Books Read in July 2020

I read seven books in July (five were audiobooks), which brings my 2020 total to 70.

I rank my books with these categories: Highly Recommended, Recommended, Okay, and Not Recommended.


1) Empty: A Memoir, Susan Burton

Description: For almost thirty years, Burton hid her obsession with food and the secret life of compulsive eating and starving that dominated her adolescence. This is the story of living with both anorexia and binge eating disorder, moving past her shame, and learning to tell her secret.

Burton went from being anorexic in her early teens, to binge eating (no purging) in her mid/late teens, then back to food restriction. This is something that so many women deal with. They are all-consuming and life-limiting disorders.

There’s an excerpt in the New Yorker here, a review in the NY Times here, and an audio interview with her on NPR here (which I didn’t listen to, but the link contains interview highlights). Also, here’s a photo I found on her Instagram of when she recorded her audiobook in a closet at her home in Brooklyn.

2) Thick: And Other Essays, Tressie McMillan Cottom

Description: Smart, humorous, and strikingly original thoughts on race, beauty, money, and more—by one of today’s most intrepid public intellectuals.

I enjoyed her essays, and I enjoy following her on Twitter.

3) My Sister: How One Sibling’s Transition Changed Us Both, Selenis Leyva & Marizol Leyva

Description: When actress Selenis Leyva was young, her parents brought a foster child into their loving family in the Bronx. The siblings realized, almost at the same moment, that the younger of the two was struggling with their identity. As Marizol transitioned and fought to define herself, Selenis and the family wanted to help, but didn’t always have the language to describe what Marizol was going through. Selenis and Marizol narrate their shared journey, challenges, and triumphs.

I listened to this on audio, which they both narrate since they wrote the book in alternating chapters. This made some of the stories come across as repetitive, but they were told from their personal perspectives. Marizol had a rough transition (which included stealing from her parents, sex work, and intimate partner violence), but it’s important to hear what people go through in a situation like this.

4) I Can’t Date Jesus: Essays, Michael Arceneaux

Description: A collection of essays about what it’s like to grow up as a creative, sensitive black man in a world that constantly tries to deride and diminish your humanity.

I looked up this one after I read and enjoyed his most recent book of essays, I Don’t Want to Die Poor. I didn’t like this one quite as much, but it’s still worth reading.

5) What Makes a Marriage Last, Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue

Description: Power couple Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue have created a compelling and intimate collection of intriguing conversations with famous couples about their enduring marriages and how they’ve made them last.

To celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this year, Thomas and Donahue decided to interview 40 celebrity couples about their marriages.

I liked that this isn’t a self-help book (which I usually can’t stand) or even a relationship advice book. It’s just interviews and conversations with 40 couples. Some of the material got repetitive, but it was interesting to get a glimpse into celebrity marriages and why they’ve lasted as long as they have. Read more in the Washington Post here.

6) F*ck Your Diet: And Other Things My Thighs Tell Me, Chloé Hilliard

Description: By the time Hilliard was 12, she wore a size 12—both shoe and dress—and stood over six feet tall. Fitting in was never an option. That didn’t stop her from trying—she turned to fad diets, starvation, pills, and workouts, all of which failed. A mix of cultural commentary and confessions, Hilliard pokes fun at the all too familiar, misguided quest for better health, permanent weight loss, and a sense of self-worth.

This book has a dumb title, and books written by comedians are always hit or miss for me. However, I liked this one. Hilliard addresses weight, racism, and other serious subjects, and I like that she included many historical references to the things she was talking about.

Not Recommended

7) People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges, Jen Mann

Description: A debut collection of essays from the writer behind the popular blog “People I Want to Punch in the Throat.”

The essays started out talking about her and husband, which were okay, but devolved into motherhood and kids, which I didn’t like. I just wasn’t amused by them.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Chris Abraham August 2, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    Seeing what you’re reading is almost a beautiful portal into your beautiful head! It’s like reading your mind! I love it! The pages of your books are like reading tealeaves!

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