Wednesday, January 09, 2019

What I Read | December

A look back at what I read last month. #ASGbookshelf #whatIread
New year, new bookshelf! Actually, I'm still working through a few last selections from my 2018 list, which were on hold at my library and became available on New Year's Eve. Typical... 

December was not the best month for the books in my life. Because I spent a lot of time with family or in the kitchen preparing meals and treats for holiday events, I neglected my reading habit for several weeks. No shame though. I'm giving myself a little extra time to catch up before jumping into the books I selected for 2019. 

Speaking of the new year, I looked back over the list of books I read in 2018 and I decided that my two favorites were The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and A Dog's Way Home by Bruce W. Cameron. I'd love to know what your favorite book from 2018 was!

Must Read

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan  | ★★★★
In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. - Goodreads description

This was a lovely book. I listened to the audiobook, which is read by Amy Tan, and I would recommend this version to anyone. She has such a way with words that makes you feel like you are sitting at this mahjong table with these four women. Tan's writing isn't forceful. It's delicate and it supports the story. I loved the connections these women had. I loved learning about them and their culture. I loved the wisdom they share. This was simply delightful.


Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson  | ★★★★
From best-selling author Walter Isaacson comes the landmark biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. In Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography, Isaacson provides an extraordinary account of Jobs' professional and personal life. Drawn from three years of exclusive and unprecedented interviews Isaacson has conducted with Jobs as well as extensive interviews with Jobs' family members and key colleagues from Apple and its competitors, Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography is the definitive portrait of the greatest innovator of his generation. - Goodreads description

If you ever wanted to know everything you could possibly know about Steve Jobs, you need this book. Isaacson is an amazing biographer. His narrative is engaging and the detail that he puts into his works will astound you. This was a LONG book. Forty-two chapters spanning over 600 pages, long. Steve Jobs was a genius. He was also an asshole. He was a quirky fellow who walked around barefoot and refused to bathe. He had some interesting ideas about diet and health. He was known for his eccentricities like eating nothing but carrots for weeks until his skin turned orange. He was known for throwing temper tantrums until he got his way and pissing off a lot of really important people. But none of this mattered to him because he was creating a brand that (in his mind) would change technology forever. And he was right.

Other mentions for the month of December:

Emma by Jane Austen  | ★★★★
Probably my favorite Austen book, Emma demonstrates Murphy's Law when meddling in your friend's lives. She is a self-proclaimed cupid, who fixes friends up with acquaintances and declares that they shall be in love. It isn't long before everything falls apart and all fingers point to her. Emma is a master manipulator, pushing her high-brow opinions on others and making them believe they came up with the ideas. I love the book because of the humor, the subtle snarkiness, and the lessons learned at the end.

Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara  | ★★★★
I was not at all expecting what I read. O'Hara's writing is tremendous. His vivid storytelling captures you and in addition to entertaining us with his plot, he takes on some really big topics and does so with mastery. This book is ahead of its time and it is my first experience with this author, but it certainly won't be my last.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson  | ★★★
Written by a marine biologist/conservationist, excerpts of this book were originally published in The New Yorker. Carson's love and concern for the environment are admirable and this was such an informative book. It is laden with data and statistics, so it's not an easy book to read. It took time to work through and process all the information, but the author made it relatable and really leaves no doubt that we are doing a good job of destroying our planet.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier  | ★★★
This was a cute little graphic novel about Raina, who is dealing with all the fun of teenage angst, from boys, to boobs, to acne. The story revolves around her visits with her dentist and orthodontist. After being told she'd need braces, she has an accident and breaks her two front teeth. She goes through the repair process, then the placement of her braces, all the while struggling to be "cool" in school. I believe this book was autobiographical for the author, and I feel really bad for her because the girls she went to school with are MEAN. This would be a good book for a young teen who is struggling with the idea of fitting in during middle school and the early years of high school.

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (as anonymous)  | ★★★
Written from the diary entries of a 15-year-old, this story closely follows one girl's rapid decline into addiction. We ride along through the ups and downs from her first experience tripping on acid, through multiple detoxes and relapses, and eventually into a psychiatric hospital after she has a mental breakdown. This was a hard one for me to read because I do have a loved one who has struggled for many years with addiction and my family has lived on the very same roller coaster. This book reads very much like that of a 15-year-old girl. It is emotional and selfish and lacks a lot of clarity and THEN you get to know her as an addict and it becomes worse. What was disappointing about this book is the negative buzz surrounding the author, Beatrice Sparks. This woman is a psychologist (although her credentials have been called into question) who published a series of books, this being one of them, to serve as cautionary tales to teenagers. She took the diary entries of one of her patients and later admitted that she added a lot to it when creating this book. There are so many things wrong with this, but I don't think we need to elaborate or fluff up the horrors of addiction in order to caution teens about it. I am curious about the specific parts of the books she "added" and why she felt she needed to do so. Having witnessed what addiction can do to someone, I think it can speak for itself without us needing to embellish upon it.

