essentially talks about what it’s been like for him to be a Black man in America. I found this book to be incredibly raw and honest.
I actually have started reading his new book, We Were Eight Years in Power because I liked his writing so much. I would also recommend Coates’ interview with Ezra Klein: listen here.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This was one of my favorite reads of this year. The novel traces the lineage of two half-sisters born off the Gold Coast in roughly modern-day Ghana in West Africa. One sister, Effia, is married off to a white man appointed by the British to govern the slave trade in the region, while her half-sister, Esi, gets sold into American slavery.
Gyasi gave herself an incredibly ambitious task in this book. She essentially had to show how the history of the Atlantic slave trade affected peoples’ lives across generations in a humanizing way — not just what laws and routes and policies existed in what years.
Aside from East of Eden, this is the other book off this list that I would highly recommend you read.
Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
This book was not really what I was hoping it would be. I got it assuming it was going to talk about practical applications and benefits of Buddhist philosophy. While it did contain some of that, it was mostly just very abstract and a little on the dry side. I have started reading Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment by Robert Wright and, so far, I am enjoying it and have found it to be more accessible than Buddhism Without Beliefs.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
I absolutely adore Aziz Ansari but I feel like I was kind of tricked by the marketing of this book. I was under the impression that it was going to be very research-based and that it would provide new insight into how modern relationships work. To me, it did not deliver on that promise.
I found lots of the information he provides in the book (people in larger cities tend to get married later in life now, texting has changed the way we communicate in relationships, the introduction of apps like Tinder has drastically changed the dating game, etc.) to be quite intuitive and not all that insightful. I will say that his section on how America is actually closer to Arab countries than European countries in terms of conservatism was actually really striking to me!
I personally really enjoy the topic of relationships, the institution of marriage, and the Romanticization of both of those since the ~1800s and it was what drew me to this book in the first place. Here are some resources that I would recommend if you’re also interested in any of those topics:
- How Romanticism Ruined Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jltM5qYn25w
- Esther Perel on Sexual Desire and Successful Relationships – Lewis Howes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLhMOr0AH8I&t=341s
- If the above podcast is too long, this talk is essentially an abridged version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa0RUmGTCYY
- Finding “The One”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejTBjX4Cu6Y
- Why You Will Mary The Wrong Person – Alain de Botton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCS6t6NUAGQ&t=475s
- How to Pick Your Life Partner – Part 1: https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/02/pick-life-partner.html
- How to Pick Your Life Partner – Part 2: https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/02/pick-life-partner-part-2.html
We’ve made it to the end of the list! I hope you found a couple of books to add to your list and don’t forget to leave your own recommendations below.
Happy New Year!