What I read in July

I haven’t written much about reading on this blog (with this exception), even though the title is literally from a quote about books. So this month, I thought I’d do a quick overview of all the books I read in July. I’ve linked to Goodreads where you can find a summary of the plot/topic of each book, so I’ll limit myself to briefly discussing my impressions. This is a bit longer than my normal posts, so feel free to grab a cup of tea and get settled in.

July was my most prolific reading month this year. Not only were we on holidays for a week in France (meaning lots of castlescycling and reading at every opportunity we got) but I have also been free in the evenings and on weekends, so I’ve had more time to read. And I used this time to read quite a mixed bag of books, as you’ll see underneath!

1. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

OK, I didn’t read all of this book in July, but I finished it in the first week of the month. I read it on a recommendation from a friend. The book is made up of several (at least initially) seemingly unrelated, chronologically-ordered short stories running from colonial times to civilisation after the apocalypse. Although I liked Mitchell’s writing style from the beginning, it was only at the halfway point that I really understood how the stories were related, and once I did I enjoyed the book even more! This wasn’t a particularly easy read, but the story-based plot meant that it was good to read in short bursts and easy to get back into after a break, so I’d recommend it if, like me, you never had to study it at school or university.

2. Predictably Irrational and 3. Irrationally Yours, Dan Ariely

I really enjoy reading about behavioural economics, so occasionally when I run out of things to read I’ll head over to the Economics library and borrow a couple of popularised science books on the topic. (One of the perks of working at a university, and totally not at all nerdy.) Predictably Irrational was a summary of experiments and studies on how we make decisions in a wide range of topics, and although I was already acquainted with many of the results and themes I enjoyed it immensely. I read the second edition (2010), which included notes by Ariely about how a failure to understand human irrationality caused the subprime mortgage crisis and how we could reshape the markets to fit how humans actually work – unfortunately, it didn’t actually happen.

Irrationally Yours is a compilation of questions and answers from Ariely’s blog, reflecting similar themes, and was a very short read. (Also, kind of boring to read directly after Predictably Irrational. Would not recommend.)

4. Fooled By Randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I picked this up at the same time as the previous two books. I’d read Taleb’s other book The Black Swan, about our focus on using past patterns to predict the future and our inability to predict the events which are highly improbable but have the largest effect (like financial crashes). Although this book covered similar topics, I didn’t enjoy it as much because of its heavy focus on Taleb’s time as a trader and heavy focus on the stock markets (which I’m not interested in at all).

5. No Is Not Enough, Naomi Klein

I had pre-ordered this book and promptly forgotten about it, so it was a lovely surprise when this turned up on my Kindle one day! Although this book was written in 5 months (literally the time of Trump’s presidency) it was still highly eloquent and powerful. I’d recommend not only this book but any of Klein’s work, so much so that I even wrote a Goodreads review about it.

6. A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

I read this while we were in France, and really enjoyed it. ICYMI, this was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2015 and it’s long (720 pages) and very depressing, but also incredibly addictive (I stayed up until 1am to finish it). The book has received some criticism online for not really being like real life at all, as it follows the stories of four privileged young men who live in an unrealistic way in New York. But that was the charm for me: like Tartt’s The Secret History – which is one of my favourite books – I enjoyed reading about the twisted problems of a group of the elite.

7. Maskerade (Discworld #18)Terry Pratchett

I have all the Discworld series on my Kindle to read when I’ve run out of things or just feel like a quick, light read. I hadn’t expected to finish A Little Life so quickly, so I read this coming home from France. If you haven’t read Discworld, you’re missing out.

8. The Pursuit of Love and 9. Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford (rereads)

Again, after the somewhat heavy books I read at the beginning of the month, I had a hankering for something a little lighter. These books seem fluffy but were really quire parodic of the upper class in the UK in the early 20th century, and while there are more books in the series I don’t own them and have therefore never read them. Time to get on to that, maybe…

10. Wing Jones, Katherine Webber

The only YA novel in this month’s read pile, this book was published in January of this year. Noémie bought this book and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d give it a try too. I enjoyed the diversity in this book and the focus on teenage girls and sport: the descriptions of Wing’s running were really great. The only thing that bothered me was how abruptly the book ended – I’m not against open endings, but it felt a bit sudden.

11. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (reread)

I’d read this book before, but thought I’d reread it given all the hype around the new TV series and also the current political developments. While the book’s still great, I wouldn’t recommend reading it at the moment (especially if you live in the US) if you want to be able to sleep well at night. Seriously.

12. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (reread)

And to round off a month of quite random reading selections comes a book which I read twice in Year 10 when I had to study it, and not once since! I think the 10 years’ break helped me to appreciate the book more, and I definitely get the point better than when I was 14. And if you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, I don’t think you need me to tell you that you definitely should.

So there you go – the 12 books I read this month complete with my thoughts! I’ve kicked off August with Wuthering Heights, so wish me luck as I explore the dark depths of human revenge on the Yorkshire moors. And let me know your thoughts if you’ve read any of these books!

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