Thursday, March 2, 2017

2017 Book Challenge: February Update!

Today I'm sharing my February update on my reading challenge. I'll list the books, and give a short review of each one.

Here's the books I read:

1. How Not to Die*, by Michael Greger and Gene Stone

Rating: *****

What causes disease? Should we blame it all on genetics? Or is there something we can actually do about it? Dr. Greger looks at numerous nutritional studies and based on the results, gives his dietary advice.

I have long been a fan of Dr. Greger's YouTube channel (I love his sarcastic sense of humor), and when I heard he had written a book, I knew I had to read it. To my utter delight, it reads exactly like he speaks in his videos. Another thing I really appreciate is that all his dietary recommendations come backed by studies. He doesn't just pull ideas out of unicorn land and say "hey, eat this way." Rather, he goes to the studies themselves and sees what dietary guidelines work best.

If you love sarcasm and nutrition based on peer-reviewed research, I highly recommend his book and channel. If you don't, then don't get this one.

2. Overdressed*, by Elizabeth L. Cline

Rating: ****

If you've ever wondered where your clothing came from, and whether $5 for a top was really a good deal, this is the book for you. Ms. Cline discusses the history of the clothing industry, and the dangers our new fast fashion world hold.

Honestly, my gut reaction was to make all my own clothes after reading this, but it's since transformed into caring better for what I have and being willing to pay more for quality (although I am intrigued with the idea of learning how to sew more than I ever was in the past). It would have been nice if she provided a resources list though. I'm an eco nerd, so I already have a good idea of where I could buy more fairly and sustainably (and trust me, organic cotton is the way to go for socks and panties. Try it, you'll thank me). Those not as well versed as I am, though (and I consider myself a beginner yet) may feel lost without suggestions of where they might be able to shop.

3. No More Dirty Looks*, by Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt

Rating: ****

We've heard a lot about the dangers of what's in our food, but what about the chemicals of what we put on our face? This book gives a quick overview of some chemicals to avoid, and guides you in replacing your toxic toiletries with those that will actually be good for your skin.

I really liked their delivery style, although some if it seemed a little put on playful (is that how you describe it?). For example, some of their cutesy jokes and wordplay felt a little overdone. But their material was good, and they really provide some wonderful suggestions if you're just getting into the natural products game (including a warning to take heed before picking up just any product that claims to be natural).

4. Spark Joy*, by Marie Kondō

Rating: ****

This book takes the concepts of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and adds fun illustrations as well as some extra tips (such as how to fold your clothes properly, I really struggled with that, and the illustrations help a lot).

I thought the illustrations really added to the book. Although some of Ms. Kondo's methods are a little out there for me (such as thanking your things like they're alive, honestly that just kind of freaks me out), her tips on the order of decluttering and how to go about it really resonate with me. While I have not Konmari'd my life yet, it's a process I am definitely interested in trying out. I'm glad it's working for so many people.

5. Women In Clothes, by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton

Rating: *

The authors spoke with several women about how their clothes shape them, and how they go about choosing what to wear and their relationship with clothes.

I didn't end up finishing this one. The concept was great, but the execution was poor. The book was disjointed, with the formatting confusing at best. It read like they threw stories in willy nilly without any planning or proper organization. It's sad, because I think the concept was a wonderful one. I wish the authors had taken the time to develop it properly.

6. Deluxe*, by Dana Thomas

Rating: ****

This book chronicles the journey of luxury brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, and how they transformed from companies producing quality for the wealthy into mainstream conglomerates marketing to the middle class.

After reading this book, I am longer saving up my money to buy a high end bag, because as Ms. Thomas reveals, these bags aren't that high end any more, and they might not even be made where they claim to be made. If you are a lover of luxury brands, then I don't recommend reading Deluxe, unless you're trying to curb a spending habit. If I understood the book correctly, there is still some quality in luxury brands, but it sounds like anyone who is okay without the name brand is better off searching for a quality lesser priced alternative.

7. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith

Rating: ****

Their fortunes as derelict as the castle ruins they rent, Cassandra, Rose, and their family appear to have a bleak future, until an American gentleman inherits the estate.

For some reason, I had an idea this was a fantasy story, but it's not. Cassandra's whimsical view of the world and the changes that come over her thinking as she grows up are endearing and bring you to her side almost immediately. Although I wasn't expecting a romance when I picked this book up, I enjoyed it a lot. The only part I have issues with is the ending, which was disappointing when I excepted it to wrap up all those loose ends.

8. How Not to Die*, by Jan Garavaglia

Rating: ***

Medical examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia recounts the strange and horrible ways people have ended up dead in her morgue, and suggests how you can avoid a similar fate.

I actually found this book when I was searching for Dr. Greger's How Not to Die*, and the idea intrigued me. If I could stand the sight of blood, I would have considered becoming a ME myself. Some of the deaths she describes are truly heartbreaking, since they were seemingly so preventable. She gives a lot of good advice, although she follows strict medical ideals (such as getting flu shots, which if I have heard correctly, are not as effective as once thought, something to research and check with your doctor about). While I will not be following all of her advice, I am incorporating some of her suggestions into my life (just got to hope that I'm not mistaken about ignoring the rest, haha).

Total read: 7.

Unfinished: 1.

Read so far: 20.

Unfinished so far: 2.

Again, I was pleased with my reading progress in February, as most of these were longer books (some were shorter, and some were very easy reads, so that helped). I was pleased to find two books this month to replace the two I didn't finish. Only 32 left to reach 52 books read!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with my ratings? Let me know in the comments.

I also left the reviews for all of these on GoodReads.

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitles of these books.

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