December Books

January 9, 2018

I didn’t read as much as I’d hoped this month (just four books!) but I did complete my challenge to read 75 books in 2017, which is what I’m happiest about! The picture above has 3 because I was silly and let my mom take the last book home before I got a photo. Can’t win ’em all.

72. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

★★★☆☆

Lib Wright is an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle – a girl said to have survived without food for months – and soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

This one was weird. I held onto it for over a year before reading it (no particular reason, I just never got around to it) and I don’t think it was worth the wait. The writing is beautiful and the setting of the Midlands of Ireland in the 1800s is described so well, but I found it incredibly slow. The book dragged on for about 35% longer than it needed to. I did enjoy the moral issues raised and trying to figure out the mystery aspect of how on earth Anna would survive without food for months, plus the writing.

73. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

★★★★☆

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

I loved this book! It felt slow at the beginning and I didn’t know what to expect, but I ended up loving Eleanor’s character. Bits of it were very unexpected, and I found her really charming. I loved the way the book dealt with counseling – her experience of going to therapy felt really real and authentic. Bits of this are sad and heartbreaking, and then you turn the page and you’re laughing. Definitely recommend this one – and it’s going to be on my top books of 2017 for sure.

74. Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

★★★☆☆

How do we change?  Gretchen Rubin’s answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives. So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits? Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good.

This one was… fine? Nothing amazing (I much preferred The Happiness Project) and I feel like you can get most of what Rubin talks about from her weekly podcast (Happier with Gretchen Rubin). That said, it was a good non-fiction book that got me thinking about why I do the things I do and stopped me from getting as frustrated with others when they just can’t implement the habits they want to do already!

75. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

★★★★★

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

This started off really sad but I ended up adoring it. Ove turned out to be super sweet and lovable, with a lot of struggles that made him grumpy and lonely. I wouldn’t say this one is funny, but it’s well told and well written. From a writing perspective, it’s a great example of “show don’t tell” and a group of diverse characters all with their own backstory.

Total number of books in December: four
Number of fiction books in December: three
Number of nonfiction books in December: one
Total number of books this year: seventy five!!

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