Book Log, or “Blog” — A Summer Reading Review
Hello! If you’re new here, BlessingAjaero.com is my portfolio, as well as a place to find me on social media and see what projects I’m working on. If you know anything about new media, you know that today’s communications specialists have to have expertise in many areas of media that were previously kept quite separate. Being successful on the internet means being able to market oneself and to express one’s abilities to perform a wide variety of tasks, which I hope this website showcases in my own case.
For my first blog post on my site, I decided to open up my journal and share my summer book log, as well as my autumn book goals. Check out the links to purchase your own copy of the novels from Amazon through my affiliate store, or just patronize your local library (Did you know you can borrow ebooks?) or mom-and-pop bookstore (Some have game nights!). I hope you enjoy this piece — be on the lookout for more! This work has been mirrored on my blog.
One of my goals this summer was to get back into reading for pleasure. I was once a devourer of novels, a consumer of fictional worlds, but high school and college eroded the joy of reading since I often had to read, dissect, take notes on, explain, etc. books that I had no interest in and couldn’t relate to (Why are “classics” only stuffy, pretentious books written by dead old white men? Ugh. European-focused curricula take too much pride in framing the pompous as the precious and discarding all other points of view).
In any case, my To Read list is miles long, consistent with all of the other lists of media I need to get through, so I thought I’d make use of my local library this summer and whittle down the ever-growing pile of titles.
Of course, I ended up not touching a single physical book from my pile of purchased and forgotten novels. I also somehow managed to ignore all of the Amazon ebooks I’d been so eager to get to. Instead, I borrowed ebooks from the library’s digital archive and read them on my iPad or on my cubicle computer during downtime at work. Here’s what I accomplished this summer:
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (May ?? — June 29th)
I tried with this book. I really did. It was a month-or-more-long slog that I dreaded every time I had a second to spare on it. Ever since learning of her, a fellow Nigerian and a vocal feminist, through Beyoncé’s sample of her TEDTalk, I was a supporter. Then I learned that Adichie didn’t quite mesh ideologically with Beyoncé, yet I still held out a torch for her. And then came a certain interview… Though I was discouraged by Adichie’s transphobic comments, I hoped that finally reading one of her novels would endear me to her writing and that I could find some work I enjoyed despite disagreeing with her. However, I was sorely disappointed in this book. It bored me. It became a chore, and it was a terrible first choice for the summer, and it actually made it harder to read any novels at all until I finally was nearly finished. The protagonist antagonized me. I couldn’t even sustain enough interest to take notes as properly as I’d planned. Here’s a sampling of my attempt:
In high school, a close friend handed me an advance reader copy of this novel she’d borrowed from her librarian father. Given the chance to read it again, I jumped on this fresh, funny, female take on Lord of the Flies, and I finished the whole thing during my break. High school saw my obsession with Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, so I already adored the author, and all the twists and turns surprised me anew with this reread. Little had changed since that advance draft, but it seemed to me that the epilogue was new material, and that the acts of bigotry are more clearly framed as negative in the narrative. Loved it to pieces.
Beast by Brie Spangler (June 29th and July 5th)
This novel was, apparently, supposed to be a modern Beauty and the Beast, with a transgender Beauty. This book wasn’t just terrible; it was actively harmful to the trans community. I finished reading and immediately ran to GoodReads to check the rating, and I was incredibly disappointed at how highly it was regarded… Then I realized most of the reviews came from cisgender folks, and it all clicked. I’ll expand on this one in a separate post later this month.
A delightful read, especially if you, like me, are a fan of the source material: a radio drama podcast that weaves a fictional narrative about a creepy little desert town that flirts with the supernatural and the surreal. It took me a while to read, but largely because the audiobook (performed by the same talent — and in the same style — as the podcast) wouldn’t work properly on my device, so I couldn’t listen along as I read. The storyline chosen for the novel doesn’t require prior knowledge of the world of Night Vale, which makes it a wonderful standalone read, but it does clarify some background mysteries that happen in the main plot of the show. Highly recommended for fans of Lovecraft, Twin Peaks, Gravity Falls, healthy and supportive romantic male relationships, and young adults and parents who truly are trying their best to see eye-to-eye.
Surprise — this was my first Agatha Christie experience. I’d only ever encountered works inspired by her writing, structures built on the shoulders of this giant. It was the classic setup — though I do realize Christie is, if not the inventor, the codifier of this trope — of a mysterious, eccentric millionaire inviting a list of guests to a secluded mansion on a sequestered island. The invitees are picked off, one by one, and it’s up to the survivors to figure out what’s going on. Did I get it right? Initially, yes, actually — but I second-guessed myself because of a well-executed plot twist that completely blindsided me. All in all, it was a good mystery, once I could get past the casual racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc.
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (July 26th — July 31st)
I don’t know what I expected from this book, but it wasn’t a constant cringing feeling any time modern teen culture was referenced. The premise is a posthumous reconstruction of a death: an overachieving, private school teen falls off a roof after a series of uncharacteristic events that led to her busy, lawyer mother getting involved with what turns out to be a long winded conspiracy. This book was highly in demand, and apparently it’s what the adults are into… I read it through, but only out of some macabre fascination with the author’s perception of teenage life. It was like reading a bad soap opera, so it was entertaining in the way that those over-the-top telenovelas are, I guess. I wouldn’t particularly seek it out again, but it certainly passed the time, and it left me feeling like an episode of Riverdale does: a trashy, melodramatic hot mess unfolded before my eyes, and I just had to see the trainwreck through.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (July 31st)
Blake Crouch had quite the unique take on the multiverse theory… There’s not much else I can say without major spoilers, but it was, honestly, a fabulous read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, including a twist that I had expected, with an angle that I certainly did not foresee.
