What I’ve Been Reading Lately: April

To Kill a Mockingbird

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

-John Green

Reading in 2020.

As promised, I’m sharing what I’ve been reading during the month of April.

Following my original format, I will be sharing a quote from each book and if I check off a category from the reading challenge, Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge, I will share which category it fulfills.

Since this is a running list for the year, each month will start with the number that follows where the prior month ended.

If you missed my first “What I’ve Been Reading” post, you can find the Jan/Feb reads in this post. Since we are housebound, I’ve changed the original format of bimonthly sharing to monthly sharing. You can find March reads in this post.

I thought I’d make it through a ton of books this month. However, I have quite a few non-fiction books going. Some non-fiction, I can read in a sitting. Others, I need to digest the information before moving on in the book. Hence, the reason for reading multiple books at once. I’m still going through the pile that I checked out prior to the libraries closing down for our current stay-at-home lives, many of which were non-fiction. And while I’ve started many…not so many were completed this month.

And with that, let’s get into the reading for April.

Reading List.

25. You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice – Tom Vanderbilt

“Aspiring photographers like Palmer are typically taught to employ the famous “rule of thirds,” placing the focal object of the work somewhere along the lines that divide the image, horizontally and vertically, into three parts. And yet, when he has asked subjects to rate their like for photographs, or given them cameras and asked them to produce images that most pleased them, the overwhelming preference was to have images in the center of the composition.”

I just want to take a moment to point out that when I share a quote during these “what I’ve been reading lately” series, it is not necessarily a meaningful glimpse into the entire premise of the book. The quote is a piece, or phrase, or idea that I found interesting and jotted down.

According to the inside jacket of this book, it is a look at why we like the things we like, why we hate the things we hate, and what our preferences reveal about us. The books covers a broad array of subjects. I chose this quote because it addresses photography, which is one of my areas of interest. I also need to point out that the “Palmer” referenced in the quote is Stephen Palmer, a professor of psychology at the University of California in Berkeley who directs the Visual Perception and Aesthetics Lab.

I’m also going to comment on the word “aspiring” in the quote. Aspiring is defined as directing one’s hopes or ambitions toward becoming a specified type of person. So while it is accurate to say aspiring photographer, or aspiring writer, or aspiring artist, I’m of the opinion that using the word “aspiring” is done only to stay hidden behind a fear. A fear of judgment that your work isn’t good enough, special enough…etc. I say that from a place of understanding. For my first few years on Instagram, my bio said wannabe photographer. Why? Because I was afraid somebody might comment and say my work was crap and that word “wannabe” protected my ego. I didn’t take that term out of my bio because I thought I’d arrived, I took it out to claim that fear wouldn’t keep me hidden.

If you take photographs, you are a photographer. If you write, you are a writer. If you make art, you are an artist. I suspect that many people mean they are “aspiring” to become a professional in said field. The technicality behind crossing the threshold into professional is that you’ve been paid for your work. I’ve been paid for my photography, albeit not much, so based on that technicality, I am a professional photographer. I’ve actually been paid for my writing once as well, but it sits in a spot waiting for me to be paid enough to collect said money. But that’s a whole other story and I’m digressing. If you want to use “aspiring”, “amateur”, or “wannabe” then don’t let me tell you any different. You do what is right for you. But don’t let titles hold you back in claiming your creativity.

Now on to the next book.

26. Blue Ocean Strategy – W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne

“When a company’s value curve converges with its competitors, it signals that a company is likely caught with the red ocean of bloody competition.”

I have been hearing about this book for some time. You’ve probably heard of it since it’s an International Bestseller. Its premise is to create a “blue ocean”. In other words, making the competition irrelevant. I mentioned that I was enrolled in Marie Forleo’s B-school and that I’ve been considering some business ideas. I heard about this book from enough different places that I thought I’d check it out. It offered a lot of great information. I will point out that a large part of the book (towards the end) is geared toward someone already in business and a business that has staff, so that felt largely irrelevant to me at this stage in my research.

Interestingly, this concept of carving out your own space (which was published in 2005), is very similar to some (not all, but some) of the concepts in the book that I shared last month. That book, “The Passion Economy”, was published in 2020. So the principles have proven accurate for a rather long time.

