Reading wrap-up #83

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.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond 

Evicted in Hardcover by Matthew DesmondRating: ★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, sociology, politics

GoodReads rating: 4.47 / 5 (80,900 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)

PopSugar prompt: A book about a manmade disaster.

Summary: “In Evicted, Princeton sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of 21st-century America’s most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.”

Warning: This book contains mention of drug use, suicide and domestic abuse.

Thoughts: I tried to read this book in 2020 and DNF’d only a few chapters in and I remember why, I feel the author was too sympathetic towards landlords, the stories were a bit jumbled and I wish there was more just data and history of how we got to this current hellish renter’s market. There was one point where a landlord said to a tenant while she was evicting them: “If you’re ever thinking of being a landlord, don’t. It’s a bad deal, you get the short end of the stick every time.” This filled me with the rage of a thousand suns: you chose to be a landlord and don’t be crying about your job to someone you’re evicting while you get to go home with a roof over your head and still a six-figure salary. I wish the “about this project” bit was at the beginning of this book so we knew why the author decided to include landlords in this narrative.

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings

Maphead | Book by Ken Jennings | Official Publisher Page | Simon & SchusterRating: ★★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, geography, history

GoodReads rating: 3.86 / 5 (7,300 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)

PopSugar prompt: A book about a manmade disaster.

Summary: “In a world where geography only makes the headlines when college students are (endlessly) discovered to be bad at it, these hardy souls somehow thrive. Some crisscross the map working an endless geographic checklist: visiting all 3,143 U.S. counties, for example, or all 936 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some pore over million-dollar collections of the rarest maps of the past; others embrace the future by hunting real-world cartographic treasures like “geocaches” or “degree confluences” with GPS device in hand. Some even draw thousands of their own imaginary maps, lovingly detailing worlds that never were.”

Thoughts: This book was pure joy to me. I love Jeopardy! and was so excited to read something by legendary winner and fellow Seattlite Ken Jennings. Growing up, I remember quickly learning all the states and capitals on my LeapPad and in high school taking joy in learning all the countries. More recently, I’ve become obsessed with GeoGuessr and its many weird, fun maps. Ken puts the words in my mouth describing this strange love and how weird the feeling is that my (our) obsession with geography doesn’t translate to the general public. What do you mean you don’t know the difference between Polish and Hungarian give way signs?! My favorite quote was: “Falling in love with places is just like falling in love with people: it can happen more than once, but never quite like your first time.” In the physical book, I also loved the Maphead Quiz in the back of the book and the great visual insertions. However, this book commits one of my book pet peeves: having word/definitions in the beginning of each chapter. Ken, you’re better than this. Also I didn’t care much for the narrator of the audiobook, I wish it was Ken, then his little funny quips would have translated better.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Amazon - Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal: Mary Roach: 9781851689934: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, biology, science

GoodReads rating: 3.92 / 5 (45,000 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)

PopSugar prompt: A book title that’s an onomatopoeia.

Summary: “Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find words for flavors and smells? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? In Gulp we meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks of—or has the courage to ask. We go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a fecal transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal. With Roach at our side, we travel the world, meeting murderers and mad scientists, Eskimos and exorcists (who have occasionally administered holy water rectally), rabbis and terrorists—who, it turns out, for practical reasons do not conceal bombs in their digestive tracts.”

Warning: This book contains descriptions of animal testing and medical maladies.

Thoughts: At this point, y’all should know how much I like Mary Roach. She’s the kind of author I would aspire to be: basically just fun facts strung together in a narrative while also maintaining my own voice and humor. This is probably my least favorite book of hers so far, but it’s still solid. How could I not love a book about poop and farts? As usual, her humor is spot on and I really like how this book talked about the digestive lives of animals as well, I wasn’t expecting that. Mary does a great job of finding these niche researchers who understand that “some degree of obsession is a requisite for good science and scientific breakthrough.”

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read: Henry, Emily: 9781984806734: Amazon.com: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, romance

GoodReads rating: 4.06 / 5 (462,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

PopSugar prompt: A book with a misleading title.

Summary: “Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They’re polar opposites. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block. Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.”

Thoughts: I enjoyed this for the most part! I understood the romance and liked they had their conflicts that the other didn’t know about during the budding of their relationship. I loved the juxtaposition of the cute dates and the more serious moments of interviewing cult victims, however I don’t feel the author gave as much respect to the cult aspect as I would have hoped, it just felt like it was there to move the plot forward and character development. Another few critiques I have is that the banter was a bit too much and exhausting at times and I didn’t fully buy the characters’ relationship in college, that part should have been more fleshed out or omitted altogether. I decided this book has a misleading title because even the characters admit they didn’t spend much time at the beach. Also the beach in question is on a lake, that’s not a real beach! But at the end of the day, this book gave me what I wanted to: a romance book that is cozy but believable with a good tease and steamy scenes.

Have you read any of these?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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