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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Vella

Vanessa’s 2022 Book and Reading Review!

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

I read a lot of books this year. Like, a lot. More than double most other years. I’m actually not even going to put the number here because it’s silly (the number, not the reading I did - that was awesome!… mostly). I feel it would distract from the points I want to make about my reading journey this year. I don’t want to get a bunch of high fives for reading so many books (I will, however, accept high fives for the following: reading generally, eating so much chocolate, making such funny jokes, stressing so little about hardly working on my blog all in 2022, and petting so many cats).

I say this every year but I’m gonna do it again because it always needs repeating: many goals have numbers attached to them (my reading goal is one of them: every year I endeavor to read my age). But if you over attach to the number you are really short changing yourself on the experience of pursuing the goal. With reading, there is some underlying reason you are reading: knowledge, relaxation, escape, research, entertainment, inspiration, or whatever. It’s the intention and commitment that matters, not the quantitative outcome. If you read one book this year because you just started or restarted a reading habit, or if you read 6 books but usually read 12 because you had a wee baby and are super sleep deprived, or if you read 100 because you are writing a book and doing hella research for it and while it was fruitful is was not relaxing… it all counts.

But I will tell you how I managed to read so many books this year, why that happened, as well as what I learned in the process.

Why So Many Books, Vanessa?

Each year I try to read my age and if I squeak in one or two more than that, I high five myself liberally. I didn’t set out to read so many more books than usual, but I had another goal that splattered all over my reading goal. For my work at the Center for Applied Neuroscience, I oversee the Life Coaching Certification Course. For the last couple years, we’ve been discussing refreshing the book list. Well, 2020 wasn’t conducive to much more than screaming inside our hearts and making major life pivots and 2021 was a real doozy for me personally and my mental capacity was maxed out.

I was hopeful that 2022 would be the year I could really work on the book list in earnest and, happily, it was! But rather than make this easy and straightforward (Hi, it’s me!) I decided it would be useful to have a series of books for each part of the course, so students could individualize their reading journey. Fun! And 6x the work!

I wanted to make sure I personally read every book I was recommending, because I have as much integrity as I have stubbornness, which honestly is not always good, but which is good in this case. And it paid off as I was both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised about books I had either high and low hopes for (more on that later).

This project, combined with my desire to read books I wanted to read because I wanted to read them, combined into a sort of supernova of book reading. Is supernova even the right word? You’d think I’d be more confident in my perspicacity after reading so much, but here we are. Anyway! That’s why I read so many books.

How did you do this record setting amount of reading?

Recognizing that it would take me many more years to do this book list project if I exclusively read print books, I somewhat reluctantly set about rekindling (yes, an e-reader pun! *bows graciously*) my friendship with audiobooks (let it be known that I cannot read books on screens of any kind - at least not yet!). You just can’t read more by using your big ol’ brain to double your reading speed. That’s not how eyes or brains work. Accepting this fact of life, I turned to audiobooks.

Oh audiobooks, former enemy, current frenemy. I have read (listened to? used?) audiobooks before, but have always felt resistance. I haven’t been taken in by the myth of ‘audiobooks are cheating’ (cheating on what…?) that seems to plague so many. I just really like paper books. A big part of what book reading offers me is a chance to get away from my many screens and devices, so audiobooks (like e-readers) don’t meet that need.

A bigger problem is the paying attention part. Left to my own devices I will just wander off and start doing other shit, then in 15 to 20 minutes realize I still have an audiobook on and have not been listening at all then get really mad. Not enjoyable! While I have been known to zone off while reading a paperback, I don’t mindlessly keep turning the pages while doing so. I sit there and stare at the same page for 20 minutes as you properly should when taking a good ol’ thinking break.

