March Reads

I read more books in March than I did in February, but these are the ones worth sharing. I read a bunch of picture books and Little Golden Books while shopping for my nephew’s 6th birthday present, but I’m only sharing the two picture books I bought him. I also read some problematic romance novels, that I refuse to share because they have over four stars on both Goodreads and Amazon, and I don’t want to have to argue with people.

I can’t really pick a favorite for the month because I loved all of the books I read for different reasons, and I won’t be surprised if all of them make my list of year-end favorites.

I predict that my reading will pick up in April once I get the end of the school year mapped out and the dust settles from the end of the third marking period!

February Reads

This was a slow month for me, reading wise. I know eight books is a lot for the average person, but it’s pretty low for me. February was a hectic month and some of these weren’t exactly page turners. That said, I did enjoy all of them.

The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse: 110 Poets on the Divine edited by Kaveh Akbar: I was fixated on Kaveh Akbar at the end of January, so I started February with this collection of poetry. There was so much to love about this, especially Akbar’s introduction to each poem and the chronological organization. I found this to be extremely soothing.

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson: I don’t normally need content warnings, but I wish I would have had one for this. It took a dark turn very quickly and I wasn’t in the right headspace for it. I kept reading because I was so invested in the main character, Tan-Tan, and I had to see her through to the end. I was not disappointed! 

Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson: I’ve been following Andrea Gibson for a while and have greatly appreciated the wisdom they share. After a post about mental health that had me reflecting and journaling for hours, I decided to read some of their poetry. It was exactly what I needed.

A Certain Justice by P. D. James: This was good, but I swear I’ve read it before. It isn’t marked as read on any of my logs, but the whole time I was reading it, I felt like I was having deja vu.

Blood: The Science, Medicine, and Mythology of Menstruation by Dr. Jen Gunter: The Menopause Manifesto changed my life, so I was pretty excited to read this. Granted, this would have been much more valuable to me twenty or so years ago, but a lot of it was still relevant. Highly recommend!

Promises of Gold by José Olivarez: The end of the month was extremely chaotic and I could not focus on reading. I turned to poetry (again) to help me get back on track. José Olivarez is among my favorite poets and I absolutely adored this collection.

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen: More poetry to calm my brain. I’ve always loved the title of this collection. It’s on my list for The Sealey Challenge every year, but for some reason I haven’t read it yet. It was excellent.

A Wager with a Duke by Tamara Gill: Regency romance is normally not my genre, but I was getting frustrated with being unable to focus on the N. K. Jemisin book I started three times, and I needed something fun and kind of predictable. This worked. Now I should be able to wrap my head around complex world building.

I’m hoping for better reading adventures in March!

Shelf #16 Complete, On to Shelf #17

A Certain Justice was good, but I feel like I read it before even though my reading logs have it marked as unread. I even checked the last printed version and it’s not highlighted, so I either missed it or have read something extremely similar. I’m pretty sure I missed it somehow because the events and the ending seemed too familiar. Oh well! I liked it, and it satisfied a bunch of challenge categories, so I have no regrets.

Now for shelf #17!

No one will be surprised that I plan to read The City We Became and The World We Make by N. K. Jemisin. I may also read The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers because I really want to read it, and while it’s nice to read a ton of books every month, I’ve noticed that focusing on that goal has caused me to avoid longer texts. The years I read fewer books overall are the years I read the most pages. It all evens out in the end.

Books I’ve Read:

  • The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
  • The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
  • The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
  • Corregidora by Gayl Jones
  • My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor
  • Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Shelf #15 Complete, On to Shelf #16

These took longer than usual to finish. When I started Smilla’s Sense of Snow, I couldn’t put it down, but the second half of the novel got really messy. It could have been because school was extremely stressful while I was trying to finish it (internet outages, end of the marking period, etc.) and I didn’t have a lot of time or energy to read every day, but a lot of the second half didn’t really make sense to me. Not in the “I didn’t understand what was going on” way, but in the plot hole/continuity/character arc way. I did spend a lot of time researching Denmark, Greenland, and all the social issues addressed in the book, so even though I didn’t love it, I’m better for having read it. Plus, it satisfied a lot of challenge prompts. (Beat the Backlist: 4-word title, travel by ship, and these woods hold secrets; The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge 2024: A thriller or crime novel in translation)

Midnight Robber was tough to get through because I was unaware that it was going to take an extremely dark turn. The novel starts off pretty light, but then the main character experiences something devastatingly traumatic and it was a lot for me to process. I was tempted to DNF it and come back to it later, but because of how much I liked the main character, I needed to see her through to the end. I’m glad I did! Another reason I wanted to see it through was that it satisfied so many reading challenge categories. (Beat the Backlist: these woods hold secrets, between 300 and 400 pages, and second chances; The StoryGraph Reads the World 2024: Jamaica; The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge 2024:A science fiction or dystopian book by a woman or nonbinary author)

Another reason it took longer than usual to get through Smilla’s Sense of Snow and Midnight Robber was that I HAD to read Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar before the book signing at The Midtown Scholar. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and it will probably have its own post (once I read it again).

