As a follow up to my 20 Mini Book Reviews I Read in 90 Days post from 2021, I wanted to summarize more books I read in the remainder of 2021. My winter self-care routine involves a lot of reading which is why the first three months of the year were the period of most reading at home. I switched things up to also use my Audiobook subscriptions (free from my local library) to fill in the silence as I do errands / chores around the home.
I’ve found listening to audiobooks while working out to be a fairly fun way of working out as opposed to listening to the same kinds of playlist again and again. I quite enjoyed this switchup and have been doing it through this year.
Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs #1)
by Richard Morgan | Cyberpunk / Sci-Fi | Rating: 3.5/5
The Netflix original show called Altered Carbon was created based on this book and released back in 2018. It remains one of my all-time favourite shows/movies (only behind Game of Thrones) and a sequel to the series released in 2020 proved to be a thorough disappointment comparable to Game of Thrones’ Season 8 debacle, that I was finally convinced me to pick up the books. Most on Reddit’s r/AlteredCarbon subrredit recommended the books (3 in the series) to make up for the disappointment that was Altered Carbon’s Season 2 and I was obliged to associate the series with better works. The books read far more like a detective/sci-fi book and did not shy away from the profane and tawdry language. The series did a stunning job of highlighting inequality, injustice and social / economic chasm resulting from the development of the cortical stacks, which not only allowed for humanity to conquer immortality but also other planets.
Having watched and been impressed by the series, I was not as impressed by the book as I was with the show. I much preferred the social critique the show did a masterful job of recreating over the book. I still plan to read the rest of the books and perhaps my opinion will have been changed then but this wasn’t a good start to the series that I hoped to enjoy as much as I did the series.
13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do: Own Your Power, Channel Your Confidence, and Find Your Authentic Voice for a Life of Meaning and Joy
by Amy Morin | Psychology / Self-Help / Rating: 5/5
I was very very impressed by this title that I had to look up her other books and plan to add it to my reading list. Although it’s been a while since I read this book, I remembered thinking to myself about buying a copy since it’s likely to work out much cheaper than going to therapy. The author is a registered psychotherapist and does an excellent job of capturing mental health issues faced by women (career, home, parenting, etc) and presenting a healthier coping mechanism “action plan”. There’s a summary of the 13 chapters and headlines on Goodreads and while you might be tempted to take it at face-value, I still recommend doing the reading. The real-life references/examples hit close to home and I found it to be a great read that has more depth to issues we often read and consume.
Ella, The Slayer & Serenity House Series
by A.W. Exley | Fantasy / Young Adult | Rating: 5/5
I can’t recall how I found this book/author (it may have been a Wattpad) and I was hooked. This is likely the fifth or sixth re-read for me and I’ve finished and done several re-reads of not only her Serenity House Series (including four complete works) but also the Artifact Hunters Books (includes nine complete works).
Ella, The Slayer takes the familiar story of Cinderella and puts a zombie-apocalypse spin to it a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies publication that became popular a few years ago. It’s a short read and the rest of the series are written with a different perspective/main character, a refreshing way of exploring the series through the lens of characters around Ella. You can find the full list of published books and purchase the authors’ books on various ebook platforms (including Kindle, Apple Books, etc) linked on her website.
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How to Make the Most of Them Now (Read 2x)
by Meg Jay | Self-Help / Psychology | Rating: 3/5
This was a book I read twice last year in the hopes that it changed my mind during the second read. It came highly recommended as one of the books that was considered life-changing by a few redditors on the r/AskWomen subrredit and I was intrigued. As someone who just said goodbye to her twenties, I was worried this book would fill me with a lot of regrets on missed opportunities and putting my bias aside, I still cannot agree that this was a book that truly changed my perspective and frankly I found some of the assumptions and generalization to be offensive.
