In Life, What I read

What I read: The After Winter Edition 2021

Last year in 2020, I read 217 books (you can see all of them here). I didn’t really get into reading until mid-way through the year, and that’s when I just started to ramp up, reading about 20-ish (?) books a month. This year, as I am working now, I may not reach 20-ish books a month but I am actively starting to read more instead of browsing aimlessly on Instagram.

It’s not that I don’t think Instagram is fun or productive (it can be), but if I want to keep up on my reading streak and make it through my book list, I need to prioritize my time. Some books of course, are much easier to read because once you’re in chapter one, you’re hooked until the end, whereas others take more time (those, if they’re really bad, I cut my losses around Chapter 3.)

Here are all the other books I’ve read in the past including mini reviews.

This year, wiping the slate clean, I read….

Not including below

Uneasy Street

This book hit home. It talks about affluent families (with way more money than ours, in the tens of millions in some cases), and how they feel like they are raising their children and living. They were exactly living the way I thought WE were living – acting like middle class, trying to teach kids proper values. A true look into the “rich” but not the “ultra rich” — celebrities/hundreds of millions folks/old family names. It was very interesting and thought provoking for me in particular as it pointed out a lot of how I have felt about our ‘wealth’, in that we don’t really have any. I also like how she touched on the female/male roles with money and household spending. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Class: A guide through the American Status System

Like the book Distinction by Bourdieu, but easier to read than that. It tries to codify what it is like to be in each American “class”, middle, and so forth. An interesting read, though between the two I read on class this month, I’d recommend Uneasy Street first.

The Sum of Small Things: A theory of the aspirational class

A FANTASTIC book. Run, don’t walk to read this. I felt myself in these pages quite strongly, and I am realizing all of my actions, what I believe in, what I do – I am part of this exact class and it’s a revelation in a sense.

Husband Hunters: American Heiresses who married into the British Aristocrats

Very interesting book full of details, historical notes on how women were treated and how they had to act, the differences between American/British women and even the way their families treated them (spoiler alert: American heiresses were far more valued). I quite enjoyed it! But I also realize that even today, nothing has changed. Everyone marries within their own social class/circle for cultural reasons but also so that you’re sure they’re not after you just for your money.

Untrue

I’ve always liked Martin’s books, especially Primates of Park Avenue which is an excellent book on rich families, their children and class/social/status warfare. This one was no different – it’s about women, the idea of infidelity and exploring why society thinks that women are the gentler sex that is not as sexual as men. There’s more than just that, there’s also exploration in why society sexualizes black women to the point of assuming they’re always out for sex (or working as sex workers), among infidelity and the idea of polyamorous relationships being the natural ‘order’ of things.

The Man Who Ate Too much

This is a biography on James Beard, one of the most iconic figures in food. If you’ve ever heard of the James Beard awards, you have heard of how everyone covets to win it – either in food writing, making food in certain regions, being the best chef, etc. It’s because of Beard. His life however, seemed quite sad. It never seemed like he found happiness, or anyone who accepted him until the end, but he was a little awkward as a child so without therapy it made him quite unhappy and unsure of himself.

The Little Black Book of Style

An excellent, well-written, basic, common-sense style book. As always, Garcia is clear, forthright and plain in what she thinks is style. I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t anything new for someone like me who has read almost every fashion/style book under the sun.

For those who are new or looking to explore their style – this is a great starter book.

The Measure of my Powers

A very good book to read. Food + Money + Finances.

This book triggered me in some ways, especially the financial part. It made me so angry on her behalf and it’s a real example of what I’d consider financial abuse because she didn’t feel free enough to spend the way she wanted, and he was so focused on HIS money and HER money … I mean, my finances are separate from my partner, but never in a million years would we treat each other like this. I can see why people think that having separate finances makes you act like this, so they can’t see it as a positive thing the way I do.

In other ways, she triggered me for food pangs for France. I loved her food descriptions, I miss croissants like crazy…

I’d love a sequel about her time in cooking school.

The Food and Wine of France

I love reading about the history of food, the people who make these wonderful items, why, what drives them, how, and this book resolves a lot of that for me. It’s more wine-focused, but there were some good bits in there like about the andouillette sausages for instance.

If Only

I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t at all what I expected. The twists are unexpected, and I will warn readers that there is sexual trauma in the book so please read with caution.

This is not a typical “boy meets girl and falls in love” story, and I love that. It made me think, it brought me deep into their characters, their background, and I thought it was incredible.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

A great young adult fiction, kind of in the style of Boxcar children, if you have ever grown up with the series. They are just such great young characters with REAL feelings, not fake ones (the Boxcar kids were always way too nice to each other I think).

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

Another good book in the series. I want to read them all. This is such a sweet, heartwarming story. I will not lie, I cried at the end. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and going on Little Bun’s future reading list.

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue


These books never fail to make me cry … honestly. I feel so moved by the characters.

The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found

Another good one. Darn it!!

One Day in December

Forgettable. I don’t even remember it. Except that I read it because my reader says “Finished”.

New Orleans Rush

What a HORRIBLE plot. I mean.. terrible. The characters were superficial, the plot wasn’t deep, the characters had no depth for me. AVOID.

