I had a very exhausting (but very fun) weekend. One of my oldest/best friends gets married at the end of the month and I was at her bachelorette party. With a record-setting escape room escape (my first time doing one – it was so intricate and intense!), a tacky lights 6k in the snow (and I truly hate running, but at least there were lots of free cookies!), cocktail hour taste-testing (we found the winner!), a drag brunch (also a first for me – crazy entertaining!), and more…with only about 3 hours of sleep in between, it was super full and super awesome. But now my brain isn’t really working up to speed. So instead of a real review that I have to sound smart for, I’m going to do a little wrap up/farewell to celebrate the end of the year.
In January, my fav book sub box (Muse Monthly – I know I mention them a lot) released a 2017 Reading Challenge. I printed it out and totally meant to actually do it, but of course I lost the paper and kind of forgot about it. But then a week or so ago they, to my eternal sorrow, announced that they will be going on an indefinite hiatus to work on some other projects. I’m super excited for them, of course, and wish them the best. However, this is the best book box I have come across for diverse (both in terms of genre and author), adult literature and I am so sad to lose them. Plus the tea, of course. So to say farewell to both this year and Muse Monthly, here is my attempt to meet each of their reading challenges with what I have read this year…
A Muse Monthly book: A Word for Love by Emily Robbins- a beautiful homage to the power of words and language, to love, and to the interaction of different cultures.
A book by an author you heard about through Muse Monthly: Exit West by Mohsin Hamind – a little magical realism take on the reality of being an immigrant/refugee in a new and unfamiliar land. Very timely.
A book by a writer of color: I’ll be honest I have SO MANY that I want to answer with here. It’s been a great year for me as far as reading diverse authors and I have loved so much of what I read and want to highlight so many. I’m going to go with one nonfiction piece that, for all it’s brevity, really affected me. Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi – 15 suggestions for raising a feminist daughter that are concise, universal and I have since thought of and applied to my life in myriad ways. On of my favorite reads from this year.
A book by and LGBTQ writer: No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal – a heartwarming story of a few immigrant families in the US (from India) and their interactions with friends and coworkers as they search to find where/how they fit in, and discover who they truly are, in a new place.
A book by a female writer: Again, SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM HERE. I killed it reading female authors this year. Definitely the majority of what I read was by women. I think two of my favorite stand-alones were The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (about the friendship between two animators through various life circumstances and trials) and Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly (a sort of cabaret meets spy thriller/political intrigue story set in an alternate world). I also have to highlight A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. She is one of my favorite authors and this was one of the best conclusions to a trilogy that I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
A book in translation: Ok so this one is going to require a little bit of a stretch, since it turns out I didn’t actually read any legitimately translated books. However, I’m saying The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. It takes place in Ireland and the author wrote the voices of the characters so authentically that I think the slang and inflection of their speaking could count. Even though it’s not necessarily a different language, it’s a very different dialect from my own personal “English” that took some time to really get comfortable/confident in reading. Like I said…a bit of a stretch, but I stand by it. What do you think?
A book you should have read in high school: This was technically a re-read for me, but only from a few years ago. I never read it in high school (and feel like I should have). The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – a universal and timeless description of a woman’s experience having a mental breakdown.
A banned book: So here’s my one other big “cheat.” It turns out I didn’t really get to many officially banned books this year. However, I am starting to re-read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, which definitely has been a banned book, in preparation to read his new novel The Book of Dust, set in the same world. This is one of my favorite trilogies from childhood and I’m really looking forward to it. Also, I just read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – a letter from the author to his son about the reality of being a black body in America. It’s gritty and tough, but also hopeful, and I think that considering the state of the US today, the topic itself is (unfortunately) charged enough to mention the book under this heading. So you judge – did I meet this one or not?
A collection of poetry: I am not usually a poetry person, but I jumped on the bandwagon for Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur because everyone was talking about it. Beautiful poems about the relationships, heartbreak and resilience of women. I loved it and I’m glad I tried it. I know her second collection just came out. Has anyone read it and what did you think?
A book that takes place in the future: The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – a phenomenal “space opera” about a ragtag ship’s crew and how they become family (if you like Firefly, this book is for you!). I literally just read this so my official review hasn’t even been posted on the blog yet. But let me tell you, I loved it. I totally fell in love with the crew of the Wayfarer and I am really excited to read the next one.
A book recommended by a friend: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – a super humorous take on femininity and feminism based on Moran’s own life experiences. Recommended by two friends of mine actually. I laughed out loud so much while reading this and enjoyed it so much that I bought a copy for my mom too! It’s also the book that really got me into feminist lit and memoirs both, which I’m super thankful for.
A book that has been made into a TV show or movie: Well, neither are technically out yet, but the trailers are, so I’m counting them! Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – a fantastic adventure through a future America and a virtual reality race to win a dead mogul’s fortune. My husband also read and loved this book, so we are both excited for the movie in a few months. And The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – a story of a black high school girl who witnesses the shooting of one of her friends and the fallout from that night, on both her life and in her communities. Super timely, but difficult, topic and a wonderfully written YA. I’m excited and nervous to see this movie.
A book you’ve been meaning to read forever: I want to mention two books here as well. I keep doing that, but there are just too many good ones. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – a story about the secrets within a family that all come out after the death of one of the children. And A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – the story of 4 friends in, from college and throughout life. I was really nervous to get into this 700+ page novel, but the emotions were so worth it.
So, I feel like, for having forgotten about this challenge completely, I did a fairly good job of getting most of them. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty impressed with myself. Did you read any good books this year, from any of these categories, that I should add to my TBR for next year? I’d love to hear from you!