Let’s Talk Books
A simple solution to my listlessness throughout the year 2018.
Reading is something I a lot of times see as agonizing, that is until I actually do it and gain something from it: whether it’s new vocabulary, opinions, facts, or what have you (mostly new vocabulary tbh). I typically see reading for fun as something that takes me forever to start, and usually forever to finish, because of my cheap attention span.
That being said, finishing 3 books in a year is a big deal for me. So here are some books I’ve read that have let me forget about my life for a little bit.
Blackass by Igoni A. Barrett
This one I read in 2017, honestly. But it’s one of my recent reads. I think it’s a solid read, though I was left underwhelmed through most of it. The premise is very literal: a basic Nigerian dude wakes up to find himself in a white man’s body, except that he still has his black butt. So basically, this guy goes through his days experiencing life from a black perspective through a white perspective in a black world. It’s good if you are a satirical person who stays up to date with news and politics. It’s also good if you like metaphors and humour on society told through realistic events and experiences. In fact I’d strongly recommend it for those kind of people, otherwise a lot of innuendos and puns might go over your head and for me, a lot of times I had to reread passages to understand that there was a meaning behind what was being written.
Love Is A Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
I also read this in 2017. So, Rob Sheffield writes for Rolling Stone magazine, and he came out with this kind of memoir on his relationship with his wife, from before they met, after they met, and after she died. It’s a good quick and easy read filled with nostalgia and empathy. Very fun to see drawings of actual mix tapes with song lists that he and his wife used to make for each other at the beginning of each chapter. Funny and sad, but well written. Kind of shows how music and memory can be used as a way of healing through grief.
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
I’m not in the habit of reading 600+ page books, but it was recommended to me, so I read it. Honestly, I wasn’t super impressed. For me, the writing was too technical and detailed, to the point that I had to skip pages just to see what progress was being made during the story. But the story itself is quite good. Twin genius brothers, sort of parentless, are raised around medicine. So it’s no wonder they end up becoming doctors, and become key pieces to each other in their adult lives.
I could see this book played out as a period drama or a telenovela. The story is fiction, but the setting is in Ethiopia during the end of Haile Selassie’s reign. There’s good information written on this in the story, as well as emigration in Africa in the earlier days. So there’s a bunch of violence and political unrest that is written in a way that’s quite thrilling and easy to imagine, then there’s some romance(?) Didn’t seem like a romance, more like a situationship that seemed too messy to even care for. The whole tone of the story is quite dramatic that I think was necessary in order for the thriller, romance, history, and action to all work for me.
The Sun Is Also A Star
by Nicola Yoon
I have a soft spot for this book mainly because the main characters are both people of color. Korean-American boy meets Jamaican-American girl and makes it his mission for her to fall in love with him in a day. Said girl meets boy and tries to avoid every cliché of boy getting her to fall in love with him, but fails.
Yes, this is YA teen romance, which typically I’d ignore. BUT there were some good moments in here. It’s written in the perspectives of the boy and girl, and though there are many cliché moments: Poetry, New York City, working class citizens, immigrants in America, it works for the hopeless romantic. Just don’t go in expecting something gigantic and enormous to happen! It ticks all of the boxes of reaching your heartstrings, though some parts seem a little forced (like conversations with certain characters), but it’s a quick and cute read.
Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham
I read this after I came back from Cape Town, and I honestly can’t find a way to review it till this day. I feel like a lot of people either really like Lena Dunham’s stuff or really don’t. For me I still don’t know. Reading this was like listening to that one friend (?) who talks a lot about anything and everything, and more often than not throws in no-filter subjects that make me cringe and want to cover my ears, but I somehow still listen, thinking it might be connected to something, but then I end up finding it connects to nothing, yet I can tell that to them it means something. There are some laugh out loud moments just because of how ridiculous and unreal some of the author’s experiences are. It’s O.K., but again another quick read to pass time.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
O.K. Of all the books listed, this was the one I was excited to read, because of all the reviews that made me want to read it. (“It is so depressing!” “It will break your heart!”) I think I’m used to light hearted reading, even with Love Is A Mixtape, although it was about grief in many ways it was a light read. This one, is O.K.
A 600+ page book that follows four guy friends, though halfway, it kind of focuses on two, particularly one whom the book seems to be written about. This guy basically has a traumatic childhood, and then tries to live a normal adult life, which he does, but he also lives it whilst still dealing with the reminders that come from his past.
What I like about this book is the diversity in which it showcases mental illness and disorders. Like, it’s a little creative in that aspect, and very up front and messy about it. I also like the vocabulary, the detail in certain vocations like medicine, architecture, art, film, without being too over the top making me feel like I’m not smart enough to hang out with this book. It’s well written, through multiple perspectives, which makes me have to pay attention and not read zoned out.
BUT, there are a lot of things I don’t like as well. It’s very repetitive in many parts and quite anonymous with its descriptions - like setting, time, even characters – but that could be a stylistic writing thing. Sometimes the dialogue isn’t clear on which character is speaking at the time. And I also wonder how normal it is to meet sooooooooo many bad people who are literally out to get you in such a short amount of time. But those are just my peeves when reading stories. If I had to sum up this book properly, I’d use a quote from it. Jude, the main character, in my case being the book:
“Jude had always been so secretive, so protective of his body that to see it for real was somehow anticlimactic; it was so normal, finally, so less dramatic than what he had imagined.”
— A LITTLE LIFE, HANYA YANAGIHARA
But I do love seeing bromances play out in any kind of story, but sometimes I wonder if the extent of the ones portrayed in the story is realistic. There are so many good moments that show awesome friendship.
Definitely worth a read – can’t wait to finish reading it. Good drama. Good dialogue. Good character development. Makes you learn new things like trauma, law, psychology, public childcare, and others.
Our Daily Bread by Our Daily Bread Ministries
O.K. This one is unusual. It’s a pocket book of small devotions for every day of the year. My mum gets these every year and is always nagging me to read it, but I always ignored her, until a few months ago. I started reading it daily, and sometimes it helps. It’s just a page with a bible reading followed by a short personal story that relates to it. I’ve been reading it in the car before I get out to start the school day, or any break I remember to. It can be cheesy, but the message is well meant and so much so is the verse that goes with it. Definitely helpful for trying to remember not everything’s about me, and that I’m not alone.