My May Reading Wrap-up

May was a troubling month, I’m not going to lie about that. I’m deeply disturbed by the events of the last week, and I’m constantly disturbed by my country’s leadership and reactions to the pandemic. I had hoped (naively) that the pandemic might be something that unifies us, but instead it draw us farther apart, and I’m honestly stunned by people’s callous disregard for the well-being of others.

I’ve been struggling with how I can support those who are protesting. One thing we can do, especially those of us who are white, is to learn more about the history and events that have led to these protests. I can’t know what it means to be black in this country, to feel that your life is in jeopardy every day from the very people who are supposed to protect you. But I can listen and I can learn. So before I talk about the books I read this month, here are a few books about race and racism in the U.S. that I think are very worth reading.

  1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  2. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
  4. The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  6. March by John Lewis
  7. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  8. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  9. White Tears by Hari Kunzru
  10. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Please share any recommendations you have in the comments!

Here’s what I read in May:

  1. Notes From a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi
  2. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (audio)
  3. The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
  4. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
  5. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (audio)
  6. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
  7. Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland (audio)
  8. A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
  9. Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht
  10. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

My favorite read: May was a really great reading month. I was haunted by My Dark Vanessa, which I almost felt the need to turn around and reread. The Night Watchman was also fantastic, and I read two Women’s Prize nominees this month that were excellent, Djinn Patrol and Girl, Woman, Other. And I loved Knecht’s sequel to the excellent Who is Vera Kelly?

Most disappointing read: I DNF’d a few books this month.  One of the more disappointing was Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal.  I listened to nearly half of this book before deciding the characters were annoying me, and I didn’t care for Kamal’s constant references to Pride and Prejudice (her take was too meta for me, I prefer a more nuanced adaptation like Ayesha at Last).

Books for challenges:

  • Nonfiction: Notes from a Young Black Chef
  • Read Harder Challenge: The Night Watchman, Notes from a Young Black Chef
  • Women’s Prize 2020 longlist: Girl, Woman, Other and Djinn Patrol

What I’m reading now: Right now I’m working my way through The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett Graff.  It is a TOUGH read, but an important one, and it’s probably the only way to convey the scope of what happened on September 11. It’s detailed and comprehensive, and I’m grateful to have a better understanding of what so many people went through that day.

What’s coming up: I posted my 20 Books of Summer list, so you can see all of my plans for summer reading.

Added to my TBR:  I added quite a few books from Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading List.  MMD also does the podcast What Should I Read Next?  Both are recommended IF you don’t mind more books on your TBR list.

Things that made me happy this month:

  • Rose’s Baking Basics: I heard this book recommended by author Ann Patchett, who runs a bookstore.  I’ve watched every episode of British Baking Show, but I haven’t been able to make a decent cookie or cupcake.  With this book, I’m not cutting any corners or substituting ingredients, and I’m measuring every gram. The results have been fantastic, though time consuming (and caloric).
  • Unbelievable: This 8-hour series on Netflix was incredible; I’m so glad I finally sat down and watched it. It’s a true story about a police search for a serial rapist, and a girl in Washington who reports a rape and no one believes her. I was expecting more of a legal drama, but it’s really a story about policing done right (which we need right now) – contrasted with policing done terribly wrong. Kaitlyn Dever, who I loved in Booksmart, was absolutely amazing.
  • Asian-Americans: this special on PBS was a really interesting look at the contributions and political/historical impacts of different populations of Asian-Americans in the United States.

That’s a wrap for May, and now onto summer! Yesterday Mr. CG and I took the afternoon off work and went to a winery instead, where we picked up wine, bread, and cheese and had a beautiful picnic. I haven’t taken an hour off work since I started teleworking in March, so this felt really good.

Thanks to those who joined me in celebrating the Book Stop’s tenth anniversary! Your readership, and thoughtful comments, are so appreciated.

Hope you’re safe and well.

  10 comments for “My May Reading Wrap-up

  1. June 2, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks for this. Here’s a suggestion for your list: Devi Laskar’s “The Atlas of Reds and Blues” – a beautiful and haunting book about racism and the experience of being a woman of color in the workplace.

    • June 3, 2020 at 8:00 am

      Thank you for the suggestion! I’ll definitely look this up.

  2. June 2, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    I agree. May ended on a bad note and I’m appalled at Trump’s response to all that’s going on.

    • June 3, 2020 at 8:03 am

      Absolutely. Hope you’re doing okay. I enjoyed your end of month post!

  3. June 2, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    A picnic sounds fun right now. It’s been months since I left my neighborhood. I have The Underground Railroad on my TBR shelf, so I’ll get around to reading it eventually. I hope you have a good June!

    • June 3, 2020 at 8:07 am

      The Underground Railroad had a lot of interesting history, though it’s a bit of a strange book. It’s worth a read, as is The Nickel Boys.

  4. June 3, 2020 at 3:44 am

    Have you read Mildred D Taylor’s sequence for children and young adults which begins with Role of Thunder, Hear My Cry? The final volume, All the Days Past, All the Days to Come was released recently and it deals with the events leading up to Martin Luther King‘s death in 1968. It isn’t a detailed analytical work, but it does give an intense feeling of what it was like to be black during that period and a number of commentators in England are drawing parallels with the 1960s, particularly 1968, because it was also an election year.

    • June 3, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      Thank you for this recommendation! I think I read Roll of Thunder when I was young, but I didn’t read her other works. I will look this up — that’s interesting about the 1968 comparison.

  5. June 4, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    I enjoyed the list. I picked a couple. I started writing reviews some time ago on my blog but shifted courses. I think you beat me by far on reading. Though, I do pound out a book every 2-3 days via audio books. I have an hour plus in the car everyday and didn’t want to waste that time. Stores or NF pieces help me to talk my mind elsewhere and learn a thing or to vs. singing to a song. Thanks for the share!

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