December Reads

Mind wrenching reads this month. I only read one book I didn't like, but even still, it got my mind working and thinking.

Empower by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

Empower by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani


Easy to read, with big type and lots of pictures, this book talks about the advantages in classroom learning when young students begin to be in control of their learning. Filled with a lot of examples and research that support their ideas, this book has some good insights on how to change approaches to student learning.








 

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

On Beauty by Zadie Smith


This book thoroughly surprised me in all the best ways. I had heard of this book, and have an affinity for Zadie Smith's writing, but never have I been blown away by her work as I was reading this masterpiece.


This book is mainly about a family who go through changes during different events that happen and seem to affect all of them. There's a lot of themes on identity, blackness, love, family, intelligence, regrets, maturity, and a lot of issues these characters face and display. This book would be so perfect to discuss in a workshop or a book club.


Of course Smith's writing never misses a beat: she captures awkwardness, discomfort, desperation and more so precise, it's incredible.


It's hilarious and heart warming, as I felt very close to these characters and the different scenarios they were faced with. Definitely in my top reads of this year.


 


Travelling While Black by Nanjala Nyabola

Travelling While Black by Nanjala Nyabola


I picked up this book, because a) I thought it was a travel memoir, b) the cover is eye catching, and c) it's by a Kenyan author. However, upon reading the first line of the author's introduction, "This is not a travel memoir," my hopes were slightly crushed, but not for too long, as I found this a real gem of a book.


The author goes into the different race dynamics she's noticed being a humanitarian traveler. She writes about it in different examples such as immigration, tribalism, classism, racial profiling within predominantly black populations, and more. However, she also talks of the advantages that being an outsider has had on her experiences when traveling.


This book is deep as she shows us different world examples on institutionalized racism that are directly under our eyes, what it means to be someone who calls themselves a human rights advocate, even when one may feel voiceless and powerless. I loved her depth of explanation and thought, especially through a Kenyan lens. She did not disappoint, and I felt I came out of this reading experience with some new knowledge, challenges, and thought on my part in this world.


 


How To Party With An Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings

How To Party With An Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings


I picked up this book on a whim, because the title is so interesting. Also, this author wrote The Descendants, which I haven't read, but have watched its movie adaptation which I really loved.


This author's writing is so spot on of reality, it really reads more of a bunch of blog posts, or creative non fiction many points throughout the book. I loved that style, as that's what I like writing the most, so I felt a strong affection for the book already.


The story is about a young single mother who is basically figuring out the mum world and her own life at the same time. She has decided to put more effort into her life having meaning, and finds a group of parents who help her navigate her self doubt brought on by so many different things. I was hooked to this character, commiserating with her losses and cheering with her wins.


This book is split in different chapters where she narrates as she's answering a questionnaire, where her friends tell her stories of their own personal lives, and it really feels like these are real people who are flawed but find comfort within each other. This book is really funny, and I think parents with young kids would appreciate some of the stories told.


 

Fire keeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley


One of my aspirations for next year, is to stop reading books that I'm not feeling. Gah! I used to have a 60 pg limit to test out a book, but I don't know what happened to that. Anyway, this book was whack. That's all I can say. I didn't care for the writing, the characters, the inbalance of tone. The pace was sloooooooooow, and quite frankly it was boring, which confused me, because I thought the premise was super interesting - Half caucasian, half Native American girl living in a small town becomes part of a drug investigation that threatens her community and the people she cares about.


We're schooled a lot on Native practices, traditions, particularly the Ojibwe Indians, the issues they face in their communities, the racist and unjust laws that still pertain to them, all which I was really into. However, I just feel the author focused to much on educating the reader and the characters outside the community, rather than giving us a bomb story! I was disappointed, honestly, because sometimes the plot was lost on me through too many facts and schooling from the main character. Then, when the plot got going, I was so detached by how tame she handled some HUGE events. (Trigger Warning: sexual abuse, death, light drug use.)


And looking back, I'm not sure if the author did this to show the reader that people in this community don't have the privilege to report crimes and get the justice that they deserve, because they've been silenced and ignored for so long. Was she just telling us that this is what life is like for these people? Crazy crimes happening, and no one really looking into it, or even if they do, no real change happening for the community? This wasn't clear to me, which frustrated me. There's also an incredibly weak romance with a cardboard love interest, a conclusion that seemed too crime show - like. I had a hard time relating the main character to a teenager, as the voice was too mature in my lens, except for when she was texting her friend.

 


The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel


There are such few writers I've read who can write like Emily St. John Mandel. My favourite book from last year, Station Eleven, was what led me to read another one of her books. Mandel did not disappoint in creating flawed, complex characters who for some reason I find myself caring about them no matter what. She creates ghostly, haunting vibes, where I have a hard time picturing these characters, almost as if they lived in a different time period, but their actions and lives feel so real.


However, I didn't really care much for this story. I'm actually not quite sure what the story was, I think it was more a character portrait than anything. Just like in Station Eleven, she narrates through different character perspectives, past tense, and vivid memories. She doesn't do much controlling, but allows us as the reader the choice to take what she's set at the table, and I love that, because it forces me to examine carefully what it is she's set.


 

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