Table of Contents
- Better by Atul Gawande
- The Cellar by Natasha Preston
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
- A Most Beautiful Thing by Arshay Cooper
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Better is written by a renowned surgeon, author, and researcher- Atul Gawande. I ordered this book hoping to learn more about the ways doctors view the medical field and understand what they think needs to change within their profession. This book did exactly that.
Quick Synopsis: The book mainly focuses on medical improvements that should or have been made in the public health sector. Gawande talks about the history of hand washing and how that simple act saved so many lives. He refutes the generalization that the OB/GYN field is inferior by talking about the extraordinary care that obstetricans provide for mothers and newborns. He also provides details from his trip to India, where he traveled to numerous hospitals and worked with other medical professionals.
The book is broken up into 3 parts: “Diligence”, “Doing Right”, and “Ingenuity”. I had a hard time reading through the first part of the book. In fact, I even thought of not finishing the book because though, informative and unique, I just was not attracted to the three chapters within this part. However, starting from Part II, the book took off and I was utterly hooked.
The most interesting chapter for me was “The Doctors of the Death Chamber.” Gawande talks about doctors who help with the execution process of prisoners. This was so intriguing to me because I haven’t even thought about this aspect of the medical field. Gawande includes actual interactions he had with the doctors who chose to partake in this process, and their discussions were riveting!
I also loved how he ended this book: “5 suggestions for how one might….become a positive deviant”
I won’t explain each one in depth, but I’ll list them down below. I particularly found his suggestion on the importance of writing to be the most interesting because I’ve always underestimated writing, which is in direct contrast with what Gawande preached. He says, “You should not underestimate the effect of your contribution, however modest” (255).
- Ask an unscripted question (i.e Where are you from? Why’d you move here?)
- Don’t complain
- Count something
- Write something
- Change (be adaptable and willing to change)
This book definitely helped me approach and view the medical field from a different perspective and for that, I am grateful.
I remember many of my friends swooning over this book when I was in middle school. I finally got around to reading it nearly 6 years later. I thought it was a book that had an amazing plot, but it was too direct for me (I like a lot of imagery and “showing, instead of telling”)
Quick Synopsis: The protagonist, Summer, is a high schooler and goes out to a party one night. As she’s looking for a friend, she gets kidnapped by a middle-aged man. The kidnapper, Cole Brown (aka Clover), brings Summer to his basement, where she meets three other kidnapped women. The rest of the book shifts between the views of the Clover, Summer, and Summer’s boyfriend Lewis.
The beginning hooked me in immediately. The way Preston described Summer’s feelings when she was being kidnapped and meeting the other girls in the basement was well portrayed. However, as the book progressed, I started to become disinterested because it got repetitive. The chapters of Summer and Lewis were the most taxing for me to get through because the same situation would be described all the time- Summer constantly talking and thinking about Lewis, her relationship with the other girls, how the girls’ functioned daily in the basement, etc. I understand that depicting Summer’s chapters in a consistent way may have been intentional to show us that her life was repetitive, but it was still hard to read through. Clover’s chapters were the most interesting for me because it was during these chapters that I learned why Clover did what he did to the women he came across. Additionally, I started to lack interest because there were some scenes where I felt like Preston could have described the situation better to help me visualize the scenario she was trying to depict.
Though I was a bit unmotivated to keep reading in the middle, there were some chapters where I was completely involved and into the book. One of those “edge of my seat” chapters was during one of Lewis’s chapters where he was breaking in to Clover’s house. I could feel his nervousness and desire to want to find Summer in the house. That was a very well written chapter! In another chapter, I was practically wincing and feeling the pain of Layal (one of the other kidnapped girls) when Clover was beating her. Preston did an amazing job describing how Clover attacked Layal and even made me feel similar to how Summer felt as she witnessed the abuse take place.
I enjoyed reading fiction after ages. I’ve been reading many memoirs and self-help type books, so it was a nice change to read a fiction piece. I would recommend this book to others, but would warn them that the book may get a little dry towards the middle.
I feel like I’ve been saying this for every book I’ve read, however, for this particular book I really was contemplating giving up in the middle. I am so glad that I didn’t!
