November ‘18: Recently Read
Given the number of books I tore through this month, it’s no wonder I didn’t get much else accomplished. That said, it was worth it! I hit a solid handful of really memorable stories…several of which will be hard to forget.
Doc: A Memoir
Dwight Gooden’s sad, weirdly uplifting story and yet I couldn’t help but think, “another great athlete fallen to the system, drugs, and fame”. I’ve read too many of these books this year, so I’m a little jaded but that’s not to say that there’s not some gut wrenching pillow items.
The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac
I probably shouldn’t have read this right after reading “On the Road” because I probably would have enjoyed it a little more. Regardless, I found Kerouac’s characters incredibly complex, infuriating but certainly not cliche.
Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century, Kehinde Andrews
A rather thorough academic exercise of framing what “was not or is not radicalism” while lightly addressing what “is radicalism”. To sum it up…global racism is globally systemic, therefore, in order to rid the world of racism, there needs to be a new system. Andrews’ book, if nothing else, is a worthwhile reminder to seriously consider whether ideas/actions that aim to address racism and oppression, really are going to be enough to solve the problem.
On the Road, Jack Kerouac
It’s probably for the best that I’m only just now reading this story because had I read it in high school or college I probably would have ended up sleeping under a bridge scribbling furiously in a notebook. What a story. I couldn’t read it fast enough.
An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
What a ride! Jones created a truly unique tapestry of imaginative reality. I couldn’t put this book down. The story gets a little wild in number of parts but there’s so many truthful elements that it makes for a fantastic read. If there were more stories and writers like this…Netflix would struggle to stay in business.
Well-Read Black Girl, Glory Edim
I can’t get enough of WRBG! I came across Edim in an attempt (successful) to track down black writers of today. I’ve read Hughes, Hurston, and Haley. I wanted to know black authors that were writing Fiction, authors that wrote about something other than social injustices. Edim helped fill that void with black female authors that I’ve come to appreciate. Black women are an authoritative source of inspiration to so many and yet are given so little limelight. I’m excited and happy to be a support of the WRBG club, the stories their writing, sharing and exploring.
The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6' 4", African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian, W. Kamau Bell
One of my favorite books this month, if not, all year. Bell is funny, direct, unapologetic and transparent.
Friday Black, Nana Kramer Adjei-Brenyah
It’s best to read this book over several weeks to avoid feeling like you’re reading a college student’s senior capstone project. Each story is indeed unique, but in aggregate it's like reading an entire semesters worth of assignments. That said, I enjoyed the imagination that Adjei-Brenyah brought to the stories and how in several cases he touched on important social issues.
I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul, James McBride **
I didn’t know much about the “hardest working man in show business,” but after reading Kill’em and Leave, I certainly know more about James Brown and James McBride. A journalist, novelist, jazz musician and raised by a white mother...there are a lot to appreciate in McBride's perception of Brown’s life and the meaning it has today.
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins**
I’m not one for psychological thrillers, but Stieg Larsen’s Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and subsequent books had me hooked. When I realized Girl on the Train was his work but finished by Hawkins after his death, I decided to give it a go. If I had done a bit of research, I might have opted to skip this book in favor of something less dark, less abusive, less tragic but a third of the way in I couldn’t put it down. A maze of twists and turns, it kept me guessing until the end, so in that case…mission accomplished, but I can’t imagine reading the follow-up book “Into the Water. Instead, I’ll opt for something a bit brighter, insightful and thought-provoking.
Fear: Trump in the White House, Bob Woodward
First, I had to toss the dust cover in the trash because seeing Trump’s face on the front AND back, gave me an uncontrollable urge to punch something. Fortunately, Woodward did a good job of telling a story. No idea to how accurate it is but it certainly pulls into focus how a lot of people see Trump. I’d recommend this to just about anyone that’s able to tackle it with an open mind because otherwise it’s a little incendiary.
Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring home the Lost Children of Nepal, Conor Grennan
WTF. I just couldn’t get into Grennan’s story or style. It was unbelievably shallow and contrived.
Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
I certainly got a few strange looks while reading this book. Definitely, a priv/chic lit book but I was curious, so I picked it up. I was particularly interested in Gilbert’s experience in India which turned out to be about what I expected. She certainly has a vivid writing style, and I could see her personality in some people I’ve known over the years…all of which left me exhausted, scratching my head and thankful that our interactions were short.
Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
I loved this story and the way Edugyan writes. I just couldn’t put it down. There was just the right balance of detail to get me into the story but not so much that it clogged the flow. I don’t typically read books a second time but this one I’m sure I’ll come back to.