What I Read This Month: November 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 track books I’ve read.

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

November 2020 Reading:

Serpentine by Philip Pullman (Amazon, Bookshop) — This is a very short story about Lyra. I’m a huge fan of Philip Pullman’s work, and can’t wait until his next novel hits the shelves.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — Nominee for Nebula Award for Best Novel; a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Future, dystopia, extraordinary powers, vision of a new religion. Octavia Butler!

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Amazon, Bookshop) — This novel surprised and delighted me, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Didn’t See That Coming: Putting Life Back Together When Your World Falls Apart by Rachel Hollis (Amazon, Bookshop) — A book written right from the middle of this pandemic period.

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez (Amazon, Bookshop) — A thoughtful novel about friendship, mortality, and self-knowledge.

Metropolitan Stories by Christine Coulson (Amazon, Bookshop) — I love the Metropolitan Museum, and I love magical realism. A wonderful collection of stories that has made me look at many artworks with new eyes.

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel (Amazon) — Fairies in the Dust Bowl! That’s a match-up you don’t expect to see. But, I guess, there is Dorothy…

Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them by Karl Pillemer (Amazon, Bookshop) — A fascinating examination of family estrangement, which is far more common that you might think.

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones (Amazon, Bookshop) — Winner of the Kirkus Prize and the Stonewall Book Award. I read this memoir after I heard Saeed Jones’s fascinating interview on one of my favorite podcasts, Dani Shapiro’s Family Secrets.

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art by Joyce Carol Oates (Amazon, Bookshop) — Interesting look at writing and the writing life.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman (Amazon, Bookshop) — Nominated for the World Fantasy Award. How had I never read this book before? I loved it—I laughed out loud, and also appreciated its cleverness.

Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now by Maya Angelou (Amazon, Bookshop) — Short essays by Maya Angelou, great read.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (Amazon, Bookshop) — I do love a book written in the form of diary entries, and this is an interesting portrait of a character, a time, and a place.

What Men Live by and Other Tales by Leo Tolstoy (Amazon, Bookshop) — This is a short story in the form of a folk tale.

The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston (Amazon, Bookshop) — A re-read. Such a cozy, wonderful book. I do love a story with loving family ghosts.

Treasure of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston (Amazon, Bookshop) — More Green Knowe.

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America by Ibi Zoboi (Amazon, Bookshop) — Many of today’s most acclaimed young-adult writers contributed stories to this excellent collection.

Walking: One Step at a Time by Erling Kagge (Amazon, Bookshop) — A thoughtful, quiet, meditative book about the power of walking.

Autumn by Ali Smith (Amazon, Bookshop) — Man Booker Prize Finalist, long-listed for the Gordon Burn Prize. Off I go to read everything else by Ali Smith. Very thought-provoking examination of friendship over time.

Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Mallory Ortberg (Amazon, Bookshop) — These are essays that are sometimes hilarious, sometimes profound, very engaging on the subject of identity and relationships.

The Bread and the Knife: A Life in 26 Bites by Dawn Drzal (Amazon, Bookshop) — I’m no foodie, but I do love a great book by a foodie. I really enjoyed this memoir told in tastes.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (Amazon, Bookshop) — Winner of the Crawford Award and the Compton Cook Award for best first English language novel of the year. Finalist for the Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards. This novel reminded me of A Wizard of Earthsea (Amazon, Bookshop) and The Ranger’s Apprentice (Amazon, Bookshop) and was also completely fresh. I need no other praise.

Miss Aluminum: A Memoir (Amazon, Bookshop) — A compelling, beautifully written memoir of someone who has had a star-studded life.

Jack by Marilynne Robinson (Amazon, Bookshop) — I admire Marilynne Robinson more than just about any other novelist writing today. This novel is the fourth in her Gilead quartet. The title character Jack is a fascinating puzzle.

The Yogi Book: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said by Yogi Berra (Amazon, Bookshop) — I love aphorisms, proverbs, and koans, and I wanted to get my hands on a collection of Yogi Berra’s sayings. My favorite? Of a restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (Amazon, Bookshop) — How many times have I read this novel? Fifteen, twenty, maybe more. I love it more every time. “I think I never heard of a child’s doing a smarter, grittier thing…and I don’t care if she does hear me say so!

Startle and Illuminate: Carol Shields on Writing by Carol Shields, edited by Anne Giardini and Nicholas Giardini — An interesting examination of the art of writing.



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