Recent Reads: March + April
For 2017, I decided that I'm going to read a minimum of 50 books. As a means of holding myself accountable, I want to use this blog to recommend my favorites, share my thoughts, and generally let you know what I'm reading and loving. Follow me on GoodReads for more.
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi || 3/5
By the time I got around to reading Homegoing, it felt as though everyone and their mama had already read it, loved it, and recommended it. And I can understand why: Homegoing highlights the power and beauty of our bloodlines + the richness of our history. The novel begins with the stories of two half sisters - Esi and Effia - who live in warring regions and are each destined to different fates; Effia is sold to a white, British Lord living in Africa and kept as his wench, while Esi is captured and sold into the American slave trade. From there, each chapter is written from the perspective of someone in the next generation of each sister's lineage.
While this novel was surrounded by a lot of buzz + deemed a "must read" by many, I wasn't as taken by it as I had hoped. While Gyasi is a phenomenal storyteller, her writing + style didn't feel particularly moving. And while I understand the power of having each chapter written from the perspective of a new character, I felt as though, in aiming to keep the book concise, a number of the characters were flat. (I particularly hated the way that Willie's story ended; it felt rushed, thrown together, and not particularly realistic). While the novel absolutely kept me engaged and interested, after finishing, I realized that I probably wouldn't ever re-read it (and I'm pretty big on re-reading), which is why I decided to give it a 3/5.
Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat || 5/5
This was my second time reading Breath, Eyes, Memory, and it has officially become one of my favorite books. Danticat has such a soft + poignant way of writing, and the stories she weaves are often intricate and hauntingly beautiful. The novel centers on the story of Sophie, a young girl who is left by her mother, and raised by her aunt, Tante Atie, in Haiti. Within the first chapter, Sophie's mother calls for her to be sent to the U.S. to come and live with her, despite their lack of familiarity with one another. As the novel progresses, we learn that Sophie is a child born out of rape, and that this fact haunts her mother on a nightly basis. Eventually, Sophie has her own child and must tackle her own understandings of motherhood, legacy, and haunting.
I love Breath, Eyes, Memory for its depiction of maternal/matriarchal relationships; the protagonists (Sophie, Sophie's mother, Grandmè Ifé, and Tante Atie) are powerful, female, and nuanced. I found that I loved each of them for their strengths and their faults. The book also critically engages with a number of tensions: mother-daughter relationships, custom versus modern understandings of sex, love, and purity, space and place, and the ideology behind returning home. At one point in the book, Grandmè Ifé looks at Brigette (Sophie's daughter) and says, "Isn't it a miracle that we can visit with all our kin, simply by looking into the face?" That line is so incredibly beautiful to me + encompasses the type of intimacy and beauty that Danticat translates into all her work.
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami || 4/5
This book is another re-read, and I know I'll continue to come back to it again and again. Honestly, I don't think there's really a way to describe Murakami novels without delving into a long, stream-of-consciousness-like rant, that spins itself into circles, and ends with the person on the other end saying, "So wait...what is the book about?" Murakami's writing is dreamlike - a story will seem mundane at first, but then the reader starts to notice small elements that are the slightest bit off, and these components eventually lead them down the rabbit hole of magical realism. In this novel, the protagonist works for Japan's largest data security firm and is requested by a renowned scientist for an off-site, freelance job. The job quickly spins out of control, and we spend the rest of the book following him on an adventure that primarily takes place underground, beneath Tokyo, and also within the confines of his mind.
In Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Murakami examines consciousness + the mind, and pushes his readers to ask themselves what gives our lives purpose and meaning - even going so far as to question 'meaning' itself. If you're new to Murakami, I'd recommend Kafka on the Shore or The Wind Up Bird Chronicle first, as his writing in this book feels a bit more scientific + less upbeat/fantastical, but even then, it's absolutely a must-read.
No One Belongs Here More Than You, Miranda July | 3/5
Honestly, I still haven't finished this one. I had heard a number of great things about Miranda July, and so I decided to give her a shot, starting with a book of her short stories. The first time I tried reading No One Belongs Here More Than You (last summer), I ended up putting it aside halfway through; the stories were interesting, but didn't completely hold my attention. And this time around, I'm having pretty much the same exact reaction. While her stories absolutely have interesting elements, for many, I struggle to find the point and/or greater meaning. And who knows, maybe that is the point. Either way, I personally feel as though this book would be most interesting/powerful to read in a group setting (book club?) because being able to discuss each character and learn about how someone else interpreted the same story provides a bit more complexity + meaning. I actually read one of the stories aloud to my boyfriend + I found it to be one of the most interesting I read, but that's probably because we could each offer our own perspective + opinions on the characters, what their actions meant, etc.
So here we are (pretty much) in May, and I've only read 9 books. I definitely need to step my game up; my GoodReads account likes to remind me that I'm behind schedule every time I log on to see what other people are reading. Honestly, I've been super wrapped up in this move and, in my downtime, choosing Netflix/mindlessly scrolling through social media over reading. That being said, I'm heading to the bookstore this week to treat myself to some new reads.
Oh! One more thing - How are you feeling about these book reviews? Would you like them more frequently (monthly?) Do you also want to know the books that I picked up + couldn't finish + why? Prefer a different rating system than out of 5 stars? Let me know in the comments below!
Though I linked to Amazon for convenience, Thriftbooks.com is one of my favorite website to get affordable books in great condition. You should definitely check it out! (This isn't a sponsored post, I just like to share a #gooddeal + help y'all save that $$)