January Reads

I read 3 books in January, which for me, is definitely solid!

The Family Firm was one I started in December, finished in January. It’s basically a parenting book, but didn’t feel like your traditional “parenting book”. It is written by economist Emily Oster and I felt like she took a fresh approach to common parenting themes and issues. It’s geared more toward “early school years”, so my family is on the upper end of some of the issues, but I still really enjoyed it. I actually ordered a copy for my sister as a gift, since her kids are very young and just starting their school-year journey.

I especially appreciated the sections focusing on kids activities/ extracurriculars and how to fit that all in and make decisions surrounding that, and the sections on kids+ phone use and technology! Both very fitting for my life right now.

I’m also not naturally the best and most decisive person when it comes to making decisions, so I liked how she spelled how methods to make practical, well thought out and data driven decisions.

They Both Die At the End I had first checked out in October, thinking I’d read it with Ethan. Well, about 1 page in and I decided this “Young Adult” category book was not “young” enough material for my kid. So we scratched that for now, but I still did want to read it. It had been on my Want to Read shelf for a long time now. And it was GREAT! I really, really liked it. I found it very deep and impactful. But yet also light and easy to read, in another way.

It’s a fiction book about 2 teenagers who received a “Death Cast” notification that they are going to die in the next 24 hours. (It’s like a slightly alternate reality- in the book, all people receive a notification the day before they are going to die. They don’t receive any details or an exact time, just that they will die in the next day, when it’s their time.)

This whole concept is crazy to think about- what if that really happened? What would you do? How would that change your life or your final day?

In the book, these two boys form a connection as “last friends”, who meet and form a very deep and very special relationship on their Last Day. It’s hard to explain, but it’s really fantastic. Makes you really want to inspect your own life, your relationships, what’s holding you back from living your best life NOW. Also very touching! Highly recommend.

21 Rituals to Change Your Life is one I received as a birthday gift. I’m on the fence about this one. I’d say that I enjoyed reading it, but I don’t think I can recommend it.

The author lays out “21 Rituals” that are small and can be done daily. She attests that if you do these 21 things every day for at least 21 days in a regimented fashion, you’ll “change your life”. They are divided up into morning, daytime and evening rituals. Some examples are things like “stretching when you wake up instead of reaching for your phone”, “light someone up each day” (i.e. do one thing to directly help or benefit someone else, like give a genuine compliment, do someone a favor, etc.), or “write down one line before bed about what you learned about yourself that day”.

I read this on the plane to Mexico/ in Mexico, so I haven’t actually tried to implement them yet. Some of the rituals are a little outside the box, which I did find intriguing.

My two big issues with the book:

1) The writing!! It felt pretty BAD to me! I kept saying to Ivan on the plane, “How did this book get published??” There were run on sentences all over the place and I felt like the author apparently had no idea how to correctly use a comma. This was a big red flag to me. The author kept referencing having published many other books, so I don’t know….it was weird. It looks like it was published in the UK, so then I got to wondering if maybe they have different grammar rules?? (lol. I don’t think so though??)

2) It seems like it would be hard to keep track of all these 21 little rituals. Some are kind of random/ vague and I’d probably end up forgetting about them by the end of the day.

It was still a fun little read, after I forced myself to focus on the ideas and not the writing! And it did inspire me to think about some things in a new light. So, not a total waste. But I don’t think I can really feel good about recommending it to others.

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for hamster Flint’s eye infection clearing up! We made the somewhat difficult choice to NOT take him back to the vet yesterday for his follow up appointment. (They were going to continue working up the little mass on his chest). Now that his eye is better, he seems okay otherwise, and in reality, he is getting old for a hamster already at 2+ years. To spend so much money testing the fluid and doing other interventions just doesn’t really make sense. We’ll just hope it’s a benign mass and that he’ll continue to live as long as possible!

my tiny friend ❤

7 thoughts on “January Reads”

  1. Wow. 21 things to do every day. That is a lot – more than 1 thing/hour feels overwhelming. It reminds me of a conference a previous company hosted. My boss did the closing session and had a slide with “the 10 things to take away from this conference.” My coworker and I were like – WTF? Who could remember 10 things? And who could do 21 things/day!

    I LOVE Emily Oster. I read both of her other parenting books (Expecting Better (pregnancy book) and Crib Sheet (for infants – age 4). I subscribe to her newsletter, too. She’s great at using/presenting data to make decisions. I bought Family Firm when it came out but haven’t read it yet since our kids aren’t quite the age group she is addressing. But I think I will read it later this year since Paul will start kindergarten in fall 2023, so activities and the decisions she addresses are on the horizon for us! I’m so glad you liked it!

    That YA book sounds interesting – I will have to check that out.

    3 books in a month is a great start to the year!!!


    1. Well, now I don’t remember exactly…hahaha, story of my life…read stuff, forget it, repeat with next book…😆

      But I think the general gist was that data shows that “screen time” is not inherently BAD or going to ruin our children. And the overall issue with time spent on it isn’t really that spending time on TV/games etc is so horrible, but rather to consider the opportunity cost- what else could they be doing with that time?

      I think she also supported the idea that if you feel your kids are overall well rounded, doing other activities and things your family values, meeting other expectations like good grades and chores, etc- it’s not necessary to beat yourself up over your kids using screens sometimes, even if it’s “more” than some people think is acceptable. She had some stuff in there too I believe about helping to plan or schedule the time in a way that works for your family- which will look different for each household.

      Generally, her view seemed to be “give it some intentional thought, make some decisions as a family, make sure it’s working for YOU- but don’t freak out or ban all electronics just because some article said screens are bad”. Probably nothing totally revolutionary in the book, but interesting nonetheless and kind of reassuring, I guess! She cited some good sources and data on the subject which was interesting as well.


  2. Any book that tells me it is going to “change your life” makes me automatically start dislike it immediately. At least have the decency to say this “might” change your life. Sorry – I’ve read books just like you describe and it is SUCH a pet peeve to me. I’ll take a hard pass on that one, based on your assessment…but am excited to read Emily Oster’s book; I have it on hold at the library!


  3. i was curious about the family firm but after reading reviews I thought it’s probably more target for early parenting so I didn’t read it. glad to know you take is similar to what I thought.
    21 rituals???? that’s a bit too much, life changing? that’s too much of a claim. bad writing? I won’t tolerate. hahahah… so thanks for the honest review.


  4. Three books is indeed solid.

    21 rituals seems a lot – I mean, we’re probably all doing 21 little things that we’re not aware of in our routine every day, but yeah, I guess it would take some work to implement them if they were not already part of our habits.

    Bad writing, grammar, etc. are a major turn-off for me as well. Strangely, there are a lot of books out there (or so it seems) that still made it through the publishing process.


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