But while pondering the necessity of using (listening to? reading?) audiobooks to power through the long list of potential books for the CAN list, I remembered one very snowy winter, years ago, when I listened to audiobooks while snow shoveling. I was paying attention then, but why? Because my hands were occupied! Like any good eureka moment I immediately felt silly because of the obviousness of my realization. Of course I get distracted when my eyes (and attached brain) get into something else while the audiobook is on. But if my body is moving in a way where my mind can stay engaged in the book, then it works. For me. I’m aware that everyone is different. There may be someone (or multiple someones) who sit perfectly still and just listen to an audiobook without pulling out their phone to do crossword puzzles or getting up to wander around their apartment looking for something to look at but I do not know such an existence (I have legit caught myself picking up a paper book to read while an audiobook is playing in my ear holes. WUT?). For me I can only successfully consume (read? hear? use?) audiobooks while 1) cooking 2) cleaning 3) sometimes walking, if I’m not in a super daydream-y mood.

While we are on the topic of audiobooks, here are some other things I realized over 2022 that may be of value to you as well, especially if you had previously written off (ooh, another book related pun! *gives self a cookie*), this list may be of value:

  • The type of book matters to me. I found that I did not enjoy non-fiction books with lots of specific language like place names or historical figure’s names or visual aids like maps. I prefer seeing that stuff. But non-fiction books like memoirs or essay collections were very enjoyable

  • The narrator’s voice makes or breaks it for me. Hearing an unknown narrator read a book by an author whose voice I know (like Brene Brown) was very jarring to my brain. On the other hand, reading a memoir by the author who happens to have a super cool voice (like Viola Davis) was lovely!

  • My objective for reading the book is relevant. I tend to make thoughtful choices about which print books I read because of the limited capacity I have. I often get book recommendations where I think “Ah, sounds okay but I’m not excited about it” The audiobook option allowed me to quickly read books I was curious about but not overly invested in. For the book list project, there were quite a few on the list where I just wanted to make sure it fit in with our course curriculum and company values. I was already pretty sure but was just double checking. In that way, audiobooks allowed me to cast a wider net and read a lot of books I otherwise wouldn't have. Enriching! (mostly, lol)

  • What I am doing while audiobook-ing.. As previously mentioned, one of the times I listen to my audiobooks is when I’m cleaning. What I didn’t mention is that I hate cleaning. Having an audiobook on has made cleaning much more enjoyable. And to those who say, “Why don’t you just listen to podcasts while you clean?” The answers are: 1) I do sometimes, so there and 2) but I also have issues with podcasts (why are so many of them just meandering conversations? I can have those on my own!) but that’s for another blog post!

  • There are some technology-related benefits. I really appreciated the ability to take books with me more easily (on my phone y’all!), adjust the reading speed to my preferences (hurry up, slow talkers) and borrow from the library without putting pants on (Libby app!). On the other hand, when the book is due they straight up just snatch it from you, whereas you can choose to be delinquent with your print books (not recommending library delinquency just sayin’ it’s an option!)

  • There are some brain benefits. Exercising my ears and associated brain regions for listening (temporal lobe!). I do not have the best auditory information processing (hence why I prefer looking at words and stuff) and I think audiobooks are helping me with that. Hooray for neuroplasticity! I often find myself relating factoids from print books I’m reading to others (often in meandering, podcast-style conversations) and at first, I found I couldn't do this as well with audiobooks but it definitely improved over the course of last year

What the Heck did you read then?

Most years I’ve done some kind of highlight reel of the best books I read in a year. Even though I read a lot more books this year, my list of faves will probably be a similar length because quite frankly I read a lot of books I didn’t really like this year. And that’s a good thing. I tend to make ‘safer’ choices with print books because of the energy (time + attention) investment required. This year, because of the book list project, I was privileged to read a few stinkers. (And, I am proud to say I only gave up on one; in all other cases I tortured myself by reading the entire book before declaring it a stinker, which is only fair to the author and the hard work they put into producing such stinky words).

So without further ado, here is a big ol’ list with categories of my choosing some some of the honourable mentions of what I read this year (I organized them into categories for easy skimming!)


