My January Reading Wrap-Up

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: 

  1. Know My Name by Chanel Miller
  2. Popular by Maya Van Wagenen (audio)
  3. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  4. Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
  5. Pride by Ibi Zoboi (audio)
  6. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
  7. Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey
  8. Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout (audio)
  9. The Churn by James S. A. Corey
  10. Scandal Takes the Stage by Eva Leigh
  11. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (audio)
  12. 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!

  7 comments for “My January Reading Wrap-Up

  1. Diane Crumbley
    February 1, 2020 at 11:12 am

    I look forward to reading many of these books you recommend. I always enjoy your list. It sounds like you’ve been very busy. Yes, the wildfires in Australia have been so devastating. It is very sad. You mention your friends in England and their exit from the EU. I’m just curious to know if they are happy with that. My husband and I recently met an older couple (while hiking) from England. They were very happy that this was finally happening. You’re thoughts? Thanks for all you share with us. Have a happy February.

    • February 2, 2020 at 11:41 am

      Thanks Diane, I love to hear my recommendations are useful! That’s a good question about Brexit. My friends in England are quite worried about leaving the EU, as it will very likely impact their jobs and health benefits. I hope it will work out well, but it seems like the economic consequences plus limited mobility may be harmful for many.

  2. February 1, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    We are in the midst of remodeling our guest room bathroom and I will be so glad when it’s done. We keep on promising ourselves a year without a house project, but it hasn’t happened in awhile.

    The George Takei book sounds powerful–that’s going on my list.

    Sounds like you had a good January, reading wise!

    • February 2, 2020 at 11:37 am

      I know you’ll enjoy Takei’s book – I learned a lot from it even though it’s aimed at younger readers. Good luck with your bathroom! We are quite nervous about giving up our bathroom and really our bedroom too, but hopefully the results will be worth it! I’m also pretty nervous about what might go wrong or maybe it won’t be the improvement we’re hoping for.

  3. February 1, 2020 at 10:35 pm

    I’m jealous of your reading rate–I only managed one book in January (although, to be fair, it was almost 600 pages). I’m also looking forward to David Mitchell’s new book this year.

    • February 2, 2020 at 11:35 am

      Thanks Audrey – I did read a few young adult books this month for some reason, like Popular and Shadow and Bone, and Takei’s book is a very quick read (and also aimed young). I’ve also found audiobooks add quite a bit to how much I read in a month. Still, it’s not quantity but quality!

  4. February 17, 2020 at 1:18 am

    I do hope to read Know My Name soon. I’m glad you enjoyed a wonderful month of reading in January, I hope February is as fortuitous.

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