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Bookish Reads

Folks frequently ask what I’m reading. (They also ask if I’ve read most of the books in the store. Uh…. no. But I’m working on it). I dig that people are curious about me & about what I read. So, I’ve decided to keep a running list of books I’ve finished since Sept 22. If you happen to pick up any of these titles, I’d love to discuss them with you. Any time. #booknerdforlife

Awakening the Buddha Within (Lama Surya Das): Profoundly straightforward and hopeful–with a side helping of cheesy Buddhist jokes. I love this book. It’s my third time reading it. If you want a user-friendly intro to Buddhism, grab this book. You’ll get used to his corny quippiness. It’s worth it.

The Sun Is Also A Star (Nicola Yoon): YA novel. Solid reminder to stay where your feet are. To be true to who you are. And that love is always the right choice.

Being Peace (Thich Nhat Hanh): Humbling. Peace isn’t for the faint of heart. A short, easy–incredibly challenging–read.

White Oleander (Janet Finch): I could go on and on. Devastating. Beautiful. I even loved the ending–which was as emotionally complicated as the rest of the novel.

Fates and Furies (Lauren Groff): Her turn of phrase is stunning. The story is intricately crafted from two perspectives. It’s a different look at marriage. Don’t miss this one.

Ready, Set, Breathe (Carl Numburg): Parenting book on mindfulness. Practical ideas for keeping kids centered and in the now–and avoiding meltdowns (yours & theirs). Helpful. Not preachy. Pairs well with what kids learn in Social/Emotional Learning in Atlanta Public Schools.

Lucky Us (Amy Bloom): Amy Bloom’s characters are marvelously complicated–and I always find that I like them (and am intrigued by them) even more after I finish the book. But it’s her take on love that brings me back time and time again. I liked this one–but not as much as Where the God of Love Hangs Out, which was instantly one of my favorites.

Hoot (Carl Hiassen): A truly solid “kid power” book. The main character is believable–and some of the others are outlandish and fascinating, which provides some fun comic relief. The storyline focuses on environmentalism and standing up for what’s right–even in the face of almost impossible odds. I fell in love with this book when I read it 17(!!) years ago. This go-round, I liked it just fine & think it was a solid kids’ book club pick. But I don’t think its spectacularly well written. Definitely will still recommend it, though–for kids.

Annihilation (Jeff Vandermeer): All I have to say is “WTH just happened?!?” I’m super glad I read this for book club. I need to talk about it with someone who is hopefully smarter than I am! But it held my interest the entire time–not in a crazy, fast-paced adventure sense, but in a philosophical, puzzling sort of way. Read this one with friends so you have some to talk with.

Loving Donovan (Bernice McFadden): I grabbed this one at the library, primarily because one of her other books (Warmest December) had a blurb by Toni Morrison on the front. And if Toni Morrison thought it was good… Loving Donovan was good. The writing just trips along, and I got lost quickly in the story. The characters are so flawed that it’s painful. But real. And she tackles some serious issues about mental health care (or lack thereof). I like her writing. It’s immediate, accessible, and real… and she can conjure a scene right up in front of you. But I’ll warn you, sometimes you’ll wish she hadn’t.

Heart of a Samurai (Margi Preus): Middle grades historical fiction. Amazingly readable. I learned so much about Japan in the 1800s–and Americans’ response a Japanese immigrant–without the author ever breaking the narrative. That’s my favorite way to learn things! If you’ve got a middle schooler, get this in their hands. It’s a good one for sure.

When Things Fall Apart (Pema Chödrön): If I call this book “Life Changing” is it going to make me sound basic? Because this was the most unassuming yet profound book on spirituality I’ve ever read. I laughed out loud several times while reading it–because it was like this Buddhist nun was inside my head, calling me on all my b.s. It was helpful, witty, kind, and honest. This will be one of a very few titles that I read again and again.

Daniel (Henning Mankell): I picked this one up at the library because we have multiple titles by Mankell at Bookish, and I’d never read any of his work. This novel, set in the late 1800s, was reminiscent of Jane Austen–where technically nothing is really happening, but you’re riveted nonetheless. Menkell’s development of the title character was raw, painful, and rich. And his portrayal of colonialism did the whole nightmarish mess justice. As emotionally horrifying and shocking as this one was, it was a superb read.

American Gods (Neil Gaiman): The story arc on this one is sweeping. But it doesn’t feel overwhelming because it reads like vignettes that tie together — although at points you are not going to be able to see how they will. Have faith (see how that’s funny… because it’s about American gods & mythology & what not?!?). It’s a great read. 

The History of Love (Nicole Krauss): This Jewish-American novel spans decades–which seems almost impossible for such a slim volume of prose. And yet. It’s about love, heartbreak, truth… it’s about moving forward while remaining connected to your past. It’s about hope. It trots out some VERY big themes–and it delivers, although not always the way you may have hoped. Read it. Then you’re probably going to want to re-read it. It’s definitely already back on my TBR list. 

Cesar’s Way (Cesar Milan): I’m kind of in love with Cesar Milan. There, I’ve said it. But it’s true. He has such a straightforward way of relating to dogs. It’s refreshing. The overall takeaway–if you want your dog to behave, you better start working on yourself. You’re the pack leader. If you’re unbalanced, so is your dog. Also: take your dog on walks.  If you want to better understand your dog’s psyche, this is a good read.

Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine): Read this one for Elementary Book Club. A princess rebels from a curse of obedience. Who doesn’t like a princess with attitude? The whole book was much more Shakespearean than I ever would’ve imagined. It’s a good fantasy novel with plot complications that lead to some good discussion. But there were also moments where there was WAY too much focus on what other characters looked like, their weight, their hair… I could’ve done without the pettiness. But the good far outweighs the bad. 

There There (Tommy Orange): Read this book. Read it for the Native American history you’ll pick up. Read it for the real life complications that Native folks living off reservation face. Read it because it’s damn good writing. It can be a breathtakingly painful read at points. Read it anyway. 

The Lions of Little Rock (Kristin Levine): Elementary Book Club pick. Historical fiction about two twelve year old girls (one black, one white) trying to be friends in segregated Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958. Read it with your upper elementary kid. Or hand it to your middle schooler and discuss it with them afterward. For white parents looking to start a frank conversation about race… this is a good place. *Note: it absolutely does not shy away from the ugliness of racism: the n-word, the Klan, bombings. It’s all real and all there. Teach your kid history. Talk to them about it. It’s the only way anything ever changes. 

Amnesty (Aravind Adiga): I struggled to connect with the protagonist in this story. Which, truth be told, seems like a brilliant narrative tool–given that the work is about existing in the shadows as a undocumented person living in Australia. I definitely wasn’t swept away by this narrative. But I do think it was an important read for the way it flays open the ways people of different races and ethnicities–as well as people with different immigration statuses–experience a place. 

The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls): I loved this memoir for its epic storytelling, the swift gut-punches of truth, and the way she made me marvel at her very existence in this world. Because there are about a zillion ways the story could’ve ended differently for her. I admire her grace & remarkable level of acceptance & ability to not be bitter. Because goodgodalmighty this woman has plenty of reason to be real, real mad about her childhood. While I will never read this book again, that certainly isn’t a reflection on her writing. It’s stellar. But I can only handle this level of chaos on occasion. But her other books have definitely made it onto my (ever-growing) list. 

No Time to Lose (Pema Chodron): Pema Chodron walks readers through the traditional Buddhist text: The Way of the Bodhisattva. She’s straight up no nonsense. And she often makes me laugh at myself. This work has way less of her own voice than her other books,  primarily because she’s recounting and analyzing another primary text. But, if you’re looking for an easy-to-digest way to decipher The Way of the Bodhisattva, look no further–this is a blessing. 

Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng): So, I kind of accidentally read this one. I mean, it was on my list–but I picked it up on a lark (there were other things for book clubs way ahead of this on the list) and I read it in a day. I loved it. The way she weaves multiple storylines together is artful. And I appreciated the book’s exploration of motherhood–namely what really makes a mother? Biology? Love? An alchemy of the two? And what will rend us past the point of repair?

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming (Joshilyn Jackson): Another accidental read. This one is like Jodi Picoult, for the southern set. And I say that with a lot of appreciation. I powered through this one because I wanted to know not only what happened but WHY. Really plot driven. And set in the south (like Pace, Florida south!). A perfect light read. 

An Imperfect Rapture (Kelly J. Beard): An accidental read that I couldn’t put down. Anyone who has grown up in a faith that they’ve actually had to recover from in one way or another should read this. It’s beautifully written & redemptive. I wish I’d had it to read years ago. Before I was even done reading it, I contacted the author to see if we could do a book event. Look for more details on that soon(ish)!

Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie): Stop what you are doing right now and read this. It’s amazing. Her insights into human nature are astounding. I learned a lot about Nigeria and about race as seen from an Africa woman’s point of view–all while she’s weaving the story of two people’s lives that seemed so real, I felt like I knew them. Also, the ending did not suck. 

Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe): I’m a little embarrassed that I just got around to reading this one–it’s a classic. The first Nigerian novel in English to garner wide acclaim. But, if you read it, know this: the first part reads like an ethnography. You’re going to learn a lot about African tribal life–all of which was incredibly interesting. But I couldn’t pick up the thread of a cohesive, compelling narrative. Until halfway through–then it comes togeher and the last half reads quickly. Stick with this one. I think you’ll be glad you did. I am. 

 

Currently Reading:

The Hobbit (Tolkien)

A Word On Bookstores:

Bookish has some of these titles in stock. Sometimes. With used books, our inventory changes constantly. We’re also happy to announce that we’re carrying a small selection of new titles. And we’re happy to special order books for you. We’re always grateful when you chose to purchase your books from Bookish. If you’d like to know if we currently have something in stock or if you’d like to place a special order, shoot us an email stories@bookishatl.com.

We also love to support other indie bookstores any time we can, so if we don’t have something in stock consider checking with Charis Books. They’re conveniently located on the Agnes Scott Campus in Decatur. And they have an truly incredible selection of diverse books.

And one final word: please consider supporting Barnes & Noble Edgewood instead of other online megastores. B&N Edgewood puts money back into our community because they have a brick & mortar store right here in Southeast Atlanta. And that other big online megastore needs a competitor to keep them (kind of, sort of) in check.