Books I’ve wanted to read for a long time and then when I finally did I hated them so much:

I’m really grateful I didn’t read this book for all the many years it sat on my shelf (I purchased it! *cries in regret*) unread. Thank you Universe for protecting me from myself so I could continue enjoying Tim Ferris. Because of how much I respect this guy based on previous years of enjoying his stuff, reading his first book unfortunately assaulted my poor little brain with an unsavoury image of him as a privileged white American bro surfing the waves of capitalism to literally surf more in exotic locales while doing less work, while taking advantage of underpaid labourers from countries with ‘weaker’ economies. Gross. I’m all for doing less work, but not like this. It was gross from the start but I figured some useful tidbits would shake out along the way. But nope, because it’s not only gross, it’s outdated as hell. This book blew up in a particular time which is now in the past and should stay there forever. Do yourself a favour and read any Tim Ferris book published after 2013 or listen to his podcast (most of it is good). The only silver lining of finally reading this is that I’m genuinely impressed by how much he’s changed and grown since publishing this stinky nonsense. That can’t be easy to do when your initial claim to fame is said stinky nonsense!

For years - literal years - people have been recommending this book to me. Can 50,000,000 Charles Duhigg fans be wrong? According to me: yes! I genuinely thought this book would be about individual people and their habits but it was more about marketing and the ways that corporations can manipulate people into buying stuff and glimpse into your life through purchasing data (again a bit outdated since that’s now the creepy norm). I guess it’s kind of interesting that Target can figure out you are pregnant before you do based on your shopping habits (but also: gross) but it doesn’t help me with my own habits to know this information. If you’re looking for a book on habits, I’d recommend Atomic Habits (definitely not perfect, but offers a great summary of many well-known habit building strategies) or The Four Tendencies (manages to pull out all the useful stuff from Power of Habit while also acknowledging people have different personalities and preferences). There are many others and I’d venture to say lots of them are better than this stinky thing

Another book that has come across my consciousness for years. The main problem is it’s not about giftedness at all. It’s about sensitive (I think) children who have had rough childhoods and written from a pretty old school Freudian-ish psychiatry perspective (which I happen to find gross). I found this quote from the author on Indigo: “When I used the word 'gifted' in the title… I simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb.... Without this 'gift' offered us by nature, we would not have survived.” When I read this I became re-enraged, if that’s a word. I’m so tired of people framing shitty experiences as ‘gifts.’ Yes, people adapt in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways to the trauma of life, and yes those adaptations help people survive (which is good, obviously), but what if people didn’t need to go through all that and survive it? Would they then not have other ‘gifts’ that didn’t come with such a high cost and also maybe be happier and thriving instead of just surviving?? In conclusion: blerg. Since this book reminded me how much I dislike Freudian psychology, I can tell you that a very interesting book I read in 2021 was An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug, Cocaine. Very interesting!

This book has been on my ‘want to read’ list for a while. The title is so enticing and I have been enjoying following Susan David on social media for a while now. But the book fell flat for me as it didn’t really offer anything new or additional to any other book on emotional intelligence that I’ve read. Also, I found her personal stories very unrelatable. Stuff like “When I’m travelling all around the world, it’s hard for me to stay engaged with my kids and spouse.” Like, okay Susan, that actually sounds like kind of a cool problem to have and is one I do not have because I am not a well-off published author and researcher (yet?). I feel like with a little effort some more relatable examples could have been presented in this book. I also think if I hadn’t already read on emotional intelligence previously I may have enjoyed it more, so I would recommend it for someone who is just dipping their toe into the topic of emotional intelligence.


Books that are very well-done (clear, concise, engaging) consolidations of complex topics that have been written about many times before and are now my ‘go -to’ books on these topics [topics in square brackets like this!]:

All through reading this I was like “Yes, exactly!” and “Well said!” and “This would be a great book for a Life Coaching client!” Nicole LaPera has done a fabulous job of synthesizing the very complex and broad topic of ‘self-healing’ into a super concise and digestible book. I’ve read a lot of books on this and similar topics and this is the one I’d recommend to someone in a “I’m embarking on a healing journey and not sure how to start” stage - which we’ve all been in, and sometimes more than once! The book packs a lot in and is somehow both descriptive and succinct. It is hard to find books like this that don’t go on and on (and on…), so kudos to her editor(s) whoever they are! (Also her Instagram is hot fire! Not book related, but she’s doing a bang-up job of reiterating these important messages in tiny, sound-bite-y ways)

