21413662Title: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Author: Randall Munroe
Pages: 295
Year: 2014
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Time taken to read: 1 week
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: Randall Munroe left NASA in 2005 to start up his hugely popular site XKCD ‘a web comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language’ which offers a witty take on the world of science and geeks. It now has 600,000 to a million page hits daily. Every now and then, Munroe would get emails asking him to arbitrate a science debate. ‘My friend and I were arguing about what would happen if a bullet got struck by lightning, and we agreed that you should resolve it . . . ‘ He liked these questions so much that he started up What If. […] In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, studded with memorable cartoons and infographics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion. Far more than a book for geeks, WHAT IF: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions explains the laws of science in operation in a way that every intelligent reader will enjoy and feel much the smarter for having read.

I am not really a science person. Well, maybe just a little. When it comes to the four main school subjects, the order in which I am most interested is as follows:

  1. English
  2. Science
  3. History
  4. Math (except for algebra, which I would put above history)

This book is half science, half humor. I loved the humor. I skimmed the science. Mostly because I’m just not smart enough to understand it, and I know that, and I’m okay with that. But it helped that a lot of the questions were really interesting, so I tried to get it. Here are some of my favorite questions:

What would happen if everyone on Earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant?

If every human somehow simply disappeared from the face of the Earth, how long would it be before the last artificial light source would go out?

If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple of weeks, wouldn’t the common cold be wiped out?

The answers? You’ll have to read to find out. I’d tell you, but there’s no way I can explain them, or even summarize them with a simple yes or no.

I can tell you that the comics and commentary in this book are hilarious. If you have any interest in science or fun facts at all, I’d definitely recommend this. It’s like, the ultimate nerd book. I gave it four stars only because there were a few questions where I didn’t even understand the question, let alone the answer, and I thought perhaps a better question could have been chosen for the book in its place.

Please don’t forget to follow my brand new bookstagram @katelikesbooks! Happy reading, friends!


30531895Title: The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living
Author: Meik Wiking
Pages: 225
Year: 2017
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 1/5

Goodreads synopsisEmbrace Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) and become happier with this definitive guide to the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? The answer, says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is Hygge. Loosely translated, Hygge—pronounced Hoo-ga—is a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience,” Wiking explains. “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe.” Hygge is the sensation you get when you’re cuddled up on a sofa, in cozy socks under a soft throw, during a storm. It’s that feeling when you’re sharing comfort food and easy conversation with loved ones at a candlelit table. It is the warmth of morning light shining just right on a crisp blue-sky day. The Little Book of Hygge introduces you to this cornerstone of Danish life, and offers advice and ideas on incorporating it into your own life[.]

I saw this book in Barnes & Noble a while ago, and it looked really interesting. Lucky me, my cousin had an ARC and passed it on to me (along with a lot of clothes!). I was psyched to read it, and I finished it rather quickly, as you can see. However, it was a pretty rough disappointment.

This is what you will learn from this book:

  • candles are great
  • spending two hours being snooty and trying to find the restaurant with the “right” lighting is great
  • hot drinks are great
  • blankets and pillows are great
  • thunderstorms are great

Thank you, The Little Book of Hygge. I had never thought of that before. My depression is cured. Gosh, sorry, that was a little aggressive. But honestly, I kind of thought this book would change my life. But it didn’t. It just made me angry.

I Googled “what makes Denmark so happy,” and the first thing to come up was a review of/article on this book on The Independent, which says, “While hygge clearly plays a major part in Denmark’s happiness, Wiking is keen to emphasise that the welfare model is what fundamentally underpins the nation’s well-being — they have high taxes but receive social security, universal healthcare, and a universal pension in return.” But I have to disagree. Wiking does mention this. Once. Maybe twice, but I’m pretty sure it’s just once. But candles are mentioned on, like, every other page.

The article also mentions that anti-depressant consumption is rather high in Denmark. To this, Wiking says, “The real story is, these countries recognise mental illness and try to treat it in some way.” He says that “being a society that acknowledges that people suffer from mental illnesses” is what makes the country such a good place. Now I wonder, where was this discussion in the book? This is what’s important. Not candles. Not restaurants and thunderstorms. What matters is how the Danish government and how their systems take care of their people. That’s why Danish people are happy. We have candles here in America. We have hot chocolate, and we have dreamy weather. We don’t have systems in place that support our citizens. This book takes a very privileged and rather hipster view of the world, and I do not care for it. This book will not change your life. Not one bit of it. It won’t tell you a thing that you don’t already know. Okay, maybe I didn’t know that Danish people are obsessed with Christmas. But it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know that’s actually useful.

