Worth the Read? July Reading Roundup

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Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books we’ve been reading lately and whether we recommend them.

Have you ever looked at a bestselling book and wandered if it’s worth the read? We’ve all picked up that hot new release only to discover it can’t truly deliver what the book jacket promises.

Every year, I compile my Read This Not That list of bestsellers worth the hype. But my list only contains 7 books worth reading and 7 that are not. Considering how many books I read a year, so many excellent books, and some not so great reads, don’t make the list.

I asked myself: Why not give monthly book recommendations?

Welcome to my monthly reading roundup, Worth the Read. Each month, I write up short reviews of all the books I read that month. Find out which books I recommend and which to skip.

I know the month isn’t exactly over, but let’s take a look at my July Reading Roundup by the numbers:

  • 2019 Releases: 7 New Releases (including 5 Advanced Review Copies)
  • Genre: 8 Nonfiction, 8 Fiction
  • Authors: 10 Female Authors, 6 Male
  • Format: 1 Audiobook, 5 E-books, 10 Print Copies
  • Total Page Count: 4,945 pages

But I didn’t write this post to show off my reading. I wrote it so you can hear my thoughts on the books I read this month. Plus, take a sneak peak at some of what’s coming soon on the book blog.

← May Reading Roundup   •   August Reading Roundup →

This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you purchase anything, at no additional cost to you, we receive a small commission. For more information, read our Disclosures.

Reading Challenge Update

For our 2019 Reading Challenge, we are reading one book a week from a list of 52 categories. Here are the five books I chose for my July Reading Challenge

book cover The Second Mountain by David Brooks

The Second Mountain
by David Brooks

27. Listen to an Audiobook: Making its way onto The New York Times bestseller list, The Second Mountain appears to be the hottest self-help book of 2019. David Brooks ponders the question: What makes a life meaningful? His hypothesis: the people who fail and then climb a second mountain are the ones who feel the most purpose in life. Brooks’ arguments are well-reasoned and his insights are extremely thought-provoking. Unfortunately, I listened to this as an audiobook, and I wasn’t in love with the narration. I’ll have to check out the physical copy so I can finish it. DNF

 

book cover Blended by Sharon M. Draper

Blended
by Sharon M. Draper

28. Set in Your Home State: Actually, I read this last month, but I decided to count it this month for my book set my home state of Ohio. One week at her mom’s. One week at her dad’s. Not only is Isabella’s life split in half by her parents’ divorce, but also she feels as if her own identity is divided in two. Half-white and half-black, Isabella’s split custody parallels her split racial identity. Sharon M. Draper’s middle grade bestseller explores Isabella’s need to figure out how a blended girl bridges the gap in a world full of duality. Not nearly as light-hearted as the pink striped color suggests, Blended is a more serious discussion on important topics for kids today – divorce, racial profiling, and blended families. A great explanation of Black Lives Matter for middle schoolers. ★★★★

Related: 50 States Reading List: The Best Book Set in Every State

 

book cover The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell

29. Started but Never Finished: We all know diseases can spread like wildfire, hitting that tipping point that spurs it from outbreak to epidemic. Yet, so can ideas, trends and social behaviors. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explores the causes of such phenomenon. Gladwell is a master of storytelling, taking interesting events and statistics and weaving them all together in fascinating new ways. From Paul Revere’s midnight ride to the Micronesian suicide rate, Gladwell shows how small ideas can change the world with just the right factors to create the tipping point. ★★★★ 

 

Book cover Recursion by Blake Crouch

Recursion
by Blake Crouch

30. One Word Title: The best science fiction always starts with what if, and Recursion plays the what if scenario perfectly. America has fallen victim to False Memory Syndrome – a disease where victims are driven mad by memories of a life they never lived … or have they? It’s up to NYPD cop Barry Sutton and neuroscientist Helena Smith to figure out how to stop this epidemic, even as reality is shifting all around them. You’ll have a hard time putting this one down. It takes about a third of the novel to figure out what is really going on, and then you buckle in for a wild ride as you deal with the shifting of reality. Probably my favorite contemporary sci fi I’ve read since The Martian. You’ll certainly want to pick up a copy before the film adaptation hits Netflix. ★★★★ Read more →

