What I Read This Month: July 2020

Stack of books

For three 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’ve recently started tracking books I’ve read.

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

July 2020 Reading:

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (Amazon, Bookshop) — Short, gripping family story. Named one of Oprah Magazine‘s “Best Books of 2019,” and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Amazon, Bookshop) — I initially hesitated to read this book, because it’s written in verse—but I’m so glad I read it. Terrific. I love a twist. Winner of  the 2018 Newbery Medal and  2018 Edgar Award.

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston (Amazon, Bookshop) — Haunting. Stay tuned for an episode of “A Little Happier” about a passage from this memoir.

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat (Amazon, Bookshop) — Another great memoir, a family memoir. Winner of 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award and nominated for the National Book Award.

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (Amazon, Bookshop) — A strange, interesting novel, a sort of dark adult fairy tale.

My Garden (Book): by Jamaica Kincaid (Amazon, Bookshop) — I have no interest in gardening, but enjoy reading gardening books. And I love the work of Jamaica Kincaid. (By the way, that colon is part of the title.)

Kindred by Octavia Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — Octavia Butler! Slowly working my way through.

The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead (Amazon, Bookshop) — A Pulitzer finalist. Along with The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova (Amazon, Bookshop), this terrific book has inspired me to want to learn to play poker. Wish me luck.

The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars (Amazon, Bookshop) — Betsy Byars recently died, so I was inspired to reread one of her most celebrated novels. Winner of the Newbery Medal.

Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat by John McQuaid (Amazon, Bookshop) — So fun to read about the sense of taste.

The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson (Amazon, Bookshop) — A friend told me about this YA novel. If you liked House of Stairs (Amazon, Bookshop), you’ll like this, too. Very suspenseful. Teenagers, a boarding school, murder.

Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith (Amazon, Bookshop) — A beautiful memoir of growing up. It was a 2015 National Book Award Finalist.

Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) by Octavia E. Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — More Octavia Butler! An extremely interesting future world. Each of the three Xenogesis novels (see below) was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in the year it was published (1987, 1988, and 1989).

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (Amazon, Bookshop) — A very moving novel. Named as one of the best books of 2014 by The New York TimesThe Washington Post, NPR, and others.

Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis #2) by Octavia E. Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — And again, more Butler.

Imago (Xenogenesis #3) by Octavia E. Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — And yet more Butler.

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander (Amazon, Bookshop) — This memoir of deep love and early loss reminded me of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (Amazon, Bookshop) . (Personal note: I realized that the author’s brother was my TA (teaching assistant) in law school.) Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and named Best Book of the Year according to the New Yorker, NPR, and many others.

The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over by Jack Schafer and Marvin Karlins (Amazon, Bookshop) — A re-read. A very practical, interesting book.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (Amazon, Bookshop) — How I love this book! Wonderful. A reread.
Winner of the Newbery Medal.

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington (Amazon, Bookshop) — Gripping history, I couldn’t put it down. Winner of the Book Critics Circle Award.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Amazon, Bookshop) — An honest and open memoir of change.

The Theming of America: American Dreams, Media Fantasies, and Themed Environments by Mark Gottdiener (Amazon, Bookshop) — This is related to my upcoming book about the body and the senses. I do love a themed environment.

The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time by Joseph Mazur (Amazon, Bookshop) — I skimmed the more theoretical parts of this book, but the parts I read were very interesting.



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