This book also doubles as a ‘Book I didn’t really want to read but reluctantly did for work reasons.’ As a rule I don’t read Oprah books or Oprah book club books - I’m just a cool (= stubborn) like that, I don’t dig mainstream stuff (with notable exceptions like: the internet, snacks, and cats). In any case, as a cool person I also like to break rules, including my own rules, so I thought I’d give this one a go. It was fantastic, y’all! Again I have read a lot of different books about trauma and I found this one very accessible and actionable. Sometimes trauma books be like “Trauma is real bad and we all have it and it causes all the diseases oh nooooo… the end” and as a reader it’s like “OMG okay, so what can we actually do about this?” but the book has already ended (*sad trombone*). I really liked the proactive approach, including an emphasis on creating psychological safety for people who have experienced trauma (including ourselves!) before speaking with them (sort of obvious but sadly very overlooked, even now). I also felt the conversational style, consisting of a back and forth between Oprah and Dr. Perry, was very engaging. Maybe Oprah is also sort of cool. (Maybe). {Content Warning, if you decide to read it: this book deals a lot with childhood adverse experiences, abuse and trauma.}

I’ve slogged through a lot of neuroscience books and while they are all full of interesting information, it’s not always (= often) delivered in an engaging or balanced way. Scientists are usually very good at research and only sometimes good at writing general population books about that research. Happily, you can always count on Robert Saplosky to give you the goods in this classically scientific way: “On the one hand, this study found this but was limited in these ways and promising in these other ways. On the other hand, this study found this opposite thing and here’s some info about that. Right now we really don’t know for sure but it’s safe to say [this broad conclusion or application] and hooray for science,” which honestly is how all science books should be but often aren’t. If you are in the mood for a super long ass book (don’t say I didn’t warn you!) that presents all the up to date neuroscience on why people are the way they are (ambitious topic!) you will enjoy this one!

Ibram X. Kendi does an amazing job explaining how racism impacts all of us and is not something we can opt out of. We live in a racist society, we absorb racist ideas (shouldn’t be all that controversial of an idea, but somehow is…). He is very vulnerable and disarming in sharing his own personal stories of perpetuating racist ideas and how he worked through them, as well as doing a fantastic job of attending to intersectionality by discussing how racism also impacts gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, class, and so on. This book is very well-written. It’s engaging, there are no wasted words and it gets to the point in a very pragmatic way. If you are looking for a starting place for being anti-racist by understanding your own personal role in our racist culture, this is a great place to start!

I love Blair Imani! I started following her on Instagram and I love her Smarter in Seconds videos - they are quick and cute and very informative. When I saw she had a book coming out I was like SQUEEEE! This book is impressive in the breadth of topics it covers (class, race, gender, sexuality, disability, relationships, etc) in such a small space. Wow, efficiency! This is an excellent resource for anyone who feels out of the loop and like “I don’t know the right words to use to talk to/about people different from me” Yep, the world is changing, as it always is, and this book will get you up to speed on how to think and speak respectfully to all kinds of people. She is an excellent writer and creator and I have a feeling she is going to do big things over the next few years. Keep an eye on her!


Books that I expected to enjoy but left me feeling ‘meh’:

This book has been a long time bestseller in racism/antiracism books. The author, who is a white woman, writes about speaking to white people and how they can start undoing their racism. A great idea since it’s white people who need to do the work! There was some controversy that this book was selling so well in 2020 when (everyone seemed to have a shared moment of realization that racism was still a thing and we should do something about it) because there are many amazing books on racism written by BIPOC authors, who deserve support in the form of book sales and exposure. I considered that and ultimately decided I still wanted to hear what Robin DiAngelo had to say because like most people have found, talking to other white people about their racism sucks, so I was interested in her tips for how to do it more effectively. Except it didn’t. It did a great job of explaining how and why white people are so shitty when dealing with racism and left me feeling surprisingly less hopeful about how to actually do this shit. The personal stories she shared were sometimes helpful, but I was really hoping for more action items to implement into my life. Definitely read How To Be An Antiracist instead!

