Since November 7th, it’s felt like I’ve had a little piece of my brain back. Watching the radical joy taking place in the Count Every Vote protests in Philly, greedily devouring every Gritty meme, going outside on a beautiful Saturday, hearing people banging pots and pans at the end of the bike path near my apartment, immediately queuing up Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street”. You get the picture. I knew it was just a moment, and that the work needed to continue (and still needs to continue), but for a moment, it felt a little sunnier, and something in my brain unlocked.
I’ve had a bunch of books I’ve picked up this year (or borrowed from my girlfriend) that I’ve tried to start but have just Not Had The Brain To Deal With. And now I’m starting to find all the nuts I’ve stored away for winter, finally ready to crack into them. On that list: Wolf Hall. Hidden Valley Road. Caste. The New Jim Crow and The Color of Law. My reading tends to swing between all-the-nonfiction and all-the-fiction phases, and right now I’m digging into the fiction as a nice warmup for getting back to nonfiction.
I don’t remember how Shayla Lawson’s This is Major got on my radar, but I’m so glad it did. The description of the book puts it in the company of Roxane Gay and Samantha Irby, and I’d add Tressie McMillan Cottom’s name to that list, too. It opens with a killer essay on American Girl dolls and specifically not wanting Addy as a young black girl, and goes on to discuss the notion of “black girl magic”, the power of a photo of Diana Ross eating a rib, workplace microagressions, and so much more with a sharpness that had me tear through the book in about a day.
I read Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind while on vacation last month, and it was fine. I get why people were so hyped about it, but ultimately it didn’t blow me away like I wanted it to. I get why it was in contention for the National Book Award for fiction this year but I’m so glad Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown got it instead.
I mentioned The Man Who Ate Too Much before, but I finally devoured it last week. It’s a fantastic portrait of a foundational figure in American cuisine, and you can tell a food writer wrote it because it nails the general pleasure food can bring (the same reason I love reading Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks) and the way things were changing on the post-war American table.
I can’t figure out what of my usual sources for finding books got me to Plain Bad Heroines, but I’m really digging it. It’s a 610-page doorstopper that’s been surprisingly breezy so far, and there’s a very meta conceit (this is a book about a movie being made based off a non-fiction book about a cursed all-girls school in the 1920s, and it jumps between the actual events and the modern-day adaptation), but the narrator’s voice is so fun.
I read Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want To Talk About Race when it first came out a few years ago, which meant that I suddenly had a bunch of friends to talk about it with this summer. I’m super pumped to read her next book, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America.
Speaking of mediocre white men, I am going to hate-read Ready Player Two in a day or two the second my copy shows up at the library and there is nothing you can do to stop me. Yes I will ejector-seat out of it if it feels anything like reading Ernest Cline’s previous book, Armada
Maintenance Phase, the new podcast spin-off from You’re Wrong About, is doing a great job at breaking down the just plain weird diet and wellness-related stories and explaining exactly what’s wrong with them, and I’m so glad it’s introduced me to Aubrey Gordon, Michael Hobbes’ co-host on that show. What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat is her new book and I’m really excited to hear more from her voice.
this is the nice part of the year where publishers aren’t really putting out new titles until 2021, so I can both catch up on the things I’ve squirreled away/piled around my apartment AND decimate my to-be-read list with everything the best-of-2020 lists list that I didn’t already have on my radar (looking at you, giant NPR Book Concierge).
Next month: the things I enjoyed reading most this year, whether published in 2020 or before