Wednesday, March 31, 2021

March 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 for a paper or test, 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 2019, and 66 books in 2020). In the last year or so, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks because 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 at least two 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 this year. 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 March:

  • The Dig by John Preston - While I was scrolling through my IG stories a week or so ago, I saw a friend mention that the movie on Netflix called The Dig was worth watching. While on my Hoopla app I noticed that it was actually a book, so, seeing as the book is usually better (I'd say around 99.99% of the time ;)), I figured I should listen to it before watching the movie. This book is actually based on the true events of a major archeological find in England on the eve of World War II. I have a terrible memory, so there's a chance I had heard about this and have since forgotten, but I'd assume it's more likely that I've never learned about this dig and discovery before. I don't know much (read: anything) about how archeological digs go, so it was interesting to see a little behind-the-scenes of how things work, not to mention see it from a few different perspectives. It was captivating to hear about the treasures and the finds... but I guess I wanted more... Maybe I am used to pirate stories about finding tons of treasure and that isn't "real life", but the story did leave me a little wanting. It was a short listen and now I can give the film a watch when I have time. I wouldn't say the book was amazing, but it kept me entertained with a bit of history sprinkled throughout. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • Opposite of Always by Justin A Reynolds - I scroll through the YA books on my Hoopla app occasionally and I came across this title. I love Angie Thomas, so when I saw she had written a little blurb on the cover I figured the book had to be good if she was willing to endorse it. This story is definitely not something "based on reality" {time travel + teen romance} but it was an interesting take. The main character of the novel, Jack, ends up reliving a four month span of his life (between when he meets Kate and when she dies from sickle cell). It's a love story mixed with some Groundhogs Day and some Romeo & Juliet thrown in for good measure. There were some great parts and some not so great parts (sure, Jack falls in love super quickly, reliving the experiences does get a little "old" after a while, Kate comes across as a fragile girl in need of saving, but it was still a cute story that reminds you to never take things for granted). This was one I was fully invested in and wanted to listen whenever I could because I was rooting for ALL the characters. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin - I had this one favorited in my Hoopla app for a while but hadn't pulled the trigger. When I was sharing about the books I finished in February I asked what everyone's favorite book of the month had been. Someone brought up this one and it was just the nudge I needed to finally download it. Wow. I had not heard about this before, but the author "conducted an experiment" by "becoming black" in the 1950s and then went around in the South to experience life. He changed the pigment of his skin with the help of a dermatologist, medication and skin stain. (He literally ONLY changed the color of his skin - he kept his name, his clothes, his education, his voice, told the truth of his upbringing, etc.) At first I was a little taken aback by this social experiment, but it was intriguing at the same time. Not only was the author able to transition back and forth between races to experience the same area with different skin colors but almost immediately he was immersed and enumerated with the change. Beside the racism (both personal and systemic) that was discussed, it was a punch in the gut that a white man needed to experience the racism first hand instead of being able to hear/ trust the experiences of black men. I appreciated that he discussed this in the epilogue. I feel like this should be required reading for schools... and everyone. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli - I was scrolling through the LGBTQ+ genre on my Hoopla app and came across this book. I didn't realize there was a sequel to Love, Simon {which I read the book back in February of 2018 and really enjoyed} (and PS there are actually MORE in the series!), so obviously I had to snag it. I'll be honest, sequels are never really my jam... they never seem to live up to the first book/ movie/ etc... so I didn't have super high hopes. Although this was technically considered a sequel, I'd say it also stands alone because it's about one of the supporting characters (becoming a main character in this story). I don't think I loved this one as much as I did the first one, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Leah may look like she has her act together on the outside, but on the inside she is grappling with friendships changing, crushes/ first love and senior year drama (college acceptances, prom, graduation, etc). Like I said, it was good, but just something felt like it was missing to really draw me in hook, line and sinker. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want To Come by Jessica Pan - Another book I had saved in my Hoopla app for a while and hadn't gotten around to downloading. I was scrolling through IG and came across a list of "must read" books for Women's Month and this happened to be on it, so I took it as "a sign" and grabbed it. The author calls herself a shintrovert (shy introvert) and spends a year "extroverting". I'm sure many people have done similar "experiments", but I enjoyed following along on her journey. She did things like talking to strangers and going to networking events to taking an improv class and performing stand-up comedy to hosting a dinner party. It wasn't about changing who she was or becoming something she wasn't, but about discovering who she really was. She also wasn't saying that introverts can't live happy and fulfilling lives, but just that she was unhappy at this point in her life and was looking for more connection (after all of her close friends had moved away or grown apart). This memoir was funny, lighthearted and full of tid-bits of advice. I'm never really sure if I'm an extrovert or an introvert, but what I do know is that after reading this I definitely want to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone more often (let's be real, I won't be doing stand-up anytime soon, but maybe once the world reopens I might consider doing karaoke with friends ;)). