Friday, July 31, 2020

July Books

I can't believe my goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (ha, I ended up with 88 in 201777 in 2018 and 67 in 2019!) has morphed into this passion for books. As you can see, my reading has slowed a bit, but my love for books has not! In the past couple years I've added longer distance races (which means more time running/ training and less time reading), we've remodeled our condo (I think it legit took us six months to finish the whole thing... DIY seems to take twice as long {and cost twice as much} as you originally think it will), and I've added another part time job (which means I'm now working 40ish hours a week, cutting down on my reading time). Even still, I love getting my read on whenever I can.

Truth be told, I was never much of a reader when I was younger (CliffsNotes were my best friend when it came to books), but recently I fell in love. Although I may not read at the same speed as I previously did when I first caught the reading bug, I still want to keep the hobby going (and what better form of accountability than to post a list of the books I finished at the end of the month?!). I don't have any set number of books I am shooting to read this year, but hopefully a lack of goal doesn't mean a lack of books completed. So, without further ado, let's jump into everything I read in July!

  • All Boys Aren't Blue by George M Johnson - I don't remember how I came across this audiobook on my Hoopla app, but I am glad I did. This is a memoir (he also deems it a manifesto because the story is not only his story, but one that many in his community faces) of a black, queer man. He shares his journey growing up and how his experiences shape him. The author's hope in writing this was to change the narrative of how people view Black families raising LGBTQ Black children. I am sure writing this book was not easy, having to relive some of the traumas George experienced had to be gut-wrenching, but I appreciate his courage and determination to share his truth with the world. He shows readers how to love, forgive and embrace those things that may be different or not yet understood. No matter your gender, sexual identity or sexual orientation, this is an inspiring, honest and vulnerable story that folks need to hear. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva - I had been listening to a lot of "heavy" books lately, so I thought I would snag a Young Adult novel. Hold My Hand is about teenage love. Friendships and relationships are tested in this coming-of-age novel that kept me entertained while I was walking to work, riding my stationary bike or walking on my lunch break. I found myself not only enveloped in the story, but also thinking about things like how kids learn about sex (for example, in health class, if you are taught something other than abstinence, you are more than likely taught about heterosexual intercourse - but how do people who fall outside of the heterosexual "norm" learn?). I really enjoyed this book (and didn't realize that this was the second book in a series, but obviously it can stand alone seeing as I didn't know there was a sequel until I went to grab the link for the book, so I guess I will have to go looking for One Man Guy soon ;)). I would give it a 8 out of 10.

  • Loving vs Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell - At work, one of my responsibilities is to fill out our monthly calendar. We add in a bunch of "silly" holidays - like National Macaroni Day, but then there are also some serious ones that I sprinkle in as well. One of them was Loving Day (June 12th), which commemorates when the Supreme Court ruled to disband all anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 (laws that made mixed-race marriages illegal). This is a novel based on the landmark case. It was a quick read (or, in my case, listen), but I loved every second of it. The story goes back and forth between the perspective of Millie and Richard, starting during their courting and ending with the Supreme Court ruling on not only their marriage, but all interracial marriages. I knew about the case and obviously knew there was a real couple behind the legal cause, but actually seeing "Loving" as Millie and Richard made it come alive. This was originally written for 7th through 12th graders, but it is a story that adults and youth alike need to hear/ learn. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • George by Alex Gino - While scrolling through my Hoopla app to find another book to listen to on my walks, I came across this one. I didn't know anything about it, but it was fairly short (just under 3 hours), so I figured I'd give it a try. Although it is technically a children's book (written for grades 3-7), I have to say I really enjoyed it. The story was about George, a child struggling to find their way in fourth grade. George has known for an extended period of time that she is a girl, but sharing that with those around her is a daily battle. I appreciate the author writing about a young, trans female and giving children children in the LGBTIAP+ community representation. Because it is written for a younger audience some experiences are simplified (understandably so), but I feel it is still an important book for young and old readers to dive into - no matter your gender or sexual orientation. George is simply looking for what all of us want - acceptance. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Rick by Alex Gino - After finishing George, I saw that there was a second novel by the same author - Rick. Seeing as I enjoyed the first one so much, I knew I had to give this one a listen (which was actually read by the author). Rick was a character in the George story (originally a friend to George, but fell in with a bad crowd and quickly turned enemy and tormentor - even if only by proxy). The story picks up the characters in sixth grade (out of elementary school and now in middle school), where George has transitioned to Melissa and Rick is starting to see his friend, Jeff, is actually a jerk. Like the previous story, it is written for a younger audience, but the topics are still important for all of us. Rick begins attending the Rainbow Spectrum, a LGBTQIAP+ club. It is there where he has his eyes opened to not only people who are different from him, but even to who he is himself. He also starts hanging out with his grandfather around this time and the relationship that the two of them create is awesome and heartwarming. As with the first novel, I think everyone should read it. I love that there are more books out there with non-binary characters. I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins - I'll be honest, I was hesitant to grab this book. I mean, a prequel to The Hunger Games?! I love the series and wasn't sure if A. having Snow as a main character would be something I could fully invest in (since he is such a villain) and if B. it would live up to the other books. Well, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I'm not going to say it was my favorite in the series, but it held its own and I was actually impressed with how the author was able to get me to like and/or sympathize with Snow, at least at different parts in the story. I am not going to give anything away, but it was awesome to be able to get a little behind-the-curtain look at what made President Snow the person he was by the time we met him for the 74th Hunger Games (the story takes place when Snow is 18 and they are celebrating the 10th Annual Hunger Games). As with most prequels, you know the ending (I mean, he couldn't die in any of the predicaments he finds himself in, right?!), but I still enjoyed going along for the journey. Reading this one made me want to pick up the first three and reread them (for a third or fourth time ;)). If you are a fan of the other books, I would say you will probably enjoy this one. I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

  • Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D Jackson - I came across this book on my Hoopla app and thought it sounded interesting - three teens try to get their friend signed as a rapper after he is murdered (while pretending he is still alive). It is technically a YA book, which, if you don't know, tends to be my preferred genre. The story is told from three different points of view (plus a flashback alternative as well), but the audiobook was read by different people with distinct voices so it wasn't hard to keep the different chapters straight. Not only is this about kids unwilling to let their friend become another anonymous victim of street violence, but it's also a lesson in hip hop. The scene is set in the late 90s, and although I grew up in Michigan, not New York where the story takes place, hearing all of the songs referenced brought me back. I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

  • Hunger by Roxane Gay - I'm not sure what I was expecting when I downloaded it on my Hoopla app, but for some reason it blew me away a bit. If I'm being completely honest, I probably have a bit of prejudice against folks who are overweight. I eat healthy, I exercise, I'm able to keep a fairly consistent body weight (it probably fluctuates about 3ish pounds a week, but I am normally in the same ballpark week-in, week-out). If I dug deep, I might find some extremely rude (and wrong) assumptions about people who don't have a socially accepted body-type. This book opened my eyes. Roxane's memorior speaks about how she actually started putting on weight on purpose - as a way to be less desirable (and therefore safer) after she was raped when she was 12 years old. I would never wish experiences like this one ANYONE, but reading about them definitely broadens my horizon, compassion and understanding. PS This book is also about hungering for more than just food (as one may assume it would strictly be about due to the title and cover art). I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi - Our library isn't open fully (hence why I am "stuck" with audiobooks on my Hoopla app), but they recently gave patrons the option for home delivery - AWESOMESAUCE! I jumped on the website and got on a few waitlists - one of which was for this book. I listened to Stamped From the Beginning by this author last month and knew I wanted to give this book a read. This book is broken down into different chapters that focus on different elements of racism (and therefore antiracism) - such as biology, culture, body, color, class, gender, sexuality, etc. Although I wish there for were actionable steps specifically laid out (most of the "blame" was pointed at racist policies, which I absolutely understand, but I feel like that takes some of the responsibility out of the hands of the "everyday person" to fight it), I do respect all of the hard work this author has put into researching the topic. I appreciated the life stories that he was able to add into the book (it made it feel more relatable and personable). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson - Earlier this month I came across Let Me Hear a Rhyme, and when I was grabbing the link to put in the post, I saw the author had a few more books (and they were even available on the Hoopla app). I didn't know anything about this book before I downloaded it, other than I liked another book this author wrote. Let me warn you - this book can be triggering. It is about a young girl who goes missing and her friend's journey in trying to find her. The story centers around child abuse and it is gut-wrenching. There were a few parts that I felt were a bit predictable (but maybe that's from all my years of watching Law and Order), but overall it urges the reader to advocate for those who are disenfranchised and forgotten by society and the system. I couldn't stop listening to it because my heart went out to all of the characters (normally I listen to it on my walk to work and on my lunch break walk, but I had to finish this one so listened to it on a long run, as well as when I was doing chores around the house). Even though this is technically a Young Adult book, I think readers of all ages would get wrapped up in the story. The timeline is a bit back and forth, but it makes sense in the end, so stick with it! I would give it an 8 out of 10.

With that, July has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list!

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you read this year?

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