What I Read This Month: May 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.

May 2020 Reading:

Wondering how I’m managing to get books from the library these days? When I began to suspect that the library would close, I checked out a giant stack and am still working my way through it.

The Warden’s Niece by Gillian Avery — I came across a mention of this book in a discussion of older children’s literature. I really enjoyed it.

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang — I LOVE THE WORK OF TED CHIANG. Run, don’t walk! How I wish that he’d written twenty books. I don’t usually read short stories, and I loved these. Beautifully written, thought-provoking, original. (See below as well.)

The Man in the Empty Boat by Mark Salzman — Very thought-provoking; a short memoir about many things. I just re-read Salzman’s novel Lying Awake. There’s a particularly beautiful exchange between a therapist, a father-in-law, and the husband of a woman who is dying.

The Stone Table by NW Clark (a/k/a Francis Spufford) — My friend Laura Miller wrote a Slate piece, “There’s an Eighth Chronicle of Narnia, and Now Is the Perfect Time to Read It.” Her piece explains that acclaimed writer Francis Spufford, who has loved C. S. Lewis’s seven Narnia books since childhood, wrote an eighth book of his own, The Stone Table. Only 75 copies of this book exist, and Spufford gave one to Laura. The minute I read her piece, I emailed her to beg to borrow the book. And she mailed it to me! I feel like the luckiest person in the world.  It was delightful to be back in Narnia with Digory and Polly; the book even uses the same font that I know from my battered, ancient Narnia set. Of course, it’s not quite the same as Lewis’s books, but it’s awfully satisfying.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett — I loved this book, and so did my sister Elizabeth, so we chose it as the next book for the Happier Podcast Book Club. Read all about the novel here.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang — MORE TED CHIANG. How I wish there were more. I loved this set of stories too. (See above.) Brilliant.

The Thursday Kidnapping by Antonia Forest — This work of children’s literature takes place in one day and is intensely stressful, but interesting.

Bloomability by Sharon Creech — I’ve loved other books by Sharon Creech (Walk Two Moons, Absolutely Normal Chaos) and was happy when my children’s-literature book group picked this book, because I’ve wanted to read it for a long time. Swiss boarding school! Need I say more?

The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness by Emily Anthes — Ever since I wrote Happier at Home and Outer Order, Inner Calm, I’ve been particularly interested in how our spaces influence our happiness and health. And actually, that’s a big issue in Better Than Before, as well. Fascinating subject.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris — Elizabeth and I chose this book for our Instagram Live Book Club. Hilarious. My favorite line: “Is them the thoughts of cows?” Makes me laugh every time.

Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language by Robin I.M. Dunbar — An absolutely fascinating look at human behavior, social connection, and language. A pleasure to read, too. If you’ve heard of “Dunbar’s number,” it’s explained here.

Marbles by James Guida — Aphorisms. Can’t get enough.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith — This is a charming novel, perhaps described as a slightly absurd take on a Jane Austen story? But also darker. A re-read.

Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind by Matthew Hurley, Daniel C. Dennett, Reginald B. Adams Jr. — For my book about the body and the senses, I’ve been reading about humor. (The connection makes sense when I explain it.)



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