Year 17, Book 85

85. An Immense World by Ed Yong

Ed Yong provides a very detailed look into the world of animal senses. He attempts to get at them through how the animal perceives them as best as he can based on what researchers have found. He looks at all the senses that humans experience in addition to things like vibrations and electric and magnetic fields. It’s a fascinating book with so many interesting things about which I had no idea. He peppers it with little bits of humor as well. I highly recommend if you’re into non-fiction books of this sort. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 84

84. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

This book is apparently a take off on Dickens’ David Copperfield. I have never read that book, so I did not get whatever allusions to that book exist in this one. The book is set in Appalachia at the beginning of the opioid crisis. It follows the life of Damon from his young childhood into his adulthood. He’s born to a drug addicted single mother and eventually winds up in foster care experiencing a lot of trauma, and eventually succumbing to a drug addiction of his own. It’s a tough but really good read. It’s sad because you know that although this book is fiction, there are far too many people for whom this book comes close to describing their lives. In this case you know from the beginning that Damon makes it through which is helpful in this case, but a lot of it is a really difficult read even if it’s an extremely well-written book. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 83

83. Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness, and Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil

I just finished reading this book as part of a book club with people from my church. It led to a lot of rich discussion and ideas. I think the roadmap Salter McNeil offers is a really good guide for people seeking to reconcile diverse communities. The book obviously has a Christian bent to it, but I think her roadmap is a good example even for people discussing these topics in a more secular setting. It is very insightful I think about the points where people tend to falter in this work and why. Although, we didn’t really use them in our book club, the chapters each end in some discussion/reflection questions useful for figuring out where you are in the journey. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 82

82. The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Margot is on her way from Seattle to Los Angeles to visit her mother and doesn’t understand why she isn’t answering her phone. When she arrives she discovers her mother dead in apartment in what appears to be an accident, but then a neighbor tells her something that makes her suspect that there might be something more suspicious behind her mother’s death. The story moves back and forth in time as you learn about her mother Mina’s life as an undocumented Korean immigrant and Margot’s attempts to find out what really happened to her mother in the present. There was one character that felt a little mustache twirling evil not so much because of the individual things that he did but the fact that he threaded through so much of the story, but other than that nitpicky thing overall I thought it was a really good book with a compelling story about immigration and family. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 81

81. Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother by Peggy O’Donnell Heffington

The author of this book looks back at historical reasons women have not had children either by choice or because they were unable to for various reasons comparing them to reasons why women today often do not have children. She aims to show that nothing is new and that there is been an artificial divide drawn between mothers and non-mothers. I get part of the argument she makes in her writing about needing to write about motherhood to talk about non-motherhood, but I often felt like I was reading more about being a mother than I was about women without children. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 80

80. The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

This was a fun, YA heist type story. Nora is the daughter of a con-artist and spent her childhood changing identities trapped in her mother’s schemes until she managed to break free five years ago. But now she’s involved in a ruse of her own as she gets caught up as a hostage in a bank robbery along with her ex-boyfriend and current girlfriend. Now she’ll have to use all the skills she learned from her mother to get them all out of this safely. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 79

79. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

It’s a little hard for me to rate this book because while it is well written it felt like somewhat of a slog to read because it’s just so depressing. It follows Shuggie, a young boy growing up in 1980s Glasgow as the son of a single alcoholic mother. In addition to the challenges of being poor and having to take care of his mother he’s also clearly gay and bullied because of it. The novel sets a very rich picture of his life in this place, but as such it was something I struggled to want to pick up and read after I had set it down. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 78

78. The Gentleman’s Book of Vices by Jess Everlee

A Victorian era romance in which Charlie, who is a closeted homosexual due to the times, is about to get married to a woman. Before doing so he wants to meet his favorite author who writes smut books. Miles winds up being all he has ever dreamed of. I thought it was an okay book, but nothing particularly special. I’ve read better books of this genre. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 77

77. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This book was decidedly not for me. I would have given it an even lower rating had I written this review before my book club met to discuss it. That discussion did help me think of some things in new ways that made me appreciate it a little bit more, but overall I still did not like it. There was just nothing for me to grasp onto. There was never a good enough description of who these characters were or what this time war was to ever really understand what was going on, especially with everything constantly changing due to the moving through time aspect of the book. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 17, Book 76

76. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald

This was my second read of this book. I had forgotten that I read it way back in 2013 as an advanced reader’s copy. My work has had diversity reading groups in October for as long as I can remember. I often have already read many of the choices, so I usually try and pick something I haven’t read before. I chose this particular book because I didn’t think I had read it, but after I signed up and went to add it to my Goodreads I found out I had already read it. Oh well. I mostly stand by what I thought back in 2013, though in some respects I don’t think parts of the book stand the test of time. I think the authors had some of their own blindspots that I didn’t really notice back then either, but through my 2022 lens seemed glaring. I wonder if they wrote it now if they would have written parts of it differently. I give it a 5 out of 10.