Bookshelf

267 books

I love to read. In 2015 I started using my Goodreads account to faithfully track what I was reading, and in 2018 I began to write short reviews/reactions after I finished a book. This page is a list of every book I've read that has an associated rating and review; many entries will include a quote in italics, and may also include my notes on the book.

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by Joan Didion · read September 15, 2022
★★☆☆☆
This book is Didion's account of the year following her husband's sudden death, during which her daughter fell seriously ill. On one hand, the book is an honest confrontation with grief and loss, and Didion openly shares on a subject that most people shy away from. On the other hand, the book is intensely personal, and therefore kind of dull to read through — it contains many references to places I've never been, works I've never read, people I've never met, and medical terminology I've never learned.

So while I didn't enjoy reading the book, I think that in some way it's a reminder of what makes loss so challenging — that it's always particular and personal, and therefore never really understandable by anyone else.

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.


by Jane Harper · read September 9, 2022
★★★☆☆
This book was a fun read, but not one of my favourite suspense novels. The characters were a bit flat and the prose was pretty run-of-the-mill, but I liked the layering of mysteries. I'd recommend The Lost Man instead.


by Oliver Burkeman · read August 28, 2022
★★★★☆
I devoured this in a day—it was a balm for my soul as I panic about many outstanding tasks in my life.

Once you give up on the unattainable goal of eradicating all your problems, it becomes possible to develop an appreciation for the fact that life just is a process of engaging with problem after problem, giving each one the time it requires—that the presence of problems in your life, in other words, isn't an impediment to a meaningful existence but the very substance of one.


by Lionel Shriver · read August 22, 2022
★★★☆☆
This book was super bizarre but surprisingly engrossing. The basic premise is that the American dollar loses all value, the country's economy collapses, and the main characters (The Mandibles) have to survive a world turned on its head. I think the ideas and themes of the book were really interesting to me — I've always felt like having money gives you a certain kind of immunity from incredibly terrible things happening to you, but that's precisely the opposite in this story. It was a good reminder to not take things for granted, and to question the assumption that the future will largely resemble the present. The novel itself was a bit weird — the first few chapters predominantly consist of long dialogues about economics, the racial subplot was odd and felt forced, and the second part of the novel (which devolves into dystopia) had only a tenuous connection to the first. Still, I enjoyed it.

There was nothing astonishing about things not working, about things falling apart. Failure and decay were the world's natural state. What was astonishing was anything that worked as intended, for any duration whatsoever.


by Gary Keller · read August 18, 2022
★☆☆☆☆
This book is terrible — it's repetitive, simplistic, grating, and IMO pretty misguided. I would love to dunk on it further, but I don't want to fill my GR with negativity, so I'll keep it short: it's annoying to assume we all share a definition of what an 'extraordinary' life entails, it's silly to pretend that life isn't complex and dynamic, and it's super irritating to stylize 'one' as 'ONE' for 200+ pages.


by Toby Ord · read August 10, 2022
★★★☆☆
This book is an investigation into the likelihood that humanity experiences an existential catastrophe in the next century. Ord argues that our power is growing faster than our wisdom, and that the 'defining challenge of our time' is to safeguard humanity's potential from collapse or extinction in the face of risks like asteroids, nuclear weapons, climate change, pandemics, and unaligned artificial intelligence.

Ord examines a wide array of risks rigorously, which was a bit dense/dry to a casual reader like me, but obviously of scholarly value. Overall, I think the book makes a compelling case for taking these risks seriously and rising to the challenge of devoting significant resources to mitigating them. The most interesting section for me was 'anthropogenic risks', especially learning more about the history of nuclear weapons and warfare, and the introductory chapters outlining the stakes and philosophical underpinnings of the book's project.

In the months after my daughter was born, the magnitude of everything my parents did for me was fully revealed. I was shocked. I told them; thanked them; apologized for the impossibility of repaying them. And they smiled, telling me that this wasn’t how it worked—that one doesn't repay one's parents. One passes it on.


by David Graeber · read August 5, 2022
★★★★☆
I think the huge value of this book is the identification of 'bullshit jobs' and its elaboration on the 'spiritual violence' that completely useless jobs inflict on those that work them — it seemed to echo Frankl's identification of purpose and meaning as a driving life force in 'Man's Search for Meaning'. Most knowledge workers would probably benefit from reading this book, but at times it felt like he was restating the same ideas.

Since I agreed with Graeber's position, I didn't read this book very critically. It did make me wish I knew more about labour studies, and I might do some further investigation into feudalism and universal basic income. I think it also has interesting implications for discussions on how artificial intelligence could affect the workforce, since (thus far) productivity/efficiency gains seem to have increased economic output but not decreased working hours for most people. Much 2 think about with this one.

One might even say that this is the core question—perhaps ultimately the only question—of all social theory and all revolutionary thought. Together we create the world we inhabit. Yet if any one of us tried to imagine a world we'd like to live in, who would come up with one exactly like the one that currently exists? We can all imagine a better world. Why can't we just create one?


by Marlowe Granados · read July 26, 2022
★★★★☆
Effervescent, charming, and insistent that young women can be everything. I loved Isa's voice.

A person should never take on a city with an empty stomach, and I am always hungry.


by Scott Lynch · read July 24, 2022
★★★☆☆
One of the reviews on the back of this book describes it as 'swashbuckling', which is an excellent adjective for this story. It wasn't my usual genre (and was occasionally too crude or gruesome for my tastes), but I enjoyed being immersed in a new world and following Lamora's schemes and adventures. A fun summer read.


by Thomas C. Foster · read July 13, 2022
★★★★☆
A delight to read, and a reminder of why I love reading so much. Foster meanders through a world of literature to illuminate the symbols, patterns, and archetypes that give depth and texture to the stories we read. I especially liked his emphasis on intertextuality: how every work is part of the body of literature, and is therefore in conversation with the works that came before and after it through our collective cultural memory. This book was exactly what I'd hoped it would be, and I'm excited to encounter my next novels with new eyes.

The more we become aware of the possibility that our text is speaking to other texts, the more similarities and correspondences we begin to notice, and the more alive the text becomes.


by bell hooks · read July 6, 2022
★★★★☆
This collection of essays on pedagogy, theory, and feminism was rich and thought-provoking. It reminded me how much space education still has for change, and the growing pains that come with that change. Teaching well is no easy task.

My favourites from the collection: 'Essentialism and Experience', 'Holding My Sister’s Hand', and 'Embracing Change'.

There are times when personal experience keeps us from reaching the mountaintop and so we let it go because the weight of it is too heavy. And sometimes the mountaintop is difficult to reach with all our resources, factual and confessional, so we are just there collectively grasping, feeling the limitations of knowledge, longing together, yearning for a way to reach that highest point. Even this yearning is a way to know.


by Philip E. Tetlock · read June 29, 2022
★★★★☆
This oft-cited book did not disappoint — it was a readable account of a research project to determine what makes someone good at forecasting, or making predictions about the future. Since I'm interested in psychology, cognition, and mathematics, especially probability, I especially enjoyed reading about how Tetlock's research relates to other thinkers like Laplace, Kahneman, Duke, and Taleb — the topic of how we can apply good judgment, in the face of cognitive biases, to the non-intuitive process of assigning probabilities to future events is so multi-layered that every step to unraveling it is fascinating. This book definitely leaves me feeling like I should get onto Metaculus and start putting what I've learned into action!

The human brain demands order. The world must make sense, which means we must be able to explain what we see and think. And we usually can—because we are creative confabulators hardwired to invent stories that impose coherence on the world.


by Elif Batuman · read June 9, 2022
★★★★☆
The beginning of this novel was a bit clunky and the end too abrupt, but most of it was written in the style that made me love The Idiot. It definitely felt heavier and sadder.

"Shall we get out of here?" he said in a suave, euphemistic-sounding tone. I nodded. I always wanted to get out of here, and nobody ever asked.


by George Eliot · read May 30, 2022
★★★★☆
This novel should be assigned reading before getting married.

The really delightful marriage must be that where your husband was a sort of father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it.


by Nikolai Gogol · read May 11, 2022
★★★★☆
This novel started slow and then really grew on me. It’s unusual to find books which are so consistently amusing — every chapter had an incident, a description, or a turn of phrase that I enjoyed. Tchitchikov was a curious main character: almost amorphous, taking whatever shape he needed to be in the moment, compared to his deliberately idiosyncratic counterparts. I especially liked the way Gogol played on the distinction between real/unreal, dead/alive, and realistic/absurd, and the occasional authorial comments on literature and Russian culture.

Like a man half awake he wandered aimlessly about the town, unable to decide whether he had gone out of his mind or the officials had gone out of theirs, or whether it was all a dream or whether it was a reality more absurd than any dream.


by Sally Rooney · read April 26, 2022
★★★★★
3rd read (26/04/2022: I finally own a copy of this book and read it again instead of the three other books I'm halfway through. I had forgotten how contained and repressed, ruinous and shattering all of the emotions in this novel are. Finishing this book is like emerging from underwater and feeling the sun on my face, where my inner self interacts with the world and I use my words to express my feelings.

How strange to feel herself so completely under the control of another person, but also how ordinary.

2nd read (24/07/2019): Reread it because I liked it so much and because I was in Ireland. It was actually better the second time around since I focused more on the details. I especially noticed and enjoyed Rooney's descriptions of college and college conversations.

In just a few weeks' time Marianne will live with different people, and life will be different. But she herself will not be different. She'll be the same person, trapped inside her own body. There's nowhere she can go that would free her from this.

1st read (25/06/2019): I really loved this novel — I have a soft spot for romances with alternating perspectives, especially when characters are bad at communication, and I liked the way that Marianne and Connell's circumstances keep changing but their roles in each other's lives always seem congruous with what they're experiencing. I also liked the detail oriented but somewhat disconnected writing style; it's not for everyone but I'm partial to it.


by Sequoia Nagamatsu · read April 16, 2022
★★★★☆
Reading this novel felt like Nagamatsu crafted a story as a symphony; the tone and timbre of the book shifted as I read, and certain themes started with one character and were then picked up and developed by those that followed, echoing throughout the narrative. Occasionally the prose was too fanciful and some themes too heavy-handed, but overall I thought it was well-crafted and well-written. It certainly left an impression on me.


by Anna Wiener · read March 18, 2022
★★★★☆
More thoughts to follow in an intentionally incoherent blog post, but this was a good read — entertaining and interrogative.

For nearly two years, I had been seduced by the confidence of young men. They made it look so simple, knowing what you wanted and getting it.


by Kim Fu · read March 15, 2022
★★☆☆☆
To start, I acknowledge that I read this book at the wrong time — it arrived at the library shortly after I stopped reading Exhalation because I wasn't in the mood for short stories, and although I decided to power through Lesser Known Monsters it inevitably just wasn't what I wanted to be reading.

Disclaimer aside, this collection was very hit-or-miss for me. My favourites were:
  • 'Pre-Simulation Consultation XF007867', a transcript of a conversation between a participant and a simulation operator that illuminated the fuzzy moral ground of new technologies;
  • 'Do You Remember Candy', in which everyone on Earth loses their sense of taste at once, that reminded me not to take the world I have for granted; and
  • 'June Bugs', about a woman who, in fleeing her abusive partner, ends up in a house infested with bugs, which provided such a visceral metaphor for what we're willing to tolerate


by Kirstin Valdez Quade · read February 19, 2022
★★★☆☆
Sometimes, as I'm reading, I get a sharp sense of dread about whatever will happen in the next few paragraphs and I compulsively skip ahead to check and see if I’m right about what's coming next. I always flip back to where I started and read it through properly, but I just want to know how the scene will end.

I tore through this novel, and I think I had to skip ahead several times while reading it — the most I've ever done it in recent memory. It gripped my attention: I needed to find out what would come of the Padilla family, needed to see what would happen when the knife hanging over them fell.

For that reason, I think the novel was well-written, since it pulled me into their world and made me care about what happened next. But I didn’t fully enjoy reading it, because the dsyfunction bothered me, and whenever things got better I felt like they would just get worse again. (Also, I didn’t like the ending.) But maybe that was the point, and if it was I applaud Valdez Quade.

As she pulls into her driveway, something sharp twists above her heart. It hurts, the knowledge that life can still hold moments like these. Out of nowhere, a dance, a visitation, a kiss. This is the world she’s leaving.


by Hermann Hesse · read February 18, 2022
★★★☆☆
Reading this reminded me of a quote from Kafka's "On Parables" that I've been thinking about lately: "All these parables really set out to say merely that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already."

You have done so by your own seeking in your own way, through thought, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. You have learned nothing through teachings, and so I think, O Illustrious One, that nobody finds salvation through teachings. To nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teachings, what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment. ... That is why I am going on my way — not to seek another and better doctrine, for I know there is none, but to leave all doctrines and all teachers and to reach my goal alone — or die.


by Juhea Kim · read February 8, 2022
★★★☆☆
What struck me about this book is that it felt a little scattered as a novel, but in return much more representative of real life. I didn’t feel like it had a strong plot — the story is that of Korean independence told through the experiences of an array of characters, but it didn't feel like there was a narrative arc beyond the political and material setting (maybe the relationship between Jade and JungHo, but it certainly wasn’t a dominating feature of the book). It was precisely that quality that made it feel just like life, which is a story that we all co-create but doesn't have an overarching theme or a denouement. When I finished reading it, I felt like I had lived for a very long time, and through a lot.

He breathed in the night air and was surprised to discover a brief, sharp pang of exhilaration. It was just the feeling of being awake at that hour between the deepest night and the earliest morning. He was reminded of being sixteen or so and staying up all night to read a book, more awake and alive than in the middle of the day. He was sure then of having his entire life ahead of him, and the fresh and smoky smell of 4:00 A.M. had filled him with senseless happiness. Now he was a crippled man with snow-white hair—and the years had passed in the blink of an eye. The meaning of old age was that all the bliss in one’s life must now be found looking backward, not forward. But he had played his part, he’d lived for something greater than himself. ... This, the everlasting stillness of morning, brought him unbearable joy and sorrow. Tears flowed down his cheeks raked by time. Death was such a small price to pay for life.


by Julia Galef · read January 3, 2022
★★★★☆
Yet another strong rec from the esteemed Henry! I was probably the target audience for this book — interested in rationality and convinced of its merits but uninformed about specific tools or strategies — and I found it entertaining and practical. Parts 2 and 4, 'Developing Self-Awareness' and 'Changing Your Mind', were the most applicable to me; I especially liked the sections on using thought experiments to detect bias, applying the equivalent bet test to approximate quantitative estimates, and 'leaning into confusion' when faced with 'irrational' behaviour. Most of the anecdotes helped add colour and personality to the writing, but my one petty gripe is that I'm so over reading the same stories about the same billionaires again and again. Otherwise, this was a worthwhile read, and I'm excited to put some of what I've learned into practice!

Our judgment isn’t limited by knowledge as much as it's limited by attitude.


by Jo Hamya · read January 2, 2022
★★☆☆☆
Initially this seemed like the kind of book I would really like, but it fell flat for me. I might have enjoyed it more if I had attended Oxford or if I knew anything about British politics. I don’t think I understood the book at all, but my current hypothesis is that it was a satire about self-consciousness.

