What I Read This Month: March 2021

Books that 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.

March 2021 Reading:

Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp by Józef Czapski (Amazon, Bookshop) — I heard about this extraordinary book during an episode of a podcast I love, Backlisted, about Proust. I had my summer of Proust in 2019, and I’m very interested in Proust and his work.

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones (Amazon, Bookshop) — A compelling, honest, useful, and often very funny, call to courage.

Sensehacking: How to Use the Power of Your Senses for Happier, Healthier Living by Charles Spence (Amazon) — I’m writing a book about my five senses, so of course I loved this book!

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Amazon, Bookshop) — National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction 2021; Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020; Waterstones Book of the Year 2020. So many people told me to read this novel.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (Amazon, Bookshop) — Newbery Honor Award, the Horn Book Fanfare award, the ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults award, the ALA Notable Children’s Book award and the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults award. I love the work of Robin McKinley, and I assumed I’d read this book—but realized that somehow I missed it. Loved it, next will read its sequel, The Hero and the Crown (that one, I’ve already read, but a long time ago).

Notes on the Cinematographer by Robert Bresson (Amazon, Bookshop) — I do love aphorisms and proverbs of the professions, and this book is aphorisms of a cinematographer.

Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish (Amazon, Bookshop) — Iowa Reader Literary Award for Non-Fiction for 2007. My daughter Eliza recommended this book to me after she was assigned it for her college class. Wonderful.

The Actual by Saul Bellow (Amazon, Bookshop) — My mother-in-law often describes a person as a “first-class noticer” and finally I got curious about the phrase and decided to re-read the novel in which it appears.

The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton (Amazon, Bookshop) — I re-read this children’s novel that I hadn’t read since childhood. It’s always interesting to see how a book strikes me differently at different ages.

On Chapel Sands: The Mystery of My Mother’s Disappearance as a Child by Laura Cumming (Amazon, Bookshop) — Nominated for the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography; Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction; Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize; Longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. Originally titled Five Days Gone. Haunting, powerful memoir and a search for the truth about the past.

Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi, Joshua David Stein (Amazon, Bookshop) — I don’t cook, and I’m not a foodie, but I do enjoy books by chefs and by foodies. This is a fascinating account of getting a start in the extraordinarily intense and challenging world of the culinary.

They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell (Amazon, Bookshop) — A beautiful novel that I read in a single sitting. Appropriately for our own time, it takes place at the time of the influenza pandemic.

Dag Hammarskjold: Strictly Personal, A Portrait by Bo Beskow (Amazon) — An unusual, personal portrait of Hammarskjold, a figure who interests me.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey (Amazon, Bookshop) — Finalist for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. Thought-provoking, deeply moving memoir about confronting the facts of a painful past.

Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere by André Aciman (Amazon, Bookshop) — Nominated for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. I love essays, and loved this collection.

Here Is New York by E.B. White (Amazon, Bookshop) — I’ve probably read this essay five or six times. A beautiful tribute to New York City—and to the yearning that New York City inspires.

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore (Amazon, Bookshop) — A re-read. The story of a friendship.

Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life by Julianna Margulies (Amazon, Bookshop) — A page-turning account of the actor’s early life, which meant dealing with two very challenging parents.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (Amazon, Bookshop) — George C. Stone Centre for Children’s Books Award. Towering classic of world literature. So wonderful. If you haven’t read it since you were a child, re-read it.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (Amazon, Bookshop) — How I love the work of Naomi Novik! Now I’m counting the days until September when the next book in this trilogy will appear. An intriguing magical world, big cliff-hanger.

The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays by Simon Leys (Amazon, Bookshop) — Shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards; shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. In this collection, I read the essays on subjects that interested me–and those were fascinating.

Me Me Me Me Me: Not a Novel by M.E. Kerr (Amazon) — I’ve recently rediscovered the work of M. E. Kerr, and I loved this first-person account.

De Profundis by Oscar Wilde (Amazon, Bookshop) — Another re-read. Hmmm, I didn’t realize that this was a big month for re-reading. Anyway — Oscar Wilde! I love his work. This is the moving letter that he wrote from prison.

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr (Amazon, Bookshop) — A fascinating look at the memoir by a masterful writer.

This Is the Voice by John Colapinto (Amazon, Bookshop) — For my book about my five senses, I’ve been thinking a lot about talking, listening, and silence. I found this account fascinating.

Us by David Nicholls (Amazon, Bookshop) — winner of the the Specsavers “U.K. Author of the Year” award; longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. A terrific novel with great characters. Also, an interesting, subtle portrait of the Obliger Tendency, and how the world looks to an Obliger. (Don’t know about Obligers—or Upholders, Questioners, or Rebels? Read here.)

Witchmark by C. L. Polk (Amazon, Bookshop) — A fascinating magical world. When I finished, I learned that it’s the first in a trilogy. Wonderful.

Let’s Talk About Hard Things by Anna Sale (Amazon, Bookshop) — I’m a huge fan of the podcast Death, Sex, and Money, so of course I was eager to get my hands on this terrific book.



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