Hey y’all! I’m back with another review of all the books I finished in July-September of 2020. This was a big reading time for me. Lit Sh*t, the podcast that I cohost, launched in September. I’ve been reading a bunch of books for season 1 (out now), and in preparation for recording season 2 (which will air in January). I’m also still working towards my New Year’s resolution of reading one Shakespeare play every month in 2020. And then sometimes you just need to read something for fun, right?
Erica’s Q3 Reading List
- The All Souls’ series by Deborah Harkness-The All Souls’ series was originally a trilogy (A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life), with a companion called Time’s Convert. My Lit Sh*t cohosts, Angie and Staci, and I decided to make reading through the series our first season because we all really love it. It has fantasy and magic at its core, but with lots of history and science rolled in. The main character is an alchemical historian who is also a witch, and her life gets turned upside down when she discovers a long-lost book and meets a prominent vampire scientist. There are so many layers to this story. Having vampires with nearly immortal lifespans means you get characters from lots of different periods of history, all with their own political perspectives. It also digs deep into prejudices, bigotry, and self-acceptance. Come for the magic and the science, stay for lines like “My ideas about vampires may be romantic, but your attitudes toward women need a major overhaul.” Time’s Convert is not as good as the original trilogy, but Harkness is writing more books with these characters so it’s a necessary read if you want to keep following along. There’s also a TV adaptation of the series. I am eagerly awaiting Season 2, which is coming out in January.
- Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal-This one is about a young British-Indian woman who falls into teaching a creative writing course at a Sikh temple that turns into an erotic story writing workshop for widows. I absolutely loved it. The character development is fantastic as you watch a young woman grow within her traditional upbringing and older women embrace their sexuality. I grew up in a fairly stereotypical Christian environment in terms of sex education-the emphasis was on abstinence and waiting until marriage. I love how this book digs into the importance of physical relationships within a healthy marriage, and embraces that women are allowed to be sexual beings. It was such a fun read, and I highly recommend it.
- There There by Tommy Orange-I have a lot of emotions about this book. I will start by saying it was really hard to read, and there is so much privilege rolled up in me saying that. It follows about a dozen characters, most of whom are Native American, who are preparing for a big powwow in Oakland. It really digs into the marginalization and hardships of urban Native Americans, which is what made it so hard to read. I think it’s an important book for anyone trying to bring antiracism work into their bookshelves. I am very glad to have read it, and it made me think about cultural appropriation in a new way. With that said, I read it the week RBG died, and it was a tough headspace to be in. It’s very well written and definitely worth reading, but make sure you’re practicing some self care while you’re working on it.
- Pride by Ibi Zoboi-This book is labeled as a “remix” of Pride and Prejudice and follows a Haitian-Dominican American high schooler named Zuri Benitez living in Brooklyn. I really love it when adaptations of classics take the story and make it their own rather than just lifting and shifting the plot to the modern day. This book does a fantastic job of bringing a new take on Pride and Prejudice. It also adds more depth to the characters and plot outside of the Elizabeth/Darcy romance. It was such a fun read, and I highly recommend it. Ibi Zoboi is now on my list as an author I want to read more.
- Graceling by Kristin Cashore-This is a fun YA fantasy read about a world where some people are born with Graces-heightened, infallible versions of skills. The main character is a young woman who is Graced with killing. It has a great feminist plot arc and was a really satisfying read. I blew through it in a weekend. I recommend this if you’re a fan of Sarah J. Maas and looking for something fun to dive into.
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou-This book has been on my to-read list forever, and the increased focus on Black Lives Matter this summer, along with my subsequent realization of just how white my bookshelves are, were the impetus I needed to finally commit to reading it. It is a lovely reminder that there are beautiful, magical things about everybody. There are some heartbreaking moments and times where racism creeps in, like the scene at the graduation ceremony, but I think it’s also an important reminder that if all we’re focusing on in a person is their oppression, we’re missing the things that make them beautiful.
- Wild Embers by Nikita Gill-I picked up Wild Embers after reading Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur and looking for something that felt similar. Nikita Gill’s poetry has a feminist thread running through it that digs deep into pain, healing, and strength. I like her poems overall, but at some points in this book I found myself craving a little more thematic variety. She has two sections of the book that are rewritings of classic fairy tales and mythology which give the heroines more meat and power. I particularly loved those sections, so I really want to read some of her other books. I think Great Goddesses and Fierce Fairytales expand on those series.
- Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, and Henry IV Part 2 by William Shakespeare-I’m finishing out my Shakespeare reading for the rest of this year by reading through the histories. I actually really like the histories; I think the language is easier to follow than some of Shakespeare’s other plays because they rely less on wordplay. I’m also a bit of an Anglophile so I love reading about British history. I liked Richard II better than the two Henry IV plays though. Both parts of Henry IV have sections of the play that are following a knight named Sir John Falstaff in his dishonest shenanigans. I think they’re meant to be comedic, but I felt like they diluted the historical parts of the plays that I actually cared about.
That’s it for now! I have a bunch of books on my to-read shelf that I’m really excited about, so hopefully I’ll have some good ones to recommend in my Q4 book review. In the meantime, check out my Q1 and Q2 reviews for more reading inspiration. Do you have any recommendations for what I should read next? I’d love to hear from you on social media or in the comments below. You can also sign up for our email newsletter to get updates about new posts.
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