Books! Books! Books! Ten more titles for 2014

I'm still behind in my reading, but here are the next ten titles I've finished this year. I sought out more writers of color and allowed myself time to read longer, denser works like Invisible ManAmericanah and A Tale for the Time Being. If you missed my first ten titles you can read about them here.

11. Girl Coming in for a Landing by April Halpern Wayland 

This novel in verse about a young girl coming of age verse is a little slight for me. Isn’t as inspiring as I find some novels in verse to be (Sonya Sones).

12. Educating Esme by Esme Codell 

This memoir of a woman’s first year teaching brought some inspiration, but like most education memoirs, they establish the teacher as an educational savior, the only shining light in a dark system, which is such a simplistic way of looking at this practice. Kind of inspiring, but mostly annoying.

13. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 

An exhausting, devastating account of a young Black man finding his place in a shifting post civil war, pre-civil rights America. From the battle royal at the opening, through college and the mental hospital, to the northern city where labor and political organizing provide opportunities and devastation, the narrator plods on until we no longer see him.

14. Divergent by Veronica Roth 

I saw the preview for movie based on this book when I went to see The Book Thief and was intrigued. Then all of my students started reading it and insisted I join them. Dystopian YA is fun and it made me wish I’d finished my NaNoWriMo project from a few years back.  

15. Marbles by Ellen Forney 

A friend lent this to me to help me along my 50 book mission and I read it as the Trail Blazers were getting worked in the playoffs. It allowed me to trace through my sister’s journey to a bi-polar diagonsis. The connections between creativity, artistry, and mood disorders hit home with me as did the graphic novel-ness of it which captures in visuals a complex and inexplicable experience. 

16. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

This one took me a while, not because it wasn’t engaging, but Adichie’s other book took me about six months to finish, so taking a month for this one isn’t all that bad. I loved the conversations about race and the contemporary feel including the blogs and the way Obama’s candidacy and election did something unique for communities of color. Her modern Nigeria feels so distant from the one I read about in Half of a Yellow Sun and Adichie captures the feeling of belonging and not belonging that immigrants and Americans of color experience. 

17. My Ideal Bookshelf edited by Thessaly La Force, art by Jane Mount Really 

This is more of a coffee table book, a conversation piece, and it’s beautiful but it also has its limits. I kind of hate the pretention of lists like this and James Franco’s list exhibits this perfectly: these are the books that are acceptable as my favorites. So, I found connection with some of the lists and annoyance with others and plan to put together a list of my own every year to show how my tastes and pov change over time. 

18. The Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward 

I read this on board my flight to Portland as the complications with Mom’s surgery piled up. These stories of young men in Mississippi who find death too young brought me comfort during a time of intense uncertainty. Ward’s ability to capture place and character leave me in awe. She does fiction (Salvage the Bones) and nonfiction equally well.

19. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki 

Loved this book which alternated povs between the diary of a Japanese girl who spent a good deal of time in the US, and a third person close of Ruth. She masterfully unfolds the journeys of both characters and works in all kinds of science and philosophy. It actually made me want to meditate, and study Japanese again. 

20. The Accidental Asian by Eric Liu 

I enjoyed the first two essays in these Notes from a Native Speaker, and maybe if I was Nissei, second generation, I would have related more, or if I was a guy. His perspective is definitely one of male power (as a speech writer for Clinton he definitely occupies influential spaces) but by his last few essays on New Jews and Blood Ties I’d grown weary of his perspective and found fault in some of his strategies.

I'm almost halfway to 50 and hope to have my next ten titles up at the start of September. 

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