recommendations

My 5 Star Reads of 2020

So in 2020, I read 100 books. My average rating was 3.5, which means I am a picky bitch. What does it take to be a 5 star for me?

If it’s fiction, it needs to have compelling writing, interesting characters, a believable plot and detailed world-building and/or scene setting. Bonus points if it can make me have a physical reaction (ie. tears…and one of these did!).

If it’s nonfiction, it again needs to have compelling writing but it also needs to keep my interest, have legitimate citation (if it’s one of those types of nonfiction), and it needs to teach me or inspire me.

And sometimes, a book just has that je ne sais quoi and I just love it because I love it! Below are the 8 books I absolutely loved in 2020.

I read this as part of my work for a committee I was on, and I am so glad I did. We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival by Jabari Asim is a must read in the catalog of books written about the Black experience in America. A short, poignant collection of essays that fans of Ta-Nehisi Coats’s Between the World and Me may enjoy.

This was my first from author Akwaeke Emezi, and it dit not disappoint. Pet is a short young adult novel about a young girl named Jam who lives in a world where monsters no longer exist. Until one day a horned, clawed creature emerges from her mother’s painting and tells Jam they are there to hunt a monster. And the monster lives in Jam’s best friend’s house…

One thing I liked about this book is how stunning the writing is in that Emezi can convey deep meaning with simple writing. A quote I liked was “There is the unseen, waiting to be seen, existing only in the spaces we admit we do not see yet”. This is an excellent read AND listen, as Christopher Myers does a great job narrating the audiobook.

Ooh boy this one made me emotional. The Midnight Library is the story of Nora Seed, a woman who feels she has only ever made wrong choices. When one of her choices lands her in The Midnight Library, Nora discovers the different directions her life could have gone based on different choices she could have made. Such a compelling read that explores depression and the choices that make up our lives.

Witchcraft and suffragettes. Like need I say more? The Once and Future Witches follows a trio of sisters with magical capabilities who get entangled with the suffragette movement of 1893 New Salem and end up fighting an old enemy who is determined to keep witches from regaining their power.

Ok so this is the one that made me cry!! The Last Train to London follows multiple characters who are connected to the Kindertransport, which was an effort to get as many Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied countries after the events of Kristallnacht. One of the main characters is Tante Truus, who was a real woman who helped with getting children out of Vienna. I think I cried because it’s horrendous to know that this is based off of a true story, but I think it’s testament to Meg Waite Clayton’s skill in being able to write that urgency into the story. And I definitely recommend this on audiobook, as John Lee does a great job.

I listened to this one on audiobook because Bahni Turpin narrates it (and she is my fave audiobook narrator). This is a must read for everyone but especially white people. Racism is real and it has consequences. White privilege is real and it has consequences. White supremacy is real and it has consequences. Oluo is frank and direct in what white people need to learn and do to help eradicate racism. This is definitely one I’ll need to reread the physical copy so that I can highlight and take notes.

N.K. Jemisin is queen. The first in a trilogy, The Fifth Season is about a woman who discovers that her son has been murdered and her husband may be the killer. But he’s kidnapped their daughter and is on the run. Essun must traverse a ruined land to find them before the world enters another Fifth Season. Jemisin’s writing is compelling and the world-building complex. At times I felt I was too dumb to get it but I didn’t care. The whole series is *chef’s kiss*.

This is another important read for everyone, but especially white Americans. As it covers the entire history or racist ideas in America, it is dense. Kendi has done the work and the research to craft a well written text on racism in America. There is a youth version that I hope will be added to the curriculum for American high school history classrooms in the future.

So those were my 5 star reads of 2020! I will follow up soon with my favorite fiction and nonfiction of 2020, because I did read other great books! They just didn’t have that *thing* that makes a book a 5 star read for me. Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? What were your 5 star reads of 2020? Comment below!

Until next time,

Readathon, TBR

My Nonfiction November TBR, part 2!

In my last post I mentioned I had a long list of books I want to read for Nonfiction November, and I’m here with the rest of that list! As mentioned previously, the prompts for Nonfiction November this year are: time, movement, buzz and discovery, so in this post I’ll be talking about the books I have picked out for buzz and discovery!

Buzz

For this prompt I interpreted it as either the content is buzzy or these books created a lot of buzz when they came out.

Women doing it for themselves seems to cause a lot of buzz but we love to see it.
Both the content and the book have a lot of buzz around them.
This one was super hyped when it came out. Therapists need to talk too!
I enjoyed the documentary on Elizabeth Holmes (called The Inventor) so I wanted to check out the buzzy book it was based on.

Discovery

This one was harder to find books for but here are a couple!

Interesting subject? Check. Has the word discovery in the title? Check. Fulfills my “Read A-Z” challenge? Check.
Searching tends to lead to discovery so we’re going with it. But also warrior women!

So those are the books that I want to read for Nonfiction November! I do have other nonfiction titles on hold at the library, mostly nonfiction graphic novels that I’ve been meaning to get to. Will I read all of the books I mentioned in part 1 or 2? Probably not. But it will be fun to try!

Are you participating in Nonfiction November? What do you plan on reading? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

Readathon, TBR

My Nonfiction November 2020 TBR, pt. 1

Ok friends, one of my FAVORITE reading months throughout the year, if not my ABSOLUTE favorite, is Nonfiction November. Now, do I read nonfiction throughout the year? Of course. The magic about Nonfiction November is that 1) I devote the whole month to nonfiction and 2) the prompts that Olive from A Book Olive devises.

