March Book Roundup
Highlights for me this month were Craft in the Real World (nonfiction) and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (fiction). I had a pretty eclectic mix of nonfiction, but a very fantasy-based fiction mix this month, for no particular reason. I choose based on what’s interesting, but also whatever pops up as ready in my library holds list. I have so many holds, in fact, that I constantly have to recycle them so I can finish the ones I already have!
The Complete Guide to Vision Boards — Christine Kane. This one is a bit of a “gimme” since it’s so short, but it was a fun inspirational read as I and my Fanning the Flames group worked on our Vision Boards (this is a group for midlife women looking to explore new options, figure out what’s next and how to achieve their biggest dreams — let me know if you or anyone else you know is interested in joining!)
Miracle Morning Millionaires: What the Wealthy Do Before 8AM That Will Make You Rich — Hal Elrod, David Osborn. Another in the Miracle Morning Series. I didn’t find this one as helpful as the previous ones, maybe because I’m already deeply immersed in the personal development world. Mostly involves mindset vs. actual wealth-building strategies. The one the author does mention is his own area of real estate, and he is a big believer in that to achieve wealth — but it’s not for me.
Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping — Matthew Selasses. This is not a typical craft book. It’s written by a writer who is steeped in the literary world/MFA tradition, and thus approaches it more theoretically, and also from a teaching perspective. But it is one of the few books to acknowledge that our “Hero’s Journey” Aristotelian 3-Act Structure is a very Western-rooted concept, and there are others in the world. He redefines craft terms from various perspectives, and perhaps most important, gives many examples of ways to center the writer in workshop in a way that makes it more welcoming and inclusive to all writers instead of giving critique that may be harmful out of ignorance of the writer’s background and intended audience. Highly recommend this to writing teachers especially!
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019 — ed. By Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain. This collection of essays spanning the presence of African-Americans from the 1600s to the present was a little different than I expected. I thought it would be more stories of specific people in each era (regular folks and big names) but it is more a hodgepodge of people, ideas, and historical tidbits. Each chapter spans five years, and each contributor seemingly was given free reign to write about whatever they wanted as long as it had to do with something in that period, which leads to a rather uneven but still fascinating mix. Some are clearly academic writing, some are more literary; some chose to focus on social or political movements; others on individuals. For me the clearest through-line was how deliberate policies have shaped our current racialized culture, beginning from the colonial era to today. Institutional racism didn’t happen by accident, but as a series of deliberate legal and political choices over centuries, and this book makes this starkly clear.
Mistborn — Brandon Sanderson. The author was recommended to me as someone to read to help a current client with her project (yes, I still “read as a writer” even as a coach!). Sanderson does an amazing job of world-building and creating a unique system of magic, and also creating questions in the reader’s mind while full inhabiting his point-of-view characters’ heads. The characters are believable and interesting, and the book asks the big questions, like, “how do we create real revolution in a society with massive inequality?”
The Rithmatist — Brandon Sanderson. I had a bunch of his books on hold from the library, so not surprising another popped up! This is definite YA, and Sanderson again creates a unique, steampunk-inspired world where killer chalk drawings come to life, controlled only by human Rithmatists with special powers to combat them. I’ve only read two books of his so far, but they both follow the model of taking about 2/3 to set up and 1/3 of killer twists and turns to resolve. This one also tackles big issues around magic, myth, and religion. I loved it, and was disappointed to see that although it’s perfectly set up for a sequel, it’s not in his pipeline to write for another 5 years or so — he is unbelievably prolific and also has multiple series going at once.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue — V.E. Schwab. Loved this one too. It falls more under the “magical realism” umbrella, where a young woman in early 17th century France prays passionately to escape her upcoming marriage and live a life of freedom. A dark spirit answers, and gives her exactly what she asks: she is free to do anything, because no one can remember her as soon as she leaves their sight. She lives this way, in a battle of wits with the dark spirit, for 300 years, until she meets a man who can actually remember her… The story weaves back and forth through the centuries, telling Addie’s story and later the young man’s as well. So, so good. I now want to pick up the author’s other books.