Now for shelf #16!

I’m going to stick to P. D. James for this shelf because I need something lighter, and I want to start reading some of the books I got for my birthday! I usually double (or triple) up on books, but they can’t be similar at all. Plus, I don’t want any content surprises. I’ve read most of the Adam Dalgliesh novels and I’ve loved them all.

Books I’ve read:

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
  • Children of Men by P. D. James

Shelf #14 Complete, On to Shelf #15

I’m flying through these books, which isn’t surprising because I bought most of them because I really wanted to read them at the time. Woe from Wit was great, but because it’s humorous, I know it would be better to see it performed. I looked online, but all the performances I could find were in Russian. I can see why my former student recommended it to me.

I didn’t know much about Transcendent Kingdom before I started it. I bought it because Homegoing was brilliant. I read it in a little over a day because so much of it hit close to home. Like the main character, I’ve struggled with faith and I’ve had loved ones battle opioid addiction. What resonated with me the most was how the main character, Gifty, struggles with her relationship with her mother and recognizing her as a whole person. Gifty also grapples with racism, being an immigrant, and abandonment from her father. I always begin the year with “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, and for me, this novel was all three. Every element of this novel was so well developed, and I couldn’t stop reading even when it was hard. Gyasi is now on my list of writers whose books I’ll buy immediately without question.

Finding out that my copy is autographed was a nice surprise!

Now for shelf #15!

I’ll be spending some time on this shelf because there are a few books that will take care of challenge categories, and I have too many bookshelves to trust that I’ll be able to circle back around before the year ends. I need to read Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg because it’s a thriller or crime novel in translation (The Story Graph’s Genre Challenge), and Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson because she’s Jamaican and it’s a work of science fiction written by a woman (The Story Graph’s Genre and Read the World Challenges). I like how the challenge categories are making decisions easy for me!

Books I’ve read:

  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  • Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
  • Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness
  • The Kiss by Katherine Harrison
  • Hiroshima by John Hersey
  • Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday with William Duffy
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Shelf #13 Complete, On to Shelf #14

Beowulf: The Script Book contains the original script for the Beowulf movie and the script that eventually made it to the screen with commentary by Roger Avary. For a variety of reasons, I was not expecting to stay up all night reading Beowulf: The Script Book, but that’s what happened. I love it when writers discuss their process, and I was fascinated by the differences between the two scripts and what Roger Avary went through to bring Beowulf  to the screen. I expected that reading two versions would be repetitive and possibly tedious, but I was quite wrong. Now I want to reread the original Beowulf and watch the movie. Maybe we’ll get more snow, and I’ll have extra free time!

Now for shelf #14

Because I’m indecisive, I plan to read two from this shelf: Woe from Wit by Alexander Griboedov and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. Woe from Wit was recommended by a former student and Transcendent Kingdom will take care of some reading challenge categories. 

Books I’ve read:

  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
  • The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
  • Less Is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer
  • The Firm by John Grisham
  • A Time to Kill by John Grisham
  • The Last Great Dance on Earth by Sandra Gulland
  • The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
  • Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe by Sandra Gulland
  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
  • Miss Kraft Is Daft by Dan Gutman
  • Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H

Shelf #12 Complete, On to Shelf #13

I’m a morning person, so even though we have a two hour delay, I was up at the usual time. I love having time to read and reflect in the morning, and I hate feeling rushed, so I’m enjoying every minute of this time. I finished Howards End yesterday morning, and I liked it more than I thought I would. It had a “rich people are horrible and ruin everything” vibe that made me think of The Great Gatsby, and Forster’s writing wasn’t quite as dense as other literature from that time period. Howards End was published in 1910, so it’s a bit past the Victorian era. For some reason, anything written in that time period has either been a massive struggle for me or a DNF. Even contemporary works set in that time period irritate me. I’m not sure why because I know there’s a lot of brilliant Victorian writing. It’s just not my thing. Howards End satisfies “published 100+ years ago,” “on your TBR 5+ years,” and “an unexpected inheritance” on the Beat the Backlist Challenge.

Now for shelf #13!

