What I’m Reading

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A&F sweatshirt xxs (30% off w/ free ship! see my other loungewear sale picks), shorts xs, Barefoot dreams throw

To be honest, reading for pleasure fell to the complete wayside after I became a mom. But these days, I’ve made it a point of self care to carve out at least 30 minutes to read before bed in complete peace and quiet, as a way to de-stress and unwind from the day and the news. Below are a few books I’m currently reading (and re-reading) – most are actually titles I learned about previously from you guys, so would love to hear again about any books you’re reading now and would recommend!

What I’m Reading

I often end up just using the free Kindle app on my iPhone (especially if I were commuting or traveling), but at night, I don’t bring my phone into the bedroom. Reading on my actual Kindle device is great to not get distracted by social media and emails (and also easier on the eyes in the dark)!

1. Pachinko (fiction)
by Min Jin Lee

I must admit, the book category “historical Japanese fiction” doesn’t exactly capture my interest. However, I just downloaded the free sample of this novel last night (after it popped up as a recommendation) and already found myself reading into the wee hours of the morning! The Kindle sample is actually quite lengthy, enough to give you a good sense of the book and decide if you want to purchase.

The story follows a poor Korean family over 4 generations, starting in the 1900s era during the Japanese colonization. At the fairly early point I’m at, it’s already explored topics of family values, motherhood, survival and strength with storylines that have either warmed my heart, left me feeling uncomfortable, or brought tears to my eyes … basically peeling back my layers of emotion like I’m an onion.

2. No Bad Kids (parenting help)
by Janet Lansbury

This was recommended by several fellow mamas, after I had mentioned Nori discovering her feisty toddler side. While we don’t adhere to any strict parenting philosophies or schools of thought, the book does give you good perspective on what’s inside the mind of your little ones (beyond just “no”, “no” and more “NO!”).

Understanding even just a few tidbits of what makes toddlers tick has helped me stay a little more calm when Nori gets upset, resists, or even has a full on meltdown. I find myself reading a lot of the passages and advice to Nick, so we can help hold each other accountable and attempt to be one united front. You can actually listen to the author’s free podcast, Unruffled, but it’s a little slow moving and I personally prefer the book as one resource. This isn’t a speed read for me, but rather a book that I’ll chip away at every once in a while and will probably re-read as my toddler eventually turns into a three-nager ; )

3. Re-reading: Little Fires Everywhere (fiction)
by Celeste Ng

A couple years ago, I asked for book recommendations on Instagram and SO many of you suggested two books by Celeste Ng, a Boston-area based author. The online reviews are polarizing (ppl are a little trigger happy with 1-star reviews when something isn’t their cup of tea, just like on Yelp), but personally I ended up binge-reading both of her novels in a matter of days. Now that the TV adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere just came out on Hulu (star-studded, but to be honest I wish they cast lesser known main actors), I decided to re-read it this week and found it just as good the second time around.

The main characters are two mothers with very different lifestyles and families, and their lives intertwine in conflicting ways. Throw in a third character (a single-mom and waitress from China who tries to live with a heartbreaking decision), and you’ve got a triangle of class and cultural clash that takes place in a picture-perfect town. It’s a whirlwind of motherhood themes, and my second time around reading this book (now as a mom) it definitely played with my emotions in different ways.

4. Re-reading: Everything I Never Told You (fiction)
by Celeste Ng

This was Ng’s first book, and I can only guess it draws on her upbringing as a child of Asian immigrants growing up in Ohio. While I did enjoy it, be warned it’s slower-paced than Little Fires Everywhere, and the themes are not exactly uplifting. The book starts in a jarring way with the “favorite” child being found dead. The family then tries to untangle the net of relationships, emotions, and secrets that may have led to it. There’s familial favoritism,  overshadowed /forgotten siblings, and gender and race issues to unpack (mother is white, father is second generation Chinese in small town Ohio).

I can see how this book isn’t for everyone, but having grown up in an Asian family with three kids in a predominantly white town, I think I appreciated this read as there were some topics that felt (almost uncomfortably) close to home. I can’t recall all of the details, though, so this is actually next on my list to re-read this week!

I was also thinking of doing a list of “what Nori’s reading” (much longer than mine) soon with some of our favorite books for babies and toddlers!

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  1. Sneha wrote:

    Yes! So glad you are enjoying Pachinko!

    As others have mentioned, Circe (and also The Song of Achilles – same author) is good.

