Worth the Read? Monthly Book Recommendations

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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 look 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 book at my May Reading Roundup by the numbers:

  • 2019 Releases: 5 New Releases (including 2 Advanced Review Copies)
  • Genre: 5 Nonfiction, 6 Fiction
  • Authors: 8 Female Authors, 3 Male
  • Format: 1 Audiobook, 1 E-book, 9 Print Copies
  • Total Page Count: 3,368

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.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, read our Disclosures.

Book cover for The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

The Moment of Lift
by Melinda Gates

If you have an insane amount of money (say from creating Microsoft) how do you use it to change the world? Over a lifetime, Melinda Gates, co-founder of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has discovered that the key to alleviating poverty, decreasing childhood death and even increasing food production all comes back to empowering women. The statistics throughout the book are staggering, and Gates makes a strong argument for how empowering women affects so much more than you would think. 

Unfortunately, the writing itself is not particularly compelling in this April 2019 book release. While Gates is an admirable woman, her own story is … shall I say … kinda dull. I wouldn’t say you should completely write off the book, but don’t expect a book you can’t put down. 

Verdict: Worth the read … if only for the food for thought

 

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers
by Karen Thompson Walker

An ordinary if somewhat isolated college town in California suddenly comes down with an epidemic. People are suddenly falling asleep and cannot be awoken by any means. Scans show unusually high brain wave activity indicating that the sleepers are dreaming. I loved the premise for this story, and the suspense as people slowly start to fall asleep kept me wanting more.

Unfortunately, that ends up being literally the whole story. You are introduced to a large range of characters and follow along as they each slowly succumb. Throughout the book, I kept expecting there to be more, but it’s not until the last 30-50 pages that any really plot movement comes into effect. By then, it was just too little too late.

I feel like the author missed her chance. She should have either gone more into the nightmare logistics of the epidemic (à la One Second After) or added another 100 pages transitioning the story to a secondary level. As it was, I have to say, I felt extremely disappointed with this January 2019 book release.

Verdict: Skip … never fully developed

 

book cover It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh

It’s All Too Much
by Pete Walsh

Do you have a topic that you just can’t seem to get enough of? Personally, I will read any and every book on minimalism and decluttering. Knowing me oh so well, my best friend lent me a copy of Pete Walsh’s treatment on the subject.

Having read so much on the topic, I will have to admit that I was not impressed. Walsh’s decluttering method seems doomed to failure from the get-go. His very first step requires a high time commitment and felt rife for confrontation between family members as you pull everything out and decide what stays and what goes.

However, the book was not a total waste of time. I was impressed with his last chapter on going deeper into decluttering after the initial work is done. I am at that phase of my minimalism journey now, and he inspired me to finally tackle the areas I’ve been putting off – like digital clutter and my filing cabinet.

Verdict: Skip … read Marie Kondo instead

 

Book cover for The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey

The Path Made Clear
by Oprah Winfrey

When I wrote about the March 2019 book releases, I mentioned Oprah Winfrey’s book because, well, she’s Oprah Winfrey. I couldn’t find much about the book – no reviews or comments – but I assumed that given Oprah’s name, it had to be good. Well, you know what they say about assuming.

Here is how her description really ought to read: “Coffee table book with pretty pictures, great textured pages, and quotes in gigantic font. All wrapped in token chapter introductions by your favorite celebrity. It will look pretty, but actually contain nothing of substance.” Someone is laughing their way all the way to the bank with this one. 

Verdict: Skip … most disappointing read of 2019

 

book cover The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F by Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
by Mark Manson

I’ve mentioned before, but I actually don’t swear at all. I just never have. Consequently, I was extremely weary of this book, thinking it might end up being complete trash like You are a Badass. Frankly, I ended up having to completely skip the beginning of the book. As Manson introduces his topic, he drops F bombs left and right, almost like a blogger keyword stuffing for SEO.

Luckily, the swear words tailed off considerably once I got into the meat of the book, which allowed Manson’s original idea to fully shine. Basically, his hypothesis is that the key to life is not to be happy. Instead, the key is to embrace the limitations, flaws and suffering of life. You’ll definitely be left with plenty to think about after reading this anti self-help book.

Verdict: Worth the read … totally original self-help book

 

book cover Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers
by Imobolo Mbue

The American Dream. Many hope for it, but how many truly find it? Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel details the lives of Cameroon immigrants living in New York City: Jende Jonga, who is trying to apply for legal status under a false asylum claim; his wife Neni, struggling to finish schooling in hopes of becoming a pharmacist; and his son Leomi, trying to balance his American-ness with his Cameroon side. In the days preceding the Great Recession, Jende gets lucky enough to get a job as chauffeur to Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive.

Mbue brilliantly paints a fascinating look at immigrant life – the struggles with the immigration system, the desire for a better life, the balancing of cultural differences and the financial burden that comes with being poor in America. Through her writing, Mbue asks you to ponder what really brings happiness, and is the American dream all its cracked up to be? 

Verdict: Worth the read … fascinating look at immigration

 

Book cover for Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward

Thirteen year-old Jojo is trying to figure out life as a half-white half-black teen in Mississippi. When his family learns his father is being released from prison, his mom Leonie, a struggling drug addict, packs up Jojo and his little sister for a drive up to the state penitentiary where Jojo encounters the ghost of a boy who was killed as an inmate. Combining a dysfunctional family character study with a haunting ghost story, Sing, Unburied, Sing has won rave review from critics.

