Erica’s Q2 2020 Book Review

This is the second installment of my quarterly book review series. I’m giving a run-down of everything I read from April-June of 2020. I hope this is useful if you’re looking for a new book to read!

  1. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern-I picked this up because Erin Morgenstern wrote my favorite book of all time, The Night Circus. The best way I can describe The Starless Sea is it is a book written for people who would burn with their libraries when the Firemen come to spray the kerosene. (If you get that reference, this book is probably for you). I love Erin Morgenstern’s storytelling, expecially the settings she creates. In this case it’s an otherwordly underground library. This book is a celebration of storytelling in all its forms, and it is the most lovely thing to get lost in.
  2. House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas-I cannot rave about this book enough. I fell in love with Sarah J. Maas’ fantasy writing after reading the A Court of Thorns and Roses series last summer. House of Earth and Blood is the beginning of a new series, Crescent City. It’s kind of a murder mystery set in a fantasy world, and it has all the elements that I love from Sarah J. Maas-romance, magical creatures, and a heroine you really want to root for. The thing that has me most excited about this series, though, is its setting. Maas has created a world where a whole host of supernatural creatures-vampires, faeries, witches, angels, shapeshifters, etc. live with ordinary humans. Where most fantasy series are set in an almost medieval time in terms of technology, though, Crescent City has technological advances comparable to what we have today. This creates a world where there is governmental surveillance, the citizens have cell phones, and the humans have a shot at fighting against the supernatural beings. It also creates some interesting scenarios where magic is applied to technology. The plot has lots of twists and turns-once you get to the last 200 pages make sure you have a solid stretch of time, because you won’t be able to stop reading.
  3. As You Like It by William Shakespeare-This stemmed from continuing my New Year’s Resolution to read one Shakespeare play every month in 2020. I really like the Shakespeare comedies where characters swap genders-Twelfth Night is another good one for this reason. As You Like It is fun because you get a lot of witty banter between the characters. The quick banter, combined with the dramatic differences between Shakespeare’s language and our own, does make it a bit harder to understand.
  4. Generous Justice by Timothy Keller-A bunch of books moved into our house when Greg did a few years ago, and this was one of them. I’m starting to work my way through all those books, so this was a part of that project. Timothy Keller is the pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. In this book, he talks about how God’s call for us to pursue justice doesn’t just stop at pursuing equity in how we treat each other, but also includes working to ensure we are meeting the fundamental needs of people who are less well off than we are. It’s very convicting because it challenges Christians not to settle for giving to others from a distance, but to be relentless and unceasing in giving to others so we can meet each others’ needs. It talks bout how Jesus consistently focused on meeting the needs of the most marginalized people in society at the time-immigrants, widows, orphans, and the poor. It’s a good reminder that God’s calling to Christians is much more than showing up at church on Sunday morning looking nice.
  5. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides-Middlesex won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003. At a basic level, it is about a hermaphrodite. That’s a gross oversimplification of the plot, though. It’s an epic spanning three generations of Greek immigrants. The first two-thirds follow the main character’s grandparents’ immigration to the US from Turkey and their experience trying to make a life for themselves in Detroit. It covers their children, and the family relationships that come together to produce the genetic mutation that results in the main character being born a hermaphrodite. The last third covers the main character’s experience with their gender identity. It’s a compelling read that does a great job of sparking thought about generational differences and gender and how they impact one’s personal identity.
  6. The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare-This is one of my favorite Shakespeare comedies. It’s a slapstick account of two wives’ revenge on a man who tries to seduce them into being unfaithful to their husbands. A lot of the Shakespeare plays I’ve read relegate wives to supporting roles and give precedence to the men or the unmarried female characters. This one makes them the stars of the show, and it’s really hilarious. I saw this one performed by Austin’s summer Shakespeare troupe a few years ago and loved it.
  7. So You Want to Start a Podcast by Kristen Meinzer-I’m working on a podcast called Lit Sh*t with a few friends as a side project, so I bought this book to learn a little more about podcasting. Kristen Meinzer cohosts one of my favorite podcasts, By the Book, and was the Director of Nonfiction Programming at Panoply before they closed their podcast arm. She also has experience producing a number of well-known podcasts. The advice she gives in this book is really helpful. It has some great discussions of storytelling, things to consider in recording, and how to publish and syndicate a podcast. It was well worth the money spent on it.
  8. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison-When Amanda and I committed to working on becoming anti-racist in the wake of the George Floyd protests, I took a look at the composition of the media I consume. I found a disheartening lack of diversity in the authors represented in my bookshelves, so I’m working to change that. I decided to start with The Bluest Eye because it’s a classic and has been on my to-read list for years. Some books are really fun to read because they suck you into an exciting fantasy world. Others, like this one, are important to read because they help you learn to be more empathetic to people whose experiences are vastly different from your own. It’s heartbreaking to read because you know that the cruelty represented by this fictional account stems from real experiences.
  9. King John by William Shakespeare-I don’t have much experience with Shakespeare’s histories, so I’ve decided that I’m going to focus on them for the rest of the year. I’m reading them in chronological order, so King John was up first (I’d already read Julius Caesar). Note on the Shakespeare-I really like the Folger Shakespeare Library editions of the plays. I think Folger does a great job of annotating the text in a way that is helpful, easy to follow, and doesn’t disrupt reading the play. They also have really helpful summaries at the beginning of each scene that help with understanding what’s happening.

Thank you for checking out this quarter’s book review! You can find the Q1 2020 Book Review here. What are you reading right now? Do you have any recommendations? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

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