Serial (Uncut) by Blake Crouch and Jack Kilborn (attempted August 4th)
Coming from Dark Matter to this, a prototype to Serial Killers, was… a disappointment, to say the least. I made it halfway through before the “”””edginess”””” grated against the entirety of my being. It was groundbreaking, apparently, but not on the basis of content, I don’t think — more for the collaborative, double-blind format and the way it was released online. It’s meant to be a horror thriller, but it’s definitely an earlier work, because it reads much the way one’s edgy, emo Naruto fanfic reads during the scene phase in high school. I suppose that, since it is an earlier draft of the more widely known Serial Killers, that makes some sense…
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (attempted August 4th)
So I made it through the first few chapters, but… I tried here; I really did. It was so dry… I found myself unable to care about Hercule Poirot’s point of view, which was disappointing. There was also more French sprinkled in than I could easily read without having to stop and translate, which is a personal issue more than anything. For Americanah, the Igbo and Pidgin weren’t an issue because I could understand from context and from what I know from my parents. If there’s bits of Spanish, I know enough to get by. French was not the language I studied, and there were few English or Spanish cognates, so having to keep breaking the flow to translate was more trouble than it was worth for a book I couldn’t even get into. I might give it another try in a few months.
Dear Ijeawele , or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (August 7th — August 8th)
A nice letter, with some strong, practical feminist sentiments. Fairly ciscentric, though, and lacks intersectionality beyond the intersection of gender and race (womanhood and Blackness).
I’m proud of myself for even managing to get through a single one! This is a shorter list than I would’ve liked, but not included is the stack of cookbooks I dug through for an upcoming project, the piles of news articles I’ve consumed, the social media posts I’ve devoured, and the acres of fanfiction I’ve mowed down, so I suppose I read more than this tally would have you think! It also doesn’t include my reread of D.J. MacHale’s The Merchant of Death for the Pendragon podcast I’m planning with Quinn and Aslee.
Looking ahead, here’s what books I hope to get through this fall:
1984 by George Orwell
Yep, I still have not read this speculative fiction classic, despite the jump in sales after the election. I have read Animal Farm many a time, though. It’s a good time to read up on fascism…
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
I’m so excited to start this series, especially since I received the book as a present from my dear friend Danny after expressing interest in the author on Twitter. Dr. Okorafor is an award-winning Nigerian-American (Rep that flag!) sci-fi, magical futurism, mystical realism, and juju fantasy author who blends traditional Nigerian mythology and religious elements with science fiction in the most enticing ways. She reigns over the realm of non-European fantasy and is incredibly knowledgable about past and present social justice issues, both here and in the motherland. The Binti trilogy has been calling to me for ages, and it’s time to come home.
Spreading Poison: A Book about Racism and Prejudice by John Langone
Barbara Jordan: American Hero by Mary Beth Rogers
Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail by W. Jeffrey Bolster
Coming of Age in Academe: Rekindling Women’s Hopes and Reforming the Academy by Jane Roland Martin (foreword by Gloria Steinem)
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
The Mismeasure of Woman: Why Women Are Not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex by Carol Tavris
The Oxford Book of Modern Women’s Stories edited by Patricia Craig
I bought these seven books from a used bookstore run by local teens! They were having a huge sale, and I couldn’t resist. These diamonds in the rough caught my eye from the bottom of the bargain bin, and even though some of the material may be outdated and ciscentric, they seem to be good resources. Also, I can’t believe I’ve never seen or read Wicked, despite having spent my middle and high school years as a theatre kid. I guess being a drama nerd doesn’t necessitate knowing Idina Menzel’s last known location every second of the day to be allowed to do a dozen musicals, but honestly, I’m ashamed of myself.
Two separate friends have recommended this novel to me and lent me copies. I probably should have read it by now… It seems right up my alley! I know that it’s a defictionalized version of a young adult series within the novel Fangirl, also by Rainbow Rowell. Fangirl is about a teen who writes fanfiction based on a Harry Potter stand-in series — and this is that series. Obviously, it’s been shifted so that the main romance is now the Harry expy and the Draco expy. Looks like a fun read, and maybe I’ll even get to Fangirl, too!
So all these wonderful titles are waiting for me, sitting in a pile in the corner of the room. This is the short term list, and it’s all physical books: I haven’t included a single Amazon ebook or any of the 200+ titles in my OverDrive wishlist from my local library, all in the barest hope of being able to get through some of these by December. I hope to finish at least five of these books, and I’ll keep you updated with tidbits I learn from each one!
I hope you enjoyed this piece! It’s back-to-school season, so maybe pick a couple of novels for whatever downtime you can scrounge together this semester, and cram as much reading as you can handle into syllabus week, and leave a comment if you’re reading, have read, or wish to read any of the titles featured here today.
Happy September, everyone!