Year 17, Book 69

69. Miseducated: My Journey by Brandon P. Fleming

Brandon Fleming grew up in a physically, sexually, and psychologically abusive home. By the time he was a young teen he was both doing and dealing drugs with the hope of a basketball career the only thing keeping him school, though he was really just being passed along without learning anything. A career ending injury shortly after going to college almost ended both his basketball career and his education, but a series of circumstances resulted in him returning to school where he discovered debate a turning point in his life. With the help of a couple of mentors who very easily could have written him off, he was able to get himself the education he had missed out on his entire life and has since devoted his career to educating youth like himself. It’s an incredible story, and a stark reminder that too many kids are being written off. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 68

68. My Time Will Come: A Memoir of Crime, Punishment, Hope and Redemption by Ian Manuel

When Ian Manuel was 14 years old he was sentenced to life without parole for shooting a woman in the face during a robbery gone wrong. He spent much of the next 18 years of his life in solitary confinement until the Equal Justice Initiative took an interest in his case and got his sentence overturned. This book is his story told in his own words. He is very candid about his own culpability in what happened while I also excoriating the cruelty and capriciousness of the criminal justice system in America. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 67

67. Inciting Joy: Essays by Ross Gay

I was really excited to get an advanced reader’s copy of this book because Ross’s previous books, The Book of Delights, is one of the best things I’ve read this year. Unfortunately I just could not get into this book. I think there were a couple of reasons. The biggest one is that there are a lot of asides in footnotes that made it very difficult to follow due to the formatting in the e-book copy I had. Perhaps it would have been better in the actual print book. Unlike the quick essays from the previous books most of these were much longer and more meandering such that especially, as I said, with the footnotes I had a hard time getting drawn into them. There were still some good things in the book, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I give it a 6 out of 10.