This month, we chose Sing, Unburied, Sing for our May Book Club Pick. What impressed me most was how much everything about the book was expertly crafted to convey the story that Ward wanted to tell, not necessarily the story you wanted to read. A hauntingly deep look into death, life and family, Ward knocks it out of the park with her beautiful writing.

While the story definitely through me for a loop with its use of the supernatural, I was in awe at Ward’s ability to build and weave such a power story. She is an excellent writer, and I look forward to reading her other works. Read more →

Verdict: Worth the read … exquisitely crafted story

 

Book cover for Salem's Lot by Stephen King

‘Salem’s Lot
by Stephen King

For my 2019 Reading Challenge, I needed to read a book written in the 70s – the decade before I was born. Looking through the lists, I decided I ought to explore more of Stephen King’s works. I’d loved The Green Mile, hated Carrie, and heard about tons of his other books. My neighbor is a huge Stephen King fan, so I decided to go with his favorite Stephen King book, ‘Salem’s Lot.

‘Salem’s Lot was the second book Stephen King ever published, after Carrie. He depicts the tale of Ben Mears, a writer returning to a town of his childhood to write his next book. As a boy, he had a supernatural experience in a haunted town in Jerusalem’s Lot, and thinks it would be great inspiration. Though as he starts his book about the power of evil, strange happenings start to take over the small Maine town.

Even though it’s mentioned clearly in the jacket cover, I don’t think I will mention the mystery. Going in, I had no idea what the book was about, and I felt it was so much freer to have the story unfold before me without preset expectations.

Though I don’t expect to read many more horror books, I was impressed with how well Stephen King can set a scene. He draws you into the setting and mood and perfectly portrays the overwhelming dread as the impossible becomes all to real. A great read for any horror fan.

Verdict: Worth the read … if you like horror stories

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 June 2019 new releases. So as not to ruin all the good stuff from next week’s list, here’s a peek at the June releases I’ve already read.

book cover I'll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie
book cover Making Space, Clutter Free by Tracy McCubbin
book cover FKA USA by Reed King

 

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 month. If you noticed, I didn’t get through all the books in my featured image this month. Be sure to come back at the end of June to see which ones I read and what I thought.

Book cover for Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
Book cover for The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Book cover for The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

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

Mini reviews and monthly book recommendations just for you. Find out what we thought of all the books we read this month.

May Reading Roundup. Mini reviews and monthly book recommendations just for you. Find out what we thought of all the books we read in May.

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8 Comments

  • Reply Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza May 28, 2019 at 7:58 am

    I loved The Silent Patient! Good roundup of books. Thanks,

    • Reply Rachael May 28, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      Good to hear! I’m excited to read it next month!

  • Reply Allison @ My Novel Life May 28, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Loved Behold the Dreamers. I read that last month as well (it had been sitting on my shelf since August!). Thanks for the heads up on The Dreamers. I wanted to read it, but was worried about the pacing. I’ve heard similar reviews about The Age of Miracles.

  • Reply Debi Morton May 28, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Thanks for the review of The Dreamers. I’ve heard some good reviews from people I trust, as well, but now I know to wait and get it from the library instead of buying it. I’ve already bought Age of Miracles, so I guess I’ll, at least, give it a try.

  • Reply CJ | A Well-Read Tart May 29, 2019 at 7:19 am

    I LOL’d when I saw you name Oprah’s book the most disappointing read of 2019, hahaha. Although she does wonderful things for many people, I just can’t get on the Oprah bandwagon; she annoys me and I purposely avoid any books she recommends, lol. I’m semi-ashamed to admit that I experienced a bit of shadenfreude when I saw your review of her book. 😉

    SING, UNBURIED, SING sounds pretty interesting. I love anything supernatural, so this aspect of it really draws me in. Thanks for the info on this one; I had no idea what it was about, but I think it’s one I would enjoy.

    And, thanks for your review of SALEM’S LOT. I love horror (as long as it’s supernatural, not gory/slasher/serial killer), but I’ve actually never read any Stephen King. Not once. I’ve heard he’s an amazing writer (I mean, obvi…considering his career), and so many friends have told me to read him. Maybe I’ll give this one a chance. If you liked it and you’re not into horror, there’s a solid chance I will like it, too! 🙂

    Looking forward to your review of GINGERBREAD. That’s on my TBR list.

    • Reply Rachael May 29, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      If you love horror, you definitely should read Stephen King. Salem’s Lot was not at all gory/slasher/serial killer. Another really good one is The Green Mile.

      I have to disagree with you on Oprah’s book club. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her pick a terrible book. Everything I’ve read has been amazing. Though, I assume she has a team of people screening books for her.

    • Reply Anonymous June 24, 2019 at 11:55 pm

      I agree with Rachael, if you are into supernatural horror, you should be reading Stephen King. I have read a bunch of his books, and most of them are at least semi-supernatural, and they are very well written.

  • Reply Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins May 29, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    Oooh, I spy a few here from my TBR! I’ve been a bit hesitant to try The Subtle Art of Not Giving An F – “self-help” books aren’t really my thing, but I’ve been curious about all the buzz around it, so heartened to see you say it’s worth it! And I heard an interview with Melinda Gates the other day, she sounds like an incredible woman, such a shame she is often cast in Bill’s large shadow – would love to check out The Moment Of Lift. Thanks for the recommendations!

    P.S. Just listened yesterday to your interview on Sarah’s Bookshelves – you guys were GREAT! Loved it!

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