Such a great title, right? And the author’s name is Cordelia Fine?? My real life friend Cordelia said she read the name as “Cordelia fiiiine” and that is 100% how I also read it. Fun! But my excitement quickly fizzed out when, instead of a deep dive into the social construction of gender, I got a defensive, long-winded rant about how women are treated poorly in patriarchal societies. Turns out Cordelia (the author, not my friend) is not fine. She’s real mad, and with good reason, but with not too much else to add to the conversation. First of all, yes I know that women are hard done by. I am one and I am both woke and educated. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, gender does not exist on a binary, dude! This book was published in 2010 and I realize that’s over 10 years ago but, like, scientists studying gender surely know it’s not as black and white as women vs. men… don’t they?? The title misleads the reader into thinking this will be a good about the concept of gender, not an old-timey women’s studies lecture. I will say that the discussion around neurosexism (the amplification of the importance of gender differences in the brain, which in truth are rare and insignifiant - brains of all genders are generally more alike than different!) is valuable and interesting.

If you’ve ever seen the author, V.S. Ramachandran, in a lecture or TED Talk you know he is very entertaining and compelling. He has done some very interesting research and is a super smart person. However, this book was quite literally shocking to me for a couple of reasons. He really takes a lot of creative license in this book, sometimes owning up to it (he presents some neuroscience theories about why and how people enjoy art… an ambitious undertaking) and sometimes veering towards judgmentalness and elitism (for example, talking about autism as a “bizarre disorder” and reiterating the unfortunate stereotype that people with autism don’t experience empathy and/or don’t have emotional intelligence… old and wrong news, bro!). Most concerningly he says some really offensive things (for example, talking about checking out the butt of a female student who came to see him during office hours - gross! (also: whhhhy) - or making an unneeded jewish mother joke as a non-jewish person - WUT? Sir, do you not have an editor or do you just not listen to them? There were a handful of interesting things that I could have learned from other, less infuriating sources. There are lots of better neuroscience books out there, including the aforementioned (and very long, be ye warned) Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Another great title that got me very excited to read (is that my problem? Am I too excited by snazzy titles!?). I love the word ‘weird’ and all the baggage that comes with it. Olga Kazan does a great job of dissecting that in the beginning but then the book meanders into an eclectic (weird?) collection of case studies of people who experience weirdness. There is some interesting research sprinkled throughout but overall it’s kind of meandering. I really wanted this to be something different than it was and I completely take ownership of that. I would recommend giving this a read if you’re interested in the general topic of weirdness, and if you do I would love to hear what you think of it!


Books that actually lived up to their hype:

So many people recommended this book to me and raved about it that I actually tempered my expectations and felt a bit skeptical about it living up to the hype. But did it ever! I really love when a book makes me think so deeply that I often just sit there holding the open book while staring into space thinking my deep thoughts. Also I cried several times. It was truly moving. Plus it is beautifully written. It’s like poetry! A perfect blend of science and art. A book that makes you sad when you finish it because there’s no more left to enjoy. Also a book that I still think about often, even so many books later. That’s a solid sign of a lasting impression!

I’ll just start by admitting I am a huge Hannah Gadbsy fan, she can do no wrong in my eyes and I already drank all her kool-aid, so take that into account as you read what follows. I loved reading this book (first on audiobook because I love Aussies - my Siri is Australian!) and I am currently re-reading it again in print. I rarely re-read books. Due to my general impatience and super long list of books to read, it just doesn't seem prudent. But I’m going to read this one twice and if that’s not enough of an endorsement for you, then fine I’ll keep going on and on. Not only is Hannah Gadsby’s writing laugh-out-loud funny, it is so clever and unique. Not only because of her perspective on life, but also because of the precision in which she takes the reader (or watcher, of her comedy specials) on an emotional journey. The stories are engaging whether funny or sad or everything in between. If you want to laugh and cry and gasp and annoy your friends with your many reflections, then get into this book!

Shonda Rhimes is someone I’ve been aware of for a long time, but as someone who doesn’t watch a lot of TV I consider her to be cool and accomplished from afar (I also tend to notice other curly hair cuties, since I am also one). As it turns out she is also a funny, interesting, and open person who wrote this great book. It’s meant to be more of a memoir than a self-help book but it’s very relatable (which is a tricky feat for an ultra-successful TV creator to pull off IMO) with lots of useful tidbits you can apply to your own life, in the form of engaging stories (of course!). I recommend the audiobook because her voice and reading style really enhances the experience!

