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.
How to Resist Amazon and Why by Danny Caine
Genre: Non-fiction, business, politics
GoodReads rating: 4.36 / 5 (631 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)
Summary: “When a company’s workers are literally dying on the job, when their business model relies on preying on local businesses and even their own companies, when their CEO is literally the richest person in the world while their workers make minimum wage with impossible quotas… wouldn’t you want to resist? Danny Caine, owner of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas compiled this zine about his commitment to fighting the seemingly impossible giant in the bookselling world: Amazon.”
Thoughts: Even if you think you know a lot about how horrible Amazon and Jeff Bezos are, I promise you this book will teach you something new. I really loved that the author used their unique point of view as a bookstore owner to talk about that specific part of Amazon’s business and corruption, as it did start of as a bookstore as well. How many of you have seen the $28.99 price tag on a new hardcover book and thought, “Ouch, I can buy this cheaper on Amazon”? While this may be true, Amazon has cheapened the value of all books, counting for over half of all book sales in the U.S. But when you buy from an independent bookstore, your purchase gets divided up between the publisher, bookstore and author keeping your money in the local economy, while when you buy from Amazon, most of it goes to the executives. There are lots of cheap and even free alternatives to Amazon: public libraries, used bookstores, swapping with friends, etc. Do you really want to support a company who installed pain killer vending machines and on-campus ambulances for their workers rather than improving the conditions?
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Genre: Fiction, contemporary, Japanese
GoodReads rating: 3.72 / 5 (154,000 ratings)
Medium used: Paperback (borrowed from a friend)
Summary: “[T]hirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura… has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction ― many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual ― and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action…”
Warning: This book contains mention of sexual assault.
Thoughts: This was a weird, enjoyable little book. It was so beautifully meticulous in its descriptions and as someone who finds both necessity and a little bit of joy in repetitive, menial tasks I could relate. This reminded me of my time working at a hardware store for a year: I felt like people expected more of me, but I was content there even in the “boring” tasks and my body was connected to the store when I wasn’t working. After I stopped working, I would still think to myself, “Look, it’s 4:45, almost closing time.” This book didn’t do terribly much for me, but I liked it enough.
The Pain Gap: How Sexism and Racism in Healthcare Kill Women by Anushay Hossain
Genre: Non-fiction, feminism, health
GoodReads rating: 3.76 / 5 (481 ratings)
Medium used: Hardcover (gifted from my family)
Summary: “When Anushay Hossain became pregnant in the US, she was so relieved. Growing up in Bangladesh in the 1980s, where the concept of women’s healthcare hardly existed, she understood how lucky she was to access the best in the world. But she couldn’t have been more wrong. Things started to go awry from the minute she stepped in the hospital, and after thirty hours of labor (two of which she spent pushing), Hossain’s epidural slipped. Her pain was so severe that she ran a fever of 104 degrees, and as she shook and trembled uncontrollably, the doctors finally performed an emergency C-section. Giving birth in the richest country on earth, Hossain never imagined she could die in labor. But she almost did. The experience put her on a journey to explore, understand, and share how women—especially women of color—are dismissed to death by systemic sexism in American healthcare.”
Warning: This book contains themes of miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, medical malpractice, racism and sexism.
Thoughts: This had a lot of good information in it, but a lot I wasn’t particularly interested in. Most of the book talks about pregnancy, childbirth and family health and while there was a lot of good data and stories, it was a bit too much as someone who doesn’t want to have children of their own. More of this time could have been spent talking about birth control, other diseases, mental health, etc. It’s kind of weird to read about COVID in books these days, but there were a lot of good information about how it impacted women’s rights: due to COVID, a lot of families who have two working parents forced the lower-salaried parent, unsurprisingly the woman, to stay home and care for the children. I also wasn’t a fan of how the author sang the praises of Biden when he’s done so little in the current climate of Roe v. Wade either now or while he was VP. However, I did think it was cool that the author did her Master’s at my university: Sussex!
Life on the Rocks: Building a Future for Coral Reefs by Juli Berwald
Genre: Non-fiction, science, nature
GoodReads rating: 4.33 / 5 (351,000 ratings)
Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)
Summary: “Coral reefs are a microcosm of our planet: extraordinarily diverse, deeply interconnected, and full of wonders. When they’re thriving, these fairy gardens hidden beneath the ocean’s surface burst with color and life. They sustain bountiful ecosystems and protect vulnerable coasts. Corals themselves are evolutionary marvels that build elaborate limestone formations from their collective skeletons, broker symbiotic relationships with algae, and manufacture their own fluorescent sunblock. But corals across the planet are in the middle of an unprecedented die-off, beset by warming oceans, pollution, damage by humans, and a devastating pandemic.”
Warning: This book contains discussions of mental illness.
Thoughts: I had no strong feelings about this book other than some off-putting reaches. While I liked the way she wrote about her daughter’s OCD and treatment, it was a bit of a stretch to relate it to the battle to save coral reefs. Same with the mention of Breonna Taylor and Black Lives Matter: it felt performative. Yes, the climate crisis is most dangerous to minorities, but what does police brutality in the U.S. have to do with it exactly? As someone whose passion is marine biology, it hurt me not to love this book. Maybe the audiobook format just bored me, but I didn’t learn or retain as much as I would have hoped given the largely unrelated mental health discussions strewn in.
Have you read any of these?
Photo by Radu Marcusu.