December 8, 2023

What I Read in November 2023

I read six books in November – holding steady at about 1.5 books a week, though I really ought to be averaging 2 a week to hit my goal of 100 books a year. And three this month were novellas, so not even full books. Maybe I ought to revise my goal for 2024?

The Performance Paradox was one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone! But Stuck With You was a nice, light fun escape too.

5 stars:

The Performance Paradox: Turning the Power of Mindset into Action, by Eduardo Briceno: The Performance Paradox describes the focus so many of us place on performing (and being perfect) vs learning and making mistakes, and argues that people and organizations should foster growth mindsets and consciously switch between learning and performing for best results. Author Edurado Briceno incorporates a lot of research from familiar social scientists like Carol Dweck (love!) but refreshes the studies to give them new color, and I found this really thought-provoking and enlightening rather than stale. It did fall into the trap of repeating the same info a lot of different ways, but that was mitigated by Briceno’s use of “big ideas” (short summaries) at the beginning of each chapter that kept you focused on the takeaways from the myriad examples. Highly, highly recommend this book for anyone in the corporate world!

Stuck with You (The STEMinist Novellas, #2), by Ali Hazelwood: I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, and read it in one night! Sadie is a civil engineer in New York, and three weeks ago, she had a 24 hour fling with Erik, a civil engineer at a rival firm. The book starts in the present, with Sadie and Erik getting stuck on an elevator together, but alternates back and forth between that and the day they met. In the present, Sadie HATES Erik, but in the past, she’s madly in love with him, and the author goes to great lengths to have a reveal about what happened, but I thought it was pretty obvious right from the first meet cute. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed this and couldn’t put it down!

4 stars:

Love on the Brain, by Ali Hazelwood: Bee is a neuroscientist who is thrilled when she’s selected by NASA to design a revolutionary space helmet… until she learns she has to co-lead the project with her grad school nemesis, Levi. There was some fun character development in this, especially Bee’s Gen-Z assistant, but I didn’t like the Scooby Doo-like mystery angle at the end, which felt ridiculously unrealistic. (Yes, even more unrealistic than the miscommunication and enemies-to-lovers tropes.) I had fun with this, and I appreciated that the mystery made this a little different from Ali Hazelwood’s other (all-too-similar) plot lines, but I think I’m starting to get tired of the same storyline over and over; going to take a break before I read her next book.

Below Zero (The STEMinist Novellas, #3), by Ali Hazelwood: Hannah is a NASA engineer who finds herself in a bad position: stuck in a crevasse on a solo mission from an Arctic research station to test her invention. And the only one who can save her is Ian – a more senior scientist who is also her nemesis. This is a rather formulaic novella, and had a lot of similarities to the other two in the series, but I really enjoyed it in spite of Hannah’s prickly personality, and I think it was my favorite of the three.

3 stars:

Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas, #1), by Ali Hazelwood: Mara is an environmental engineer who’s beloved mentor has passed away… leaving her a gorgeous house in DC. Problem is, her mentor has only given her HALF the house, and the other half, she left to her nephew Liam, a big-shot lawyer for an oil company. Mara hates him immediately because of his job, and the book is an enemies-to-lovers novel that, unfortunately, took the trope too far. Why do so many enemies-to-lovers books have the leads being absolutely ridiculous toward each other?! My other quibble with this one was that the resolution came so abruptly that it made me wonder if the author got sick of writing it. Although this was just a short novella, it could have easily been a full book if the middle/ending weren’t truncated to a few pages compared to the 100 page build up. I was disappointed 🙁

2 stars:

I Regret Nothing: A Memoir, by Jen Lancaster: I have loved Jen Lancaster’s books in the past, but this really missed the mark for me. Jen is trying to complete a bucket list, but the narrative meanders and doesn’t really focus in on “this is the list and the ultimate goal.” There were no fun footnotes like usual, and I was disappointed to find them incorporated into the text – it made the entire book feel disjointed and unedited, and the asides felt like they were detracting from the plot instead of being snappy and pithy. But most of all, I found myself really disappointed in Jen – while she’s always had an aura of superiority, especially with her jokes, there were a lot of things in this book that made me see her as ignorant and pathetic rather than admirable and cool (like her trip to Italy, where it becomes clear how ethnocentric she is rather than worldly). The overarching theme was weak, and this memoir felt forced instead of authentically Jen.

Any book recommendations for me? Follow me here on Goodreads to keep up with what I’m reading in real time.


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