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I was fortunate to do most of the things recommended in my 20s without her guidance but thought the books puts too much of a generalized view of 20-somethings and that composite does not represent the population today. There’s a lot more creativity, intention and willingness to adjust/change than the composite painted by the author as being representative and I don’t really recognize this book as being representative of different cultures and geography either.
The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You
by Julie Zhou | Management / Business | Rating: 5/5
I really really recommend this book to anyone who’s looking to become a manager for the first time or those whose role is managerial in nature even if your title doesn’t say it (e.g. you’re working with or overseeing interns / coop students). This is a phenomenal book that I’m glad I read before I left my old role to start a new one even though I’ve been managing direct reports for 4 years last year. That said, The Making of a Manager focuses much more on the traps and challenges faced by first-time, newer managers as opposed to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In or Sallie Krawcheck’s Own It which focuses on managers who tend to have been in a managerial role for longer (e.g. 10+ years).
I found the advice and suggestions highly refreshing and scenarios painted in this book to be much more common given my “newness” in people management (coming up to 5 years now!) and recommend this reading for anyone aspiring to become a people manager.
The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
by Helaine Olen, Harold Pollack | Economics / Personal Finance | Rating: 3/5
Personal finance is a passion for me as I’m sure it is for many and I was intrigued by this book because of its simplistic approach to the world of personal finance. I remembered my early investing days (I was 20 years old) and recalled the intimidation and analysis paralysis I felt in putting $100-200 towards investing because to me those amounts felt like a lot of money for a university student still getting by on scholarships and student loan.
This book is not investment-focused and covers everything from savings/debt, budgeting, and investing. Most of the tips in this book are likely those you’ve heard or read about before so nothing in this book is new to me. It was not as helpful of a book as I thought but still recommend it to those looking to take better control of their personal finance in a bite-sized reading. Note that this book is also very US-centric so the accounts/tools referenced may not be available in other countries.
Dress Like a Parisian
by Alois Guinut | Style / Fashion | Rating: 2/5
I couldn’t be bothered to read this book in earnest and spent mostly flipping through the pages, and making notes on suggested clothing pieces and recommended colours. I always admire that Parisian chic and effortless style that most (if not all) French women embody and found this book to be an easy read if you’re into that. I’m not sure I would have read it page by page the way I read other books
The Art of Making Gelato
by Morgan Morano | Recipe / Cooking | Rating: 4/5
Should reading a recipe book count as a book? I think so- I’ve never been able to find a good gelato spot in Toronto (or they’re too far out of the way to be realistically visited on a regular basis) so this book felt like a must-read for anyone looking to try their hand at making one at home. The author covers helpful tips on the basics of gelato-making including the ingredients (corn starch, corn syrup!) not found in other types of ice confections (ice cream or sorbets). Complete with 50 recipes for classic and original gelato flavours, this is a delicious and equally informative reading!
Worry-Free Money: Stop budgeting, Start Living
by Shannon Lee Simons | Economics / Personal Finance | Rating: 5/5
To be honest, I can’t recall why I rated this book 5/5 on Goodreads (I read it back in April so it has almost been a year) but for those of you looking for a Canadian-centric personal finance book equivalent the The Index Card above, this is the way to go! The Canadian-focused content also covers personal finance for different groups including individuals, couples, older (ready to retire) individuals and feels more of a relevant read than other personal finance books. As the title implies, Worry-Free Money focuses a lot more on budgeting, savings and debt as opposed to the other, more complex topics of personal finance. It’s a good book to start on your personal finance journey if you feel budgeting being something of a restriction on your day-to-day.
by Andy Weir | Fantasy / Fiction | Rating: 5/5
The Martian is one of my favourite reads and I pick it up quite frequently when I’m not in the mood of reading something new. I always find the book to be soothing and enjoyable even if it is the third time I’m reading the book last year. I tried reading the new title published by the author “Artemis” but couldn’t get around to enjoying it as much as this. Going to give the other titles a try this year and see if it changes my mind!
What are your favourite reads from 2021? Are there any titles from this list that you’ve read recently as well?