What I Read This Month: February 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.

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.

February 2021 Reading:

A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros (AmazonBookshop) — Winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction. A wonderful, eclectic collection of autobiographical essays.

How to Feel: The Science and Meaning of Touch by Sushma Subramanian (Amazon, Bookshop) — I love to learn about the power of our sense of touch. Fascinating.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (Amazon, Bookshop) — Newbery Medal and Golden Kite Award for Fiction. I’ve been meaning to read this esteemed novel for years. Thought-provoking. It had a hint of the supernatural, which I loved.

The Stone Book Quartet by Alan Garner (Amazon) — Phoenix Award from the Children’s Literature Association. An interesting novel about a place through time.

The Voice That Thunders by Alan Garner (Amazon) — More Alan Garner—essays, this time.

Dreamtigers by Jorge Luis Borges (Amazon, Bookshop) — Very brief fiction, essays, and aphorisms. I skipped the poems.

The 18th Emergency by Betsy Byars (Amazon) — Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award. I love the work of Betsy Byars but somehow had never read this one, about a boy who’s running away from the 18th emergency—a bully who has promised to beat him up.

Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly (Amazon, Bookshop) — Extremely interesting essays.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Amazon, Bookshop) — A re-read. Of everything I’ve ever read, I may love its ending more than the ending of any other novel: “Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.”

Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (and How Anyone Can Harness It. Even You.) by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas (Amazon, Bookshop). In episode 314 of the Happier podcast, Elizabeth and I interview the authors about why and how humor can make us more effective at work at in life.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (Amazon, Bookshop) — 2020 National Book Award finalist for fiction, 2020 Story Prize finalist, longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. I don’t read short stories very often, but heard so much good buzz about this collection that I couldn’t resist. Wonderful. My favorite story was “Dear Sister.”

String Too Short to Be Saved: Recollections of Summers on a New England Farm by Donald Hall (Amazon, Bookshop) — My daughter Eliza was assigned this memoir in a college class, and she loved it so much she emailed her professor to thank him for putting it on the curriculum. So of course I had to read it. Beautiful, quiet, elegiac—a portrait of a time that has gone.

The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of a Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer, Matthew L. Jockers (Amazon, Bookshop) — The authors analyze the elements of bestselling novels, and arrive at some surprising conclusions. Fascinating.

You’re Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility by Annabelle Gurwitch (Amazon, Bookshop) — Hilarious and poignant essays about the challenges of mid-life.

The Life in the Studio by Nancy Hale (Amazon) — An interesting book about growing up with two artist parents. On one of my daily visits to the Met, I visited the painting “Celia’s Arbor” by Hale’s mother, Lilian Westcott Hale (see below).

What are you reading lately?



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