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crown Publishing through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Related: The 9 Greatest Classic Science Fiction Short Stories of All Time

 

book cover A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses
by Sarah J. Maas

31. Fairy Tale Retelling: In her super popular series, Sarah J Maas introduces you to Feyre, a teenage girl turned huntress doing all she can to provide for her poor yet ungrateful family. After she kills a faerie disguised as a wolf, Feyre is taken to an enchanted land run by her captor, a powerful man who can turn into a beast. Maas starts the story as a typical Beauty and the Beast retelling, but transforms it into her own original work. Be aware, though the book reads like your typical YA fantasy, a few more descriptive sex scenes pushes it solidly up into adult fantasy. A good read for anyone who loves The Cruel Prince or Graceling and wants a more adult romance. ★★★★

July Reading Wrapup

book cover The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

The Last Romantics
by Tara Conklin

When asked what inspired her famous work, The Love Poem. renowned poet Fiona Skinner tells the story of her family. After her father’s sudden death, Fiona’s mother goes into a deep depression for three years, basically leaving the young children to fend for themselves. The four Skinner siblings’ lives forever changed during this period which they refer to as “The Pause.” They emerge closer than ever, but that period of time changes each one of them, with consequences following them throughout the rest of their lives.

I found this to be a solid piece of literary fiction, that just missed the mark from being classified as great. I like that the characters felt layered, showing the complications of family relationships. Plus, Conklin’s writing is just what you want from literary fiction. Yet, all in all, the overarching message left me unsatisfied. From literary fiction, I always expect to be left pondering deeper meanings at the end, and The Last Romantics didn’t quite fulfill that. Read more →

Verdict: Worth the read … if you like literary fiction

 

book cover Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Mrs. Everything
by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner’s sweeping novel follows the lives of two sisters as they struggle to find their own way in the world. Bethie becomes a free-spirited nomad while Jo settles into the the role of a traditional American housewife. Despite their differences, each sister is searching for happiness in this ever-changing world. The world needs more stories of women becoming who they are meant to be, so I was excited to pick up this June 2019 book release. Everyone seems to be raving about Mrs. Everything, but I honestly wasn’t impressed. To me, Weiner seemed to take all of today’s values and shove them into baby boomers. I felt the novel dwelt too long on their childhood – the entire first half is about Bethie and Jo growing up – but then skipped large chunks of their adult lives when they were interesting, only to cram in the next generation at the end. Mrs. Everything touched on so many themes (molestation, rape, lesbianism, feminism, biracial relations, #metoo, etc.) that it didn’t deliver a strong message on any of them. In all, I can’t say that I would ever recommend this book, but to each their own. Read more →

Verdict: I say skip, but so many others would disagree.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Atria Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Book Cover for The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton

On the 19th anniversary of their son’s murder, Lord and Lady Hardcastle throw a party with the exact same guests as that fateful day long ago. At 11 pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered. In a Groundhog Day-esque fashion, Aidan Bishop must relive this day 8 times, but from the perspective of eight different witnesses. His task – identify Evelyn’s murderer, or do it all over again. Evelyn Hardcastle will throw you into a brilliant game of Clue as you see the same events from multiple layers. Just ignore the why this happening and jump right into the mystery come to life, with plenty of fun twists and turns along the way. Read more →

Verdict: Worth the read … super fun Clue-like mystery

 

Book cover for Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek
by Angie Kim

In a small Virginia town, Korean immigrants Young and Pak Yoo run a medical center with a hyperbaric chamber called the Miracle Submarine – a pressurized oxygen chamber patients can use to treat illnesses like decompression sickness, but that many use in an attempt to treat such conditions as autism and MS. When the chamber catches fire, killing two, an intense murder trial begins revealing secrets and lies from all involved. Compared to Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng, Angie Kim’s debut novel will keep you guessing at who actually started the fire, but more importantly, will draw you in to the moral decisions the flawed characters have to make. Read more →

Verdict: Worth the read … if you love legal thrillers

 

book cover Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Present Over Perfect
by Shauna Niequist

I love the concept for this book (as well as the title). Basically, Shauna Niequist encourages her readers to cast aside their need for perfection and instead to live in the moment. Sadly, Niequist approaches this interesting topic rather poorly. She focuses too much on her journey instead of speaking inspiration about how you can achieve this sense of presence in your own life. After a chapter about how great her lake house is and then another focusing on the history of her husband’s job as a minister – neither of which actually illustrated the principle, I just couldn’t force myself to read another page. Hopefully someone has written a better treatment of this topic because it’s such an important issue in today’s Instagram-worthy society.

