Books I Read July 2020

by - Monday, August 03, 2020

July felt like it was never-ending. The humidity, the pandemic, the fact that summer is basically canceled. 

At least I had some good reads to help distract me from this serious funk. Out of the 12 books I read this month, I gave three of them five stars on Goodreads. I'm usually pretty stingy when it comes to giving out five stars, so that says something.

I read some pretty serious books this month and found myself needing to balance some of the heavy stuff with a good mix of light reads. 

Also for the first time since the pandemic closed libraries, I was able to check out a couple of physical books from the library. I've been embracing my Kindle like crazy these last 5 months, but there is just something so special about holding an actual book in your hands. I was grateful to have that feeling back for a bit. 

Without further ado, here are my July reads.

July 2020 Reads

Five Stars

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi 
This is the book we need for our times right now. By sharing his own struggles with racist thoughts and ideas, Kendi never makes you feel like a bad person while reading this book. His tone is approachable and offers practical tips about how we can all strive to be more antiracist. I easily understood his definitions of different forms of racism in society and his practical examples helped illustrate how many racist ideas and policies permeate society and what can be done to change that.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
This book took me a bit to get into, but once it got going, I just couldn't put it down. The book tells the story of Cassie -- a female firefighter in Austin, TX -- forced to leave her job and move north to take care of her ailing mother that she hasn't spoken to in almost 10 years. She's able to find a job at a new fire station in small town in MA, where female firefighters aren't looked kindly upon. And while she's trying to figure out how to earn the acceptance of her new colleagues, she's also forced to re-examine her relationship with her mother. I loved this author's writing style and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
I loved Elin Hilderbrand's new book. I read it at the beach, and it was one of those books where I was sad when I was finished because I didn't want to let go of the characters or the story. It was the perfect summer read.

Four Stars

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book was a timely read and though it's technically a YA book, I think anyone would be pulled in by the main character, Starr. Aside from dealing with the timely issue of white police officers killing black men, this book also tackled Starr's challenges being one of the few black students at the mainly white private school her family sends her to and how she has be "two different Starrs" -- the Starr she is at school, always on alert, and the more relaxed and authentic Starr she's able to be around her family and friends from outside of school.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
A look at the lengths that four fictional families will go to to try to get their kids into the school for gifted children. This book explored every stereotype and exposed a whole insane world of privilege. I loved it and couldn't put it down.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
If you want a fast-paced thriller that you literally can't put down because it's so weird and twisted, this is it. Alicia murders her husband and is caught almost immediately. But when that happens she suddenly stops speaking and is sent to a psychiatric hospital instead of prison. Six years after the murder, a new therapist starts working at the hospital and wishes to treat Alicia. This book is told from the point of view of the therapist mixed in with snippets from Alicia's journal. I really need to talk to someone else who has read this because it's so twisted.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
I heard these authors speak at the Gaithersburg Book Festival this year, and when this audio book was recommended to me from the library, I was excited to get to experience their work. This thriller follows a young woman who enters a psychology professor's study. As she gets drawn deeper into the study, she has to reveal more secrets about her life until everything reaches a breaking point. No spoilers here, but this was a great, fast-paced book.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
This was the perfect book to read to whisk you off to a new place. This is the story of Lakshmi and her sister Radha in 1950s India. Lakshmi has fled her abusive husband and made a life for herself as a henna artist to the rich women of India's upper caste. She's worked hard and is using her earnings to build a house for her and her family. But when her sister Radha leaves home and arrives on Lakshmi's doorstep with news of her parents' deaths, Lakshmi's grand plans change and she has to find a new path in a society unforgiving to single women.

The Whistler by John Grisham
This book was great as an audio book to listen to on my runs. It pulled me in early on as the main characters receive a tip about a dirty judge. As they start to unravel the case, the stakes get higher, leading them to corruption and a murder cover-up at a casino.

Three Stars

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
I was so looking forward to this book since I loved the Hunger Games series. However, I thought this book seemed especially slow at parts. I loved the part where Snow served as a mentor in the games, but the third part of the book, about his life after the games just didn't pull me in quite as much. The ending kind of made up for some of the slowness. Overall I enjoyed going back to the crazy Hunger Games setting, but just didn't love this as much as the original series.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
I picked this book up hoping to learn how to have better conversations about race and racism in the United States. While there were certainly parts of the book I found educational (hence the three stars instead of two), I was largely put off by the author's tone. It felt preachy, and some of main points directly contradicted what Ibram X. Kendi said in How to Be An Antiracist.

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Though this book is fictional, I learned a bit more about Grace Kelly's romance and marriage to the prince of Monaco. This story is told through the eyes of two characters that each have a chance encounter with the actress. I thought it was an interesting convention that though Grace Kelly is a central figure in this story, we never really know what's going in her mind. This was a good book, but I thought it was slow at parts, which is why I gave it three stars instead of four.

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