October Stack

October was one of my stronger reading months, most 5 star reads, and most DNFs in a month.

A DNF for those that don’t frequent the book corners of social media are “did not finish” books. Every great reader I admire and aspire to be like (yes, having reading “idols” is really a thing) espouse the importance of not finishing books that aren’t clicking for you. Ali Abdaal said it best, treat books like blog posts. Take away what you want, leave when it isn’t serving you, and move on if it’s not working. Because I think we all know someone who is languishing away months at a time to read Sapiens. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but, IT’S OK TO NOT FINISH A BOOK!

October 2021 Stack

Before I share my reviews, I have some book analytics thanks to Storygraph (the social book platform I use, now that I’ve left Goodreads).

I “read” 16 books, with 4 DNFs, and most of those DNFs were around 40-50% into the book.

47% of my reads were nonfiction, 53% were fiction…I don’t weigh nonfiction as more important but I’m proud to see an almost fair split. My average rating with 3.64 stars, and I read 4,750 pages, the most pages this year.

Ok now for the books (with Amazon links):

My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix (5 stars)

Pros:
Grady Hendrix does campy horror stories so incredibly well. He has the right balance of gore, laughs, and story. 
There’s a really wonderful story about friendship at the center of this that made me a little misty in the end. 
It’s so fast paced and fun that it’s like reading a movie. 

Cons:
Grady is so committed to the social commentary and staying authentic to the time there are some moments that are offensive. (There’s reference to a Slave Auction day at the high school)
SpoilerThe exorcism scene was a little long for no reason. I would have loved more scenes of how possessed Gretchen was impacting the students. 
I wanted to know what the parents thought or if Gretchen ever tried to tell anyone what happened…cause it felt like the exorcism was wrapped anticlimactically.

The Maidens, by Alex Michaelides

I don’t have the right vocabulary to explain how much I hated this book. I didn’t like the Silent Patient, and honestly reading this is on me knowing good and damn well I don’t like this author…but here we are. 
All my marginalia is just rants about how mad I am that I’m still reading it. 
The main character, hated her…the unnecessary tie to Silent Patient, burn it all down…the random ass parade of new characters to try and throw the reader off, oh boy. 
I want to fight the publisher. 
The men in this book are written so creepy that even I was like damn homie you are making a great case for neck beards with this. 
Just flames, flames on the side of my face.

Practising Parisienne, by Marissa Cox

I really enjoyed this, and it desperately made me want to go back to Paris. 
I would have loved a section on how the art, literature, and films of Paris helped her embrace her inner Parisienne, along with how she learned the language through living. 
Also Paris is such a visual medium, I would have loved pictures or a link to a website or Pinterest board. 
I did walk away fully inspired and looking forward to implementing points from the book. And I applaud the author for acknowledging the heteronormative nature of the dating portion, and including Black women in the interviewees because Black women aren’t always associated with a typically French aesthetic.  

Believe Bigger: How God Uses Disappointments as Opportunities for Lasting Change, by Marshawn Evans Daniels

I was looking for a book the would inspire me to believe bigger with the help of my Christian faith. 
This book wasn’t it for me. 
Yes this is hopeful, grounded in the word, and very vulnerable. However, it feels exceptionally repetitive and the overall thesis feels like she’s projecting. The only way to you purpose is some major life shake up by God. I would have loved for this to be more about believing bigger, walking through the Bible and finding all the places God calls us to accept and ask for bigger. This was a lot of repetition, and could have been a lovely YouTube video. 

Discourses and Selected Writings, by Epictetus

This is the densest stoic text I’ve read, but I see why Epictetus was the philosopher that my favorites turned to. 
There are a lot of amazing quotes that will be in my common place. 

The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett

Pros:
Bennett does a beautiful job weaving all of these seemingly branched timelines and stories together to make a really rich picture of how this family got to where they are. 
The pacing was good, I didn’t get bored at all. 
There’s beautiful commentary on identity, and the inhumanity marginalized people face. 

Cons:
It felt like another Imitation of Life style passing story. 
The sections served no point. 
It felt like it was written to get non Black people to have compassion for all the generational trauma Black people deal with. 