My apologies for the harshness of this review, but I am a book reviewer, and I give my full and honest opinion always. Thanks for reading, my friends.

35099655Title: Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I am One.
Author: Ginger Zee
Pages: 288
Year: 2017
Publisher: Kingswell (Hachette)
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee pulls back the curtain on her life in Natural Disaster. Ginger grew up in small-town Michigan where she developed an obsession with weather as a young girl. Ginger opens up about her lifelong battle with crippling depression, her romances that range from misguided to dangerous, and her tumultuous professional path. This cyclone of stories may sound familiar to some-it’s just that Ginger’s personal tempests happened while she was covering some of the most devastating storms in recent history, including a ferocious tornado that killed a legend in the meteorology field. This book is for all the mistake makers who have learned to forgive others and themselves-even in the aftermath of man-made, or in this case Zee-made, disasters. It’s a story that every young woman should read, a story about finding love and finding it in yourself.

While I was in treatment, my cousin went to a signing of this book, and she bought me a signed copy and mailed it to me because she thought that it could help me and that I could possibly relate to some of Ginger’s stories. I wasn’t sure how much I could relate to the life of a famous meteorologist and TV personality, but I was pleasantly surprised. Ginger describes all the mistakes of her twenties, which made me feel a lot better about my life as a young adult. The fact that she showed up to her first adult job in flip flops and became so successful is pretty reassuring. At least I’ve never done anything like that, but I have done some stupid stuff at work I’m sure. Her narrative is truly hilarious, and it kind of makes me want to watch her on TV. However, I felt like she sort of skated over some of the intense topics that she claims to delve deeply into. She mentions her eating disorder very briefly. If this is truly a tell-all, why doesn’t she talk about that more? I felt that she should have at least told us why she wasn’t going into more detail about that. If she didn’t want to, that’s totally her right to keep that time of her life to herself, but I felt short-changed because I thought she was really going to get into a conversation about mental health and the stigma surrounding it, but she didn’t. It kind of felt like she skipped huge chunks of her life, so that made her story feel a little disjointed. But ultimately, I really enjoyed reading it and it is a memoir I’d recommend to pretty much anyone, as it’s surprisingly relatable and very interesting.

34138013Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Pages: 464
Year: 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Time taken to read: 1 month, 11 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsisFor the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet. In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward. With humor and candor, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet—the rituals, relationships, and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics. She lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on our democracy by a foreign adversary. By analyzing the evidence and connecting the dots, Hillary shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect our values and our democracy in the future. The election of 2016 was unprecedented and historic. What Happened is the story of that campaign and its aftermath—both a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale for the nation.

I have been putting off this review, I must admit. This book was extremely emotional for me. The election really put me in a low place, and reliving it through What Happened was difficult. Yet, it was also deeply inspiring. Hillary Clinton is one of my top idols. I watched every Presidential debate with tears in my eyes, in awe of how insanely qualified she is to run this country. I spent months imagining that moment when America would elect our first female President. Instead, I spent election night riding the subway home to my apartment in Manhattan, crying hysterically, snot pouring out of my nose, with two girls, complete strangers, comforting me. So What Happened was a wonder to read as well as incredibly bittersweet.

This book hit me right in my soul. This woman did everything right. She stood tall despite being criticized for being “over-prepared” and being called a “nasty woman”. She was ready to take this country further than it has ever been. And yet, she ultimately lost (despite crushing the popular vote). And people say her book is all about blaming other people for that fact, but I believe she has every right to blame other people. If she had been a man, she would have won, easily. If Comey hadn’t said what he said, I think she would have won. If the Electoral College was abolished like it should have been long ago, she would have won. I truly believe that she could not have done anything better. The system was against her. And her memoir outlines that, although she is incredibly humble and of course doesn’t put it that way. But I’ll say it for her.