It seemed to me that even the highest echelons of power existed by virtue of their quarters; would be loath to give them up. I supposed it was not an entirely illogical proposition. Perhaps what the rampant racism, anti-immigration policy, and classism came down to was an arbitrarily powerful group of people wanting to preserve a world which could birth them into secure rooms; give them dorms in Eton and Oxford, chambers in Westminster, then a pension and country house to retire in.


by Richard Powers · read December 25, 2021
★★★☆☆
This felt like a novel that was 'about' many things, but the most notable to me was mysteries: the mystery of another person's interior experiences, of whether or not life exists beyond Earth, and of our meek acceptance of modern life's travesties. It was accurately characterized as a book that asks questions rather than answers them, and I liked that it reinvigorated my sense of wonder in the world. I enjoyed the different threads running through the story—my favourite was Robin's activism—but a couple of them felt underdeveloped, and the pacing of the story felt off at times.

I felt us travelling on a small craft, piloting through the capital city of the reigning global superpower on the coast of the third largest continent of an smallish, rocky world near the inner rim of the habitable zone of a G-type dwarf star that lay a quarter of the way out to the edge of a dense, large, barred, spiral galaxy that drifted through a thinly spread local cluster in the dead center of the entire universe.
We pulled into the hotel's circular drive and the cabbie said, 'Here we are. Comfort Inn.'


by Aditya Y. Bhargava · read November 30, 2021
★★★☆☆
Clear explanations and fun illustrations of some useful algorithms to know. Suitable for beginners or to refresh your memory if you've already studied algorithms. I found a few errors in the book, and there were a couple concepts (like P vs. NP problems) which felt like they were too simplified (although I could just be out of touch).


by Bred Stulberg · read November 23, 2021
★★☆☆☆
Felt like an overview of content I already knew, and nothing really stood out to me so it was a bit boring to read (especially right after reading A Liberated Mind). Although I understood why they were included, the descriptions of athletes and executives didn't interest me. I did appreciate the inclusion of the 'recommended reading' section at the end and will definitely check out David Whyte and Eric Fromm.

What I am interested in is convergence. If multiple fields of scientific inquiry, the world's major wisdom traditions, and the practices of highly fulfilled peak performers all point toward the same truths, then they are probably worth paying attention to.


by Gary Shteyngart · read November 21, 2021
★★★☆☆
Entertaining, in a self-congratulatory and -indulgent 'educated liberal' kind of way. Each of the storylines felt like it could have been developed a bit more, and I thought the ending was fragmented and weird. I loved the scene where Dee starts a dinner conversation about privilege — that made the entire novel for me.

He still loved all of her, even the gracelessness of her hungry, perennially dissatisfied immigrant soul, even the cruelty of her turns of phrase and the foulness of her triple-espresso breath. But he had to think like a character in a Chekhov play, forever taunted by desires but trapped in a life much too small to accommodate the entirety of a human being.


by Brit Bennett · read November 18, 2021
★★★☆☆
I really liked the novel's setup, but felt a bit disappointed by its conclusion. I was much more interested in Desiree and Stella than I was in Jude and Kennedy.

This was how Desiree thought of herself then: the single dynamic force in Stella's life, a gust of wind strong enough to rip out her roots. This was the story Desiree needed to tell herself and Stella allowed her to. They both felt safe inside it.


by Alexandre Dumas · read November 12, 2021
★★★★☆
This novel was the height of vicarious enjoyment and even a kind of moral catharsis — an extended fantasy of the poor becoming rich, of good triumphing over evil, of justice being served — that was exciting and satisfying.

'You don't believe in God, but you've just been struck down by God. You don't believe in God, yet all He asks of you is a prayer, a word, a tear in order to forgive you.'


by Kim Thúy · read November 8, 2021
★★★☆☆
The lyrical, evocative style of this novel made it enjoyable to read, but I didn't feel connected to the story or the characters — it felt like I was skimming over glassy waters without exploring their depths. Lovely, but left me wanting more.


by James P. Carse · read November 2, 2021
★★★★☆
I've seen this book referenced innumerable times and was still wholly unprepared for it; Carse's ideas were novel and illuminating to me. I appreciated the breadth of exploration in the book and the careful attention to making clear distinctions that allowed for that exploration to take place. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 were of the most interest to me — I particularly liked the sections on society and culture and on worlds and audiences. Will definitely come back to this one.

To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence.


by Toni Morrison · read October 31, 2021
★★★★☆
The best word I can think of for this novel is 'challenging', both emotionally and structurally. I love Morrison's writing — it's animate, arresting, and demanding, the kind that respects its readers and even pushes back at them.

This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live.


by Jenny Odell · read October 27, 2021 · includes notes
★★★★★
I love the cognitive dissonance of identifying this as a productivity book, but this is what productivity books should be: an interrogation of the notions of productivity and optimization and a call to instead exist in time and space with other people. There was so much to love about this book and I essentially highlighted all of it, but in particular I enjoyed the emphasis on bioregionalism, learning how to see through art, and the necessity of encountering other people in reality. Now I just want to read Arendt and people-watch on the TTC.

Practices of attention and curiosity are inherently open-ended, oriented toward something outside of ourselves. Through attention and curiosity, we can suspend our tendency toward instrumental understanding—seeing things or people one-dimensionally as the products of their functions—and instead sit with the unfathomable fact of their existence, which opens up toward us but can never be fully grasped or known.


by Ottessa Moshfegh · read October 19, 2021
★★☆☆☆
It's a novel about a woman taking sleeping pills for an entire year — unsurprisingly, it felt like it just dragged on and nothing happened. That was probably the point, but it doesn't make for a very fun read, and seemed like it made for an even less fun year.

It started off very innocently: I was plagued with misery, anxiety, a wish to escape the prison of my mind and body. Dr. Tuttle confirmed that this was nothing unusual.


by Morgan Housel · read October 19, 2021
★★★☆☆
A collection of twenty short chapters about the psychological and behavioural facets of investing. I think this book is a valuable accompaniment to other investing literature because it helps you to calibrate your expectations and perspectives around finance. Personally, I really liked the emphasis on uncertainty, long tails, endurance, room for error, and knowing the game you're playing. Housel also has a blog — I enjoyed these articles.

Saving is a hedge against life's inevitable ability to surprise the hell out of you at the worst possible moment.


by Pajtim Statovci · read October 17, 2021
★★★☆☆
A bleak novel that I would not recommend reading on the train alone on Sunday evening; Bujar's uprootedness struck me deeply. I particularly enjoyed the incorporation of Albanian myths and folklore.

For what I would understand the least, and what she doesn't yet understand at all, is the nature of desire, the numbness that follows when it's fulfilled. ... That's the worst of it all, when nothing is the way you thought, when you realize you've been living a lie, telling yourself a story... the feeling when you return home and switch off all the lights behind you, pull the curtains across the windows, and can no longer feel the motions of your heart; the feeling that you would give everything away to go back to the beginning, to revive your story's origins. Tanja doesn't know there's nothing worse than that.


by Keith Johnstone · read October 15, 2021
★★★★☆
I read this book after seeing it referenced on Ribbonfarm and I'm glad that I did. It speaks to both theatre and life, and I benefited from Johnstone's reflections on education and creativity, his explanation of how status interactions work, and the sections on 'accepting' and 'blocking'. Reading this was entertaining, educational, and eye-opening!


by Stuart Russell · read October 8, 2021 · includes notes
★★★★☆
I think this was a fantastic introduction to learning about AI safety and alignment (although I have to read some more about the topics to verify that intuition!). Russell identifies critical issues with the current model of designing machines to pursue specific objectives and proposes an alternative model which instead centers human preferences and accounts for uncertainty. Along with that, he also covers the history of research into intelligence, conceptual breakthroughs required for superintelligence, potential benefits and misuses of AI systems, and the necessity of AI safety research. The book occasionally felt a bit scattered and the ending too abrupt, but otherwise full of interesting information and discussion!

Unfortunately, with superintelligent systems that have a global impact, there are no simulators and no do-overs. It's certainly very hard, and perhaps impossible, for mere humans to anticipate and rule out in advance all the disastrous ways a machine could choose to achieve a specified objective. Generally speaking, if you have one goal and a superintelligent machine has a different, conflicting goal, the machine gets what it wants and you don't.


by Steven C. Hayes · read October 4, 2021
★★★★☆
A comprehensive, readable account of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It took a while to get through, but it was both informative and practical, and Hayes' tone felt clear and compassionate.

The six pivots can be more simply summarized with this cheat sheet:
  • See our thoughts with enough distance that we can choose what we do next, regardless of our mind's chatter.
  • Notice the story we've constructed of our selves and gain perspective about who we are.
  • Allow ourselves to feel even when the feelings are painful or create a sense of vulnerability.
  • Direct attention in an intentional way rather than by mere habit, noticing what is present here and now, inside us and out.


by Mikhail Bulgakov · read October 4, 2021
★★★☆☆
Absurd and entertaining. I loved the Pontius Pilate narrative, appreciated the attention to the difficulty of apartment hunting in Moscow, rooted for Ivan, and did my best to keep up with the rest of the story. My takeaway here is that it's difficult to understand a 'devastating satire of Soviet life' when you know nothing about Soviet life. God bless Richard Pevear for his introduction, although it made far more sense after reading the novel than it did before. Next up... A History of Russia and Dead Souls!


by Sally Rooney · read September 21, 2021
★★★★☆
Rooney's novels feel like answers to questions I didn't know that I had. What I loved most about this novel was its depiction of the vulnerability that comes with knowing and loving other people deeply; a timely reminder that relationships can only be amazing when accompanied by the terrifying kind of honesty. I also loved the richness of the group dynamic and Felix's insistence on shaking things up. I wish that Simon had more of a presence in the story, but the moment between him and Eileen at Lola's wedding nearly made up for it.

What if the meaning of life on earth is not eternal progress toward some unspecified goal — the engineering and production of more and more powerful technologies, the development of more and more complex and abstruse cultural forms? What if these things just rise and recede naturally, like tides, while the meaning of life remains the same always — just to live and be with other people?


by Samanta Schweblin · read August 29, 2021
★★★★☆
Like 'Fever Dream', this novel has a fantastic premise—keeping Furby-like pets that strangers 'dwell' in and control—and an eerie quality to it. I loved the style of vignettes that each explored a different dimension of the idea; the Barcelona vignette, in the home for the elderly, really struck me, and the general theme of connection/voyeurism is especially relevant. I wasn't ready for the ending — the conclusions for Alina, Enzo, Emilia, and Marvin were a lot to take at once.

Sometimes Alina lowered the book and asked him a question, just to find out if the person controlling him was still there with her, or if he'd left the crow to go do something better. The first option, the idea of someone sitting there and staring at her for hours, always intimidated her, and the second offended her. Wasn't her life interesting enough?


by Kiran Desai · read August 22, 2021
★★★☆☆
This novel oscillated between sweeping themes and minutiae. The attention to detail and setting is what makes it stand out; it also makes it challenging to read. It tells a sad story, especially its focus on desire and unfulfillment.

But so fluid a thing was love. It wasn't firm, he was learning, it wasn't a scripture; it was a wobbliness that lent itself to betrayal, taking the mold of whatever he poured it into. And in fact, it was difficult to keep from pouring it into numerous vessels. It could be used for all kinds of purposes... He wished it were a constraint. It was truly beginning to frighten him.


by Maria Konnikova · read August 19, 2021
★★★★☆
What an engrossing read — an unbelievable story about learning poker from a world-class player while exploring what the game reveals about human psychology and behaviour. This book illuminates not only the game of poker, but the complex interactions of skill and luck every day of our lives; definitely a recommended read!

Here was the cruel truth: we humans too often think ourselves in firm control when we are really playing by the rules of chance.


by Jon Kabat-Zinn · read August 16, 2021 · includes notes
★★★★☆
Excellent introduction to the subject; I was especially impressed by the tone and style of the book, which seemed to embody the core principles of mindfulness. The emphasis on being compassionate and non-judgmental was helpful, as were the different metaphors for the mind. Would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in mindfulness!

Liberation from suffering comes from the practice of resting in not knowing, of being aware, of attending to any given circumstance with kindness and clarity.


by Gunnhild Øyehaug · read August 13, 2021
★★★☆☆
Quirky in its form and voice. The ten main characters are loosely connected in reality (lovers, friends, ex-lovers, coworkers) but share certain qualities of their 'inner lives', most notably the desire for connection and recognition. I liked the novel's creativity and focus on art; at times the writing style made the prose feel laborious. Viggo and Elida's storyline was my favourite.

She's twenty-three years old, and she's already a boat that's frozen in ice. If this were a film, and she were some miserable, closed person, she thinks, something would happen at this point to pull her out of her reclusiveness. If she had braces and wore glasses, this would be the point where someone came along and taught her to wear contact lenses and makeup, and someone else would do her hair. ... But that's not reality! Sigrid wants to shout. People just stay sitting in their rooms. They sit there, and nothing happens. They don't change, they just stay the same. Even if they're only twenty-three years old!


by William MacAskill · read August 3, 2021
★★★☆☆
I found this to be a fairly helpful introduction to some of the core principles of effective altruism: that it's possible to 'do more good' with resources by directing them to certain organizations or causes and that it's worthwhile to research what those organizations or causes are. I appreciated the narrow focus of the book (primarily global health interventions), and was particularly struck by the section about what it means to be wealthy and the potential impact of my donations. Since I'm predisposed to agreeing with the author, I'll probably have to reread this at some point with a more critical eye to his arguments' premises, conclusions, and implications.


by Pierre Bayard · read July 7, 2021 · includes notes
★★★★☆
I enjoyed this book; it alternated between providing entertainment and food for thought about what it means to 'read' a book. I especially like the concept of an 'inner book', wherein our own representations shape how we interpret what we read. I also liked the exhortation to never tell an author what you thought about their work, and Wilde's suggestion of publishing lists of books that one shouldn't read.

Every writer who has conversed at any length with an attentive reader, or read an article of any length about himself, has had the uncanny experience of discovering the absence of any connection between what he meant to accomplish and what been grasped of it.


by Yiyun Li · read June 26, 2021
★★★☆☆
I loved the striking prose and the careful attention to the characters' experiences; I felt as if I truly inhabited their world and witnessed the fallout of their childhoods together. I was a bit let down by the resolution of the 'mystery' that carries the plot forward, but I enjoyed the journey.

And then there was Celia—all the Celias of the world—who made it easy for Ruyu to be who she was: their eyes looked neither at nor through her, but looked instead for themselves in her face.


by Deborah Levy · read June 14, 2021
★★★★☆
I loved this book's reflectiveness and honesty; an exploration of personhood, relationships, constraints, and possibilities. My new mortal enemy is Jean, who insists that bikes not be parked behind trees.

No, there were not that many women I knew who wanted to put the phantom of femininity together again. What is a phantom anyway? The phantom of femininity is an illusion, a delusion, a societal hallucination. She is a very tricky character to play and it is a role (sacrifice, endurance, cheerful suffering) that has made some women go mad. This was not a story I wanted to hear all over again. It was time to find new main characters with other talents.


by Daniel Heller · read June 6, 2021 · includes notes
★★★☆☆
Solid collection of practical advice, tips, and strategies for working in software development. It feels funny to be reading a book about how to write an email, but also there are a lot of random useful things to know about the workforce that someone has to teach you! (I actually used his 'introductions' email template shortly after finishing the book and it was very helpful.) I thought that parts two and three — day to day life in the office and communication — were the most applicable to me.


by James Clear · read May 30, 2021
★★★★☆
Clear, practical, good advice — what more could you want? I read James Clear's blog and newsletter so I feel like I had already read everything in this book and yet I still enjoyed it so much.

Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.


by Un-su Kim · read May 27, 2021
★★☆☆☆
Not quite my style — gritty and Machiavellian — but intriguing and very aptly named.

This world isn't a mess because people are evil. It's because everyone has their own stories and excuses for doing bad things.


by Adam M. Grant · read May 23, 2021 · includes notes
★★★☆☆
This book wasn't as rigorous or groundbreaking as I had hoped it would be, but I came away with some useful new ideas — the four mindsets for approaching new ideas, the distinction between relationship and task conflict, and the reason why showing the 'other side' doesn't work (spoiler: binary bias).


by Samantha Hunt · read May 22, 2021
★★★☆☆
Distinctive, evocative prose for a poignant story. Didn't fully resonate with me, but I appreciated it.

My mother is regularly torn between being herself and being my mother.


by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett · read May 20, 2021
★★★☆☆
I read this purely for fun, enjoyed it, and presently have no formulated opinion about Currid-Halkett's theory of the aspirational class other than it seems intuitively correct to me. I may think harder about this later.

Aspirational class productivity in leisure spills over into all facets of life. Some members are never able to just relax. Even watching television—Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, or HBO's latest epic—is about being a part of the cultural zeitgeist. How else can an individual seem informed (and intellectually productive) at a dinner party if he's not spending free time doing things that make him seem smart and culturally aware?


by Emily Thomas · read May 13, 2021
★★★☆☆
Underwhelming, but it had some interesting parts. It wasn't cohesive at all – each chapter covered its own topic and associated philosophers, which made them very hit and miss. The most interesting sections were the discussion of Henry More's philosophies of space/aesthetics of the infinite and Edmund Burke's distinction between the sublime and the beautiful.


by Lori Gottlieb · read April 28, 2021
★★★★☆
I found this memoir entertaining, thought-provoking, and educational — an impressive combination! It was a fascinating look at therapy from both the perspective of the therapist and the patient and written in an engaging, personal style. It made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think — would definitely recommend.

But part of getting to know yourself is to unknow yourself—to let go of the limiting stories you've told yourself about who you are so that you aren’t trapped by them, so you can live your life and not the story you've been telling yourself about your life.


by Andrew Hallam · read April 11, 2021
★★★☆☆
Good quality content on personal finance. Mostly introductory, so it was predominantly review for me, but I appreciated his clear explanation of the role of bonds in a portfolio.


by Ling Ma · read February 23, 2021
★★★★☆
The best phrase to describe this novel is 'way too real'. Clever, prescient, an excellent read.

What I didn't say was: I know you too well. You live your life idealistically. You think it's possible to opt out of the system. ... I used to admire this about you, how fervently you clung to your beliefs—I called it integrity—but five years of watching you live this way has changed me. In this world, money is freedom. Opting out is not a real choice.


by Tiago Forte · read February 14, 2021
★★★☆☆
This book is a collection of Tiago Forte's blog posts/essays about knowledge work. Reading Forte is always an experience for me because I find it challenging to determine whether he's written something brilliant or completely bullshit; however, I'm deeply interested in knowledge work and his writing has exposed me to lots of new ideas and frameworks. As an actual book, the collection was not that cohesive. I liked The Secret Power of Read It Later Apps and Productivity for Precious Snowflakes the most.

Let's rewind a bit. Productivity as we know it is based on delayed gratification, which described a world that was predictable and structured. It was clear what you had to do and in what order — it was just a matter of scheduling and pain tolerance. But delayed gratification is obsolete in a world dominated by VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), because the pain you're pulling into the present might not even be necessary, and the gratification you're pushing into the future might never materialize. It is not at all clear what must be done and in what order; in fact, it becomes ever more clear that most of the tasks we execute don't make much of a difference, while a tiny percentage randomly and dramatically influence the course of our work and our lives. It makes sense to invest more and more resources in making that distinction, because the absolute fastest way to complete a task or reach an objective is to realize you don't have to.


by Tim Ferriss · read February 4, 2021 · includes notes
★★★☆☆
I found a lot of value from the book's perspective on reimagining and shaping life according to your own terms. At times in the book, this philosophy comes across as overly self-serving and empty, especially the (questionable) premise that life is just about doing what you want. I see the value of passive income, but personally wouldn't want to make a fortune selling something that people don't really need. Nonetheless, I found several of the practical tips helpful, and I enjoyed reading a different perspective.


by Sigrid Nunez · read January 31, 2021
★★★★☆
Captivating, beautiful, wrenching prose and storyline. I adore Nunez's writing.

I don't know who it was, but someone, maybe or maybe not Henry James, said that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who upon seeing someone else suffering think, That could happen to me, and those who think, That will never happen to me. The first kind of people help us to endure, the second kind make life hell.


by Sophie Kinsella · read January 30, 2021
★★★☆☆
Light and entertaining. Makes me feel extremely financially responsible!


by Megha Majumdar · read January 28, 2021
★★☆☆☆
I didn't really click with this one; I was interested enough to keep reading, but the characters fell a bit flat and their storylines weren't as connected as I thought they would be.


by Vicki Robin · read January 28, 2021
★★★★☆
This book is not just about personal finance – it's also about reshaping your perspective on your life, your work, and the meaning you attach to money and possessions. Parts of the book I liked the most:

  • The definition of money as 'something we choose to trade our life energy for'
  • The chapter on fulfillment, and thinking through how my expenses are aligned to my purpose and values
  • The section on frugality
  • The exercise of calculating exactly how much you make per hour and the practice of using that to assess expenses

I'm still pondering parts of the book's philosophy; potentially more thoughts to come on that. In the meantime, please enjoy the following callout:

For the sake of order and convenience, we've sorted our lives into boxes. There's our work life, our home life, our community life, our inner life and our secret life. Such 'systems management' allows us to track and balance our many responsibilities. But our prioritized To Do lists are not our lives. In theory they are there to assist us in navigating life—but more often they run us. Rather than perceiving life as a continuing flow of experience in the present moment, we become convinced that we have life captured in a three-ring binder with colored dividers. If we just follow the signs and connect the dots the picture of a perfect life will pop out at us.


by Alisa Vitti · read January 23, 2021
★★★☆☆
I read this book very apprehensively, especially because it has a sales-pitch/miracle-cure tone, but it actually taught me a lot about the endocrine system, the menstrual cycle, and how to regulate blood sugar. I also liked the discussion of masculine and feminine energies at the end. If you can breeze over about half of it, you might benefit from the other half.


by Jake Knapp · read January 11, 2021
★★★☆☆
'Make Time' is written in a distinctively light, conversational tone, which I found unusual but enjoyable. My biggest takeaway was the idea of picking a 'highlight' for the day and making that your focus; otherwise, the book had lots of good advice that I've already heard. Would recommend if you're interested in non-annoying productivity ideas and haven't already read a lot in the genre.

You only waste time if you’re not intentional about how you spend it.


by Marcus Aurelius · read January 8, 2021
★★★☆☆
This book is an experience because it's so odd — the private diary of a long-dead Very Important Person who spends a lot of time writing about 'nature', complaining about having to deal with idiots, and musing about death. It seems weird to me that modern tech bros picked up this book, thought 'yes, this is exactly the advice I needed', and adopted Stoicism as their life's philosophy, yet here we are.

My favourite parts: the beginning, where he lists out all the things he's learned from the people he knows, and his advice on the perennial dilemma of hearing someone mispronounce a word: instead of correcting them, you should just pronounce it correctly later in the conversation, and they'll catch their own mistake. #ancientwisdom


by Nicholas A. Christakis · read January 7, 2021
★★☆☆☆
This was a thorough and well-researched look at COVID-19, including comparisons to previous pandemics. I think I picked up this book hoping for answers of some kind – what I wanted, I couldn't tell you, but on that front it obviously could not deliver.


by Tom Rath · read January 7, 2021
★★★☆☆
I received this book when I was in grade 10, did the quiz, received my strengths assessment, and then forgot all about it. Eight years later, rereading this book and thinking through my strengths has been really helpful! I've shared the 'strength = talent x investment' formula with a few of my friends, and I appreciated the caveat of limiting liabilities. I couldn't redo the quiz, but just reading through the book was enough to identify my top four strengths.


by Charlie Mackesy · read December 29, 2020
★★★☆☆
Sweet and heartwarming. I love the artwork.


by Marie Kondō · read December 24, 2020
★★★★☆
I loved this book - charming and inspirational. The advice I took to heart the most: pick a place for everything to 'live' in your house; don't involve your family in the cleaning process; don't start the process with sentimental items; and only keep things that you truly love.

Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.


by Darius Foroux · read December 24, 2020
★★☆☆☆
I like Darius's blog and was hoping to like this book but it just felt jumbled, unfocused, and at times incoherent.


by Seth J. Gillihan · read December 23, 2020
★★★☆☆
Since this is a workbook and I didn't do all the exercises, I don't know how qualified I am to write a review... nonetheless, I benefitted from the introduction to CBT and thinking through the core belief diagram.


by Zadie Smith · read December 14, 2020
★★☆☆☆
I liked 'Something to Do' and 'Contempt as a Virus', but otherwise the collection didn't particularly stand out to me.

Watching this manic desire to make or grow or do 'something,' that now seems to be consuming everybody, I do feel comforted to discover I’m not the only person on this earth who has no idea what life is for, nor what is to be done with all this time aside from filling it.


by Fumio Sasaki · read November 29, 2020
★★★☆☆
Too minimal for me, but exposed me to a helpful perspective on minimalism. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the 55 tips. My favourites:

  • #8: There isn't a single item you'll regret throwing away
  • #20: Let go of the idea of 'someday'
  • #21: Say goodbye to who you used to be
  • #24: Let go of the idea of getting your money's worth
  • #31: Think of stores as your personal warehouses
  • #51: If it's not a 'hell, yes!' it's a 'no'


by Frances Cha · read November 24, 2020
★★★★☆
Engrossing and insightful, which can be a tricky combination to pull off. It felt like the novel was showing pieces of the characters' lives rather than getting at some kind of message, which I liked. Kyuri and Miho were the most interesting to me.


by Frank Lipman · read November 16, 2020
★★★★★
I really enjoyed the holistic, practical outlook of this book. This is a text I would love to own and constantly reference. After reading it the first time, I made a concerted effort to spend more time in the sun, limit lights in the evening and during sleep, and cuddle my pet bunny more often!


by Tomasz Jedrowski · read November 12, 2020
★★★★☆
The best word I can think of to describe this novel is 'enveloping' – Ludwik's experiences felt so raw and all-consuming to me.

I sat in the hallway and tried not to cry. I wanted to cease existing. I wanted to un-be. I sat in the hallways and tried not to think of you and me. ... I tried to imagine my life in the future, in a year or so. I couldn't see anything. I couldn't see anything because anything that wasn't that moment–no, not even that–was beyond me. I started rocking my legs and feet, just to feel something. ... I went home. I would get used to it.


by Yaa Gyasi · read October 27, 2020
★★★★★
A stunning exploration of the main character Gifty's relationships - to God, to her family, to truth, to herself. I loved so many things about this novel.

'What's the point?' became a refrain for me as I went through the motions. One of my mice in particular brought those words out every time I observed him. He was hopelessly addicted to Ensure, pressing the lever so often that he'd developed a psychosomatic limp in anticipation of the random shocks. Still, he soldiered on, hobbling to that lever to press and press and press again. Soon he would be one of the mice I used in optogenetics, but not before I watched him repeat his doomed actions with that beautifully pure, deluded hope of an addict, the hope that says, 'This time will be different. This time I'll make it out okay.'

'What's the point of all of this?' is a question that separates humans from other animals. Our curiosity around this issue has sparked everything from science to literature to philosophy to religion. When the answer to this question is 'Because God deemed it so,' we might feel comforted. But what if the answer to this question is 'I don't know,' or worse still, 'Nothing'?


by Robert A. Glover · read October 16, 2020
★★★☆☆
Some solid advice about setting boundaries and prioritizing your own needs. A bit repetitive; I sped-read the last few chapters.

Nice Guys are concerned about looking good and doing it 'right.' They are happiest when they are making others happy. Nice Guys avoid conflict like the plague and will go to great lengths to avoid upsetting anyone. In general, Nice Guys are peaceful and generous. Nice Guys are especially concerned about pleasing women and being different from other men. In a nutshell, Nice Guys believe that if they are good, giving, and caring, they will in return be happy, loved, and fulfilled. ...

This myth is the essence of what I call the Nice Guy Syndrome. The Nice Guy Syndrome represents a belief that if Nice Guys are 'good,' they will be loved, get their needs met, and live a problem-free life. When this life strategy fails to produce the desired results — as it often does — Nice Guys usually just try harder, doing more of the same. Due to the sense of helplessness and resentment this pattern inevitably produces, Nice Guys are often anything but nice.


by Nadia Bolz-Weber · read October 15, 2020
★★☆☆☆
In my opinion, this book deeply lacked intellectual integrity – (willful?) Scriptural misinterpretations abound. I have a 'say it with your chest' stance when it comes to Scripture - if you disagree with the Bible, that's one thing, but rearranging it to mean what you'd like is disingenuous.


by Donella H. Meadows · read October 13, 2020
★★★★☆
This was an excellent introduction to systems thinking — Meadows covers core concepts and terminology, strengths and pitfalls, and approaches, plus she includes explanatory diagrams! I found the elaboration on feedback loops helpful and the discussion about system boundaries interesting. Bonus points for having a summary at the end!

Everything, as they say, is connected to everything else, and not neatly. There is no clearly determinable boundary between the sea and the land, between sociology and anthropology, between an automobile's exhaust and your nose. There are only boundaries of word, thought, perception, and social agreement—artificial, mental-model boundaries.


by Hal Edward Runkel · read October 6, 2020
★★★☆☆
Short and sweet — a father's advice to his college-aged daughter about making choices as an adult. I enjoyed the down-to-earth wisdom; this book is an encouragement to live with integrity and courage.


by Megan Campisi · read September 25, 2020
★★★☆☆
I enjoyed the premise and setting of this story but not particularly the plot. Fun to read but not too substantial.


by Nikolai Gogol · read August 10, 2020
★★★☆☆
A lovely, surprisingly sad short story. There should be more joy in the world and more efforts to preserve it.

Indeed, one young man who had only recently been appointed to the department and who, following the example of the others, tried to have some fun at his expense, stopped abruptly at Akaky's mild expostulation, as though stabbed through the heart; and since then everything seemed to have changed in him and he saw everything in quite a different light.


by Gary Chapman · read August 9, 2020
★★★☆☆
This book elaborates on a useful framework for understanding how we 'do' love – conceptualizing love as an action rather than just a feeling. Some of the book's examples and reasoning felt out of touch or simplistic, but thinking through some of the ways we can express and receive love felt fruitful.

