I only finished two books in April, but I am cheating a bit and counting a third for the month because I am nearly finished with it. Both of the books I completed this past month were for book groups, so I guess it’s a good thing I had these groups to hold me accountable otherwise I might not have read any books in April.
Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele
I read this book for a faculty/staff book discussion at the university where I work. This book had been on my to-read list for years, so I seized the opportunity to have the excuse to pick it up and finally read it. And, I am so glad that I did. Steele provides an excellent non-scholarly explanation of “stereotype threat” — the fear that one may conform to a stereotype held about some aspect of one’s identity — and how anyone, under the right circumstances, can be subject to the threat. But, one of things I found most fascinating about this book is the way Steele describes his scientific process–how he and his co-researchers developed the hypotheses related to stereotype threat and how they tested their theories. Whisting Vivaldi gives a fascinating insight into the work of social psychology.
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
I read this spiritual memoir for my church’s book group. Evans describes her years growing up in an evangelical congregation, her eventual disillusionment with the church, and her search for a more meaningful spiritual home. The book is a collection of short essays loosely organized around the theme of the seven sacraments (baptism, communion, marriage, confirmation, etc.). The essays may or may not have been republished or reworked blog entries, but that’s how the books feels. I thought the book was enjoyable, but while the book is meant to feel personal, Evans definitely keeps the reader at arm’s length. Although Evans does find a kind of home in the Episcopal church, it is clear that she is still searching.
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
I read The Happiness Project by Rubin a couple years ago, and I have to admit I did not like it. It was a little too much “privileged white lady problems.” Although this book suffers a bit from the same syndrome, Rubin’s insights into habits and habit formation are great. I initially scoffed at her idea of the “four tendencies”–the idea that people fall into one of four basic camps regarding how they react to expectations, but as I read the book, some of her observations hit close to home and I found myself facing some uncomfortable truths about my own tendencies. I am still reading this one, so I may have more to say about this later.