Reading wrap-up #87

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.

The Rise and Reign of Mammals by Stephen Brusatte

The Rise and Reign of the Mammals: A New History, from the Shadow of the Dinosaurs to Us: Brusatte, Steve: 9780062951519: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, paleontology

GoodReads rating: 4.43 / 5 (700 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

Summary: “Though humans claim to rule the Earth, we are the inheritors of a dynasty that has reigned over the planet for nearly 66 million years, through fiery cataclysm and ice ages: the mammals. Our lineage includes saber-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, armadillos the size of a car, cave bears three times the weight of a grizzly, clever scurriers that outlasted Tyrannosaurus rex, and even other types of humans, like Neanderthals. Indeed humankind and many of the beloved fellow mammals we share the planet with today–lions, whales, dogs–represent only the few survivors of a sprawling and astonishing family tree that has been pruned by time and mass extinctions. How did we get here?”

Thoughts: I read one of his other books The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs and loved it. This is the blueprint of what popular science books should look like. While it’s packed wall-to-wall with great information, the author takes you on a narrative journey by describing what one might have seen, smelled, and saw in these pre-historic times. I highly recommend both of these books.

Don’t Be Evil: How Big Tech Betrayed Its Founding Principles and All of Us by Rana Foroohar

Don't Be Evil: How Big Tech Betrayed Its Founding Principles -- and All of Us: Foroohar, Rana: 9781984823984: BooksRating: ★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, business, tech

GoodReads rating: 3.87 / 5 (900 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)

Summary: ““Don’t be evil” was enshrined as Google’s original corporate mantra back in its early days, when the company’s cheerful logo still conveyed the utopian vision for a future in which technology would inevitably make the world better, safer, and more prosperous. Unfortunately, it’s been quite a while since Google, or the majority of the Big Tech companies, lived up to this founding philosophy. Today, the utopia they sought to create is looking more dystopian than ever: from digital surveillance and the loss of privacy to the spreading of misinformation and hate speech to predatory algorithms targeting the weak and vulnerable to products that have been engineered to manipulate our desires.”

Thoughts: This book has some great information but unfortunately didn’t grip me. I think the narrative was a bit confusing and jumped around quite a bit, maybe if they went company by company I would have followed it better.

Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington

Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol: Warrington, Ruby: 9780062869036: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, self-help

GoodReads rating: 3.64 / 5 (2,500 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)

Summary: “Would life be better without alcohol? It’s the nagging question more and more of us are finding harder to ignore, whether we have a “problem” with alcohol or not. After all, we yoga. We green juice. We meditate. We self-care. And yet, come the end of a long work day, the start of a weekend, an awkward social situation, we drink. One glass of wine turns into two turns into a bottle. In the face of how we care for ourselves otherwise, it’s hard to avoid how alcohol really makes us feel… terrible. How different would our lives be if we stopped drinking on autopilot? If we stopped drinking altogether? Really different, it turns out. Really better. Frank, funny, and always judgment free, Sober Curious is a bold guide to choosing to live hangover-free, from Ruby Warrington, one of the leading voices of the new sobriety movement.”

Warning: This book contains mention of sexual assault, domestic violence and eating disorders.

Thoughts: I think the GoodReads summary above can give some insight into my few problems about this book… but first, what I liked: I do like the general principle of mindful drinking. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where drinking to feel good ends and drinking to stop feeling bad starts… but my question is what do “good” and “bad” feelings entail? To feel our feelings entirely and clarity it’s best to remain alcohol-free on this slippery slope, at least for me personally. This book started a good conversation with myself as to why I drink and how it really makes me feel. This book took a more “relaxed” approach rather than an all-or-nothing sobriety point of view which is good for people contemplating abstinence to make it more approachable. I have tried to cut back and set rules/situations where I would allow myself to drink but that didn’t work out for me as I could easily justify most any occasion as “special” so I’ve gone completely alcohol-free at least until the end of the year. I also liked the bit about relapse and how not to be too hard on yourself because typically after a relapse, it will be even longer until your next one, if ever.

Now, into what I didn’t like: the author refused to share how much she drinks now and in what circumstances. I understand her not wanting the readers to use her as a model to copy, but I loathe self-help pieces of media that don’t share the actual writer’s experience. You’re already being so vulnerable and if you do your job right, the reader will take their own message away from your book.

This was a great companion book to Quit Like a Woman, but I can’t help but feel these are written for a very specific type of woman (well-off, white, straight, cis). While I am most of these things, it still felt alienating to know that the risky drinking is done by minorities and so little of this book was dedicated to those people. Instead, we are told to just “increase our vibe” and get “regular deep tissue massages.” At one point she referenced Dr. David R. Hawkins “scale of consciousness” with the feeling of courage having a frequency of 200, but never specified the units and I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Dee is trying to pedal her pyramid scheme superberries by having Charlie take a stress test with the result of 157… units.  I could go into this guy forever, he has a lot of whacky stuff out there, but I don’t trust someone with a website in Comic Sans, I don’t care how long they’ve been dead. Some of the spiritual things are extremely woo-woo for me as a jaded atheist, if she put them in the beginning I might have DNF’d it.

Don’t Worry: 48 Lessons on Relieving Anxiety from a Zen Buddhist Monk by Shunmyō Masuno

Don't Worry: 48 Lessons on Relieving Anxiety from a Zen Buddhist Monk by Shunmyō Masuno | GoodreadsRating: ★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, self-help

GoodReads rating: 3.67 / 5 (330 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)

Summary: “Think of a time when you were worried about something, but then you suddenly realized how insignificant it was. Isn’t it amazing how much lighter you felt? The key is to focus only on the here and now… By following this book’s 48 simple lessons-and taking to heart the nearly 30 zengo, or Zen sayings, quoted throughout-you’ll enjoy a calmer, more relaxed, more positive version of yourself.”

Thoughts: I can’t say this book changed my entire outlook on life, but I went in with quite low expectations. The cover caught my eye, it’s short and even if I don’t think these self-help books necessarily will put me on a new path, I can usually take something away. I really liked the attachment parts (learning to detach from the less important things like a job) and how to take your focus day by day. However, I think this book might be better suited for literal Buddhists as we’re not really provided examples of any other lifestyles other than those of monks and salespeople for some reason. For example, most people cannot rise any earlier in the morning to “make time for themselves” or have a typical 9-5 at all. Not bad, but I wouldn’t actively recommend this.

Have you read any of these?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.


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