Reading Wrap-Up for April 2019

I continue to be astonished by the amount of reading I’ve managed to do so far in 2019, and April gave me a really wonderful slate of books to talk about.

How I Did

I finished eight books in April (one a DNF I got far enough into to count). I had set a reading goal of 55 books for 2019 on Goodreads and it’s looking like I absolutely underestimated myself for the year because I’m more than halfway done with that goal. In fact, if this pace keeps up, I should finish the year at roughly 91 books.

When it comes to my reading goals for 2019, I’m still doing very well on my goal to read more books by female authors than male this year. Of the eight books I read, only three were written by men. In fact, of the 30 books I’ve read so far, only five were written by men!

I’m less strong on my goal to read more lesbian, bisexual, and trans books. I only got one book that counts for this goal, but it featured both lesbian and bisexual characters, so I at least feel like it was a quality check on the list.

What I DNF’ed

I had a great reading month with only one DNF, but I got far enough into it to discuss it with the books I finished, so here we go:

What I Read

Here’s my ranking of the eight books I finished in April, from worst to best:

8. Lot, by Bryan Washington. This is the book I DNF’ed in April, but I made it almost halfway through so it meets my criteria to count it with the books I finished. I was excited to read this story collection loosely following a gay teenager’s coming of age and coming out, but after the first story things go south alarmingly quickly. It feels like reading someone’s MFA project–it’s fine, but it needs a lot of growth and development to go to the next level. Some of the sentences are extremely awkward and some of the description fully misses the mark for me. There was potential here, but it just ends up coming off like budget Junot Diaz.

7. Too Much is Not Enough, by Andrew Rannells. I really didn’t know what to expect from this book because I didn’t know anything about Rannells other than that he’s an actor who was in the original cast of Book of Mormon on Broadway. This memoir about his move to New York City and the years he worked to get his first gig on Broadway surprised me by being very charming, amusing, and relatable. It was a very pleasant read–even if he does cut things off just as his Broadway career gets going (so no Book of Mormon gossip). It’s not something that will stay with me forever, but it was a fun book while it lasted.

6. The Other Americans, by Laila Lalami. I really enjoyed this while I was reading it. It’s the story of a Moroccan immigrant family living in the Mojave Desert after their patriarch is killed in a hit and run. More and more characters take part in the narrative as the book progresses, so it unfolds like a fan–adding detail and nuance as it goes. But the ending features a sudden time jump, a twist that I didn’t like, and some of the storylines ultimately go nowhere. I still really liked the book despite this, but the most damning thing I can say about The Other Americans is that I completely forgot about it. I made a list of the books I read in April without it, then double checked my Goodreads and thought “oh yeah, that book! I liked that book!” That does not bode well for its longterm staying power.

5. Women Talking, by Miriam Toews. This is where we start getting into the books that I really enjoyed, and it’s heartbreaking to me that this one appears so low because I really, really liked it. It’s about women in a Mennonite village meeting in secret to decide their future after finding out that men in their community have been drugging them at night to sexually assault them in their sleep. And it’s inspired by a true story. Toews is an exceedingly clever writer with a unique talent for finding humor in any situation. In any other month, this would have had a great shot at being my favorite read.

4. Conversations with Friends, by Sally Rooney. I actually gave Women Talking five stars on Goodreads and Conversations with Friends only got four, but what makes me put Conversations ahead of Women here is that I really enjoyed the act of reading Conversations. Sally Rooney does so much smart construction that I found myself tracking the things she does as the novel progresses. If you haven’t done that, and if you have the nerd stamina for it, I highly recommend it: what’s going on underneath the surface in this book is fascinating. I wish I liked the book as much as the experience of reading it, if that makes sense.

3. Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This may be appearing so high because the audio is spectacularly put together. The Fleetwood Mac-inspired story of a band nearly breaking apart as they create a landmark album in the 1970s is told in the style of an oral history (which I love), and in the audio they get a full cast of actors to read it (including Jennifer Beals and Judy Greer). It’s wonderful. I love the different points of view it portrays on art, addiction, redemption, forgiveness, love, betrayal, and so much more. Reid fumbles a few details at the end but it doesn’t even matter because I was absolutely enthralled.

2. Educated, by Tara Westover. Westover’s story is utterly fascinating. Born in a Mormon survivalist family in Idaho, Westover could not attend shool because her father believed that schools are institutions of brainwashing. She could not go to the doctor because he believed medicine is poison and doctors are liars. She suffered horrible physical and psychological abuse at his hands and the hands of one of her brothers. At 17, she decided to pursue an education–a journey that took her from a scrapyard in Idaho to Brigham Young University and on to the storied halls of Cambridge in England for a Ph.D. Her family has publicly taken issue with her telling, but I like the way Westover seems to be continually searching for the truth–weighing all sides and different points of view and still coming away unsure. It’s a wonderful book.

1. A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry. I had a feeling I would love this book if I ever got around to reading it, and boy did I! It languished on my reading list for over fifteen years. Mistry tells the story of four people living in India during The Emergency (a 21-month period during which Indira Gandhi, the unnamed Prime Minister of this book, institutes a state of emergency in order to give herself the ability to rule by decree–a time of rampant censorship, corruption, forced sterilization, and murder). With all the chaos going on around them, the four central characters are just trying to get by and live decent lives. It’s a wonderful novel about humanity, even in inhumane times.

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