Kina Grannis re-recorded one of my favorites from her first album ever, and it’s beautiful.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
One of the best fiction books I’ve read this year. I watched the movie, and while Amandla Stenberg was great in it, the book conveys so much cultural nuance that was lost in the movie. Thomas tackles the life-altering realities of police brutality and racial profiling powerfully but delicately. The book is obviously written with a clear political agenda, but she represents the multifaceted fears of living in the inner city with so much emotional resonance. Recommended for…basically anyone.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
Like with many books depicting realities so far from my own, I had to constantly remind myself that this was nonfiction while reading it. The quality of life in this Mumbai slum is entirely unimaginable to me, and Boo paints a vivid (if not disturbing) image of it.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
I admired what Desmond accomplished with his field research in writing this book. I felt like he had a sincere understanding of the people he writes about, which is sadly uncommon even in narrative nonfiction work. I didn’t feel like he was reaching for a particular political argument, but rather that he was making a genuine effort at painting a realistic picture of life for the population he fully immersed himself in. It was a powerful book, and a book I would recommend to anyone trying to broaden their understanding of how housing situations affect the American poor.
The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham
An enjoyable book about the current political climate that draws from historical examples of societal division in America. It was a good reminder that division in America is not a new phenomena, and there have been countless times in history where America has been able to bridge political divides to improve the state of our country. Hopeful. Recommended for anyone interested in understanding current tribalism through a more historical lens.
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantu
A memoir about a Mexican-American Border Patrol agent. Cantu received criticism from anti-immigrant groups but also people who are against the existence of the Border Patrol. As a Mexican-American, he’s been called a traitor. In his book, he describes joining the Border Patrol as an effort to understand the situation at the border that he had spent years studying in an academic environment. The book itself was beautifully written, and fully captures Cantu’s own discomfort with his role at the border. It is self-aware, and from what I’ve seen in the press, he’s been very accepting of criticism from all sides for his work and life decisions. This book is filled with empathy—for illegal immigrants, for people trapped outside of a country where the rest of their family lives, and also for the people employed to protect the border. Cantu writes with sincerity and sensitivity, and I think it’s unfair to distill his efforts at encapsulating his life experiences into attacks on his character. He’s acknowledged his naiveté for believing that he could join the Border Patrol to change it, and the resulting feelings are documented in a complex book about identity, politics, empathy, and the intricate ways in which sweeping laws alter outcomes for individual lives. Recommended for anyone wanting to learn more about immigration on a more intimate level.
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy
This book is depressing. It was essentially story after story of addiction, overdose, and death. It presents a thorough overview of the opioid crisis in America. There are many intimate and disturbing personal accounts across socioeconomic lines. It is engaging, angering, and heartbreaking, but an important issue to understand in current times. Recommended read for anyone interested in public health, pharma, and the healthcare system.
The World as It Is: Inside the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes
This was an incredibly engaging read about an insider’s perspective on the Obama years. This, even more than Becoming, painted an intimate portrait of Obama. It contains backstories of frustration, hope, anger, annoyance, exhaustion for significant political events throughout the eight years, as well as Ben Rhodes’s perspective as Deputy Security Advisor. Great book from a skilled communicator (he mentions his background in fiction writing a few times, and his storytelling chops do show).
Every Day by David Levithan
I watched this movie on a plane once, I think, and it was an interesting concept—A is a spirit that inhabits a different body every day during which it has access to the body’s memories and control over the body on that day. I wanted to listen to a book but couldn’t handle another dense nonfiction read, so I spent a day listening to this book. It’s morally preachy (the amorphous main character A is genderless, but spends a great deal of time judging the girl he loves, Rhiannon, for being more attracted to male bodies), whiny (A gets frustrated that Rhiannon does not want to spend the rest of her life with a spirit being who does not have a body), and filled with too much instant-love garbage. Would not recommend.
In other news, I will probably no longer be reading at the same rate after next week, when I’ll be leaving my film lab job. I’ll be up to something new in the coming months and working on other aspects of personal growth which will greatly reduce my rate of book consumption, but I’m excited for what the future brings.