(All links on book titles will take you directly to the Goodreads page for that title. I love keeping track of what I’ve read on Goodreads, but if you want a full synopsis (without spoilers) you can also find that there. If you choose to purchase selected book, Goodreads will have an Amazon link available, but I would also encourage you to search instead for the book from your favorite local, indie, thrifted bookseller option if that is something you want to do!)
- The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, Daven McQueen
- Before the Ever After, Jacqueline Woodson
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a Word Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown
- Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín
- The Last Black Unicorn, Tiffany Haddish
- Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, Dusti Bowling
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo
- Ghost Boys, Jewell Parker Rhodes
- The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, Josie Silver
- Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World, Elena Favilli
- Parnassus on Wheels, Christopher Morley
- Ain’t Never Not Been Black, Javon Johnson
- The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Patchett
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
MONTH TOTAL: 14
- Nonfiction: 4
- Fiction: 9
- Audiobook: 8
- Poetry: 1
By Black Authors and POC Voices: 7
By Star Review:
- ✪✪✪✪✪ : 2
- ✪✪✪✪: 10
- ✪✪✪: 2
Favorite Read: Before the Ever After
Most Likely to Recommend: White Fragility
Most Quotable: White Fragility
Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: I’m Still Here
Most Fun: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Late to the Party: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird
Favorite Instagram Post:
LET’S GO TO WORK.
- The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones: I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley, and could not be more thankful! This was published by Wattpad Books this summer. I went to Wattpad’s website to see the background they provided on this book and found that they offered a free coloring page. WHAT?! There you go. According to Amazon, this book is best-suited for ages 12-17, and I think that’s accurate. It’s a sweet book (and the cover is total heart-eyes), but I struggled to really get sucked in by the story; it took an embarrassing amount of time for me to complete it. I think this would actually be really enjoyable for a young adult to read, I just sometimes struggle when the language used takes you out of the time period and the characters seem unrealistic. I do think it’s a good book, it just didn’t hook me like others that I read this month.
- The Last Black Unicorn: If you want a book that is completely and totally in-your-face, this is that book. I was stunned by the content on more than one occasion, and I think the audiobook was SUPER entertaining. I admire Haddish’s commitment to truth and presenting her life as it was; there is an intense amount of bravery required when you’re willing to bare your life in such a way. It was a lot for me in places, and that took me out of the story sometimes. Still, if you want an interesting listen, this is definitely that (I would recommend you check it out a little bit before; there are several triggers and content warnings you should know about before diving in, especially if you’re a sensitive reader).
- Their Eyes Were Watching God: After listening to a Backlist Bookclub episode of From the Front Porch, I knew I needed to make this book a priority. They talked about the language, and how that made it moderately difficult to read (especially if you aren’t from the area); I decided maybe my traditional book wouldn’t be the best way to read this, and I listened to the audio instead. I do not regret that. It was beautiful and tragic and sad (thanks, Taylor Swift). Janie’s story of life and love was so painful to read, but it was beautiful because (spoiler) she survived it. In addition, the way Zora Neale Hurston phrased some of the settings and situations was nothing if not poetic. I think this is a classic everyone should at least consider picking up. Also, the audiobook’s cover was BEAUTIFUL. Like, I wanted to set it as a background on my phone it was so pretty.
- The Patron Saint of Liars: A long-time inhabitant of my shelf, I picked this up to complete my September mission from The Unread Shelf Project. Also, I’d never read Ann Patchett, and that seemed like a real bookworm faux pas. It took me longer than I would have liked to finish this, and I also expected the plot to move more quickly (don’t ask why I had that expectation, I have no idea). Still, I was HOOKED by the premise: the main character, Rose, abandons her husband in California when she discovers that she is pregnant and heads to a home for unwed mothers, St. Elizabeth’s, in Kentucky. WHAT. A fascinating setting and a mysterious main character. Here for it. Also, a shift in narration. I love those.
- Ain’t Never Not Been Black: I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to read more diversely as of late, and one major gap I noticed in my reading life was that I basically never read books written by Black men. To be honest, my reading is heavily feminine in terms of authors, but when I noticed this gap I knew I needed to try to remedy that. This collection of poems was so immensely STRONG. The voice is clear and powerful; while other poets often try to veer in the direction of romanticism and vague symbolism, Javon Johnson does not. His words pack a punch, that’s for sure. It’s different than basically any other poetry I’ve read lately, and I really appreciate that about it. There’s clearly a personal passion and connection between the writer and his work; that sells a poetry collection for me more quickly than ANY other element.
- Parnassus on Wheels: If you’re subscribed to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Daily Deals emails, you’ll be familiar with this title because I feel like it came up ALL THE TIME on those. Lol. But eventually I decided maybe this would be a good audiobook choice (I liked the narration, and it wasn’t very long that way). I think you will really, really enjoy this if you are someone who loves books. I mean, the middle-aged protagonist abandons her literary brother and their farm to drive a traveling book wagon across the countryside? Yeah, I’m here for that.
- Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World: This book is adorable and so, so cool! I hadn’t read any other book in the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series, but this is totally a book I could see myself reading to my children in the future. The biographies for each woman were long enough to let you feel like you know the subject, but they also weren’t SO long that I lost interest while reading. The illustrations, really, are the big draw. BEAUTIFUL. And I’ll say it once more for emphasis: BEAUTIFUL. I’ll quote this description from Amazon so that you can see how amazing the illustration aspect of this book was: “Illustrated by 70 female artists from 29 countries.” HOW FREAKING COOL IS THAT.
