One of the things I’m doing to try to show my support and (hopefully) affect a change is to increase the number of Black authors whose work I’m buying, reading, and promoting through my book accounts. For this reason, 66% of the books I finished in June were written by Black authors. In July I’m aiming for 50%; yes, that’s a decrease, but the goal is ultimately to read diversely from many races and countries, not to replace the Black-authored works in my reading lists with content from white Americans.
For the record, here was the June TBR I decided on before protests swept America and my reading interests for the immediate future drastically changed:
As predicted, I didn’t read many of these books within the month, though I will be working them back into my reading schedule soon because they’re related to various reading goals and commitments I’ve made. From the chosen 5, I finished one (My Dark Vanessa) and a half (Four Past Midnight, a buddy read that a friend and I had to postpone for timing, though we’re finding ways to fit it in alongside other reading priorities and have now read 2 of the 4 novellas from the collection).
Instead of sticking to my TBR, I read:
- Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. 3 stars. This was a May TBR title for me that I did read most of in May and just finished up this month. It’s an urban fantasy novel set on the Yale campus, featuring magical secret societies. I loved a lot about it but this volume felt like groundlaying for future installments; I suspect I’ll like the sequel considerably more, but this was a very solid start. This will be my next review.
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. 5 stars. I put this on my list both because of the synopsis (historical fiction featuring a racist and abusive reformatory school in Florida, based on a real place) and also because I’d enjoyed a previous book from the author. I was even more invested in this newest release from Whitehead than the last, and am eager to keep reading from his backlist!
- Lot by Bryan Washington. 4 stars. I picked up this story collection following a mixed race gay man in Houston; the stories also highlight other experiences from minority groups in the area. I liked that it felt both very specific to these characters but at the same time also indicative of the treatment many people in cities across America receive. It’s perhaps not the best starting point if you’re new to fiction about racism and/or LGBTQ+ discrimination; it’s wonderfully subtle.
- Real Life by Brandon Taylor. 5 stars. This is a literary fiction campus novel that dissects how racism affects one man’s stint in grad school (studying biochemistry), taking place over the course of a single weekend. I loved Taylor’s writing overall (though it did feel a bit overwritten in places) and that he hones in on the MC’s distinct voice and experience rather than using him as a mouthpiece to speak for an entire group of people (though it is clear that the MC is not alone in his struggle). I suspect this one will end up on my favorites list at the end of the year!
- Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. 4 stars. A YA utopian/dystopian novel set in a city where justice and equality for all have finally become the norm, with peace disturbed when a creature comes out of a painting, certain that a “monster” is hiding in their midst, and working with trans teen Jam to hunt him down. This was a little young for me, but glorious nonetheless.
- Aries by Stella Andromeda. 4 stars. A helpful guide to get me started in astrology. I’ve always been vaguely interested, but the fact that there are a few glaring discrepancies between my personality and my sun sign has made me slow to dig deeper. Now I know there’s more to it (I’m a Gemini moon and Pisces ascendant, for those curious). The imagery is simple but pleasing, the info split pretty evenly between sign-specific insights (this volume is part of a series that includes a book for each sign of the zodiac) and broader info on astrology- how it should be used, what the other signs mean and how they interact, where to find and how to read your chart, etc. This is great for beginners, and lists further resources at the end. I may look into the Gemini and Pisces volumes at some point, but I suspect a lot of the basics will be repeated so I don’t think it’s necessary to read more than one or two of these to get the gist of how they apply to one’s personal life. I probably won’t review this book in full, as it’s pretty self-explanatory and small, so free to ask further in the comments if you have any questions! (Sort of related, I’ve also been vaguely interested in tarot for a long time and have just started my journey on that; is anyone interested in an experience/review post for specific tarot decks and guidebooks or should I stick to the monthly wrap-ups for those as well??? Comment below if you’re interested, please!)
- My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. 5 stars. This is the book I was reading (as part of the Women’s Prize Squad longlist!) that I desperately needed a break from and thus picked up Aries. Russell’s fictional account of a fifteen year old girl groomed and sexually abused by a teacher at her private school utterly broke my heart. It’s incredibly written and insightful, and makes for a very emotional and thought-provoking read. I’ll have a review coming soon.
- Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi. 4 stars. For a book under 200 pages, this one packed a big punch in the end for me. It took me a little while to warm up to this contemporary-with-a-fabulist-element story about modern oppression and its effects, but the final section left a big impression. It’s a great fictional story and also motivated me to do some further research, so a win-win.
- The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde. 5 stars. It’s rare for me to rate a very short book (this one’s around 50 pages) so highly, but Lorde’s writing is stunning and hits right at the truth. There are 5 essays collected in this little volume, some of which I found more impactful than others, but I appreciated them all and would highly recommend Lorde’s work to anyone doing nonfiction reading about racism and feminism. Not to be missed.
Dedicating June mostly to books by Black authors has been one of the best reading decisions I’ve made all year, as I had a much higher set of ratings last month than I have for most of 2020, and I felt like I was getting a lot out of what I was reading, which is always my goal. Some of these books I’ve been sleeping on for far too long, and I’ll definitely be using this positive experience as encouragement to make my reading more diverse in the future. I’m pretty excited about my line-up for July, as a start!
Average rating – 4.3!
Best of month – I don’t think I can choose. I would say The Master’s Tools may be overall the “best,” although My Dark Vanessa had the most emotional impact and I was most impressed with the style and impact of Real Life, but The Nickel Boys was also pretty much flawless… I think having to choose between FOUR 5-star reads in one month is unprecedented for me, but it’s a wonderful dilemma to have!
Owned books read for the first time – 9 out of 9. Two of them were new purchases this month, but 7 were pulled from my own-unread stacks from previous months. But I also acquired another 9 books in June that I haven’t read yet, so… *shrugs.* My library is in the process of reopening now but there have been a surge of covid cases in my area so the jury’s still out on whether I’ll be borrowing any physical books anytime soon.
Year total – 52 at the end of the month, which had me slightly ahead of my goal to read 100 books this year (the end of June marked the halfway point of 2020- hopefully the second half will be better than the first all around!). But I’ve also finished two more books in July already (that I had started in June but not quite finished) so I’m well on-track with my reading goal.
Non-review posts in June included:
- A BLM round-up of resources and ways to help the movement (which you’ve probably noticed at the top of all of my recent posts)
- the Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag
- And at the eleventh hour (okay, technically the thirteenth, I missed June by one hour) the Mystery edition of my genre spotlight series.
Something good this month: I received a raspberry plant as a belated birthday gift. It arrived in the mail, looked dry but alive, and after I planted it there were several days it looked like it wasn’t going to make it. In the last few days though, it’s got several areas of new growth and is now thriving! I love raspberries but the ones available in stores are just not the same as the home-grown variety, and they don’t seem to be a common farmer’s market item where I live. I’m so excited to have some fresh berries later this summer!
Tell me something good that happened to you in June!
The Literary Elephant