5 Summer Reading Books

One of the great things about living in the future is that you don’t ever have to leave the house if you don’t want to. I can log my summer reading books online, and I can even report my participation in the library’s reading challenges!

(the library systems here make summer reading more interesting by giving extra prizes by doing things like reading books by authors whose race, gender, or sexual orientation is different than yours. You can also get prizes for writing book reviews and posting pictures of yourself reading on the go!)

All of this is very well-timed, because I’m currently out of school for the summer and am laid up with a foot injury, so I’ve got endless hours for reading.

People often think that Summer Reading means easy beach reads, and I don’t disagree that those are fun, but as with all of my reads, they’re kind of all other the place. So, these are my favs from summer so far, they’re all different, and all awesome in their own way.

1. Good Omens – A novel written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett could not possibly go wrong. And Amazon Prime agreed, because the miniseries of Good Omens just came out, and was a great interpretation in my opinion. It’s the end of the world. After a plan to bring the Anit-Christ to end the world goes a bit awry, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowly team up to stop Armageddon (mostly because they realize that they like living on earth, and Aziraphale doesn’t want to back to heaven, and Crowly definitely doesn’t want to go back to hell).  It’s easy to say that fans of the humor in Pratchett’s Discworld series will love Good Omens, and Gaiman lovers will appreciate the character design and world-building. The humor lasts through re-reads too!

2. Daisy Jones and the Six– This book is nothing but drama and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s set in the late ’70s and follows a rock band from its rise to its crash. The story is told through interviews, done by someone who’s authoring a book, and it reads like a 300 page Rolling Stone interview. Some books told from multiple points of view can be hard to read because the characters’ voices are too similar, but Daisy Jones definitely didn’t have this problem, in fact. This is not the kind of book that I would usually pick up, but I took a gamble on it because it was getting such glowing reviews (which can bite me in the ass sometimes). This was a solid 4.5 for me, so I’m very comfortable recommending it.

3. Binti Trilogy- So some might say that this choice is cheating. “Meesh,” you say, “a trilogy is 3 books, you can’t count them as a unit!” But hear me out. Binti is a trilogy, yes, but it is a trilogy of novellas, which makes all 3 books together shorter than a lot of stand-alone books. I can always tell I’m going to enjoy a book when the opening sequence gives me goosebumps, and Binti and its sequels did. It follows a classic trope. Naive adolescent runs away from home and encounters new planets and alien species and learns about herself in the end. She eventually has to question who she is and where her place in the world is. This book is solidly written modern sci-fi, and with each book being under 200 pages, it’s a quick and satisfying read.

4. Naturally Tan– I love the new Queer Eye. I’m old enough that I remember the first Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which was revolutionary in its time but didn’t necessarily age well. The new Fab 5 focus on self-love and become who you want to be, and it’s awesome! Tan is really open in his book about how Pakistani and Muslim culture influence who he is as a gay man and a fashion expert (he’s owned multiple clothing companies). He is also incredibly funny and very honest and has managed to curate such a positive worldview.

5. Train Go Sorry– One of my goal this year has been to read more about Deaf culture. I figure that’s only fair now that I’m hard of hearing, right? Train Go Sorry was written in the ’90s but is still one of the go-to deaf culture books. It is written by a hearing woman who grew up in a school for the deaf and follows several deaf students during their time there. There are also sections that deal with deaf culture, and with the author’s journey to become an ASL interpreter. It was a really interesting historical look at the culture at that time, and it makes me want to read some more current accounts. An interesting note- the more I learn about Deaf culture, the more similarities I see between it and Autistic culture, interesting, right?

So that’s my Summer Reading so far, is anyone else participating in their library’s program? I’d love to hear about your library’s program, especially if you’ve got good prizes!

If you’re just reading for fun, I always love to hear what you guys are reading, so let me know if you’ve read anything good lately! My Goodreads account will thank you, and I will too!

 

 

Top 10 Books I’ve Read This Year

So I know that the year isn’t over yet, but something else is- I hit my reading goal for the year! I started out this year doing the 52 in 52 challenge, which is where you set a goal to read 52 books (one a week) in 52 weeks. Now, I hit 52 books in June, and I upped my goal to 78 books, which comes out to about 1.5 books a week, and this week I finished book #78! Now of course this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading, but it’s a nice feeling to have hit a concrete goal.