27. Dopesick – Beth Macy

“When a new drug sweeps the country, it historically starts in big cities and gradually spreads to the hinterlands, as in the cases of cocaine and crack. But the opioid epidemic began in exactly the opposite manner, grabbing a toehold in isolated Appalachia, Midwestern rust belt counties, and rural Maine.

If I’m being honest, I really put off reading this book. However, when the category of “a book by a local author” came up, I knew this would be my choice. So this book checks off that category. Written in 2018, this book traces the opioid crisis. I had seen the exhibit “Portraits from the Frontline of the Opioid Epidemic” when it was at the Taubman back in 2018. I walked along and read the harrowing tales of addiction started by corporate greed.

I am a person who feels things deeply. A person who has known people who have succumbed to drugs, unable to climb their way out of the pit that keeps them mired there. I did not want to know the true horror of it all. Mostly because I knew she would tear a larger hole in my bubble. I am no fool. The hole is already there. I have heard stories. I am well aware that Roanoke has a drug problem. I knew from the exhibit that not only would she talk about rural Appalachia, but she would also reference Roanoke, and the suburbs where I live… the places my children attend school…I just didn’t know the extent of what she’d have to say.

I found similarities between the rural Appalachia stories of the pathways from poverty to addiction and the stories shared in last month’s read “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope” by Nicholas D. Kristof & Cheryl WuDunn. When manufacturing left, so did many ways to make an income. Many turned to dealing (and doing) drugs.

We moved here in the summer of 2013, so there are some stories that were in motion well before we arrived. However, the book chronicles stories into 2017. Stories going on all around these parts. Shocking and sad stories. Stories that break your heart. Over and over again.

One of the reasons that region became a drug hotspot was its easy access to the I-81 corridor which was an easy shot to Baltimore. Most of my travels take me south and I don’t use I-81, but some of Miss Sunshine’s soccer games take us north along I-81. I’ve always hated I-81. It is a stressful drive. This particular Interstate is packed with semi trucks laden with goods headed to their destination point. And based on knowledge from this book and knowledge from a recent self-defense course, I know that it’s also filled with cars laden with drugs or with stolen people for trafficking. Yes, I’ve always hated I-81. And now I think of it as road to nightmares paved with people from the pits of hell.

28. Untamed – Glennon Doyle

“Make yourself fit. You’ll be uncomfortable at first, but don’t worry – eventually you’ll forget that you’re caged.”

This is one of those non-fiction books that I read in a sitting. Not in a literal sitting, but I read nothing else until I finished and had to force myself to put it down on occasion in order to get anything else done. I had so many quotes written down from this book that I didn’t even know which one I’d share.

When I saw her interview with Marie Forleo (here’s the link) I knew this was a book I’d want to read. There is much depth to it that I won’t go into, but I will share that it talks about the roles we accept because of societal expectations. If you’ve ever read my about page then you already know that this blog started as a place to discover who I was outside of my societal expectations as wife and mother.

A journey of listening to the still, small voice deep inside.

Now I may be a little biased (or jealous) since Glennon Doyle currently lives in my hometown, a fact that I mentioned when I was interviewed on a podcast, but I do love her writing style.

Final Thoughts.

That’s it for my reading for the month. I have a few books in progress so we’ll see how many I make it through by the end of May! You’ll notice that I read only non-fiction. I’ve already started on a work of fiction AND it marks off one of the reading categories. I’ll give you a hint, it’s by Steinbeck. As a side note, my mother-in-law is an English major. She taught English to high school seniors (as well as drama) and she dislikes any of Steinbeck’s work. She said she never taught him and never would. She begged me, in all seriousness, to not finish reading anything by him.

Now Over to You.

What’s your opinion on Steinbeck?

I read his story “The Red Pony” in my youth and loved it. It was heart-wrenching, but feeling all the emotions of humanity is something that is important to me in storytelling.

I don’t think that a sad story precludes a good story. I remember choosing “The Yearling” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings for my literary analysis in my senior year of high school. I’ve loved that book each time I’ve read it.

What do you think about stories that break your heart? Both in fiction and non-fiction.

And how about that beginning quote by John Green?! Have you ever read something that made you feel like that?! Do share!!

Tell me what you’re reading!! I need to add to my list.

Stay safe and healthy out there! Sending you all love and light!! xx

Books are a uniquely portable magic. -Stephen King

Come join in on the conversation about books we've read and are reading!!

Let your light shine!


