In October I read 15 books, and in November, 13. I upped my reading goal from 150 to 200 books this year in November – I hadn’t done it before that because I kind of liked how Goodreads kept telling me I was x books past my 2020 reading goal. Small affirmations.
I’d like to note, though, that keeping track of the number of books I read is only one metric I use for understanding and monitoring my reading. Generally I’m pretty happy if I can read about 3 books a week – I think that’s enough to keep my brain working, to make sure I’m reading moderately widely across a variety of genres, writers, and time periods. That works out to about 144-150 books a year, so as long as I’m within that range I know I’m reading enough for my professional and personal growth. So trying to reach 200 this year is just a fun thing to do.
I have found joining Goodreads this year a really fun way of seeing how and what others are reading, without having to interact too much. I think, like my bookish friends N and H, reading for me is fundamentally and enjoyably a solitary act. I was lucky growing up to have an older sister with whom I shared books and some thoughts about books. That was just enough contact to shed some light on other interpretations of the things we were reading, and still gave us plenty of space to retreat into our own experience of those worlds. I definitely enjoy hearing and reading what others have to say about books, but actively engaging in book discussion isn’t for me.
The exception: scholarly or critical discussion, but that, I feel, is less about reading, and the enjoyment of reading, and more about the joy of creation. Analysis, I think, (and by this I generally mean close reading) is a tremendously and joyfully creative act, and should and should not be taken too seriously. More and more I consider that tracing book histories, and histories of literatures, and maybe distant reading, is really what my own scholarship might begin to pursue.
Anyway, some notable reads in October and November! I’m just going to list them all here by category.
Frances Cha If I Had Your Face In South Korea, four young women come up against the different ways that looks (both their own and the looks of others) are destiny, but also not. This one is dark and somber, but also has real moments of connection and kindness that just makes the not-inevitable cruelty of the world around the characters even worse.
Mona Awad Bunny MFA Campus Novel on hallucinogens. Been reading my niece’s If I were a Bunny picture book a lot too, and have concluded that, notwithstanding (or maybe inclusive of) Richard Adams’ Watership Down, bunnies are probably inherently demonic.
Mike Gayle Half a World Away I didn’t expect to like this British novel about a brother and sister separated in childhood and reunited in adulthood as much as I really, really did. It’s not a tearjerker – or at least, not just a tearjerker, and I rooted so hard for Kerry Hayes all the way to the end. And Noah Martineau. I feel like there aren’t enough bone-deep good protagonists in fiction outside of children’s lit, and I do have a soft spot for them.
Angela Makholwa The Blessed Girl Sarong Party Girls – the Bontle Tau, Johannesburg incarnation.
Rivers Solomon The Deep What if all the pregnant enslaved thrown overboard had underwater, deep sea descendants? (I read this right after reading Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, a historical novel about two branches of a family tree which begin in Ghana and are split through slavery – reading these differently powerful attempts to reclaim and give voice to history so close together gave me some space to think about the work that fantasy and speculative fiction does alongside historical fiction or fiction rooted in realism, to broaden narrative and imaginative horizons, and in doing so insist on a future existence, a way forward, to take up rightful space).
Naomi Novik A Deadly Education (The Scholomance, #1) I loved this – a deadly Hogwarts, a lonely, angry heroine and the friends she is forced to make along the way. I might re-read soon, and definitely before the sequel comes out in June 2021!
Becky Chambers The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) Took me about a month of on and off reading to finish this futuristic sci-fi 500 pager, but in that way it became kind of comforting. I could dip in when I was in the mood to wind down, and Ashby and the crew would be there waiting, on their journey to a small and angry planet. It was wonderful to see how Chambers’ imagination stretched to describing and understanding non-human life.
Ruth Ware One by One SKI THRILLER – a little slow to start with, but that final quarter of the book more than makes up for it.
Katherine Arden Small Spaces and Dead Voices Seasonal middle-grade horror with as much heart as eerieness (a lot). Kid protagonists to love and grow with.
So far in December I have read 7 books and am 7 books away from reaching 200 reads for the year! Currently reading Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots as recommended by Ask A Manager and really enjoying it! Up next I’d like to read Ponti because that is a book on loan, and I really should return it before 2021.
Have some thoughts from the recent Tiny Lit Fest 2020, and the third Salted Egg Theatre production, A Night of Female Voices, as well as post-debut-novel drop, but for now – at least I’m officially caught up here! =)