I read so many wonderful books in January. I started out the month determined to just relax and read whatever came my way, rather than trying to plan things out too much. Without a doubt, the most powerful book I read this month was Know My Name by Chanel Miller, about the Stanford rape. I really want everyone to read this book! And I feel the same way about George Takei’s graphic memoir about the Japanese internment camps, They Called Us Enemy.
I was fascinated by the American Dirt controversy, especially in light of the book I read this month about African refugees in Germany. In my book club we discussed whether the book was less meaningful because it’s told through the eyes of a white German man. But I think that also makes it authentic. Erpenbeck isn’t trying to tell someone else’s story, although it’s important to hear stories from the perspectives of refugees. It’s very interesting to think about who can and should tell another group’s story, and what makes one story powerful while another story is “disaster porn”. While I think it’s a more complex issue than just that white people shouldn’t tell the stories of non-white people, I think we all benefit from the discussion. But then there’s also the issue of “cancel culture” and whether the reactions to these issues are being taken too far.
While things are peaceful on the home front, they are anything but in the rest of the world. I may have shed a few tears over pictures of koalas perishing on Kangaroo Island, one of my favorite places. My husband is really feeling the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and friends. And I’m thinking about my friends in England this month as the country leaves the EU.
Here’s what I read in January:
- Know My Name by Chanel Miller
- Popular by Maya Van Wagenen (audio)
- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
- Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
- Pride by Ibi Zoboi (audio)
- They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
- Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey
- Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout (audio)
- The Churn by James S. A. Corey
- Scandal Takes the Stage by Eva Leigh
- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (audio)
- Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My favorite reads: Everything was so good this month! I started with a suprisingly good romance novel, The Hating Game. I loved Popular by Maya Van Wagenen and recommend it to anyone with teenage girls (this was great by audiobook). Amy and Isabelle was just as good as everything else I’ve read by Elizabeth Strout. And I’ve already mentioned They Called Us Enemy and Know My Name, which are must-reads.
Did not finish/ disappointing: If there’s a book I’m struggling with this month, it’s Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. This book was so highly praised last year, and I loved it in the beginning, but the author’s dry tone is really starting to wear on me. If you’ve read it, should I keep pushing through?
Books for challenges: I set out this month to NOT read any challenge books, at least not deliberately. And here’s where I ended up:
- Mount TBR: The Churn, Nemesis Games
- Nonfiction: They Called Us Enemy, Popular, Know My Name
- Read Harder Challenge: The Churn, Pride, They Called Us Enemy, Go Went Gone, Popular
- Reading All Around the World: Go, Went, Gone
What I’m reading now: I’ve got Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn from the library, and I’m listening to Old Baggage, about suffragettes in London in 1928. I’ve got a few nonfiction titles I’m finishing up, one a book about the charter school movement (Hit the Drum) and How the Brain Changes Itself.
What’s coming up: In February I’ll be reading Amnesty by Aravind Adiga and The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa for my book club.
Added to my TBR: A lot of authors I like have books coming out this year. I’ve added upcoming works by David Mitchell, Yaa Gyasi, Emily St. John Mandel, and Maggie O’Farrell.
Things that made me happy this month: We redesigned our master bathroom and will start the demolition in February! We also upgraded my home office with a new shelving unit, and we spent a lot of time trying out new cookbooks (including a disastrous grilled cheese incident — how can you possibly screw up grilled cheese?). We also tried out two new meal-prep services. There will definitely be a post coming about our food adventures, but for now I’m just happy to be eating better, after a very indulgent holiday season. I’m also happy to be heading into the later stages of winter.
I hope your 2020 is off to a good start! Stay warm, and happy reading!