This month’s reading list is a little bit lighter than usual. It was a more TV and movie heavy month. But also, I read my friend Becca’s manuscript (it’s so good!) and chose to remove my review of Carrie Soto is Back after watching this reel by Tomes & Textiles. So this month’s list is small but mighty! Two great non-fiction reads, two thrillers, and one very fun light read. I would say that Token Black Girl and Gilt were this month’s two standouts.
As always, I keep all book reviews over in The Library as well. You can search and filter by genre or grade to easily find your next perfect book. Tell me what to read next in the comments!
Everything I Read in September 2022
Token Black Girl by Danielle Prescod
I absolutely loved this book. I read it in a single day because I could not stop reading. If you are not familiar with Danielle Prescod, she has held some amazing jobs in fashion media and now runs her own consulting practice 2BG alongside Chrissy Rutherford. This is her memoir: of growing up Black in an all white environment, working in fashion (you know I gobble up a fashion girl memoir), tokenism, disordered eating, being too Black, not being Black enough, racism, sexism, and size-ism. It is heartbreaking and difficult to read at times, bitingly funny at others… and ultimately: extremely honest and vulnerable.
She takes us all the way through her childhood (where so much of her identity is whitewashed as she tries to fit in with her white peers), through school where she felt that she had to make herself “perfect” by starving herself and getting painful chemical hair treatments every two months, through college (and finding herself turning into a mean girl), through her career in beauty and fashion. I really think that every person in fashion and media should read this book. Or any white person, really. I loved that besides being personal, it was also educational. I’m not the best at keeping up with pop culture and there was some really racist shit I definitely missed. I loved this book.
I will add that there is one trigger warning for eating disorders:
Danielle is very honest about her eating disorder and the recovery process and know that can be triggering for some. (On a personal note, years and years ago I went to the same nutritionist that she did and I am still impacted by my experience: although rather than triggering I found a lot of comfort knowing that it wasn’t just me.) Overall Score: A+ // Buy it on Bookshop or Amazon.
Burn Rate by Andy Dunn
I had been eagerly anticipating this one as I worked in the startup world during Bonobos’ peak era – we were watching everything they did. I had seen Andy Dunn speak a few times and knew quite a bit about him from mutual friends, and was really curious what his book would be like. This is his memoir – of founding (and building Bonobos) and his experiences as a person living with bipolar disorder. Entrepreneurship and mental health. I have to be honest, I like him more after reading this. It’s really vulnerable, raw, and honest — I think a lot of people will benefit from his experience. He isn’t afraid to admit where he makes mistakes and we also see the prevalence of mental health in the startup community. (It takes a very specific personality both when it comes to creativity, performance, drive, etc. to found a startup.)
The book follows him from college where he had a scary manic episode through graduate school (where he sweeps it under the rug, seeing his diagnosis as an unspeakable shame) through founding and ultimately selling Bonobos. I enjoyed it. The startup/entrepreneurship parts and bits about living in New York were nostalgic for me and I appreciated his vulnerability. Overall Score: B+ // Buy it on Bookshop or Amazon.
Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten
This came recommended to me (actually in a funny way, a bookstagrammer tagged me saying thank you for the recommendation but I had not read or recommended it) and I only netted out medium. Kate O’Brien is a scholarship student at an elite New York City girls’ school with a singular goal: getting into Yale. She works two jobs and lives in a basement room in Chinatown. With a secretive past and no one to support her but herself, she has learned to take care of herself no matter what she has to do. She will lie and charm her way to the top. When she meets wealthy, damaged Olivia Sumner, she’s found her mark. Pretty soon, she is living with Olivia in her Upper East Side penthouse and the two are best friends… sisters they never had.
Enter Mark Redkin, the handsome new head of fund-raising for their school. Olivia becomes smitten (and very fixated on Redkin) in a dangerous way. Redkin has the power to destroy everything that Kate has worked for, and that is when things get very dark (and start to go off the rails). I enjoyed reading this but I felt it went a little too far. It was entertaining but with so many great books out there, I’d say that you can probably skip this one! Overall Score: B // Buy it on Bookshop or Amazon.
When She Returned, by Lucinda Berry
I cannot for the life of me remember who told me to read this but it sounded right up my alley: a woman (wife and mother Kate Bennett) vanishes into thin air one day; leaving behind her husband and 5 year old daughter. There are no signs of struggle, even her purse is just neatly left on the passenger seat of her car in a parking lot. Eleven years later she shows up at a Montana gas station: haggard, with scars all over her body, clutching a baby. Meanwhile, her husband Scott has moved on and remarried… and her daughter Abbi barely remembers her mother. The story alternates between then (told by Kate) and now (told by Abbi and Meredith – the new wife).
As the family takes Kate in and attempts to reintegrate her into society, we learn more and more about what happened to Kate. Sinister secrets, abuse, etc. I felt that this started really strong but kind of fell apart. There are holes in the story and the ending felt a little bit lazy / off the rails to me. I still enjoyed it but was let down by the last twenty percent of the book. I would still recommend it (especially if you love thrillers about cults) but I only netted out medium on this one! Overall Score: B // Buy it on Bookshop or Amazon.
Gilt, by Jamie Brenner
My mom read this and told me that I had to read it because she knew I would love it. (She was right, as always!) Set between New York City and Cape Cod (my two homes/favorite places besides Charleston), it was just so good! The Pavlin family has built a jewelry empire based on love but (all thanks to a PR stunt years ago), its family is divided. Two sisters aren’t speaking to each other, one is dead, and the one grandchild is estranged from everyone and living in poverty. When Gemma Maybrook graduates from college she has one goal: to track down her mother’s famous engagement ring, the Electric Rose (a 30 karat pink diamond). Orphaned after a tragic accident, it is all she has left of her mother.
Meanwhile, her aunt Elodie is trying to auction off the family’s most precious jewels and her other aunt, Celeste has escaped to Cape Cod. A series of events bring them together and secrets come out. This book is packed with twists and turns and a very satisfying ending. I loved it. It’s the perfect feel good read. Overall Score: A- // Buy it on Bookshop or Amazon.