For years I’ve been documenting the books I read each month by having Jake take a photo with them in a stack. Books are a big part of my life, so I absolutely love having this record (and being the subject of photos every month has helped me become more comfortable getting in front of the camera.)
Last year, I took a break from blogging my monthly reads and instead shared them on my Instagram with the hashtag #weeklyreadsfriday. I’m still sharing reads weekly (those include magazines too), but I’m going to start the monthly posts back up again!
Here are the books I read in January 2018:
Red Clocks (2018) by Leni Zumas
In a near-future America showing how a repeal of Roe v. Wade, embryo personhood laws, and two-parents-only adoption laws (plus plain old expectations women face + motherhood) impact different women.
I chose this as my January selection for Book of the Month. I thought this novel was an excellent way to walk in the shoes of connected women who are very different and most desperately want very different things. I loved the characters and their raw thoughts, but I wasn’t a fan of the author giving them each a title instead of a name for their respective perspective chapters (though I understand that it was part of showing how women are dehumanized and only considered worthy by their roles).
Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It (2014) by Ian Leslie
Leslie investigates the topic of curiosity from multiple disciplines, including psychology, education, history, and popular culture. This book shows why curiosity is important, some of the ways we stifle it or misunderstand how it works and teach in ways that are counterproductive, and how being wired for easy answers can suppress curiosity.
I read this book for my local book club. This one was really interesting and I’m going to need to go through again and highlight things. There were things I disagreed with and I think were skewed to support the author’s central claim (a limitation almost inevitable in this type of short, single topic nonfiction), but it definitely gave me a lot to think about, especially as a parent in the uncharted parenting waters of the smart phone age. Good for creatives as well as academics.
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America (2015) by Jill Leovy
This book focuses on one murder case specifically, homicide in Watts in LA County more generally, and draws conclusions about high rates of violence that plague black men in America, who are 20 times more likely to be murdered than peers of other races. The premise is that a lack of what sociologist Weber termed “the state monopoly on violence” in segregated black communities.
I chose this as an extra Book of the Month pick (you can pick up to two extra titles, either from the current month’s selections or past months). It seems counterintuitive that over-policed communities are under-policed where it matters, but that argument was very compelling. The book does a great job busting myths about black communities and “black on black violence,” shows how resources are diverted from where they are truly needed, and makes a case study of the kind of policing and political policies that can make a difference.
The Nightingale (2015) by Kristin Hannah
In Nazi occupied France, two sisters have to figure out how to survive–and resist–under oppressive conditions during a time of shifting roles for women.
My brother-in-law gave me this for Christmas and it was excellent! The historical background of the novel was amazing and so well researched. I loved the theme of the often untold ways women are heroes during wars. I was bawling at the end.
The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness (2009) by Harlow Giles Unger
I’m slowly working my way through US presidential biographies, branching off to read about other people and topics I find interesting as I go. I was not a big fan of this one; it was even more blindly hero worshiping than these presidential biographies usually are. I was shocked to find the book was written so recently with the way the author wrote about slavery and Native Americans: it read more like something written decades ago. Sometimes I feel like I’m just reading these because I need to argue with them (and by extension the way America teaches its history).
Priestdaddy: A Memoir (2017) by Patricia Lockwood
A memoir by the daughter of a married Catholic priest: something the church allows on a case-by-case basis for priests converting from other denominations. The author reflects on her childhood and her observations as an adult after having to move back in with her parents with her husband after financial hardship.
A poetic and funny memoir. It’s very interesting to see the “insider view” of the Catholic church from an atheist perspective. Her father is also fascinating: a stereotypical Midwest far-right Republican in priest’s robes. I chose this one as an extra for Book of the Month.
Fierce Kingdom: A Novel (2017) by Gin Phillips
A mother and her young son are trapped in a zoo with an active shooters.
I was a little scared to read this one, knowing it involved an active shooter, but I’m glad I did. I skipped over it when it was selected for Book of the Month, but went back and added it as an extra after reading a few reviews. It’s billed as a thriller, and I felt kind of icky going into the subject matter for entertainment. But it was an excellent look at motherhood in the face of danger and it was honestly helpful to force myself to think about something that scares me so much in reality. What would you do? What would you do? Joan provides and excellent example.
Lumberjanes Vol. 4: Out Of Time (2016) written by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Shannon Watters; illustrated by Brooke Allen
There’s no hope of a normal day at camp with the Lumberjanes. Something supernatural is always lurking!
This is one of my favorite all ages comics series to read with the kids. They (especially Jonas) love the spunky characters and the cool supernatural scenarios. The art is SO FUN. It doesn’t hurt that they name drop famous ladies throughout history instead of cursing, which makes the kids want to look up those figures. Bonus points.
I love reading just-for-fun easier things like graphic novels and children’s literature as a sort of palette cleanser in-between heavier books or as something to read when my brain isn’t exactly firing on all pistons. I’m working my way through A Series of Unfortunate Events now and they are fantastically witty and empathetic. I can’t wait to start reading this series to the kids.
I also read two audiobooks this month. I listen to audiobooks through Audible. If you are interested in giving Audible a test run, you can try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen: Gardens of the Moon (1) (1999) by Steven Erikson
The Malazan Empire is undergoing wars and bloody infighting, but the scale might tip when the gods begin to get involved.
I’m in a sort of audiobook epic fantasy book club with my brother-in-law and this is the next series we’re starting. It took a loooong time to get into this one and it’s a difficult epic fantasy series to be introduced to in audiobook format. But I never judge epic fantasy by book 1: they tend to be just laying the groundwork and things don’t really heat up until book 2 (or even 3, for longer series). I’m sure I missed a lot and will do much better keeping track of characters and places when I read it in print.
The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This classic is one of my favorites for the writing style and I usually re-read it about once a year. I love that it has become a different book to me as I become a different person and a better reader. I love having the books I re-read often on audiobook so I can re-read while I clean and save my eyeballs for more new books. Classics like these come up often during big sales! Jake Gyllenhaal did an excellent job on the narration.
That’s a wrap! I’m reading a crazy amount right now as the cold shutters me inside more. I read while I feed the baby I watch during the day, while the kids are doing extracurriculars, and I’ve been too tired to do much else between the time the kids go to bed and I do.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Make sure to put a big SPOILERS warning in your comment to warn others if you have ‘em.
Reading anything good lately?
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