Now that I’m a “real” adult (read: a human with a 9-to-5 and bills to pay,) I’ve somehow found myself with more free time on my hands. I no longer have to dedicate my nights and weekends to homework, studying, meetings and the occasional nap or meal.
As a result, in the three months since I graduated I’ve been reading for fun again, somewhat non-stop. I don’t think the pace at which I’ve been reading will be sustainable, but in the meantime I have a decent selection of books I can review each month.
Without further ado, in March 2018 I read:
Eleanor & Park by: Rainbow Rowell
Lullabies by: Lang Leav
The Republic of Suffering by: Drew Gilpin Faust
Appalachian Elegy by: bell hooks
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by: J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany
The Impossible Knife of Memory by: Laurie Halse Andersen
Thirteen Reasons Why by: Jay Asher
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Dark Sparkler by: Amber Tamblyn
Not That Kind of Girl by: Lena Dunham
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by: Ransom Riggs
Hollow City by: Ransom Riggs
Library of Souls by: Ransom Riggs
Scratch by: Manjula Martin
Small Victories by: Anne Lamott
Everything, Everything by: Nicola Yoon
The Better Angels of Our Nature by: Steven Pinker
The Invention of Wings by: Sue Monk Kidd
This is pretty representative of what I read – which is to say, just about everything I can get my hands on. Some poetry, some YA, a few memoirs, a handful of non-fiction (political and otherwise), and contemporary fiction. Keep scrolling for a brief (spoiler free!) review and my thoughts on each of these books.
I had been meaning to get back into YA for a while and I knew this had become a YA staple, so it served as my jumping point back into the genre. Right away, I realized what all the fuss was about, and it was more than well-deserved. Rainbow Rowell created two complex, multi-faceted characters that were so true to their ages and circumstances and they feel in love in the most innocently mesmerizing way. 5/5 stars.
A lot of contemporary poetry, I’ve noticed, has become increasingly free form, like Atticus’s and Rupi Kaur’s. I love their poetry too, don’t get me wrong. But Lang Leav’s strikes a balance between contemporary and traditional, taking some of the thematic and stylistic elements of poetry that is often quoted on Tumblr and mixing it with more traditional forms and rhyme schemes. The result is a sing-song cadence that lulls you into a false sense of innocence and security until the words catch up with you and hit you in the chest. 4/5 stars.
This non-fiction book explores how the American Civil War changed Americans’ attitudes toward death and dying. The death toll of the war was unprecedented in America and created a myriad of problems that the government and the people were unable to face, logistically, ideologically, or religiously. If you’re interested in history, the American Civil War, the macabre, or sociology I would really recommend this. 4/5 stars (and shout out to my 11th grade AP U.S. History teacher for recommending it to me.)
The introduction to this book of poetry alone is worth a read. It’s a nuanced and intelligent look at cultural attitudes toward Appalachia, and particularly toward rural black communities there. In stylistic contrast to the almost academic introduction, the poetry is absolutely beautiful and evocative, painting a vivid picture of a place and a way of life even to those who have never been or experienced it. 5/5 stars.
This is another YA book that I had heard so much about before I read it, and while I don’t really know what I expected, this was isn’t it – it was even better. Like Rainbow Rowell did in Eleanor & Park, Benjamin Alire Saenz created two very different and yet compatible characters, both of which have their flaws and are simultaneously endearing and sympathetic. For anyone looking for a YA book with LGBT and Latino representation, I would highly recommend this. 5/5 stars.
I am a massive Harry Potter fan, but I put off reading this for quite a while, mostly because I heard mixed things about it and was wary of tainting the idyllic world I had in my head. I finally decided to give it a read, and my thoughts are mixed. It was entertaining, and I’d say overall worth my time. It fulfills a little bit of the fantasy of knowing everything that happens to our beloved characters after the end of the Deathly Hollows. It also includes numerous nods to the original series. That being said, the plot was convoluted in a way that was almost trying too hard, something I never thought the original books had to do. And there were also times where the characterization of some of the main characters who were well established in the series, namely a grown Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Draco, didn’t quite ring true. Overall, I’m glad I read it but in my head it is very much separate from the original canon. 3/5 stars.