We can recognize the in-love experience for what it was—a temporary emotional high—and now pursue 'real love' with our spouse. That kind of love is emotional in nature but not obsessional. It is a love that unites reason and emotion. It involves an act of the will and requires discipline, and it recognizes the need for personal growth. Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving.


by Ian Williams · read July 9, 2020
★★★★☆
I was really impressed with this novel, which was both structurally creative and emotionally enthralling. The way that Williams played with form within the book definitely enhanced the narrative for me, especially the exponentially fragmented narrative in Part 3 and the 'cancerous' invasion of Felicia and Edgar's first meeting in Part 4. Shielding the identity of the characters at times, either through omission or alternate terminology, reinforced the universality of certain family experiences. I also personally enjoyed that it was set in Toronto and Brampton.

What particularly struck me about the characters was the influence of power on the many relationships in the book and how realistic it made those relationships seem. There was a clear chord throughout the story of the male characters either exerting power over the female characters or wrapped up in their own pursuit of money, status, sex, and authority at the expense of others. This focus was paired with an emphasis on care-giving and what it means to provide for one another, which are equally relevant to family dynamics and perhaps provide a more generous view into the inner workings of our families of blood and choice.

Reproduction mixed light elements of drama and humor with heavier scenes of loss, harm, and grief to produce an insightful, enjoyable examination of family relationships.


by Nisid Hajari · read July 5, 2020
★★★★☆
This book is a detailed historical account of the Partition of India that taught me a lot about the political, religious, and geographic landscape of both India and Pakistan. I would recommend reading this, and with a map handy.


by Meg Jay · read June 28, 2020
★★☆☆☆
To summarize what was a repetitive book: 'don't waste your 20s, get a real job and a serious relationship'. This book is dedicated to arguing against the 'common' belief that young adults just spend their 20s having fun, causing them to get behind on life. As I've never met anyone who holds that belief, its premise was shaky to start. Consequently, a lot of the advice came across as dated, condescending, or simplistic.

In general, light on the practical tips and heavy on the scare tactics. Would not recommend and I'm sure you could find more useful, modern advice elsewhere.

Gave it 2 stars instead of 1 because it at least provided a few helpful ideas for me – building your identity capital, taking advantage of the weaker ties in your social network, the importance of developing a coherent personal story, and making timelines for your goals to verify feasibility.


by Mary Beth Keane · read June 27, 2020
★★☆☆☆
Couldn't get behind this one either. I did like the arc/resolution of the main conflict in the novel and reading about Peter's experience in high school and college, but overall the perspectives of the other characters never seemed interior enough and the story was painted in too broad strokes for my liking.


by Emily Henry · read June 21, 2020
★★★☆☆
Fun premise with snarky banter and some cute moments - I enjoyed it! Especially liked that they were authors and felt like it added something unique to the story, and also liked that Gus was mysterious without being a jerk.


by José Saramago · read June 21, 2020
★★★☆☆
Unsettling and insightful, this novel explores human nature in the midst of an epidemic of blindness. The content of the story itself is suitably horrifying and paired with a distinctive narrative voice that ranges from wry to earnest, pedantic to empathetic, detailed to sweeping. I think the most jarring qualities of the novel are the prose itself, which runs on and on, and its divided attention between the most base and the most noble conditions of human existence.

One thing I particularly liked in the story is the ironic use of omniscience – that in a mental hospital entirely occupied by the blind, there is an insistence that its horrors and trials be witnessed. Reading the book, then, felt like a kind of participation in that process, demanding a willingness to see something that others refused to, asserting that people are still there even if they're not seen.

Yesterday we could see, today we can't, tomorrow we shall see again, with a slight interrogatory note on the third and final line of the phrase, as if prudence, at the last moment, had decided, just in case, to add a touch of doubt to the hopeful conclusion.


by Jeffrey Eugenides · read June 21, 2020
★★☆☆☆
Usually I really enjoy novels set in college but I didn't really like this one. I thought it was clever and I enjoyed reading about semiotics class, but I couldn't get behind either Madeleine or Leonard so the following 2/3s of the novel dragged on (unless they were about Mitchell).

Reading a novel after reading semiotic theory was like jogging empty-handed after jogging with hand weights. ... How wonderful it was when one sentence followed logically from the sentence before! What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly enjoying narrative! Madeleine felt safe with a nineteenth-century novel. There were going to be people in it. Something was going to happen to them in a place resembling the world.


by Cal Newport · read June 20, 2020 · includes notes
★★★★★
This book is a fantastic resource for how to approach technology usage with intentionality and purpose. I've been thinking about how to reshape my relationship to digital media for a while now, particularly with the desire to move beyond hacks into an actual system for engaging with technology without letting it control my life, and I've already gleaned so many ideas from reading this. The TL;DR of the rest of this review is that the book is concise and well structured with some excellent ideas in it.

Newport divides this book into two sections: 'Foundations' provides a brief synopsis of our current predicament and outlines the principles of digital minimalism, then 'Practices' gives ideas about steps you could take to follow those principles and live a less distracted, more joyful life. The heart of the book is the idea that you should cut back on all but those digital activities which actually add significant value to your life, and use them strategically towards that end. Building a philosophy of technology based on your core personal values makes so much sense to me! I also thought that his suggested practices covered an excellent breadth of ideas, and I especially enjoyed the reflection on the importance of solitude and the benefit of structured sociality.

I also liked that this book was well structured and written - the chapters were internally cohesive, key ideas were broken down then elaborated upon, and it was informative but very direct. These characteristics lend to the practical quality of the book, which was what I was looking for and definitely appeals to the way I think. For anyone interested in rethinking their technology usage, I would definitely recommend the book.


by Barbara Oakley · read June 19, 2020
★★★★☆
Read this book as an accompaniment to the Coursera online course, which I'm really enjoying! The book itself provides an excellent explanation of the core ideas of the course, plus some additional material and discussion questions. There were a few chapters near the end that didn't seem totally necessary, but overall I think this is an excellent resource, especially for students in STEM courses.

My key takeaways from the book were: the importance of switching between focused thinking and diffuse thinking (shifting your attention so that your brain works in the background), the emphasis on repeating ideas over time and being patient in learning incrementally to build strong ideas, and the concept of 'chunking', which solidifies a concept or strategy in your mind so that you can easily use it when you need it. Looking forward to applying some of these ideas as I continue to learn!


by Kawai Strong Washburn · read May 31, 2020
★★★★☆
I loved that the language of this novel crackles with the intensity that Washburn's characters experience in this story. The characters were so well crafted, and I particularly liked that as a family they recognized things in each other and themselves that no one else saw.

The house pops and creaks and flexes around us. It's blue and dark out there. I ask Mom if love ever made her feel alone. If it ever made her feel like she was starving in a room full of food. She laughs. 'Only every day.'


by Sally Rooney · read May 17, 2020
★★★★☆
I wasn't convinced by the synopsis of this book, but I enjoyed Normal People so much that I gave it a shot and I'm happy that I did. Frances' personality works perfectly with the style of the book, simultaneously detached and too vulnerable, which made the story feel very raw and distinctively mesmerizing to me.

I hung up the phone. After that I put some cold water on my face and dried it, the same face I had always had, the one I would have until I died.



by Chris Voss · read May 15, 2020
★★★☆☆
For now, I'd say this book was a worthwhile read because I have no understanding of negotiation techniques and it offers a wide toolkit that I'm interested in trying out (can't speak yet to whether or not these techniques actually work).

My issue with the book is that it contained way too many pointless stories about the FBI. The anecdotes about specific students using specific techniques in specific, real life circumstances were helpful examples of actual scripts for the tools. When it already had these, why did the book need to include so many long-winded descriptions of FBI hostage takeovers (or screw-ups)?


by Alexandra Chang · read May 8, 2020
★★★★☆
Slow, contemplative, enjoyable read. I'm nearly the same age as the narrator, so I found myself reflecting and musing along with her throughout the book. I especially liked reading about her relationship with her dad and her visit to China to see him – the passage about conflict, trust, and counting specifically stood out to me, and almost all their dialogue made me smile.

It is the nature of relationships that they are impossible to fully understand from the outside, their inner workings built both from memories and habits and histories made up from the exterior world, that exist only through them and are lost when they are lost to each other. A relationship is particular in the way people are particular.


by Fyodor Dostoyevsky · read May 2, 2020
★★★★★
An absolutely incredible book. If I think about the scope and depth of the plot and characterizations, it definitely contained multiple novels. I especially enjoyed the mini-stories within the greater scheme of the plot, like Zosima's life story and Kolya and Ilyusha's friendship and fallout, and the characters' discussions about faith and conviction.

In some novels, there's a sentence or turn of phrase that seems to encapsulate something critical to the heart of the book. In this case, at the very end of the story, Kolya remarks to Alyosha that their religion is so strange because it involves 'such grief, and then pancakes'. What a perfect summary of an 800 page novel in only 5 words!


by Zoe Whittall · read April 20, 2020
★☆☆☆☆
Couldn't get behind this one - the characters felt far too flat and the discussions about sexual assault seemed so unnatural and scripted. The premise was great but it lacked the credibility in spirit that would have made it worthwhile.


by Wallace Stegner · read March 28, 2020
★★★☆☆
This book reminded me of Stoner - steady, uneventful, but still insightful and interesting. I liked Larry as a narrator and I especially liked reading about Sid and Charity, their personalities and marriage, through his eyes. This book felt like the opposite of glamorous - it was focused on the day-to-day, up-and-down moments of lives spent voluntarily tangled up in each other. My favorite scene is the argument between Sid and Charity about packing the tea before the hike; it felt so incredibly vivid and real to me.

There is nothing like a doorbell to precipitate the potential into the kinetic. When you stand outside a door and push the button, something has to happen. Someone must respond; whatever is inside must be revealed. Questions will be answered, uncertainties or mysteries dispelled. A situation will be started on its way through unknown complications to an unpredictable conclusion.


by Haruki Murakami · read March 18, 2020
★★★☆☆
Read it after watching 'Burning', though in retrospect I would have enjoyed reading it prior to seeing the film. I like Murakami's voice and his unwillingness to demand a certain response from the reader, and the story really illuminates the creativity of Lee Chang Dong in extending it in the film the way he did.


by Yiyun Li · read March 6, 2020
★★★★★
Such a distinctive, poignant book. I love that it managed to speak to the limits of language and understanding, the relationship between parents and children, the irreplaceable individuality of the people we love, and the unknowability of death... all while staying intimate, personal, not at all didactic.

There were so many could'ves at this moment. I could go down any one of them like a path that led to nowhere, only to end up somewhere between doubt and regret. It was the maze I had decided not to set foot in. I would rather be here, hovering at the entrance, feeling and resisting the temptation of self-indulgence.


by Brandon Taylor · read March 4, 2020
★★★★☆
This novel was hard to put down, not because it was plot heavy but because the chord of loneliness is so striking and insightful. I especially loved reading the composition of Wallace's thoughts, but the book was also full of excellent scenes (the dinner party especially).

This too is real life, he thinks. Not merely the accumulation of tasks, things to be done and sorted, but also the bumping up against other lives, everyone in the world insignificant when taken and observed together.


by Blake Crouch · read February 28, 2020
★★☆☆☆
Super interesting concept – False Memory Syndrome and the chair were both great vehicles for exploring the philosophical and social facets of memory. Also, part four was suitably horrifying and actually quite distressing, which I attribute to good writing. Conceptually strong, but weak in other areas - the characters didn't feel real to me, the romance at the end wasn't developed enough, I couldn't take the antagonist seriously with a name like 'Marcus Slade', and it was too long/repetitive (maybe the point, but I wasn't into it).


by Eoin Colfer · read February 25, 2020
★★★★☆
I was obsessed with this series as a child and decided to reread the first one for kicks. It instantly reminded me of why Lianne and I loved these books – anything that combined magic, strategy, war, and sarcasm was irresistible to us. As an adult I agree with the pro-environment sentiments in the novel and disagree with the pro-cop ones, but it was enjoyable to relive and I was impressed how many plot points or lines came back to me immediately!


by Desmond Cole · read February 24, 2020
★★★★☆
This book was an excellent resource for learning more about racism, colonialism, and activism in Canada. It was written in an understandable, personal style that really gripped me, and I was impressed by Cole's ability to communicate so much information in just one book. He addresses several different incidents from 2017, ranging from police brutality to Toronto Pride to deportations, providing necessary context and connecting them to systemic issues. I found that these connections were particularly effective because they provided a way for me to coherently understand the forces underlying what initially seemed like discrete events. My biggest takeaway from the book is that power is extremely effective at protecting itself and that nothing will meaningfully change without activism and intervention.


by Julie Zhuo · read February 20, 2020
★★★★☆
Concise, practical, and fairly comprehensive book about how to work as an excellent manager. It was well organized and had some great advice – I've never given much thought to management, but it made me reflect on my workplace, job interviews, and even my work as a program director at camp a couple years ago. Would definitely recommend this one.

The sections I enjoyed the most: analyzing why giving feedback is essential and recommendations for how to provide it effectively; her breakdown of different types of meetings and what a successful outcome looks like for each; and strategies for hiring well and deciding between candidates.


by Olivia Laing · read February 16, 2020
★★★☆☆
I thought this book was solely a memoir, so its actual contents were unexpected to me, but I enjoyed learning about the lives and works of four different artists in New York City and the reflections on community, isolation, and history that accompanied them. I particularly liked looking at their artwork after I had learned more about the circumstances surrounding it, and enjoyed Hopper's the most.

Collapse, spread, merging, union: these things sound like the opposite of loneliness, and yet intimacy requires a solid sense of self to be successful and satisfying.


by Thomas A. Harris · read February 15, 2020
★★☆☆☆
I enjoyed reading about the core concept of transactional analysis: the Parent/Adult/Child breakdown, which Harris explained well with examples of interactions between the different combinations. I also liked his emphasis on agency and thoughtfulness over tradition and pure emotion. Unfortunately, the rest of the book was so outdated and confusing that I couldn't enjoy the experience overall, especially since it was long due to all the extraneous information.


by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi · read February 5, 2020
★★★★☆
Long story short, excellent book but not dense enough for my tastes. Csikszentmihalyi presents a clear and compelling thesis about the flow condition and its prerequisites, which I think is extremely valuable and relevant to everyday living. The book starts off strong and ends well but it seemed to me that some of the chapters in the middle were reiterations of the same points and could have been condensed further. Definitely still worth the read!

