Review: In Sensorium: Notes for My People

In Sensorium: Notes for My People by Tanaïs
Publisher: Harper
Pub Date: 2/22/2022

Thank you to Harper for the free finished copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Fragrance has long been used to mark who is civilized and who is barbaric, who is pure and who is polluted, who is free and who is damned—

Focusing their gaze on our most primordial sense, writer and perfumer Tanaïs weaves a brilliant and expansive memoir, a reckoning that offers a critical, alternate history of South Asia from an American Bangladeshi Muslim femme perspective. From stories of their childhood in the South, Midwest, and New York; to transcendent experiences with lovers, psychedelics, and fragrances; to trips home to their motherland, Tanaïs builds a universe of memories and scent: a sensorium. Alongside their personal history, and at the very heart of this work, is an interrogation of the ancient violence of caste, rape culture, patriarchy, war, and the inherited ancestral trauma of being from a lush land constantly denuded, a land still threatened and disappearing because of colonization, capitalism, and climate change. 

Structured like a perfume—moving from base to heart to head notes—IN SENSORIUM interlaces eons of South Asian perfume history, erotic and religious texts, survivor testimonies, and material culture with memoir. In Sensorium is archive and art, illuminating the great crises of our time with the language of Liberation.

Review: In Sensorium is a memoir that weaves in themes of South Asian perfume history, the history of Bangladesh, and personal reflections. This memoir is told through a Bangladeshi Muslim femme perspective. Tanaïs has such beautiful and lyrical writing that discusses extremely heavy subjects ranging from survivor’s trauma, rape culture, psychedelics to ancient history of violence to name a few. A couple of the aspects that I really loved about this book was learning more about history of perfume along with learning more about history of Bangladesh. I wasn’t really drawn to the personal reflections in the novel from the author, but I understood why they put that in there and the connection/relation to scent and history which made sense. I had a difficult time reading and rating the book as there were some very polarizing views that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but as difficult as it was, I had an open mind learning more about. This isn’t a book I would recommend to everyone as there are some very heavy subjects addressed, but it’s definitely a book that needs to be amplified and we need more books like these out in the world so we can better understand perspectives outside ours.

Review: Be a Triangle

Be a Triangle by Lilly Singh
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pub Date: 4/5/2022

Thank you to Random House for the free finished copy and PRH Audio for the free audiobook in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Everyone–even world-famous actress, author, and creator Lilly Singh–knows that sometimes life just sucks. In this book, Singh provides a safe space where readers can learn how to create a sense of peace within themselves. Without sugarcoating what it’s like to face adversity–including acknowledging her own intensely personal struggles with identity, success, and self-doubt–Singh teaches readers to “unsubscribe” from cookie-cutter ideals.

With her signature blend of vulnerability, insight, and humor, Singh instructs readers to “be a triangle,” creating a solid foundation for your life, one that can be built upon, but never fundamentally changed or destroyed. As she puts it, we must always find a way to come home to ourselves: “we must create a place, a system of beliefs, a simple set of priorities to come back to should life lead us astray, which it definitely will.”

Like a wise, empathetic friend who always keeps you honest, Singh pushes you to adjust your mindset and change your internal dialogue. The result is a deeply humane, entertaining, and uplifting guide to befriending yourself and becoming a true “miracle for the world.”

Review: Be a Triangle is Lilly’s second book, but the first book I’ve read from her. Be a Triangle is a self-help/memoir book that dives into self-love, mental health, social and cultural exceptions, and happiness. If you decide to listen to the audiobook, Lilly narrates it herself. The physical book contains these cute illustrations from Simmi Patel which breaks up the text. This was a super quick read, but it wasn’t really for me. I didn’t really learn anything from the book as the topics she discussed are topics you can find in other self-help books in greater detail. If you’re a fan of Lilly Singh, you may enjoy this.

