The Month in Books: February/March

It’s been a busy couple months, but my monthly roundup is back! Check out my March and February reads and don’t forget to share your own in the comments below. 

  • Before I ditched it in favor of a self-made syllabus, the 2017 Read Harder challenge had me reading a superhero comic with a female lead. Since I’m comic-book illiterate, my selection process involved walking to the graphic novel section of the library and grabbing the first book that I saw. Lucky for me, that book happened to be the third volume in Kelly Sue Deconnick’s fantastic run of the Captain Marvel series. (Unlucky for me, the library didn’t own the first two volumes, so I was stuck starting with the 11th issue.) Though I jumped headfirst into an onslaught of alien species and intergalactic politics, the plot was engaging. Captain Marvel is my favorite kind of superhero — spunky, female, and sarcastic — and even though I had no history with her, I still teared up reading the final issue. Comic book | 96 pp | ★★★★☆
  • When I listed Jessi Klein’s You’ll Grow Out of It among my favorite books of 2016, I declared I would “10/10 recommend and 10/10 read again.” Turns out I did both much sooner than anticipated. Craving a reread, I decided to check out the audiobook and found myself delighted. Klein’s deadpan delivery elevated her jokes to hilarious and had me wiping tears from my eyes on more than one occasion. Though she writes about things I can’t relate to and frankly couldn’t care less about (such as infertility, wedding dresses, and the travails of taking a breast pump to the Emmys), Klein’s keen wit and ability to highlight the absurdities of human behavior makes this book a worthwhile read. 10/10 will recommend and reread (again). Nonfiction memoir | 291 pp (7.5 hrs) |★★★★★
  • I wish I could say I enjoyed Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist as much as You’ll Grow Out of It, but I didn’t. In fact, I barely finished. Several friends adore this book, though, so I’m blaming my dislike of it on my aversion to allegory. Also, I’m a bit too cynical for its mantra (“when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”) to resonate. Fiction | 182 pp | ★☆☆☆☆
  •  Though I only skimmed her Memphis Diary, its introductory articles were enough to convince me that Ida B. Wells was a badass. Known for her work as a journalist, suffragist, and civil rights activist, Wells proved invaluable to the nineteenth-century roots of the Civil Rights Movement. Memphis Diary, however, offers a glimpse of her before her glory days, at a time when she wasn’t an activist renowned for her anti-lynching campaigns but instead an unmarried, outspoken black woman struggling to find her place in a world that didn’t know what to do with her. Nonfiction | 240 pp |★★★☆☆
  • If you’re a fan of World War II stories, spy novels, and steely heroines, then Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale is the book for you. Set in 1940s France, the novel focuses on two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and the drastic turns their lives take when the war breaks out. I listened to the audiobook (all 17.5 hours of it), and while the story didn’t glue me to my seat, the narrator performed admirably and did a great job tackling a wide range of accents. Historical fiction | 440 pp |★★★☆☆
  • Jennifer Egan’s The Invisible Circus is a book that shouldn’t be fascinating. Obsessed with memories of her dead sister, eighteen-year-old Phoebe abandons her college plans in order to backpack across Europe in an attempt to relive her sister’s final days. Told from the start that the sister committed suicide, you would think that this loss of suspense would kill Egan’s novel; instead, the tension only mounts as Phoebe nears the end of her sister’s trail and the revelation that awaits. Fiction | 352 pp | ★★★★★
  • Memoir can be a tricky genre, especially memoirs with political overtones, but Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road offers the perfect blend of humor, anecdote, and political conviction. Steinem both challenges and engages, even as she intimidates with the breadth and depth of her prose. Reading her stories felt like stepping back into the bright and sparkling experience of my women’s lit class. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I’ll probably end up buying it. Nonfiction memoir 276 pp | ★★★★★
  • Rereading books you loved as a teen is dangerous, because you run the risk of ruining them. Sometimes, though, you revisit a book and find that it lives up to its reputation. While it’s true that Walking on Water lost some of its luster in the five years between my first and second reads (what once was radical now seems conservative), it did reveal how influential Madeleine L’Engle was to my pre-college brain. Without her open-minded approach to “faith and art” (not “faith or art,” like I’d grown up believing), my years as an English major would have looked vastly different; I’d probably still be writing critiques of Faulkner that involved words like “sinful” and “worldly” and “unworthy of my time.” Nonfiction208 pp | ★★★★☆
  • Despite its gorgeous cover and widespread literary acclaim, Brit Bennett’s The Mothers left me conflicted. Her language is lyrical and her plot absorbing (I read the book in a day), but her message is murky. Following three characters through high school and beyond, the novel at times seems a critique of religion, at others a compassionate portrait of women who have had abortions, and still others a condemnation of the very act it previously endorsed. Add to that some seriously queer undertones that are left unaddressed, and the novel’s overall impression is more ??? than anything else. But please, don’t take my word for it — read the book, then talk to me; I want to discuss my confusion. Fiction278 pp | ★★★☆☆
  • George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo is another contemporary novel raking in the reviews. A hybrid of fact and fiction (the plot hinges on the death of President Lincoln’s son, but the narrators are all ghosts), the book itself is a hybrid, featuring long chains of excerpts from historical accounts interspersed with chapters narrated by characters of Saunders’s own creation. Due to its fragmentary structure (it reads more like a play than a novel), I had a hard time paying attention; I have a feeling I should have listened to the audiobook instead (which features a staggering 166 cast members, including Nick Offerman, Don Cheadle, Megan Mullally, and Ben Stiller), but the queue for the library’s copy was 30 people long and I am not that patient. Fiction343 pp | ★★★☆☆
  • Largely due to their decision to cast Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket, I have mixed feelings about Netflix’s adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s not that he did a bad job — I thought that Warburton’s deadpan delivery was excellent — it’s just … I’m sorry, every time he opened his mouth, all I could picture wastumblr_n1qmhmMm5Y1qzmkxio3_r2_250
    Lucky for me, Patrick Warburton didn’t narrate the ASOUE audiobooks; Tim Curry did, and his Snicket is fantastic. Dramatized and less than 3 hours long, The Bad Beginning is a perfect example of what audiobooks should sound like. Fiction2.5 hours | ★★★★☆
  • Featuring all the tropes of a Gothic horror novel, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House probably would have been scarier had I not binged four seasons of American Horror Story right before I read it. If you’re familiar with AHS’s Murder House, Hill House will seem like a joke, but if you’re a horror story virgin just looking for a thrill, grab a blanket, light a candle, and read Jackson’s book alone on a dark and stormy night. Fiction186 pp | ★★☆☆☆

Your turn!! What books did you read during the month of March?


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