I started the month strong, but read considerably less nearing the end of the month.
Instead, I borrowed heaps of books on gardening (bonsai, indoor plants, propagating, herbs etc) and flipped through the pages. Heh. Yet I still finished nine books in total!
After reading several heavy fictions, I’m in the mood for nonfiction. In fact, I read exclusively nonfiction this month, half of them heavy and half of them very light reading. From the pile, I really, really recommend Evicted by Matthew Desmond (about poverty in the US), The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee (about a North Korean defector), and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat (about the science of cooking). They are all wonderful!
So without further ado, here they are!
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Genre: nonfiction, medical, psychology, psychiatry
Recommended for: Those who love reading medical nonfiction
Review: Human mind is so fascinating.
I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time as it is regarded as one of the classics—and it doesn’t disappoint. Dr. Sacks shared about the stories of his patients—the weird and unfathomable things that may happen to a human mind and how one does/doesn’t cope with it.
These tales are so heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.
If you pick up only one of Dr. Sacks’s books, this one should be it. Highly recommended.
The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee
Genre: nonfiction, North Korea, memoir
Recommended for: everyone, especially if you’re interested in what really happens in North Korea
Review: What. A. Story. I can’t imagine what she’s gone through, what her family has gone through. Can’t imagine what North Koreans have gone through, and are going through this very moment.
The book is written by Hyeonseo Lee, who is a defector from North Korea. She shares stories of her childhood, of how one mistake forces her to stay in China, on how, later, she finally decides to seek asylum in South Korea. And tries to get her family safely across as well.
This is a must-read.
Snooze by Michael McGirr
Recommended for: those interested what other people think about sleep
Review: Three and a half stars.
I really like this kind of book—a blend of memoir and an interesting subject. And the author does hit the right spots—he talks about his own sleep disorder, and how various people in history slept and thought about sleep (Shakespeare, Socrates, Plato, Florence Nightingale, and so on). There are some scientific parts, others merely stories.
It’s actually quite an interesting read, and I do recommend it. It just lacks something to be a four-star book. Probably I just can’t connect with the stories personally, as I don’t have that much trouble sleeping besides the occasional waking up a few times throughout the night. But yes, still recommended.
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
Genre: nonfiction, poverty
Recommended for: everyone
Review: Can I give this book six stars out of five? Because it’s that good.
I can’t remember where I first learned of this book—it was probably from an article at The Atlantic or The New York Times. I reserved the book through my local library and once I got it, I devoured this book in two days.
It’s that good.
It’s an eye-opening account on poverty and homelessness. It defines, and redefines, what it means to have a roof above our heads, to actually have a safe haven you can call home. It’s easy to blame poverty on attitude, drugs, lack of education. It’s harder to blame poverty on anything once you know the stories inside out, because not one thing ever causes poverty. No one rents an apartment only to move out—they want to stay, at least, until they want to move on their terms. But for the poor, most often, they are evicted.
Written brilliantly, the author tackles the stories of various landlords and tenants living in Milwaukee, US. It’s highly, highly recommended.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat
Genre: nonfiction, cooking
Recommended for: everyone who cooks, or wants to learn how to cook!
Review: I cook often. Almost everyday during the week and once or twice on the weekend. I know how to cook stuff the way I do because that’s what I’ve been taught by my Mom, or because I once followed a recipe. This book explains those methods.
Mom would tell me to salt the whole chicken before steaming. The author tells me why. Mom would tell me to stagger cooking vegs by the stem first before adding the leaves. The author tells me why. It’s the scientific reasoning on why we cook the way we do, plus a few handful ‘reasonings’ of cooking that I’ve never heard of.
Like, I’ve baked at least once a week. I’ve created cakes with softened butter, melted butter, and oil. I’ve made bread with softened butter, margarine, and melted butter. Little did I know these different types of ‘fats’ will affect the end result very significantly.
It’s the type of book that needs to be read twice, and perhaps be consulted once in a while when you want to better your cooking.
Recommended for home cooks who want to understand why they cook the way they do.
The $50 Weekly Shop by Jody Allen
Genre: nonfiction, household budgeting
Recommended for: you can skip this one
Review: Heh, two stars. I honestly expected this to be much better.
I read an article somewhere that interviewed the author and was intrigued to read about her tips and tricks on how to reduce grocery $. Not that I’ve been spending a lot – I actually consider myself pretty frugal (I do shop around, have some sort of grocery list, have flexible but existing meal plans in my head, so on so forth). So yeah.
Honestly there’s nothing new here that I haven’t heard before. (In fact, reading the book alarms me on how people have been living and doing their groceries. Then again, I grew up with a thrifty Mom and a thrifty sister…)
The book is one-third tips and two-third recipes. Anddd yes it’s so Australian. And I’m quite alarmed at the amount of bacon, sausage, and minced meat that are in this book.
If you really don’t know where to start on the path of reducing your grocery $$$, do pick up this book. The tips are good. It’s just that I expected so much more from it.
Live Well on Less by Jody Allen
Genre: nonfiction, household budgeting
Recommended for: you can skip this one too
Review: Borrowed this book at the same time as the other (the 50$ one) and I have to say I didn’t really learn anything new as well.
Like other readers have said, her books are catered to those who have just started on budgeting. I was actually hoping that the author would actually say where to buy the cheapest stuff, and to actually go down towards the nitty gritty of budgeting and how to spot and secure a bargain. But the book only covers the bigger picture.
Soooo not that highly recommended, except if you’re just starting and really want to know the basics.
The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
Recommended for: everyone
Review: How do you forgive when everything goes wrong, when someone—or some people—does unspeakable acts towards you? How do you forgive when your children are murdered?
It’s hard to forgive, especially when we don’t deserve the other’s treatment. It’s human nature to want to carry on grudge and revenge. But grudge and revenge don’t solve anything—it would just rob you from the opportunity to live your own life.
If you’ve ever wronged someone, or been wronged, and seek to make amends with your soul, this book is for you.
Living with Plants by Sophie Lee
Genre: nonfiction, indoor plants, gardening
Recommended for: those who are just starting on having indoor plants!
Review: Love this book!
The author explains on the different water and light requirements for famous indoor plants, and how to really keep a plant alive (and some tips on styling too). I’ve read a couple more books on indoor plants but this is easily the best book so far. Recommended if you’ve just started on indoor gardening.
Oh, the photos are lovely too! I’m really tempted to buy this book so I can have a hardcopy myself. We’ll see!
Those are April’s books. You can track my progress of the challenge on my Goodreads page. Tee-hee, till next month!
Ps. What books are you reading now? Feel free to give me recommendations on what book to read next!