Recent Reads: April '19 & an Announcement
It’s finally here!!
TL;DR is a monthly short-story book club based in Atlanta, GA. Every month, members will choose a collection of short stories to read and discuss together. Meetings will be held at local coffee shops within the Decatur, Grant Park or Virginia Highland areas from 10:00-11:30 AM on a monthly basis. Come for the whole meeting, or just a bit; read every short story in the collection or just a few — TL;DR is about building community, the joys of reading and gaining new perspectives.
Interested in joining? Sign up here!
In book review news, this month, I read 6 books, which means that I’ve completed 23 of 50 books, putting me at 46% through my 2019 Reading Challenge! While I read quite a bit of fiction, per usual, my favorite reads this month were non-fiction and had to do with finance. I know. I just picked up Naamah from the library and can’t wait to dive in tonight; in my last semester at Brown, I took a class called “The Bible as Literature” and now I love fictional reinterpretations of Biblical stories. Otherwise, I’ve been working on getting through A People’s Future of the United States, but I’m feeling pretty stuck (read: disinterested). Has anyone else read the anthology?
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh | 3/5
In My Year of Rest and Relaxation, the narrator, a young, beautiful and wealthy Columbia graduate takes a year off…to sleep. This mission isn’t hyperbolic — with the help of a quack Yellow Pages psychiatrist, the narrator is prescribed a slew of drugs guaranteed to aid in her self-induced hibernation. Her parents, who died her junior year of college (cancer; overdose), left her a hefty inheritance, NYC apartment, and trauma — in other words, the means & reasoning to disconnect for a year. While the narrator is convinced that her hibernation is “self-preservational,” her best (and only) friend, Reva — a naively optimistic, status-obsessed alcoholic, whom the narrator dislikes more often than not — is not as convinced.
In concept and scope, this novel is great. The narrator isn’t particularly likable — she has difficulty experiencing emotion beyond irritability, a vapid sense of self and an apathetic view of the world — yet her reflection on the world around her is frank and provocative. Impressively, Moshfegh manages to keep the reader interested for 200 pages, despite the fact that the narrator is sleeping for the majority of the novel. All that is to say, dark humor isn’t really my cup of tea (perhaps why I also didn’t like We Are Never Meeting in Real Life) and much of the novel is quite pessimistic. The last 40 pages really pull the entire book together, and the ending left me in awe, but unfortunately, the journey to get there wasn’t my favorite.
The Wave by Walter Mosley | 3/5
When Errol Porter starts receiving strange phone calls in the middle of the night, he’s outraged — not because the calls disturb his sleep, but because the person on the other end claims to be his long-dead father. When it finally gets to be too much, Errol tracks the caller to his father’s grave at the Fox Hills cemetery. There he meets a younger — and not to mention, living — version of his old man. It soon becomes apparent that this stranger — named Good Times (GT) — has intimate knowledge of Errol’s father, even down to his memories.
Though Walter Mosley is best known for his detective & mystery writing, his foray into sci-fi isn’t half bad. Conceptually, The Wave has all the makings for a great sci-fi novel — interstellar lifeforms, the potential extinction of humankind, a conflicted protagonist & a hint of spirituality — and Mosley is able to create an engaging storyline and unique set of characters. That said, the backstory has quite a few holes and as the book progresses, it becomes more and more difficult for the reader to follow what exactly is taking place.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker | 3.5/5
Until now, the tiny college town of Santa Lora wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Located amongst the hills of Southern California, its small community is comprised of students, professors and locals; it feels like a small, self-contained bubble. Then, during the first few weeks of September, everything changes: Kara, a college freshman, starts to feel exhausted and sick — she falls asleep and never wakes up again. Strangely, Kara’s vital signs and medical history is perfect; the only abnormality is that her eyes rapidly flit behind her closed eyelids — she is dreaming. While initially Kara’s sleeping spell is assumed to be a fluke, a few days later another college freshman falls asleep and cannot be roused, and then a community member, and then many, many more. As medical professionals struggle to interpret the cause behind this bizarre illness, and government forces are brought in, we follow the events through the perspective of a reserved and shy college freshman, a young couple with a newborn baby, and two sisters and their conspiracy-theorist father.
If you have an Instagram account, at some point, you’ve probably seen The Dreamers appear on your feed. Deemed a “must-read” by many of the bookstagram community, I joined my library’s wait list and patiently settled in for the long haul. Walker’s writing did not disappoint. Her style is entirely unique and she writes from a removed, distant perspective that makes the reader feel as though they’re viewing the happenings of the novel from above, or, perhaps, dreaming. Every passage Walker writes is poetic, and while this is a stunning quality for a novel, as I continued to read, certain sections started to feel verbose. Of all of the characters, I was most drawn to Mei — the reserved college freshman — and her perspective. As the novel progresses, Mei befriends another freshman, Matthew, and their relationship pushes the reader to deal with morality in a really interesting way. In all, I think this novel was phenomenal, but needed much tighter editing; the ending felt disappointingly melodramatic, which caused me to bump it from it’s original 4 star rating to 3.5.