Quick Synopsis: Eleanor Oliphant is the protagonist. She is socially awkward, though she believes that those around her are the ones with bad social skills. Moreover, Eleanor represents those of us who take comfort in being alone. She comes home from work on Friday night and does not speak or interact with any other person until Monday morning, when she goes to back work. At home, Eleanor drinks a ton of vodka alone, does crossword puzzles from the newspaper, watches weird content on TV, and has weekly phone calls with her mother. Eleanor’s relationship with her mother is strained and we can tell through the phone conversations that her mother is unsupportive, degrading, and toxic. There’s also constant reference to Eleanor’s burns on her face, though we don’t know how she got them until the end (very sad!). Finally, Eleanor develops a crush on a musician and throughout the book she tries to change her appearance to charm him. She constantly imagines herself being happy with this man, and that infatuation leads to a turning point of events in Eleanor’s life.
Let me start by explaining why I was so close to closing the book halfway through. There just wasn’t much action that kept me on my toes throughout the book. Additionally, the book is very “cut-to-cut,” mainly because Eleanor is a straightforward, no BS type of person. For example, when emailing people, she uses complete sentences, and a formal structure. Therefore, when others email back using abbreviations and text slang like “lol” or “C u,” she feels it is outrageous and deplorable.
What I did like about Honeyman’s writing was that she ensured to use excessive vocabulary when writing through the mind of Eleanor to show the readers that Eleanor is unique from others. For example, Eleanor describes a woman as being “inebriated“, instead of simply saying “she was drunk.” She calls a nail salon worker’s reaction to her breath as “pantomime,” when she could have described it as a severe overreaction. I did catch myself laughing at times when Eleanor would use such extravagant words in what we assume to be simple social situations.
The best part of the book is following Eleanor’s beautiful character development. She starts off as a socially awkward and solitary person. Later on, she meets other crucial people who change her life for the better. Raymond is one of those people. He acts as her anchor, and eventually becomes her confidante and best friend. I admire Raymond’s non-judgmental characteristic and his caring nature. Eleanor constantly describes Raymond’s physical appearance as being very “un-gentleman like,” however, their friendship blossoms into something incredible.
Key Reasons for Finishing the Book: (INCLUDES SPOILERS!)
- I wanted to know if this was worth the read halfway through the book, so I searched up the plot and found that Eleanor reaches the point where she’s about to kill herself. I kept reading, wanting to know why she ended up in that situation. Eleanor’s suicidal ideation and the reason for why she wanted to end her life was beautifully depicted by Honeymoon. Eleanor essentially felt like an outcast after she dolled herself up eagerly to meet her crush, Johnie Lomond. When he didn’t even notice her presence, her self-esteem plummeted and she had the epiphany that no one would ever want to be with her. This led her into severe depression and downing multiple bottles of vodka, in preparation for her suicide. Luckily, Raymond arrives in time and suggests therapy (which leads to my second point).
- I haven’t read many books that discuss therapy, so it was revitalizing to read how much therapy has helped Eleanor post her suicidal attempt. I loved reading the interactions between her and her therapist. Though, I was annoyed at the therapist when she would end the session after immediately after an hour, even when Eleanor was in the middle of contemplation. Other than that, their relationship was impactful and helped Eleanor unveil all the traumatic childhood memories she had blocked previously.
- Loneliness is not talked about often in books or even in real life. After I finished the book, I felt a warm nudge in my heart for Eleanor because she started off having absolutely no one in her life. At the end, she has Raymond, her therapist, and so many other people (I teared up when her coworkers made her a card and wished her well when she returned to work) who truly care for her. The character development is divine and should be one of the main reasons for reading this book.
My morale of the book: every small act can change a person’s life, so be kind, be present, and take in the love you receive from the Universe
This was a super heartwarming book! It was definitely a lighter read compared to the other books on this list, which I appreciated because it made it more enjoyable to read.
Quick Synopsis: The book takes place in Chicago and follows the journey of the author, Arshay Cooper. Arshay’s whole life was surrounded by drugs, violence, and an unstable household. However, one day he discovers his high school’s nascent crew team. The coaches, Jessica and Victor, were looking for students to join and Arshay (with his friend) ended up joining. The rest of the book describes the rigorous training, mental turmoil, and personal struggles that the teammates went through to finally gain respect from others for making history as being on the first American all-Black high school rowing team.
I loved how real this book was. Arshay Cooper was able to re-capture his high school voice as he wrote this book and it was impeccable. I can’t even imagine the amount of resilience and grit it required from those boys to break the barriers and create history.
What warmed my heart the most were the people that Arshay interacted with – Ken, Jeni, Coach Jessica, his Mom, Marc, etc. Every person offered Arshay something to grow upon and this is what I see myself wanting and hopefully starting to do through my fifty coffees.
