Reading wrap-up #79

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it, won’t shut up about it for the foreseeable future
  • (★★★★): Really liked it, enjoyable experience
  • (★★★): Liked it enough, no strong opinions
  • (★★): Didn’t care for it, would actively discourage people reading it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski

Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life: Nagoski, Emily: 0884815838962: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, feminism, self-help

GoodReads rating: 4.29 / 5 (33,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

Summary: “An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science—that will radically transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy. The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal. Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm.”

Warning: This book contains mention of sexual assault/rape, eating disorders and domestic abuse.

Thoughts: This has been on my TBR list for a while and after enjoying Bonk, I was ready to love this… but I only liked it. I found it a bit flower-y (I get it, my genitals are perfect and beautiful, I don’t need to be reminded every other paragraph) and repetitive at times and I guess I was more interested in the science Bonk had to offer than what this book had to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I still took a lot from this book:

  1. how we’ve mistakenly conditioned to see sex as a “drive”/necessity and are supposed to want it just as often as men (“women’s sexuality is not Men’s Sexuality Lite”)
  2. “When your brain is in a stressed, almost everything is perceived as a potential threat” making it harder to enjoy sex, especially as someone with a mental illness like anxiety
  3. You shouldn’t beat yourself up about your feelings, but think about how you feel about those feelings (meta-emotions)
  4. To cultivate great desire, we need to feel like we have a “bridge to cross”

I also really loved the workbooks (for this reason I recommend a physical copy), layout and organization of the book and the TL;DR at the end of each chapter, it made it feel really accessible.

However, there’s one last bone to pick. The author sings the praises of Health at Every Size (HAES) and its founder Lindo Bacon when they’ve proven themselves to be certifiably shitty, please watch this video essay on the topic if you’re more interested (claims obesity is 100% determined by genetics, any kind of dieting is akin to eating disorder behavior, etc.).

Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction by Michelle Nijhuis

Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction: Nijhuis, Michelle: 9781324001683: BooksRating: ★★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, science, history, nature

GoodReads rating: 4.13 / 5 (588 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)

Summary: “A vibrant history of the modern conservation movement—told through the lives and ideas of the people who built it. In the late nineteenth century, as humans came to realize that our rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving other animal species to extinction, a movement to protect and conserve them was born. In Beloved Beasts, acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the movement’s history: from early battles to save charismatic species such as the American bison and bald eagle to today’s global effort to defend life on a larger scale. She describes the vital role of scientists and activists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson as well as lesser-known figures in conservation history; she reveals the origins of vital organizations like the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund; she explores current efforts to protect species such as the whooping crane and the black rhinoceros; and she confronts the darker side of conservation, long shadowed by racism and colonialism.”

Warning: This book contains mention of imperialism and racism.

Thoughts: I borrowed this book on a whim and this is truly a hidden gem, I can’t believe this hasn’t made the rounds of amazing nature books. This is especially great to learn about the history of conservation, which is my field. This book more or less tells the history of “modern” conservation told through the actions of scientists through the centuries.

I really love how this book did not shy away from the imperialistic, patriarchal and capitalistic roots of the field and highlighted those actively working to dismantle it (conservationists are working towards a “reorganization of society rather than the passage of some fish and game laws”). For example: one of the first stories in this book is about the American bison that Indigenous people have been hunting sustainably for generations (have you ever heard of a buffalo jump? I haven’t and it’s crazy cool) until the colonists started doing the same (recreational hunting was on the rise at the time as the masculine sport of choice), then blaming the Indigenous people for the species downfall. Luckily, settlers realized it was in everyone’s best interest to keep the bison population up and they recovered. Today, something similar is happening on the African continent: where the settlers largely place the blame of declining megafauna population on the locals even though it was the colonists that brought the guns, railroads and demand for elephant ivory.

This book flowed together seamlessly with one story bleeding into the next and putting everyone’s lives into a single story (Aldo Leopold was born the year William Hornaday was making a bison exhibit in DC that would bring their plight to the nation’s attention). I would recommend checking out the physical or e-book version of this as it has great pictures.

Fangs by Sarah Andersen

Fangs: Andersen, Sarah: 9781524860677: BooksRating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction, graphic novel

GoodReads rating: 4.28 / 5 (51,000 ratings)

Medium used: Hardcover (borrowed from a friend)

Summary: “A love story between a vampire and a werewolf by the creator of the enormously popular Sarah’s Scribbles comics.”

Thoughts: Meh. This was just about worth the time it took to read it (20 minutes). Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I was familiar with this artist’s work. This also didn’t really have a through storyline: basically every page was its own little moment with no call backs to anything, it just felt a little distant and made me not really care about their relationship. And yes, I know this is a short, cute graphic novel but that didn’t hinder Heartstopper. Not awful but not amazing.

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

The School for Good Mothers: A Novel: Chan, Jessamine: 9781982156121: BooksRating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction, dystopia, science fiction

GoodReads rating: 3.57 / 5 (20,900 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

Summary: Exhausted Frida left her year-old daughter Harriett home alone for two hours while she ran errands and the neighbors called the police on her. It’s bad enough she’s not living up to her Chinese immigrant parents’ expectations of when the perfect immigrant daughter should be, now she’s been put in a year-long program not unlike a prison to learn how to be a good mother again to regain custody of her daughter.

Warning: This book contains mention of sexual assault/rape, miscarriage, racism, suicide and self-harm

Thoughts: Hear me out: I know I gave this three stars, but why is the overall rating of this book so low? Since I don’t give out many five stars I think I rate about one-star lower than the average reader who enjoyed a book as much as I did, so with that logic the average rating should be about four stars, no? Anyway, I liked this enough. I’m a sucker for a dark motherhood story with a twist (Big Little Lies, Little Fires Everywhere, The Push), a college campus setting and a dystopia element that’s bound in reality so I was ready to enjoy this. I wouldn’t say this was amazing (the ending was especially lackluster) but it absolutely kept me interested and reading on and will be one to remember. I really loved the commentary on mothers of color and how a lot of parents are judged by their worst day.

Have you read any of these? 

Photo by Radu Marcusu.


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