Maris Degener

6 Mini Book Reviews

Maris Degener
6 Mini Book Reviews

It’s no secret that I love to read.

When I was a kid, I would bring a giant canvas grocery bag to the library and fill it with books until it weighed as much as I did. I’d haul my bounty back home, plop myself down in front of the heater in my room, and pour over their pages for hours. Books offered me a way to see the world from the comfort of my own home, something that, looking back, I shouldn’t be surprised appealed to an anxious little kid like myself.

Although my ability to spend hours a day reading has grown more limited as I’ve gotten older (turns out when you’re an adult you have to have a job and go to college and things like that, who knew), I still try to sneak in some “reading for pleasure” alongside my “reading for school.” It’s my favorite way to get away from the infinite scroll on my phone before bed, and I always find I sleep better when I don’t spend my last few hours before sleep shining a bright screen in my face.

Today I’ll be sharing some books I recently read and my thoughts on them. They’re a good blend of both fiction and non-fiction, and hopefully you find something that appeals to you.


The New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander

Although I read this book for school, it’s one that’s been on my list for quite awhile. This book is remarkable in every way to me: it challenges common assumptions with grace, it employs persuasion that feels confident yet non-aggressive, and it doesn’t pretty to offer any easy answers without leaving you feeling hopeless.

If you’re anything like I was before starting to study social justice at school, you might have a general sense and knowing that racism and xenophobia plague our society, but might not be able to easily articulate exactly how it plays out in modern times, this book is for you. I truly believe this book should be required reading for life.


The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Translation and Commentary by Sri Swami Satchiddananda

The first time I read this book was for my teacher training in 2014, and I’m not sure that I’ve met anyone who says they’ve “gotten it” on the first read. My most recent cover-to-cover re-read of the sutras was this summer, and my experience with it reminds me of this quote from Heraclitus:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”

Each time I’ve read it, it appears differently to me, as I’m in a different place in my yoga journey. These are the threads, the seeds of the practice, and yet they’re not hard-and-fast rules or unshakeable tenents. So much of it is left to the interpretation of the reader, and I highly recommend that if you’re a yoga student, teacher, or just curious about yoga, you dive in and see where this practice came from so long ago.


Perfectly Imperfect

Baron Baptiste

This book was gifted to me by a friend in Vancouver right before I headed back to California. My flight ended up being cancelled at the last minute, offering me plenty of time to read through what is now one of my favorite books on yoga.

Baron Baptiste is a true master at what he does, and yet in this book you feel more like he’s allowing you to peek into his own personal yoga journey than he is telling you “the right way” to teach yoga. The result is a book filled with gems and tools you can either pull off the shelf when it feels right, or leave behind for someone else to take. Reading this book created a tangible shift in my practice and teaching, and gave me a deeper respect for the experiences Baptiste creates in his classes. Although I’ve only been able to practice with him in person once, it was an experience I’ll never forget (which lends me to believe he knows what he’s talking about).

My biggest takeaway from this book is that ultimately as teachers, it’s our duty to step out of the way of the yoga. Less is more, simple is enough, the yoga comes before the ego of the teacher.



Ken Grimwood

Although I tend to lean more towards non-fiction, this novel kept me up late into the night just to see what would happen next. A psychological thriller that seems simple on the surface and only gets more confusing as it goes on, this one is hard to describe without giving anything away. I recommend this one if you’re looking to be a little spooked out, and don’t recommend it if you’re not looking to have an existential crisis.


The Sound of Gravel

Ruth Wariner

This book was one I grabbed off the sale shelf at the bookstore because, why not? I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be so enthralling, eye-opening, and heartbreaking. Written with brutal honesty and a somber brand of nostalgia, The Sound of Gravel was easy to put down only in the sense that I needed time to process each of the dramatic happening in Wariner’s life. While every trigger warning out there applies to this book, I have to recommend it for the value it offers to those seeking the better understand the true effects sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, and growing up in an oppressive cult has on a child.


The Cyber Effect

Mary Aiken, PhD

This book is fascinating, eye-opening, and a little bit terrifying all at once. I highly recommend this book if you’re someone like me that works online and feels like they spend all day “tuned in.” It’s honestly made me reevaluate my relationship with technology and make some real changes.

Aiken approaches technology from every angle: everything from addiction to online shopping, how technology is affecting crime, and how parents can help their kids develop a healthy relationship with technology in a world filled with it. I love that Aiken appreciates the value technology brings to our lives, while still being realistic about the effects it has on our society and individual lives. It’s engaging and filled with wild stories that will have you forgetting just how much you’re learning.

More of my book recommendations are here.