May was a productive reading month! (Vacation helped.)
While we were in the Bahamas, I enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which made me laugh so hard I cried — and then read passages aloud to Zach. I love her writing style and I’m excited to read her other books when I need a good laugh.
My second book of vacation was Still Life by Louise Penny, which is the first installment of the Inspector Gamache series I’ve read so many rave reviews about. (If Shauna AND Sarah recommend it, you know it’s good.) IT DIDN’T DISAPPOINT. I’ve already picked up the next book for later this year. Even if you aren’t a huge mystery fan, I still recommend you give this a shot.
Coming off of vacation, I wanted to ease back into my daily routine, and listening to The Magnolia Story from Chip & Joanna Gaines was exactly what I needed. It helped me look forward to getting in the car to drive to work because I wanted to hear more of their story. Since then, I’ve started watching Fixer Upper from the beginning on Hulu (believe it or not, I’d only seen a handful of episodes here or there) and I’m just so impressed by their story.
The next three books were purely a result of several holds I’d placed becoming available in Overdrive. I listened to Brene Brown’s Rising Strong, which taught me so much about vulnerability and courage. Here’s one of many quotes that had me nodding along in my car:
I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.
I also listened to Braving the Wilderness, also by Brene Brown. I was so excited to hear how her research on vulnerability and courage and belonging applied to the current state of our country — it was just so relevant that I couldn’t escape it. She touched on everything from Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists to Black Lives Matter to the 2016 election, all the while reminding us that dehumanization is playing out on BOTH sides of the aisle. So very, very good. Here’s a quote that’s hit me multiple times, even after I’d finished reading:
Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.
Then, I was so excited because Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale was FINALLY available! This book broke my heart into a million pieces, but it was so.very.good. I love historical fiction based around WWII, and this was no exception. I cried in my car, on my bed, washing the dishes… it was incredible. I’ve loved everything Kristin Hannah has written, but this went above and beyond. In case you can’t tell from my overt enthusiasm, you should absolutely 100% read this book. (Also, if you’re a fan of audiobooks, Polly Stone’s narration is FIRE.)
It’s pretty odd for us to take two vacations in one month, but we got a chance to go to the beach for Memorial Day weekend for the first time in years, so we went. My goal there was to tackle two books that I’ve read in small chunks at a time over the past few months — and I did it!
How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin has been on our bookshelf since it came out in 2016, and I finally felt ready for it. In this book, he shares his experience of rebuilding his life after failure and loss. With everything we’ve experienced in the past year, I needed this more than I expected. I loved this truth he shared toward the end of the book:
The first discovery of the shipwreck is that we have a higher capacity for pain than we ever could have imagined before we lost, before we failed, before we suffered…The surprise on the other side of the shipwreck is that, while your capacity for pain improved far beyond our wildest reckoning, now you have a capacity to feel everything deeper. You are capable of a depth of empathy and compassion that would have been unthinkable before…And from this new-found capacity for pain, for sorrow, for torment, for agony, for endless waves of grief, comes the biggest surprise of them all — your new-found capacity for joy.
I also finally finished I Was Told There’d Be Cake from Sloane Crosley. I was not super impressed with the first third of the book, which is why I set it aside for a while, but I enjoyed the later essays much more. I’m not sure if reading Mindy Kaling’s memoir helped me get where I needed to be as a reader for this book, or if the stories were genuinely better later in the book, but I’m glad I pushed through and finished it — not because I loved it, but because I can say I didn’t give up on it.
After reading EIGHT books in May (all before May 28), I took this past week to catch up on a few podcasts on my commute. That provided a great palate cleanser of sorts for me to begin new reads for June. Because of our move, I may end up reading less, but it will be a great month of reading regardless!