Bunny, by Mona Awad

I don’t even know how to review this book because I don’t fully understand what I read. 
I like that it challenged me, but the book felt so heavy handed on symbolism and metaphor that I wondered if that was intentional or satire. 
Pros:
It’s a fairly quick read. 
Loved the Heathers/The Craft/Coven vibes. 
Also enjoyed the satire around writers and artists. 
Cons:
Genuinely couldn’t tell what was intentional and what was just heavy handed on metaphors. 
I wish there’d been some semblance of character development so I got a sense of the situations I got dropped into. 
The three act structure didn’t feel like it was used well. 

Notes from a Trap Feminist: A Manifesto for the Bad Bitch Generation, by Sesali Bowen

Pros:
Really great mix of hip hop/pop culture and feminist commentary. 
It doesn’t center mainstream feminism in any way or use that as the set point for the book to move from. 
It’s incredibly challenging and forces you to check your respectability politics at the door as a Black reader. 

Cons:
While the first portion of the book felt like incredibly crafted essays the back half felt like personal stories. 
Would have loved more academic insight or even a portion at the end of additional reading so I could continue engaging in the topics she brings up. 

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Amy Wallace, Ed Catmull (5 stars)

I will never meet Steve Jobs and I’ll probably never meet Ed Catmull but this book has profoundly changed my life every time I’ve read it. 
I’ve been a senior manager desperately looking for a way to find my professional and creative voice, I’ve been a director wanting mentorship and a North Star on how to innovate, and I’ve been a VP wanting to be the leader I always wished for and to create the groundwork for my professional legacy. 
I’m never the same person every time I read this, but I always walk away from this book changed. 
And I’ll never get through the final chapter without sobbing because it reminds we that we don’t get to experience our legacy, but we plant the seeds for it while we’re here. 

The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave (5 stars)

Pros:
This was so fast paced and kept me engaged from the moment I started it. 
I thought I knew where this plot was going but it surprised me in the best way. It had more heart than a traditional thriller. 
I like at the center is really a story about what you’d do for your family and the people you love. 

Cons:
I didn’t think the book needed to be divided into parts. The story was cohesive without those “commercial breaks.”
As someone who knows nothing about Austin, those details about the city were lost on me, and could have gone toward the story. 
There were some superfluous characters that felt like they were just there to make certain plot holes make sense (I’m looking at you best friend and high school boyfriend character). 

Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Pros:
Loved the setting against the Mexican backdrop, all Gothic stories don’t need to be set in England. 
Really enjoyed the themes around women’s health, believing women, and women finding their power/breaking generational curses. 
I can see why this is being adapted, lots of visual mental pictures come up while reading. 

Cons:
For a 300 page book this is so slow that I almost DNF’d multiple times. 
It’s so wordy that I had to just breeze through some of the descriptions to get on with the plot. 
The eugenics convos served no purpose to the plot in my opinion. 

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy this book, maybe I’ll like it more when it becomes a TV series. But, this confirmed that even with a WOC writing, gothic is not my genre.

If I Never Met You, by Mhairi McFarlane

Pros:
Loved a rom com book with a Black woman at the center. 
Loved that the main character was over 35 and not posed as a spinster. 
The social media element was cute and made for a new setting on the fake relationship trope. 


Cons:
This was a DNF for me, it was so slow and so British and just had words for the sake of having words. 
The author spends a literal chapter and a half trying to prove she can write a Black female character that she spends it talking about Black hair. It was clearly projection having a chapter about a white stylist doing her hair, to show a white person can comprehend a Black experience. But that immediately went out the window when at the end of the chapter her friend asks to touch her Afro and she gladly welcomes it. 
There was nothing interesting about the story that made me want to stick around. 

The Rock Eaters: Stories, by Brenda Peynado

This was a DNF for me. There were some strong moments in the first story, but the surreal narratives were way over my head and I couldn’t get through the writing. There are other short story collections I’ve loved this year that have set the bar so high that this wasn’t the right kind of challenging read for me. BUT I may revisit this one next year.

Austin Kleon’s Trilogy (5 stars)

Show Your Work

Steal Like An Artist

Keep Going

These were phenomenal and short reads that lit a fire under my ass to let go of my analysis paralysis and show my work, not allow my limiting beliefs to keep me from sharing my knowledge and work, and to keep going through it all.