With 2 days to spare, I’ve finally defeated the 12 books of Christmas challenge AND my year’s 100 book challenge! I’m visiting family in New England right now, and normally I’d be tearing up the ski slopes – but snowfall this year has been meager at best. But hey, at least I’ve had plenty of time indoors to read.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
152 Pages; published in 2015
★ ★ ★
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Coates is an incredible writer who conveys his fear, exhaustion, and nostalgia with elegance. He refuses to gloss over the true horror of past atrocities, and emphasizes the importance of actions in the here and now. Between the World and Me has so many thoughtful, beautifully-worded passages that I ended up highlighting practically half the book, even though I didn’t agree fully with certain points.
Under the Skin by Michel Faber
Audiobook: 9 hrs 15 mins (Print version: 296 Pages); published in 2000
A “fascinating psychological thriller” (Baltimore Sun), this entrancing novel introduces Isserley, a female driver who scouts the Scottish Highlands for male hitchhikers with big muscles. She herself is tiny—like a kid peering up over the steering wheel. Scarred and awkward, yet strangely erotic and threatening, Isserley listens to her passengers as they open up to her, revealing clues about who might miss them should they disappear—and then she strikes. What happens to her victims next is only part of a terrifying reality.
After reading (and loving) The Book of Strange New Things earlier this year, I thought I’d give another of Michel Faber’s books a try. His books vary wildly from one to the next, or so I hear – but this one never really came together for me. Plus, I’m not good with graphic descriptions of gore.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
211 Pages; published in 1962
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
This is my first and only re-read of the year. I read it for the first time as a nine-year-old, but looking back there were so many things I missed! I especially enjoyed the Shakespearean homages, and although I’m not religious, I appreciated how the many Christian references helped to fill the characters with hope.
A Wrinkle in Time was the perfect comfort read for Christmastime, since all the characters were so kind, quirky, and appealing: e.g. Mrs. Whatsit/Who/Which; Aunt Beast and her (its?) soothing tentacles.
Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray
432 Pages; published in 2015
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2
When Paul’s soul is splintered into four pieces—pieces that are trapped within Pauls in other dimensions—Marguerite will do anything, and travel anywhere, to save him. But the price of his safe return is steep. If she doesn’t sabotage her parents in multiple universes, Paul will be lost forever.
Just as exciting as the first installment. Bonus points for adding moral complexity and light philosophical nuance: is it ever okay to hijack your other selves’ bodies? What defines the ‘self’? How much of your personal identity remains constant across the multiverses?
Also, that cliffhanger ending pretty much killed me. The next installment can’t come soon enough!