Year 12, Book 70

70. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

I’ve heard a lot of praise and a lot of derision about this book. I have no experience with J.D. Vance outside of reading it, and I gather some of his interviews, etc. have added fuel to the fire. I took it for what it was, a book about his personal experience. I know he tries to expound on that to make it a pronouncement about the whole Appalachian culture. He’s welcome to his view of his lived experience and how he sees where he grew up. It doesn’t make it the only view point, but I don’t discount it as just that. I won’t take it as the be all and end all statement about that community. I found it to be an interesting read, and that’s all I’m basing my review on. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 69

69. The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives by Bryant Simon

Bryant Simon uses the tragedy of a fire at a Hamlet, NC chicken factory in 1991 that killed a number of workers due to unsafe working conditions to discuss issues that still exist today. The pursuit of cheap food, profit, deregulation, lax oversight, and the view that certain people are disposable all led to this tragedy, and continue to persist over 25 years later.

It’s an infuriating book that helped continue to degrade my view of humanity. Ultimately though it’s a bit scattered and the various pieces of the book don’t completely fit together well. It’s definitely one of those books that would have been better as a long form article in say The New Yorker than something dragged out into a full-length book that the author really doesn’t have enough content to fill. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 68

68. Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Niru is the son of Nigerian parents living with well off parents in Washington DC. By all accounts he’s living a charmed teenage life along with his best friend Meredith until she tries to take their relationship further and he admits to her that he’s gay. When his highly religious father discovers the truth he changes the course of both Niru and Meredith’s lives.

I really enjoyed the first part of this book. It’s a great look at different cultures and the terrible things we can do to the ones we live in pursuing what we think is right for them. I wasn’t in love with the end of the book, but I think it’s still worth reading. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 67

67. Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert’s Guide to Getting  Out There by Morra Aarons-Mele

I quit reading this book partway through. It was not what I thought it was going to be, and had no application for my life. It was very focused on business and being super ambitious and climbing the corporate ladder while being an introvert. I suppose it might be relevant for people who work in that kind of environment, but I don’t and did not find this book helpful in the least. I give it a 2 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 66

66. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Celestial and Roy haven’t been married that long when their relationship is torn apart. Roy is convicted of committing a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. This book told from different points of view follows the state of their relationship over the years of his imprisonment and then after his conviction is overturned and he is set free to pick up the tatters that remain of his once promising life.

I sometimes got annoyed at the characters and the choices they were making. Jones creates a compelling story though. I give it a 7 out of 10.