Monday, August 31, 2020

August 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'm now working full time at our local running store (which cuts 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 August!

  • Black Enough by Ibi Zoboi - While I was scrolling through my Hoopla app, I came across this collection of stories. The subtitle, Stories of Being Young & Black in America, caught my eye and I downloaded it to listen while on my walks to work. I have got to say, I really enjoyed this book. Like I mentioned, it is a compilation of stories written by black youth. The stories are real and raw. I appreciate the authors' candor and willingness to share their experiences of growing up black. Not all of the stories pull on your heartstrings or leave you with earth shattering revelations, but they are all heartwarming and honest. I am stoked to see a YA book by black authors - we need more of them! This is a book that celebrates diversity - of men and women whether in terms of race, religion or family values. Although I love the short stories, the majority of them left me wanting more. Maybe there will be a follow-up book in the future. #FingersCrossed I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson - I knew about Emmett Till, but when I saw this book on my Hoopla app I checked it out right away. If you are unfamiliar with the life and lynching of  this FOURTEEN YEAR OLD, I highly recommend you take some time and learn (whether it's wih this book or another source). This book was a deep dive into not only the murder of Emmett and the trial of his killers, but it also went into his life prior to visiting Mississippi and what was going on at this time. I'll be honest, some of it was hard to stomach - I just don't understand how some people can be so evil - but if you think these horrendous acts are something of the past, you are wrong! We need to learn about the past so that we can change, grow and make sure it never happens again in the future. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • No Whisk, No Reward by Ellie Kay - After a few "heavy" books, I figured I would lighten up my reading a bit and grab a romance novel. I had listened to the first two books in the Donner Bakery series, so figured I'd give book number three a try (they all stand alone and can be read individually, but some of the characters overlap so you would know a bit more backstory in some of the characters' lives if you read the previous books). I'd say this one was entertaining, but obviously nothing like the other books I had "read" (now that I'm working Monday through Friday, from 10am until 7pm, my reading time is almost non-existent, so whatever "reading" I get done is actually listening to the audiobook on my walks to work or on my lunch break strolls). I'd say this is a great beach book or something to grab and read on vacation. There is nothing too deep, but it kept me engaged and entertained the entire time. (I also appreciate that it was the woman who was "saving" the man, rather than the other way around like in so many other books.) I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Go Ask Alice by Anonymous - I actually grabbed this book from our neighborhood free library and was able to read it on one of my days off. I didn't know much about it, but the fact that it was written by "anonymous" had me intrigued. It is a diary of a teenager who is spiraling downward into drugs and addiction - and spiraling quickly! Now, seeing as it was published anonymously, we don't know if it is 100% real (and after reading some of the reviews while grabbing the link to the book apparently it is fiction - WHAT?!), but that doesn't make it any less impactful. It was written back in the 70s, so you've got to keep that in mind while reading it (it was in that "reefer madness" culture). Nonetheless, it was pretty powerful (and scary) to see how easily it was for the writer to slide into the depths of her despair. I am fairly familiar with addiction and even if this book may be a dramatized version of a teen going from straightedge to addict in the matter of weeks, it is still important to see the internal turmoil that someone struggling with addiction could be going through on a daily/ hourly/ momentary basis. I would give it an 8 out of 10 (#RealTalk - had it been non-fiction I probably would have given it a 9, but when I found out it was "fake" I was a little miffed and knocked it down a point). 

  • Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson - This is another book I listened to on my Hoopla app. Watson is a professional football player and after the verdict of Michael Brown's killer was announced in Ferguson he wrote a post on his Facebook of some of his feelings. This book is a more indepth look into those bullet points. Before downloading this book I didn't realize it was a Christian book or that there would be a good portion of it focused on God. I am not saying that as a bad thing, I just wasn't really expecting it. With that said, I felt like this wasn't your typical race discussion. He starts off by telling the audience that there will probably be things that you will agree with and there will probably be things that you won't agree with. I would say this was accurate, and even if he brought up points or opinions that I didn't agree with, they still made me think. I would say what stood out most was his message of issues/ events/ etc being "both and" instead of "either or". There can be (and are) different perspectives and we should be open to at least hearing them out or considering a situation from another angle. Don't get me wrong, I love Jesus, but since I wasn't expecting this to be a religious book, the God talk was a little more than I was hoping for (even if I absolutely agree that the underlying issue of racism is a sin issue, not a skin issue). I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

  • Shut Up You're Pretty by Téa Mutonji - I don't really remember why I grabbed this book on my Hoopla app, but I listened to it over the course of a few days. Originally I thought it was a novel, but eventually realized it was sort of like a collections of short stories throughout the main character's life (it jumped around a bit, so since I was under the impression it was one complete story I was a little lost until I figured out that each chapter was its own story). It was about a Congolese girl growing up and becoming a woman in Canada. Although all of the stories are separate, they all work together to form a whole picture of a young woman who is struggling to understand herself and her world. I don't know if I was reading the book if I would have stuck through the entire thing, but since I was listening to it, I saw it through to the end. I'm not exactly sure why I didn't love it, but not every book is a perfect fit for every reader. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini - This is another book I grabbed on one of our doggy walks by the neighborhood free library. I didn't know anything about it when I picked it up, but I definitely lucked out on grabbed a good one. It's a story about some serious topics - suicide, depression, mental health, etc. But even though it is about some heavy topics, the book itself isn't overly heavy. The author does a great job at not only keeping the mood fairly light, but addressing some very important issues. Maybe it's the headspace I'm in currently, maybe it's the ultra awareness of mental health issues during this isolating time of COVID 19, maybe it's just that this was a good book, but I was left thinking everyone should give it a read. It was a quick read (although the book was on the thicker side, the print was larger so I seemed to fly through it). I didn't realize until I finished the book, but the author spent a few days in a psychiatric ward in his early 20s, so although this was a fictional novel, I'd have to assume he was drawing on some of his personal experiences and encounters. (And come to find out, it looks like this book was turned into a movie, so maybe the hubby and I will watch it - even though books are better than the movie 95% of the time.) I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, August 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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