I did get a bit teary-eyed reading about the impact Ken and Jeni had on Arshay because I absolutely loved Ken and Arshay’s relationship! The fact that Arshay was able to go to Ken and Jeni’s house whenever he wanted and mingled with them as if they were family made me realize how much Arshay had developed from the beginning of the book.
For anyone looking for a light, yet heartening and inspiring read, then I definitely recommend giving this book a try!
This. Is. My. Favorite. Book. Of. All. Time.
I’ve never understood those people who claimed that reading books had changed their lives because I have always been a movie person. Movies for me were game changers because I was able to feel what the actors and actresses felt as I watched the story unfold for two hours. So, I never understood how reading words can truly change a person’s life in the same way that a film could. I’m glad that I finally understood that this is indeed possible – books can impact us in the most profound way and Untamed is one of those books.
I read this book for about 15 minutes every night. After a long day of classes, meetings, and work I would wind down and cozy up in my bed to read the raw and powerful writing of Glennon Doyle. I found that I was actually going to bed with a new sense of comfort and wholesomeness after reading a few pages at night.
One of the most gripping things I learned from Untamed was the concept of discovering our Knowing and sitting with it until we declutter our minds. Doyle describes this in an impeccable way. Allowing ourselves to close our eyes and examine every thought that waves into our mind will give us a sense of clarity. Everyone has a Knowing, so it’s just a matter of unleashing it and honing in on it.
Every time Doyle talked about how society “cages” us into the largely patriarchal system that we have enforced, I was in awe. How could I have been so oblivious? How did I not see that what my parents taught me were conditioning me to stay locked in a cage? It was mind-blowing.
“Children are either taught by the adults in their lives to see cages and resist them, or they are trained by our culture to surrender to them. Girls born into a patriarchal society become either shrewd or sick. It’s one or the other.”Untamed, Glennon Doyle
During my childhood I was always told to be or act a certain way so that society accepts me. I’m not blaming my parents because that’s also what they were taught, so they did not know any better. However, our generation has so many resources available to realize that society is a goddamn cage and our lives are way too colossal to fit into one.
I remember a night where my relatives and I were sitting in our family room. The adults were talking about one of my cousins getting married and then the conversation diverted to one of the uncles asking the three of us young girls what type of person we wanted to marry. The other two girls replied with the cliché answer, “I don’t care who they are as long as they are kind and a good person.” I, on the other hand, not knowing that this was some sort of test replied, “I’d like someone who makes sure he smells good and has a job.” Everyone laughed. I was 10 years old.
After everyone left, my mom came into my room and told me, “Esha, you can’t say stuff like that. When people ask you that question you should say that you care more about their personality.”
“Amma, I obviously care about the person’s personality. I was just trying to joke around. But I would prefer it if they had good BO,” I replied.
My mom sighed and said, “I know Esha, but not everyone is going to take it as a joke and they will think that you actually mean it which won’t look good for us.”
Caged. My mom was raised to adhere to society and mold herself into what the world wanted from her. She was never taught to allow the world to mold itself around her.
“What if parenting became less about telling our children who they should be and more about asking them again and again forever who they already are?”Untamed, Glennon Doyle
I’ve been living with this restless feeling and an immense amount of energy that I can feel bubbling around me and encouraging me to go do something. I thought I was odd and abnormal because no one else seemed to feel so restless in their body and life all the time like I was, so I tried to push that feeling down as far as I could. It would come back every morning, and so everyday I would force it to go back down. After reading Untamed, I realized I’m not the only one with this nagging feeling that seeps beyond the boundaries of my body. It’s not something I should inhibit, but instead something I should release. It’s not something that I should allow to fit into a cage, but something I should unleash from that cage.
Outliers was the most thought provoking and intriguing book I’ve ever read.
Quick Synopsis: Gladwell takes a look at a person’s background, culture, ancestors, etc. all to explain how they became who they are. For example, Bill Gates is who we know as a successful and wealthy entrepreneur, making him an outlier. However, his success is not attributed to him alone. It’s due to his family, the school he went to, the hours he spent with computers. It’s even due to the year he was born in.
I had so many moments of utter shock while reading this book. Here are some of the things that I learned:
- It takes 10,000 hours to reach the level of mastery.
