Updated: Feb 18, 2021
DID NOT think there would be a part II of quarantine reads but here we are in 2020, the year that never ends. I've had significantly less time to read since going back to work full time, but I read a few chapters every night before bed and for a few hours during those glorious weekend mornings. Here's what I read during the second half of 2020.
For those who don't know, I’m in a book club with my grandmother and some cousins and aunts. I’ll denote the books that are book club reads - I always love hearing what other book clubs are reading, so let me know what you've read!
The Power of Habit by Charles DuHigg *book club book
This book is based in science and features many prominent figures whose lives were changed through habit. I opted to listen to this book rather than read, which ended up being a great choice. It felt like I was listening to a podcast, and I enjoyed taking it on walks or cranking it up while I cooked or worked out. The self-help/ habit setting book market is saturated - there are so many good reads that encourage habit forming AND creating lasting habits. The Power of Habit helped me understand the habits I've formed on accident, how to end habits, and the science behind habit formation and success. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It made me realize how much of who I am and what I do is habit based, and it inspired me to pick up a new habit! For years now I’ve reached for my phone as soon as my eyeballs crack open in the morning. Sometimes I need just a few moments of scrolling to wake me up, other mornings I get carried away and regret all the screen time I had first thing in the morning. SO, I’m breaking the habit. I turn my alarm off and lay in bed wishing it wasn’t morning already (per usual, just phone-less ). Then I get out of bed, head down for coffee and THEN I decide if I actually want to spend time on my phone or not. Turns out I don’t. Now I’m able to sit down with my book while I drink my coffee and its such a nice way to spend my morning. I highly recommend this one! Especially if you're looking to bring change into your life in 2021!!!
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
I picked this book up last year and read the first few chapters but didn’t get into it. This time, however, I got more than into it. This book is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, terrifying, sorrow filled, and JUST SO GOOD. Might be my favorite book of 2020!! The story follows three women throughout World War II and the horrifying ways in which their hardships overlap. The story crosses continents as the main characters are apart of the war in distinctly different ways; a New York socialite aiding French orphans through donations, a polish teenager who works for the underground, and an aspiring German doctor who's pursuit of power brings her to Ravensbruck, the notorious concentration camp for women. READ THIS BOOK! It will break your heart and heal you all in one sitting. *Note, I read this book but I've heard that it is a great listen if you prefer audio books! Characters have different voices and sounds like a movie - go for a walk and plug in or give it a listen on your commute!
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah *book club book
I read back to back WWII books and loved it. The Nightingale is about two sisters in WWII France, and uses their fight for survival and freedom to illuminates the seldom told stories of the women's war. I loved imagining the sisters and putting myself in their shoes to wonder if I would have had the courage to do what they did. I really loved this book and want everyone in my life to read it! It is a NAIL BITER and will grip you until the last page. I'm not going to add any further summary in hopes you'll read it. Let's talk about it if you do!!! (ALSO it is being made into a movie!!!)
The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith
*book club book
The beauty of book club is I'm forced to read books I would never pick up myself and this was one of them! Set over many lifetimes, this book follows the drama of what a single painting means to the artist, the owner, and all who view it. The original painter, a Dutch woman in 1601, is mysterious in the world of art and a wonder to the wealthy inheritor of the art in Manhattan in 1950. Enter a passionate, young Australian artist and a forgery... and you'll have to read the rest to understand how the characters become entangled in the painting, each other, and the history of Sara de Vos. I didn't love this book right away but once I finished it I appreciated how it was written and how the characters changed. If you're interested in art + history, this book is for you!
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
This is an amazing book and I have to do it justice by using the summary I found on amazon:
"Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival. A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love."
This book is written by the same author as The Kite Runner and leaves you with the same sense of hopelessness and defeat for refugees and war torn countries. There is so much to learn from books that are set in your life time that paint pictures of tragedy that you couldn't previously imagine. It took me a few chapters to invest in this one, but I read the second half in a day. Highly recommend this book!
Mr. Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva *book club book
Book club decided to go with a Christmas theme for December and it was a nice change of pace! As implied by the title, this is the story of how Charles Dickens wrote his Christmas Carol. I wouldn't read this one any other time of year, so put it on your list for next December! Though most of the book depicts the author as depressed and haunted and self-destructive, the ending is a sweet reminder of the true meaning of Christmas and the joy of the season.