- Deadly Beautiful: Vanishing Killers of the Animal Kingdom by Liana Joy Christensen. Definitely enjoyed this book. I usually prefer my natural history type book a little more focused and in-depth, but sometimes a book like this really hits the spot. Christensen divides the book into nine chapters, each focusing on a category of animals that people tend to think of as dangerous. For example, there’s a chapter on snakes and a chapter on bears and so on. And each chapter contains many small sections, each a page or two or three long, which focus on one aspect of the animal(s) in question. It’s immensely readable, light natural history, and yet still contains a lot of important information. And she is extremely respectful of all the animals, including us humans. (I’m using this book for #6–a book about nature–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
- My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi. This manga memoir has an almost painful innocence to it. The author shares her story dealing with depression and eating disorders and her sexuality and her need to break away from the expectations of her parents with such openness and honesty.
- So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo. There are so many outstanding books about race these days. Living steeped in white privilege, I don’t think it’s possible for me to read enough of them. Because honestly, the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. I borrowed this from the library, but will *definitely* be buying a copy to own. Because not only would I like to read it again from start to finish, but Ijeoma Oluo wrote this book not just to educate but as a real practical guide to help us all be able to talk about race and racial oppression. And then she shares ways to go beyond talk to begin to dismantle the systemic racism and white supremacy in our country. I feel confident in saying this will make my best books list at the end of the year, no matter how I choose to define best, be it “favorites” or “most important” or “unputdownable.” (I’m using this for the racism category of my dig deeper reading challenge.) A quote that I think will stick with me forever:
Often, being a person of color in white-dominated society is like being in an abusive relationship with the world. Every day is a new little hurt, a new little dehumanization. We walk around flinching, still in pain from the last hurt and dreading the next.
- Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. It’s hard to know what to say about this sort of memoir, a memoir by someone who witnessed and lived through such horror. While books about the inhumanity that humans are capable of are never easy to read, they are so profoundly important. Primo Levi shares meaningful insights about human nature in sharing the stories of his time in Auschwitz. And at times his writing is just so beautiful, and thus is so incongruous with the subject.
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This is the first fiction book I read this month, which is a bit odd. It’s also odd that I made it this far into the month before deviating from my monthly tbr pool. I’ve meant to read this since it first came out and everyone was raving about it, but well, there’s that whole too-many-books-too-little-time thing. I picked it up now because Max really wants to go to the movie when it comes out. (This is one of the very few books that that reluctant reader offspring of mine has voluntarily read in the past few years.) Anyway, it was really what I needed after a string of less than happy nonfiction. I was sucked in completely by the story. And while I wouldn’t say it was perfect, I will say that I loved it in spite of the few moments that made me cringe.
- A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. I honestly don’t know what to say about this book, but I am glad I finally read it. And I suspect much of what Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela discussed will stick with me and leave me pondering for a long time. She writes this book from the perspective of a clinical psychologist and a person who served on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a black woman who grew up under apartheid and a human being. She tells of her meetings in prison with Eugene de Kock, who commanded the state-sanctioned death squads. But it’s not really a book about his horrendous actions so much as it’s a book about how people move forward after overwhelming atrocities. She makes a case for empathy and forgiveness. As unfathomable as that sounds on the surface. (I’m using this book for #5–a book set in one of the five BRICS countries–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
…There were times when he described details of his violent past with a vividness that was frightening. He had belonged to a world that created violence, I to a world that was the object of this violence; he belonged to a world where morality meant the same thing as hate, and I to a world that knew the difference. Our worlds were the black and white of lies and truth, and yet as de Kock spoke, the boundaries of our worlds did not always seem so clear.
- Good Bones by Maggie Smith. A collection of poetry that shares the fierce, protective nature of motherhood and the anxiety that comes from living in this world. As is the case with most poetry collections, not every poem resonated with me in quite the same way or with quite the same intensity. Yet still this collection felt so very cohesive. A few of these poems will sit in my soul for eternity, and to ask any more from a poetry collection seems greedy. A few lines from one of my favorites, “Let’s Not Begin”:
I’m trying, I am. For her.
If list everything I love
about the world, and if the list
is long and heavy enough,
I can lift it over and over–
repetitions, they’re called, reps—
to keep my heart on, to keep
the dirt off. Let’s begin
with bees, and the hum,
and the honey singing
on my tongue, and the child
sleeping at last, and, and, and—
- Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams. This essay anthology was so awesome. Written by a variety of marginalized women, every essay had something to teach me. I found myself in turns awed and broken-hearted and humbled. There were points made and stories told that I so very much related to, but there were more times when I found myself schooled about things that my white privilege had allowed me not to see. While it’s true that I am a mother, I don’t think one needs to be to benefit from these essays. I truly loved this book hard. Thanks Bina, for bringing it to my attention! (I’m using this book for #22–an essay anthology–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
- Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Baker and Julia Scheele. An excellent introductory book on queer theory. While it contains a lot of information, it is extremely accessible. I not only enjoyed this a great deal, I definitely also learned quite a bit. (I’m using this for the red spine of my reading the rainbow challenge, and for the racism category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)
- 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Enjoyed this one more than I expected to. Honestly not sure why, but this is one of King’s books that never called out to me. I think it’s the time travel thing–I tend to let my head get tied up in tangled knots when it comes to time travel. Anyway, I ended up loving this book! As is always the case with King’s books, it’s the characters who steal the show for me. He writes what I usually consider thoroughly compelling, page-turning stories…but still it’s the authentic, flawed, lovable or hatable characters who make me treasure his books. I cried probably half a dozen times for the characters in 11/22/63. Not that this is unusual for me, but a book that makes me care enough to bring tears generally earns a few extra points from me. (Thank you, Michelle, for urging me to pick this one up this month!)
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. This little novella was a taste of pure sci-fi fun. It felt so fresh. Sometimes a novella feels more like a short novel and sometimes more like a long short story. This felt more like the latter to me. I’m not even sure if that makes sense outside my head. Anyway, I am looking forward to spending more time with Binti in the next two books in the series. (Using this for #15–a one-sitting book–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
Eleven books for March, down from the both January and February, but still pretty good for me. For some reason my reading really slowed down toward the end of the month. So You Want to Talk About Race and Revolutionary Mothering were my favorites, and in a very different way, I really loved 11/22/63 as well. And there wasn’t a single book that I didn’t enjoy, so I’m calling it another great month!
Some random thoughts:
- Marginalized voices made up just over half of my reading, which disappoints me a bit, as I’d like that percentage to be higher. (5 books by authors of color, 3 by lgbtq+ authors, and one disabled+ author, obviously with some overlap)
- I seem to have been on a non-fiction kick this month, though it wasn’t deliberate. 8 of the 11 books I read were non-fiction. Nature, memoir, poetry, social justice.
- One audiobook. Nine physical books. And 11/22/63 I read partly as a physical book, but then broke down and bought the ebook because I was having too hard a time holding the massive hardback.
- Five were from my own shelves, one I borrowed from Max, four were from the library, and the audiobook of Binti was from Scribd (which I just rejoined when I heard they’d gone back to unlimited books).
- A book of poetry and a book of essays this month. Two graphic nonfictions.
- As I’ve mentioned before, I sort of suck at assigning genre, but I think all three of the fiction books I read this month could be classified as sci-fi. That is definitely not the norm for me.
- The longest book for me this month was 11/22/63, at 849 pages in the hardback version. And the shortest was Binti, at 96 pages in the paperback version (though I listened to the audiobook).