September Reading Wrap-Up

Photo by  Ellieelien  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

Hello, my dear readers,

It’s a well known fact that if I had no other responsibilities, I would read books all day, with a cup of coffee in hand, a candle lit nearby and a cozy blanket to wrap myself in. I could spend hours like this, and consider it pure bliss. Reading, to me, has been an escape and a source of comfort in equal measure for as long as I can remember. I nodded along as Meg Jay shared stories and insights from her patients of clinical psychology practice in her The Defining Decade book, learning how to make the most of my twentysomething years. I held my breath as Emma and Dex kept missing each other in One Day. I felt a kinship of sorts with Hadley in The Paris Wife. I travelled alongside Elizabeth from Eat, Pray, Love across continents, in search for meaning, love and a little bit of pasta.

Literature has shaped my worldview and through it I found a way to connect with others and gush about what’s on our to-read lists (follow me on Goodreads to always be in the know). Since I read quite a bit each month, I thought I’d document the books I read on a monthly basis, my rating out of five stars and some of my thoughts on each book. Don’t worry, no spoilers!

So without further ado, here’s what I read in September.

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Wild by Cheryl Strayed - ⭐⭐⭐

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

I wanted to love this book, I truly did. I’ve only heard great things about this text, so I went into it with an optimistic outlook. After all, I was so enchanted with her other book, Tiny Beautiful Things, and the annotations coupled with the margin notes are proof of that. But Wild, for me, fell short of what I expected. The book follows the narrative of Cheryl Strayed as she watches her mother succumb to cancer and, in the midst of her grief, makes the decision to hike the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) from California to Washington State in efforts to make sense of a world without her mother in it. The book does a great job of explaining life after loss and the extents someone would go to in order to come to terms with their grief (adultery, drugs, alcohol abuse and recklessness). I enjoyed the insight the author gave into their early years together as a family unit and getting to know her mother from her perspective. The first few chapters were raw and honest, and really pulled the reader in. The part of the book that fell short for me was the hike itself - I’m sorry, but who commits to an intense and longterm solo backpacking trip, when they have no hiking experience?! The same woman who divorces a perfectly loving and supportive spouse for no good reason, experiments with heroin because a stranger allures her with it and thinks it brilliant to “find herself” in the wilderness. Unfortunately, Wild did not hit the mark for me, as I felt the writing was a bit naive and pedestrian.

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Night by Elie Wiesel - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.”

Written by the Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, Night is a haunting, deeply emotional and stirring documentation of his experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. He was taken from his home in Sighet, Transylvania (just six hours away from where I lived in Romania) alongside his family by German soldiers and were transferred to the concentration camp, where they were separated and put to work. Last year Alex and I visited Auschwitz in Poland and I will never forget the magnitude of the camp, seeing the train that they were transported in, the faint smell of burning in the air, the fog that laid low that day, the sound the trees made as they cracked in the wind, the remains of the barracks, and worst of all, the crematoriums. I will never forget reading about the prisoners that were brought in by train, made to strip naked in the forest and wait while the crematoriums was ready for them. This book was such a vivid representation and narration of what happened in the camps during WWII and the psychological trauma each person endured.

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Paris In Love by Eloisa James - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I have come to the conclusion that silence and time are the most precious commodities.”

My love affair with all things Parisian dates very far back (maybe as far back as college?). I could spend hours upon hours fantasizing what it would be like to stroll the streets in search for the next cappuccino or croissant. What it would be like to wander around the cobblestone roads and take in the architecture and the finer details that make up the city of romance. What it would be like to sit in a cafe and write or maybe people watch. Or what it would be like to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Well, reading Paris In Love by Eloisa James gave me a good insight into what sort of experiences an American family moving abroad come across. The memoir chronicles Eloisa James as she sells her house, takes a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor and moves her family to Paris for a year. It’s a light read, and one sure to spark the wanderlust in you (or want to befriend a butcher!).

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Notes To Self: Essays by Emilie Pine - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I am afraid of being the disruptive woman. And of not being disruptive enough.”

One of the things that most shocked me about this book was how much impact, meaning and vulnerability Emilie Pine packed in just 183 pages. In this collection of essays, Pine explores her past in an effort to come to terms with herself and chooses to pry open every wound in order to make sense of the world and her involvement in it. She writes about her flawed relationship with her father and what it’s like to love an addict, opens up about her struggles with fertility and explores societal norms and how they’ve affected her. If you’re looking for an honest, raw and unfiltered exploration of what it means to be human, this is the book you need to pick up next.

I’d love to know, what have you read this past month? I’m always looking for new books to add to my (ongoing) Goodreads list! Also, if you’re not already subscribed, be sure to sign up to my newsletter, which goes out the first Sunday of every month, and it’s an open-armed invitation to a simpler and more intentional life.

Until next time,

Vanda