January Reading


Although I started last month with such high hopes for what kind of reading I’d get done, I pretty much failed miserably on my January goal to read two books off my lists (mostly because I totally read the wrong book, which kind of killed the motivation I would have needed to finish up the second one I’d started from my book lists).

However, I DID still read two books during January—they just weren’t on any of my lists.

Oh well.

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee

Even though this was the book that I thought was on one of my book lists (1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die) and wasn’t, I still was pleasantly surprised by this book and rather liked it.

The most interesting thing about the story is that it switches between two different decades, and you don’t know how all the characters are connected until you’re almost at the end. The book is set near the mid-1900’s in Hong Kong, where the British expatriates mingle with the local Hong Kong Chinese. While there is a little bit of tension between the races, the bulk of the story is focused on how WWII turned Trudy Liang, the vivacious love interest of a British expatriate, into a top-level spy, which changed the country and the lives around her forever.

I’m pretty picky with writing style, so it says a lot that I was pretty pleased with how this book was put together. There were some parts at the end that were a little confusing or that seemed a little out of place, but altogether, I thought it thrilling how the two stories eventually collided in the final few chapters.

Even though I wasn’t really meant to pick this book up, I’m glad I did. It was one of the more “fun” reads I’ve had in awhile.

My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness: Although the book is centered around inherently immoral topics (adultery, affairs, rape), it does not get very specific with the details, which I appreciated. You definitely still know what’s going on, but I was glad that the author didn’t get too explicit with the descriptions. Overall, it’s a reasonably clean book considering the content.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

Last year, I read Rubin’s The Happiness Project, which was the sole inspiration behind the “mini happiness project” I had my students do in December while reading A Christmas Carol. So, when I found out that Rubin had written a follow-up book that was all about her second happiness project (which focused solely on how to increase happiness at home), I knew I had to try it.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the idea of her happiness projects, Rubin basically just sets a few specific resolutions each month that have to do with applying the latest research on happiness, and then she tries to live all the past months’ resolutions as she goes throughout the rest of the year.

While I’ll always enjoy the insight her books bring (and especially the quotes and sources she uses), I’ll admit that this book was only so-so for me. It felt very much like a repeat of her first happiness project, and many of her resolutions this time around didn’t resonate with me quite as much (perhaps because many of them were things I felt I already did).

I think people who have never read The Happiness Project would really like this book, especially if they were looking for daily strategies they could employ to bring a greater sense of wellbeing to their home. If you’ve already read her other book though, this one might seem like it gets a bit repetitive.

My Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness: This book (as far as I remember) does not have any questionable material in it whatsoever.

I’m currently looking for a book to read off of this reading list. If you have a chance, check the list out, and let me know if there’s anything you highly recommend off of it.


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