Serious Eater

I had no idea the ups and downs of Serious Eats, but his luck mirrors mine in a way. I have great luck in certain things, but I do not have fantastic luck in others. I have to learn to let go and stop trying to think I can hit it big (my timing is always off on Bitcoin, stocks, whatever.) Enough about me, this book is about a man who is passionate, kind and serious about food, and how he got it off the ground (sort of), and found his way.

I could however, see right away that the whole thing didn’t ever work out because he wanted to be so loosey-goosey and punk rock with his management and tracking, and it’s why he was perpetually broke, but that’s another analysis for another day.

Letters from Paris

THANK YOU for the recommendation! This was such a great twist. I will admit I cried at the end, I also sort of figured it out before the mystery was solved, but I won’t spoil it here, except to say I love the intertwining of the past and the ‘present’, in a story that reveals so much about each character. I also enjoyed the deep looks into the French versus American culture but not in a clichéd way.

The Apprentice: Jacques Pépin

I. LOVE. Jacques Pépin. He is such an icon, but also so incredibly kind from what I can see on TV appearances; I heard his voice reading the book out to me, recounting his memoirs. They’re pretty incredible, and well worth a read. He’s had one heck of a life, and has lived it to the fullest. Even if you’re not into cooking or cook’s biographies, just a look into what it’s like growing up in France, then working in the kitchens back then is very interesting.

The Gourmands’ Way

The book format is a little strange because it does cover incredible food figures that brought gastronomy to the forefront, but it isn’t in a storytelling mode. Or rather, maybe I just don’t enjoy the author’s prose. At any rate, I read it because… FOOD… but I didn’t enjoy it. I’d rather read a memoir on each of these people instead.

I Capture the Castle

It was a decent book to read, but I don’t get the rabid fervour over how amazing it is. It was okay. I read it, I liked it, it wasn’t memorable except for a few scenes. People are obsessed with this book though. I will say that the father annoyed me greatly. I greatly dislike parents who don’t step up and take responsibility for their family, so … this one just soured my opinion of the whole book.

Am I missing something? This wasn’t a life changing book, but it was very much in line with my actual all-time favourite book which is The Glass Castle, a memoir which is always one of my number one recommendations because that one was .. truly indescribably good.

The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the world

This was a difficult book to finish, about the restaurant in the Twin Towers before 9/11 and its history. I read it anyway, but… it was difficult.

Such a Fun Age

I wouldn’t say it is THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD and SO AMAZING, but it was a good read. I’d recommend reading it just to get a perspective on race issues, culture, appropriate behaviour and so on. The writing itself was fine, but I do feel like they didn’t give me enough information or background into the protagonist, and I didn’t feel like I knew much about her. So I related, but I didn’t ‘click’ with the characters.

All or nothing

This is a book as much about addiction and parenting as it is about cooking. It’s really incredible he didn’t die at an early age with all that he did to his body, going to extremes with drugs. In the end, all he needed was an outlet for his energy and attention which thankfully he found in the end in cooking. He’s an Iron Chef Winner and a James Beard nominee which means HE CAN COOK like no other. A gripping read.

Cocoa Beach

A typical Williams book. A mystery, that all unfurls in the end in the most unexpected way, which I enjoy. I like her depictions of the past, of what it was like back then, and what they wore, I can imagine it all in my head.

How to do nothing

I’ve already heard all of it before, so none of this is new – being a Pavlov’s dog to your phone, cutting back on screen time, learning how to disconnect and read, walk, etc. This is all “self care” stuff that has been talked about. Included in there, would be not checking your emails every hour, etc.

Forever, Interrupted

This book shocked me after the first chapter. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s about losing your husband. So … please read with caution if you are triggered. I haven’t lost mine, but I certainly felt it in the pages, her pain, and her shock. It’s quite a good read on how to heal, and move on. Very well done.

The Vineyards of Champagne

I think those Eat Pray Love books have become very popular, because this one is quite like that. Again, another book about widowhood, but a good one as it goes into finding yourself in France of all places (the food descriptions alone make me salivate). A great read.

Mulan: Before the Sword

Here’s another favourite author of mine – her classical Chinese fairytales with a twist are such wonderful reads. Yes, they’re juvenile fiction, but just so well done, with interesting moral dilemmas, ideas and Chinese philosophy woven in.

The Golden Hour

Another Williams book, honestly they all blur together for me by now, but they’re all enjoyable reads on their own. Again, another mystery to solve, and an interesting look back into time, so to speak.

Apron Strings

An excellent cultural look and memoir of modern Italy, China, the differences in food, travel, culture.. it’s quite an interesting look into the history of cultures and another view into them. It’s very food-focused with recipes, but I found the cultural insights far more interesting than the rest of it. Really recommended.

What Angels Fear

I JUST started on the C.S. Harris series of Sebastian St. Cyr (I think they can standalone, but I VERY much prefer to read series in order so I can refer back to previous events and what they’re referencing to follow along). This series was a bit slow at the start because the first few chapters were a bit of a snore fest in terms of character development and getting me hooked, but then… by chapter 4, I was in deep.

