November 2020 Reading Update

I just realized that I never published this post, even though we are well into December now. This was the month of women authors, apparently! So I intentionally picked up some books by male authors late into the month.

This is what I read in November:

  • So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo – Each book on read on my antiracism journey adds to my knowledge, increases my understanding of perspectives different than my own, and builds upon previous information I’ve learned. I feel like some of the information is blending together in my mind, which I hope means that it’s solidifying for me and will result in better actions as I move forward. The author is a Black woman who has spent her career writing and educating folks about race, talking about race, and developing policies that create equity and inclusion in the work place. I appreciate that each chapter includes a focus area, such as intersectionality or police brutality or privilege, real world examples, and tips to do better. The author shares funny and painful examples, incorporating humor and hard truths into her advice.
  • Coaching for Equity: Conversations that Change Practice by Elena Aguilar – It is no secret that I have loved every book Elena Aguilar has written. She is my professional guru and I love her work! I appreciate that she took her coaching expertise and applied an equity lens to the entire process in this beautiful, amazing, professional resource.  I loved this book so much that I dedicated an entire blog series to it (which starts with my reflections on the introduction). I couldn’t resist writing out my reflections to the questions that Aguilar proposes at the end of each chapter. I highly encourage this book to all educators everywhere, but especially in America, and especially in November of 2020.
  • When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton – I am notoriously bad at remembering the details of books after I’ve read them, even ones I’ve loved, but I remembered enough of Next Year in Havana to be able to jump back into the life of the Perez family, who we meet back up with to learn about their live in Miami, after being exiled from Cuba when Castro took over. This story follows Beatriz, the rebel sister, through her cause to avenger her brother’s death, see Castro leave power, and her dream to return to life in Cuba. While the story had fun, society events, travel, political heroes, and more, it was such a bittersweet story, knowing that Castro would live long beyond Beatriz’s young dreams. Cleeton’s writing still makes me want to visit Havana someday. I love her writing and the vivid pictures she paints with words.
  • The End of Her by Shari Lapena – I know what to expect from this author – a fast-paced mystery where you doubt each character as you read along to find out the truth.  In this case, Patrick’s second wife Stephanie, learns that his first wife died accidentally when he is accused of killing her by an old lover.  As Stephanie learns more about her husband’s past, she has more and more doubts about him.  Erica, his lover out for money from anyone and everyone, spins a tail that makes Stephanie doubt her marriage and her safety. As Patrick’s life unravels, we learn more and more about each character and their flaws. I loved the ending, which I won’t give away here. It was a fun read!
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I just realized this is the third Reid book I’ve read and enjoyed!  This one was my favorite of the three. Thank you to my cousin Jenny for recommending this, and sparking me to get it as a bonus from my Book of The Month club. I loved learning Evelyn’s life story as she told it to Monique, for a secret tell-all biography. With each chapter, you learn more about Evelyn and you think you’ve got her figured out, but there is always another twist to her romance, her decisions, and her life trajectory. I loved the characters who came in and out of her life, especially Harry and Celia, and the friendships and love story. This was such a fun read and a bittersweet story!
  • Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane – This was my November Book of the Month selection and I loved it! I always enjoy a fast-paced mystery with twists and turns, when you suspect every character at some point. When Lila’s husband goes missing, we read flashbacks about her marriage with Aaron, and follow the investigation to solve the mystery of where Aaron went and what happened. When I read a book in one day, you know it’s a good one!
  • Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben – I realized that all the books I read this month were by women so I intentionally chose to read this book next! I love Harlan Coben’s mysteries. Even though this wasn’t about his usual characters, I enjoyed the story. I felt like Nap, the vigilante cop who hasn’t gotten over his twin brother’s death 15 years earlier, was a lot like Bolitar and Win, Coben’s main characters in other novels. Everyone was a suspect in my mind at some point, as Nap tried to figure out how a recent crime connects to his brother’s death. It was a sad story to get to the end, but I enjoyed the fact-paced ride. Because Coben lives in New Jersey, his books usually take place there. This book also made me want to research the former missile sites that were hidden around NJ., since I know nothing about them.
  • Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World by Scott Harrison [audiobook] – I heard about this on a recent podcast episode, and I was interested by the idea of a charity focused on clean water. I didn’t know that the first two thirds of the book would be his memoir, starting in childhood and detailing his mother’s illnesses growing up. He had a very religious upbringing and then he rebelled against all that and went wild for his teens and 20’s. His redemption was about returning to his faith and wanting to serve the world instead of himself.  While I appreciated his reflections on his volunteerism and the development of his charity, I was annoyed through most of the book. Partly because of his ego and his pushy enthusiasm for every new idea he had (he speaks like a used car salesman to me), and partly because I’ve recently read so much about white saviorism and this just sat wrong with me. I love the idea that everyone needs and deserves clean water, and that there are many remote areas in the world that need access to clean water. I heard the statistics that so many world health problems relate back to lack of access to clean water. I appreciated that Harrison and his organization (charity: water) partner with locals to build wells and develop water systems that local citizens can be proud of. I even appreciated his business model where 100% of donations go directly to the work of bringing water to those in need, and he fundraises separately to cover the overhead costs of running the non-profit. But I had this nagging feeling while reading the book that so much of the charity was build on the premise of white saviorism and I couldn’t get past that. Reading this makes me want to investigate all charities that I invest in more thoroughly, and to continue my own antiracism education. Here are a few additional items I read about that connect charity and white saviorism (blog  Nonprofit Quarterly stats and Community-centric fundraising and the White Savior Industrial Complex), in case you want to further your own understanding of this complex issue.
  • Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey – When I started tracking the books I read this year, I purposely wrote woman, man, and nonbinary in the author category. I wanted to be inclusive, even though I wasn’t aware of any nonbinary authors at the time. A friend recommended this author, because they identify as nonbinary and have written a number of books. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this particular book. It was a mystery book that felt like it was stealing a little from Harry Potter and a little from British mysteries, with whiny, unlikeable characters. I finished it solely to learn how the mystery wrapped up (i.e., who caused the sudden death of a character), but it was unsatisfying. I have read reviews of this author’s other books, and I might try a different one at a later time.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – I LOVED this book! It’s a YA dystopian story set in the future, but based on 80’s pop culture and video games. It was such a fun ride, to re-live my own memories of playing Atari with my family, while Wade/ Parzival plays through adventures to find the “eggs” hidden in the virtual world created by a billionaire. I appreciated that the use of avatars disguised people’s true selves, and yet the characters got to know each other so well in spite of their secrets. I can’t wait to read the second book, which my friend Barb told me was even better!

This year I’m also keeping track of the stats of the books I read. Here are November’s stats:

Fiction: 7

Nonfiction: 2

Young Adolescent: 1

Audiobooks: 1

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 4

Female author: 6

Male Author: 3

Nonbinary Author: 1

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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