Bill Gates reached his level of mastery with computers because he supposedly used his wealthy school’s computers all the freaking time, starting from a young age. Therefore, by the time he developed Microsoft he had already covered or was near to covering 10,000 hours of work.
If we all put in 10,000 hours solely for our passions and into our desired professions, we too would be on the Forbes List.
- Privilege and power play a large role in your success.
Gladwell talks about Chris Langan, the smartest man in the world. Chris Langan did not have much power or privilege, causing his intelligence and “success” to go largely unnoticed. Gladwell talks about the moment when Chris’s high school teachers didn’t engage him with more challenging work as he was always 100 steps ahead of all of his peers due to his high IQ. Thus, he spent most of his high school time self-studying and eventually earning a perfect score on the SAT.
Langan proceeded to receive scholarships from 2 colleges. He attended one of them and was subsequently kicked out because his mother did not send in his financial information in time. Gladwell even mentions that Langan was denied his request to attend class at a later time because he had a broken down car.
Chris Langan’s opportunities were bare and few, and even when he wanted to act upon them, he couldn’t because of his social background.
There are A LOT of interesting stuff in this chapter that I can’t summarize here, but I HIGHLY recommend reading it so you get as equally shocked!
- Culture impacts the type of person you are.
There’s this AMAZING chapter about plane crashes and pilots in this book that absolutely blew my mind. In essence, majority of the plane crashes that have occurred can be understood by taking a look at the ethnicities and cultures of the pilots.
Pilots from countries who value elders and authority, tended to not stand up for themselves and the state of their plane minutes before a crash. For example, Gladwell talks about a Colombian pilot who was unable to clearly state to the headquarters that they are out of fuel and needed to land ASAP because he was primed by his culture to never disobey or raise your voice against authoritative figures.
However, an American pilot may have spoken up immediately and demanded that they find a place to land because American culture claims that “all men are created equal.” American culture does not preach the need to bow down to all elders and people of power.
Hence, culture plays a large role in the type of person we are and could become.
Gladwell also talks about how our ancestors and what they did for a living impacts us today. He uses Asians as examples to explain this topic and why they are so good at math. It was incredible. I don’t want to spoil anything hehe 🙂
- The time and era you were born in can determine your success.
This concept was simply astounding for me. The year and era you were born in can set you up for success or failure. Gladwell talks about how national-level hockey players tend to always be born in the earlier months. He also gives the examples of how all the multi-billionaires were born in the 1950s. Obviously, Gladwell goes more in depth and explains this idea of time to you in this book.
Overall, EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK to understand that a successful person is not someone who is incredibly different from the rest of us. They are the result of numerous factors that we often overlook.
This was a refreshing and encouraging read.
Quick Synopsis: Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the importance of creative living. The importance of chasing curiosity, not wallowing in failure, and recognizing that creative living is the only way to live.
The most interesting part of this book was when Gilbert talked about her idea to write a book about the Amazon jungle. The idea just came to her and she was ecstatic and completely imbibed in the process of writing that book. However, unexpected events in her life came in the way and hindered the completion of that book. Years later, Gilbert meets one of her author friends, who shares a book idea that she got. The friend repeats the same plot and idea that Gilbert had had with her Amazon jungle story. HOW INSANE!
We often think that ideas are our own. After reading this book, I realize that ideas do not belong to us – we do not create them. Ideas are alive entities and they find that one right person who will bring them to life.
That’s exactly what happened with Gilbert. The idea of the Amazon jungle novel chose Gilbert initially, but when it realized that Gilbert would no longer be able to birth it to life, it chose a different human to do the job. What an incredible finding!
I often get scared that someone will do something before me. I have ideas and projects in mind, so I worry that someone will beat me to it. I will proceed to internalize it if someone does beat me to it.
Note to self after finishing this book: Someone has already done something that you wanted to do because there are only so many things to be done. But no one has done that something the way that you will or have done that something – and this, is the beauty of our human existence.
It’s okay if the same idea that found us traveled away from us and found someone else to fulfill it. We need to realize that either we were not fully ready to do justice for that project or that we can still keep going with the idea and do it in our own way (that is, only if we are still extraordinarily passionate about it).
All in all, this was an incredibly thought-provoking book that made me reframe the way I’ve thought about life. It’s also provided me with some answers on how to handle my envy of others.
I would definitely recommend this for anyone who feels as though they are “stuck,” have no purpose, jealous, or just want to learn how to notice the signs that the Universe continues to bombard us with everyday.