April and May Book Log

School is out. Huzzah. Let’s look at what I read the last two months.

  1. The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (5/5) – My god. This book is absolute genius. One that you read and think, “Why doesn’t everyone talk about this more often?” At least, that was my thought. It is funny and intriguing and even heart warming at times, but I don’t know any way to do it proper service because it’s also a book about intellect and how much (or if) that matters and why it matters. And it’s about a mother and son. It’s just so damn good. A rare candidate to rearrange my personal top-10. Read it if you haven’t.
  2. Jazz by Toni Morrison (5/5) – I’ve talked about this book a lot. This is probably the fifth or sixth time I’ve read it, and it still holds up. One of my favorite books to teach and Morrison is a genius and will always be a genius, of course.
  3. Girl at the Bottom of the Sea by Michelle Tea (3/5) – The second part of this trilogy my oldest has me reading. Like all middle parts, it suffers because it has neither a beginning nor an end. I’m interested to see how I feel about the whole thing – it really does seem to be one long novel – when I finish it. About to crack the third volume now.
  4. Prometeo by C. Dale Young (4/5) – I haven’t been reading enough poetry this last year. This was a nice way to dip my toe back in. And the first book in a long time I selected by browsing the shelves in a bookstore instead of just ordering a book to be picked up. These poems have all the empathy poetry should have and only rarely get lost in the weeds of the author also being a doctor.
  5. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams (5/5) – I read a bunch of plays at the end of the year as I explored things I might teach next year. I’d somehow never read Williams (though I’d seen the Brando Streetcar). This was a good introduction. Characters portrayed honestly but not without sympathy.
  6. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (4/5) – I really liked this, though it does feel a bit dated, it is interesting and has interesting things to say about class constructs. It also made me laugh a few times, which was appreciated. I doubt I’ll teach this one, but I’d like to see it performed somewhere with the proper ending.
  7. McSweeney’s #62 (4/5) – An entire issue of queer fiction and well worth the read. Say whatever you want about McSweeney’s, they make more of an effort than any of the most important quarterlies to find excellent writing by diverse voices. These stories are almost all amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
  8. Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (5/5) – I love Jhump Lahiri, though this books is going to put some people off. It’s right up my alley, though. I like books where nothing huge happens. Where you get to simply see someone’s life and get to know them in a quiet way.
  9. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (5/5) – Wow. I’d seen it. I knew what happened. And yet… it’s still crushing. Somehow, you feel bad for almost everyone without really liking anyone. One of the portraits of life that is maybe a little too honest, but necessary all the same.
  10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson (5/5) – I like it when I can’t necessarily tell what a story is about right off the bat. That was the case here. There’s a constant building and release of tension that makes the ending reasonable without taking away the fact that if you haven’t seen or read this play before (I hadn’t) it will shock the hell out of you. Or maybe not.

February and March Book Log

It’s been a hard couple of months for reading. Not pictured: The Piano Lesson

Well, you try to get a website going again and then all of a sudden you have to return to school in person and there are a million meetings and tons of planning to do and things just get pushed to the side. And you barely even get to read, it feels like.

So here we are. A pretty light two months of reading, but such is life. April is looking pretty good so far.

  1. Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea (4/5) – This is the first book of a series I got Simone for Christmas. She declared them the greatest thing she’d ever read and begged me to read them to. So I am. Even reading it from an adult perspective, they’re pretty enjoyable so far. And great books for adolescent girls. All the themes and messages you’d want, while also not shying away from the way the world really is. And also, you know, magic and stuff.
  2. The Ancestry of Object by Tatiana Rickman (2/5) – Blah. The first book from Deep Vellum press I’d ever not liked. It reads like something that was finished, but only at novella length, and then padded out to make it publishable as a stand alone. It would have been great if it was only 80-100 pages. Alas.
  3. The Piano Lesson by August Wilson (5/5) – I FINALLY got to teach this (I was about to last year when COVID happened). It’s a genius work. This part of Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, which chronicle’s the black experience in the 20th century. This one is set in the 1920s and looks at the generational effects of trauma. I really need to read everything he’s ever written, I think.
  4. My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee (3/5) – Man, I love Chang-rae Lee, but he wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders here, sadly. There are two parallel narratives that only barely intersect. Both of the narratives are interesting and compelling, but they don’t quite come together, and there are a few too many strings left hanging. This feels like it should have been two shorter novels instead of one long novel.
  5. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (4/5) – I really enjoyed pretty much everything about this story collection, which really does largely focus on the lives of church ladies (who really do have some secrets). There are perspectives here that are very different from what I’m used to reading and all the stories were interesting. My only quibble – and it is minor – is that, like many story collections, some of the later stories felt just a tad repetitive. Still, it’s excellent writing and worth checking out.