Reached by Ally Condie  | ★★☆☆
This was such a disappointing end to the Matched series. It was not as exciting or believable as the previous two books. The mysterious "pilot" character was written to be the savior of the world and it didn't mesh well with how the plots flowed in the other books. For me, the ending felt forced and it didn't seem like the three main characters were happy with the direction that their lives were going. I wanted this to be better.

What did you enjoy reading last month?

The post What I Read | December first appeared on A Simpler Grace. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your friends! Don't forget to join the ASG Tribe!


  1. I am currently making my 2019 reading list and I am definitely adding some of these books on there. Thank you for the recommendation and the reviews.

  2. Some amazing books on here! I haven’t read A Dog’s Way Home and it sounds like something I’d enjoy—but in due time ❤️

    I haven’t heard about the Steve Jobs bio, but looks like an interesting read/ thank you so much for sharing these reviews, will come back later and add some to my TBR shelf 😊 xo

  3. I've only read one book by Jane Austen, and I want to try more, so I might need to give Emma a go. I think I'd really like it! Steve Jobs sounds like a very fascinating person - I'm really curious to read the memoir his daughter wrote. I think it came out recently. And funnily enough, I recently read this book all about various women who changed the way we think and Rachel Carson was one, so I was excited to see her book on here. I hadn't heard of her before!


  4. I have never read The Joy Luck Club, or sorry to say, any Amy Tan. This is a book I think I would really enjoy.

    I remember Go Ask Alice was very popular when I was young -- we read the paperback and passed it along!

  5. oh my gosh i read go ask alice when i was a teen and i had no idea about the back story!

  6. I have that Steve Jobs book but haven't actually read it. I've been meaning to but the size definitely intimidates me! lol

  7. I read the Steve Jobs book a few years ago, it is thorough but very long! It took me quite some time to get through it! I always enjoyed Go Ask Alice, I know it's a darker subject matter, but I always enjoyed it. I haven't read it since I was a teen, might have to pull it out again.

  8. I never read Reached and after some time had passed I decided I just wasn't going to finish the series. Now I'm glad I didn't. :) The Hate U Give was one of my favorites from 2018, too!

  9. No Exit, by Taylor Adams! It was freaky, so suspenseful and a quick read!

  10. A Dog's Way Home is so good, but it is a tear-jerker, so don't even think about picking it up if you're already feeling tender-hearted. I enjoyed the Steve Jobs books. I learned a lot about him!

  11. Yes, I've been hearing rumors about the book from Steve's daughter. What a small world for Rachel Carson to come up after just reading about her! She is an interesting person.

  12. Yeah, it is an intimidating book, but I really enjoyed it!

  13. I would be interested in reading some of the other books from Beatrice Sparks because I did enjoy Go Ask Alice.

  14. I did enjoy Amy Tan and would love to read more from her!

  15. I was interested when I learned about it too!

  16. Reached disappointed me so much. I really hoped it would be as well written as the first book.

  17. Oh, I haven't read that one yet. Adding it to my list!

  18. I'd like to read the Steve Jobs book sometime.
    Go ask Alice sounds familiar - I seem to remember a friend reading it when we were in high school. I didn't know the background story to this book.

  19. I "only" read three books but they were all great and I would recommend them... The Life She Was Given, Tell me more, and Heart Berries.

  20. I am so glad I read this post, as you've made me quite excited to read some books I've owned for ages! Both Emma and The Joy Luck Club have been on my shelves for years, but I've never really known what they were about so they were never really on my mind, but now I'm really excited to read both of them! Thanks for inspiring me ☺️

  21. I really want to read Go Ask Alice. I saw someone else read it and then someone posted it on facebook as a good one. I actually didn't know about the part that it was an actual psychologist who wrote it though and she took journal entries from patients...yikes. That is kind of unnerving.
    December was quite busy so I was only able to soak in one. It was well worth it. If you've never read a Matt Haig book, you should definitely read at least one. I read Reasons To Stay Alive. At the end of the month I started Educated By Tara Westworth and it is so good....but the two way flu hit our house so I had to put it down. LOL. It's very good though!

  22. Nope. Definitely not ready for it just yet but I'll get there someday <3 XO

  23. I hear a lot of people read that book in high school.

  24. I've never read Matt Haig before, but I'm going to add them to my list! :)

  25. Oh, I'm so glad! Happy reading in January!

  26. Tobia | craftaliciousmeJanuary 15, 2019 at 4:22 AM

    The Joy Luck Club sounds really interesting. I will definitely look into that. I’ve written my thesis on Steve Jobs so sooner or later I’ll probably look into his biography too. I only read one book in Decemer: a classic by Charles Dickens, The Cricket on the Hearth.

  27. Steve Jobs as a thesis subject? That would be so interesting! That's a Dickens book I have not read, but will have to check out. :)

  28. Tobia | craftaliciousmeJanuary 15, 2019 at 1:56 PM

    The Dickens Book is part of his Christmas collection is often published in a compilation. The most known is the Christmas Carol.
    And my thesis was not solely on Steve Jobs but since I looked at management styles and how this effects the success of a company I had Apple at the core.