What I read in January: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Why hello friends! Long time no see… and I really feel like I have said that on here before.

A lot has changed since the last time I wrote up one of these. I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Communication and Media (Journalism) (as the top student if you don’t mind huahuahua), have started working full-time as a journalist, turned 22, celebrated my two-year anniversary with my partner, lost someone in my life for the first time, but have mostly been living my best life just for me. It’s been nuts, and that is saying the very least… but it’s also been great.

Having said that, my spare time has grown significantly since uni has finished, which is why I am here. Hiiiiiiii!!! Who’s ready for a reading wrap for the month of January?! Part of my goal of doing more things just for me this year (hello cringey new year’s resolution) was a drive to start doing this stuff again, and writing about things I care about. I think I’ll do this kind of thing monthly, but otherwise I will pop stuff up here whenever it tickles my fancy. To the two of you that are likely reading this now, I HOPE YOU LIKE IT!

So without further ado, here are the books I read in January 2023.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

So, it seems like every reading-inclined person and their dog was reading this book in January, so as someone who tends to following the trends, I followed suit. And boy I am glad that I did.

This story followed the relationship between gamers and friends Sadie and Sam as they meet as children, and rekindle as adults. Now please, for the love of god, don’t let the theme of video games turn you off from picking this up, because in its roots, this book is so much more than that.

I am going to make a conscious effort in these wraps to not give away spoilers, but I am SO PASSIONATE ABOUT THIS BOOK that it is proving to be extremely difficult. This book combines (elements of) the sadness within A Little Life, with the complicated friendships within Sally Rooney’s works, and is written in a way that will make you want to read and read and read. It’s heartbreaking, relatable, infuriating, emotional… and if you don’t love the character of Marx (as in Karl) as much as I did, something is wrong with you.

I read this book at the beginning of the month like I was suffocating and it was the last puff of oxygen left on the earth, and its still living in my head rent-free.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had never been a self-help book consumer until this year, after I received this book for Christmas. And before you start thinking that this was given to me and someone’s subtle hint that I need help, NO! I asked for it, thank you very much.

This was absolutely one of those books that I had seen sitting on shelves every single time I entered a book store, and I’d think, ‘oh yeah, gotta remember that book’, but I never got to it. I don’t know whether it was fear of picking up a new genre, or that I was subtly worried that it wouldn’t help my brain like I wanted or needed it to, but I am so glad I did pick it up.

If you are looking for something easy to read that genuinely provides realistic and helpful tips for you to feel better within yourself while accepting of the road bumps you will likely have on the way, this is the book for you. It provides analogies to help readers fully understand the topics and habit-building tips it mentions, and it even provides helpful suggestions for where to start. Not only that, but it also helps readers identify negative habits (which we all have, don’t pretend), and details realistic suggestions of how to combat those, too.

One thing I also don’t really do when I read is tab and underline books, but I literally ran out of ink in my favourite pen because of how much I was taking this book in. My mum loved it too. Give it a go.

Seeing Other People by Diana Reid

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A lot of you may (hopefully) know of Diana Reid because of her hit debut novel Love & Virtue, but I KNOW DIANA REID BECAUSE OF SEEING OTHER PEOPLE.

One of my favourite things about reading is that a good book can transport you (cringe I know but stay with me here). If characters are written well, you feel like you’re watching interactions in real-time while living in their minds, understandings their thoughts and actions, and sympathising or absolutely despising them for what they are doing. This book took me away from my hammock on the deck of my house (which is actually really nice and, like, wasn’t a goal of my reading experience) and took me to Sydney’s beaches, messy share houses and into the heads of young people with dreams. And breaking hearts. That too.

The best way to describe this novel would be to liken it to Conversations with Friends or Beautiful World, Where Are You, both by Sally Rooney (hey again girl) but moved to Australia. Rather than Dublin, it’s Sydney, but the lack of communication amongst these 20-something-year-old characters, and every single bit of angst they feel, is still there.

I love characters with flaws, and the character of Eleanor was one of the most honest and human characters that had ever been written into a book. Yes, sometimes you wanted to punch her in the face, but we all want to punch everyone we know in the face sometimes (sorry to everyone I know but you guys can be annoying for real). This book was undoubtably my favourite book of the month, potentially the year too. Watch this space.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I know what you’re thinking, I’m either the luckiest person in the world with regards to my choices of books, or I am too lenient with my five-star ratings. I was thinking that too, until I read this freaking book.

I actually listened to this book as an audiobook, because the Apple books app had it on sale for $5 (I should have seen the signs), and I remembered the name because a friend of mine once read it and absolutely loved it (sorry if you are reading this). As it started I was intrigued; a book set in Paris, in a single apartment block, everyone obviously has secrets and someone appears to have gone missing.

But then the storyline started properly. This book has some of the worst portrayals of female characters of any I have ever read. They are either stupid and constantly needing a man’s help, sexualised or criticised for said sexuality (whatever works better for the storyline at the time), doing stupid stuff to win over a prospective partner, or being beaten or shamed by said partners. And this book was written by a woman!!!

The ending of this book did come as a bit of a surprise, I didn’t see it coming and it was well done (to an extent), but I just couldn’t see past the character portrayals… honestly, it was a miracle I made it to the end. The portrayals of Sophie, Mimi and Camille particularly, even thinking back to them now makes my skin crawl. It was all just so unnecessary. Probably don’t bother with this one, unless you can handle that better than I can. Blergh.

The Resilience Project by Hugh Van Cuylenburg

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This one… was a disappointment for me. Perhaps it was a bad idea to read this after Atomic Habits, but it just had nothing helpful in it, really.

I liked the concept, don’t get me wrong. But the book mostly exists due to the author visiting a third-world country, and then realising he has nothing to be sad about… because some people have it worse. Very very awkward to read, and very white saviour-ish.

Don’t get me wrong, Van Cuylenburg and his family had some pretty horrid things happen to them which is really where this book stemmed from, and some of the stories that he told were really, really wonderful. However, as a book presented as one in the self-help genre… there wasn’t a lot of help. It felt more like I was reading a biography, or a story about how Van Cuylenburg came up with the Project, which was absolutely a huge achievement… but I didn’t come here for that, you know?

This book absolutely meant no harm, but it lacked everything that Atomic Habits had, namely helpful and insightful tips about how to actually improve yourself. Instead, it told the story of how a man went from A to B, in a way that was somewhat difficult to relate to entirely. Sorry to any fans of this one but, I don’t get it.

As you can see from the above, this month was filled with highs and lows. The moral of this story is this: DON’T read The Paris Apartment, and DO read Seeing Other People and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. And with that, ON TO FEBRUARY! Chao friends.

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