Books I Read Last Month – February 2020

Hi friends! February was a month of great reading for me, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you: 

TALKING TO STRANGERS by Malcolm Gladwell

This book talks about how we misunderstand strangers or think we know strangers when we really don’t. It’s not a guide on how to talk to strangers—it provides stories in which people misunderstand or misjudge based on our assumptions on how people look vs how they feel, overlooking the circumstances, etc. I recommend listening to the audiobook for this one—the author is an engaging narrator, and the audiobook includes audio clips for “quotes” so you get to hear many of the people quoted.

KNOW MY NAME by Chanel Miller

If you don’t know already, Chanel Miller is Emily Doe from the Brock Turner Case. In this powerful memoir, Chanel Miller reclaims her identity as she narrates her story. Chanel struggles as she is blamed for ruining Brock Turner’s future and her life is put on hold throughout the trial. It was heartbreaking and frustrating to see how difficult it is for victims to be trusted and to get help. This really is an incredible book, and you should 100% read it. 


I have never considered myself a fan of historical fiction, but I think I might be! Set in the Depression Era, women of Kentucky ride horses to deliver books to their neighbors as part of the Pack Horse Library Initiative. Alice, who has left England for Kentucky to marry Bennett (to whom she is now unhappily married), joins as well. As she navigates the town and befriends fellow librarians, Alice finds solace in the camaraderie and the community. This book is not all rainbows and unicorns though—the librarians struggle and fight to keep the library (actually against Alice’s father-in-law, who is a greedy mine owner). This book’s got some great ups and downs, complete with a happy ending. 

DEAR AMERICA by Jose Antonio Vargas

I read this book after seeing it on a college friend’s Instagram feed. I didn’t know much about Jose Antonio Vargas except that he is an undocumented journalist who “came out” online. Though this memoir is very personal and unique to Jose’s Experiences as every immigrant story is, it calls attention to the outdated immigration system in America (aka THERE IS NO LINE). I highly suggest this book regardless of where you stand on in regards to immigration. 

STILL LIVES by Maria Hummel

Sadly, this was my least favorite book I read in February. This book just didn’t quite get there for me. The premise of the book is promising: Kim Lord, a contemporary artist known for her shocking and controversial work, puts together a new exhibit for the Roque Museum called Still Lives in which she painted herself as women who have been violently murdered. Kim Lord disappears on the opening night of Still Lives exhibition, and Maggie, an editor at the Roque and ex-girlfriend of Kim Lord’s fiancé, independently investigates. The book itself wasn’t quite thrilling though (maybe the last few chapters), and I didn’t care about Maggie’s motivation for her search, or other characters involved. 


This is a very weird book, but I liked it! Lillian and Madison were roommates and best friends for some time at a boarding school. Once Lillian leaves the school due to an unfortunate event, their friendship changes and they old stay in touch as pen pals. That is until Madison writes to Lillian, asking her to come to Tennessee. It turns out Madison needs Lillan’s help in taking care of her stepchildren who spontaneously combust (on the cover of the book is a child whose upper body is on fire–how #accurate), particularly as the political career of Madison’s husband is at a critical point. It’s heartwarming to see the children (who have been neglected and essentially abandoned by their dad) open up to Lillian, and the start of their “family.”  


Based on the title of the book, I was simply expecting a scandalous life story of a movie star, but this book is so much more! For most of this book, Evelyn Hugo, an iconic Hollywood actress in her 70s, is telling her life story to Monique Grant, who she handpicked to write her biography. Monique is clueless to why Evelyn sought her out specifically since they had never met and do not have any personal connection, or so she thought! As they continue to meet daily, Evelyn is painstakingly honest about her past, eventually revealing how she knew of Monique and why she had to find her. Evelyn’s life was full of ambition and love. I really think anyone and everyone will like this book (unless you’re a terrible person, of course). 


Formerly a MacArthur award winning architect, Bernadette lives a painfully isolated life in Seattle as a mother to her 15 year old Bee while her husband Elgin works at Microsoft. Planning for a family trip to Antarctica as she promised to Bee, Bernadette starts to delegates all of her tasks to a personal assistant in India. She’s not friendly with most of the parents at Bee’s school, and her relationship with Audrey, who is also next door neighbor, becomes particularly strained with a “landslide.” All of this culminates into an intervention during which Bernadette disappears without a trace. Bee doesn’t lose hope as she searches for Bernadette. I loved this book because it’s about knowing who you are, the importance of open communication, and owning up to your actions.

That’s it for February! What are you reading right now?

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