Verdict: Skip … way too preachy

 

book cover Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

Happier at Home
by Gretchen Rubin

For her hit book The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin set out to bring more happiness into her life. Not that anything was wrong with her life, she just wanted to appreciate it more. In her follow-up book, Ruben decides on a new happiness project – similar to her last one but now focusing on being happier at home. First off, I loved The Happiness Project. It is exactly the kind of project I would do, and if I ever write a book, I think it would be in a similar vein. That being said, Happier At Home was rather “meh.” Since the novelty of the concept of a happiness project is gone, you’re just reading about Rubin’s random resolutions – many of which would never translate over to readers. I really felt that I didn’t glean any new information, and just got a rehash of lots of old information. If I were you, I’d suggest just sticking to The Happiness Project.

Verdict: Skip … read The Happiness Project instead

 

book cover The Joy of Less by Francine Joy

The Joy of Less
by Francine Joy

In her recent guest post for me on non-parenting books for moms, Kristin mentioned the helpfulness of Francine Jay’s The Joy of Less. I can’t seem to resist a minimalism book, so I knew I had to peruse this copy. As with all minimalism books, Jay’s account is split into three sections: why you should embrace minimalism, her de-cluttering method, and specific advice for different parts of the house. Having read most all the minimalism books out there, where do I think this one falls? Over all, I have to say it falls surprisingly close to Marie Kondo. I honestly love the simplicity of Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” sentiment. However, Jay’s STREAMLINE method is a less touchy-feely decluttering strategy. For Americans, her tone is much more conversational and down-to-earth than Kondo, and Jay grasps not only American culture but also life with kids as well. If you want to try to decluttering but aren’t warming up Marie Kondo, try Jay’s The Joy of Less instead.

Verdict: Worth the read … if you want to declutter without sparking joy

 

book cover Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild
by Jon Krakaeur

In 1992, moose hunters found the body of a young man alone in the Alaska wilderness. Investigators soon found out it belonged to Christopher McCandless, who had hitchhiked to Alaska to live alone in the wild for a summer. Journalist Jon Krakauer first explored the story of Christopher McCandless in an article for Outside magazine. Now turned into a book, Krakauer looks at the entire life of McCandless.

How does a well-educated young man from a well-off family five it all up – give away all his money, abandon his car and tramp around the US for years? What drove McCandless to see out the wild?

Telling as well the stories of those other souls throughout history who have sough out the wild, including himself, Krakauer is the perfect person to pen this insightful chronicle of Christopher McCandless’s life, a story that will stay with you for a long time.

Verdict: Worth the read … if you love learning about other people’s lives

 

book cover Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Not That I Could Tell
by Jessica Strawser

Often when I see a reading challenge tell you to read a book set in your hometown, I get rather annoyed. I’m from a tiny little town in Ohio, so there are no books that are set in my hometown. Except this one. Well, almost. Set in the nearby small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, Not That I Could Tell is a domestic thriller whose shining virtue is that it is set where I grew up. After that, it’s really just a middle-of-the-road thriller. There’s really not much action, a little bit of mystery, and a some attempt at character study. It’s not a particularly great book, but I so love hearing about all the places that I know so well. 

Verdict: Skip … unless you really like domestic thrillers

 

book cover Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

Flash Boys
by Michael Lewis

Known for bringing nonfiction to life, Michael Lewis, author of such bestsellers as The Blind Side, Moneyball, and The Big Short, tackled Wall Street in his fascinating 2014 bestseller Flash Boys. As the United States stock market switched from human traders to a computerized system, a whole complex network formed. A system that basically basically rigged the whole stock market, taking billions of dollars out of the economy and placing them into the pockets of high-frequency traders – the people technologically savvy enough to game the system. 

