Reading Recap: January 2022

So far this year, I’ve managed to read a book a week – we’ll see if this keeps up! – and even better, all four titles were ones I enjoyed. One of them especially so; you can imagine my surprise when, two weeks into January, I found myself sure I’d just read one of my favorite books of the year! But without further ado, here’s my January-2022-reads-in-review (reposted from my Tumblr):

Bird Box / Josh Malerman

This short novel was the first book I picked up this year. I remember the Netflix film pretty well – I think I watched it three or four times when it was first released (not because I was so in love with it but because I just kept watching it with different people, haha)! But it’s been a few years since then, and the adaptation differed plenty from the source material, both character and plot-wise, so it was almost like reading a different story set in the same universe. It was just as fast-paced and exciting, though, too, so this was a great choice for an easy, beginning-of-the-year read.

The City Beautiful / Aden Polydoros

THIS BOOK! There’s just so much I could say about The City Beautiful, I think I’ll probably end up writing a post at some point dedicated to it. Set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, it’s a new Jewish YA historical fantasy about a young man who finds himself possessed by the dybbuk of his close friend Yakov after his murder. I don’t remember where I first heard about the title (maybe a BookRiot newsletter?), but I put in a staff recommendation of purchase at the library for this title months ago (and to be honest, I think I submitted it twice), so I was the first one to get my hands on it when it was finally added to the collection at the beginning of the year. It’s just so well-written, and I loved the characters, the setting, and and and… You can definitely expect me to write another post about this book, there’s just so much I want to say about it! I loved it so much, I went out and bought myself a personal copy as soon as I finished reading the one I’d gotten from the library!

We Shall Sing a Song into the Deep / Andrew Kelly Stewart

This novella was my second post-apocalypse title of the year – a theme I didn’t intend on focusing on, but seeing as my hold arrived at the library on a day when I had a free afternoon…We Shall Sing a Song into the Deep is a distinctive story set in an alternate-timeline, post-nuclear-apocalypse version of the 1980s, and focuses on a group of doomsday cultists living on a submarine. The main character is a young girl who must pretend to be a boy to ensure her survival amidst the all-male cultists, an issue she must deal with in addition to planning her escape after discovering the new captain’s plan to release a decades-old nuke on what remains of Australia before sending their decrepit submarine to the depths of the ocean to die. Very niche novella, intriguing idea, and well-executed.

The Cat Who Saved Books / Sosuke Natsukawa

This one was my second favorite read of the month, behind The City Beautiful. Another quick, atmospheric novel, this one is about a high schooler in Japan who, after his grandfather’s death, faces the loss of the bookstore the two owned and called home for years – and the sudden appearance of a talking cat, who convinces him to follow along on journeys into mysterious worlds to save books in peril. It’s a fun work of magical realism, and I feel like I read it at the perfect time, as I’m currently playing through Persona5 again (a video game that shares some similarities with this book – talking cat and all!). In fact, I listened to this track off the Persona5 soundtrack the whole time I was reading, since it fit so well with the vibes of the story 🐈 Fun read for cat and book lovers alike!

What I’d Like to Read in 2022

Hey, look, it’s another booklist (and, later on, some musings about Book Riot’s 2022 Read Harder Challenge)!

Instead of doing my usual charade of writing up a list of specific titles I’d like to read this upcoming year – just for me to ignore it in favor of whatever books catch my eye in the library or bookstore – I’ve decided to come up with a list of topics I want to read more about, and list some titles I’ve found that I might read towards that goal. Sort of like a mini syllabus?

So, without further ado:

Medieval England

It feels like it’s been so long since I’ve stepped back into Medieval England, and that’s saying something, coming from someone who practically minored in the subject back in undergrad. I’ve found myself missing it – after checking my Goodreads, it’s apparently been TWO years since I’ve last read something specific to Medieval Britain (Josephine Wilkinson’s The Princes in the Tower, to be specific). TWO YEARS! So, of course, I’ve been curating a list of books at my local library that take place in Medieval England (and definitely have some at home I’m looking to reread, too):

Timeline / Michael Crichton

This is actually one of my favorite books of all time; I’ve reread it a number of times since I first picked it up in 2010 (according to Goodreads, I read it again in 2012, 2013, and 2016), putting it on that small list of titles I’ve consistently reread in the past ten years. (Unfortunately, the movie was pretty terrible – I wouldn’t recommend it)

The Last Duel / Eric Jager
Agincourt / Bernard Cornwell
Matrix / Lauren Groff
Here Be Dragons / Sharon Kay Penman

Jewish Literature

Confessions of the Fox / Jordy Rosenberg
The Weight of Ink / Rachel Kadish
The Orchard / David Hopen

