Since publishing my list of favorite books read in 2019, nearly everywhere I go, people make comments about three things: the amount of books I finished last year, the quality of my selections, and how much they want me to write more. “Amelia”, my friends say, “tell me what I should be reading.”
Well, friends, here I am… but I’m not going to tell you what to read. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I’m reading and you can do with it as you chose.
Here’s what I’m thinking: Once or twice a month, I’ll do a book-related post. I’ll list the books I’ve finished, mention what I’ve covered for book clubs that month, and share some casual reviews. I’ll end the reviews with a recommended audience–that way, you can see if it’s something you’d like. I’ll also include links to all the titles’ Goodreads pages so you can track things down on your own.
Sound like a plan?
Reading in January was a welcome break. Several of my book clubs were either cancelled or we discussed things I’ve already read. This means I read less for work and more for me.
I’m nearing the end of rereading Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy. This series is definitely not for everyone on account of an unlikable protagonist, wandering plot, and overall nihilistic tone. But I love these books even more the second time around. Grossman presents a profound, self-aware exploration into the nature of reading fantasy as escapism. He’s in conversation with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, and Erin Morganstern–all writers I adore. I’m also convinced Quentin is a Four on the Enneagram: his journey centers on grappling with his need to be significant and distaste for the ordinary. It points towards learning to accept the beautiful rhythms of daily life. As a fellow Four, I relate a lot to his character arc.
One of my reading goals this year is to become better versed in the classics of Christian literature, so I spent the majority of January working through Augustine’s Confessions. It wasn’t an easy read, but definitely a worthwhile one. I’ve been drawing on supplemental materials and lectures, which have helped provide context for why this work is important. I’m waiting on some ILL requests to come through so I can do follow-up reading.
This month, I delved into Wendell Berry’s fiction for the first time! Hannah Coulter has been recommended by many people whose taste I admire, but it’s taken four years to read. I finally picked it up because I was in need of a slow book that reminded me the value of not rushing through life. Berry’s prose was beautiful and I know I’ll be reading more of his work in the future.
Also–I finally read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, which won some of the biggest literary awards back in 2018 including a National Book Award. Friends, do yourself a favor and READ THIS BOOK. Acevedo’s writing is stunning. I was deeply moved by this coming-of-age story.
Book Club Discussions:
- Every so often, one of my library’s book clubs picks a theme and everyone reads something different, then shares with the group. I picked Cold Spring Hallelujah by Heidi Barr, a local poet. (Fans of Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry–give Barr a read!)
- I cancelled my teen book club in December, so moved our discussion of John Green’s Looking for Alaska to this month. I hadn’t read Green’s Prinz-winning debut since my own teen years. (Has anyone seen the show? Was it good?) I used this 2016 Vlogbrothers video, “On the Banning of Looking for Alaska”, to launch a conversation about censorship with my teens as well.
- I lead a discussion on Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, a phenomenal YA historical fiction about teens on the Eastern Front of World War II. Everyone in the group loved the book!
Other Books Finished:
- The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
- Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
- Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Yoon’s debut is a fantastic representation of contemporary YA. It’s the coming-of-age story about Frank Li, a Korean-American teen navigating the murky waters of family, friendship, and love amid his senior year of high school. Yoon poignantly captures the struggles of second-generation Americans, torn between the cultures of their parents and that of their peers. It’s thoughtful, funny, and contains some of my favorite tropes (fake dating!). I was reminded of John Green’s early work. This would make a great book club pick.
While I was unimpressed by Rogerson’s debut, An Enchantment of Ravens, her second novel was quite enjoyable! A YA fantasy about a girl raised in a magical library? SIGN ME UP. Elisabeth is a foundling left on the doorstep of one of her kingdom’s Great Libraries. Raised among books holding the tools of sorcery, books that become monsters if provoked, Elisabeth has been raised to hate magic. However, when she is framed for an act of sabotage and sent away from her home, she begins questioning everything she has been taught. This book features a strong-willed protagonist, a sardonic sorcerer, a fashion-obsessed demon, and lots of adventure. It reminded me a lot of Miyazaki’s animated adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle. Library and fantasy lovers alike will be charmed by this YA novel.
Every so often, I come across books that answer questions I didn’t know I have been asking. This was one of those books. Harper deep-dives into the early chapters of Genesis, laying a foundation for a Gospel that pertains to all aspects of life. Instead of emphasizing “Original Sin” and humanity’s fallen nature, she talks about sin in the context of broken relationships between things. There are chapters on the broken relationships between humanity and God, between humanity and creation, between different races, between different genders, etc. Through citing scripture and her own experience, Harper widens the scope of the Gospel beyond individual salvation to the restoration of all things. She ends each chapter with a series of practical reflections and tools that readers can apply to their own lives. I have a feeling I’ll be returning to this book and I highly recommend it to all Christians, especially those interested in issues of social justice.
That’s all for this month! Stop by again for more bookish conversation. If you’d like to talk with me about any of these books or have feedback about this posts’s format, leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.