January 2021 reads

I have no one to talk to about the books I read. I still don’t, but I also don’t want to forget them. I’m going to try writing about them, let me know what you think.

Overall, January was a continuation of a trend I started towards in 2020: “No more Fewer depressing non-fiction books.” I couldn’t handle it and was getting more and more stressed out on a daily basis. But you can see towards the end of this month I dipped a toe back into it’s cold embrace.


Where the Crawdads Sing book cover

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Why I picked up this book: I think I just kept seeing this pop on good reads and thought it would be a lighter book to get into.

Mood: feels like a drama

It’s a good fiction book with an interesting story. I found myself more interested in this book than other Goodreads books that have trickled to the top (cough-MeBeforeYou-cough). You follow the life of the main character through an extremely difficult childhood living alone in the marshlands of the North Carolina. She has to care for herself after being abandoned by her family. The author does a good job working through all the thoughts this person goes through as she grows up and tries to figure out how to trust people again after so much hurt.

Circe book cover

Circe by Madeline Miller

Why I picked up this book: I feel like Kelly and some other people I follow gave it 5 stars and when I found out it’s about Greek mythology I was like “YESSSSSSS” because I loved Greek mythology when I was little.

Mood: moody goddess figures some stuff out

I loved this book. While I was listening to it, I was had the thought “I actually just want to read novelized Greek myths for maybe the rest of my life” and was very happy to learn that was not the author’s only book. I intend to read The Song of Achilles next. I was absolutely delighted that the myths and characters were accurate to the myths (I was constantly googling stuff while reading). The author builds out the details of the story more: giving the characters personalities, thoughts, and wants that go deeper than the myths I read in anthologies. I don’t think you have to be into Greek mythology to like this to like this because the characters have relatable perspectives (maybe just not on relatable topics). If you don’t like fantasy-esque books in general you might not like this book as much, but I didn’t think it really hits you over the head with fantasy. It is focused on the first-person experiences of Circe, the main character.

Normal People book cover

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Why I picked up this book: One that I kept seeing appear on Goodreads, plus a good number of my friends had read it, and plus plus it had a TV show.

Mood: Like, if you wanted a darker romance that is maybe not the most romantic and more like people who need therapy trying to date each other but not in the we-all-need-therapists way.

I’d recommend it because I think it would appeal to more people than the books I normally read (which is probably also why it’s a TV show now). It was entertaining as a story but I kind felt like it was like…unrealistic or unsubtle or something?


Minor Feelings book cover

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

Why I picked up this book: A book about the Asian-American experience that is really well-reviewed and popular during a time of racial unrest in the country? Sign me up! But actually I had this book on hold from the library and kept deferring the delivery date because I expected it to be depressing and I didn’t know if I could handle it.

Mood: If you have an Asian friend (me) who you want to understand better and maybe realize is feeling feelings about discrimination but has no one to talk to about it. Alternatively, if you don’t have an Asian friend but are interested in human experience in the US.

It was a little emotionally exhausting to read, but I’m so glad I did. It was also really validating and comforting to have discriminatory and cultural experiences that are shared by other people and feel understood. The author combines personal experiences from her life as a poet to historical research and research on other Asian artists.

Also, kudos to the white girl from undergrad who gave it five stars and wrote “blew me away”.

Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky & Connie Burk

Chug (rabbit) next to Trauma Stewardship book on a bed.

Why I picked up this book: I have been learning about trauma-informed research and it was a book that was recommended twice in those discussions as a helpful book to read.

Mood: Reference book if you really care about your work but you are also feeling burned out by it or it’s taking over your life. It’s targeted towards those in caring professions like social workers, medical staff, teachers, non-profit workers. But it also has a lot of silly new-yorker style comics and gives of some self-help vibes.

First, everyone experiences trauma and it’s ok and normal. Reactions and responses to trauma vary from person to person. This book talks about the secondary trauma that experienced in some professions that work with a lot of people experience trauma. I really enjoyed this book and I feel like it helped me think through my own experiences, motivations, and how I show up to work. I am not not working nearly as closely with people who experience trauma as other people interviewed in the book. I believe the work I’m doing is significant and reflects my values, which creates a lot of pressure fore me though. The things they mentioned around feeling burned out resonated with me.

Chat message. 
Person 1: I think the entire population should be trauma informed (liked)
Person 2: I think it’s really helpful that one of the speakers said that we think about trauma as a big event that only happens to some people but we’re all dealing with something. like, the line from web designer (basically) to trauma steward wasn’t totally clear otherwise ?
Person 2: Yes totally! And to know that trauma is subjective so everyone has experiences with traumatic events or things that impact us all differently as we love thru life
I was talking to a friend who is a social worker about the book

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Why I picked up this book: The final push was that its February book club book for my local library. Right now I’m thinking “woof, what a session that’s going to be”

Mood: It’s a pretty difficult non-fiction read, but I thought it was so helpful to understand the different aspects of our court and prison system in way meaningful detail through the stories of real people.

I am stunned by what I learned about our prison system in this book. Hello, the US only banned the death penalty for children in 2005 so now the US is the only country in the world where kids as young as 13 have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. ?. And so much more about the systemic wrongful of conviction of the poor, Black, and/or handicapped. The author is the founder of Equal Justice Initiative, a legal non-profit he started in 1989. I can’t imagine doing such difficult work for so long and I am inspired by their work. It’s well written, intertwining heartfelt stories and legal information in an empathic way. I’m really book club gave made it cross my path because I knew so little about capital punishment beforehand. I actually just finished it like 10 minutes ago and I’m definitely still processing.

American Like Me book cover

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures essays compiled by America Ferrera

Why I picked up this book: My cousin recommended it and it was available at the library right away. I was trying to read more about more BIPOC experiences over MLK Jr. weekend.

Mood: If you need a more digestible way to to hear about non-white experiences and being a celebrity helps.

This is a “collection of first-person accounts from [31] prominent figures about the experience of growing up between cultures”— besides America contributors include Lin-Manuel Miranda, Roxanne Gay, and Jeremy Lin. Since it’s a collection, it’s kind of a mixed bag whether you’ll like the writing or not, but I liked hearing about all the different experiences. Some focused in on hard situations and some were celebratory. Ravi Patel from Meet the Patels was one of the essayists. I’d never heard of the film and made Scott watch it with me right after finishing the book.


I’m noticing how much Goodreads surrounds my life. I literally check it like a social media account every day even though I only know like 5 people who use it. Catch my 2020 reads tho.

If it matters to you, I mostly listen to audiobooks. Only Trauma Stewardship was a physical book.

ALSO, like use Libby or Overdrive if you do listen to audiobooks or read e-books. Easy, at-home access to all the your library’s books!! COME ON. My sister (noted antagonist) was like “but on audible I don’t have to wait…” to that I say: there are so many good books to read in the meantime. I usually have like 5 on working through holds in the library and you can just keep deferring the holds if you’re not ready for them. Also Audible is an Amazon company.

And if you do enjoy buying books, I’d suggest 1) your local bookstore or 2) Bookshop.org, whose proceeds partly go to support local book stores. I also frequent thriftbooks.com to buy random design reference books like a big nerd. I generally don’t buy books because I don’t ever read them again, but make an exception for reference books (online)….and, like, many other times at random if I see a cool-looking book in person.

Cartoon figure in the fetal position on the ground clutching at 9 books.

This was a drawing I did after I bought 9 books in one night. I was feeling stressed after reading the news.

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