What I Read This Month: April 2021

Books Gretchen has read

For four years now, every Monday morning, I’ve posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads.

I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read.

As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

When I read books related to an area I’m researching for a writing project, I carefully read and take notes on the parts that interest me, and skim the parts that don’t. So I may list a book that I’ve partly read and partly skimmed. For me, that still “counts.”

If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my “Reading Better Than Before” worksheet.

You can also follow me on Goodreads where I track books I’ve read.

If you want to see what I read last month, the full list is here.

And join us for this year’s new challenge: Read for 21 minutes every day in 2021!

A surprising number of people, I’ve found, want to read more. But for various reasons, they struggle to get that reading done. #Read21in21 is meant to help form and strengthen the habit of reading.

April 2021 Reading:

Wystan and Chester: A Personal Memoir of W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman by Thekla Clark, James Fenton (Amazon, Bookshop) — I hunted down this memoir because in another book, I came across the anecdote that when W. H. Auden visited Bernard Berenson at I Tatti, he commented “how perfect everything was and how he longed to slip a satin pillow with ‘Souvenir of Atlantic City’ into the place.” So of course I had to look that up.

Beneficence by Meredith Hall (Amazon, Bookshop) — Best Book of the Year by Kirkus and BookSense, Elle’s “Readers’ Pick of the Year.” A friend gave this novel her highest praise. A solemn, thoughtful book about the nature of love, marriage, family, and perspective.

Life Is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance: Advice and Inspiration from the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame Coach of 7 NCAA Championship Teams by Valorie Kondos Field (Amazon, Bookshop) — Another recommendation from a friend. Elizabeth and I talked about an idea from this book, “Ask for a favor in the right way,” in episode 321 of the Happier podcast.

A Mathematician’s Apology by G.H. Hardy (Amazon, Bookshop) — Mary Karr recommended this memoir in her book The Art of Memoir (AmazonBookshop). A very unusual account of a vocation.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (Amazon, Bookshop) — 1985 Tanizaki Prize. My daughter Eleanor is on a serious Murakami kick, so I decided to re-read this one so we could talk about it. Such an interesting novel.

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov (Amazon, Bookshop) — Another re-read. A brilliant memoir, and so much about the five senses. Also recommended by Mary Karr.

The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan (Amazon, Bookshop) — I loved this book of essays.

Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary (Amazon, Bookshop) — Newbery winner. Read in honor of the late Beverly Cleary! So, so, so good. This novel is notable because it deals with Ramona’s father losing his job.

The Complete Greek Tragedies Vol. 3 by Euripides, edited by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore (Amazon) — I re-read one play, The Bacchae. I’d listened to an episode of the In Our Time: Culture podcast about the play, which made me want to re-read it. I’d forgotten how absolutely extraordinary it is. It extends out in every direction, without end.

Burn by Patrick Ness (Amazon, Bookshop) — I loved this young-adult novel: dragons, fate, prophecy, romance, courage, and more.

I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth (Amazon, Bookshop) — I’ve been thinking a lot about the sense of sound, so was very eager to read this account written by a friend.

The Dyer’s Hand by W.H. Auden (Amazon, Bookshop) — I loved these essays (except the ones that bored me, which I skipped).

Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan (Amazon, Bookshop) — More Amy Tan! I’m a fan.

James Baldwin: The Last Interview and Other Conversations by James Baldwin, Quincy Troupe (Amazon, Bookshop) — I’m a huge fan of the work of James Baldwin, and he’s also very interesting in interviews. This book collects some of the most notable.

The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester (Amazon, Bookshop) — 1996 Whitbread Book Award, 1997 Hawthornden Prize. A re-read. This is one odd, enjoyable novel! I highly recommend it, if you’re the kind of person who likes this sort of thing. And I can’t reveal exactly what kind of thing that is—spoilers. Also, lots about the five senses, especially taste and smell.

How Y’all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived by Leslie Jordan (Amazon, Bookshop) — A delightful book of essays by the exuberant Leslie Jordan. Elizabeth and I had a great time interviewing him in episode 322 of the Happier podcast.

Life After Deaf: My Misadventures in Hearing Loss and Recovery by Noel Holston (Amazon, Bookshop) — A fascinating account of how Holston coped with his sudden loss of hearing.

On Lighthouses by Jazmina Barrera (Amazon, Bookshop) — A thought-provoking series of essays on the subject of lighthouses (and much more).

The Words: The Autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre by Jean-Paul Sartre (Amazon, Bookshop) — An extremely unusual and compelling memoir. Very honest, in an unusual way. Or was it honest? Fascinating to contemplate.



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