If you love mysteries, this is a good series to start.

When Gods Die

Second book in the series, even better than the first, now that I have a background of St. Cyr in my head, and the plot was excellent. I especially like the supporting characters like Tom (a young boy), and he adds such a wonderful flavour to the book. The stories are also very strong in feminist leanings, which was ABSOLUTELY NOT what it was like back in the early 19th century (as per my limited experience in watching shows like Bridgerton).

I love how feminist it is, especially in the contrast against the time period.

Why Mermaids sing

Third book in the series and still going strong. I could have done without this book though because the topic itself made my stomach roil, I cannot handle anything on disgusting topics. I went to sleep with nightmares, and woke up feeling queasy. It was a good book however.

I won’t review each of them in detail — they are all good; here are all the ones I read:

Where Serpents Sleep

What remains of heaven

Where Shadows Dance

When Maidens Mourn

What Darkness Brings

Why Kings Confess

Who Buries the Dead

What I couldn’t read

  • Piranesi – I hate the book format. My brain cannot follow this, and it’s not a woven story with a scene, setting, etc, but what feels like thoughts inside a person’s head.

FAQ about my reading

I get these questions a lot here, and also via Instagram, etc so:

What else have you read?

Here are all the other books I’ve read in the past including mini reviews.

How do I read so quickly?

I don’t know either. I’ve been reading books for as long as I can remember. I feel like my sibling is the one who patiently taught me how to read one book, and from there, it exploded.

So, lots of practice? I have been reading for so long that words come easily to my brain, it’s like I see a picture of the word rather than reading the word individually. So “disastrous” would be a word that you read “dis-sas-trous”, but in my head it’s disastrous“, just one word, meaning imprinted. Makes sentences go a lot quicker.

Save for my parents, my entire immediate family is a family of voracious readers.

We read while eating, we read while walking, we read in bed… I guess I just followed what my older siblings did as they always had their nose in their books, and a few going at the same time (you know, the disrespectful way we read through half a book than leave it half open facing the table, spines cracked, no bookmark?).

I used to read 30+ books from the library a week – all young adult, easy stuff. I can read 2-3 books of young adult fiction in a current work day to give you an example, and as a child I had way more time than I do now, so I burned through books like a firestorm.

Our partners remark that they’ve never seen a family read so much, and I guess it’s true.

Where do I get my books?

A lot of you have asked and I generally don’t buy books unless they’re secondhand and in ebook format, for many reasons – price, environmental, space, and even then, I don’t buy books. I borrow them.

I read them on my Kobo ereader (also secondhand), and check out books from the library from Overdrive. If the book isn’t there, I generally don’t read it, UNLESS.. it is a book I REALLY REALLY want to read, then I MAY consider buying it if I cannot wait for it or find it. So far, I have only done this for Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Libraries are a gift, and we pay for them in our taxes yearly even if you don’t personally use them, so thanks.

How do I know what to read?

I don’t. I see recommendations and make notes, or put it on my Wishlist / On hold. I sometimes go into bookstores and browse, then decide if it is worth getting from the library. Or in secondhand stores, I pick up or buy books only if they’re photography / style-related where pictures and colour are a MUST (the one drawback to an e-reader).

I purchased only two physical books in 2020 that I couldn’t / didn’t want to buy in e-book format: Distinction (it was cheaper secondhand than the e-book), & Scoff (not available in ebook format at all).

Don’t you prefer physical books?

Who doesn’t!?

Aside from the cost, the space they take up, how heavy they are (we have a small bookshelf, most of it is Little Bun), I find them heavy to hold and hard to read in rooms unless there is bright daylight or very strong lamp light (I suffer from aura migraines and I’ve noticed dim light or lack of light triggers it when I am reading). I really like that the ebook illuminates the book.

I’d rather carry my entire library around with me in an ebook reader, plus be able to read with a backlight on.

I am currently considering a library option however only because we plan on buying a larger home in the future and I could allow a small library in my closet, perhaps.

Likely, it will only be filled with photography and style books however. Those are the only books I really want in physical copy and ebooks won’t suffice.

Where do I find the time to read?

I just make time for it. I have no other answer…

I’ve noticed if I am not watching TV shows, or aimlessly browsing on Instagram, I seem to have plenty of time to read if I am able to foist Little Bun off on my partner and/or keep him occupied otherwise.

I can go through a lot of books in a short amount of time if I am both interested, reasonably well-rested (or in a good mental state, not in limbo or stressed out) and the book itself is engrossing.

I read while brushing my teeth as you need to brush a full minute to two minutes (I have the reader on a stand), and I read while eating or drinking tea, I read while Little Bun plays or reads…. I read every time there is a spare moment.

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2 Comments

  1. Dublincalling

    Happy you liked Letters from Paris. Another good book of hers is The Paris Key. I just finished The Lost Carousel from her but did not find it as good as the others. But still I like her style of writing. I like all of the Taylor Jenkins Reid books.
    I have started reading The Red Address book by Sofia Lundberg which I think you would like. Next on my list is The Last Flight by Julie Clark. A mystery.
    Since we cannot travel at least reading transports us away for awhile!

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Adding ALL of these to my list thank you

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