January Reading Recap: Some Real New Year Book Energy

Published by The Connected Reader on

I told y’all that I can really bring some new year, new you energy to January and this was especially true in my reading life this month. Children’s lit, Young Adult, classic British literature, narrative nonfiction, memoir, thriller/mystery – the world was my reading oyster this month. 

Check out the January reading recap for some recommendations and share in the comments if you have read any of these.

What was your favorite book of the month?

January Reading Recap: My Favorite of the Month

The book Tom Lake by Ann Patchett, on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Bookshop.org   LibroFM

Ann Patchett’s newest book is about a woman, Lara, telling the story of her past life as an actress and her relationship with a man who would go on to be a famous actor, at the request of her three 20-something daughters who are back at home in the spring of 2020. 

I wanted to melt into this book. I felt like I was there, in the cherry tree orchard,  alongside Lara’s girls, listening to her tell this story from the past. Patchett’s writing is transforming, Meryl Streep’s narration is mesmerizing, and the only way this can be topped for me is if Patchett writes her next book so that both Meryl and Tom Hanks can narrate it.

January Reading Recap: Print Books

The book The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo, on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo

Bookshop.org   Libro FM
Kate DiCamillo is basically the John Grisham and Louise Penny of children’s literature. She just keeps cranking out these whimsical stories. I can imagine she’s going about her day, washing the dishes, and it pops into her head to write a story about the journey of five puppets and then she sits down at her computer and bam, there it is. I liked this one as a gentle start to the reading year, and it was intriguing enough for my 8.5 year old to pick up after me, but it’s not sticking with me. I read DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane almost a decade ago and I still remember how it felt. Go pick that one up!

The book The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall, on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

Bookshop.org   LibroFM
This might be my favorite book in the series, after the National Book Award winning first entry, of course. The series follows the adventures of a family of four sisters and their widowed father. This one is written from the perspective of Batty, the 10-year-old youngest sister. I loved it as a read aloud with my 8.5 year old daughter because Batty is dealing with grief and a secret, and I thought Birdsall did a beautiful job of portraying the inner life and voice of Batty, and what it feels like when you are afraid to ask the grownups in your life for help. It all ends well, and offers great opportunities for conversation with the kids in your life. One note: Batty’s older sisters are 16,17, and 18 and there is a lot of talk about boys and relationships where they are concerned. I skipped over a bunch of it as I read aloud because it didn’t feel age appropriate to me for my child, who is at the younger end of the recommended reading band.

The book In The Tunnel by Julie Lee, on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

In the Tunnel by Julie Lee


This is a Young Adult historical fiction novel depicting one Korean family’s life during the split of their country into North and South during the 1950s. I struggled with the pacing and timeline of this one, wanting to spend more time in certain places and feeling like there were big leaps in the narrative. I thought the ending was beautiful and heartbreaking. My 8.5 year old was intrigued and picked it up after me; she’s still working her way through it but is finding learning about this time period in history through the lens of this family engaging. It wasn’t for me, but it may be for you!

The book, Reign by Katherine McGee, on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

Reign by Katherine McGee

Bookshop.org   LibroFM

I loved this fourth and final book in the young adult American Royals series that imagines a modern day United States where the original founders chose to continue with a ruling royal family and all the titled aristocracy that comes with it. The series has always been filled with soap opera drama and this entry is no exception. A young queen in a coma, an even younger interim king with a pregnant girlfriend, and a princess on the run from her royal life. Drama-rama. The plot, paired with the intriguing premise, has always worked for me in this series and I highly recommend it as a fun, lighter read.

The book, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Bookshop.org    LibroFM
I remember reading this as an English Major in college and loving it, which is why I still have my copy from 20 years ago. Ever since reading Mexican Gothic a few years ago, I’ve wanted to re-read this and I picked it up off my shelf to start the new year. I wasn’t disappointed, exactly, but it didn’t resonate the way I remember. I’m still here for Austen’s playful, snarky tone and the commentary on the gothic novel itself, but I found the style of writing to be a slog to read. I think older “classic” novels are just no longer for me in this season.

The book, Feel Good Productivity, on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

Feel Good Productivity: How to Do More of What Matters to You by Ali Abdaal

Bookshop.org LibroFM

This was the January selection for The Connected Reader Read Along this year and I really liked it. You can read my full review here.

January Reading Recap: Audiobooks

The book, Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and The Future of America's Overdose Crisis by Beth Macy on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and The Future of America’s Overdose Crisis by Beth Macy

Bookshop.org     LibroFM

Like many people in the United States, I have personal experience with the opioid epidemic and I find I can’t get enough of books that help me understand how we’ve gotten to where we are. Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty was one of my favorite books of 2023. I read Beth Macy’s first book about the crisis, Dopesick, a few years ago and was interested in this follow up. I thought Macy delivered on this update and I was struck by her representation of the void of coordinated efforts to address the crisis, and how it seems that fragile progress is being made only by individuals who essentially sacrifice their lives to the cause.

The book, The Woman in Me by Britney Spears on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

Bookshop.org     LibroFM

I cannot stop thinking about this book. I know I’m like months late to this party, but I am who I am and stubbornly refusing to be part of a trend is part of who I am. I don’t have anything new to add to the conversation other than this: I don’t know why, but I thought we would be hearing from a Britney further along in her recovery journey and we are hearing from a Britney at the very beginning of the journey and I found that very jarring, painful, and concerning. Couple that with how I started and just could not keep going on Matthew Perry’s memoir this month and I have some real wonderings about the exploitation of celebrities in crisis by the publishing industry. I just hope the experience of writing and publishing this book was empowering for Britney.

The book, Biting the Hand: Growing up Asian in Black and White America by Julia Lee, on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

Biting the Hand: Growing Up Asian in Black and White America by Julia Lee

Bookshop.org     LibroFM

This may be the heaviest book I read all month, and therefore the hardest to write about for me. I appreciated Lee’s ability to describe and share her experience as the daughter of Korean immigrants growing up in LA in the 80s and 90s and navigating the world of the Ivy League as a student and faculty member. I felt the weight of the trauma of Lee’s experience and her making sense of her identity and place in American society. I felt the vulnerability and transparency as she interrogates her own complicity and contributions to racism in America. I felt the hope as she seeks to understand how to move forward in community with other people of color and active white allies.

The book, Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke, on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Bookshop.org     LibroFM

I needed a good mystery/thriller/page-turner audiobook toward the end of this month, and Libby, per usual, delivered. This is the first book in a series about a Texas Ranger and his family in East Texas. In this book, the Ranger gets involved in a double murder case in a small Texas town. Locke uses this setting to explore complicated themes of race, identity, family, and loyalty. On a completely different note, 59 is my favorite Texas highway and it is featured prominently. This one ends in a cliffhanger and I will be reading the next book.

The book, Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo, on The Connected Reader January Reading Recap list.

Mercy Watson Fights Crime and Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo

Bookshop.org     Libro FM Bookshop.org     LibroFM

I don’t love this early chapter book series, but it absolutely got an extra star from me for being available on Libby when we were faced with an hour-long car ride home in traffic from a doctor’s appointment one afternoon this month with three understandably grumpy children in the backseat. If you aren’t familiar, in this series, a husband and wife have a pet pig named Mercy who goes on lots of adventures that always include the neighbor sisters, the local police officer, and the two local firefighters.  It’s one of those children’s books that has too many unanswerable questions and the adult in me is like, I just can’t do it.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Even if you don’t use the links, I highly recommend checking out Bookshop.org and Libro.fm for access to tons of titles while still supporting an indie bookstore.


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