Welcome to Reads in Review, the yearly blog post from someone who loves to read but manages to actually read very few books. Nevertheless, I will share my three favorites with you. I know! You’re welcome!
. . . . .
Educated by Tara Westover. My “couldn’t put it down” book of the year. I smiled, I cried, I shook my head in disbelief multiple times. I read a non-fiction book like this with a doubting mind – surely, SURELY, this can’t all be true – so I’m trusting Random House’s fact checker on this. But still? It’s unbelievable. Tara was raised in a large family in the mountains of Idaho, without a birth certificate or a formal education, spending her days helping her herbalist midwife mother and preparing for the Days of Abomination. The stories of her childhood are heartwarming, heartbreaking, and violent, and as so many sides of this story surface, you are continually surprised and increasingly afraid for her. Finally, she decides to follow in the footsteps of one older brother and educate herself enough to take the ACT and apply to college, a move dismissed by her father as “whoring after man’s knowledge and not God’s.” What follows is a journey away from home and back again, so many times, until she realizes she has to make a choice.
All my father’s stories were about our mountain, our valley, our jagged little patch of Idaho. He never told me what do to if I left the mountain, if I crossed oceans and continents and found myself in strange terrain, where I could no longer search the horizon for the Princess. He never told me how I’d know when it was time to come home.Prologue, Educated
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Not long ago, I saw a comment on social media about people who call out racism and privilege, and how to react if it happens to you. The gist? Be thankful. You have been viewed as someone who will do better when they know better, someone who didn’t intend the hurt caused by words or actions. This is how I read Oluo’s entire book. She takes the time she certainly doesn’t owe us, and she calls out, explains, and she’s not shy about telling us what’s at risk if we don’t listen. She probably wondered why, in 2018, she’d need to cover some of these topics at all, but she does so with that hope – that expectation – that we WILL do better. This isn’t just a book about how to call out racism and privilege, though it is about that; it’s about how to look at ourselves, our history, our privilege, our society, our government, and our fellow humans in a critical, change-focused way. It’s absolutely worth a read.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Hello, 1984. I’m sorry it took me so long to read this beautiful little book you gave us. I loved that each chapter, be it one paragraph or four pages, was its own story, and it fit seamlessly into the thread running from beginning to end. It’s what I imagine to be a perfect example of novella-in-flash. This is the way Cisneros intended it, as she says in the preface: “…people who are busy working for a living deserve beautiful little stories, because they don’t have much time and are often tired. She has in mind a book that can be opened at any page and will still make sense to the reader…”
The imagery and sense of culture is so vivid, and the small things come to life in her words. A character’s laughter is “not the shy ice cream bells’ giggle of Rachel and Lucy’s family, but all of a sudden and surprised like a pile of dishes breaking,” and another sees “that wide puffy cloud that looks like your face when you wake up after falling asleep with all your clothes on.” At 110 pages, it’s a fast read and I loved it.
“Marin, under the streetlight, dancing by herself, is singing the same song somewhere. I know. Is waiting for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life.”“Marin,” The House on Mango Street
I will try not to regret time spent on predictable thrillers or a promising, character-driven story that ended in with a flash mob in a mall, of all things? (Why?) And apparently the eternal struggle to make reading a priority and not a luxury shall continue into 2019. What was your most worth-it read of the year?