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What to Read Next (No. 228): finding balance in your reading life
I’m a big believer in balancing your reading life with a mix of fluff and not-fluff (any book that takes a little effort or makes you think). While my the kiddos were at their grandparents’ house over the long holiday weekend, my wife and I had some extra reading time.
Yes, I spent a few hours with Middlemarch — which is so so good — but I also read the entirety of A.G. Riddle’s new The Extinction Trials, a fast-paced apocalyptic thriller. And I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences.
(I’m about halfway through Middlemarch after a couple weeks of reading; so you’ll definitely hear about it, but not quite yet.)
Every reading life needs some fluff. Every reading life needs some challenge.
When I read too much fluff, I feel like I’ve just eaten a Costco-sized bag of Doritos. When I read too much heavy stuff, I feel like I’ve eaten nothing but vegetables for a few weeks.
Finding that reading balance, for me, usually means concurrently reading a fluffy novel and a meaty non-fiction book. (Not always, but that’s generally how it works out.) The lightweight stuff goes quickly and the heavyweight stuff a bit more slowly, but it’s a great mix of intellectual stimulation and guilt-free escapist entertainment.
Do you try to find that same kind of balance in your reading life? Or do you approach it a little differently? I’d love to hear!
The Extinction Trials by A.G. Riddle
My fluff for the long, kid-free holiday weekend was A.G. Riddle’s newest book, which is a 460-page post-apocalyptic roller coaster of a read.
He’s been on my radar for a long time as one of those thriller/sci-fi authors who gets a ton of good ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, but doesn’t get any attention in traditional book review outlets. So I was curious to check him out, and he graciously sent me a (signed!) copy of The Extinction Trials.
From the Goodreads description:
After a mysterious global event known only as "The Change," six strangers wake up in an underground research facility where they learn that they're part of the Extinction Trials—a scientific experiment to restart the human race.
That’s all I knew before diving in, and that’s all you need to know, too.
I tell ya what: the story was a barnburner. Without kids around, it took me all of about 24 hours to get through. I didn’t follow every little detail of the somewhat-complicated backstory, but I was desperate to get to the ending. The last handful of pages blew me away; plot twists are a dime a dozen in the modern thriller genre, but this one was truly unique and unforeseeable.
The character-building was a little lackluster, though, and I had a hard time caring about any of ‘em. This is definitely one of those books that focuses on plot above all else. So I wasn’t very emotionally invested in it, even though the pages flew.
If you’re into sci-fi and need a quick rut-busting read, this’ll do the trick for sure. Just don’t go into it looking for a literary masterpiece.
A New Phase of Parenting
As our kiddos reach school age, parenting is quickly becoming less physically taxing —we’re sleeping at night, for the most part — and far more mentally and emotionally taxing. There’s a few things my wife and I are reading and re-visiting as we engage with this new phase and try to figure out how to be more than just life support for our little humans.
The Gift of Failure by Jess Lahey
Easily one of my favorite parenting books, even though I first read it before it was practically applicable in our household. I intend to read it again here soon and take some more detailed notes. If you missed it, I interviewed Jess back in October 2020, and I reviewed her newest book, The Addiction Inoculation, last spring.
The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber
My wife is just about done with this book and has really enjoyed it. In fact, she told me to not only read it, but to buy a copy (she’s reading a library copy) so that we can keep it for easy reference. It’s giving us a lot of practical tips for setting up allowances, creating a spirit of giving, and teaching smart spending.
“The Anxious Child, and the Crisis of Modern Parenting” by Kate Julian
Anxiety among children is skyrocketing. We’re experiencing some of that in our own household and this long article from Kate Julian has been good to return to now and then. Julian is not only an incredible storyteller, but also a compassionate, empathetic parent herself.
That’s all for me this week. Thanks so much for the time and inbox space — it really means a lot to me.