Speaking of Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis! (ICYDK Viola Davis stars in the Shondaland show How to Get Away with Murder). This book has a lot of great reviews and I do love reading memoirs but I’m a bit reluctant when the person writing the memoir is quite so alive and active in their career. Even so, I love Viola Davis and think she’s the bee’s knees. I also had hella respect for Cicely Tyson (prolific! And the type of elder lady I want to be - active, fancy, and in-demand!) but didn’t know much about her life until I listened to Viola Davis’ memoir and her excitement about Cicely Tyson splattered onto me, so I read her memoir next. I like memoirs because when they are well written they allow you to just slip out of your own life and into someone else’s (perhaps) more interesting life. And because it’s all ‘true’ (according to the author’s perceptions), it hits different than a novel, in my opinion. For example, did you know Cicely Tyson pretty much single handedly kicked off the natural Black hair trend of the 60s and 70s, and sort of by accident? Or that she is Lenny Kravitz’s godmother?! Anyway, two great artists with interesting lives and beautiful voices (both in writing style and literally, if you read the audiobook versions). (P.S. Dang I just realized Finding Me was an Oprah book club book. My system is crumbling!)

Books that got me right in the feels:

Grief is a topic we should discuss more openly and honestly. This short and sweet book is a personal reflection of the author’s journey of grieving her Dad. I admit that I have been a big fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for a long time and I love all of her writing so feel free to take this with a grain of salt, but I think she has a very special way of cutting right to the truth of things. Of course this book has a lot of sad parts (be ye warned!), but I’d categorize it as a very honest mini-memoir - it’s got ups and downs and all the in betweens. (PS Her TED Talks are amazing!) (PPS If you haven’t heard of her, you may already know her voice from the Beyonce song Flawless)

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more seen or understood by a book until I read this one. It was eerie at times. And that is a big thing to say for someone who reads a lot of dang books (Hi, it’s me!). Now of course this book landed with me because the ideas apply to my life, but suffice it to say I’ve often picked up books for their personal relevance and then found them to be meh (as previously complained about ha ha). I liked that this book was written in a way that was both very direct and no-nonsense but also had a lot of practical tips and strategies for the reader to implement. I find ‘self-help’ books often veer too much toward one of those two things at the expense of the other, but this had a good balance. Perhaps most importantly, she also finds a really great balance between analyzing to understand and having compassion and empathy for the emotionally immature people in your life.

I really liked this book despite completely misunderstanding what it was about. At a loss for how to describe it succinctly, I went to plagiarize from the Indigo website (note: not plagiarism if you give a reference, which I just did!) and found this gem: “You don't really know Jenny Slate until you get bonked on the head by her absolutely singular writing style.” Well that might be true but I didn’t really know Jenny Slate before I picked this book up (except for when I realized after the fact that she’d had a guest spot on Brooklyn 99, one of my fave shows!). Anyhow, I did enjoy being bonked on the head with her quirky writing style! Thanks for the bonk, Jenny! On the back cover there is a list of things you will read about in the book and if, like me, you find this list delightful and hilarious, you will like the book: the smell of honeysuckle, heartbreak, a French-kissing rabbit, a haunted house, death, a vagina singing sad old songs, young geraniums in an ancient castle, birth, a dog who appears in dreams as a spiritual guide, divorce, electromagnetic energy fields, emotional horniness, the ghost of a sea captain, and more. This was also a great audiobook choice as her voice is lovely, in my opinion anyway. However, I had regrets since her writing is so sweet and rich in detail that I wanted to pause and re-read passages, which I just don’t do with audiobooks (my hands are occupied!).

I have been a fan of Matt Haigs writing since reading Reasons to Stay Alive (an amazingly well written and cleverly organized book about what it’s like to live with depression and a great resource for those experiencing depression and perhaps even more so, those who have not and want to understand the experience better). I needed novels for my vacation so I could take a break from all the heavy non-fiction reading I was doing so this is one of the ones I chose. Well it was not such a break from heavy stuff as it deals with death, life, regrets, after life and [CW] suicidal ideation. Yet somehow, what a fun and uplifting book! (I know, not what you’d expect from this subject matter). It made me think very deeply while entertaining me, which I always appreciate. I heard it’s getting made into a movie and to that I say: Please, please don’t ruin this book with a crappy film adaptation . Please make it good! Please!

