Hi hello! Welcome to the first-ever installment of a new segment I’m calling The Best Books I Read This Season. For the last several years, I’ve been writing reviews of individual books I’ve read and about which I have something to say, but as time has gone on and other writing opportunities have started to come my way, I’ve found myself with less and less time and drive to write individual reviews. But since I still like discussing books I’ve read and telling you a bit about them, I’ve settled on doing seasonal roundups of the best books I read during that season.
So, without further ado, these are the 5 best books I read this winter!
Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews
I’m a lifelong fan of the 1964 Mary Poppins film, which has in turn made me a lifelong fan of Julie Andrews. Home Work is the follow-up memoir to Andrews’ first from 2008, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, which I didn’t read—mostly because I wasn’t that interested in her earlier years. But when it was announced that Andrews had a second memoir coming out last fall about her Hollywood years, you best believe I pre-ordered it a month in advance. Home Work is definitely not the best celebrity memoir ever—a lot of the writing comes across as a bit dry and emotionless—but the prose came to life whenever Andrews discussed her personal life and her children. I wouldn’t call it a page-turner, but if you grew up loving Julie Andrews musicals like me, I still recommend!
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson
I’m no stranger to mental health struggles (I have my own mental health blog that I started last year called It’s Not That Deep). I struggle a lot with anxiety, OCD, and have suffered bouts of depression. As a result, I often gravitate towards books about mental health and anxiety specifically, because I’m always open to learning about how others have learned to cope. I initially took out First, We Make the Beast Beautiful from my library, but as I started reading it, I just knew it was going to be a book I would have to own. After buying my own copy, I had a strange experience while reading it—it made me uncomfortable, but only because so much of the author’s experience and advice felt so real and so personal. It made me anxious because I knew what she was talking about was true and that her advice would work, even if I didn’t want to hear it. Definitely recommend for any fellow anxiety sufferers.
Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown
I picked this up on a whim at the bookstore in January, having never heard of it or the author before, but I was instantly hooked by the premise and decided to live dangerously. When Alice Hale leaves a career in publicity to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in a box in the old home’s basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook’s previous owner, 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the cookbook’s pages Nellie left clues about her life, including a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to her mother. Soon Alice learns that while baked Alaska and meatloaf five ways may seem harmless, Nellie’s secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister and dangerous side to Nellie’s marriage, and has become increasingly dissatisfied with the mounting pressures in her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own. Highly recommend!
Open Book by Jessica Simpson
Before reading Open Book, I would not have described myself as a Jessica Simpson fan. In fact, I didn’t even know that much about her—I knew she is (or was) a pop singer from the same era as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and I knew her provocative, cleavage-revealing poster for her role as Daisy Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard film, which my older cousins drooled over when I was younger. I also vaguely remember her being made into a ditzy, blonde joke by the media, which is what every tabloid did to every female celebrity in the Britney era. Nonetheless, as Simpson made her way across every major news outlet to promote the book in February—where it was made to sound too juicy to resist—this pop culture enthusiast gave in and got his hands on a copy. All I can say is I’m so glad I did pick it up, because it was everything I didn’t know I needed and more. Jessica Simpson is no joke, and I think we all owe her an apology. If you grew up in the 2000s and you love pop culture, you must read it. And if you love John Mayer, you must also read it, and if you still love John Mayer after finishing it, we’re going to need to have a talk.
You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy
“At work, were taught to lead the conversation. On social media, we shape our personal narratives. At parties, we talk over one another. So do our politicians. We’re not listening. And no one is listening to us.” I can only describe this book as essential reading for every person and their mother. It’s so important and so relevant in the age of social media, where we’re made to believe that communication is easier and more convenient than it used to be, when in reality, we’re not listening and no one’s listening to us. In You’re Not Listening, author Kate Murphy takes us on a journey of what it means to be a good listener, and how we need to embrace the listeners in all of us if we ever want the chance of uniting ourselves.
What were the best books you read this winter? Let me know in the comments!