22 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Reading Lately: April

  1. I’m reading almost nothing this month. Well, I’m reading oodles of blog posts and comments, but as for published books I don’t have the concentration for it at the moment. That being said I chuckled over the “value curve” because my husband used that term in passing yesterday. He’s in the business world and had heard it somewhere along the line. And now here it is again in my life… 🤔

    1. I really thought I’d be lounging and reading all day and night but that hasn’t seemed to have happened. My reading overall has slowed wayyy down. That is too funny about the “value curve”. It’s always interesting when things pop up within days of each other.

  2. I’ve been completely unable to read more than one chapter ever since the lockdown started. Let’s hope this will be over soon and my brain goes back to normal.
    Well done you!

    1. I have noticed my reading has slowed down momentously. I think the brain is definitely feeling the impacts of the lockdown. I hope you are able to read again soon!! 🙂

      1. A dear, my brain feels like mushy peas!!!
        Cheers to going back to normal ASAP!!

    1. I am reading substantially less. I’m hoping to pick up the pace as my mental space begins to have more room for relaxation.

      Stay well too, Deborah!! xx

  3. I’m impressed and in awe of your inspired reading list. Sadly, my focus has been sorely lacking. Aside from blog posts that I’m struggling to catch up with, the last thing I managed to read from cover to cover was a magazine. Yikes! :/

  4. I absolutely loveee the quote by John Green! He’s one talented author. And thank you for the reviews of these books! I have only read half a book by Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath), but I stopped it halfway through. I should give it another go!

    1. I loved that John Green quote as well!! He does have immense talent. I’m not sure I made halfway through Grapes of Wrath. And I’ve started it numerous times. That’s not the one I’m reading, but I really should read it!!

  5. Hi Amy, I am with you on how a quote from a book can stay with me long after I have read the book. Yet, it may not give a true picture of the premise of the book.

    I am about one third into “Untamed.” So far, different and better than I expected for various reasons. I used to follow her blog, “Momastery.”

    I have read a few of John Steinbeck’s books, found them powerful and really enjoyed them. I recall thinking how the characters in his books withstand the test of time. They were written over seventy, eighty years ago, yet, I see my own family members in the characters.

    I have a few books on the go right now, re elibrary borrowing deadlines.

    Happy reading, Amy. Take care and stay safe.

    1. Hi Erica! I had a general idea about what “Untamed” would be about, but it still went into thoughts and concepts that I wasn’t expecting. I do enjoy her writing style. 🙂
      Powerful is the perfect word for Steinbeck. Or what I’ve read of his so far. Which, sadly, is very little.
      Happy Reading, Erica!!

    1. The consensus seems to be that the lockdown has slowed down any reading. That’s been the case for me as well. I think there’s just only so much mental capacity and much of it is being used for other things!!

  6. Dopesick sounds super interesting to me – I’ll have to pick this one up. I am not reading anything of note, but I do have a hardback book coming from Amazon called “The Red Lotus” – https://www.amazon.com/Red-Lotus-Novel-Chris-Bohjalian/dp/0385544804#customerReviews. I should get it within the week – I’ll let you know if it’s worth reading. I have a friend in a book club that gets these books before they are released – she “loves” every book she reads, so I am sort of skeptical when she recommends a book. 🙂

    Have I ever mentioned a book to you called Rogue Economics? It’s from 2008, but super interesting. I would like to read it again. Here is a link to a Newsweek article about it (from 2008)…https://www.newsweek.com/globalization-and-rogue-economics-86049

    1. Thanks for sharing both of those, Pam! I’ll have to check them out. I hope you enjoy The Red Lotus. Dopesick was very interesting. It was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal for nonfiction. I think it really opens your eyes to the shortcomings of how we treat addiction.

  7. These are great reviews Amy, I’m impressed, and the quote by John Greene is awesome. I’ve been reading some of Alessandro Torre’s books, the one I just finished was called The Ghost Writer and before that Tight. She’s an amazing writer, stories are often suspense filled and, I’ll be honest, very sexy, but always with great twists and very memorable characters. Escapism seems to be what I’m enjoying lately! Have a great May Amy and happy reading. xx

    1. I loved that John Green quote. I have read so many books that make me feel that way. I could use some good escapism. I’ll have to check out that author. I finished the pile of my non-fiction from the library since I didn’t know when they’d be due. Now I’ve moved over to fiction. Ahhh… You have a great May as well, Miriam. Happy reading!! xx

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