I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue doing the monthly book wrap ups I started in 2021. I always leave them for the last day of the month, and the posts feel rushed, but I also love having a record of the books I’ve read throughout the year, so here I am, once again, writing about books.
Being a new year, I wanted to focus on my mental health, so this month I chose three non-fiction books about social anxiety, introversion and how social media affects us. I also chose two books from Mean Book Club’s selection for their new season which has just started. I finished the month with an equally depressing and fun read, which became my favourite of January. Overall, I read seven books.
Favourite reads of January
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
This book had “Tumblr girl” written all over, and I loved it. It’s about a woman that takes a year just to wallow and sleep and take as many pills as she can. It’s depressive, funny and weird. I also love the cover, which is why I had to buy a physical copy instead of just getting an ebook version off the library as I usually do.
I have so many great quotes from this book. I loved the writing and the protagonist’s inner thoughts. It’s the kind of read that fully transports you to its world.
It was proof that I had not always been completely alone in this world. But I think I was also holding on to the loss, to the emptiness of the house itself, as though to affirm that it was better to be alone than to be stuck with people who were supposed to love you, yet couldn’t.
I had no big plan to become a curator, no great scheme to work my way up a ladder. I was just trying to pass the time. I thought if I did normal things – held down a job, for example – I could starve off the part of me that hated everything.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
I read this book mainly because it was part of Mean Book Club’s selection for their 2022 season, and I ended up loving it. It’s creepy, and it has true crime, drama and a tiny bit of romance, my favourite combination. I’m sure the podcast will destroy this book, but for me, it was a very entertaining read.
The person who could be truly alone, in the company of no one but oneself and one’s own thoughts—that person was stronger than anyone else. More ready. More prepared.
The books I read were the dark kind—about scary things like disappearances and murders, especially the true ones. While other kids read J. K. Rowling, I read Stephen King. While other kids did history reports about the Civil War, I read about Lizzie Borden.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Another Mean Book Club selection. I didn’t want to read this book when it came out, as it’s about grooming and childhood trauma, but I caved in the end. I hated every sex scene, every chapter of a 42-year-old grooming a teenager, and how that’s messed her up as an adult. But I think this is an important story that needs to be told, even if I had to drop the book and stare out the window until I cooled down because it made me so mad. It’s a hard book to read, but the story felt very well-researched and authentic.
I’m starting to understand that the longer you get away with something, the more reckless you become, until it’s almost as if you want to get caught.
How much strength does it take to hurt a little girl? How much strength does it take for the girl to get over it? Which one of them do you think is stronger?
The Maid by Nita Prose
The Maid felt like a combination of Eleanor Oliphant and How To Kill Your Family, which means I liked it though I found it a bit boring at times. I kept waiting for the murderer to be revealed, but the end felt a bit anti-climatic. This book is everywhere this year, it seems to be one of the big bestsellers, and I think I was too excited to read it, so I ended up being disappointed.
The truth is, I often have trouble with social situations; it’s as though everyone is playing an elaborate game with complex rules they all know, but I’m always playing for the first time.
Disconnected: How to Stay Human in an Online World by Emma Gannon
I love Emma Gannon, so I was very excited to read her new book, but (Dis)connected felt a bit flat. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. Maybe I was looking for something more factual and informative about how social media affects us, while this book was just a basic guide with tips to disconnect from the internet and how to make more genuine connections.
Right now, I’m being sold beauty products that have moved on from marketing messages about UV sun-rays or harsh city pollution, and onto blue light damage from our phones. The dreaded blue light.
It’s a useful exercise to really look at the way you spend your ‘downtime’ and be honest with yourself about how much is truly nurturing you and how much is just you wanting to numb out.
We’re All Mad Here: The No-Nonsense Guide to Living with Social Anxiety by Claire Eastham
I’m an awkward twenty-something with social anxiety, which I developed in high school and I haven’t been able to overcome since then. I wish I knew why it started or how to fix it, that’s why I read this book, which while it was helpful and provided insight into what anxiety is and why it happens, I was still left needing more.
In a nutshell, social anxiety is being hyper-aware of how you’re perceived by others and having and overpowering fear/obsession about looking like an idiot.
The amygdala is very theatrical. Mine likes to create a teen drama worthy of its own TV series, complete with all the scenarios that could go wrong. Every episode ends the same way: I make a fool of myself.”
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I wrote a long post about Quiet earlier this month. I needed something to read after We’re All Mad Here to continue with my self-discovery.
Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to. Stay home on New Year’s Eve if that’s what makes you happy. Skip the committee meeting. Cross the street to avoid making aimless chitchat with random acquaintances. Read. Cook. Run. Write a story. Make a deal with yourself that you’ll attend a set number of social events in exchange for not feeling guilty when you beg off.
I’m excited about February, this is the first time I’ve done a specific TBR for each month, so I want to see if I manage to follow it or if I’ll go rogue and just read something random. My next read is a Colleen Hoover, who never disappoints.