In Bad with Money, podcast host, Gaby Dunn, discusses her journey toward understanding her finances, changing her spending behaviors and learning how the money scripts she inherited from her parents can/do affect her present-day spending. This book was recommended by Ashley C. Ford, one of my favorite writers, and I picked it up in hopes of better understanding my own finances, especially since I’ll be transitioning into a new career this summer. Perhaps my financial sh*t is a bit more “together” than I initially thought because this book didn’t lead me to any new discoveries; in fact, Bad with Money is more memoir than guide, which makes for a great read, but doesn’t offer its more financially-savvy readers many life-changing takeaways.
Through detailing her own financial journey, Dunn covers how to make a budget, consider the best internships, apply for student loans, side-hustle your ass off and learn more about your own personal money script. Of the pages I bookmarked, most were about how mental health can affect how/why you spend, what enabling bad spending habits looks like and the references where I could learn more. Speaking of the references — they were great! Dunn’s book introduced me to The Points Guy, Ellevest, Reddit forums on credit card tips and hacks, My Daily Budget, Clarity Money, Roth vs. SEP IRAs and Clever Girl Finance. Additionally, based on Dunn’s conversations with her accountant, Jeremiah and I decided to work with Michelle of Young and Scrappy during our first year of marriage to make sure that we have a financial game plan in place!
Refinery29 Money Diaries: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Your Finances…and Everyone Else’s by Lindsey Stanberry | 5/5
Finally a 5/5 star book for April! I rented Money Diaries from the library, but will be purchasing it because it’s something I want to always have on-hand. For those unfamiliar with Refinery29’s Money Diaries series, every week, the site (anonymously) publishes a millennial’s account on how they spend their money during a seven-day period. (Here’s the website’s “why”). Every dollar spent (and the reasoning behind why) is detailed; as a result, millennials are able to talk about money without backlash or taboo. I love reading all of the posts, especially when written by folks in Atlanta, and comparing them to my own spending practices. The Diaries also give me a lot of insight as to how people talk about money — for example: some people whose parents pay for everything still consider themselves to be financially independent, which explains why comparing ourselves to others doesn’t really make sense.
In 2018, the Money Diaries novel was released, which not only includes seven-day diaries, but also deep dives into financial advice and step-by-step practices to build an emergency fund, pay off (large) debt, save for retirement, buy a home, have kids, and build wealth. When I tell you this book completely changed how I plan on approaching money in the future, please know that it’s not even a slight exaggeration. For people who don’t plan on working with an accountant/financial advisor any time soon (which is totally understandable because of the cost), I highly recommend picking up this book. Since reading it, I’ve created a financial profile, opened a high yield savings account, calculated my net worth, started creating a repayment plan for my student loan debt, researched home-buying and looked into the financial logistics of having kids (NOT pregnant, y’all — just prepared!) Whether you think you have a handle on your finances or not, this book is for you!
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler | 3.5/5 Stars
Doro and Anyanwu; yin and yang. Doro is an entity that must kill, whether purposefully or instinctually, in order to continue to live eternally. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter and healer, giving life and nourishment to herself and anyone in-need. When they meet one another in the forests of Africa, neither have ever met another that is immortal, and they are immediately struck by both love and hatred; exhilaration and threat; tension and release. Doro convinces Anyanwu to leave Africa and join him and his colony of other special beings, in America. Over centuries, Doro and Anyanwu’s relationship ebbs and flows and as they continue to build, protect and learn more about their people, the reader is brought on a journey unlike any they have ever experienced.
Octavia Butler is the heart of AfroFuturism, a genre dedicated to envisioning a future where black folks, technology, and culture are intimately intertwined. In Wild Seed, Butler imagines a time in which some human beings have developed special abilities, time has no beginning and no end and Doro and Anyanwu must continuously choose between creating destruction or building life. This novel covers a lot of ground and Butler references race, gender, compatibility and eugenics all within 320 pages. While there were a few areas that dragged a bit, overall, this was an interesting read that re-confirmed just how incredible black imagination and writing can be!
And, of course, I’m ending with the usual questions: What are you reading? What should I read next?
Don’t forget to keep up with me on GoodReads! xx
I’ve linked to Amazon for convenience, but highly recommend supporting your local library and/or independent bookstore if you can!