I’m sure people who know me well will be shocked that I haven’t read everything I own by Neil Gaiman, so I’ll get to work on that. I’m reading Beowulf: The Script Book because I’m in the mood for some classic fantasy, and I’ve always been curious about this adaptation. I’ve not seen the movie, so that will have to happen. This also satisfies a bunch of challenge categories!

Books I’ve read:

  • American Gods 
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
  • Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman
  • Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves
  • Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art Speech
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  • The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman
  • The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
  • Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
  • Grendel by John Gardner

Shelf #11 Complete, On to Shelf #12

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe was entertaining but definitely a product of the 80s. I must have seen the movie because as soon as I started reading, I remembered the basics of the plot. What I found most engaging was the structure and how the multiple points of view across different time periods pieced the main elements of the plot together. For my reading challenges, this will count as a book with a door on the cover, on my TBR 5+ years, between 300 and 400 pages, and 3+ points of view, so it was definitely a good choice in that sense.

Now for shelf #12

I’m  not sure why I started reading Howard’s End by E. M. Forster, because I had a lot of options on this shelf. It checks off most of the boxes for a book that usually ends up as a DNF, but I’m over 100 pages in, and I’m completely invested in some of these characters. There are exceptions to every rule, right? 

Books I’ve read:

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • The Autobiography of Ben Franklin by Ben Franklin
  • All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
  • It Was on Fire When I Laid Down on It by Robert Fulghum
  • Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
  • An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
  • Written in My Heart’s Own Blood by Diana Gabaldon

When I have time to reorganize my shelves, I’ll probably make a separate section for autobiography/memoir. I don’t like that they are mixed in with fiction. I have no idea why I did that.

Shelf #10 Complete, On to Shelf #11

I know I said I was going to read slowly and deliberately, but Sweet Land Stories was an extremely fast read. I’m not quite sure how to describe this collection, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. Each of the stories was pretty disturbing and tackled various types of moral ambiguity. What tied them all together was the question of why people go along with things that are not in their best interests or in many cases reprehensible. And why do so many people make excuses for those who do horrible things? My favorite story was “Walter John Harmon,” which was about a religious cult led by a con artist. The members of the cult refused to see the truth and found ways to continue to venerate Walter John Harmon even after his betrayal was clear. This collection was published in 2004, but there were so many parallels to what is going on today. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

Reading this satisfied two challenge categories: “Sweet or Spicy” and “read a book based solely on the title.” They fit together nicely. It would have also worked for “door on the cover,” but I have other books that will satisfy that.

Now for shelf #11!

I plan to read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe because of the reviews and because it has a door on the cover! I like letting the reading challenges guide me because deciding what to read from this shelf would have been extremely difficult without them. It’s highly likely that I’ll get through all my fiction shelves before I finish the reading challenges. I’ll have to come up with a new plan once my shelf challenge is complete!

Books I’ve read:

  • Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  • Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi
  • The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
  • You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Ripe by Sarah Rose Etter
  • Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2023 (Reading) Year in Review

This was a fantastic year for reading! I read 265 books, which is more than I’ve ever read in a year. I can’t get too excited because around forty of the books I read were picture books I checked out of the library for a banned books activity. My overall page count was less than 2021 and 2022, so while I read more books, my total reading volume was less. 

My main goal for 2023 was to write more reviews. I wrote three, which is three more than I’ve written in the past, so I suppose I met the goal. My intent, however, was to review all of the books I received as part of the Graywolf Galley Club, but that didn’t happen. I reviewed one Graywolf Galley Club book (I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel), one I found on Netgalley (Winter Harvest by Ioanna Papadopoulou), and another (Verified by Mike Caulfield and Sam Wineburg) because it was amazing and I ended up receiving it pre-release. My goal for 2024 is to review more, especially the Graywolf Galley Club picks. I’ll start the first one of the year tomorrow.

My other goal was to read more of the books I own, and I did work on that. My bookshelf challenge is helping. Fifty-three of the books I read this year are ones from my shelves, but I need to do better. I’ve joined a number of reading challenges and I plan to prioritize the books I already own. This will help guide my bookshelf challenge pics, and shift my focus to the books that have been languishing on my shelves. There are so many books I bought because I was excited to read them, but had to put them aside because life and/or other reading obligations got in the way. There’s no reason why there are unread Nnedi Okorafor and N. K. Jemisin books on my shelves!

In general, my goal for 2024 is to do what I want, so I’ll be focusing on reading what I want. Obviously, I bought all these books because I wanted to read them, so I will make what’s on my shelves my top priority. I also want to write more, so I plan to read more critically and deliberately if it’s a book I want to review. I have no desire to push myself to read more books in 2024. I just want to read well.

I’ll close with my favorite books of 2023! Happy New Year!