Review: You Can’t Be Serious

You Can’t Be Serious by Kal Penn
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pub Date: 11/2/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free finished copy of this book Gallery Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: In this refreshingly candid memoir, Kal Penn recounts why he rejected the advice of his aunties and guidance counselors and, instead of becoming a doctor or “something practical,” embarked on a surprising journey that has included acting, writing, working as a farmhand, teaching Ivy League University courses, and smoking fake weed with a fake President of the United States, before serving the country and advising a real one.

You Can’t Be Serious is a series of funny, consequential, awkward, and ridiculous stories from Kal’s idiosyncratic life. It’s about being the grandson of Gandhian freedom fighters, and the son of immigrant parents: people who came to this country with very little and went very far—and whose vision of the American dream probably never included their son sliding off an oiled-up naked woman in a raunchy Ryan Reynolds movie…or getting a phone call from Air Force One as Kal flew with the country’s first Black president.

With intelligence, humor, and charm on every page, Kal reflects on the most exasperating and rewarding moments from his journey so far. He pulls back the curtain on the nuances of opportunity and racism in the entertainment industry and recounts how he built allies, found encouragement, and dealt with early reminders that he might never fit in. And of course, he reveals how, after a decade and a half of fighting for and enjoying successes in Hollywood, he made the terrifying but rewarding decision to take a sabbatical from a fulfilling acting career for an opportunity to serve his country as a White House aide.

Above all, You Can’t Be Serious shows that everyone can have more than one life story. Kal demonstrates by example that no matter who you are and where you come from, you have many more choices than those presented to you. It’s a story about struggle, triumph, and learning how to keep your head up. And okay, yes, it’s also about how he accidentally (and very stupidly) accepted an invitation to take the entire White House Office of Public Engagement to a strip club—because, let’s be honest, that’s the kind of stuff you really want to hear about.

Review: Kal Penn’s memoir, You Can’t Be Serious, was one of my most anticipated books for Nonfiction November. In his memoir, Kal gives us insight into his childhood, his experience in Hollywood as a South Asian man, his political experience working as a White House administrator during the Obama administration, and how he found his partner. Overall, I enjoyed this book! Highly recommend listening to the audiobook for this one!

Review: Will

Will by Will Smith
Publisher: Penguin Press
Pub Date: 11/9/2021

GoodReads Synopsis: One of the most dynamic and globally recognized entertainment forces of our time opens up fully about his life, in a brave and inspiring book that traces his learning curve to a place where outer success, inner happiness, and human connection are aligned. Along the way, Will tells the story in full of one of the most amazing rides through the worlds of music and film that anyone has ever had.

Will Smith’s transformation from a fearful child in a tense West Philadelphia home to one of the biggest rap stars of his era and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history, with a string of box office successes that will likely never be broken, is an epic tale of inner transformation and outer triumph, and Will tells it astonishingly well. But it’s only half the story.

Will Smith thought, with good reason, that he had won at life: not only was his own success unparalleled, his whole family was at the pinnacle of the entertainment world. Only they didn’t see it that way: they felt more like star performers in his circus, a seven-days-a-week job they hadn’t signed up for. It turned out Will Smith’s education wasn’t nearly over.

This memoir is the product of a profound journey of self-knowledge, a reckoning with all that your will can get you and all that it can leave behind. Written with the help of Mark Manson, author of the multi-million-copy bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Will is the story of how one person mastered his own emotions, written in a way that can help everyone else do the same. Few of us will know the pressure of performing on the world’s biggest stages for the highest of stakes, but we can all understand that the fuel that works for one stage of our journey might have to be changed if we want to make it all the way home. The combination of genuine wisdom of universal value and a life story that is preposterously entertaining, even astonishing, puts Will the book, like its author, in a category by itself.