My favorite books from this year have been all over the place, genre-wise. I am usually drawn to science fiction and fantasy, but to make this challenge more interesting, I pushed myself to read books that I might not have necessarily picked otherwise. Genres like Biography, and Classics, and Literary Fiction. And it worked great! I’ve already started thinking about what new categories I can add to next years challenge.

So, here are my faves from this year. I reviewed and gave most of them 5 stars on Goodreads, which is a good indication of how much I liked them, given that I tend to get stressed out when writing reviews. In general, I only review books I really loved or really hated.

So I’m going to try and do something that’s really hard for me- I’m not going to be long-winded. So, if any of these descriptions go over 4 sentences, feel free to publicly shame me in the comments.

1. A Man Called Ove: A theme that ran through this year’s book choices for me was grief, and A Man Called Ove managed to treat the subject with tenderness or with humor. Ove is a grumpy old man who’s recently lost his job and his wife, and all the wants is for everyone to leave him alone so he can kill himself in peace. Did I laugh- yeah, did I cry- oh yeah, have I now read almost everything that Fredrik Backman has ever written- absolutely, and that’s one of the highest praises I know of.

2. The Song of Achilles: Did you have read Greek Mythology in school? And if you did, did it come off as being super gay? If so, then The Song of Achilles is the right LGBT+ coming of age novel for you! This is yet another grief themed book that treats love gently and beautifully and tells an interesting side of the Helen of Troy story.

3. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet: I loved this book, mostly because it talked about non-sci-fi in a sci-fi setting. I mean c’mon, what science fiction story discusses pronouns, and AI romance, and space autism? I’ve found in my life that sci-fi page-turners are rare, but this was a fast and fun read, while will having excitement and emotion. It’s always a good sign when I don’t want a book to end, but I’m also impatient to get to the sequel.

4. East of Eden: So here’s the deal- I read Steinbeck in school (Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl, if I remember correctly) and I was never a fan. But I made myself a goal to read more “classics” this year, and I swear the internet has a hard-on for East of Eden, so I figured why not. It took more than a hundred pages to get into the story, and even when though I liked the story, I only rated it 4 stars on Goodreads. And then I thought about it constantly, for a whole week, so I finally gave in, went back, and rated it 5 stars, so my advice for you is to stick it out, love Lee, and just accept that it’ll take a while to sink in.

5. A Monster Calls: Once upon a time, there a boy whose mother was dying, and one day a monster came out of the woods and told the boy that he knew the boy’s greatest wish, and if the boy could figure out what his desire was, then the monster would grant it. A Monster Calls is a beautiful story about love and grief, something I’ve been struggling with for the last few years, and when I finished this book, I felt a weight lifted. This book is short and may look like a kids book, but it definitely is not. If you can, read the illustrated version, it’s worth it.

6. The Rosie Project: This book was a huge surprise for me, all I knew that it was a “funny love story”, and I think that I know why- it’s because neurotypical people were the ones writing the reviews. Nowhere in the synopsis or the reviews was autism mentioned, but within the first few chapters, I knew that the protagonist and I had a lot in common. I never get to read about people like me, and never in the tender way that the author writes about Don. When I finished, I made my wife read the book, so I could ask her if she sees me in the loving way that the book shows, and she said yes!

7. The Hate U Give: I think that I’ve mention that I’m from St. Louis, which after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO (which is in North St. Louis) became an important location for the Black Lives Matter movement. I wasn’t a teenager at the time, but I was (am?) a Biracial person living in a city with an embarrassing amount of police corruption and violence. When I finished this book, I declared that it should be required for protesters coming into cities, because it makes you think about what can happen if you’re not responsible, if you jump to conclusions, or don’t respect the home communities. It made me think, in a good way- and I’m always happy about that

8. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August: Imagine if, as a child, you learned that you have been reincarnated, but instead of coming back as something awesome like a narwhal or a corgi, instead, you came back as you- over and over and over. I enjoyed The First Fifteen Lives- it read with the ease of a thriller, the page-turner quality of a thriller, but I didn’t feel kind of empty at the end of it. In the beginning, I thought that Harry living his life over and over again might get old, but the author skillfully manages to avoid that. Lastly, the antagonist is Moriarty-like in the best possible way, which is hard.

9. I Contain Multitudes: This is my only non-fiction book that made it onto my Top 10 this year, which is kind of unusual, but luckily, I Contain Multitudes totally holds its own. Even if I wasn’t someone with a crappy digestive system (and I totally am, you might even say that it’s shitty) the author is able to take a subject like gut bacteria and manages to produce a book that’s fun and interesting and easy to read. I promise you’ll never take your biome for granted again!

