When I initially began this project, my intent was to try to fit more books into my busy life and to gain a little encouragement by seeing my lists grow. It was more successful than I expected it would be, and I have been reading many more books than I expected to be able to. My second goal was to help gain a better breadth of genres, so I will continue to try to improve that aspect. Please drop a recommendation into the comments if you know of a book that should be read!
Most of the time I read audio books on my iPhone. I love you, audible.com! Though I value holding a book above all other forms of reading, it isn’t practical in my life. Always the multitasker, I read stories (and listen to NPR, BBC, and Link TV) while washing dishes, working in the garden, jammed in standing-room-only on the bus, mowing the lawn, going for a run, folding clothes. An unexpected bonus is that I now look forward to folding the laundry and washing dishes! Another bonus is that I am able to enjoy the impressive voice talents of many narrators. It adds an important dimension to books that I haven’t experienced before.
The following are books I read so far this year. If you want to see what I read in other years, hit the links above.
- Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. I loved the first six chapters, which provided a detailed construction of the life of Ghengis Khan as far as the author can tell. After that, the book talks about the fall of the Mongol empire, namely due to the fact that the self-made Khan never took the time to teach anything to his sons and grandsons, so they inevitably squandered and lost it all. Most of all I appreciate a different perspective of East Asian history, and a better insertion of the role that region played in the world. The author is clearly a huge fan of the Khan and takes every opportunity to explain motives for his actions, and also the positive outcomes of Mongol culture that European schools do not teach.
- The Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson. This sci-fi sequel to Michael Crighton’s blockbuster kept me gripped all the way through. I had never read The Andromeda Strain, but Wilson introduces all he needs to. Let me rave about Wilson’s exceptionally excellent writing. Despite talking about concepts I had barely heard of, he never lost me technically, and never lost my hunger for the story, and never distracted me with some aspect of his style. He tells of a world 50 years after the first book when by an almost predictable human accident, the Andromeda Strain comes back to Earth, and this time mutated in new ways. It is up to a small team of scientists to find out what’s going on and to save the planet. They plunge into the depths of the Brazilian rainforest and are confronted with isolated indigenous tribes. As a Cherokee, and knowing Wilson is a Cherokee, I was particularly pleased with his handling of indigenous peoples, and glad he took the opportunity to portray them as modern people with modern intelligence.
- The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward. I read this one because I was in the mood for a light, silly love story, and this one delivered. It was a little predictable, but the plot directions were never wrong – I was ready and (maybe due to my mindset) sometimes happily surprised with the next twist. Riley Kennedy and Kennedy Riley work for the same company and every so often their emails get sent to the wrong person. These two people who behave superficially actually have some depth and after being forced to spend time together on their best behavior over the Christmas holiday, they end up seeing each other in new ways.
- The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I saw the author interviewed a couple of times and became curious about this book. After reading it I’ll say yes, it is all that. Coates uses a couple of strategies to make it easier to be a light-skinned American and read about enslaved people. He calls them people who are tasked, for one thing, and never calls out something directly, but explains it from the perspective you need to be standing in to finally see it. His strategies allowed me to sink deeply into the environment. Each character is nuanced, and there is no way to lump people into clear sides, because each human in this book has their own monumental history and desire. Nobody is a caricature. Hiram escapes the task and joins the underground machine and finds his calling. I hesitate to say Coates uses the “device” of magic, because it so perfectly fits into the story and makes sense for the main character who uses it. Hiram’s ability to find and use that power is tied to his ability to open up his heart and see and understand the hardest truths of his life. The reader can go there with him, slowly, angrily, confusedly, forgivingly, lovingly.
- There There by Tommy Orange. As a Cherokee, this one hit me hard. I didn’t grow up in the Nation; My skin is not brown (until the sun bakes it); My dad did not pass any Indian knowledge to me even though his mother was so proud to be Cherokee; for most of my life I knew no stories, no language, no traditions. So am I really an Indian? Yeah, says Orange. The problem is that I’m stuck with the current outdated understanding of Indians as this mythical Earth-people who used to roam the continent, which is not the reality. In his book, all his characters are Indians and they are all modern and living in cities – primarily Oakland, CA. News flash: we’re still here. It’s written raw with the language and fractured families and unconventional families and obstacles and hope and passion and grief with which I am intimately familiar. I felt like it was my family in some way on every page and each chapter was nearly a blow to the chest. I had to read it in bursts, allowing myself to process in between. It’s one of the most healing books I’ve ever read. I’m not saying it will be for you. I just needed to see myself somewhere, and in this book I did, and it was intense.
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess. Not really, but jeezums crow I needed a break after the last two books.
- The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. Trying to adjust to life in rural Kentucky, newlywed Alice is glad to leave her oppressed life in England. But it turns out her new life is equally as restrictive, though in different ways. Friendless and a little desperate, she volunteers for a new lending library that requires book delivery by mule and pony, since most citizens aren’t near good roads, and none of the roads are passable in winter anyway. Five women join the library, each for their own reasons, and each an outcast in some way. Obviously they bond to each other while raising the literacy in the county. It’s an interesting story based on a real life program promoted by Eleanor Roosevelt.
- Ready Player One and Shantaram again, because I needed some fun and inspiration. Shantaram remains my FAVOURITE book. If you haven’t read it, you must.
- It’s the middle of the pandemic and at the beginning I queued up The Stand to read it again for fun. But now that I’m finished reading Shantaram (which is 43 hours on audiobook), we’re deeper into the situation and my heart isn’t light enough to read The Stand. Instead I turned to The Stormlight Trilogy again. Apparently, re-reading favourites is what I want to do right now.