Lewis tells the story of Brad Katsuyama, a man who set out to figure out what was wrong with the market and how, if possible, it could be fixed. Lewis does an excellent job keeping the story interesting while exploring a highly technical subject in a way normal readers can understand. I almost didn’t read this one, but I’m so glad I did.

Verdict: Worth the read … if you love investigative journalism

 

book cover The grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

The Grand Design
by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

Sometimes my inner math geek comes out and I read deep scientific stuff, more because I feel I should than I actually want to read them. The infamous physicist Stephen Hawking, with the help of Leonard Mlodinow, relates the mysteries of the universe to layman like me. The book started out actually fascinating – explaining the history of scientific breakthroughs including, gravity, space-time, relativity and quantum theory. From there the book became terribly boring, getting super heavy into the science for a time before concluding with a discussion on the big bang theory and god. I would definitely say not to pick this one up unless you are really into physics. Also, don’t listen to the audiobook – heavy topics like this one really should be in written form where you can easily read sections to ensure you understand.

Verdict: Skip … unless you really like physics

 

book cover The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

The Road Back to You
by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

My friend finally convinced our book club to read The Road Back To You, and to tell the truth, I was beyond skeptical. If you’ve never heard of the Enneagram, it’s an ancient personality test that describes how you interact with the world. The Enneagram is split into nine personality types, each that can lean toward one of its neighbors and takes on different characteristics when it’s stressed or when it feels secure. After reading it, I am a doubter no more. I was needed immediately with my type (I’m definitely a five!) and gained a lot of insight why I sometimes react the way I do. Better yet, I made my husband read it (he’s a nine all the way), and we had an extremely insightful chat about how our personalities affect our marriage. Is this the best Enneagram book out there? I couldn’t say. But I definitely suggest trying out an Enneagram book and seeing what insights you can gain into yourself.

Verdict: Worth the read … if you love personality tests

Upcoming Releases

One of the best perks of being a book blogger is receiving advance review copies (ARCs) of upcoming book releases from publishers.

At the beginning of each month, we cover all the new book releases coming out, and next week will be our list of August 2019 new releases. So as not to ruin all the good stuff from next week’s list, here’s a peek at the August releases I’ve already read.

book cover Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood
book cover The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
book cover The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

 

My To-Read List

What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month. Be sure to come back at the end of August to see which ones I read and what I thought.

book cover The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
book cover Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
Book cover for Finale by Stephanie Garber

Have you read any of these? Let us know what you think!

July Reading Roundup. Mini Review Just for You

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5 Comments

  • Reply Patricia Anne Bryan July 29, 2019 at 1:12 am

    I loved The Gifted School.Reminded me of THE Nest.Characters actually became nicer people and quite an interesting twist…Also like The Goldfinch..one minute 9am,next 5pm!

  • Reply Jessica Bloodgood July 30, 2019 at 11:35 am

    I HATED Mrs. Everything for exactly all the reasons you lay out!! I can’t believe it is on so many “must read” lists! My husband just got Into the Wild for me – I LOVE Jon Krakauer, but haven’t read this one yet! Looking forward to it!

  • Reply Lynn July 31, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Into the Wild has been on my list to read for a long time. I really need to move it to the top of the stack. Bad Blood is so good! Both my husband and I really enjoyed it. I hope you enjoy it too!

  • Reply Rachel @ Never Enough Novels July 31, 2019 at 11:07 am

    I’m a huge fan of Michael Lewis. Moneyball is one of my all-time favorite nonfiction books!

  • Reply Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins July 31, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Another fantastic round-up! I’m not sure I could bring myself to read Into The Wild – I watched the film, and I found it so frustrating, the young man in question struck me as selfish in the extreme, not to mention foolish. But I’m really looking forward to some of the others here – The 7 1/2 Deaths sounds like so much fun, and I heard an interview with Angie Kim that has me really eager to read Miracle Creek. Thank you for sharing!

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