- The Two Lives of Lydia Bird: Before you read anything else about this book, I should tell you: it’s terribly sad. Not terrible, because it’s not a terrible book. In fact, I definitely enjoyed the reading experience, but it’s still such a sad premise and genuinely troubling plot. Young love, lost love, it’s all horribly sad. But there’s a slightly happy ending, and the portrayal of grief present in this book was, in my opinion, superb. I really, really liked One Day in December (Josie Silver’s previous novel that I selected from Book of the Month), and I think if you liked that you will enjoy this. I could also recommend it if you were a fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s earlier works (I’m thinking Forever, Interrupted and One True Loves).
- Ghost Boys: This was one of my many audiobook listens from September. I was looking for books that featured Black male teens as the protagonist (because books with this description are frighteningly absent from my “Read” category), and I found this available as an audiobook from my local library. I highly recommend this one, especially if you are looking for a book that will make you think deeply about police brutality and equal rights. The boy has a charmingly young narrative voice, and he felt like he could have been any one of my students; that created a very deep sense of empathy, for me.
- White Fragility: This book is a challenging read, but so necessary. It’s written by a white woman about social justice; I know that might seem silly (like, why does a white woman need to step in and address this) but I actually think it’s pretty excellent because she can likely reach the very audience that needs to read this more easily than an author who represents a POC perspective. Let me be very clear: I think every White American could benefit from at least CONSIDERING the premises addressed in this book. It is a challenge for sure, and I loved how deeply this made me reflect on my own biases and failures. If you don’t agree with everything she says, I do still think it’s worth it to read this book and then use it to analyze your own unique position in our society and how that position can be used for a common good.
- Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus: I don’t read Middle Grade novels that frequently. I don’t, but I’m trying to remedy that because of my new position as a Middle School educator. In an effort to familiarize myself with the works appropriate and available for my kiddos, I’ve been trying to work Middle Grade into my regular reading. If you are someone who likes Middle Grade, please look into this! The narrator is a really original character: a 12-year-old girl born without arms. It reminded me a lot of Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (only in the fact that it gave a spotlight and voice to characters with special needs and was ALSO a Middle Grade book). The setting was charming, and the events honestly had a fairy tale-esque quality to them. It was a cute, sweet book.
- Brooklyn: Okay, this is one I am excited to talk about! I watched this movie a few years ago when it was nominated for all those awards and really, really enjoyed it. Then, I bought the book in a paperback copy and tried to read it, which of course didn’t work* so I buried it in my storage books. Then, years later, I saw the audiobook somewhere and thought, Why not? So anyway, I read this on audio in September and REALLY, REALLY LIKED IT! I’m so glad I gave it a second chance in a different medium, because this was a book I could easily have missed. Grateful I didn’t. If you don’t know anything about Brooklyn, it’s the story of Eilis Lacey, who immigrates from Ireland to Brooklyn in the mid-20th Century. The story basically follows Eilis (I had to go to Youtube to figure out the correct pronunciation of that name) from her life in small town Ireland to New York City and the goings on once she arrives there. We meet a cast of ordinary characters that could have been written straight from your own life (they’re that normal and realistic) along the way. I felt like this book was comforting and quiet in all the right ways. I really like it, and I recommend it strongly to someone that doesn’t require a driving plot with heavy action. A very good book, indeed.
- I’m Still Here: So, so, so good. This is potentially the best anti-racist reading material I’ve ever read. The reason that I love this book so much is that it perfectly balances personal anecdote and experience with guidance and instruction. I cannot recommend this enough. If you are someone who maybe reads at a slower pace but want to dedicate your reading to a more social justice mindset, I would move this STRAIGHT TO THE TOP of your tbr. Also, this is a five-star NONFICTION book for me, and you all know how rare that is. Speaks volumes, in my opinion.
- Before the Ever After: Best book of the month for me. Best audiobook I’ve listened to in the recent past. Jacqueline Woodson is complete and totally fantastic; please, do everything you can to get to her backlist and then this one. Red at the Bone, Brown Girl Dreaming, and Another Brooklyn have all been five-star reads for me, so I’d start there. Before the Ever After is written from the viewpoint of a young boy whose father is suffering from CTE as the result of a career in professional football. This is taking place in the late 90s-early 00s, so there isn’t as much knowledge surrounded CTE as we currently possess. I have to say before you add it directly to your list– this is heartbreaking. And beautiful. And worth it. So please still read it even if you aren’t a person who likes sad books. Gosh, it’s just that good.
2020 Reading Challenge Update
IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII DDDDDDDDDDDDIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDDDDDDD IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sorry, for that obnoxious moment, but I completed my 2020 Reading Challenge this month. Not lying at all, I thought I wouldn’t be able to get to 90 books this year for all the reasons that basically include busy-ness and circumstance, but I did it! Really happy and really proud of myself for the reading year I’ve had so far. I know it isn’t cute to have too much pride in one’s accomplishments, and I’m sorry for that. But I’m actually not sorry because I just really didn’t know if I’d be able to do it this year.
With fall in full swing and spooky reading occurring, I wish all the best for your October (reading life and otherwise). If you’ve read any of the books I shared above, tell me what you think down below! What are you reading this month?
Until next time, happy reading!