March 16, 2023

Some Random Book Thoughts

The month is half done!  How did this happen?  

I've read three books so far this month.  Months when my mom visits are always slower reading months because I can go out in the evening (thanks grandma childcare!) and I don't do as many dishes - my primary audiobook time. 

Book 1: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I knew this book had a pandemic theme and was a bit hesitant to read it as I'm not too keen on pandemic lit.  I really enjoyed Sea of Tranquillity even though it had pandemic-y parts - it was the first book I read since pandemic that included pandemic and it certainly made me feel a bit... uncomfortable.
However, the pandemic in Station Eleven  didn't bother me at all.  I found it to be an interesting and engagig post apocalypse world and I so love how St. John Mendel weaves narratives through time and through different books.  I had the thought while reading this book "wow, after this pandemic people are struggling to survive, and in our current post-pandemic we're trying to get everyone to be less obese."  I think that the reason the Sea of Tranquillity pandemic bothered me more is that narrative was more around impending lockdowns than pandemic, which I do relate to and don't want to relive through fiction really.  I wouldn't even say the pandemic is a major plot points in either book - like all St. John Mandel her real creativity is in her relationships and people as they move through the weird worlds she constructs.

I really enjoyed this one.  Sad that I've now read all her offerings at our local library.

Book 2: Atomic Habits by James Clear

This is a great book on Habits and probably the one I would recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about habit formation.  I found it more readable than "The Power of Habit" which I finished in January, and more science backed than the [evil] BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits.  Also, more realistic.  I'm far more likely to put on my exercise clothes like James Clear suggests than put them on and yell "Go Rachel! you put on your exercise clothes, yay!" like Fogg recommends.

I've also realized that I've read a lot of habit formation as I read about digital minimalism and time management, since time and habits are so intertwined.  Nothing in this book was earth shaking for me - but that's probably because I'm pretty saturated on this topic.  It did get me thinking about how my habits have changed - I became a reader after a 10 year reading gap.  I stopped eating (most) processed food.  I started waking up early every day.  I had a strong running habit, then stopped entirely.  I used smartphone technology, whatapp and instagram, up until I didn't.  All these are habits I've changed - the book gave me time to consider what other habits do I may want to change.

I think I'm mostly happy with my current big habits, but I'm keen to keep working on the small ones with the strategies from this book. Definitely recommend this one for an accessible guide to habit formation.

Book 3: Quit like a Woman by Holly Whitaker

I had this one on audiobook and then returned it because I thought it was about quitting your job, then I realized it's actually about quitting drinking. I've been recently toying with the idea of not drinking anymore since alcohol has started to noticeably decrease my sleep quality.  I'm not sure if this is because I have noticeably increased my sleep quality recently... but it's a definite thing.  The book was fascinating discussion on why we were so obsessed with alcohol and why that might just be a good marketing campaign.  One pretty persuasive argument is that the way we treat alcohol now is how we viewed cigarettes in the 70s - we know it's probably not so good for us, but we wonder if it might be a little good for us, and there is a lot of money keeping people drinking.  

The book was a bit "woo" towards the end but I'm interested in the feminist issues around drinking and alcohol.  And also, why is not drinking so weird?  Are we in an alcohol mass delusion?   Why is the only socially acceptable form of not drinking considered a disease (alcoholism?).  No one tells a vegan to just order meat or doesn't invite them to a restaurant, but often if you don't drink you face a bit of gentle encouragement to drink, or you don't get invited out.   Weird.

How has your reading month been?  Have you read any of the above?


  1. I have read all of those books! I really like Station Eleven, although I read it several years ago (before the pandemic) so I wonder if it would be just as good now or if my pandemic experience would change the enjoyment of the book at all. I did like Clear's habit book better than the Power of Habit, which had it's moments too, but Clear's book flowed better to me.

    Regarding drinking, I read that book too and really can't remember the details...BUT Gallup polls are showing that Americans are drinking less than they used to: "The average number of drinks Americans consume in a week has been falling over the last several years, from 4.8 in 2009 to 3.6 in 2021, Gallup found. 60% of Americans say they drink, down from 65% in 2019, Gallup says." Also I think that college students are also more likely to abstain than they used to be, so that is good news!

    1. Oooh interesting! I think it might be my own circles which are somewhat alcohol-based... it's interesting that there has been a decline since 2009. I certainly fell into "drinking is for college!" narrative, I didn't know anyone who didn't drink. It would be cool if there were more kids choosing not to drink - maybe booze has jumped the shark?

  2. I looooooooooved Station Eleven. Definitely my top read of 2022. But I haven't read Sea of Tranquility yet and really need to correct that. St. John Mandel is such a masterful writer. I love how she describes relationships between people.

    The book on sobriety sound interesting. Like you, I have been noticing that alcohol affects my sleep more than it used to. But I really enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail now and again, so I don't see myself giving it up completely.

    My reading month has been dismal so far. I am reading The Hours, which is lovely, but not something I feel compelled to pick up. I also started The Writing Retreat which is not drawing me in. Hopefully I will finish both and find something that makes me feel excited to read.

  3. I've written a lot about what it's like to be a non-drinker in a US state where the drinking culture is quite something. It's really hard and does impact my social life a great deal. It's unfortunate because it seems like the research really does show that even a little "social drinking" has terrible effects on your health and well-being.

    I loved Station Eleven, but I read it pre-pandemic and I often wonder if I would have such positive feelings about it now. Maybe not?

  4. I loved Station Eleven and read it RIGHT in the early/middle days of the pandemic, so that was quite an experience.
    I really enjoyed Atomic Habits; I rarely buy books after I read them from the library, but I bought this one. I'm a big fan of his weekly newsletter, too. I enjoyed The Power of Habit (and have read it twice), but agree I like Clear's book more. I think I enjoyed Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before book the best, though, in terms of habit change? But they're all great.

    I don't drink much at all, so this is a non-issue for me (and most of my friends don't drink). I'm so glad I don't feel pressure on this, but it does sadden me to see how pervasive it is: like you MUST drink X, Y, Z frequently to have fun/be cool. Also, something that doesn't seem to get discussed much is how much alcohol costs. It can be so much money?! We'll talk about people cutting their spending on daily lattes, but what about the bill after a night of drinking? It really blows my mind how a glass of beer at a restaurant can cost as much as the food.