June Reading Wrap-Up

I type this as the end of June 30th nears, and I have many thoughts about the reading I did this month.

  • Thought #1: I’m reading much less than I did a year ago this month.
  • Thought #2: I still read more than I did last month.
  • Thought #3: The fact that I read two 5-star books this month maybe still makes it a win. Maybe?

As I reflect on said reading, there were some works that I truly loved (and let me confess here: I do not simply give 5-star reads to every work that passes through hands), so maybe that makes this month a win? I know many believe that you can’t measure a good thing by quantity. It must be about quality.

I am not one of those people.

Let me remand that statement. I am one of those people, unless it’s something I’m consuming. Like food. There’s a scene on The Office (“Launch Party,” Season 4- Episode 3) where Michael asks his employees if they’d rather have “medium amount of good pizza? Or all you can eat of pretty good pizza?” The whole office says they would rather have a medium amount of good pizza instead of a lot of pretty good pizza. I just can’t relate. I’d definitely rather have four Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls than one piece of genuinely awesome cake, and I’d much rather be able to eat a whole pizza from Casey’s than just one slice from a better establishment.

But in a different way (with virtually the same outcome) my whole life I have taken a special pride in being able to get a lot done very quickly. I used to brag to my students that I woke up for work at 6:24 and left the house by 6:50. I could fold a load of laundry in ten minutes flat if I was able to watch tv at the same time, and when I was in the first grade the boy next to me used to race to see who finished our math worksheets first. (Admittedly, it went better for him, because he was better at math, but dang it, I almost always finished first!) I find an immense amount of worth in being able to look at something and said, “I did this! I accomplished this! You couldn’t have done it, but look! I did!” And this terrible aspect of me just likes the sound of “I read 15 books this month” more than I like “I read a couple really good books this month.”

Since having my son, however, I have had to acknowledge that speed just doesn’t happen when I’m not talking about necessities. I can change his diaper at the speed of light, sure, but I’m not going to be able to wash the dishes in the sink without needing to help him with with something at some point in between. And I definitely don’t have open blocks of time in the afternoon, morning, or evening to disappear into books. It makes reading more special, but I’m probably not going to be reading 150 books in a year any time soon– it’s something I might just have to become okay with.

Self-Examination over…now let’s talk books.

I successfully finished six books this month and currently have two in progress (The Golem and the Jinni and Summer of 69). For the most part, I really enjoyed my June reads! I had two 5-star reads, which is a really uncommon, and even the 3-star reads weren’t that bad!

This month I also finally got a library card for our county library (I resisted for over two years because I convinced myself I was going to read through the books I already owned. That’s a joke.) so I now have a few books checked out and a few I want to inter-library loan before vacation. I try not to be overly ambitious in setting monthly reading goals because I’m a TOTAL mood reader, but I do have a few main hopes:

  • Bachelor Nation : I’ve been watching this season of The Bachelorette (I’ve been a pretty consistent viewer since Sean Lowe’s season), and I HAVE THOUGHTS. Plus, listening to The Popcast Friend of the Show episodes every week recapping have made me very curious about this book. I think I need to read ASAP as possible.
  • The Bookshop on the Shore: I love Jenny Colgan fiercely, and I need to read this. There’s nothing better than a lighthearted book about people who also love books.

Is knowing what people think of you really such a deceptive negotiation of self, a bartering between the knowledge that you have and the knowledge you choose to accept?

The People We Hate at the Wedding, Grant Ginder

The first book I finished this month was The People We Hate at the Wedding. It was my least favorite book of the month, but it was fine. I mainly chose this one because I really needed something a little light and vapid after finishing My Dear Hamilton (it took me over two weeks to read that one, which very rarely happens); I was craving a book I could zap through. This was that. The characters were all pretty flawed– very flawed– but that actually doesn’t bother me. If you love books about weddings, screwed up families, or just general drama, I think you might like this one.