Now the prompts are just to help guide your nonfiction selections, should you so choose. But you definitely can choose not to follow the prompts and just read whatever nonfiction you want. You can read a minimum of one nonfiction book, because the goal is just to read more nonfiction than you normally would! Hence my devoting a whole month to the genre because I don’t do that otherwise throughout the year.

So, the prompts fo this year’s Nonfiction November are: time, movement, buzz, and discovery. You can interpret these prompts however you want. I like to try to find books with the words in the title that are already on my radar. Most of the books I’ve chosen have followed that, but some of them are just loose interpretations of the prompts.

Because I don’t want this post to be obnoxiously long, I will talk about 2 of the prompts in this post and then the other 2 prompts in a follow up post. I definitely do not think I will get to all of the books I’ve picked out (and have put on hold at the library), but I wanted to have a variety! So here we go.

Time

For this prompt I tried to find titles with the word “time” in them. Here’s what I found!

Goodreads describes this as a collection of essays about a Cuban refugee growing up in Miami. I want to raise my awareness of immigrant stories and this one has a pretty high rating.
Stacey Abrams spoke at the Public Library Association conference I attended before the world stopped so this one is definitely imprinted on my mind. But also it’s Stacey Abrams so of course I should read it.
I have not read nearly enough graphic novels this year so trying to rectify that with this nonfiction graphic novel about the historic Apollo Theater.

Movement

For this one I again tried to find titles that had the word “movement” in them. Subtitles count!

I don’t know anything about art but it’s about women and it had “movement” in the title so I’m here for it.
It’s about the #MeToo movement so enough said.
Gun violence is still very much relevant, although I probably should have read this when it initially came out.
This one is very much priority because 1) it’s a *spoiler* carry over from my October TBR (my hold hasn’t come in yet but I’m next in line!) and 2) Black feminism.

So those are the titles I’ve got on hold from the library for time and movement. I’ve also got some nonfiction on my physical TBR shelf that I may use. Like I said, I know I definitely won’t get to all of them but it’s nice to have options!

Are you participating in Nonfiction November? Are you a big nonfiction reader? Let me know any nonfiction you would recommend in the comments. And stay tuned for my buzz and discovery potential reads!

Until next time!

recommendations

My 5 Star Reads of 2019

The following titles are the ones that deserved my coveted 5 star rating, because they engaged me, excited me, and enlightened me. Will these books be for you? Maybe, maybe not. But I’ll still tell you to read them :).

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I really liked Michelle’s message that she is always “becoming”. She’s always learning and evolving as a woman, a wife, a mother, etc. Her sense of self is inspiring. If you’re a fan of Michelle, then I definitely recommend checking this one out, especially the audiobook as she narrates it herself.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X is the story of Xiamora Batista, a teenager living in Harlem who is navigating what it means to be a woman both under the religious thumb of her mother and within her Harlem neighborhood. When Xiamora discovers slam poetry, her world is changed. Written in prose, this one is a MUST LISTEN TO on audiobook, as Elizabeth Acevedo narrates it herself in the style of slam poetry.

Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by Lindy West

*@thelibrarylush is my former social media handle

Am I biased because we share the same unique name? Maybe. But Lindy narrates her collection of essays on what it’s like to be big, loud woman in a society that wants to make women small and quiet. Infuriating and enlightening.

Notorious RBG: the Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

This was a reread for me, but this time I listened to it on audiobook. To be honest, RBG reminds me of my beloved granny with her quiet strength and stoic poise, which is why I think I am so drawn to her. The audiobook was just as good as reading a physical copy, minus missing out on the illustrations and pictures. Still 5 stars.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Bri, a former underground rap legend’s daughter, wants to follow in his footsteps. She has to make it if her family is going to survive. Angie Thomas knocks it out of the park with the writing, and Bahni Turpin knocks it out with the audiobook narration.

Educated by Tara Westover

This one was HYPED UP last year, and with good reason! With a father that was distrustful of the government, Tara Westover grew up lacking the education most people take for granted. Educated is the story of how she overcame her zealous father to work toward and earn the education she so desperately wanted. Engaging and fucking bonkers. *Note to my father: thank you for not being crazy.

How Long ’til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin

Exquisite. I don’t really know how else to describe this one. A collection of both science fiction and fantasy short stories that were poignant and mesmerizing. The audiobook featured different narrators for each story, which I think added a nice touch. My first N.K. Jemisin, but it definitely won’t be my last.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman

I absolutely adored Frederik Backman’s A Man Called One, so I knew I had to read anything else he comes out with, and this one did not disappoint. The story of a lonely girl who’s only friend is her granny, and the grand adventure her granny leaves her when she passes. The audiobook narrator does a fantastic job encompassing all of the different characters, and I think my favorite voice was Granny. Definitely made me miss mine.

Invisible Women: Data Bias In a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez

As my Goodreads review says, “fuck the patriarchy”. But seriously, this is research on how women, HALF OF THE POPULATION, are ignored when it comes to science, technology, government, architecture, healthcare, etc. Insightful and INFURIATING.

Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments! And if you would like to see what I’m reading throughout the year, let’s be friends on Goodreads!

Until next time!