I loved how this book balances personal life and policy. She talks so much about her family, and I got to know her in a way I hadn’t before. At the same time, she outlines everything that’s wrong with this country and everything she would have done to fix it, and she does an incredible job. I really love the way she takes the time to make sure all the information is accessible to those not in the political science field. I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years by constantly watching CNN, but I’m still not a political expert. Yet, she helped me understand everything, and now I feel more prepared to defend her and every other woman in America and the world. Also, I’m obsessed with inspirational quotes, and this book is loaded with those. Here’s one of my favorites:

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger. —Friedrich Nietzsche (and Kelly Clarkson)”

That quote says a lot about this book, particularly about its (and its author’s) power and humor. I’m so proud of Hillary for rising despite feeling so low and so defeated. She has shown so much grace and positivity throughout this dark time in our history, and I will always be one of her biggest fans. Thanks, Hillary.

12951039Title: 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder
Author: Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb
Pages: 260
Year: 2011
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Time taken to read: 9 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsis: This is no ordinary book on how to overcome an eating disorder. The authors bravely share their unique stories of suffering from and eventually overcoming their own severe eating disorders. Interweaving personal narrative with the perspective of their own therapist-client relationship, their insights bring an unparalleled depth of awareness into just what it takes to successfully beat this challenging and seemingly intractable clinical issue. For anyone who has suffered, their family and friends, and other helping professionals, this book should be by your side. With great compassion and clinical expertise, Costin and Grabb walk readers through the ins and outs of the recovery process, describing what therapy entails, clarifying the common associated emotions such as fear, guilt, and shame, and, most of all, providing motivation to seek help if you have been discouraged, resistant, or afraid. The authors bring self-disclosure to a level not yet seen in an eating disorder book and offer hope to readers that full recovery is possible.

In my last review, I talked about how my reviews have been dwindling and about my realization that it’s hard to read fiction when we’re living in a world that’s so radically different than it was before the election, a world that’s not represented in realistic fiction anymore. But the truth is, though all that is true for me, there’s a second factor. I have been struggling a lot lately, and I’ve barely had the brain capacity to read. I write to you all today from Monte Nido, a residential eating disorder treatment facility. This is my second time in residential, and I’m sad that it’s come to this again, but this is a really great place, and I feel confident that someday I’ll make a full recovery. And through this book review, I will share with you what is so great about this place.

Monte Nido was founded by Carolyn Costin, the author of 8 KeysShe recovered from her eating disorder and made it her life’s work to create a place where others could do the same. The eight keys are exactly what they sound like: eight principles necessary to recover from an eating disorder, and they include things like, “It’s not about the food,” and “Meaning and Purpose.” The book takes you through each of the eight keys and basically explains how to look at your disorder from a new perspective. It also includes journal prompts to help you actively engage with each key. The most important and unique concept they present is the idea of the “eating disorder self” and the “healthy self.” They stress the importance of noticing the dialogues in your mind between both of those voices. The unique part is that they say the eating disorder self part of you is not a bad part of you. It’s a part of you that’s hurt. It’s sad. It’s lonely. And it needs something. Attention, love, help. You have to nurture that part of you, not get rid of it. But you need to nurture it with more positive and healthy coping skills until it has merged with your healthy self.

I was also particularly struck by the section on weighing. Costin stresses that it is absolutely essential that a person with an eating disorder stop weighing themselves completely. This is the first time I’ve heard that. All my past therapists have told me to weigh myself 1-3 times a week in the morning. I had never in my life considered just never weighing myself again. But now that the idea has been introduced to me, I realize that, as incredibly frightening as that thought is, that might just be the only way to really stick to my recovery. So, this is a thank you to Carolyn. Thank you for creating this book that has helped me see my behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in a new way, and thank you for creating this home for me to heal myself for the next three months. Fellow readers, I’ve got some interesting books with me here and decent computer access, so hopefully you’ll get a few more reviews from me this year. Stay strong, everybody.

28440194Title: In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs
Author: Grace Bonney
Pages: 368
Year: 2016
Publisher: Artisan (Workman)
Time taken to read: 8 months, 10 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsisAcross the globe, women are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and starting creative businesses. In the Company of Women profiles over 100 of these influential and creative women from all ages, races, backgrounds, and industries. Chock-full of practical, inspirational advice for those looking to forge their own paths, these interviews detail the keys to success (for example, going with your gut; maintaining meaningful and lasting relationships), highlight the importance of everyday rituals (meditating; creating a daily to-do list), and dispense advice for the next generation of women entrepreneurs and makers (stay true to what you believe in; have patience). The book is rounded out with hundreds of lush, original photographs of the women in their work spaces.

