January Reads

January is over! Pandemic or not, January traditionally drags for me. Winter finally arrives to Southern California and the post-holiday letdown is in full effect. This year January combined with the current Covid-19 situation just makes for massive ennui and I've struggled with it for weeks. But, it's February and I've shelved my January attitude and I'm really trying to move on (I also get ten days off this month, makes things a smidge easier to handle). Blahs or not, I did manage to read six books! 

First up were two book for my two book clubs (honestly, book clubs have been such a life saver- I think my love letter to this necessity needs to be it's own post). For the meeting with my two close friends, we read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, which was such a treat. Backman is a great palate cleanser, without being total fluff. He's accessible to most readers, but he also deviates from standard narrative structures and brings in timely perspectives. This novel centers around a semi-hostage situation at an apartment showing, the reader learning the back story of all the people involved. Everyone may not be likable, but each provokes empathy. Backman also forces you to reflect on your on biases, which I appreciate. My other book club read was The Burning by  Megha Majumdar, which excelled in writing, plot, and character development. Set in the slums of India, we watch as a young Muslim girl is falsely imprisoned for something she wrote on Facebook, and sit on edge of our seats as we watch the two other characters, Lovely and PT Sir decide whether or not to help her cause. It's a story of class, morality, politics, and corruption that I can't recommend enough. 

I started the month off with a lot of Sylvia Plath, since I am teaching a unit on her poetry to my IB English juniors. I reread The Bell Jar and then Pain, Parties, and Work by Elizabeth Winder, which details the summer that The Bell Jar is based off of. It was such a great pairing, the novel and the biography- I knew that Plath used a lot of her own life for The Bell Jar, but really didn't know how closely aligned it really was. Winder included interviews with women who knew the poet, too, during their time at the magazines that summer, which I thought was really interesting.

Reading Derick Lugo's The Unlikely Thru-Hiker An Appalachian Trail Journey was a real treat for my cabin fever. A self-proclaimed metro-sexual from Manhattan with limited hiking experience, Lugo decides that he's going to devote at least six months to hiking this trail. We follow him from day one, grimacing as he struggles to set up camp, smiling at his interactions with fellow hikers, rolling our eyes at some of the dialogue, tearing up when he says good-bye to a dog he found, and cheering him on as he approaches the end. It really goes to show that the old cliché can really be true- if there's a will, there's a way.

And last, another memoir, this time Bravey by Olympian runner Alexi Pappas. I think I may do a longer post on this later in the week, but in a nutshell, she talks about her struggle with her mother's suicide, the decisions she made during her youth to become a runner, her depression after the Olympics, and how she got help for her mental health concerns. I loved her honesty, humor, and reflection. I have to admit that the word "bravey" really bugs me, and at times I didn't like the arrangement of the chapters (it lacked cohesion and order at times), but those complaints don't detract from the important message of her story.

6 books
3 fiction, 3 nonfiction
4 female authors, 3 male
4 white authors, 2 authors of color
1,634 pages (average of 52 pages/day)


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