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!

 

 

Becoming: Autism Style

I am a reader. At three years old I surprised my parents by reading full sentences out of nowhere, and the rest was history. These days, ebooks from the library fuel my need to read. The only downside to library books is that new or popular books can take months to come in.

I waited fifteen weeks for Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. It took me a while to get through (thank you midterms), but I was really happy about a couple of things. One, although she spells it differently than me, her nickname is Meesh/Miche too. Guys, I’ve got a FLOTUS nickname! Secondly, there’s always the worry when you learn a lot about someone that it will ruin them for you, but I can confidently state that I still want to be Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Towards the end of the book, she was talking about Barack, and she said: “Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”

I immediately recognized that this doesn’t only apply to presidents. My brain went straight to “diagnosis doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.” And that makes sense, right? I know that when I was diagnosed with Autism, it didn’t turn me into an entirely different Meesh. It didn’t even alter the Meesh that I was. It just showed parts of who I was in a new light.

And I think that this was a fantastic thing. Because I could have looked at some of my personality traits that I now knew to be autistic, and suppressed them. I could have taken that attitude of ‘well, I might not have a choice in having autism, but I have a choice what people see of me.’ I could have. I think it might have killed me.

Instead, I celebrated. I am how I am for a reason. And I am not alone, there are others like me. I put my money behind the fact that the people who cared about me would keep caring about me. I never expected that strangers on the internet might accept me and care about me too.

This is not to say that I don’t get upset or frustrated. Hell, I get frustrated every day. Some days the world seems impossibly unfair, and it seems like everyone else can do things more easily than me. It seems like I’ll never achieve my goals. Some days I’m not sure what my truth is, and that hurts.

In one of the last chapters of Becoming, Michelle writes

“So many of us go through life with our stories hidden, feeling ashamed or afraid when our whole truth doesn’t live up to some established ideal. We grow up with messages that tell us that there’s only one way to be American—that if our skin is dark or our hips are wide, if we don’t experience love in a particular way, if we speak another language or come from another country, then we don’t belong. That is until someone dares to start telling that story differently.”

I don’t particularly care how American I am, but what struck me here was that even if I feel like people can’t see the real me, or that I’m not living up to expectations (usually ones that I’ve set for myself), it’s ok, because there’s one thing that I know I want.

I want to tell the story differently. I want to show people that there are many ways to be autistic and that none of them are tragic. Autism doesn’t mean life is over, it means life is different. And no matter what anyone says, we all still belong.

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!

6 Word Stories pt. 17

So as you might have guessed, the saga to figure what’s causing me so much trouble with my hip continues. My doctor is confident that it’s some sort of nerve issue, but we can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong. I have an appointment with a nerve surgeon next week, and while I’m not excited about the idea of surgery if it will help the pain, I’m open to it.

  • More doctors, less answer. In pain.
  • Reading is my break from life.
  • Friends who get it are irreplaceable.
  • Does anyone find positive feedback overwhelming?
  • Singing Christmas Carols is so stimmy!
  • Board games make great special interests.
  • I find celebrating my birthday uncomfortable.

My birthday is coming up next week (check back on Monday for a Very Special Birthday Post!), and I’m never sure how to feel about it. I’m generally uncomfortable with celebrating it because I don’t like being the center of attention, but since it’s the big 3-0, I decided to have some fun with some close friends. I’m trying to stay open, but I’ll let you know how it goes next week!