the rest of the year in books
following up on my mid-year update, the rest of what i’ve read in this year of perpetual quarantine –
27. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Never seen this approach to non-fiction writing before; didactic but also poetic. Sacks describes various unique cases of neurodivergent people, drawing from clinical experiences and translating them through a lens that centers humanity and sympathy. Often what results is an endearing portrait of people finding different ways to exist. I liked it!
28. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Barreled through this book. It is so easy to fall into step with her as writes, to understand the complexities of being in an abusive relationship, to feel the the way she was feeling at any given point in her narrative. Also innovative and immersive and so relatable in form. 100% you should read.
29. The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Another book I can proselytize around. “God is change” is my new religion!!! Everybody should read this book. It’s life-changing, and feels like it becomes more relevant to our lives and future day by day. It’s sci-fi/dystopian, accessible to read, and absolutely compelling. If I had to prioritize this reading list, I’d put this book at the top.
30. How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
What a privilege it was to be able to hear intimate reflections and histories from Barabara Smith, Beverly Smith, Demita Frazier, Alicia Garza, and Barabara Ransby about their relationship with activism and their experience in being active radical black feminists throughout the course of their life. This book is grounding, and offers an understanding of solidarity and activism that extends beyond the political arena.
31. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis
Shoutout to my friend Sophie for introducing me to Lydia Davis! She is such a fantastic writer and her stories have been both such a delight and such a comfort to me this year. I want to hug her writing and carry it around with me like a teddy bear – the way she combines and curates language is truly genius.
32. How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
A decent 101 primer on anti-racism, if you’re really starting from a place of having little to no experience with reading or thinking about racism. My favorite part of the book is the timeline it lays out for the literal origin and construction of racism. Other than that, it isn’t revolutionary by any means, and in fact makes a few points I think actually sort of miss the mark.
33. Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
Murakami is sexist, there are better Murakami books. Pass.
34. Annihilation of Caste by B.R. Ambedkar
Very glad I finally got around to reading this. Will be reading it again!
35. Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro
A sweet read. I love Ishiguro and would recommend this as a light read! He references a lot fo music I know and love, which may bias me a little. Definitely not Ishiguro’s best (please read Remains of the Day if you haven’t already), but a palate cleanser is nice.
36. When I Hid My Caste: Stories by Baburao Bagul
Intersectional, confrontational, and sincere. An imperative collection of short stories that I’d recommend highly to anyone.
37. Rich People Things by Chris Lehmann
Eh. The whole book is a like a listicle in quasi-academic form; long-form versions of points I’ve seen made more concisely and powerfully on twitter.
38. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I feel like I was supposed to love this book and while I did enjoy it, there was something deeply unsatisfying about it! The characters felt utterly unrelatable; the protagonist spends most of the book feeling like an outsider trying to feel like an insider with this group of snobby intellectual young adults and as the reader I felt like I got stuck with the frustration that exists in that dynamic, and there was no feeling of catharsis that made it worth it.
39. The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
Very white-feminist, lol. Hard pass.
40. Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxane Gay
I listened to the audiobook for this one and because of that had some frustrations around pacing, but overall a great read.
41. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
I can’t believe this is the book that won Murakami his fame. Again, the angsty + doggedly sexist combo is not one for me.
42. The Romance of Certain Old Clothes by Henry James
Short, spooky read inspired by the Bly Manor Netflix series. I liked it!
43. Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark
Reading this book took me back to reading YA novels as a teen – action, adventure, monsters that need to be defeated and strong female protagonists that have the powers and the intelligence to do so. Also short and spooky and very very good; highly recommend!
44. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
YES. This book spoke to my soul. Very different from the show, plot-wise, but similar in spirit. I think about it all the time.
45. Three Apples Fell From the Sky by Narine Abgaryan
This book was fine, but kind of boring. My apathy is such that I don’t even really know what to say about it in trying to review it.
46. 36 Craft Essays by Chuck Palahniuk
CP is such a fantastic writer – I’d sit down to read an essay every couple of evenings and genuinely felt like I was sitting next to him in a writing workshop. I like reading about writing, and would recommend too anyone who feels the same, or who’s looking for some writing insight/advice.
47. The Radical Imagination by Max Haiven and Alex Khasnabish
Ne of the best books I’ve ever read. A treasure trove of information and reflections on building collective, progressive futures, through a lens of research practice. The language and structure is academic, but the topics covered are intensely social and personal. There’s really no description I could give that would do the book justice. Highly recommend.
48. Machines in the Head by Anna Kavan
Felt like I was reading my old journal entries – didn’t really like it, but didn’t dislike it either. A little angsty and emo, but totally understandable in the context around the author and the time in which she wrote. That context was actually why I picked the book up, but it just didn’t turn out to be as interesting as I thought it would be. Wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading, but definitely wouldn’t recommend either.
49. Sula by Toni Morrison
Very Toni Morrison, very good. A short read that keeps moving forward at an engaging and rewarding pace.
50. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
I love narrative nonfiction and this is one of the best I’ve ever read. The book pivots around the story of the Galvin family, in which 6 of 12 siblings have schizophrenia. The author examines the effect the illness on the family and their community, on the fields of study and research around schizophrenia, and on the social systems that exist around access to care and quality of life for those who are impacted by schizophrenia. At the heart of the book is a balanced examination of nature vs nurture, empathy, and moral responsibility. Highly, highly recommend.