January Reading

After escaping a reading slump near the end of last year I’ve been trying to follow my whims a bit more and be aware of what sort of reading material I need most at a given moment. This month that seems to have been mostly nonfiction and poetry!

Salt to the Sea Ruta Sepetys [YA Historical]
Compelling and wrenching account of a bit of history I had never, ever heard about: the sinking of a German ship near the end of WWII that killed over 9000 people, including 5000 children. This story is fiction, but with highly immersive and well-researched historical detail. It was hard to read in places but I’m glad I did.

Act Like It by Lucy Parker [Adult Romance]
Two actors who dislike each other have to fake a romance for publicity reasons, and fall in love. A bit of lightness and levity amid the rest of my reading this month! I needed a fun page-turner that would be the equivalent of a romantic comedy movie and this was exactly what I was looking for.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald [Adult Nonfiction]
A meandering, lyrical exploration of grief and falconry and T. H. White. This was another book that was hard to read in places, but rewarding. My absolute favorite bits were the details of hawk-training, which were illuminating and compelling.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi [Adult Nonfiction]
I seem to have read a lot of books about grief and death this month, though not by any particular plan! In this case, the writer was a surgeon struck by terminal cancer, offering a meditation on choice and what makes a fulfilling life. Sadly the book felt unfinished to me– I believe Kalanithi died before he had completed it– and thus while I found it compelling it hasn’t stuck with me as I might have expected.

New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1
by Mary Oliver [Poetry]
Luminous and beautiful as always. The next best thing to actually taking a long walk in the quiet woods.

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire [Poetry]
A slim little volume of powerful poetry by the Somali-British poet who I first heard of via her compelling “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon.” I love how much emotional weight she can pack into just a few words.

Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose by Naomi Shihab Nye [Poetry]
I picked this up because I’d enjoyed Nye’s “Gate A-4″ so very much and wanted to re-read it as a sort of balm for the fear and uncertainty I was feeling (and seeing in so many others around me) with the advent of the inauguration. It’s still probably my favorite of all the pieces in this volume, but I appreciated the humor and whimsy and philosophy throughout.


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