“It’s easy to maneuver the material world once you have conquered your own mind. I believe that. Once you’ve learned the terrain of your own mind, every experience, every emotion, every circumstance, whether positive or negative, simply propels you forward, to greater growth and greater experience. That is true will. To move forward in spite of anything. And to move forward in a way that brings others with you, rather than leave them behind.” —Will Smith

Review: Will Smith’s memoir, Will, explores entertainment life, family, insecurity, and nuggets of wisdom. I enjoyed listening to the audiobook! Will Smith makes the audiobook come alive by adding music and rapping. He jumps around in the book a bit. My favorite parts of the book were the insights of his childhood and his family. It was also interesting to learn more about his rapping and music career, but I wish he went into more details about his movies instead of just stating surface level facts on how much he made for each movie. The last part of the book went more into self help which was interesting and challenged my views. Overall, I definitely recommend listening to the audiobook if you’re a fan of Will Smith!

Review: Greenlights

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 10/20/2020

Disclaimer: I received a free finished physical copy and audiobook copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: From the Academy Award®–winning actor, an unconventional memoir filled with raucous stories, outlaw wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction

I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges – how to get relative with the inevitable – you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights.”

So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.

Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.

It’s a love letter. To life.

It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights – and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.

Good luck.

Review: Greenlights has been in my TBR since late last year when I received a physical copy from Random House. What can I say about the GoodReads Choice Award for Memoir & Autobiography 2020 that hasn’t already been said? First off, I really enjoyed this book! Matthew’s memoir explores taking chances, lessons learned, reminiscing memories, and truths. I loved switching from reading the book and listening to the audiobook. Matthew has notes and photos in the physical book which is fun to go through. The audiobook is also fun because Matthew narrates it himself and I love his way of storytelling. Highly recommend listen to this gem of a memoir!

Review: Barely Functional Adult

Barely Functional Adult by Meichi Ng
Publication: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: 11/24/2020

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of this book from Harper Perennial in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Wielding her trademark balance of artful humor, levity, and heartbreaking introspection, Meichi Ng’s indisputably relatable collection of short stories holds a mirror to our past, present, and future selves.

Featuring a swaddled, gender-neutral, Barely Functional Adult as its protagonist, who says all the things we think but cannot say, this book is equal parts humorous and heartbreaking as it spans a spectrum of topics including imposter syndrome, therapy, friendships, first loves, letting go of exes, and just trying to find your purpose in the world. Prepare to excitedly shove this book in your friend’s face with little decorum as you shout, “THIS IS SO US!”

In this beautiful, four-color collection compiled completely of never-before-seen content, Meichi perfectly captures the best and worst of us in every short story, allowing us to weep with pleasure at our own fallibility. Hilarious, relatable, and heart-wrenchingly honest, This Book Is a Time Machine will have you laughing and crying in the same breath, and taking solace in the fact that we’re anything but alone in this world.

Review: Barely Functional Adult is Meichi Ng’s debut book. This nonfiction humorous memoir is a collection of short stories written in a memoir writing style with graphics. Overall, I thought this was a decent read. The author’s perspective of not being a young nor old person but trying to figure out your place in the world is something many people can relate. I wasn’t too impressed with the graphics in this book and some of the chapters seemed to be a bit random and meaningless. The chapters felt a bit choppy. Overall, I’d recommend reading this only if you are familiar with the author’s Instagram.

Rating: 3/5

Best 9 Books I Read In 2017

This year I decided to pick up my old hobby of reading. I couldn’t remember the last time I read a novel for leisure. I used to read a lot back in middle school and high school and dropped it off after I went to college. After that, I made up excuses of work, lack of time or that I didn’t have the attention span for it anymore. But then something in me changed for the better this year. Getting back into the habit of reading was difficult at first, but I slowly gained momentum and finally realized what I’ve been missing out on these past few years.

When I started to read again this year, I didn’t set up any goals on how many books I would read in a month or how many I wanted to read by the end of this year. I didn’t want to set too high expectations so then I could easily get discouraged.

I don’t think I’ll do a reading goal for next year either. For me, it’s not about the quantity of books. It’s about the quality that I read and finding ones that resonate with me.

Without further ado, here are the best 9 books I read in 2017 in no particular order: Continue reading