March was a very interesting month of reading for me. After a year of listening to the Currently Reading podcast, I have a HUGE list of recommended books I want to read. I put many of them on hold at the library and I read them as they are available, and based on my mood. This month felt especially random, with much more nonfiction than normal for me! This month I read:
- How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu – This was reminded me of Station Eleven (life in a post pandemic world) and Project Hail Mary (space and alien life possibilities), both of which I enjoyed for their unique structures and beautifully-told stories. This was a collection of chapters about different people before, during, and after a global pandemic, but not COVID-19, and while each chapter felt isolated from the others, eventually you found connections amongst the characters. We traveled from Siberia, across America, to Japan, to space, and back throughout the stories, each tale full of death and those who survived. This was a bittersweet story well-told.
- How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith – This was a 5 star read for me. Each time I pick up a book related to American history, I think this will be the one where I will hear repeated facts, and won’t learn anything new. Wrong again! As we continue to peel back the layers of incomplete histories that we have been taught, I am amazed and saddened by the harsh realities that make up our country’s foundation. Smith takes us through a deeper look into various historical homes, former plantations, current prisons, and other historical markers. As someone who went to college in VA, I really enjoyed the chapter on Monticello, Jefferson’s home, which I toured in the early 90’s. It was wonderful to hear how the home is now incorporating entire tours on the Hemings family and acknowledging the lineage from Jefferson. There was so much personalization to this, with Smith taking the tours available, asking the harder questions, and including quotes from enslaved people captured through the Federal Writers’ Project. I borrowed this from the library, but might need to buy it for myself – it was that impactful. I highly recommend this!
- The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green [audiobook]- I loved Green’s The Fault in our Stars years ago, which was a bittersweet YA story. This is nothing like that, and yet has the same heart. In this collection of essays, Green uses a 5 star rating system to rate each essay topic. Topics include Haley’s Comet, Diet Dr. Pepper, and Scratch N Sniff Stickers, among many other random ideas. Green blends humor with seriousness, facts with fun memories, and new learning with pandemic life, as he wrote most of this during early COVID-19 days. I really enjoyed the different topics and the depth of knowledge he went into with them. This was fun to listen to him read.
- A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – I read this for Laura Tremaine’s Secret Stuff March Book Club. I hadn’t ever read anything by Didion, and I was a littler nervous to read a memoir about grieving, but I enjoyed her writing. This book captured the year after Joan’s husband John died of sudden cardiac arrest, while their daughter was in a coma fighting for her life. Joan had an incredibly rough year, not able to grieve for her husband until her daughter’s health improved, and then took a turn again. When you grieve, the simplest things can bring back floods of memories. Joan takes us through what she tried to avoid thinking about to stay away from her memories, and what she did to lean into them. This was melancholy but also so full of a lifetime of love.
- State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny – I have read books by both of these authors in the past, and I am excited that they paired up to write this political thriller. I loved this fast-paced book and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! Ellen, the Secretary of State, does not have a good relationship with the new president, who seems to have appointed her just to get her out of his way. When an immediate and real terror threat threatens Europe and the USA, Ellen must figure out what is going on in order to save lives, including her own adult children. She travels to many countries (Iran, Russia!) and must face awful people in her quest for the truth. It’s hard to know who to trust. This all felt so real it was scary, and a little too close to being a possible plot in our world. I love that the main characters, Ellen and her best friend Betsy, were modeled off of real people who sound like they were wonderful.
- The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino and translated by Alexander O. Smith – This is a mystery that takes place in Japan. We meet Yasucko, a single mom who has a horrible ex-husband and we meet her neighbor Ishigami, a quiet math teacher. Something happens early in the book and our police detective Kusanagi must figure out what exactly happened. As he, his partner, and his friend, who is a physic professor and a genius, try to solve the mystery, we learn more about Ishigami. This was a interesting story that held my attention. I appreciated reading a book translated from Japanese, and learning a little about Japanese culture.
- Save Yourself: A Memoir by Cameron Esposito [audiobook]- I’m not sure how I started following this stand-up comedian on Instagram, but once I found some of their videos funny, I wanted to listen to their memoir. Cameron’s memoir describes their very Catholic upbringing, their realization that they were a lesbian, their guilt about that “sin”, and their eventual self acceptance. I’m using the pronoun they because on Instagram Cameron has shared that they are nonbinary (though the book was written when they thought of themselves as a masculine-presenting female).
- The Wild Robot by Peter Brown – One of my nephews (CM) recommended this book to me recently when we were at a family lunch. I always ask him what he is reading when I see him and he told about this series. He said, “It’s good, not very fast-paced, but I liked the story and the characters” and I agree with him. This is a cute middle grades story about a robot that gets turned on after a crash on an island with a lot of wild animals. The robot learns how to adapt and live with the animals and make friends and be “wild”. There are a lot of themes of love, friendship, acceptance, and support in this book.
- Verity by Colleen Hoover – This was a fast-paced, tense read for me and I loved it (4.5 stars!)! Lowen is a struggling author who is hired to finish writing a very famous series when the original author has an injury. Lowen moves into the author’s home with her family, to go through all of her materials. As Lowen gets to the know the author through her notes, and her family, she finds more and more traumatic details of their life. This is a very open door romance with lots of descriptive detail, along with some very tense moments when you are unsure who to trust. It’s a fun read! Thanks to Andree for loaning me her copy!
Favorite book(s) this month
Fiction: State of Terror
Nonfiction: How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America