Flow drives individuals to creativity and outstanding achievement. The necessity to develop increasingly refined skills to sustain enjoyment is what lies behind the evolution of culture.


by Angie Kim · read January 30, 2020
★★★★★
This novel was so engrossing, to the point where I wanted my bus ride to last longer so I could spend more time reading it. I really liked the shifts between each character's perspective – not only did it add to the unraveling of the plot but I was able to get a strong sense of their personalities and values. As always, the themes were what made it for me – I loved the focus on parenting, loyalty, responsibility/blame, and authenticity.


by Reza Aslan · read January 29, 2020
★★★★☆
Fascinating, engrossing introduction to Islam. I learned so much about Islamic history, tradition, theology, and politics from this book - Aslan did an excellent job of clearly communicating key ideas, weaving a narrative that was simple to follow, and providing context to commonly misunderstood concepts. One of the most readable works of non-fiction I've read in a very long time.


by Yōko Ogawa · read January 14, 2020
★★★☆☆
This was a simple and sweet book. I really enjoyed the mathematical concepts woven into the story and I think the novel really helped me to see the beauty and wonder of them, not just as ideas but as an essential part of someone's life.


by Candice Carty-Williams · read January 11, 2020
★★☆☆☆
This one just wasn't for me, but I have a hard time identifying why. I liked the novel's characters and the themes but it didn't feel cohesive enough and my sense of humor doesn't quite mesh with the British style either.


by Safiya Umoja Noble · read January 9, 2020
★★★☆☆
I liked the unique, interdisciplinary perspective of this book, which analyzes technology and information studies from a sociological perspective with some media and communications insight as well. It was academic and much more focused on library and information science than it was on computer science, which was unexpected but still illuminating. I think it made some excellent points about classification systems and the dangers of privatized control over what should be public information.


by Kazuo Ishiguro · read January 5, 2020
★★★☆☆
This was an intriguing novel – the mystery of the characters' circumstances kept me engaged, but I also really liked reading about the normal dynamics between the three characters. An enjoyable and thought provoking read!


by Yevgeny Zamyatin · read January 2, 2020
★★★★☆
This book is such an experience to read. As the precursor to most dystopian fiction its setting and themes are recognizable, but they somehow crackle with their own energy. I loved that the style is fragmented but manages to turn natural language into something precise that must be studied carefully - like math! I'm not bright enough to understand this novel fully but rereading it was a treat.


by Miriam Toews · read December 15, 2019
★★★★★
I had a hard time putting this novel down. What I liked most was the heart of the story – seeing the love that Yoli and Elf have for each other, empathizing with the family's pain and each of the characters' difficult situations, and amidst the serious tone smiling or laughing at the funny moments and clever lines throughout the book. Really enjoyed it and will definitely come back to it at some point.


by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie · read December 15, 2019
★★★★☆
Like most long books, this novel had a lot going on and some parts were definitely more interesting than others; that said, overall I found it engaging and I enjoyed following the stories of Ifemelu and Obinze. I especially enjoyed reading about the beginning of their relationship in high school, Ifemelu's observations about the US and initial experiences as an immigrant, and the relationship between her and Blaine. I didn't find Obinze to be quite as compelling of a character, but I liked seeing the contrast between his experience in the UK and hers in the US, and of course I was rooting for them to reunite in Nigeria by the end of the book.


by Jhumpa Lahiri · read December 10, 2019
★★★☆☆
I liked this book more than The Lowland, but again I felt like the writing was too descriptive for my tastes and at times I wished the story dipped further into defining moments and spent less time on broad strokes. Nonetheless, I thought that Ashima and Gogol were great characters, and I especially liked following Gogol's story from childhood through to adulthood. I'm a big fan of two of the dominant themes in the story, the significance of names and the ties that connect family members to each other, so those parts of the book were especially interesting to me.


by Helle Helle · read November 23, 2019
★★☆☆☆
I usually really like minimalist books, but I wasn't a huge fan of this one (I'm willing to attribute it to timing and maybe try again later, it's pretty short haha). I did admire the matter of fact quality of the writing and the complete lack of indication towards significance - there were times where I thought the author would break and give me something, but it never came.

The best part of the book: a retelling of a trip that Dorte, the protagonist's aunt, took with her boyfriend – she is full of excitement on the train, he tells her that she should settle down, and 'it was as if all the life drained away from her.' That sentence sucker punched me when I read it. This is why I love to read, those fleeting glimpses of seeing my own reflection in someone else's.


by Jhumpa Lahiri · read November 15, 2019
★★★☆☆
Overall, I liked this novel, but it's a challenging one for me to review. Lahiri's style in the book didn't quite click with me and at times felt too descriptive, but there were certainly passages that caught my attention. Parts of the story really interested me (Udayan's political involvement, the friendship between Subhash and Bela as she was growing up, Gauri's grief and conflicted feelings about motherhood), but those parts were surrounded by other threads that were missing something. I think Lahiri did an excellent job portraying the loneliness and isolation of the characters.

But the future was visible, unspooling incrementally. She wanted to shut her eyes to it. She wished the days and months ahead of her would end. But the rest of her life continued to present itself, time ceaselessly proliferating. She was made to anticipate it against her will.


by Zadie Smith · read November 13, 2019
★★★★☆
Upon reflection, I think Smith accomplished a lot in this novel while still making it feel easy to read. It felt ambitious in scope and theme, but not like it was trying to persuade the reader of a point, which I prefer in a novel. There was a fantastic array of characters from the three families with strange, varied connections cropping up between so many of them, but I never had to focus to remember who was who, and every character felt distinct and real. Definitely impressed with this one!

Involved is neither good nor bad. It it just a consequence of living, a consequence of occupation and immigration, of empires and expansion, of living in each other's pockets.... one becomes involved and it is a long trek back to being uninvolved.


by Beth O'Leary · read November 9, 2019
★★★★☆
Cute, light romance with an entertaining premise (they share a flat at alternating times of the day and communicate with post it notes) and sufficient subplots to carry the story along while leaving room for the main characters to fall in love. The personalities of the main characters were fun and refreshing, and I think the storyline of Tiffy and her manipulative ex Justin made the story more interesting too.


by Jana Casale · read November 9, 2019
★★★★☆
I really liked the interior, judgmental tone of this novel - I found Leda easy to like precisely because she seemed equal parts interested in and detached from the other characters (with the exception of her daughter). I particularly liked her own insights and idiosyncrasies when it came to what it's like to be a woman. There were certain moments in the book – her obsession with linearity, John's lack of character and relevance, her breakdown while shopping for a bathing suit, her vicious assessments of Elle's life – that really rang true to me, although they certainly didn't give an overwhelmingly positive impression of womanhood. I also really liked the ending, when it becomes totally obvious that the standards and expectations we set for ourselves our whole lives about who we 'should' be have been meaningless and self imposed all along.

A few days later Leda called to check up on the pigeon's progress.
'I'm so sorry,' the lady on the phone said. 'It didn't make it.'
'Oh, that's too bad.' Leda tried to think of something consoling to say but nothing really worked. She finally settled on: 'At least she died peacefully.'
'Yes,' the lady said. 'Hopefully next time the outcome will be better.'
Next time? Leda thought.


by Tatiana de Rosnay · read November 6, 2019
★★☆☆☆
I was pretty disappointed with this one. I think that the idea behind the novel, to shed light on a horrible part of French history, is really important, and that telling it from the perspective of a young girl is particularly heartbreaking. Unfortunately, it was poorly executed – the style wasn't great, the balance between historical and modern was skewed, and what annoyed me the most: the author frequently informed the reader about how the characters were feeling but rarely provided opportunities for them to reach that conclusion themselves.


by Yann Martel · read October 26, 2019
★★★★★
An enjoyable reread of a novel I loved when I read it the first time. The writing felt familiar and engaging throughout the entire story and I really liked Pi as a narrator. I especially liked reading about Pi's experiences with faith and his father's zoo at the beginning of the book.

You may be astonished that in such a short period of time I could go from weeping over the muffled killing of a flying fish to gleefully bludgeoning to death a dorado. I could explain it by arguing that profiting from a pitiful flying fish's navigational mistake made me shy and sorrowful, while the excitement of actively capturing a great dorado made me sanguinary and self-assured. But in point of fact the explanation lies elsewhere. It is simple and brutal: a person can get used to anything, even to killing.


by Weike Wang · read October 25, 2019
★★★★★
I loved this novel – it was written in a similar detail-conscious, charming style as The Idiot and Naïve. Super and really made me feel like I was looking into the narrator's brain. I cared a lot about her, and I learned a lot from her reflections on her parents, science, and love while being invested in the threads about her best friend, tutoring, and her dog. The novel definitely reminded me that there's no simple 'one size fits all' approach to understanding and relating to our parents, and reading about the narrator's relationship with Eric gave me a taste of the patience and grace required for good relationships. An excellent read – thanks again Lianne for the rec!

I wonder if I should call him again, but it never goes beyond that. I try not to say his name or think it, but it's such a common name. I go into a CVS and see the air freshener brand Air Wick and leave without buying anything.


by Colleen Hoover · read October 22, 2019
★★★☆☆
This one is a little challenging for me to review. The tone, setup, and dialogue are pretty standard for romantic fiction, but it's insightful about a heavy topic (domestic abuse) in a way that makes it stand out from other novels of this genre. Nothing outstanding in terms of style or characterizations, but I liked it; in particular, there was a conversation that takes place between Lily and Ryle in the hospital at the end that really struck me and that made me happy that I read it.


by Lindsey Drager · read October 13, 2019
★★★★☆
Stunning and creative, this book is so different from most other books I've read, both in premise and in style. It's comprised of vignettes about pairs of siblings from several of the years that Halley's Comet has visited Earth, spanning centuries and written in beautiful prose. I loved the focus on storytelling and on the relationship between siblings, and I especially liked when seemingly disconnected stories crossed paths or merged as one. My all time favourite part of the book was the chapter 'Hansel's Lament' - it reads like a cold starry night in autumn feels. Would definitely recommend!

She kissed his wet cheeks and pulled his face away from hers and told him what I am trying to tell you here–that there are two kinds of labyrinths: those you are born into and must escape, and those you choose to enter in search of what lies inside.


by Michael Pollan · read October 9, 2019
★★★★☆
Short, helpful review of rules of thumb when it comes to eating good real food. The simplicity and repetition makes the content easy to remember and understand - I particularly liked the advice to shop the edges of the grocery store, buy snacks from the farmer's market, eat until you're 80% full, and make your own treats!


by Richard Russo · read October 6, 2019
★★★★☆
This was an unusual and entertaining book, with some absurd and hilarious moments. The premise is that of a divided English department in Pennsylvania, but it seemed to me more of an exploration through the 50 year old main character Hank about how to exist in relation to others. I think the well-developed cast of characters really makes reading this book worthwhile.

As I drift back into sleep, I can't help thinking that it's a wonderful thing to be right about the world. To weigh the evidence, always incomplete, and correctly intuit the whole, to see the world in a grain of sand, to recognize its beauty, its simplicity, its truth.


by John Williams · read October 2, 2019
★★★☆☆
A peaceful, slow novel with certain well-crafted passages dotted throughout it. It was enjoyable to read a book about a normal person living a rather uneventful life; I particularly liked reading about Stoner's relationship with his daughter.

In his forty-third year William Stoner learned what others, much younger, had learned before him: that the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.


by Donald A. Norman · read September 29, 2019
★★★☆☆
This book was a collection of hit and miss for me, but in my opinion the hits compensate for the misses. It provides a useful framework for thinking about objects and for design principles, but the book itself seemed poorly structured and the connections between ideas were often obscured. I think the beginning of the book, concerned with affordances and signifiers, and some of the concepts for robust and intuitive design were the most insightful parts of the book. Worth a read!


by Robert M. Pirsig · read September 28, 2019
★☆☆☆☆
Usually I don't finish books that I really dislike, but this was an exception so I get to explain why I really didn't like it. I will say that there were small parts of the book that were of interest to me – the section where Phaedrus is comparing Greek concepts of Truth and the Good was neat and thinking about the pursuit of excellence (he would call it 'quality') when it comes to work like motorcycle maintenance seemed valuable – but they were buried under nonsense.

The most annoying things about this book, in no particular order: The narrator clearly thinks he's brilliant. The road trip is some kind of metaphor I didn't even try to understand. (Actually, there wasn't even a need to try to make this a novel, it should have just been nonfiction.) There are blatant spelling mistakes that indicates that no one edited it. The focus of the book jumps everywhere. There is a split personality subplot that adds no value and way too much distraction. The philosophical concepts are so poorly explained. The narrator is forced to constantly reference what he's said and explain what he's going to say due to the complete lack of structure. It's littered with short 'deep' sentences that come across as way too heavy handed and extremely out of place.

Okay, I could go on, but I'm going to stop here. Long story short, I gleaned something useful from this book, and maybe if I read it when I was 16 it would have been insightful, but it was a waste of time and its high reviews on Goodreads have me seriously questioning the judgement of some other people out there. Sorry Andrew, I tried for you.

This passage is an example of why I did not enjoy reading this book: if it had anything valuable at all to say, it was completely lost in a) its incomprehensibility and b) its perseverance in trying to sound as smart as possible even though it's NOT THAT DEEP.

At first the truths Phaedrus began to pursue were lateral truths; no longer the frontal truths of science, those toward which the discipline pointed, but the kind of truth you see laterally, out of the corner of your eye. In a laboratory setting, when your whole procedure goes haywire, when everything goes wrong or is indeterminate or is so screwed up by unexpected results you can't make head or tail out of anything, you start looking laterally. That's a word he later used to describe a growth of knowledge that doesn't move forward like an arrow in flight, but expands sideways, like an arrow enlarging in flight, or like the archer, discovering that although he has hit the bull's eye and won the prize, his head is on a pillow and the sun is coming in the window. Lateral knowledge is knowledge that's from a wholly unexpected direction, from a direction that's not even understood as a direction until the knowledge forces itself upon one. Lateral truths point to the falseness of axioms and postulates underlying one's existing system of getting at truth. To all appearances he was just drifting. In actuality he was just drifting. Drifting is what one does when looking at lateral truths.

I KNOW WHAT LATERAL MEANS. Okay, I'm actually done now.


by J.D. Salinger · read September 18, 2019
★★★☆☆
Short and at times incredibly funny. I mostly disregarded the ideas discussed in the book in favour of the relationships in the novel, which were of much greater interest. My favourite part was when Zooey and his mother are having a conversation in the bathroom, and I think the few perfectly placed lines and moments in the stories made them worth reading. (Like the one I'm attaching to this review – pure gold.)

Zooey rinsed his razor. 'Who in hell is Lane?' he asked. Unmistakably, it was the question of a still very young man who, now and then, is not inclined to admit that he knows the first names of certain people.


by Chad Harbach · read September 14, 2019
★★★★☆
This book falls into the category of books that I really like even though it's hard to explain why. It had the sharp quality of well-written novels and various literary references I caught (and certainly more that I didn't), but it also had a lot of heart to it. My favourite elements were the friendship between Henry and Schwartz and the reflections on philosophy and sport as an art; my least favourite was the relationship between Owen and Affenlight, which felt extremely unbalanced. It was also on occasion extremely funny, which is always a good trait in a novel.

