Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for October, 2016…
Why Not Me?, by Mindy Kaling – My mom told me that she is starting a tradition of giving me a comedienne’s memoir or book every Christmas. In 2014, I got Yes Please!, by Amy Poehler, and this past year it was Mindy Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me? In Why Not Me?, Mindy continues to mine her life for material – coming up with essays on her brief stint as a sorority girl, a day-in-the-life describing just how insanely busy she actually is, a list of things to bring to her house for a dinner party, and more. (The best: a series of emails between alternate existence Mindy, a hard-partying Latin teacher at a posh NYC private school, and her disapproving colleagues.) I laughed through the whole book and loved every minute.
George, by Alex Gino – This is a charming and sweet middle-grade story about the experience of being a transgendered pre-teen. George knows deep in her heart that she is really Melissa. And thanks to an accepting best friend and school principal, she concocts a plan to let her community see who she really is. I read George in one sitting and loved it (although I agree with my friend A.M.B. that the title really should be Melissa) and I think it’s going to be a tremendously important book to trans kids just beginning to grapple with their gender identity. I’m so glad this book is in the world.
Stella by Starlight, by Sharon M. Draper – Stella is a young African-American girl living in the Jim Crow South, who sneaks out one night and sees something she was never meant to see: a KKK practice rally across the lake near her house. What Stella sees will shake her community to its core. I thought this was an incredibly powerful and well-written YA novel taking on some very difficult subjects. Of course, because the intended audience is children, it shies away from the most frightening. Although bad things happen (spoiler alert!) no one dies and the ending is hopeful, if not completely happy. But it’s a beautiful book and a worthy addition to a diverse young adult library.
Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson – I read Woodson’s memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, last summer and was astounded by her beautiful writing. Feathers wasn’t quite in that class, but it was still excellent. Telling the story of a few weeks in the life of Frannie, a young African-American girl, and her friends Samantha and the Jesus Boy, Feathers takes on issues of faith, friendship, bullying and more. Frannie deals with issues at home – her beloved older brother is deaf and Frannie feels his disability deeply; her father, a truck driver, is rarely home, and her mother is pregnant again after several miscarriages. There’s no real resolution to most of the story lines; the book is really just a snapshot in the life of these characters. But the writing is lovely and lyrical, and I can’t wait to read more from Woodson.
We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I’ve had Adichie’s much-lauded essay (adapted from a TED talk) on my to-read list for ages now, and I’m embarrassed to say that the only thing holding me back from reading it was the fact that none of the library systems to which I have belonged seem to have it in their collections. (Is that embarrassing for me, or for the library?) Finally I wised up and downloaded it to my kindle, and I read it in less than an hour – it’s only about 45 pages, after all. Adichie combines memoir with feminist philosophy and it’s absolutely wonderful. We should all be feminists, indeed, and we should all read We Should All Be Feminists.
The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2), by N.K. Jemisin – In my quest to read more books by diverse authors this year, N.K. Jemisin stands out as a new favorite. I read the first in her Broken Earth trilogy – The Fifth Season – back in February and loved it, so I reserved the second as soon as it came out. As I mentioned in one of my weekly reading posts, there are a couple of story lines – well, really, they are elements to the main character’s back story – that upset me (as a mom, and particularly as a mom to a boy – I’ll leave it at that). But the world-building is great and Jemisin’s writing pulls you into the story in a very satisfying way. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m getting a little burnt out on the sci-fi genre (and will probably read less of it in 2017). But I’m glad not to have missed The Obelisk Gate.
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d (Flavia de Luce #8), by Alan Bradley – How I love a good cozy mystery! I think that the Flavia de Luce series is my favorite currently-in-progress mystery series. I just love Flavia’s voice, and all the supporting characters. (I wish Flavia had a better relationship with Daffy, though. I could see them making a great crime-solving and trouble-causing duo.) In this installment, Flavia has returned to Buckshaw from a short stint at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto – and she arrives to find that her father is in the hospital, and no one will let her see him. Flavia is despondent, until the discovery of a corpse cheers her up. She dives into the mystery surrounding the death and identity of an elderly woodcarver. Meanwhile, it’s clear that Flavia is starting to grow up – there are a few references to her getting older, and it’s poignant. The book ends sadly, but I won’t tell you how. Even with the slightly darker storyline, I’m loving Flavia’s journey and eagerly awaiting the next book.
Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality, by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell – I remember the day the Obergefell v. Hodges case was decided. Like many, I was waiting anxiously for the decision, and I cried tears of joy as I read Justice Kennedy’s opinion striking down same sex marriage bans across the country. “Love wins!” became the slogan of the triumphant gay community and their allies, and Love Wins is the title of this wonderful, wonderful book celebrating the case. It begins with Jim Obergefell and his dying husband, John Arthur (have tissues ready) and the story wends its way through law offices, living rooms and courtrooms until they finally reach the hallowed halls of SCOTUS. You don’t have to be a lawyer to follow the book, though, and I encourage everyone to read it. Just expect to cry, because you will – at the descriptions of John’s difficult childhood, as the story of his diagnosis and death is told, at the depiction of Jim sitting alone in the courtroom, at the ultimate triumph, and at so many more points. This book is fantastic and I hope it’s taught in law schools all over the country.
To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey – I was sort of putting this off, because it’s a tome with small print and densely packed pages. But I loved Ivey’s first (much shorter) novel, The Snow Child, and her sophomore publication has already gotten raves, so I picked it up. Golly, what a gorgeous book. It tells the story of Colonel Allen Forrester, leading the first exploratory expedition into the newly acquired Alaskan Territory, and his young wife Sophie, left back at the Vancouver, Washington barracks. The story is told primarily through Allen’s and Sophie’s personal journals, but interspersed with other journals, articles and correspondence and sprinkled liberally with pictures.
October was a good reading month! I got through some great books, particularly toward the end of the month – Love Wins and To The Bright Edge of the World were the highlights for sure. I’m particularly proud that I managed to tick off nine books in a very busy month – packed with family activities on the weekends, and jammed up at work during the weeks. It’s all good busy, and I’ve been able to squeeze in reading, so I can’t complain. As for what’s next, I’m midway through My Brilliant Friend, so stay tuned to find out if I catch Ferrante Fever! And after that, I have a massive stack of library books and more on hold to pick up, so November is looking like a busy month. I’ll be checking in, of course, with my weekly reading recap posts and it’s looking like another massive round-up for you at the end of the month. Check back!
What was the best thing you read in October?