What I Read This Month

What I Read This Month: October 2019

Wow – it has been a while. In the unpredictable way that life tends to go, this blog had to take a back seat to a lot of personal family stuff that happened this time last year. But I’m really happy to be trying to get back into it. So here is everything I read this October!

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
Winter Hours by Mary Oliver
I’ll Be Gone In the Dark by Michelle McNamara*
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel
The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker
Dunkirk by Joshua Levine*
Algedonic by rh sin
Clatter by Neil Hilborn
New American Best Friend by Olivia Gatwood
Smoke and Mirrors by Michael Faudet
School’s Out – Forever by James Patterson
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson
The Final Warning by James Patterson
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Well-Read Women by Samantha Hahn
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello
Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Winter of Summers by Michael Faudet
Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better by Madisen Kuhn
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Call Them By Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit
Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

*listened to the audiobook

And without further ado, here is my (spoiler-free) review of some of the books I’ve read. If you see a book on the list above, that is not reviewed below, it does not mean I disliked the book or found it boring or problematic. It simply means I didn’t feel I had anything especially worth while to say about it.

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

I picked up this book because I was morbidly fascinated with the profession of trauma cleaning. This book explores that – every other chapter explores a space that was cleaned – but it also explores how someone could heal from their own trauma by assisting others in their healing. The whole book is a really fascinating examination of identity, family trauma, and healing. 4.5/5 stars.

Winter Hours by Mary Oliver

I have only recently started getting into Mary Oliver’s writing. I previously read Upstream, and some of the essays from that collection were reprinted in Winter Hours. I love the way she writes about nature and the human and creative connection to nature. 4.5/5 stars.

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark by Michelle McNamara

This was one of my first forays into true crime writing. I listened to the audio book, and I was concerned that would make it difficult to follow all of Michelle’s meticulous research. However, she did such a wonderful job of weaving witness testimony and evidence into a compelling narrative, that it was very easy to get sucked in and follow along. 4/5 stars.

Fun Home & Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel

I read both of these graphic memoirs by Alison Bechdel back to back. I had not previously read any of her work, and was really only familiar with her in relation to the Bechdel Test. I didn’t realize how much her writing involved psychology and LGBT themes. Both of these graphic novels can be a bit heavy on academic theory at times, but it is presented in a way that fits in the story, and is an incredibly analytical look at her own upbringing and family. 4/5 stars,

Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

I read this poetry collection in ebook and then immediately purchased a physical copy so I could mark it up. This was the kind of poetry collection that was lyrical and heartbreaking and though-provoking at first pass, but I know I need to re-read it to unpack all the layers. 5/5 stars.

Maximum Ride Series 1-4 by James Patterson

Solely for reasons of fun and nostalgia, I revisited the first half of this YA series that I read as a teenager. It is not the most literary or well-conceived YA (there is a lot of absolutely killer YA out there) but the premise is fun and the protagonists voice keeps you turning the pages. 3.5/5 stars.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Ok I haven’t delved into a new YA fantasy series in a long time, but this sucked me right in and I absolutely loved it. The brand of fantasy was my favorite kind – contemporary, supernatural, inspired by history and myth. The characters were enigmatic and well-drawn. I tore through all four books. 5/5 stars.

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker

Now that I’m no longer a student, I find myself wanting to learn about academic subjects, but not always by delving into jargon-y dense journal articles. This book serves as a readable, comprehensive introduction to Queer Theory for anyone with an interest in it, regardless of background. 4/5 stars.

New American Best Friend by Olivia Gatwood

Of all the poetry collections I read in October, this and Ocean Vuong’s collection (reviewed above) were my favorite. Olivia Gatwood painted a fascinating portrait of adolescence and girlhood that strikes the perfect balance between close enough to my experience to be relatable, and different enough from my own experience to widen my perspective. 4.5/5 stars.

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

This book explores the complex ways in which real estate and law have been manipulated to disenfranchise people of color across the United States, ever since the Civil War and abolition of slavery. While it focuses on a few specific case studies (including California) it clearly defines the national trends that need to be addressed at the national level. 4/5 stars.

We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson

I enjoyed Shirley Jackson’s writing, and the spooky atmosphere of the novel, despite its lack of any true supernatural elements. However, there were times where I found the pacing a bit slow, and the ending predictable. Overall, though, an enjoyable read. 3.5/5 stars.

Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello

This was such a brilliant essay collection. Each essay is centered around an animal, but the essays experiment with different forms and underlying themes to create a beautifully varied, insightful, and gripping collection. 5/5 stars.

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

This is the sequel to Rainbow Rowell’s acclaimed novel “Carry On.” My first impression, upon simply picking the book up, was that it appeared significantly shorter than the first. However, it was no less jam-packed with adventure or enjoyable antics. The characters from “Carry On” develop further as they experience life outside Watford, and Rainbow Rowell does a wonderful job of handling the mental toll of being a former chosen one. 3.5/5 stars.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

I think this book should be required reading for anyone who is on social media and has witnessed or participated in “cancel culture.” It is thorough, and gentle with its subjects, without excusing their wrongdoing. Jon Ronson is very honest about his own experiences online, and the appeal of tearing apart bullies on the internet. 5/5 stars.

Call Them By Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit

I love Rebecca Solnit’s writing. I simply adore a woman who is scathing and smart, and she is both those things as she excoriates President Trump in this collection of essays largely written between 2016 and 2018. 4.5/5 stars.

Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

I was hooked on this book from the prologue. Whitehead took a compelling premise from history and fictionalized the story of two boys experiencing a racist, brutal reformatory school in Florida in the sixties. It’s a short book, but it packs a lot into those pages, including an incredibly twist ending. 5/5 stars.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli

This was a really sweet collection of mini biographies of history-making women, told in the format of bedtime stories. It was informative, and the illustrations were stunning. I would definitely recommend this as a gift for young children. 4/5 stars.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The first chapter or two of this book took some getting used to. It is told in the second person, with the “you” being an American traveler in Pakistan who is listening to the protagonist’s story. However, once I adjusted to the narrative style, I found myself on the edge of my seat, waiting for the (sadly, inevitable) climax in a recently post-9/11 America. 4/5 stars.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

This novel tells the beautifully complex love story of two relative strangers who are forced together by the circumstances of their refugee status. There is a magical realism element as well that is fascinating and dynamic. 4.5/5 stars.

What was your favorite book that you read in October?

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