He knew it sounded crazy when you put it like that. To want to be perfect. To want everything to be perfect. But now it felt like that was all he'd ever craved since he'd been born. Maybe it wasn't even baseball that he loved but only this idea of perfection, a perfectly simple life in which every move had meaning, and baseball was just the medium through which he could make that happen.


by Claire Lombardo · read September 11, 2019
★★★★☆
I really liked this novel - I quickly became invested in all of the characters' lives and watching the entire family drama unfold. I think Jonah's character was essential for providing an opening point into the closed family unit that the reader could identify with; his plotline was definitely the one I cared about the most. Another book that makes me kind of terrified to have a family.


by Catherine Hernandez · read September 8, 2019
★★☆☆☆
This book had a great array of characters and a good setup–they are all somehow connected to a literacy centre in Scarborough–but I thought that the number of different narrators made the story a bit difficult to follow. I also had a very similar experience with this book as I did to Chariandy's Brother, where it felt like the stories weren't fully developed and that there was more to be said and explored.


by Michele Filgate · read September 8, 2019
★★☆☆☆
This collection just didn't really click with me. I appreciated the premise, expanding our conceptions of what mothers are like or 'should be', but at the same time the repeated emotional excavation didn't ring true.


by Donna Zuckerberg · read September 7, 2019
★★★★☆
This book examines the Red Pill communities online (with a helpful chapter distinguishing differences in the numerous factions of antifeminists) and their use of classics to justify their opinions. The three major sections of the book deal with different issues – broadly: rationality and emotions, the objectification of women, and sexual assault – which are each connected to different classic texts by Red Pill members. Definitely worth a read to understand what arguments and tactics these communities make and to contemplate how we confront classic texts given our modern culture. A word of note: it was very well researched and cited, so there is a lot of despicable and disturbing rhetoric from Red Pill writers included in the book – it can get tough to read at some points.


by Miguel Ruiz · read September 6, 2019
★★★☆☆
Short and easy to get through, with what I think are some excellent messages about approaching life and handling interactions with others. There wasn't a lot that was new, but it was framed in a different way and I benefited from reading it.


by Val Emmich · read September 5, 2019
★☆☆☆☆
I saw the musical in Toronto in May and I really enjoyed it – I cared about the characters, liked the music, and I thought it was very relevant to current issues that teenagers face. Whenever I see a movie or show I really enjoy, my instinct is to find the book and see what new facets of the story it introduces - this book, as I found out after reading it, was based off of the musical, so it doesn't really have anything new in it other than more depth for Connor (which was good). Since I was hoping for a lot more, I was pretty disappointed with the book.


by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie · read August 31, 2019
★★★★☆
This novel had a distinctive feeling to it - by the second section, I felt thoroughly convinced that the story was completely real and that I was reading about people I actually knew. Adichie artfully shaped the writing to feel natural and transparent, like the language and descriptions made everything seem clear and as if the author's hand never had to move anything. Both the story and the characters were compelling and really drew me in, plus I learned a lot about Nigerian history.


by Lin Yutang · read August 31, 2019
★★★★☆
Somewhat unexpectedly hilarious and thought-provoking. The book begins with a disclaimer that it's not really a book on philosophy, just a collection of the author's thoughts, and it is very true to that disclaimer. Certain parts I completely disregarded because they were outdated or just not relevant to me, but there was a lot of content that I found fascinating and I loved the emphasis on simplicity and not overcomplicating things.

One of my favourite passages in the book:

But the essential fact remains that human life has got too complicated and the matter of merely feeding ourselves, directly or indirectly, is occupying well over ninety per cent of our human activities. Civilization is largely a matter of seeking food, while progress is that development which makes food more and more difficult to get. If it had not been made so difficult for man to obtain his food, there would be absolutely no reason why humanity should work so hard. The danger is that we get over-civilized and that we come to a point, as indeed we have already done, when the work of getting food is so strenuous that we lose our appetite for food in the process of getting it.


by Daniel Kahneman · read August 31, 2019
★★★★★
Such an interesting, useful book! It has a fairly wide scope of content, some I found more intriguing than others, but altogether incredibly relevant to understanding cognitive biases and heuristics, plus some helpful sections on decision making and probability as well. This is a book I'd recommend to so many people because I genuinely think it has already significantly improved my ability to think clearly.

Some of my favourite concepts/sections were, in no particular order: the psychological impact that losses have, how what I perceived as 'jinx' is just regression to the mean, the importance of thinking deeply about what seem like surface level questions, and the philosophical implications of the difference between the experiencing and the remembering selves.


by Jane H. Hill · read August 29, 2019
★★★★☆
An insightful look at racism from a critical linguistic perspective, which I had never really encountered before. I think the concepts introduced near the beginning of the book, like the folk theory of racism and personalist/referentialist ideologies with respect to language, were extremely helpful to learn and that Hill did a great job of connecting the content of the following chapters back to those foundational concepts. The information covered is definitely relevant to current discussions about racist language, political correctness, and linguistic appropriation.


by Jonathan Safran Foer · read August 20, 2019
★★★★☆
I read this book a while ago and decided to reread it when a friend mentioned it to me and I remembered that I had liked it. It hit me much harder than I thought it would, the stories of both Oskar and his grandfather; the intensity of the stories is intentionally over the top at points, but it still slams into you (especially the ending, geez). I also liked the emphasis on (mis)communication and the novel had some really lovely lines about that too.


by Haruki Murakami · read August 7, 2019
★★★★☆
An ambitious, stunning, confusing, unbelievable novel. I felt invested in Toru and his search to figure out what was going on - in his world, with his wife, even with his own body and mind. The array of other characters and their stories was equally interesting, and I particularly liked the vignette of the boy looking out the window and the account in the Siberian labor camp. This is a book that I feel I'd have to read many times to understand more; from my first encounter, though, the references to flow and fate definitely intrigued me. I also liked the prevalence of nonevents and didn't really mind the loose threads, which I think are prerequisites to deeply enjoying the novel.

At the same time, however, he would often come home from work and, seeing his wife and daughter there, think to himself, These people are, finally, separate human beings, with whom I have no connection. They were something other, something of which he had no true knowledge, something that existed in a place far away from the doctor himself. And whenever he felt this way, the thought would cross his mind that he himself had chosen neither of these people on his own–which did not prevent him from loving them unconditionally, without the slightest reservation. This was, for the doctor, a great paradox, an insoluble contradiction, a gigantic trap that had been set for him in his life.


by Colm Tóibín · read July 16, 2019
★★☆☆☆
A rare circumstance where I preferred the movie to the book; the serene, uneventful quality of the story works better on film. That said, having already watched the movie made the book a more pleasant read, especially regarding Tony. I liked seeing into Eilis's head with respect to her homesickness, but there was less reflection on her part than I thought there would be.

The arrangements being made, all the bustle and talk, would be better if they were for someone else, she thought, someone like her, someone the same age and size, who maybe even looked the same as she did, as long as she, the person who was thinking now, could wake in this bed every morning and move as the day went on in these familiar streets and come home to the kitchen, to her mother and Rose.


by Harry Mulisch · read July 15, 2019
★★★☆☆
I liked the specificity and reflection in this novel – that it was centred around one person and one event, and that eventually everything turned back towards the centre. The plot/mystery itself wasn't especially compelling to me; rather, I was invested in Anton and wanted to see him make sense of what had happened to him.

This moment... detached itself from all that had come before and all that would follow. It became part of him and began its journey through the rest of his life, until finally it would explode like a soap bubble, after which it might as well never have happened.


by Lisa See · read July 14, 2019
★★★★☆
This was a really engaging novel that follows the main character, Li-yan, and her family through her childhood in a remote Chinese tea village into adulthood. I particularly liked learning about Akha culture and seeing the tensions between tradition and modernity arise over the span of the story, and I liked the 'no coincidence, no story' thread that ran through it as well. I liked the characters more than the style, which seemed fairly direct to me.


by Madeline Miller · read July 11, 2019
★★★★☆
Another beautiful read - I didn't enjoy it quite as much as 'Circe', but it was still great. I loved the way that the story played with the readers' foreknowledge of the Trojan War while managing to surprise. At times the style made the tale feel almost glossy, which created an interesting contrast with the content.

He knew, but it was not enough. The sorrow was so large it threatened to tear through my skin. When he died, all things swift and beautiful and bright would be buried with him. I opened my mouth, but it was too late.


by Thea Lim · read July 8, 2019
★★★☆☆
This book felt very different from most books that I've read, and I have a strong feeling that it would make a great movie. Too descriptive for my taste and I was vindicated but disappointed in the ending. Well developed tone throughout the novel, which was a strong point.

Marta and me always meant to get up and watch the sunrise. But there was always something else to do. And the sunrise is right here, you think. There'll always be another one.


by Alexander Chee · read July 2, 2019
★★★☆☆
Took me a bit of time to warm up to this one but I was definitely pulled in. I think my favourite essay was the one about keeping a rose garden, and the collection as a whole reignited my interest in writing.

If I do not answer the question 'What is the novel about?' or 'How is the novel going?', it is because my sense of a novel changes in the same way my knowledge of someone changes as I get to know them. You are looking for an answer you can rely on later, and so am I. But my answer will eventually be the entire book, and I do not want to give any of it away.


by Primo Levi · read June 26, 2019
★★★★☆
Levi's account seems to describe and reflect on the horror he endured without trying to explain it. It was a sobering read and definitely worth it; he writes powerfully and directly.

'Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so.'


by Knut Hamsun · read June 25, 2019
★★☆☆☆
The preface duly convinced me that this book is cleverly written and meaningful, but I just didn't really connect with the storyline of Johannes and Victoria. I liked the beginning more, with the descriptions and before their relationship seemed pointless.


by Hans Fallada · read June 24, 2019
★★★★☆
Compelling characters that span a wide range of personalities and roles during the war in Berlin. I felt like this novel strongly communicated the sense of suspicion and surveillance that permeated the characters' communities. It also definitely showed the senselessness of the concepts of law and justice at the time.

'He might be right: whether their act was big or small, no one could risk more than his life. Each according to his strength and abilities, but the main thing was, you fought back.'


by Alan W. Watts · read June 19, 2019
★★★★☆
Second read: Returning to this book felt like a completely necessary recalibration for my mind. I still have difficulties with his conception of 'I', but I absolutely love chapters 4 to 6, and the book in general is such an excellent diagnosis of certain issues with modernity and epistemology.

This is why modern civilization is in almost every respect a vicious circle. It is insatiably hungry because its way of life condemns it to perpetual frustration. As we have seen, the root of this frustration is that we live for the future, and the future is an abstraction, a rational inference from experience, which exists only for the brain. The 'primary consciousness,' the basic mind which knows reality rather than ideas about it, does not know the future. It lives completely in the present, and perceives nothing more than what is at this moment.

First read: Many of the ideas in this book really challenged me, especially as a person who loves definitions and structure. It forced me to reconsider my perspective on language, memory, and time, and I was especially interested in his interpretation of many Scriptural passages since it was often different if not opposite to what I've previously learned. I'll admit that I was frustrated by the paradox of consciously living in the moment, but that's something I can work on :)

Free from clutching at themselves the hands can handle; free from looking after themselves the eyes can see; free from trying to understand itself thought can think. In such feeling, seeing, and thinking life requires no future to complete itself nor explanation to justify itself.


by Erlend Loe · read June 14, 2019
★★★★☆
I love books where nothing really happens and this novel did not disappoint. I loved the lists, the introspection, the narrator's friendship with the kindergarten student, and the fact that there were no catastrophes or mishaps during the story. It also reminded me strongly of a close friend of mine.

I fill my mouth with water and swallow a little at a time. Water is good. If I had to choose between a lot of things, I'd quite definitely choose water.


by Négar Djavadi · read June 12, 2019
★★★☆☆
I really liked the way this novel investigated ideas of family and exile - I also learned quite a bit about Iranian history and culture which I enjoyed. I understand the motivation behind the stylistic choices but they still made it a little challenging for me to track the story, although once I got the hang of it I had a much easier time.

At eight years old, I couldn't possibly have imagined where Leïli's words would lead me one day. How could anyone believe, when your life stretches out in front of you as vast and endless as the world itself, that one simple word could sum up the whole thing?

I came out of that upstairs bedroom eventually, but I never really left it. Every room I have lived in was that room in Mazandaran. I realized some time ago, when the lines developing around my mouth made me look even more like Nour, that what we call the future is really just a variation of the past.


by J.R.R. Tolkien · read June 12, 2019
★★★★☆
Really enjoyed this reread, it's been ages since I've read this novel. Pacing was good, way more mishaps than I remembered, and I liked Bilbo's internal struggle between his Baggins and his Took sides. 'Riddles In the Dark' remains a stellar chapter.


by Abby Geni · read June 4, 2019
★★☆☆☆
A pretty standard suspenseful novel about a nature photographer on an extremely isolated island. I liked the information about the different animals, and occasionally the descriptions of the setting, but the interpersonal plots didn't really engage me. I think that the description for the book was inaccurate, which gave me false hopes that the story didn't live up to. I liked it enough but not a lot.


by Paulo Freire · read May 31, 2019
★★★☆☆
The book seemed very practical and grounded in the author's experiences, which makes it valuable for specific implementation but I think a little less engaging for me personally. Still worth the read, especially for the sections focusing on the dynamics of oppression and the qualities of truly liberatory politics.

True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the 'rejects of life,' to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands–whether of individuals or entire peoples–need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, working, transform the world.


by Curtis Sittenfeld · read May 30, 2019
★★★☆☆
First read: There were a host of things in this book that irritated me (some questionable decisions from the narrator, an unsatisfactory ending, etc), but certain things about that I really liked that pulled it up to 3 stars - the style, the detailed characterizations, the reflections in hindsight from the narrator, and certain sentences / paragraphs. In particular, I loved the chapter where Lee's parents visit her at school; to me, that chapter alone made the story worth reading.

Second read: Still enjoyed it but a little less the second time. Again I thought the dynamic of Lee with her family was well done. Definitely felt like shaking her vigorously a few times.


by Anne Gisleson · read May 18, 2019
★★☆☆☆
Really wanted to like this one but it just didn't click with me. The chapters didn't feel internally cohesive and there seemed to be a lot of idea repetition, but I did enjoy some of the meditations on existentialist ideas and I've come away with a few suggestions for my to read list!


by Celeste Ng · read May 14, 2019
★★☆☆☆
I liked the story well enough - it was fairly straightforward, following three families and centered around two main events (adoption and arson). However, I disliked the style and characterizations - everything was phrased simply and the characters seemed flat. Can't speak to the arson, but I would recommend Lucky Boy for a story about motherhood/adoption rather than this one.


by Andy Hunt · read May 12, 2019
★★★★☆
Super practical book about maintaining good software design practices and working effectively on software projects. It covers a lot of ground and ranges from fairly basic to more technical (in my opinion), but the tips were connected by a common 'pragmatic' approach which I liked. Will definitely try to implement what I've learned and I'm sure I'll return to this one.


by Diane Ravitch · read May 10, 2019
★★★☆☆
An interesting and well researched book about the American educational system, specifically the poorly conceived and implemented legislation over the past few decades. Due to the scope and depth of the author's case, it's way too long if you're casually interested (like myself), but I definitely learned a lot.

