Recent Reads: January

recent-reads-januaryI’m happy to report that I’m making good on my goal of reading four books per month (in addition to audiobooks). Having the goal in mind of a book per week really helps motivate me to get into bed a little earlier to read, or to stop mindlessly scrolling Pinterest and read instead. So, here’s what I read last month…

Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating, by Lauren Liess: I came across this book when Darlene declared it the best decorating book she’d read in a long time. My verdict upon conclusion? This might be the best decorating book I’ve EVER read. I learned so much from reading this book that I almost want to call it a textbook of decorating, but that makes it sound bad. This book is an absolute pleasure to read and look through, but at the same time it is packed with useful, well-organized and well-written guidance on how to decorate. In addition to information on textiles, furniture, and the usual ilk, Lauren talks about a lot of aspects of decorating that I never thought much about – the architecture of a house, things like the window casings and door casings, the hardware – the backdrop basically, which is SO DAMN important! How did I never know that? She also discusses the intangibles, like what mood do you want a space to have? How do you make it cohesive? She made me think about these issues in new and different ways. SO illuminating – she really teaches you to think through the decorating process like a designer.

I was also absolutely delighted to read that Lauren took the same course that I’m currently taking, the NYIAD’s Complete Course in Interior Design! Now there’s a good endorsement for the course if I ever heard one. I am going to be keeping this book and referring back to it for years to come, that’s for sure. This is a MUST for the home library of anyone who loves design. I’m also now a devotee of Lauren’s blog, of course!

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard: This book was charming and enjoyable. Nothing much really happened, it’s just a slice of the author’s life in the French countryside with her husband and child. It’s like savoring a good, slow meal…it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey (much as I hate that phrase, it applies here). I’m so used to reading page turners that at first this frustrated me, but once I realized that this is just a quiet, lovely book to enjoy, I really did.

11/22/63, by Stephen King (audiobook): This is the best novel I’ve read in a long time. I absolutely LOVED it. Stephen King is just, so, so good. He has a way of just enrapturing the reader…and while I was reading I was trying to figure out, what makes his writing so good? And I couldn’t pinpoint it – this book was just eminently readable and un-put-down-able. Of course, his earlier stuff is better than some of his later stuff, which is part of why I had zero interest in this book, but then my Dad said he was reading and really enjoying it. Though I also had no interest in the subject matter, he seemed really enthusiastic about it so I decided to give it a try. Now I can’t believe how little I know about the JFK assassination. I watched a little video interview with Stephen King and he said it was the 9/11 of his generation. So the subject and plot of the book was obviously really interesting, and then you just get really, really into the story. I raced through it. Also just FYI, this is not the typical Stephen King scary/horror/supernatural novel – nothing of the sort in this book. Also, the audiobook reader was top-notch.

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah: I liked this book fine, but not nearly as much as I guess everyone else has (judging by the 5-star rating on Amazon). It took me a little while to get used to the writing style, which at first I found really distracting, but then once I got into the story it kind of fell away. The story was definitely interesting and engrossing. But overall if you were going to read a recent WWII book I would suggest All the Light We Cannot See over this one.

The Condition, by Jennifer Haigh: I actually listened to this one a while back and forgot to write about it. It was a re-listen – I’d read the book in the past and remembered really liking it. I liked it again! I just think it’s a really good look at a family and what each of them goes through individually, and together, as they grow and things change. It reminded me a little of Jonathan Franzen, but I guess more accessible, I would say. It made some good points too, about “conditions” – how we all have our conditions that we have to deal with, whether they’re something overt, like a physical disability, or something more hidden under the surface. Granted, the author maybe hammered that point home a little too heartily but still, it’s a good and thought-provoking theme.

Happier at Home, by Gretchen Rubin: I liked this book because I like Gretchen Rubin and the subject matter she explores. Ultimately it was kind of a rehash of The Happiness Project so I’m glad she branched into different-but-related territory with Better than Before, her latest book. But still, Happier at Home made some good points and overall if you like her and her blog, you’ll like this.

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson (audiobook): This was SO GOOD! I absolutely loved this book. As I’ve mentioned before, Erik Larson is just such an amazing writer of non-fiction. First of all, the subject matter he chose to cover in this book is absolutely fascinating and unbelievable. I learned so much interesting history about the Worlds Fair in Chicago, the architect(s) who put it together, and the completely crazy serial killer who built a freaking “murder castle” in the middle of Chicago (seriously). In addition to that, Larson just knows how to craft non-fiction so that it reads like a novel. Also, though this book is half about the Worlds Fair and half about a serial killer who was prowling Chicago at the time, I really appreciated that Larson didn’t exploit the story – you know what I mean? There weren’t a lot of grisly details about the crimes, there was just enough to tell the story. So even if you’re squeamish I think you could still enjoy the book without getting totally freaked out. Another fascinating aspect was that Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who created Central Park, played a large role in creating the Chicago Worlds Fair. Now that I’ve learned a bit more about him I’m dying to read more about the history of Central Park and Olmsted’s role in it. I think this or this might be good places to start!


  1. Elana says: February 9, 2016

    I love your book reviews! I bought The Kind Worth Killing after reading your review and it is so good! I’m definitely going to read some of the books you mentioned!

  2. Carly A. Heitlinger says: February 9, 2016

    I LOVED The Nightingale… but I know what you mean about the style of writing…

    and The Devil in the White City was one of my all time favorite books. It made me love Central Park even more too 🙂

  3. Amanda @ Anchored to Sunshine says: February 9, 2016

    I’ve had Picnic in Provence on my reading list for far too long! I must read it now 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Brigid says: February 9, 2016

    Hi Jackie — long time reader but first time commenter here. I’d be curious to hear what you think of the NYIAD course. I thought about it as well but had some reservations. Would love if you would talk a bit about it at some point!

  5. Alexis/This Beautiful Balance says: February 9, 2016

    I LOVE Stephen King too! Can’t wait to get into 11/22/63. And you’ve sold me on Habitat and The Devil in the White City as well! Also, congrats on pulling the trigger with the design course! You always leave out the most important bits when we catch up, you little sneak, you! 😉

  6. Tiffany says: February 13, 2016

    YES! I got Habitat for Christmas and read it cover to cover. A fantastic read with great tips and stunning spaces.

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