Never go to a game of anything and shout, “You’re playing like a woman!” at an athlete, as though that word were the definition of weakness. One day, you’ll be holding a woman’s hand as she gives birth and then that’ll make you feel more ashamed than you’ve ever felt about anything. Words matter. Be better.

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World, Fredrik Backman

Next was Things My Son Needs to Know About the World. I could extoll the wonders of Fredrik Backman for a million years and not grow tired, but that would likely be tedious for you. I used an Audible credit so my husband could listen to this (he was never a reader, but since we got married I introduced him to audiobooks; he’s now a major fan), and he said that he was laughing all afternoon as he listened. It was literally one day of work and he had finished listening, so naturally I had to listen soon after he finished. It’s possible that our infant son made this read a lot more hilarious and relatable than it will be for every reader, but I LOVED IT. Please go read. Or listen, because this was great on audio.

The students were overwhelmed with a sense of loss– their friends, their name, their identity– and did not want to surrender one more inch, literal or symbolic. Any fragment of their life they could salvage felt like a victory.

Parkland, Dave Cullen

I finally picked up Parkland this month, and boy was I grateful that I had. I’m notorious for not liking nonfiction, but Cullen’s Columbine was captivating, and I was excited to pick up his newest release. I can understand why this book didn’t get the hype or attention that Columbine did, but at the same time, it was a different approach entirely. Instead of chronicling the school attack, Parkland describes the efforts the survivors made to change things. They were not passive, not at all, and they changed the victim identity to that of warriors and activists. As an educator, I found this book to be encouraging. These are kids! They are doing big things! I work with adolescents daily, and I think that they are often overlooked by the vast majority of society. Their capacity for greatness is untapped, and this just demonstrates what can happen when young adults face adversity with determination. It’s also really thought-provoking. If you are someone who thinks of their movement as purely anti-gun, then you have been misled. Strongly recommend, but be aware that this does read as journalistic, so you may need to avoid if that doesn’t maintain your interest.

When she realizes that they are about to fall, she summons the strength to stand on her own two feet. Because that is what women like Britt-Marie do. They find the strength when they have to do something for others.

Britt-Marie Was Here, Fredrik Backman

I already wrote an entire blog post in devotion to Britt-Marie, so I won’t rant further about it here. But I will say, I love it. That’s enough. 5/5. Go read it, and everything else Backman has ever written. He could publish a note he wrote on a paper napkin and I would read it.

In a way, finance was even better than art. It was nothing but an expression of potential, of power, of our present moment in time, and existed only because a group of people collectively agreed that it should exist. Out of nothing but a shared conviction was born a system that could run the world. It was beautiful and terrible.

The Wangs vs. the World, Jade Chang

Of all the books I read this month, The Wangs vs. the World took me the longest. It was one I read on my kindle, which may have made the difference, but it also had to do with the general pace of the novel. This is a dysfunctional family story (I love those) about immigrants who made life great in America and then dealt with the fall out when that life disappeared. But it’s also funny, and I think combining those two elements is nearly impossible. There were multiple narrators, and I felt that some of those narrators were stronger characters than others. I did give this one 3/5 stars, simply because I don’t think it was quite my type of book. Still a fun read!

And this month’s winner is…

“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.” 

Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

GAH. This book. I do this really stupid thing where I ignore books that receive a lot of hype simply because I bristle when I see a book on Instagram one too many times, and I have got to stop doing that. When I finally get around to reading them, I always enjoy them and find myself two months too late to the party. This was BEAUTIFUL. I am not someone who normally cares that much about setting; I could generally care less for an atmospheric work. My word, though, this one was so masterfully done. I could picture every scene so fully, and it didn’t take away from the generally mood or story, as some world-building novels do. I must admit that I am a sucker for Southern Fiction, but it is so much more than that sub-genre. It’s a bildungsroman, a mystery, a love story. It’s wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Please learn from my mistakes and run to the nearest library or bookstore to get this one.

So that’s June! I look forward to spending the rest of this sweltering midwest summer doing my favorite things: checking out the stacks at our local library, binge-watching old standbys on Netflix, and flipping the pages of new reads. Happy reading!

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