Tuesday, October 31, 2023

October 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 October:

  • The Things We Leave Unfinished by Rebecca Yarros - A couple friends had mentioned they read this book recently and liked it, so I figured I'd give it a go. I didn't know anything about it, other than a few friends gave it a thumbs up, so I was intrigued when I found out it was a love story that switched between two timelines (the present day and then the history of the main character's family and how the two related and shaped the main character into the person she had become). Although I enjoyed it enough, it wasn't necessarily my jam. This may sound funny, but adult romances aren't my thing because there is a lot more sex in them than in the young adult genre (which means I feel like they are required to put more time and thought into character development in YA books because they can't just rely on passionate love making to show a connection). Anywho, this was a decent storyline, but I don't think I'd recommend it to others (but that might be because it's normally not my fave type of book to begin with). I had figured out some of the "surprises" along the way and although I stuck with it, wasn't too overly invested in any of the characters. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - During "Banned Books Week", my Hoopla app had a section of banned books so I thought I'd check it out and see if anything caught my eye. I had never read this one (even though it was originally written in 1962), so figured it was time to give it a listen. I will say, this book is not for the faint of heart - although I'm not 100% sure why is was banned... The story is about a psych ward in the PNW in the 60s. Obviously some of the "treatments" have since been banned, but the story was a grueling look into the mental health sector during that era. Apparently the book has been deemed "bad" because there are some sexual encounters (let's be real, turn on the TV - even the news - and kiddos are subjected to much, much worse) and some of the imagery is too "provocative". It has been said that this book glorifies criminal activity and corrupts kids, and maybe in the 60s that could be believed, but nowadays I have a hard time buying it. I was fully drawn into the story, the characters and the emotions of the book. As I mention at the beginning of my book recap posts, I never really read the "old school" books, so I didn't know anything about this one (or the movie), but I can see why it's a classic.  I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli - Every once in a while I will click through different authors on my Hoopla app to see if they've written anything new or if there's a book I haven't listened to before. I noticed that this author had a book that I hadn't tried yet, so I grabbed it. I actually listened to it on the flight to Detroit (I had packed a physical book to read, but for some reason I wasn't in the mood, so popped in my headphones and flew through this one). This was a cute little "coming of age", young romance type story - nothing too earth shattering, but something that kept my attention. I would say the storyline was pretty predictable, but cute nonetheless. I've definitely liked some of Becky's other books more, but the typical high school drama was in full effect. (Note: I don't cuss, so hearing "f boy" pretty consistently was a little jarring [I know, I know, I'm a prude ;)], so in case that is something off putting for you, I figured I'd mention it.) I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Tiffany D. Jackson - I had this in my "for later" list on my Hoopla app for a while and figured it was time. I want to start off with a couple thoughts... First, this is a novel, so there was some creative freedoms taken while writing it, but I truly believe the essence rings true. Second, this book was written by Malcolm X's daughter, which I find pretty awesome (along with one of my fave YA authors). If anyone has the authority to write about Malcolm X, I would say it's his family members. The story is about Malcolm's time spent in prison and his awakening (more specifically, into the Nation of Islam). The book is actually considered to be in the Young Adult genre and the reason Professor Shabazz gave as to why she wanted it written for a younger audience is because she felt as though many young people are going through a similar "awakening" and searching for themselves and their purpose. I know this isn't a memoir, but I feel as though it gives us a better understanding of Malcolm's adolescence and his inner thoughts and demons he may have been facing in his teens and early twenties. I'll be honest, I loved this book. Don't get me wrong, it is hard to listen to (especially since the treatment of BIPOC, especially in the justice system, hasn't changed much since the 1940s), but extremely important and impactful. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before by Dr. Julie Smith - I'm not sure what I expected out of this book, but what I got wasn't it. I was really wanting to like it (especially since on the app and on Amazon it had very high ratings), but I felt like it was very short snippets that didn't dive deep enough. It was sort of like an IG reel versus a YouTube video. It felt very surfacey and not super helpful (at least to me). Shoot, maybe this type of book is what our society needs because we tend to have a shorter attention span these days, but I didn't love it. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated all of the work she had done and the info she was willing to share. I guess when you are trying to be the most helpful to the most amount of people, quick soundbites of generalized info works best. Simple and effective points, but not enough "meat on the bones". I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison - This was another book that I saw on the "banned book" list. You know when you are told not to think about something and then that's all you can think about... Well, it makes me curious about what the book is so scandalous sharing that it needs to be banned, so of course it makes me want to read it. I was actually waiting for the shocking part to come and I never found it... This is a coming-of-age story about someone struggling with financial hardships, classism, racism, etc, all while trying to find out who he is and what he wants to do with his life. I really enjoyed this one and was rooting for everyone in the story - very inspirational. Sure, there might have been some criticism of the "American Dream", a few curse words and maybe a few "indecent" acts, but it is definitely nothing worse than what is shown on daytime TV... Not to mention, I don't see anywhere that it's targeted for little kids (or even considered a Young ADULT book), so I'm left shaking my head as to why someone would take the time to ban this one. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • My Hidden Race by Anyika Onuora - Let's be real, any book that has the words 'runner', 'race', 'marathon', etc in the title will usually grab my attention. When I saw this memoir from a British runner I wanted to download it right away (but, #RealTalk, since I am more in the distance world of running and Anyika is in the sprinting/ track world, I didn't know anything about her prior to 'reading' this book.). Although Anyika is an Olympic medalist, this book isn't about the nitty gritty of her races or training, but about the life she has led and how she has continually overcome the sometimes subtle but often times overt racism, starting from an extremely young age and during her running career. I am appreciative for Anyika's willingness to share some of the most painful periods and incidents of her life. She was willing to relive those terrible times in hopes that others won't have to go through the same trauma - if that isn't a hero, I don't know what is! I would give it a 10 out of 10. 

With that, October 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? 

No comments: