My January 2024 Top Reads – Plus Honorable Mentions!


It took me a few years to get around to this one, but good lord was this book worth the wait. Crying in H Mart is a memoir, but it does not read like one by any means.
This story resonated with me on MANY levels: that of a mixed-race Asian American woman who desperately wants to feel connected to her culture, of someone who has mental illness but doesn’t really know why, and of someone who doesn’t always have the easiest time communicating/connecting with family.
I saw myself reflected in Michelle Zauner’s intimate moments of insecurity; moments that are usually so private they almost feel like they don’t exist (because they don’t outside of our heads). She reminded me so much of myself, with added layers of her heartbreaking experience losing her mom at such a young age to cancer. Of course I cried and considered my own mortality and the mortality of everyone around me. I feel like this book gave me a more forgiving outlook on many things. Zauner’s writing was so immersive that it felt very personal to me when her mother ultimately passed and it freaking hurt my heart so so much. It gave me the tiniest glimpse into a future that most of us dread. I don’t know how or why, but even though Michelle Zauner and her mother are both complete strangers, this book made a big impact on my soul.
That said – I highly, highly recommend this book (and also Zauner’s band, Japanese Breakfast – named so despite being Korean).


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine took me totally by surprise. It was an obligatory read for a work book club that I am technically in but have only participated in one single time. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to read and so I started this and it didn’t catch my interest at first at all. I found the main character (Eleanor) amusing and fascinating at times, but just expected this novel to be a typical comedic romance that I’d get through very quickly.
Turns out I was way off base. This book had a similar effect on me as Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. It’s a genre I don’t typically seek out: there’s no magic, no mythological monsters, no house with malevolent intent. I love it when a book that I’m totally taking for granted proves me completely wrong by just being one of the most gut-wrenching stories I’ve ever read. My heart ached, broke, shattered, grew like 10 sizes. I cried happy tears. All of the emotions showed up with this one, and when I was almost through I realized I didn’t want it to end because it became a story of someone just continuously improving themselves in a very normal, very relatable way (therapy, friendship, self-reflection).
Umm, so I’ve said a whole lot of nothing and I don’t want to give anything away, but I do need to say that Eleanor felt a lot like an NCP in her own story who was on her way back to reality. However ugly that reality was.
Truly a beautiful story and very inspiring. Definitely check out the content warnings – I highly recommend, but this book may not be for everyone.
I’ll leave you with this quote that only has a little bit to do with the story but that I loved:
“I’d made my legs black, and my hair blond. I’d lengthened and darkened my eyelashes, dusted a flush of pink onto my cheeks and painted my lips a shade of dark red which was rarely found in nature. I should, by rights, look less like a human woman than I’d ever done, and yet it seemed that this was the most acceptable, the most appropriate appearance that I’d ever made before the world.”


The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide (4/5 stars) – sweet, simple, quick read
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (4.5/5 stars) – post-apocalyptic, fantasy

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