Friday, June 30, 2023

June Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 201966 books in 202067 books in 2021 and 41 books in 2022). Recently, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have two-ish hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in June:

  • Waste by Catherine Coleman Flowers - I don't remember how I came across this book, but a few months back I put it on my "for later" list on my Hoopla app except for at the time it was only available in an eBook, not audiobook. A few weeks ago I noticed the audiobook hit the app so I grabbed it. One word: WOW! I have got to say, I didn't know what to expect but this book was mind blowing and eye opening. This author (who is also an amazing activist) is bringing attention to a "dirty secret" - wastewater. And I am not just talking about dirty water... I am talking about human waste! And not in third world countries - IN THE UNITED STATES! In one of the most wealthy countries in the world I cannot believe folks are forced to live like this. Catherine grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, so much of her work has been focused around there, but this issue is not just a south issue or a rural issue, this is a humanity issue all across the country! This is such a BIG issue and I can't believe I haven't heard of it before - but that's what privilege does, it insulates you so that you don't have to think about how others are living. This is not an easy read, but so important and I'd recommend EVERYONE give it a read - and not just read it, but DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest - I didn't know anything about this book when I scrolled by it in the "new" section of my Hoopla app, but the main character (at least on the book cover) appeared to be in a wheelchair and I always love seeing more representation so thought I'd give it a try. I've gotta say, I really enjoyed this one. As the cover depicts, the main character is in a wheelchair and the story's about her experiences (whether in friendships and relationships to college admissions and standing up to ableism). It's a coming-of-age story with a teenage romance tossed in (and you know me and my YA books ;)) and after a chapter or two I was hooked. As I'm sure you have noticed, there is a major LACK of disables folks in today's mainstream media so I was thrilled to learn a little more about an experience different from mine (even in a fictional format). Also, at the end of the audiobook there is a chat between the author of the book and the person who voices the audiobook, which was pretty awesome too! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Wake Up With Purpose by Sister Jean Delores Schmidt - When the subtitle of a book is "What I've learn in my first hundred years" you want to listen. This is written by the boys basketball chaplin at Loyola in Chicago. I loved it. It's part memoir, part encouragement, part spiritual guide and part sports commentary. Although Sister Jean isn't the one who voiced the audiobook (she did read the prologue though), I could just sense the smile in her face from beginning to end. My parents grew up in the Catholic religion, but other than a few services here and there (for weddings, funerals or while visiting others) I've never had much interaction with nuns (well, let's be honest, the stories my mom has told me about growing up going to Catholic school are enough to cause nightmares). It was interesting to not only hear about her life growing up in the faith but get little nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout. Obviously I had to smile a bit when she dove into the Final Four game between Loyola and Michigan in 2018. (#GoBlue!) I didn't know much about Sister Jean prior to listening to this book, but by the end I was looking to see if I could buy one of her bobbleheads ;) I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Tinderbox by Robert W. Fieseler - I had this book in my "for later" list and thought Pride Month was the best time to give it a listen. I actually finished listening to this book on the way home from walking in the Hollywood Pride Parade. Wow. I mean, I didn't know what to expect, but this was heart wrenching. Not only the story of the fire and loss of life, but the fact that I had never heard about this tragedy before. More than thirty people lost their lives due to a fire purposely set at a bar in New Orleans and because of the sexuality of the people murdered this was swept aside almost as fast as the blaze tore through the Up Stairs Lounge. This telling centers around a cluster of people, both victims and survivors. It is horrifying what happened and even worse how folks were treated in the aftermath. I wish I could say that we as a society have made progress since then, but one look at the anti-LGBTQIA+ bills that have been introduced says otherwise. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli - I saw this book pop up on my Hoopla app as a "new and trending" title, so I thought I'd give it a listen. As always, I didn't read the synopsis, but I think if I had I probably wouldn't have downloaded it. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying this book is bad, but it is pretty intense. (And with the subject matter being as it is, it is hard for me to say that I "enjoyed" it, but it was definitely powerful and wonderfully written.) The main character is a woman who we quickly (within the first paragraph or two) find out that her husband died by suicide. The novel is about her trying to pick up the pieces and survive this trauma. It is raw and it feels incredibly real - which can be A LOT to process. Eve's grief is palpable, tangible and dynamic, not to mention the emotions her friends and family are going through simultaneously feel extremely authentic as well. I absolutely believe there needs to be a trigger warning and readers should consider their emotional capacity and mental wellness before starting this novel. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston - I saw this book on my Hoopla app and thought it would a great listen for Juneteenth. It is a rather short book (less than 4 hours total and since I listen at 1.75x speed I was able to finish it between my walk to work and my lunchtime walk). I was a little thrown off at first because the first bit of the book is about the author and somewhat trying to credit or discredit her. I mean, I appreciate knowing a bit of the "backstory", but I guess I wasn't expecting it. Once we got into the story itself, I really enjoyed it. The author spent time interviewing (and sort of doing life) with the final enslaved man who was stolen from his African land and then sold into chattel slavery in the US in the 1800s. The account from Cudjo was told in his words and in his vernacular. I appreciated his willingness to share his experiences (and the experiences of other silenced voices). Even though it is a difficult subject matter, I kind of wished there was more (although I can't imagine how hard it is to recount his experiences - because of the pain and trauma, but also because at the time Cudjo was being interviewed he had been a freed man for 60+ years). I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • The Comeback Quotient by Matt Fitzgerald - I have had this book on my "for later" list on my Hoopla app for quite some time and now that I am getting ready to start tackling running again (officially starting to train for the Detroit Marathon in October) I thought this might be just the book to get me back into gear. I was worried that it was going to strictly be about elite athletes and I wouldn't be able to relate, but that's not the case. Matt even mentions at the beginning of the book that folks who aren't runners can use the lessons learned throughout the book and just consider running a metaphor for life. I really appreciated Matt's perspective in this one. Not only does he share about what he has learned from other people's stories when it comes to comebacks (and a little more specifically - their mindset) but we also follow along his journey on the road to an Ironman race and putting what he is learning into practice. I definitely walked ran away with a few nuggets and hope to put them into use during my upcoming training cycle (and life in general). LET'S DO THIS! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Slow AF Run Club by Martinus Evans - I was sent this book by the publisher because they thought I might enjoy it (and would share it with my friends/ family/ followers). Let me start off by saying that although I am not the target audience for this book (this is an amazing guide for beginning or non-traditional runners) I still gleamed quite a bit from this book. Martinus starts from the ground up and not only shares what has worked for him (so that others don't have to learn through the same difficult experiences) but WHY he is suggesting it. Like I mentioned, this is more for beginning runners, but if that's you, Martinus walks you through exactly what you should need and how to get there. The book is part memoir, part instructional guide and part workbook. I honestly felt like whoever gives this book a read will be pumped to grab a pair of (well fitting) running shoes and head out to pound the pavement. As always, this was another reminder how I need to add more strength training into my life... let's see if I can do it this training cycle ;) Even though I won't keep this for my personal library, I'm stoked to pass it along to someone at the start of their running journey. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Hey, Hun by Emily Lynn Paulson - This book caught my attention on my Hoopla app because of the subject matter - MLMs (multi-level marketing). If I am being honest, I have always considered them a pyramid scheme, but I learned a bit more about them a couple months back when I listened to the book titled "Cultish" (which is probably why this book popped up in my feed in the first place). That book was about how language is used (whether it is in religious cults, MLMs or workout spaces), whereas this was a firsthand experience from someone who "survived" an MLM. Not only did I find her time in the MLM fascinating, but I also appreciated her take on how she believes MLMs are racism, classist and sexist (I do too). The book is funny, laidback and serious all at the same time. Although I hope I'd never get mixed up in one of these types of companies, I do see how many people (most often white, cis women) could buy into the promises. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Choosing to Run by Des Linden - Okay, hear me out. I know I am no professional athlete {I don’t even play one on TV}, but there are a ton of similarities commonalities between me and Des. She grew up in the San Diego area and I currently live in the San Diego area. She moved to Michigan for training and I grew up in Michigan {my sister-in-law and her family actually live in Rochester Hills where the Hanson training program was out of}. She ran {and won} the 2018 Boston Marathon and that was my first Boston Marathon. Alright, so maybe we're not exactly twinning, but all of the little nuances probably made me like this book a lot more than, say, someone who grew up in Ohio, hehe. I would say I enjoyed this book for many reasons - first, because I could picture each of the locations she talked about, second, because of Des' grit and determination (even if sometimes it can be to her detriment) and lastly, because we like seeing a little of the "behind the curtains" look at the professionals. I might not have run away with any mind-blown revelations, but I feel like I get a more complete view of this amazing runner (and it makes me like her even more). I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, June has come to a close. My reading may have slowed down a bit (especially compared to years past), but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read so they're in one place. Feel free to check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

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