It feels so good to be back in this space. I never intended to take such a long break from posting, but I didn’t have much to share. My grandma passed away in April. Thanks to a mixture of grief and living through a global pandemic, I didn’t have the desire or concentration to read much. Thankfully, I’m back into a groove with books and was even able to develop many new post ideas that I’m excited about sharing. Keep an eye out for some fun posts dropping soon.
But first, here’s my August recap. Enjoy!
What I Read
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Jacob Finch Bonner hasn’t been able to follow up the success of his first novel. The literary world has moved on, and he’s stuck teaching creative writing at a failing college. One day, a student named Evan reveals that he’s come up with a plot idea that is sure to be a success. He shares the plot with Jacob, who agrees that the story is a sure thing. When Jacob finds out that Evan has died, he decides to write the book that Evan never did. The success that follows is blissful until a note shows up that reads, “You are a thief.”
The Plot contains not one but two unputdownable storylines: Jacob’s and the one that Evan conceived. I loved the quick pace of this novel and enjoyed a look into the literary world. If you’re ever stuck in a reading slump like I had been, give this book a chance to get you out of it.
Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
One of my missions as a library worker is to convince skeptics that some nonfiction books can be just as exciting as any thriller. That’s certainly the case with Jesus and John Wayne. Throughout the book, Du Mez reflects on the history of white American evangelicalism and how American society has influenced it, and how it has influenced society. Du Mez’s observations are astute and helped me better understand the faith in which I was raised. Don’t miss this book if you’re interested in religion, politics, gender, and how the three often get entangled.
In by Will McPhail
I’ve developed an interest in graphic novels this year and couldn’t resist In when I saw it on the shelf of my local library. The illustrations looked beautiful, and I was intrigued by the premise of a young man trying to connect with the people around him. Thankfully, this gem of a book exceeded my expectations. It follows a man named Nick who wonders why his interactions with people don’t have more depth. As he learns how to open up, he starts seeing the world in new, colorful ways. In is a beautiful meditation on belonging, connection, and finding one’s way in the world.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Rowan is a young woman who stumbles across an ad for a live-in nanny. She wants the generous salary and is intrigued about the idea of living in a “smart house,” a residence full of the latest technology. Since this is a mystery novel, things don’t work out. Rowan ends up in prison for murder, and The Turn of the Key is formatted as a letter she’s writing to a lawyer who she believes can save her.
I love a unique, exciting setting when I read fiction, and Ruth Ware certainly provides that in this story. This novel is a perfectly fine mystery, but I was let down by the ending and lack of character development.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
After George Floyd was murdered last summer, there was an interest in antiracism books that sent many titles to the top of the bestseller lists, including So You Want to Talk About Race. I’ve received requests at work for antiracism books, and after reading this one, I know Oluo’s book is the one I’d recommend first. In short chapters about topics like policing and incarceration, Oluo illuminates the struggles Black people have to be safe and respected in America today. (The chapter on cultural appropriation was especially helpful since I’d struggled to understand that topic in the past.)
Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
Shortcomings is about a Japanese-American man named Ben. When the story begins, Ben is dating and living with his longtime girlfriend, but the two keep fighting. The dissolution of their relationship causes Ben–a genuinely unlikeable character–to set out on an emotional and physical journey.
I was left wanting more from this graphic novel: more depth, more story, and more reasons to care about Ben. Shortcomings was entertaining, but nothing more for me.
The Subsidiary by Matías Celedón
The premise of this book fascinated me: an office worker trapped in a building full of violence and fear reports what happens using stamps. While I appreciate the concept, this book didn’t work for me. I was never quite sure what was happening or who the characters were supposed to be. For me, this was a case of style over substance.
The All-Night Sun by Diane Zinna
Lauren is a lonely, 30-year-old woman teaching college writing near Washington, D.C. She lost her parents years ago in a car accident and is still trying to find her way after their deaths. When Siri shows up in Lauren’s classroom, the two women strike up a friendship. Siri has also lost her parents, so the two feel a special kinship. Siri invites Lauren back to her home in Sweden, and Lauren, blurring professional boundaries, accepts.
The All-Night Sun follows the two women through their time in Sweden. This novel explores friendship, loneliness, and professionalism through beautiful prose and memorable characters. The cover of this book caught my eye at my local indie bookstore, and I’m so glad it did. I think most literary fiction fans will enjoy this story.
What I Loved
TELEVISION: Ted Lasso Season 2
Ted Lasso was one of the few highlights from 2020. It’s a hilarious, feel-good comedy about an American football coach who ends up coaching soccer in London. Everything I loved about the first season abounds in the second. The show is just as smart, funny, and heartwarming as the first ten episodes.
TELEVISION: Nine Perfect Strangers
Nine Perfect Strangers is based on a Liane Moriarty novel of the same name. It’s about a group of people who find themselves at a mysterious resort that is supposed to change their lives and make them better people. I don’t know that this show is necessarily good, but I do know it’s entertaining. That’s all I want sometimes and Nine Perfect Strangers delivers.
MUSIC: Sob Rock by John Mayer
Sob Rock, John Mayer’s new album, was my soundtrack for August. I’ve listened to “New Light” and “Last Train Home” on repeat. Also, this album cover delights me.
What did you read or love in August? I’d love to know!