What I Read This Month: June 2020

Books Gretchen has read

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.

June 2020 Reading:

A few special notes from June: In episode 277 of the Happier podcast, I talk about my decision to have the Summer of Black Authors (and postpone my Summer of Virginia Woolf to the Autumn of Virginia Woolf). Each week on the podcast for the summer, I have a segment called “Spotlight on a Black Author.” Of course, I’m reading books by many additional Black writers as well, as you’ll see in the list below, and I’m also working to educate myself more on issues of racial equality and criminal justice through reading.

If you have any great reading suggestions for me, send them my way! Though I must say my to-be-read pile is getting alarming. Especially now that my library has opened for pick-up.

Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected by Nnedi Okorafor (Amazon, Bookshop) — Elizabeth and I chose this short, thought-provoking memoir for our Instagram Live book club. I’m also a big fan of Okorafor’s adult and young-adult fiction.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (Amazon, Bookshop) — A classic that I wanted to re-read. Fortunately, I already owned it, because it’s sold out everywhere.

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds (Amazon, Bookshop) — Coretta Scott King Honor book, National Book Award finalist, NPR Best Books of 2019. A great children’s book with an interesting structure: each chapter is about a different child or set of children walking home from school.

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin (Amazon, Bookshop) — A haunting novel. I can’t get it out of my head.

White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism by Kevin M. Kruse (Amazon, Bookshop) — An illuminating look at the history of Atlanta.

The Changes: A Trilogy by Peter Dickinson (Amazon, Bookshop) — Peter Dickinson, how I love his work. The twist at the end of the unusual dystopia trilogy made it all worthwhile.

New Kid by Jerry Craft (Amazon, Bookshop) — Newbery award winner — I don’t often read graphic novels, and I really enjoyed this one about the challenge of being the new kid at school

Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick (Amazon, Bookshop) — A re-read. I love reading about time, and this is one of my favorites.

All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf by Katharine Smyth (Amazon, Bookshop) — I read this as preparation for my Summer (now Autumn) of Virginia Woolf. An interesting take on a memoir.

The Tears of the Salamander by Peter Dickinson (Amazon) — More Dickinson. He doesn’t have many more novels for me to read! Though I can switch to his adult fiction.

The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care by Anne Boyer (Amazon, Bookshop) — A powerful memoir of cancer—the subtitle says it all.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games novel) by Suzanne Collins (Amazon, Bookshop) — I love The Hunger Games, and I love Machiavellian characters, and I really enjoyed this prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy.

Deacon King Kong by James McBride (Amazon, Bookshop) — Oprah’s Book Club Pick. A wonderful, sprawling novel with lots of engaging character and suspense about why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (Amazon, Bookshop) — Coretta Scott King award, Newbery Honor, NPR Best Books of 2017. An interesting main character grappling with the reality and idea of “opportunity.”

Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life by Christie Tate (Amazon, Bookshop) — I love reading about other people’s therapy, so was fascinated by this account of unconventional group therapy and its life-changing consequences (in galley).

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — OCTAVIA BUTLER, HERE I COME. I loved these stories, so thought-provoking. Butler has been on my reading list forever, and now I plan to read several this month.

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble (Amazon, Bookshop) — I spend a fair amount of time with tech people, and the subject of the injustice of algorithms comes up a lot, so I was interested to read more deeply on this important subject.

Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby (Amazon, Bookshop) — Although I know nothing about basketball, like many people, I loved the documentary series Last Dance, and I became very intrigued by the character of Michael Jordan—and particularly, trying to figure out his Tendency. So I read this biography, which didn’t shed much light on that question. I think Jordan is either an Upholder or a Rebel, and I can’t tell which! What do you think?

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (Amazon, Bookshop) — Named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, CNN, etc. A beautiful, thought-provoking book—and a page-turner. It would make a great book club book, especially for a spirituality book group. What is mercy, what is justice?

Spirits That Walk in Shadow by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Amazon) — A re-read. I love, love, love Hoffman’s work.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams (Amazon, Bookshop) — Coretta Scott King award, Newbery Honor, NPR Favorite Book, Kirkus Best Middle Grade. Powerful, haunting, about many things. I was particularly interested in the main character’s complex, deep love for her difficult father.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Amazon, Bookshop) — I don’t read mysteries very often, but this unusual double (or is it triple?) novel of mysteries was super-enjoyable.

A Walk Out of the World by Ruth Nichols (Amazon) — A re-read. This was a book I read when I was very young, a classic fantasy.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (Amazon, Bookshop) — Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist. An indomitable character dealing with extremely difficult circumstances.

My Brother by Jamaica Kincaid (Amazon, Bookshop) — I sense a Jamaica Kincaid kick coming on. A short, compelling memoir of her brother and her family, and a meditation on how and why their lives turned out so differently.

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon (Amazon, Bookshop) — Best Book of 2018 by New York Times, NPR, New York Times critics, etc. I loved this memoir—interestingly, it takes the form of an address to his mother, with whom he had an extremely difficult if fundamentally loving relationship. It’s a page-turner about so many things. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Mom, the Wolf Man, and Me by Norma Klein  (Amazon) — A problem novel from the 70s! Need I say more? It holds up well.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. by Samantha Irby (Amazon, Bookshop) — I love Samantha Irby’s essays. Hilarious.

Negroland by Margo Jefferson (Amazon, Bookshop) — National Book Critics Circle award, New York Times Notable Book, Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, etc. A memoir with an unusual structure about race, identity, privilege, family, and many other things

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (Amazon, Bookshop) — Named one of the Best Books of the Year by the New York Times, NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, etc. Outstanding, brilliant, hilarious, profound memoir of his childhood in South Africa. Trevor Noah is a remarkable person.

Time Travelers, Ghosts, and Other Visitors by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Amazon) — Re-reading Hoffman (see above) made me look to see if I’d missed any books by her, and fortunately, I found this book of short stories.



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Interested in happiness, habits, and human nature?

Sign up for our weekly newsletter “5 things making me happy”.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.