January Book Review: The White House, a Bakery, and Blogging

Welcome to the monthly book review! At the end of each month, I review the books I’ve read. Enjoy!

The Book: The Residence: Inside the Private World of The White House by Kate Andersen Brower

The Category: Nonfiction

In Three Words: Presidential Staff Secrets

Biggest Takeaway: I love reading history from new angles, and this was one I’d never considered: how much the White House staff, from butlers to bakers, witness and read between the lines about matters of state. I have great admiration for their integrity and ability to keep counsel about the First Families they serve, past and present. From the behind-the-scenes of Kennedy’s assassination day to the unprecedented evacuation on September 11th; having drinks with Prince Phillip to baking special cakes for Hillary during the Lewinsky affair, this book is full of insider information from the most forthright of sources.

The Book: Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

The Category: Women’s fiction

In Three Words: Prolonged love story

Biggest Takeaway: I love books where the setting carries the weight of a character, and this was a great example. I enjoyed living on the small, nearly inaccessible British island in my head, eating Polly’s warm and flaky breads. But the love story took a very long and meandering road that felt unnecessary. With some editing, I think it could have been a better book. I’ll still look for the sequel, though.


steal like an artist
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The Books: Show Your Work! and Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

The Category: Creative nonfiction

In Three Words: Empowering Creative Expression

Biggest Takeaway: I read these books so close together that I don’t remember what material was in which; that’s an endorsement for Austin Kleon’s addicting, refreshing style. These books are entrepreneurship 101 for creatives. Also? They’re super cool-looking, coffee-table quality.

A favorite quote from Show Your Work!: “You can’t be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again.”

The Book: How to Blog A Book by Nina Amir

The Category: Writing Craft

In Three Words: Expert Blog Advice

Biggest Takeaway: If you’ve read my last few posts, you know this is the book that sparked my Great Writing Priority Switch from fiction to nonfiction. I’ve been blogging for 4 years and never thought about using the material for a book; this book reframed my mindset and allowed me to conceive of a blog and book going hand in hand, feeding each other. This book made me feel like I had the tools to be a Gretchen Rubin or Laura Vanderkam, whether or not I reach their level of fame.

Short e-books I enjoyed this month:

The How (And Wow!) of Habits by Carrie Willard, a concise workup on habit formation with plenty of interesting personal anecdotes. (I enjoy Carrie’s blog; she’s a homeschooling mom of seven kids!)

Creating Space: The Case for Everyday Creativity by Ed Cyzewski, a brief inspirational on why we need to prioritize creativity. A little too religious/spiritual for my taste, but still hits an encouraging note.

Abandoned books: Armada by Ernest Cline (so disappointing after Ready Player One, but the writing just didn’t hold up); Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian (I skipped to the end and then lost interest; I often do this with his books but don’t know why); The Time Between by Karen White (I felt sympathy for the characters but didn’t connect with any of them).

I was reminded this month by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy that everyone has some form of a Do Not Read list, a category of books whose topics you can’t allow into your brain. My category is books about the Holocaust or Germany during WWII; though I’m as fascinated by the history as anyone else, every time I get involved in those books, my palms start to itch and I feel very claustrophobic. Do you have a category of books that you always avoid? The post by Modern Mrs. Darcy got 133 comments, so it must be a widely cast issue.

One Response to “January Book Review: The White House, a Bakery, and Blogging”

  1. I’ve read several of the books on this list, and will jot down the titles of a couple of others (the ebook on habits, for example). I loved your takeaway from How to Blog a Book (which is one of the books I’ve read), and I feel exactly the same way. I’ve blogged now for seven years–I have more than enough material for a book, so what’s stopping me?

    As far as categories of book I won’t read, I’ve just been talking about that with Belle at Belle Book and Candle–I usually won’t pick up a book described as “heartbreaking.” I generally won’t read anything too dark and intense, either, as just coping with reality can be plenty dark and intense, and I’d rather have my reading lift my spirits. (Belle’s got a post about that up right now, with another one to come.)

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