What I Read This Month: October 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.

October 2020 Reading:

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — Nominated for the Lambda Award, short-listed for Carl Brandon Awards, nominated for a Locus Award. More Octavia Butler! More, more, more. I loved this novel.

Triangular Road: A Memoir by Paule Marshall (Amazon, Bookshop) — Reading Brown Girl, Brownstones (Amazon, Bookshop) made me curious to read the author’s memoir.

Dustland by Virginia Hamilton — One of a strange, haunting trilogy.

The Idiot by Elif Batuman (Amazon, Bookshop) — A New York Times Book Review Notable Book; finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I came across this excellent list of recommended “campus novels” (a term I’d never heard before, for a kind of book I love), and I added several titles to my to-read list. I loved this novel, and find myself reflecting back on it often.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Amazon, Bookshop). I love what might be called “two paths diverge” stories—like Lionel Shriver’s brilliant The Post Birthday World (Amazon, Bookshop) or the delightful movie Sliding Doors. This is a fantastical look at what it might be like to explore the “what ifs” of our lives.

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid (Amazon, Bookshop) — A short, brilliant novel.

The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman, Anthony Brandt (Amazon, Bookshop) — I love the work of David Eagleman. So engaging, so interesting.

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou (Amazon, Bookshop) — A beautiful and honest tribute to a difficult, loving, and beloved mother.

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — Nominated for a Locus Award; short-listed for the James Tiptree Jr Memorial Award. More Octavia Butler.

Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — More, more, more Octavia Butler!

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris (Amazon, Bookshop) — Jamie bought this book on a whim, and I read it on a whim—and really enjoyed it. With a twist I didn’t see coming.

Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing—and Discovering—the Primal Sense by Bonnie Blodgett — So many people these days are losing their sense of smell because of COVID-19. In this account, Blodgett recounts her experience after losing her sense of smell from using Zicam. It’s a powerful tribute to the power and importance of this sense.

Clay’s Ark by Octavia E. Butler (Amazon, Bookshop) — Nominated for a Locus Award. You guessed it: yep, more Octavia Butler.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (Amazon, Bookshop) — National Book Award for Fiction. An unusual, interesting, engaging book. I really loved it.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (Amazon, Bookshop) — Locus Award for Best First Novel;  John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I read this terrific list of “The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time” and have been tracking down all the ones I haven’t yet read; I discovered this excellent novel that way.

The Stranger by Albert Camus (Amazon, Bookshop) — Nobel Prize for Literature. I’d read this classic before, but wanted to re-read it. Thought-provoking.

Leaving a Doll’s House: A Memoir by Claire Bloom (Amazon, Bookshop) — A fascinating memoir of actor Claire Bloom’s career and relationships.



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