10. The Fifth Season: This book is difficult to talk about because almost anything I can say might be a spoiler. What I can say is this- The trilogy that this book is part of made history for being the first trilogy to have each book in it to win a Hugo Award, which is s a big deal in the fantasy world. The Fifth Season, sort of like …Long Angry Planet finds a way to talk about important real life things in a fantasy setting. Towards the end of the book, I was literally getting goosebumps, that’s how awesome this book is.

So here they are, my favorites from this year! My to-read list is out of control (911 books and counting), but I’d still love to hear any favorites that you have! Also, if you’re a Goodreads user, you can find me here, if you want to connect!

5 Favorite Books I Read This Year

5 Favorite Books I Read This Year

 

I am a bookworm. There’s no question there. When I was a kid, my library had to impose a limit on how many books I could take out at once (that limit was 12, by the way). I go up and down on how much I can read. My attention span is not always great. But when I do, I’m a huge library fiend (even though I make my wife check out my books because the mean librarian SHHHHHHed me once.) I also love the Goodreads app. It lets me maintain a To Read list, to see reviews from other readers, enter reading challenges to challenge me. I even won a book in a giveaway once! Books to me are more important than just entertainment. They let me connect with characters, who are often easier to understand than real people. They let me learn social skills by watching people do the right thing…or the wrong thing. I have also learned that while I love reading dialogue, I hate writing it. Anyway, not all of these books are going on my all-time favorites list (that’s for another week), but they all meant something to me.

1. Hawkeye 1-5: If the only thing you know about Clint Barton is that he’s an Avenger and he shoots arrows, then you are missing out. The Hawkeye comics right now are phenomenal, and are so relatable to me, as someone with multiple disabilities. Canonically, Hawkeye is deaf. It depends on the issue and the author HOW deaf he is, but he is written as Hard of Hearing at the least. And even better, his disability is written well. They include Lip Reading and ASL, in fact, there’s a whole book that almost entirely in Sign Language. Pro Tip, libraries often have collections of comics, so you don’t have to shell out the cash at your friendly local comic book store (unless you want to!)

2. Challenger Deep: This book started out…weird. You’re drawn into something, but you have no idea what it is. It’s like you’re invested before you know what you’re invested in. It slowly gets less confusing, and the dual stories start to intertwine, and to be honest, you’re still not sure where it’s going, but you know you’re going too. In only a minor spoiler, I’m going to say that this book has a unique way of exploring mental illness. I appreciated the honesty, and how relatable it was. I also really like that it was done by a father and his son who experiences mental illness. I may want to read this again, to see if understanding the beginning better will give me a different experience than the first time. As if I don’t have enough to read.

3. Little Brother: This is a young adult book and when I finished it, I immediately felt like if this book had been around when I was a teenager, it would have affected me in a way that could have changed me. It’s set maybe 5 years into our future, the only real difference between our world and theirs is that their technology is slightly more advanced. Which is where the trouble lies. After a terrorist attack on San Francisco, the government starts cracking down on the population, in a totally big brother sort of way. Secret prisons, electronic monitoring, a police state, and a bunch of high schoolers just trying to make the world better. This book is about 10 years old now, but with things like Net Neutrality going on, it incredibly relevant.

4. The Girl with All the Gifts: Ok. So. I am not really a zombie fan. Also, zombies tend to give my wife nightmares, so we mostly avoid them. The Girl with All the Gifts is not your average zombie story. In fact, you don’t learn about it for the first quarter of the book. Basically, they made it so interesting to me that once I learned there were zombies, I was already too invested. They take a very scientific approach to this genre. I actually really like learning about the sorts of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that could possibly push the brain into a zombie state. The book was also made into a movie recently with Glenn Close. I haven’t seen it yet, but it got pretty decent reviews.

5. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic: This is a graphic novel written by Alison Bechdel, a lesbian author whose last name you may recognize from the famous ‘Bechdel Test’ which examines feminism in media. The novel is biographical, following a young Alison from growing up in a home with distant parents, to discovering her sexuality in college, to dealing with the death of a parent. The whole thing was very straightforward, but when I finished it I felt connected to the author’s experiences. And that’s not really something that happens to me often, so here it is, on my list.

I have 10 books left to go in my reading challenge for this year, so if you have any recommendations, I’ll take them! The great think about living in a city with such a wide library system is that I can get my hands on just about anything!