What I Read: January 2023

What I Read: January 2023

I kicked off my 2023 reading with a bang, reading 7 books in January! (Definitely a big change up from my sluggish December.) I was clearly on a non-fiction/self-improvement kind of a kick given all the excitement surrounding the new year.

Here’s the full list:

  • Making Space, Clutter Free by Tracy McCubbin
  • Make Space for Happiness by Tracy McCubbin
  • Find Your People by Jennie Allen
  • Kismet by Amina Akhtar
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  • Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Bravey by Alexi Pappas

Let’s get into the reviews!

Making Space, Clutter Free by Tracy McCubbin

I read this book heading into the new year to help motivate myself to declutter (one of my New Year’s resolutions). I find decluttering is something that requires near constant motivation and this book hits the spot!

I like that unlike a lot of other decluttering books I’ve read, Tracy McCubbin gets into the emotions tied to our stuff: The guilt, the shame, the sadness, the memories. She basically gives you permission to let go. Being surrounded by the highlights of your past doesn’t leave you feeling good about yourself today. It’s ok to grow and change and your stuff should too.

Rating: 8/10

(Note: I listened to this as an audiobook, but I would recommend reading the actual text instead. Tracy McCubbin would reference emotional clutter blocks by number and it would have been nice to reference what the blocks actually were versus hearing only ‘clutter block #5’.)

Make Space for Happiness by Tracy McCubbin

I enjoyed Making Space, Clutter Free so much, I decided to read Tracy McCubbin’s other book!

In my opinion, this book includes a lot of the same ideas as her other one, but as I said above, decluttering requires a constant input of motivation for me. One of the biggest differences between the books is this one focuses more on how to improve your life so you don’t collect clutter in the first place- make friends, deal with emotions, etc. I definitely like the emotional take on clutter versus something like you should only keep X number of shirts.

My big takeaway: “Behaviors, not things, reinforce positive feelings.”

Rating: 7/10

Find Your People by Jennie Allen

I saw this book on the shelf at Target and found myself drawn to the big idea (making friends as an adult) and decided to borrow it from the library (using the Libby app of course!).

Unfortunately, I don’t feel I was the target audience for this book. First and foremost, I would categorize this book as religious non-fiction rather than self-help. But I was personally disappointed as it seemed to ignore the existence of introverts. A lot of the advice included showing up unannounced at people’s homes (my nightmare!). I had been hoping for something different.

Rating: 5/10

Kismet by Amina Akhtar

I was clearly on a non-fiction kick this month, but this one of my few fiction reads.

After years of dealing with abuse from her aunt, Ronnie sought out counseling from a friend/wellness guru named Marley. Through their sessions together, Ronnie gains the confidence she needs to move away from her aunt and start a new life in Sedona with Marley. But shortly after their arrival, grisly murders begin.

So, I loved the setting and uniqueness of this book. I also found myself surprised by the ending- rather than one big twist, it featured three! But prior to that, I found the middle to be slow reading.

Rating: 7/10

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I decided to read this after I saw a self-help expert say he listens to this book every year to remind himself of what’s important in life- and it hits hard.

Paul Kalanithi was wrapping up his residency as a neurosurgeon at age 36 when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. This book was his exploration of what makes life worth living in the face of death. What do you do when you know you’re going to die sooner than you thought, but you also don’t know when? It was a very tough read. The last 25% or so had me sobbing while out on a run (I listened to this as an audiobook), so be prepared to cry.

Rating: I don’t know how to rate something like this. It was so sad, but so meaningful. And his writing is beautiful.

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

So, this one was odd. It’s a horror novella surrounding a teenage prank gone wrong.

The main character, Sawyer, and his friends decided to sneak a mannequin into a movie theater, set him up in a seat, and then convinced staff to check people’s tickets in hopes of making the crew look foolish when they try to interact with the mannequin. Only… that didn’t happen. Sawyer becomes convinced that he saw ‘Manny’ get up and walk away like a human after the movie was over and is now worried ‘Manny’ may be out for revenge against him and his friends. Things quickly go downhill after that.

I liked some of the twists toward the end, but I felt the story left big questions unanswered.

Rating: 6/10

Bravey by Alexi Pappas

I previously had no idea who Alexi Pappas was, but now I am a huge fan! She’s an Olympic runner and also a writer/filmmaker. I love that she hasn’t limited herself to any one lane. (Recently, I saw she’s started getting into ultrarunning too. So cool!)

In this memoir, Alexi Pappas is extremely vulnerable and open as she shares her childhood memories surrounding her mom and her mom’s suicide, her battle with depression after the Olympics, and her whole journey of running and eventually getting into filmmaking. At times, I will say the book could get a bit repetitive because I think the book was written as separate essays that were compiled together, but I think this is the most honest book I’ve ever read.

One stand out concept from this book when it comes to goals: “Am I interested or am I committed?” If you’re only interested, you’ll let obstacles stop you. If you’re committed, you’ll find a way to make it work.

Rating: 9/10

Want more book reviews? Check out my December 2022 reads!

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