Serendipitous books that fell into my lap (figuratively of course, though if an actual book fell into my lap I would definitely feel obligated to read it since that is a rare occurrence):

While I was on vacation I was pursuing the community bookcase where I was staying. I have had an interest in learning more about autism and neurodiversity generally. When I saw this book here for the taking I thought “ooooh!” and when I saw the length of it I thought “ohhhh…” (realizing I wouldn’t be able to finish it during my trip and so it would be coming home with me, which is sort of but not really stealing - especially since, in exchange, I left my other two novels for others to read. This book is a deep dive into the history of autism and it was pretty interesting to get the historical context behind this ‘controversial’ ‘disorder.’ I will say that I think the author does a solid job of encapsulating most (but not all) of the ‘main’ points in the history of autism. It is certainly a big topic and feels lacking in some areas despite the massive length. Side note: the copy I got was an Advance Uncorrected Proof which, I learned from my friend who is an editor, are pre-publication copies given to reviewers and other connected folks to read before the book is officially published and which must never be shared or resold. She was very affected by the news that I had gotten a copy in such a willy nilly way. Sacrilege! But great for me, since I got a free book which now seems like a cool illegal souvenir.

I can’t remember where I heard of this book but the title made me go “Well I gotta give that a whirl!” Because women are not a social group I identify as needing more Machiavelli in their lives. Before deciding to read this, you should know it is for a very specific audience of women who are in corporate roles and aspiring to climb that particular ladder. In which case, the author hypothesizes that thinking like Machiavelli and using the analogy of war for your workplace is helpfl. This may be so, but I wouldn’t know because I don’t live in that world. Still, I think the author is an engaging writer who endeavored to back up any of her personal claims with research and/or other resources. It was definitely a unique take on how to be a lady in these corporate jungles out there

I admit this was a reluctant and last minute addition to my book list project reading list, recommended by my friend Mandy. In addition to being reluctant, I also immediately became skeptical as the author has their own way of simplifying how the brain works and I’m always a bit piqued when people try to ‘dumb down’ the brain (not only is it super duper complex, we don’t even fully understand how it works, so how are we gonna summarize this thing?). However, as I carried on I was more and more impressed with the author’s own story and ability to weave it in amongst solid neuroscience research and traditional spiritual practices. It is really hard to find that sweet balance between being scientific and spiritual, but not only can it be done, when it is done well it is so impactful. I really appreciated the author’s honesty about her own skepticism and personal struggle to integrate these different parts of herself. Very cool! Personally, I feel this book barged its way into my life at the exact time I needed a lot of reminders about getting back to the basics of taking care of my mind and brain (and body and soul). Thanks, Mandy!

I already had this book on my list to read, then I sort of accidentally started listening to the author’s podcast (Sounds Like a Cult) and then realized she was the author. Eureka! I took that as a sign I should read the book. I did think it would be more broadly about cults, but the more narrow focus on how language is used as a tool to indoctrinate people into cults (and ‘cultish’ groups) was really interesting! I will never hear a thought-terminating cliche like “It is what it is” again without thinking of this book and author. Plus it had some interesting case studies. While I realize the podcast isn’t a book (me smart!) I will also recommend it as it’s lighter and broader in scope than the book. Each episode is about a ‘cultish’ group where the hosts discuss (along with an occasional guest) whether the group is or isn’t a cult.. If you are interested in how language is used to manipulate others, Cultish is a great read.


Oh Hey, It’s the End! (Finally? Ha Ha)

First of all thanks for reading all or most or some of this. I appreciate it!

Of course there are few other books I would write about if not for the very real time constraints of my life and my deep respect for your time and energy.

Anyway, are we friends on Goodreads? If not, why not? You can creep all the books I am reading (several at once because I have dynamic reading moods!) and all the hundreds of books I want to read (it’s overwhelming!).

I’d also love to know what your favourite book(s) of 2022 were (so I can add them to my ridiculous list of books to read in the future!)

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