There were frequent references made to 'high-performing nations' when it came to education and I think a more detailed comparison to those or an analysis of their strategies would have been helpful, especially in the section about moving forward, but also... it would have made the book longer.... so I'm not sure about that :)


by Margaret Atwood · read May 9, 2019
★★★☆☆
I liked the style of these stories, particularly the way that seemingly unrelated details or occurrences were mentioned but their meaning and significance left to the reader. At times the collection seemed repetitive... probably better read liberally staggered. My faves were 'Hurricane Hazel', 'Loulou', 'Bluebeard's Egg', and 'Unearthing Suite'.


by David Chariandy · read May 9, 2019
★★★☆☆
Loved the attention to setting and detail in this novel, but I felt almost cramped by the tight style, like there wasn't enough space to get to know the characters or really understand what was happening in Michael's head.


by Richard Nelson Bolles · read May 9, 2019
★★★☆☆
Valuable information about the process of finding a career. I really liked the emphasis on determining your own strengths and desires as a starting point.


by Madeline Miller · read May 1, 2019
★★★★★
A stellar read - I essentially couldn't put it down. It was bursting with so many different stories, yet felt focused and cohesive. I loved the beautiful prose, especially the careful characterizations of the many characters, and in particular the relationship between Circe and Hermes really struck me. Definitely cool to see some of the content of The Odyssey told in a similar style to Cassandra, considering I read them both this year.


by Jennifer Brown · read April 30, 2019
★★★★☆
Reread this novel on a whim and it's as good as I remembered it, with a deep attention to pain and grief. Brown has crafted the characters such that it's hard not to feel for all of them; I especially felt for Valerie's relationship with her parents.


by Jason F. Stanley · read April 29, 2019
★★★★☆
This is a clear, well-written overview of the key elements of fascism that connect current political movements to historical ones. Accessible, well structured, and full of compelling arguments and relevant insights.


by Jen Sincero · read April 27, 2019
★★☆☆☆
This was a birthday gift from a friend and I generally actually enjoy reading self help books, so I gave it a shot. There were some helpful ideas (like... believing in yourself...), and then a lot of irrelevant writing and/or advice I didn't find useful (like... manifest money so you can buy an Audi). Considering it only took me two hours to read it and I laughed a couple times, I feel like it was worth the motivating boost I got, but would not really recommend it in general.


by Gabriel García Márquez · read April 20, 2019
★★★☆☆
Was a little slow getting started but once I got the hang of it I enjoyed it a lot more. A distinctive style that made everything seem matter of fact and absolutely gave the impression that nothing ever really changed even though a lot of things happened.


by Naomi Klein · read March 19, 2019
★★★☆☆
I think this book made a strong case around the 'branding' quality of Trump, and it did a good job of connecting current American politics to a history of shock politics. The last few chapters felt a little repetitive, but I agree that creating a vision for an alternate system is essential.


by Jane Harper · read March 17, 2019
★★★★☆
Tense, intriguing novel centered around the mysterious death of Nathan's younger brother Cameron. Loved the way the story gradually uncovered both Nathan's backstory and what happened to Cameron through the family's interactions following the discovery of his body. The attention to the environment really contributed to the themes of isolation/community and silence/speech throughout the novel. Was a bit slow at first but it picks up - this one is worth a read!


by Sigrid Nunez · read March 11, 2019
★★★★☆
I really loved the contemplative, scattered style of this novel and the frequent references to writers and their works. The story felt like an honest portrayal of grief and coping; I don't want to give anything away, but to me the scene near the end of the novel where the narrator imagines how things could have gone differently was the saddest part of the book.


by Amir Levine · read March 8, 2019
★★★☆☆
I didn't know anything about attachment styles prior to reading this book so I found it to be a useful overview of the field with a lot of practical tips about healthy communication and behaviour.


by William Deresiewicz · read February 24, 2019
★★★★☆
Subjectively, this book has super relevant content to me, and I found myself agreeing with many of Deresiewicz's assessments of the current educational system. The section on what college is really for was compelling, and I especially liked the critique of 'leadership' as merely climbing to the top rather than envisioning alternatives. I wish I had read it earlier in my university career, although I still derived value from it by reading it now.

Objectively, I think the book is only interesting if you fall in or near the target audience, and it didn't seem to have a strong guiding thesis, enough substantive research to back up its claims, or many suggestions on how to move forward.


by Joy Kogawa · read February 24, 2019
★★☆☆☆
I think the topic of this book, Canada's horrific treatment of Japanese Canadians during WWII, is an important period of Canadian history to learn about, and in that respect I think this novel was worth reading. It had some beautiful passages, and I especially liked the focus on silence and speech throughout the book. However, the style of this novel made it difficult for me to get through it; it demands an attention to detail and time that I couldn't sustain.


by Steven Galloway · read February 20, 2019
★★★★☆
I liked that this novel follows the perspectives of three different citizens of Sarajevo as they contend with the realities of their besieged city. I think that the thread connecting the perspectives – finding a way to live in what seems like an unlivable reality – is especially compelling. My favourite passage of the novel is Kenan's vision, as he listens to the cellist, of a day spent eating ice cream and taking the tram with his family; it is good to treasure life before it's taken away.

And to be a ghost while you're still alive is the worst thing he can imagine. Because, like it or not, sooner or later we all become ghosts, we are washed away from the ground until even the memory of us is gone. But there's a time when we are not, and you have to know the difference. Once you forget, then you are a ghost.


by Sarah Manguso · read February 19, 2019
★★☆☆☆
I loved certain passages and ideas in this book, especially as someone deeply preoccupied with records and archives, but the writing felt too fragmented to understand and I would have loved to see the ideas developed further.


by Greer Hendricks · read February 18, 2019
★★★☆☆
An entertaining read – I liked Jess and I especially enjoyed the last quarter of the book when the pace picked up and there was more uncertainty about what was happening. Could have been shorter without sacrificing much, and at times the 'thriller' aspects were a little too overdone.


by Angie Thomas · read February 14, 2019
★★★☆☆
I would describe this as an excellent YA novel - it has interesting, compelling characters; moments of hope, grief, humour, and love; and a relevant plotline about police brutality. I found Starr's relationships with her friends from two different communities and her experience code-switching as she navigates those communities particularly insightful and interesting. I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more had I been a bit younger when I read it.


by Chloe Benjamin · read February 14, 2019
★★★☆☆
There were certain qualities of this book I enjoyed, especially the attention to setting and each of the family members' individual relationship to Judaism and their family history. I think my favourite section was the last one, told from Varya's perspective. That being said, I didn't really emotionally connect to the novel the way I thought I might, and it seemed to fall a bit short of what it could have been.


by Ellen Ullman · read February 12, 2019
★★★★★
A diverse range of thought-provoking and reflective essays on technology in relation to society, culture, and personal experiences. I loved the measured tone, the details, and the special moments of recognizing an interior thought expressed by someone else. Reading this made me both marvel at computer science and question its trajectory.


by Anita Diamant · read January 27, 2019
★★★★☆
The story of several chapters in Genesis from the perspective of Jacob's only daughter, Dinah, this was a fascinating idea of what the female side of the story might have looked like. What sold this book for me were the complex relational portrayals of the first half, which were varied and insightful, and the tone of the second half, which was reflective and poignant.


by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley · read January 20, 2019
★★★★☆
I love the thematic richness of this novel (creation, determinism, ambition, morality, friendship, identity, etc) and it has been fascinating to study it in two separate literature classes with distinctly different approaches/focuses. At times it seemed a bit melodramatic, but for me it was overshadowed by deep empathy for both Victor and the Creature.


by Paulo Freire · read January 13, 2019
★★★★☆
An invigorating, challenging, pithy look at education - a book I wish I read at the beginning of university rather than at the end. It took me a little while to figure out how to read it, but once I got the hang of it I learned so much. Would definitely recommend to anyone interested in the ethical and political dimensions of teaching and learning.


by Ichiro Kishimi · read January 13, 2019
★★★★☆
A clear, engaging dialogue about Adler's philosophy and its applications to everyday life. I think the style suited the content and helped to structure the Philosopher's arguments better. I didn't agree with all of his points, but I think some were helpful and that considering his perspective and thinking about the questions the book raises was valuable either way.


by Yuval Noah Harari · read December 28, 2018
★★★☆☆
Interesting overview of history, and the division into the three 'revolutions' was helpful as a structure for the content. Obviously it's impossible to cover everything in a book – it focused on economics, politics, and science rather than culture and art. Useful for drawing overarching connections between eras in history.


by Mark Haddon · read December 28, 2018
★★★☆☆
I enjoyed this novel - even though the plot was a bit jumbled and the mystery element of the book seemed misleading, the narrator's voice was engaging and I liked all the asides and musings that didn't really contribute to the plot.


by Suzanne Collins · read December 28, 2018
★★★★☆
Spotted it on my sister's bookshelf and decided to reread it - I have fond memories of when this novel exploded and everyone in my grade was reading it! It had way more hunting/looking for food and way less fighting than I remembered it, but I definitely enjoyed the reread. The descriptions of Panem were thorough without being tedious and Katniss is a well developed main character.


by Franz Kafka · read December 28, 2018
★★★☆☆
I was a bit disturbed by the premise, but Kafka effectively communicates Gregor's sadness and isolation - the emotions felt visceral and the descriptions vivid. I read it for my literature class so I'll hopefully understand it better after our discussions.


by Malcolm Gladwell · read December 27, 2018
★★★☆☆
The content of the book was interesting and the chapters were internally cohesive, but the overall arc of the book was difficult to fully discern; findings from the examples seemed to contradict each other at times. I liked the chapter on thin slicing facial expressions the most, and it was an easy read.


by Daphne du Maurier · read December 21, 2018
★★★☆☆
Not the style of book I usually read, but I really enjoyed this one - it had beautiful writing and I loved the psychological forces at play in the story. In particular, the prominence of setting in the novel was unique and well done. The only reason I gave it 3 stars instead of 4 is because although the inner musings of the main character are central to the themes and development of the novel, I found her so annoying during the middle chapters.


by William B. Irvine · read December 14, 2018
★★★★☆
Helpful overview of Stoicism, drawing from fundamental texts and making clear modern connections. Well structured and easy to follow - I liked the summary at the end, and the author's transparency in writing about his own life as well.


by Haruki Murakami · read December 12, 2018
★★★★☆
I liked the style and pacing of the novel - I thought it suited its themes well, balancing details and a dazed tone well. My favourite parts were when Toru released the firefly from the roof and Nagasawa's celebratory dinner.


by Anna Yen · read December 7, 2018
★☆☆☆☆
There were a lot of things I disliked about this book - I couldn't really sympathize with Sophia, it didn't seem to have a plot, there was too much writing about how great all her bosses were or how great she was, etc. I liked some parts with her family but that was about it. Not really worth the read.


by Peter Wohlleben · read November 15, 2018
★★★☆☆
Interesting information about characteristics of trees and forest ecosystems in an accessible, colloquial style. Lack of organization in the text made it a little difficult to follow the author's trajectory.


by Miriam Toews · read November 15, 2018
★★★☆☆
The premise of this book - women talking about what they should do about the sexual attacks on them and their families - was thought-provoking and engaging. I found that because I'm a Christian certain elements of their discussions really resonated with me. I had to pay close attention to follow the style of the dialogue, and I thought that at times the narrator's backstory was distracting.


by Christa Wolf · read November 1, 2018
★★★★☆
I loved the imaginative language of this novel and Cassandra's perspective on her own struggles and mistakes. So many thought-provoking sentences and passages - will definitely reread this one.


by Tina May Hall · read October 31, 2018
★★★★☆
Lyrical and compelling - I especially liked the sonnet piece and the short story at the end told through vignettes.


by Richard Higgins · read October 26, 2018
★★★★☆
Refreshing perspective on trees and forests - some great sentences and points to think about. I liked the accompanying images and organization of the book.


by Kristin Hannah · read October 23, 2018
★★★★☆
I really enjoyed this novel - the characters were compelling and the plot had enough movement to carry the story without feeling rushed. It made me think about the things I take for granted. At its heart, a story about love and resilience.


by Leïla Slimani · read October 8, 2018
★★☆☆☆
A little creepy and disconcerting, but mostly too winding and descriptive. I think it was intended to make me feel restless, but it bordered on 'bored' for me.


by Gayle Forman · read October 7, 2018
★☆☆☆☆
I hoped this would be a fun, light read, but I didn't like it. I did like elements of the middle section, when Allyson is adjusting poorly to college and trying to live up to her parents' expectations, but other than that she was an unsympathetic character, her day with Willem was just strange, and huge chunks of the ending were far too fortuitous.


by Tayari Jones · read October 1, 2018
★★★★☆
I really liked the personality and tone in this novel, especially from Roy's perspective, and the focus on a small set of characters and relationships. Somehow the story felt solid and sure, even while throwing certainties into question; it was both fulfilling and unfulfilling because it seemed real.


by William Strunk Jr. · read September 27, 2018
★★★★☆
Well organized and explained, funny, and immensely useful. I'm excited to use the advice from this book to improve my writing, especially to make it more powerful and concise.


by Homer · read September 25, 2018
★★★☆☆
Interesting story that raises still-relevant questions about free will, personal resilience, leadership, hospitality, and relationships. I enjoyed reading about the challenges Odysseus faced on his journey home the most. Some chapters / passages were difficult to get through and I didn't feel strong emotions about many of the characters.


by Uzma Jalaluddin · read September 15, 2018
★★★☆☆
A fun, enjoyable read! I've read a lot of spins on Pride and Prejudice and this was one that had enough similarities while still offering originality in its premise, which I liked. At some points the plot seemed inconsistent with the characterizations, but overall Khalid and Ayesha were well written and I was invested in their story.


by Henry Cloud · read September 7, 2018
★★★☆☆
Helpful information about identifying unsafe people, examining my own weaknesses, and the importance of healthy relationships, all with Biblical grounding. Occasionally the advice was too vague or the Biblical foundation seemed weak, but overall worth a read and had some relevant takeaways.


by Mari Andrew · read September 3, 2018
★★★☆☆
An encouraging, comforting read; the messages of her comics are hit and miss for me but it's worth it for the ones that hit. After my experience living in Sydney, the parts about moving to a new city especially resonated with me.


by Jenny Han · read August 25, 2018
★★★☆☆
Read after watching the movie - cute and simple. In my opinion, the best parts are about Lara Jean and her family rather than the romance.


by Paul Tough · read August 22, 2018
★★★★☆
I thought this book was a really interesting look at education and learning from several lenses/perspectives. Not only was the content intriguing and relevant, but I really appreciated the style and organization of the book itself. A lot of nonfiction feels very heavy-handed in its takeaways or conclusions, as if trying to hand you one or two new facts that you can parrot at a dinner party; this book felt much more like a patient exploration of related ideas, like walking through a museum with a thoughtful history enthusiast rather than an overzealous tour guide.


by Patrisse Khan-Cullors · read August 20, 2018
★★★★★
Beautifully written – wrenching, honouring, and moving. It's a little misleading to say I loved/enjoyed the book, because its contents were heavy, but I'm very glad I read it.


by Paul Kalanithi · read August 18, 2018
★★★☆☆
For some reason this memoir didn't resonate with me the way I thought that it might. There were certain passages and ideas in the book that I was really interested in but weren't fully fleshed out, and a lot of the content was medical information I didn't understand that emotionally disconnected me from the book. That being said, it contains some thought-provoking connections on meaning, death, literature, medicine, vocation, and philosophy, so I still think it was a worthwhile read.


by Ta-Nehisi Coates · read August 16, 2018
★★★★☆
I liked the style of this book – interweaving ideas and experiences in the form of a personal letter – and I learned a lot from it; the focus on bodies is a relevant connecting thread throughout the work.


by Jeannette Walls · read August 16, 2018
★★★★☆
A really fascinating book – I read it in one day because I was so engrossed in the story of the Walls family, and it stirred up a lot of questions in my mind about resilience, love, abuse, poverty, and familial obligations.


by Jon Krakauer · read August 14, 2018
★★☆☆☆
Another story that just wasn't for me, although I think that readers with interest in the wilderness or survival would like it. Personal impressions: too many geographical details that didn't interest me, a lot of 'telling' about McCandless' personality/character rather than showing, and some thought-provoking quotes/passages.


by Suki Kim · read August 12, 2018
★★☆☆☆
The two qualities of this book that I liked: it was a unique perspective on male North Korean university students, and through it I learned more about certain aspects of North Korea and its history with South Korea/China/the US.