Disability Visibility

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space / Amanda Leduc
Disability Visibility: Twenty-First Century Disabled Voices / Anthology

Book Riot also released their 2022 ‘Read Harder’ Challenge prompts the other day, so of course I had to take a gander. The whole point of their tasks is to get readers to pick up titles and/or authors they otherwise might not have; I’ve never participated in one of their yearly challenges, but there are some interesting challenges on their list that I think I might try out.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself and claim that I’ll read something for every single task on the list – that, I think, would be getting ahead of myself, and far too ambitious. But there are absolutely some tasks on there I really do want to read towards. For example, ‘read a book recommended by a friend with different reading tastes’, ‘read a book with an asexual and/or aromantic main character’, ‘read an anthology featuring diverse voices’ (I’ve already got one title that would work for this one listed above). ‘Read a history about a period you know little about’ is one that I want to do, but I’m not sure which period I’ll choose…

TBR: Recently Released Nonfiction

Just a quick booklist of some newly released nonfiction titles I’ve found in the stacks at my local library that I’ve since added to my TBR.

True Crime

True Crime Stories of Eastern North Carolina / Cathy Pickens

Goodreads Summary: “Eastern North Carolina is a land of contrasts, and its crime stories bear this out. A lovelorn war hero or a stalker? Conniving wife or consummate homemaker? Murder or suicide? The answers can be as puzzling as the questions. Mystery author Cathy Pickens details an assortment of quirky cases, including a duo of poisoning cases more than one hundred years apart, a band of folk hero swamp outlaws, sex swingers and a couple of mummies. Each story has, in its way, helped define Eastern North Carolina and its history.”

Highway of Tears : A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls / Jessica McDiarmid

Goodreads Summary: ” A searing account of the missing, and murdered, Indigenous women of Highway 16, and an indictment of the society that failed them. For decades, Indigenous women have gone missing, or been found murdered, along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia. The highway is known as the ‘Highway of Tears’, and it has come to symbolize a national crisis. Journalist, Jessica McDiarmid, investigates the devastating effect these tragedies have had on the families of the victims and their communities, and how systemic racism and indifference have created a climate where Indigenous women are over-policed, yet under-protected. Through interviews with those closest to the victims–mothers and fathers, siblings and friends–McDiarmid offers an intimate, first-hand account of their loss and relentless fight for justice. Examining the historically fraught social and cultural tensions between settlers and Indigenous peoples in the region, McDiarmid links these cases to others across Canada–now estimated to number up to 4,000–contextualizing them within a broader examination of the undervaluing of Indigenous lives in this country. Highway of Tears is a powerful story about our ongoing failure to provide justice for missing, and murdered, Indigenous women, and a testament to their families and communities’ unwavering determination to find it.”

Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society / Judy Christie, Lisa Wingate

Goodreads Summary: “From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents–hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died. The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families. Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. In Before and After, Wingate and Christie tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with Wingate and Christie to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.”

Other (Mostly On Mental Health)

Hoarders / Kate Durbin

Goodreads Summary: “In Hoarders, Durbin deftly traces the associations between hoarding and collective US traumas rooted in consumerism and the environment. Each poem is a prismatic portrait of a person and the beloved objects they hoard, from Barbies to snow globes to vintage Las Vegas memorabilia to rotting fruit to plants. Using reality television as a medium, Durbin conjures an uncanny space of attachments that reflects a cultural moment back to the reader in ways that are surreal and tender. In the absurdist tradition of Kafka and Beckett, Hoarders ultimately embraces with sympathy the difficulty and complexity of the human condition.”

Disfigured: On Fairy-tales, Disability, and Making Space / Amanda Leduc

Goodreads Summary: “In fairy tales, happy endings are the norm—as long as you’re beautiful and walk on two legs. After all, the ogre never gets the princess. And since fairy tales are the foundational myths of our culture, how can a girl with a disability ever think she’ll have a happy ending? By examining the ways that fairy tales have shaped our expectations of disability, Disfigured will point the way toward a new world where disability is no longer a punishment or impediment but operates, instead, as a way of centering a protagonist and helping them to cement their own place in a story, and from there, the world. Through the book, Leduc ruminates on the connections we make between fairy tale archetypes—the beautiful princess, the glass slipper, the maiden with long hair lost in the tower—and tries to make sense of them through a twenty-first-century disablist lens. From examinations of disability in tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen through to modern interpretations ranging from Disney to Angela Carter, and the fight for disabled representation in today’s media, Leduc connects the fight for disability justice to the growth of modern, magical stories, and argues for increased awareness and acceptance of that which is other—helping us to see and celebrate the magic inherent in different bodies.”