So, I have a wonderful cousin (who owns a really cool greeting card company that you should totally check out) who took me to this event last fall where Grace Bonney and a few of the people she interviewed for this book talked about what success means to them and how they’ve come to create and grow these successful creative businesses, and it was really neat and a great example of why I love living in New York, because there are all these cool, creative things happening all the time, and I was lucky enough to be a part of this one. It’s also really cool to know that I’m living among so many of the women interviewed in the book who live in New York, and that inspires me to try to rise to be one of them in a way.

In the Company of Women is a beautiful book, and I mean that very literally–the photos of the women and their workspaces are so colorful and amazing, and the layout of the text and various quotes makes this a really aesthetically pleasing book. But of course, the words are beautiful too. Every page is filled with inspiration, and though I have never felt the urge to start a business exactly, it made me think of my writing goals as a sort of business, and once I made that connection, I was able to relate to each interview and use the advice and inspiration to strive to be more creative and productive with my writing. I always have to remind myself that no one else will make me a writer. I have to make myself a writer by doing it. And that’s what all these women did too. They made themselves the thing they wanted to be because nobody else could do it for them.

Reading about these strong, powerful, intelligent women has been a wonderful experience. I want to say that it’s been motivational and inspirational, but I don’t feel like I’ve really earned the right to say that since I haven’t been doing much of my own creative work over the eight months that I’ve been flipping through this book. I’ve been working hard but not on the project that I would consider to be my “business”. So I will say that I hope that, along with my internship being over and therefore having a lot more free time, finishing this book will give me the motivation and inspiration to be creative and hard-working just like these fantastic role models.

I was going to say that I think all women who want to work in a creative field should read this book. Then I was going to say that all women should read this book. Then I realized that really everyone should read this book. Inspirational women don’t do what they do to inspire only women. Men should be inspired by them as well. We can all draw strength from female power!

28503941Title: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
Author: Sam Maggs (Illustrator: Sophia Foster-Dimino)
Pages: 240
Year: 2016
Publisher: Quirk Books
Time taken to read: 9 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisSmart women have always been able to achieve amazing things, even when the odds were stacked against them. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs tells the stories of the brilliant, brainy, and totally rad women in history who broke barriers as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors, complete with portraits by Google doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino. Plus, interviews with real-life women in STEM careers, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to women-centric science and technology organizations—all to show the many ways the geeky girls of today can help to build the future.

Nonfiction geared towards kids/young adults is always interesting to me as someone who’s interested in education. It can be difficult to get young people to pay attention to things like this, but this book works hard to present a teen-friendly tone, complete with slang and TV references that reminded me of being in my late teens. This book actually started a bit of a fire in me because as I read about the men who took credit for women’s inventions and discoveries, I realized I recognized nearly all of the men’s names from my high school science classes and only maybe two of the women’s names, one being Amelia Earhart, whom we’ve all definitely heard of. I think I still wanted to believe that things weren’t that bad, that women have always been just as intelligent but they haven’t had the same resources, so it was pretty sad to learn that women of history still did so much despite their lack of resources and we still learn about the men who stole the credit instead. So I’m glad this book exists and that there are people working to try to make people aware of the contributions of women. I will say that though I know this book is supposed to be more about science and technology and this women are much less known for, I wish there had been a section on female writers and artists, but perhaps that’s just me being selfish, and I can see reasons for not including that.

Now back to that teen-friendly tone I mentioned–it was kind of a lot. Many of the jokes and references were truly very funny, but it started to feel a little old after the first third of the book. I think it would have had a stronger impact if the asides were just a tad more sparse. Some other reviewers thought it sounded inauthentic and like the writer was trying too hard to relate to teens, but I wouldn’t take it that far. I thought it sounded plenty authentic and natural for the writer, who originally posted some of this content on Tumblr, but I think using this type of language so much could potentially isolate kids who are not the Tumblr type and might not get a lot of the references, which is ultimately why I had to drop this a star. Still, if I am ever a teacher, this will absolutely be in my classroom. I want kids to grow up with this knowledge rather than coming to it as an adult like I did, and this book is a great resource.