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Ms. Gloria Steinem - A Life by Winifred Conkling - Seeing as it was Women's History Month, I figured it was the perfect time to grab a book on a prominent figure in the feminist movement. Although I would call myself a feminist, I am embarrassed to say that I do not know a ton about the specifics of the movement. I didn't realize this book was actually considered a YA read, but appreciate it was written for young people (I would've loved to read it and learn more about the women's movement when I was younger!). Reading about Gloria, her life, her life's work and her legacy makes me want to be a better person and stand up for more change. I may not have as large of a platform as she does/ did (journalist, activist, public speaker), but you better believe I'll do my darndest to use what I do have to make a difference. I also appreciated that the author spoke on Gloria's struggles (with things like self-esteem, taking care of others over herself, etc) because I felt like it made Gloria more relatable and accessible. It was quite an inspirational biography, one I'd absolutely recommend others to read. PS I didn't realize she grew up a stone's throw away from where I did. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri - I have had this in my favorites for a while and hadn't pulled the trigger, but finally did. I will be very honest and say that I don't often think about the plight of refugees. This book was very eye opening. Not only did it force me to look at my own perceptions of refugees, but as the author mentioned a few times, because she was a refugee herself, she was able to say things that outsiders may not have been able to reference. I enjoyed hearing the author's personal stories mixed in with stories of people she met or learned about throughout her journey. It is pretty crazy to see what people internalize without completely realizing it. These are extremely important issues, yet, embarrassingly, ones I have not spent much time researching/ understanding/ fighting for. I am thankful to this author for daring to dig deep and share the real and raw stories often missed when just seeing headlines. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • "All The Real Indians Died Off" and Twenty Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker - The hubby and I needed an audiobook for our road trip to Bishop and grabbed this one. I listened to Roxanne's An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, so I was excited to learn more. Similarly to the previous book of her's that I listened to, this one is very fact/ numbers based. If you are looking for something to "entertain" you, this is not going to be your cup of tea. This book will hopefully teach you something (or a lot of things). It is not all easy to digest (often times it can be uncomfortable to look inside to see what preconceived notions we have, myths/ lies we believe, prejudices we hold), but these are important topics to touch on. I am very appreciative for all of the research that went into this book, as well as the fact that it is presented in manageable chunks (especially since there is a lot to sit with and digest). I actually think I would've preferred the physical book because I could've stopped, reread passages, etc, but the audiobook gave me a taste of the information and a desire to learn more. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy - A few months back I listened to Dumplin' and Puddin' and saw the author had more books to her name so thought I'd grab another. Similar to the previous storylines, this one has a main character who doesn't fit the traditional heroine mold. It's the coming-of-age story of Ramona, a high school senior who lives in a small town where most people come for vacation but leave once summer is over. The twists and turns of the story kept me engaged and reminded me how friendship, family and love are often more fluid than we expect. Real life isn't always black and white and I appreciate that the main character was putting in the work trying to "find herself" (and even her sexual identity). We are always learning and growing and evolving and these characters are no exception. Labels can be helpful at times, but more often than not they seem to put people in boxes that we don't want to let them leave... The author gets into complex issues like poverty, race, and sexual identity without coming across as preachy or condescending. Simply put, this is a good story about kids who are not cisgender, white, petite or middle class. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert - I didn't know anything about this one, but it was a YA book with 4+ stars on my Hoopla app, so I figured I'd give it a listen. I sort of love that the story all takes place over a single day. Like similar books (one that comes to mind is The Sun is Also a Star), some of the story is a little outlandish (or maybe it just seems that way because I think something like this would never happen in my life so I assume it is too dramatized), but it had me hook, line and sinker. I appreciate how passionate Marva is about her convictions (getting folks out to vote, her love for her community, etc). Sure, she comes across as a bit too serious (I may have heard this same critic before so I know where she is coming from), but she doesn't waver in her determination and I love it. As I've mentioned before, I enjoy books told from multiple perspectives (especially when the audiobook is read by different actors) and this was no different. I love that Duke didn't fit the mold of the stereotypical black teenager (and that the stereotypes were addressed and a social commentary was still made). I feel like the word I kept coming back to when thinking about this book was "adorable". I could see it easily being made into a cute young love movie. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein - This title intrigued me, especially with the subtitle of "One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster". Let me just start off by saying WOW! First off, I felt like this was beautifully written. It was a love letter from the author to the subject. Secondly, it is a tough read! Sandra had an extremely difficult life and I was left with the feeling of a punch in the gut many times throughout the book. The things she had to overcome to make it out the other side and to be able to not only survive but thrive is amazing. Also, the field in which Sandra worked for more than two decades is so interesting. I have never thought of a 'trauma cleaner' before, but of course they have to exist. Finally, being able to see a little peek into the lives of those who need her services was very fascinating to me. Of course the author's assumptions may have been a bit clouded and seen through the lens of her own trauma, but it was still all very captivating. I'm not sure what I was expecting (maybe just a book about this odd job that I had never considered before), but, golly gee, was it so much more. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, March 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've read lately? 

No comments: