2015: Year in Review

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My last post detailed the success of my project, but I wanted to give an overview of the works themselves. It’s hard to admit that I once again failed in my attempt to post reviews of everything. I know I was wavering in my commitment to this blog sometimes. It was never that I wanted to abandon it, but more that I had a difficult time getting myself to sit down and write.

But I was always happy to be reading.

Here’s the full breakdown (comics included) of everything I read in 2015:

  1. The Terror by Dan Simmons
  2. The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
  3. Ultimates 2: Volume 2 Grand Theft America by Mark Millar
  4. Sula by Toni Morrison
  5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  6. Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness by Alfredo Corchado
  7. Secret Avengers Volume 1: Let’s Have a Problem by Ales Kot
  8. Secret Avengers Volume 2: The Labyrinth by Ales Kot
  9. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  10. The Wicked + the Divine Volume 1: Faust Act by Kieron Gillan
  11. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  12. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  13. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  14. Secret Avengers Volume 3: God Level by Ales Kot
  15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  16. The Round House by Louise Erdich
  17. The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad
  18. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  19. The First Bad Man by Miranda July
  20. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  21. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  22. Native Son by Richard Wright
  23. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  24. Sexcastle by Kyle Starks
  25. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (spillover into 2016)

Most thought-provoking: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Most disappointing: The Intuitionist
Funniest: The First Bad Man
Most surprising favorite: Native Son
Least favorite: The Wandering Falcon
Most over hyped: Station Eleven

All-Time #1 Favorite: Everything I Never Told You

Overall, it was a very good year for me. Though there were a handful of titles I didn’t especially enjoy and only one that I actively disliked, there weren’t any that I found truly, objectively awful—a marked improvement considering I had to contend with both The Good Girl and Hell House last year.

As for next year? I plan to continue making a serious effort to read more POC, though with less stringent rules. (No more hardcore tracking of percentages!)IMG_4111 (2)

The book I’m looking forward to the most is certainly Mark Danielewski’s 
The Familiar
. It’s currently sitting next to me at the moment, just waiting begging me to finish The Sympathizer or cast it aside and start reading it immediately.

There are a handful of book clubs I have my eye on (including a tiny one of my own), a host of new titles that I missed in 2015, and—thanks to Christmas—some fantastic comics with my name on them.

I’m feeling reinvigorated. I feel more ready to tackle this blog with the dedication it deserves, and I’m looking forward to it all.

I hope you’ll stick with me.

Happy reading!

-S

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2015: The Experiment

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I began 2015 with a singular goal in mind: I wanted 75% of the books I read to be written by people of color. When I realized that the only book I read in 2014 written by someone who wasn’t white was The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, I saw that something was terribly amiss. One out of 19 books—that’s a measly 5%. I went out of my way this year to do better. A lot better.

So, you might be wondering, where do I stand now?

[Drumroll, please!]

With 14 out the 19 books I read this year written by people of color, I am achingly close to my goal, but no dice. I fell just shy of the mark at 74%.

74%! I can’t believe how close I came. I probably wouldn’t be so frustrated if I didn’t know for a fact that it would have been 79% if I hadn’t been seduced by the lure of a book club that I didn’t even end up attending. Instead of reading the next diverse title on my list, I skipped it to read Station Eleven (which I hated, by the way) under the impression that I could do so and still reach my goal. Gah. So irritating! But oh well. I still came damn close.

I should also add that I’ve continued my practice of not including graphic novels or comics in my final count. I didn’t count them last year as part of the total number of books I read, and continued that this year. Mostly because I can read one in about an hour so it feels like cheating somehow?

I admit that’s an arbitrary distinction. I think I’ll have to look into changing that for 2016, but for now, I haven’t been counting them in my tally.

Numbers aside, the real question at the heart of this experiment is… did it work? Did I notice a difference in reading mostly people of color for an entire year? Do I feel different for having done so?

In this I am happy to report only complete, unabashed success. It changed everything. Americanah opened my eyes in ways no book ever had. Everything I Never Told You literally strengthened a friendship. The Sympathizer and The Wandering Falcon highlighted my own ignorance about two completely different parts of the world.

Never has reading left me feeling so incredibly, incredibly alive.

And I don’t mean to say that as a way to disparage any of the amazing books I’ve read in the past. Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, and Cormac McCarthy will always hold a special place in my heart. They’re brilliant. There’s no questioning that for me. It’s just that it’s impossible to see the ways in which your picture of the world is incomplete until you start hearing the voices that had been silent to you.

This little project has completely changed the way I intend to read for the rest of my life. I realized that I just can’t afford not to consciously seek those voices out. I can’t afford not to think about it.

I really encourage you to attempt this project in your own life. If 75% seems daunting (maybe you only read five books year), then try seeking out just one or two. When you add a book to your to-read pile, take the extra second to see if the author is white. If they are? Then go out of your way to add a book by someone who’s not.

And if you ask me why? Then I answer, to add new sounds to the symphony of your literary canon. To hear the full orchestra of the world.

And because it’s worth it.

Trust me.

2014: Year in Review

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This was a busy year for me and my books. I read more and wrote more and shared a bit of both here with you. I’d been meaning to get more purposeful with my blogging for years, and this is the first time I’ve ever actually been able to commit to that goal long enough to do it.

I learned a lot–I’m still learning. I’m not sure how to personalize this site they way I want. I’m not sure how to best expand my repertoire of posts. I’m not sure if my reviews strike the right tone. I mean, if you think about it, it’s pretty daunting to try and review something 10, 30, or even 100 years old. What can I say that hasn’t been said?

But I’m doing my best to try and keep things interesting. Though I’m not sure how many of you I’m reaching, either. Another goal for 2015, I think.

Originally, I made it my goal with this site to review everything I read as I read it, and I’m sorry to say I failed there. Sometimes a book took me too long and sometimes I wasn’t sure what to say about it. Sometimes I forgot or I wanted to rewrite an older review instead. And sometimes I was just too excited about the newest book to have enough interest to go back.

Thus what you saw on the blog in 2014 is an incomplete list.

Here’s the full review of everything I read (and in some ways, a preview of what’s to come) from January to December:

  1. The Likeness by Tana French
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  3. Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
  4. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
  5. I Feel Bad About My Neck (and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman) by Nora Ephron
  6. Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish a novel by David Rakoff
  7. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  8. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1 & 2 by Joss Whedon and Brian K. Vaughn
  11. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  12. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  13. Locke & Key: Vol. 1 & 2 by Joe Hill
  14. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Vol. 1 by Alan Moore
  15. Boss by Mike Royko
  16. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (My only re-read of the year.)
  17. Hell House by Richard Matheson
  18. Ultimates 1 by Mark Millar
  19. Faithful Place by Tana French
  20. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  21. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  22. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
  23. Kingdom Come by Mark Waid
  24. Ultimates 2: Vol. 1 by Mark Millar
  25. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  26. Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid

Not too shabby. Well, not for me, anyway.

The comics are a recent interest and it seems I really took off with it this year. I’m still really struggling with how to review them. The art is every bit as essential as the text and sometimes I feel like I lack the vocabulary to explain how I feel about a work. I’ve been reading more, but maybe it’s time to seek out reviews, too, huh?

The point is, thanks for taking this ride with me. I’m hoping to work harder, read more, and write better in 2015. I hope you’ll stick with me.

Happy (Belated) New Year, readers!