This YA novel deals with several themes that interest me and that I am playing with in my own writing: the effects of war, PTSD, trauma and memory. I think Laurie Halse Andersen handles them gracefully and weaves them into a compelling story that isn’t dumbed down but is still appropriate for younger audiences. 4/5 stars.
I saw the Netflix show before I read the book, which is not the order I typically like to do things. And while the book was more compact – it’s a relatively short read compared to the length of the show – it still tackled the same big issues. However, in tackling so many big issues (suicide, rape, depression, etc) in such quick succession, it occasionally lacked depth and sensitivity. I’d still recommend reading it, but I think there are other YA books that handle mental health better. 3/5 stars.
This novella is a short read, but one that demands to be devoured in one sitting and then immediately re-read with more care and time. This was my first foray into Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing (though Americanah and Half a Yellow Sun are both on my “to read” list) and her take on intersectional feminism is nuanced, frank, and also beautifully written. I also think it’s a must-read for new parents (mothers and fathers alike.) 5/5 stars.
Of all the poetry I read this month, I think this was the hardest for me to get through, and I mean that as a good thing. Amber Tamblyn’s writing (largely about Hollywood, fame and being a woman in those circumstances) is so layered, the imagery and metaphors so clever, that I had to really take my time reading in order to get the most out of it. It’s stylistically quite different from the other poetry books I read this month, and I would definitely recommend it. 4/5 stars.
This book received some controversial reviews from the Internet regarding Lena Dunham’s relationship with her younger sister and her somewhat white-washed brand of feminism. However, her writing is also witty and insightful. This shouldn’t be the only feminist memoir you read, but there’s no harm in it being one of them. 3/5 stars.
It’s been a while since I’ve read YA fantasy. This is a genre I read almost exclusively in elementary and middle school, and then somewhat lost my taste for as I grew older. However, Ransom Riggs’ quirky characters, world building and morality all worked together to draw me back in the genre and keep me up for several consecutive nights reading the whole trilogy. The first books starts off a bit slowly, but stick with it. You won’t be disappointed. 5/5 stars.
This collection of essays by a diverse group of writers tackle one main theme: how you can make a living as a writer. Money is something we don’t talk about very much, and it is doubly mystical in the writing world where any hope of an income is dependent upon freelancing, second and third jobs, and a whole lot of luck. These straightforward essays don’t shy away from the topic of money, and the struggles of working as a writer, and as a result provide a great starting point for people thinking of breaking into the field.
I love Anne Lamott’s writing – she and Joan Didion have been my obsessions this year. I don’t consider myself a religious person, but Anne Lamott’s musings on Christianity, faith and grace are the furthest thing from preachy and I find them insightful and instructive. Also, Anne Lamott is so real. If you haven’t read anything by her yet, please change that. Bird by Bird is also excellent. 5/5 stars.
This was the last YA book I read in March, and in keeping with the pattern, it was nothing like what I expected, but so much better. I’ll admit I had no conception of the premise of this book when I started it. I was aware it had been made into a movie, but that was it. I think I have a thing for YA with quirky, well-developed characters who fall into such a pure kind of love. Maybe I’m jaded about adulthood? I don’t know. But Everything, Everything was so good, I literally couldn’t put it down. I read through my whole lunch break at work just to finish it. 5/5 stars.
In this hefty book (weighing in at about 800 pages) Steven Pinker exams the declining trend of violence in the past several decades. He seeks to disprove the theory that we are living in exceptionally violent times by proving that actually, in absolute numbers, the world is less violent today than in just about any other time in history. The caveat, of course, is that violence has also changed. Gone are the days of interstate warfare with carefully delineated sides fighting on battlefields. Violent today is waged between non-state actors, increasingly involves civilians, and takes the form of civil wars and genocides. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in foreign affairs or who could use a dose of measured optimism. 4/5 stars.
This was the last book I read in March, and it was a great way to end the month. I had previously read Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Secret Life of Bees, and fell in love with her writing, so I was excited to read her newest work. The Invention of Wings follows two girls in early-19th century South Carolina – one a daughter of a wealthy judge with aspirations of becoming educated, and one her slave, with aspirations of becoming free. It’s a beautifully written book about friendship and adversity and well worth a read. 5/5 stars.
So those are all the books I read in March! I hope you’ll check some of them out – it was a pretty good batch. Stay tuned for what I read in April.