    I can’t remember if you like non-fiction, but if you do, I really enjoyed:
    -Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius
    -Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
    -American Like Me by America Ferrera
    -Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
    -A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley

    Posted 1.30.21 Reply
  2. Jane wrote:

    I’d highly recommend Circe by Madeline Miller. A book that’s ostensibly about gods but delves deep into the human condition. It was precisely the sort of book I’d never pick up (not at all familiar with the classics) but was persuaded by a friend with excellent taste in books (the 4.3 star rating on Goodreads didn’t hurt either). Once I started, I found myself skipping lunches with colleagues just so I could finish a quick lunch elsewhere and get more time to read more of it during lunch break (this was back in the pre-corona days). Kept me reading through the early hours of the morning, and by the end, made me feel as if I’d lived a rich, vast, and incredible life – I really struggle to compare it to any of the 40+ books I’d read last year. Give it a go 🙂

    Posted 3.30.20 Reply
  3. Liza wrote:

    Pachinko and Everything I Never Told You are two of my absolute favorites! If you’re looking for another amazing piece of Asian American fiction, check out The Leavers by Lisa Ko.

    Posted 3.28.20 Reply
  4. Caroline wrote:

    My book club is reading Pachinko later in the year – glad to hear you are enjoying it! We also read Everything I Never Told you a few years ago and also enjoyed it.

    Posted 3.28.20 Reply
  5. Valerie wrote:

    Pachinko is one of my top 3 favorites of all time. Looking for another like it to savor. Am looking into the recommendations that others have posted here!

    Posted 3.27.20 Reply
    • Sneha wrote:

      I loved Pachinko and I heard that East of Eden is similar (I think it takes place across multiple generations?). I am about to start reading it.

      Posted 1.30.21 Reply
  6. Pachinko is on my To Read list. Currently enjoying Last of Her Name, a collection of short stories by Mimi Lok

    Posted 3.27.20 Reply
  7. Brandi wrote:

    Try the Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See – I think you’ll like it if you are enjoying Pachinko. It’s also Asian American/Asian fiction set in both the Pu’erh tea mountains of China and the US.

    Posted 3.27.20 Reply
  8. Andrea wrote:

    Love to read in my free time! 😀 Now I’m starting a new book and you gave me inspiration 🙂
    x, Andrea

    Posted 3.27.20 Reply
  9. Jeannie C wrote:

    You’ll love Pachinko!! It’s a great well written book that spans through the decades. I couldn’t put it down either.

    I have a 14m old so can’t wait to hear what Nori is reading now for ideas. Looking forward to that list!

    Posted 3.27.20 Reply
  10. Jenna wrote:

    I think you might like Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien – about multiple generations of a Chinese family, in China (including during the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square protests) and Canada. It is heartbreaking in places but it is a great book.

    Posted 3.27.20 Reply
  11. Stacia wrote:

    I absolutely LOVED Pachinko! It’s in my top 5 all-time favorite books. I have gifted it to all of my friends (but keeping a copy for myself to re-read someday). I found the writing and story to be sophisticated and yet completely engaging.

    Thanks for this great post – I love to hear what others are reading !

    Posted 3.27.20 Reply
  12. Cathryn wrote:

    I’ve been reading through the Red Winter trilogy by Annette Marie. It’s a beautifully written, modern take on Japanese mythology with a strong female protagonist. I’ve been re-discovering how nice it is to escape into fantasy novels when things are crazy! Plus, it’s a nice bread from endless “Brown Bear” and “Chikka Chikka Boom Boom.”

    Posted 3.27.20 Reply
  13. Jessica Lin wrote:

    A few of my favorites. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Circe by Madeline Miller (really resonated now that I’m a mom). Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

    Let’s start an extra petite book club!

    Posted 3.27.20 Reply
    • Joey wrote:

      I also really enjoyed Americanah and Circe!
      – My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (the entire Neapolitan series is great)
      – In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
      – The Vegetarian by Han Kang
      – My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

      Posted 4.25.20 Reply
  14. Elle wrote:

    Ah thanks for sharing your recent reads; I am going to put Everything I Never Told You on my to-read list. And I want to take this opportunity to plug my favorite book: Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree. I also really like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted and Dale Russakoff’s The Prize.

    Posted 3.26.20 Reply
  15. Jill wrote:

    I enjoyed Pachinko while I was reading it, but found it sad in the end. I really loved Finding Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok. I reached out to Jean Kwok after I read it because I was so moved and she even wrote back to me. I was thrilled to hear from her!

    Posted 3.26.20 Reply

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