What I Read in January 2021

Hi, friends! Now that January is almost over, I am sharing my thoughts on everything I read this month. I don’t know exactly why, but January is always my strongest month when it comes to reading. Of course, a bunch of books being available from the library and all being due in a few weeks motivated me to read every day!

EAT A PEACH by David Chang – 3.25 stars

Let me preface this review by saying that I had been looking forward to read Dave Chang’s memoir after seeing it on Ali Wong’s Instagram. Sadly as soon as I began reading, an Instagram friend told me that there is an article about how David Chang is an asshole to his employees. Since I had already started reading it by that point and didn’t have any other new books to read I still read it, but my perspective has been tainted by the Eater article, written by one of of Chang’s former employees. I have personally experienced bullying and gaslighting by a man in a food industry (though not to this extent thankfully) so I just could not enjoy this book. However, even if I hadn’t known about the employees’ side of Momofuku, I don’t think I would have loved this book. Dave Chang is a charismatic figure and his writing is captivating, but I found him to be so full of himself throughout the book (I have never even seen a video of him speaking not to mention have never met him so I don’t know what he is really like). He mentions a few times how it was his destiny to be a chef even though he ended up in the kitchen because he literally couldn’t find another job (literally not true as his connections landed him a banking job he didn’t enjoy and quit) and how they never had a vision/plan for Momofuku but everything just worked out. I will say that I appreciated his honesty in sharing his experience with depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.

THE SWITCH by Beth O’Leary – 4 stars

A Freaky Friday situation with a grandmother and granddaughter switching places, The Switch is a such a cute and heartwarming story! After recently departing from her husband, Eileen goes to live in her granddaughter’s London apartment to try “dating” in a bigger pool. Meanwhile Leena (nickname for Eileen as she was named after her grandmother) moves into her grandmother’s in Yorkshire and fills in for her town duties while on a forced sabbatical from her work. First of all, it was just delightful seeing a close bond between a grandmother and granddaughter. The communities they find themselves in are full of cute and good hearted people. There is an element of overcoming grief together and separately as a family, and I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the blossoming romance and losing someone as that is an accurate portrayal of life. If you’re looking for a happy story read, highly recommend this one! Spoiler alert: both Eileens get happy endings.

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson – 3.5 stars

Fraternal twins Jude and Noah have a special bond though they are very different in terms of weirdness and popularity. Told by both Jude and Noah in alternating chapters, we see them drift apart from each other as they grow older, especially after the passing of their mom. Because you’re getting the first-point story from Jude and Noah, you see a lot of misunderstanding that has been hurting them both though they have been trying to protect each other. Another point this book makes is that good people sometimes do bad things, and doing one bad thing or multiple bad things doesn’t suddenly make you an evil person. There is a fantastical element to this book, especially when young Noah is telling the story, that is worth noting. I definitely got things out of this book but didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.

DESTINATION WEDDING by Diksha Basu – 4 stars

You know one of those books that don’t have a super interesting plot but you want to keep reading it anyways?! Destination Wedding is one of those books. Basu does a fantastic job at creating these characters that are complex and sometimes a little annoying and frustrating (and annoyed and frustrated themselves). Unlike most books you read, Basu provides a glimpse into literally every character’s thoughts introduced in the book (like all the passerby’s and minor characters), and I found that so illuminating and hilarious! Besides the characters, I appreciated the conversion of subtle racism (often times told in flashback stories by Tina, involving her ex-boyfriend Andrew), the concept of feeling not American enough and not Indian enough to belong in either place, the impact of divorce on parent-child dynamics, and the idea of older/divorced people exploring and finding romance. There is also a recurring joke involving a Fitbit. Again, it does not have the strongest or most memorable plot, but it is worth a read.

A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman – 4.25 stars

Ove seems to be a grumpy old man who comes across mean and unfriendly (and maybe even bitter?!). It turns to he is just a man of principle who didn’t complain when things were unfair and who had lost his one true love. Seeing Ove transform from the beginning of the book, when he tries to take his own life, to his actual end when he is loved and celebrated by many of his neighbor friends just warmed my heart. The story is told very matter-of-factly, but I still teared up, (Spoiler alert) particularly when Sonya died and when I realized Jimmy was the son of the next-door neighbor woman whom Ove and his neighbor/nemesis Rune saved. Other things I loved about the book: the cat with a personality and love being compared to a house (you first love the perfections and then imperfections as time passes). SO HEARTWARMING.

YOU HAD ME AT HOLA by Alexis Daria – 3.75 stars

If I could summarize this book in two phrases, it would be “steamy romance” and “Latinx representation.” Co-stars for a new romantic comedy TV show, Jasmine and Ashton are prioritizing their acting careers when they reluctantly/passionately/slowly fall in love. They resist their off-screen romance for different reasons (Jasmine for her “Leading Lady Plan” and Ashton for having to hide something to keep his family safe). There are a few scenes from the TV show that sometimes mirror or completely contrast Jasmine and Ashton’s real-life romance, and I loved those chapters! Families are a huge part of this book, and, I appreciated the importance of families to the characters and how different but similar their families are. (Also, can I have Jasmine’s cousins?!) I will say I found the plot to be pretty cheesy, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it!

A PROMISED LAND by Barack Obama – 4.5 stars

Like most people, I had been wanting to read this book ever since it came out! My little sister Sujung let me borrow her copy of this book so I didn’t have to wait for months at the library. A Promised Land is part one to Barack Obama’s memoir about his presidency so keep that in mind–you won’t find many childhood anecdotes in this one. This is also quite lengthy as he writes about his political career and details all the “fires” his administration had to put out. It felt like part-memoir and part-history book. I teared up quite a few times throughout the book (when Obama comments on how Sonia Sotomayor’s nephew will take having a supreme court justice who looks like her for granted; ACA being passed; Obama meeting Sergeant Remsburg again after his deployment in Afgahanistan). If you are an audiobook listener, this would be a great one to listen to! I am not so I opted for the physical copy but I found myself often reading it in Obama’s voice hehe. I can’t wait to read part 2 when it comes out!

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