A thing to know about me: I am a voracious reader.
My first memory of reading involves digging a Hansel and Gretel book out of a bin at a toy store because I wanted to make sure I could read before I started school. I was three. My tastes have changed since then, but I will still choose a book over anything else. If you ask J, it’s a bit of a sickness.
I set a goal to read 100 books this year and I thought it might be time I share some of my thoughts and recommendations here, rather than hoarding them for myself.
So, without further ado, here are the books I read in January:
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller :: The unraveling of this family’s secrets was entertaining enough that I didn’t want to put the book down for long. I found the protagonist frustratingly naïve and childish at times (more often than not) but that didn’t keep me from loving the mother’s letters. Overall, the story comes to a satisfying conclusion for most of the characters, though there is a single thread regarding the letters and who sees them (or doesn’t see them) that still bugs me.
Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh :: These stories are ugly in the best way. They dig at the emotional and physical ugliness of humans with a rawness that many tiptoe around. This author does not tiptoe. Human bodies are weird and she exploits every nook and hair and pimple to spin her tales. Fatness was mentioned in an ugly manner a few too many times for me to really love this collection, but overall I’d still recommend it.
Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins :: This collection moves fast while also being wonderful and enlightening. I knew from the first page what I was getting into and that it wouldn’t be a voice I’d soon forget or confuse with others.
Nicotine by Nell Zink :: The opening pages, upon finishing the book, feel like the wrong place to begin as the onus is on the wrong person. The vibe, jarring and otherworldly within reality, is right…but there’s just something I didn’t love about the first chapter or so. I was excited about this book because of the public’s overwhelming love of Mislaid (which I will hopefully get to this month or next), but it didn’t do it for me.
**Keep scrolling for more reviews below the links**
The Mothers by Brit Bennett :: Hype has surrounded this book for months before its release, which is why I put it off until this past month. The setting, more than the plot, is what got me. I used to live in San Marcos, CA and spent my fair share of afternoons in Oceanside where the book takes place. Bennett captures the feel of the community and I found myself nodding and conjuring up my own memories for locations she mentions. The characters leave a bit to be desired – I really didn’t care for the best friend or her more sparse development, but I loved the main.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay :: I don’t usually read this many short story collections a month, but I couldn’t pass this one up. I have read some of these stories before (because I love Roxane Gay), but they felt new and fresh within this structure and with the influence of the other stories. It’s a well-rounded collection that feels all the more necessary to this time in American society. I laughed, I cried (as someone who has experienced child loss, I can tell you that she hits all the notes in a tear-jerker of a story), I got angry, and then I found myself ever more determined to fight.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling :: I needed a palate cleanser after so many serious books this month. I went with Kaling’s follow-up to Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which I loved. This one was decent, but not nearly as laugh-out-loud funny as her first essay collection.
Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement :: This is a novel that tells the stories of girls that need to be told. I am all-in for this book on premise alone. There are repetitive sentences and descriptions within pages of each other that take away from the writing for me, but overall I enjoyed the read. Again, premise is everything for this book and it is worth reading for that reason.
– M. Ray Hall