January 2018 Books

February 3, 2018

I read 7 books in January! Not as many as I would’ve liked, but it was a hectic month. There are Amazon links to the books in this post, but they’re not affiliate links because I don’t know how to do that.


White Fur by Jardine Libaire

rating: 4 stars | amazon

The plot:
When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in a housing project without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.

My thoughts:
I liked this book a lot but not as much as I wanted to. The cover is gorgeous (one of those ones that feels really nice under your fingers, too) and I loved the mysterious, almost mythical elements that the summary had, but ultimately this book just didn’t live up to the (self-created) hype for me. The imagery was really beautiful and I loved that not everything was spelled out, but I didn’t like the ending. I think I’m really tired of 1980s novels set in Manhattan where there’s a manic pixie dream girl-ish character.


Sing Unburied Sing by Jesamyn Ward

rating: 4 stars | amazon

The plot:
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager. His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

My thoughts:
I’ll be honest. I didn’t feel like I initially got this book when I read it. It didn’t make a ton of sense to me. But then I read more online (sometimes I feel like reading others’ opinions helps clarify my own) and I grew to appreciate it a bit more.

This book is so well written. It’s heartbreaking and sad and gritty and raw and it’s not a fun read, but it felt important.


All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey

rating: 2 stars | amazon

The plot:

Mixing Didion’s affected cool with moments of giddy celebrity worship, Massey examines the lives of the women who reflect our greatest aspirations and darkest fears back onto us. These essays are personal without being confessional and clever in a way that invites readers into the joke. A cultural critique and a finely wrought fan letter, interwoven with stories that are achingly personal, ALL THE LIVES I WANT is also an exploration of mental illness, the sex industry, and the dangers of loving too hard. But it is, above all, a paean to the celebrities who have shaped a generation of women–from Scarlett Johansson to Amber Rose, Lil’ Kim, Anjelica Huston, Lana Del Rey, Anna Nicole Smith and many more. These reflections aim to reimagine these women’s legacies, and in the process, teach us new ways of forgiving ourselves.

My thoughts:
I did not like this book. A few of the essays were good, but overall it was not a book for me. I appreciated most of her thoughts about celebrities and our relationships to them. Celebrity culture is super weird – we basically idolize these versions of people that are sold to us, with no real regard for whether that’s their actual persona or not. I wish she talked about this a bit more. I will admit I did skip some of the essays about people I didn’t care much for so she may have done that in those. Also, I misunderstood the title; I thought it was going to be about her actual famous friends. That’s totally on me though.



A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

rating: 5 stars | amazon

The plot:
A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

My thoughts:
Somehow I made it to age 24 without ever reading this book! I liked it a lot and I’m excited to see the movie. A quick, easy read and my first L’Engle novel.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

rating: 5 stars | amazon

The plot:
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

My thoughts:
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read this book. I’m committed this year to reading the Harry Potter series all the way through (I’ve said this a million summers now and never done it, but this year I really intend to) and this was obviously the first step!


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

rating: 5 stars | amazon

The plot:
Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

My thoughts:
I loved that this book was a letter to Coates’ adolescent son. I read it one sitting and I found it an important commentary on what it’s like to inhabit a black body in America. I absolutely recommend it, especially if that’s not your situation.


One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

rating: 4 stars | amazon

The plot:
You want less. You want fewer distractions and less on your plate. The daily barrage of e-mails, texts, tweets, messages, and meetings distract you and stress you out. The simultaneous demands of work and family are taking a toll. And what’s the cost? Second-rate work, missed deadlines, smaller paychecks, fewer promotions–and lots of stress. And you want more. You want more productivity from your work. More income for a better lifestyle. You want more satisfaction from life, and more time for yourself, your family, and your friends. NOW YOU CAN HAVE BOTH–LESS AND MORE.

My thoughts:
I’ve been struggling a lot with focusing on one task at a time and a friend recommended this book, so I borrowed it from her. I don’t think I got as much value out of it as she did (a lot of it has to do with the business word or creating your own venture) but I still took a few good things away from it. My favorite was the chapter about setting up your ideal day. I’d love to read it again in a few months and see if I get anything else out of it.


In total this month:

Total number of books: seven
Number of fiction books: four
Number of nonfiction books: three
Books by people who are not white dudes: six
Total number of books this year: seven

2 thoughts on “January 2018 Books

  1. Anne

    You’ve got some great stuff here! I thought Between the World and Me was excellent – such an important read, but also so enjoyable to read because of how well it’s crafted. And I’m glad to see you rated Sing, Unburied, Sing highly – that’s high on my list of books to read next!

    Reply

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