Recent Reads – Jan & Feb ’19

A pretty eclectic couple months (for me). A self-help/productivity book, some mainstream literary fiction, some psychological thrillers, some action thrillers, some mysteries. Here are the ones that stood out the most.


Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

If you like the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 foot overview of a subject told through engaging vignettes, you will likely enjoy this book by the journalist Charles Duhigg told in a very similar style.

This book focuses on productivity and how someone can improve their choices and actions both in business and in life. It’s structured into 8 different concepts and explains how they can make a difference to your life. Duhigg dives into the science and history behind productivity and explains what you need to do to improve yours.

Duhigg outlines the 8 ‘secrets’ to being more productive in his book starting with motivation, focus, teamwork, goal setting, managing others, making decisions, innovation and finally, absorbing information. Due to personal interest, I found some sections, like the chapter on Disney’s Frozen and the one focusing on teamwork, the most interesting. I found the one on cognitive tunneling terrifying and may never fly commercial again!

I listened to this one on audio, but whether you read or listen it’s well worth some time.


Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Last year I read, and really enjoyed, Horowitz’s The Magpie Murders where he very successfully mimicked Agatha Christie’s village murder tropes. And I heard good things about his Bond novels, so I was keen to read his take on Sherlock Holmes.

I ended up disappointed. I’m not sure exactly why, but I never connected with this book. Maybe he mimicked Doyle and I wouldn’t connect with his novels now either but the characters and plot just never felt dynamic or alive. Everything was done professionally and there were flashes of interest (the creepy boy murderer), but ultimately this one just didn’t click. Some books are like that.

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Full disclosure, it took me two tries to read this one. It took my a bit of time to warm to the main character so this felt like it had a slow build, but I really enjoyed the back half of this book. Ware excels at dropping hints and suggestions and throwaway lines (or are they) that ratchet up the reader (and the character’s) sense of unease, distrust, paranoia and psychological tension. Not an easy thing to do.

I’m not completely sure the villian’s plan made a whole lot of sense, nor that the ending was wholly believable (as these things go) but it was an entertaining read.



She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge

Makes sense that Lodge is also a veteran playwright. Ninety percent of the action in this book feels like it takes place during interviews or in an interrogation room. Much of the police procedural part is just about figuring out who to interview in the cold case next. 

That’s not an indictment at all on the book, just a testament to plotting, skill and quality of the writing that Lodge mostly holds the attention and tension of the reader throughout. Everyone has secrets and they are used to good effect in this psychological thriller. 



Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

One of those books I’ll be recommending for awhile. If the plot has a few creaky moments, it was more than made up for by the almost pitch-perfect mid-90s world building and the intricate characterizations for almost everyone that comes on page, even the one paragraph bailiff.

Very well done and thought provoking on so many issues: parenthood, art, socio-economic class, and mindset.