At the beginning of each month, I optimistically choose a stack of books I want to read. My January TBR (to-be-read) pile looked like this...
As I do every single month, I read a completely different pile of books. Here is my actual January reading stack plus The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins was my absolute must read. I waited and waited to get that book from the library but clearly everyone else wanted the same thing. Thankfully, I was gifted GOTT in December and put it to good use pretty darn quick! I loved it. I'm not typically a thriller or mystery reader, so I wouldn't be able to rate it against other well written books in the same category. For me, it was highly entertaining. The plot is pretty messy and keeps you thinking. I loved how Hawkins revealed tiny bits throughout the story to help you solve the who-dun-it murder with an untrustworthy main character. I'm never good at solving mysteries so it took me a while to figure it out. This book won't change your life or impress you with an unique writing style, but you will be entertained. It was a decent book that moved along and kept you guessing.
After completing The Girl On The Train, I wanted to dig into a hefty subject about race in America. 2015/16 brought a lot of attention to this topic in the news media. And now, even more so with recent executive orders. I didn't seek out the news articles but it definitely is in the back of my mind. Clearly one side feels unheard and mistreated, I wanted to understand that feeling more. So, this month I decided I would read some of the popular titles currently out there getting attention.
Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi was my first choice. This book is a lot of things. It is historical fiction, short stories, and contemporary fiction. The chapters follow the lineage of family from two sisters over the course of 200-plus years. Primarily, the subject matter is slavery but evolves to contemporary issues of the African American race. This book is superbly written. It brings understanding to those who have not been directly affected by this certain history. In the past, I have tried to read African literature without success. It's hard to understand through a Western lense. I found Homegoing to be very informative and eye opening. I recommend this book to all readers. However, this book will really appeal to those looking to learn something versus being entertained.
My feelings about reading this book. Gotta put on your book nerd glasses :)
Moving right along to Book #3 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. What an incredible writer. As I read this book, I continually watched interviews with Whitehead to better understand what he was trying to convey with this book. I read a lot of complaints of his character development but I don't believe that was Whitehead's focus. It's sort of like reading classics and finding the message buried in symbolism and themes. This book definitely peaked my interest in Colson Whitehead novels. The Underground Railroad is not what you expect as far as typical story telling with a main character who has a conflict and everything is tied up with a neat little bow by the last page. Much like Homegoing, The Underground Railroad is a one part of an ongoing conversation about race in America. If I had to pick one over the other, I would go with Homegoing. There are less distractions from what is most important.
#4 Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehishi Coates was a non-fiction book about race in America. It is along the same lines as Homegoing and The Underground Railroad focusing on the African American experience. This was solely the author's experience and thoughts on the subject. I wasn't in love with it but respect the point of view. I know this book has received rave reviews but I'm not recommending this one.
January books were definitely about educating myself about racial injustice from the African American point of view. I think it's an important conversation to be informed about from those experiencing the situation first hand. I am glad I devoted this month to reading only A.A. literature. I haven't decided if I will continue with similar books in February. There really is enough out there to keep going.
The thing holding me back is the weight of the information which starts to wear on my brain. Plus, I start to feel guilty about the ways things were and are. It is also a bit annoying that you feel lumped into a generalization about your race made by some of the authors. I suppose the door swings both ways. I also felt like my empathy as a white American isn't enough to allow me to actively participate in the race conversation. Lots of heavy complicated feelings.
I wonder if you have read any of these books and if you share similar feelings? And what are your thoughts in general about these books?
*I'm linking up with Jana and Steph and a bunch of other fabulous readers for books reviews. Check them out if you need a new book!