You Will Get Through This Night / Dan Howell

Goodreads Summary: “A practical guide to taking control of your mental health for today, tomorrow, and the days after, from the Sunday Times bestselling author and beloved entertainer. ‘There’s a moment at the end of every day, where the world falls away and you are left alone with your thoughts. A reckoning, when the things you have been pushing to the background, come forward and demand your attention.’ Written by Daniel Howell, in conjunction with a qualified psychologist, in an entertaining and personal way from the perspective of someone who has been through it all – this no-nonsense book gives you the tools to understand your mind so you can be in control and really live.”

We’re Not Broken : Changing the Autism Conversation / Eric Garcia

Goodreads Summary: “With a reporter’s eye and an insider’s perspective, Eric Garcia shows what it’s like to be autistic across America. Garcia began writing about autism because he was frustrated by the media’s coverage of it; the myths that the disorder is caused by vaccines, the narrow portrayals of autistic people as white men working in Silicon Valley. His own life as an autistic person didn’t look anything like that. He is Latino, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, and works as a journalist covering politics in Washington D.C. Garcia realized he needed to put into writing what so many autistic people have been saying for years; autism is a part of their identity, they don’t need to be fixed. In We’re Not Broken, Garcia uses his own life as a springboard to discuss the social and policy gaps that exist in supporting those on the spectrum. From education to healthcare, he explores how autistic people wrestle with systems that were not built with them in mind. At the same time, he shares the experiences of all types of autistic people, from those with higher support needs, to autistic people of color, to those in the LGBTQ community. In doing so, Garcia gives his community a platform to articulate their own needs, rather than having others speak for them, which has been the standard for far too long.'”

On Book Blogging and Reading Slumps

Alright, first post!

It’s been awhile since I’ve started up a blog with book blogging in mind. Eight years, in fact – that was when I started my own ‘booklr’, as such blogs were (are?) called on Tumblr in 2012 (the same year I started my Goodreads account, in fact). I’d already been on Tumblr for a year by that point, with my small fandom blog that had more than its fair share of Doctor Who gifs, Marvel theories, and cringe-y jokes, but increasingly found that I wanted to start one that specifically focused on books and reading. I was still a year or two out from deciding to become an English major, but I’d made a goal to read 100 books in 2013, posting reviews for each book I read, and connecting with other readers working on reading challenges of their own. I may not have read 100 books that year, but I did end up running that blog for seven years, until 2019, though by that time the focus of the blog had changed quite a bit. It had slowly but steadily morphed from a ‘booklr’ into a ‘studyblr’ – which, you can likely guess, is a tumblr blog centered around studying and everything else academia – and, after my graduation from college, eventually just devolved into a place for me to share aesthetic photos and quotes. But back in 2012, when I clicked ‘publish’ on my first post on that blog, I’d decided to focus on book-blogging because I’d been looking to get back into reading after a three-year reading slump.

This was the profile picture for my first book blog, back in 2013. (I like to think the quality of my photography skills has improved since!)

The past two years, for me, were also marked by a pretty severe reading drought. For reference, I only read a total of fifteen books last year – a new personal low record, which I’d thought I’d set the year before, when I’d read only 33 – and there were eight months where I didn’t pick up a book at all. Before those two years, from 2013 to 2018, at least, I had been consistently reading at least 45 books a year.

So far, 2021 has been a slow but steady return to more regular reading, the slump finally receding. I finished my fifteenth book of the year yesterday (Sarah Pearce’s Sanatorium) and my new job working as a library assistant has definitely helped me revive my excitement for reading. My shifts are filled with compiling lists of books, shelving returns, pulling holds, and reading bookish articles, so it’d be impossible for me not to find at least one new title to add to my TBR a day. I tend to leave each shift with a new book checked out on my card, and every other shift or so, I’ll bring books to return.

I doubt this blog will be much like that first, where I would post short reviews for every single book I read and re-blogged any book-related gif I laid eyes on. Nowadays, I’m more content compiling book lists, writing up bookish year-in-reviews, and the occasional essay-style post, so that will likely be the sort of content I publish. I’m not expecting much by way of followers and readers here (that’s more of a Tumblr thing in my view anyway), and that’s quite alright by me – I’m more than happy to just have all my writings about my reading all in one place for myself, and that just so happens to be this blog.

So we’ll see, how many more books I manage to read by the end of the year. I already know that, with two and a half months left of the year, I’ll pass last year’s total of fifteen. My goal for this year was twenty-five. Only ten left to go before I reach my goal – we’ll just have to see what those ten will be!