One day this week, as I was idly gazing at my bookshelves (aka writing), I began to think about what moves me to buy or read a particular book. Of course, there can be any number of reasons, but as I considered it, several distinctive themes emerged.
Using a few examples from books I read in 2017-2018, here is my personal hierarchy of reads.
Every month, silly. And here are some excellent options, from A to , well, W.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Gorgeous, poetic novel about four young African American girls who grow up, grow close, and grow apart in the Brooklyn of the 1970s. The novel begins as two of the girls – now grown women – run into each other on the subway after years of separation. One of the women rises and, although she knows her old friend expects her to come over and “hug the years away,” instead gets off the train. The scene both startles and puts the reader on notice to expect a wallop from this brief book that deals with memory, grief, racism, white flight, male violence, and the power of women’s friendships, with language so sharply honed you almost don’t feel it stab you in the heart.
Photo: Jason Denys
At the end of each year, I share a list of books I’ve enjoyed that year. In 2017 I didn’t read as much as usual, thanks to our national trauma. But I hope you’ll find some good choices for your own reading. Starting with fiction and followed by nonfiction, here is my year in books.
My favorite history blog is History in the Margins, by Pamela Toler. She writes about historical events that I never knew – or that I thought I knew – and makes me see them through her fresh, witty perspective. (Have you watched the PBS series “Mercy Street”? Pamela wrote the book.)
I’ve been reading her blog for years, so I was thrilled when she invited me to write a guest post about the women who served in the Vietnam war. Enjoy! And while you’re at it, take a stroll through History in the Margins.
I’m delighted to welcome guest blogger Ericka Taylor, reflecting on audiobook snobbery and other revelations discovered while listening to Her Own Vietnam.
The Listening Cure
By Ericka Taylor
The first time I read Her Own Vietnam, I had nothing but praise for the book. Page by page, I’d grown appreciative of the expertly-drawn characters whose strengths and failings made them as real as anyone I passed on the street. The story was compelling, and nicely balanced scenes from the present day with ones that took place during the Vietnam war. The writing was excellent. Plus, the novel exposed me to the trauma experienced by women veterans of Vietnam and the lack of support available to them when they returned home. Her Own Vietnam had more than fulfilled its role for me as a reader. What more could I ask?
Well, it turns out that this book is the gift that keeps on giving. Listening to the recently-released Audible version of Her Own Vietnam cured me of an audiobook snobbery I was only partly aware that I had. Continue reading