In contrast, there seemed to be a lot of features that I really didn't like. Certain elements of the author's interactions with the students seemed infantilizing and inconsistent. The author's distaste/willful misunderstanding of Christianity gets tedious and is never actually developed or explained. Also, she kept on making really forced/underdeveloped connections between North Koreans and Christians, which was just annoying. It felt like there was so much repetition in the story - details and anecdotes that would have been more interesting just blur together because she draws the same vague conclusions from everything. She also included far too much information about her own relationship (or lack thereof) while simultaneously including so few actual details that I wasn't compelled to care about that element of the book at all.

In short: I'm glad I read it for the content and new information, but as you can probably tell, the style, tone, and irrelevant content of the book really put me off it.


by Lisa Ko · read August 10, 2018
★★★★☆
Such a powerful story about family and identity - I loved the vivid descriptions of each place, the deep characterizations, and especially the personal stories of both Deming and Polly. My favourite aspects of the book were Polly's complicated feelings about and experiences with motherhood, one of the most distinct and honest accounts of having a child that I've read in a long time, and the descriptions of Deming's synesthesia. I think I would have enjoyed a deeper engagement with Kay and Peter's role in the novel, but I agree with why they were decentered.


by Viet Thanh Nguyen · read August 7, 2018
★★★★☆
Loved the uniqueness of each essay; the book encompasses a broad range of identities, experiences, and perspectives that were all enriching to read. My favourites in the collection were 'The Ungrateful Refugee' by Dina Nayeri, '13 Ways of Being an Immigrant' by Porochista Khakpour, and 'Refugee Children: The Yang Warriors' by Kao Kalia Yang.


by Dan Ariely · read August 2, 2018
★★☆☆☆
I thought that the main ideas of this book were useful, but I wasn't very impressed with it as a whole. My primary annoyance was that its conclusions seemed to be based on a lot of anecdotal observations and small studies that weren't wholly convincing; also, some of the points were too repetitive.


by Truman Capote · read July 31, 2018
★★★☆☆
This book was fairly interesting – there were a few sections with too much detail, and certain elements seemed repetitive, but for the most part it provided a comprehensive and fascinating account of the Clutter killings. It felt like it focused a lot on eliciting sympathy for Perry Smith (or at least diving deeply into his history and experiences) which after a while wore on me. Overall though it was my first experience with a true crime account and I was glad I read it even though the genre is definitely not for me.


by Caroline Kepnes · read July 30, 2018
★☆☆☆☆
So, a disclaimer on the 1 star: I gave this novel a 'did not like' because I personally didn't really like it, but in terms of style and writing it's quite good, especially the utilization of second person perspective. However, I was expecting a twist that never came (which severely disappointed me) and the book contained a lot of sexual content which I also didn't like. TLDR: some people would really enjoy this book but I just wasn't one of them.


by Rob Carrick · read July 24, 2018
★★★★☆
Helpful overview on main financial issues that concern young people. The content was mostly useful to me and I liked the tone of the book too - will be a valuable resource over the next few years.

2nd Read: Enjoyed rereading this now that I know more about personal finance and have different goals. This time around, the most useful sections to me were on managing my investment accounts, getting the best deals from my bank, and thinking about saving up for future expenses.


by Mark Manson · read July 21, 2018
★★☆☆☆
Some useful tips/things to think about, buried under unnecessary profanity, lengthy anecdotes, an irresponsible section misrepresenting sexual assault, inconsistent tone, and poor signposting. I can barely remember his points and I read it yesterday because I was too busy filtering out the irrelevant parts... it would have been better as a well structured blog post.


by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. · read July 17, 2018
★★☆☆☆
I was probably three chapters from the end when I gave up on this book a few years ago and returned just so it wouldn't annoy me anymore... honestly, I just couldn't get behind this one. I enjoyed the beginning, but getting to the end felt like a chore; there were certainly funny and thought-provoking parts, but they were buried in a lot of writing that didn't interest me.


by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ · read June 23, 2018
★★★★☆
This novel is a story about family and love that's also about loneliness and shattered trust and tragedy. It wasn't hard to read in the sense that it was difficult to get through, but it was hard because it dealt with a lot of tough circumstances, and it jumped around in perspective and time, and it contains a lot of historical/cultural connections that may not be intuitive (but are valuable to learn). All of that said, I'm glad that I read it.


by Mira T. Lee · read June 16, 2018
★★★★☆
This book was touching and challenging. I felt that I really empathized with the characters and their difficult circumstances, and alongside those difficulties were poignant moments of contentment and love.


by Gillian Flynn · read June 10, 2018
★★★★☆
I thought that this book was really well done. The storytelling style kept me constantly trying to piece together what had happened - I liked that as a reader you have enough information to work with when forming theories, and things keep on getting revealed as you go. Some parts were rather disturbing, and just the style and writing of the first few chapters made me feel grimy and unpleasant, but that was the point. Definitely an entertaining read.


by Frank W. Abagnale · read June 7, 2018
★★☆☆☆
The story was interesting, since you don't frequently learn how crimes are carried out, but there was very little else going on besides the the plot - low levels of critical reflection and shallow descriptions of the emotional and intellectual components of the story. His depiction of his life was honestly quite depressing, and I couldn't tell if that was the point or not.


by A.W. Tozer · read June 7, 2018
★★★★★
This book was amazing - the content and style are the perfect fit for calm reflection on truths about God and our relationship to Him. The writing was easy to follow and the chapters were the perfect length for understanding the concepts without unnecessary repetition. I can see myself frequently rereading this.


by Ruth Ware · read June 6, 2018
★★☆☆☆
I wasn't a big fan of this book... it had far too much that I didn't like (a really irritating main character, uninteresting secondary characters, so many irrelevant descriptions, variations on the same three sentences over and over again) and not enough that I actually enjoyed (suspense of discovering what's going on, feeling it all click together). It was fine, but definitely too long for the amount of enjoyment I derived from reading it.


by Yaa Gyasi · read May 26, 2018
★★★★☆
An excellent, heartbreaking generational story, told through over a dozen perspectives on two continents. I loved the writing style and the novel's structure - fragmented and rich in history, spirituality, and emotion, to the point that it feels like it's overflowing.


by Marina Keegan · read May 25, 2018
★★★☆☆
Overall, I liked this book – definitely some stories/essays over others. I liked the interesting, varied premises that the stories seemed to be centered on (like 'Challenger Deep'), and occasional details on the more conventional ones (like the thing about the 'cha cha chas' in 'The Ingenue'). As far as the nonfiction, I liked the one about the whales, and I especially liked that the book ended with launching your business card into space.


by Matthew J. Sullivan · read May 21, 2018
★★★☆☆
I liked this book! The setting, style, and characters all contributed to a unified sense of 'unusualness', which was intriguing. Certain parts really creeped me out, especially reading it at night, so I think that was well done. I was a little disappointed with the story's resolution, and wasn't super attached to the characters either. Good for an easy read!


by Min Jin Lee · read May 21, 2018
★★★★★
This was a fantastic read. Not only do I love this style of novel, following a family through generations, but the prose seemed to suit it perfectly: deliberate and thorough while remaining engaging. I'm so glad that as a reader you get a glimpse into each character's head and insight into their thoughts and desires. (I really liked Noa.) Definitely a meaningful way to learn about Korean and Japanese history and culture, and it's encouraged me to do more reading about it.

Especially loved these sentences in the book, speaking about pachinko: '...there could only be a few winners and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones.'


by Robin Benway · read May 14, 2018
★★★★☆
An engaging read, centered around family issues and identity. I liked the dialogue and the alternating perspectives between the three main characters, but I didn't like the ending... I think it was good that it was a happy ending, but everything felt too neatly packaged to be a realistic resolution to the issues in the novel.


by Sue Monk Kidd · read May 14, 2018
★★★★☆
It took me a while to 'get the hang of' this book, but once I did I really enjoyed it. The characters all seemed real to me and there were so many unexpected quirks and details that enlivened the story. I also liked all the connections to bees - it made it more unique and engaging!


by Clarissa Goenawan · read May 6, 2018
★★★☆☆
To summarize my thoughts on this book: I liked the style, but the plot was something else. I felt like I was beside Ren throughout the entire novel because of the specificity of the mundane details of his life, which was entertaining. As for the mystery itself, though, the first 3/4ths of the book pass with very little indication of what will happen next, and then the last quarter hit me with half a dozen revelations, in quick succession, with minimal explanation, before the book ended. Even though I enjoyed most of the novel, the resolutions out of left field annoyed me.


by F. Scott Fitzgerald · read March 26, 2018
★★★☆☆
After being halfway through this book since high school I finally read it! I really liked certain passages of the novel because of the descriptions and turns of phrase. I think I didn't enjoy it as much because I've heard about it so much/seen the movie so the novelty has worn off – would have liked it better if I didn't know what happened next or didn't have a visual to accompany my reading.


by Samanta Schweblin · read March 24, 2018
★★★☆☆
Definitely a disorienting read - I was a little frantic reading it, trying to figure out what was going on, which I think was intended. I didn't love it for that reason (I like knowing what's happening and getting closure), but it was a cool outlier from the novels I usually read. Makes me scared to be a parent.


by Khaled Hosseini · read March 18, 2018
★★★★★
I really liked the combination of character development, cultural/historical settings, fundamental themes, and details in this novel. It was also very cool to reread this novel as an adult because I understood and noticed so much more but could remember what had struck me as a young teenager.

I'll share two examples.

The first: when I read The Kite Runner the first time, I was struck by the friendship between Amir and Hassan – the love, shame, betrayal, loyalty; this time, I enjoyed the dynamics between Amir and Baba more, because they felt more complex and real to me.

The second: I remember loving the classic line 'For you, a thousand times over' because of the way it spoke to Hassan's sacrificial love for Amir despite his unworthiness. This time around, it was Rahim Khan's line, 'There is a way to be good again', that really resonated with me. When you carry Amir's shame, guilt, and self-loathing with him throughout the novel, that opportunity for redemption and peace is something powerful and healing.


by Shanthi Sekaran · read March 15, 2018
★★★★☆
I enjoyed reading this novel. Personally, I liked the stories of Solimar and Kavya more than ethical dilemmas around Ignacio, but it felt well-balanced and raised a lot of questions for me about what it means to have a family. Soli's story in particular was wrenching and well-written.

When reading I noted this quote because it expresses one of the central themes of the novel:

'And those people. Would they have loved you more than I did? Will you wish someday that I had left you with them?' She had many hours to think that day, and a lifetime to revisit her deed, and here's what she would discover: This story, this fight for a boy–it wasn't about the boy. It was about his mothers. It was about a law that grew from the deepest roots of their being.


by Paulo Coelho · read February 28, 2018
★★★☆☆
There were certain parts of this book I really liked and other parts that didn't interest me - I enjoyed the archetypal style of the story and the mystical elements, but it didn't strike me as incredibly profound.


by Elif Batuman · read February 24, 2018
★★★★★
I loved reading this - the writing was engaging, amusing, and definitely realistic. I especially enjoyed Selin's thought processes, so strange and genuine to me, and the dialogue exchanges, which frequently made me laugh out loud or feel deeply uncomfortable and unsettled. The last couple chapters weren't my favourite but overall it was a great read.


by Trevor Noah · read February 14, 2018
★★★★☆
I found this book super engaging - I really enjoyed the mix of incredible stories, bits of history/context, and personal reflections.


by Richard H. Thaler · read February 13, 2018
★★★★☆
I think this book is worth reading if only for an exposure to choice architecture and its effects on our lives. It was definitely enlightening to look at the outcomes of policies with and without nudges, and to realize the power that choice architects have over me. The content was a bit repetitive, but the book was short and interesting enough that I didn't really mind.


by Emily Henry · read February 13, 2018
★★☆☆☆
I liked Natalie, the general premise, and Grandmother's stories throughout the book... but I didn't care about Beau and the details/particularities of changing universes etc. were far more elaborate than the level of effort I was willing to expend to understand them.


by Jane Jacobs · read February 11, 2018
★★★☆☆
I found a lot of this book's content interesting, especially the emphasis on challenging norms and observing how cities actually operate. In particular, I really enjoyed the section at the end about strategies for approaching problems and considering cities as 'organized complexity'.

However, the book was quite long and took me a while to get through, and the chapters at the end were not as interesting to me. I'm sure that this book is more meaningful if you have some knowledge of the cities frequently referenced; I would love to read an equivalent on a city I was familiar with.


by Lundy Bancroft · read January 10, 2018
★★★★☆
I learned a lot from the insights about abuse and abusive mindsets in this book; the author's experience and practicality were especially helpful. Would definitely recommend, but it's full of heavy, serious content, so I found that reading a few chapters at a time was all I could handle.


by Edward B. Burger · read October 10, 2017
★★★★☆
One of those books that you should have a copy of just to thumb through over and over again. It's not revolutionary, but it's a great collection of techniques and strategies for thinking that I think anyone would enjoy. The book is compact, well organized (I love the 'elements' mnemonic), and very practical - plus, it has its own outline at the back, which I think is absolutely fantastic.


by John Steinbeck · read October 8, 2017
★★★★★
One of my all time favourite books. I love the thematic intertwining with the characters' stories and experiences; it feels just right, not heavy-handed or entirely implicit. The pace and style make it entrancing and so easy to get through (even though it's a long book). Would definitely recommend.

3rd read: This book gets better each time I read it, and I keep seeing new things about the characters. Steinbeck has a masterful, unique way of encapsulating their defining qualities with one well written sentence or idea. The book is honest and insightful regarding human nature while remaining gracious. So good!


by Toni Morrison · read June 16, 2017
★★★★☆
Incredible prose that shares stories of love and struggle. The attention to language and communication in this novel is so arresting and thought-provoking. Difficult at times but so rich and insightful.


by Fyodor Dostoyevsky · read August 19, 2016
★★★★☆
I really enjoyed rereading this – my memories of it were sparse, but I found much more humour and insight in the novel the second time around! I especially liked the vast array of characters and the convoluted, dramatic relationships between everyone.


by Ray Kurzweil · read October 1, 2015
★★★☆☆
This book is not very cohesive, ranges pretty dramatically in technicality, and (in my opinion) has too much information about the author. That said, there's lots to learn about the brain, the proposed method of using hidden hierarchical Markov models is interesting, and the discussions on intelligence and consciousness at the end are worthwhile. Also, upon rereading I've realized it's much more understandable (and I got a lot more out of it) when I had some exposure to discrete math, machine learning, etc. prior to reading it.


by Dathan Auerbach · read February 1, 2015
★★★☆☆
To start, reading this book before bed was a mistake, because I read it all in one sitting and now I won't be able to fall asleep. This story really freaked me out – the plausibility of it makes it terrifying to me, plus certain details (like being in the woods at night) were too stressful for me. I liked the way the novel was arranged and the role of the narrator in developing the tone and connecting the narratives together; there were definitely some unnecessary passages and a few unresolved details, but overall it's a captivating and creepy book.


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