You’re right; I’ve fallen behind on updating my #52booksin52weeks challenge. Yes, I’m posting on Facebook in real time (more or less, don’t you know), but publishing comprehensive summaries for one-stop consumption–well, I could do better.
My first list covered books 1 through 25. Whew–that long recounting involved ‘way too much writing and images (and reading) for one sitting, am I right? So the next update was a manageable chunk, No. 26 through 36. Much better!
Here, then, are the next ten. Since I’d finished these by Week 25, it’s no startling reveal that books No. 48 through 58 should be posted soon–like, Week 45 (you know; next week).
Only one surprise remains: just how many books I’ll finish by December 31, 2018. Eight weeks or so to go!
Happy reading, y’all.
Books 37 through 47
No. 37: Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
Anything award-winning Octavia Butler ever wrote is officially on my “must read” list. Wild Seed was my second of her science fiction/fantasy novels (Kindred, Book No. 33, was first). Not gonna lie: the novel is disturbing (I’m not giving any twists away by revealing its breeding program plot), but good science fiction is always on the freaky side. And that’s what I love about the genre–it makes you question the world you know by throwing you into a world that isn’t . . . yet.
Wild Seed will make you think about race, humanity, and love’s transformative powers.
No. 38: Eleanor Elephant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Everyone who raved out this novel was right; Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is an excellent book. Many called it was funny; I, however, found sadness outweighed the humor. On page 89, I believe, I set the book aside, laid my head on the kitchen bar, and cried. We each have our buttons, and Eleanor’s isolation and loneliness clearly pushed mine.
But reader, I loved her.
No. 39: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Kevin Kwan’s novel about super-wealthy Singaporeans and an unsuspecting fiancé is a completely enjoyable confection. Crafted along the lines of one of my favorite fun books, The Devil Wears Prada, this is a true “candy bar” book: easily digestible, fluffy, witty, romantic, just snarky enough, and full of fashion. Alamak, it’s so good!
No. 40: This Voice in My Heart by Gilbert Tuhabonye
My friend’s autobiography was a reread; my memory needed refreshing before interviewing my former running coach, Gilbert Tuhabonye, for my Texas Optimism Project piece, a paid collaboration between Texas Monthly and Frost Bank. Don’t know Gilbert? Aren’t familiar with his story? Then I recommend you read this inspirational book. His ability to overcome adversity with joy is a good antidote for toxic times.
No. 42 and No. 41: Great Small Things by Jodi Picoult and The Family Tree by Karen Branan
Small Great Things is fiction; The Family Tree, non-fiction. Each delivers a devastating punch to the gut, especially if you’re white.
Don’t begin reading Picoult’s book unless you have time to give yourself over to the story; the characters are so richly and really rendered, you’ll have to know what happens next. I finished reading it in about 24 hours, but it’s not an easy journey. Everyone I know who’s picked up Small Great Things had to put it down at different points (some never picked it up again). Luckily, whenever I lowered the book and exclaimed oh my God!, my aunt and cousin offered encouragement: “We promise you it’s worth it.” My heart bled for all the characters (yes, all).
Be prepared: You’ll want to talk about the plot, especially the ending. Immediately.
The subtitle for The Family Tree is a lynching in Georgia, a legacy of secrets, and my search for the truth. It’s horrifying true crime delivered through a family’s lens. Though not as well written as Small Great Things, Branan uncovers necessary (and disturbing) facts and explores how terrible, despicable acts can be committed (and accepted) by communities. The Family Tree is especially important when considering June 7, 2018, was the 20th anniversary of James Byrd’s racially-motivated murder in Jasper, TX–and in light of today’s white supremacists’ rising, unashamed boldness.
No. 43: Invasive by Chuck Wendig
Oh, this was a fantastic beach read! As usual, author Chuck Wendig creates a formidable female protagonist. Hannah Stander, an FBI agent who can’t escape her history and trauma of being “Doomsday preppers” progeny, sets out to solve a particularly creepy-crawly murder: death by stinging ants. I’ll read anything Wendig writes–you should follow him on Twitter!–and Invasive, with its Jurassic Park overtones, did not disappoint. PSA: If that medication ad where ants appear out of nowhere and crawl all over a woman’s skin creeps you out (trust me; you DON’T want to search YouTube for it), then the book’s insect illustrations are not for you.
No. 44: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
I confess: I bought this novel because it was on sale and the cover is so pretty (#putabirdonit). And it’s as you’d expect–fluffy family drama (there’s an inheritance! people are upset with each other!) with young people who help all those confused adults learn an ultimately insightful life lesson. Despite the jacket blurbs, I did not find it “epic” or full of “gorgeous surprise,” but The Nest is a lot like your favorite sitcom: predictably enjoyable. Best savored with some hot chocolate.
No. 45: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
My younger daughter and I pass books back and forth. Her 2017 #52booksin52weeks was my inspiration, and Good Omens was one of her recommendations. Thankfully it was there, waiting, in my “must read” pile, because the three library books I’d started were too sad, boring, or detailed. While I’ve intended to finish reading every book begun during this challenge, I couldn’t power through those defeating nonfiction selections. So I turned to something completely different.
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is wryly funny. It’s fantasy of a definitely acquired taste; there’s an end-of-the-world plot populated by whimsical characters (hey, they’re British, so “whimsical” is the only appropriate descriptor). Read the afterword, where the two authors discuss collaboration and who wrote what bits. I thought the Antichrist, surprisingly, was the least interesting character–I wanted more of Crowley, urbane demon and original serpentine tempter. The best section? Anything with Hell’s Angels, aka the Four Bikers of the Apocalypse; they were truly funny, which must mean I prefer Gaiman’s style, which makes sense (see Book No. 34).
No. 46: Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
When my hubby had knee replacement surgery (it went very well–thank you for asking!), his loving family came to visit. Among other things, they brought a bag of books to keep him busy. Fair game for his devoted nurse, am I right? I plucked Raven Black from the stack, and it was just what the doctor ordered–just enough mystery for a tired mind and appropriately diverting. Raven Black is the first book of a series (and inspiration for a PBS show) set on Shetland Island. This thriller involves a strange murder on New Year’s Eve, snow, and some sordid small-town history. Read it on a cold winter night!
No. 47: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
I always like to revisit books, and this was no exception. “Sharp Objects” (the TV show) was running and, while I loved actor Amy Adams in the primary role of reporter and reluctant Wind Gap-ian Camille Preaker, I kept thinking, “That’s not how I pictured Amma.” So I went back to consult Sharp Objects. Funny the details your mind fills in and just how subjective interpretation can be. The girls in the book are much younger than those in HBO’s eight-episode series, and their youth makes Flynn’s dark mystery that much more disturbing. For such a short novel, it packs a huge wallop.
The First 36 Books
More to Come