An Open Book: What I Read in September

It was a wonderful month of falling in love with words. I truly can’t imagine a life where I don’t love to read.

Many of the audio books I listened to this month were read by the authors themselves. There’s something about hearing authors tell their own stories and read their own words that makes the experience feel particularly powerful.

What books have you fallen in love with lately?

book reviews

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: I’m a sucker for dance-related stories of any flavor, and this one had particularly good character development. Following two story lines — one of a young ballerina who helped a Russian dancer defect during the Cold War and another of that young dancer’s son, several years later — the book’s pacing and time jumps felt like a ballet itself. My only complaint is a major one: The climax was unnecessarily manipulative and obvious.

The Wander Society by Keri Smith (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: This isn’t a book you read all in one sitting but rather dip in and out of for inspiration and escape. Focused on an imaginary group called The Wander Society, it is an invitation to wander, dream, and discover in a very real and tactile sense. Reading it encouraged me to adopt some new routines and habits, and I look forward to revisiting this book over the coming years.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: I had no idea who Melton was before reading this book, so I’m not sure how this book landed on my to-read this, but it was worth my time. I’m still not sure what the purpose of this memoir is, but I love her voice and authenticity. And I’m definitely into any book that’s pro-female empowerment.

book reviews

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2/5 stars)

Three-line review: Part crime drama, part coming-of-age story, part commentary on societal complexities, part exploration of cultural identity, The Round House struggles with an identity crisis. I wasn’t invested in the characters or the story line; without those, there’s little point in caring what happens or why. My favorite parts of the book were insertions of Native American storytelling and lore, but I didn’t feel like they were a natural fit with the main plot of the book.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: Brown’s book dropped into my queue exactly when I needed it the most, but I often feel that way about books that help me explore myself, my feelings, and my reactions on a deeper level. Some people complain that this book spends too much time mired in Brown’s personal experiences, but I’ve always appreciated the fact she inserts herself into her books for two reasons: 1) I think it lends credibility to the fact that she’s not infallible, and seeing how someone else rumbles with difficulty helps me understand what it looks like in my life, and 2) her work is always grounded in research and science, and her real-life examples show how empirical data can be put into action alongside complicated experiences. Brown’s books always sit with me long after I’ve read them; this one will too.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: Terrifying, truthful, raw, and real, The Hate U Give should be a must-read for every white American to get even a small glimpse of what it’s like being on the losing side of the police brutality crisis in the United States. Well-written, engaging, and well-paced, Thomas’ YA novel is filled with interesting, complex characters. Told from the perspective of a teenage girl, I felt like I walked through the book with her, learning from her about what it’s like to grow up black in a world of violence, gangs, and poverty while getting glimpses of privilege through her eyes.

2 Responses to “An Open Book: What I Read in September”

  1. Jill

    The Round House was a choice for my book group when it was first published a few years ago. It prompted a great discussion. Keep in mind though, this was occurring during the time when the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) was being debated, for continued funding, in Congress. Part of the VAWA concerns Native American women, and the jurisdiction of their claims (Did the attack occur on or off Reservation property? Was the perpetrator Native or another race? Did the woman report the attack to Reservation police or outside? Who should she report to? Etc….). This book, of course, involves a crime of this type and how it was, or wasn’t handled, and the effect on the family.

    Funding for VAWA is a fight every time it needs to be renewed. The fights concern not only Native women, but also LGBTQ. You can imagine what gets said.

    • JoAnna

      What I thought was powerful about The Round House was this complicated issue about jurisdiction. It’s one of those things we don’t hear or read a lot about – and therefore it’s hard to understand. So, I do think this book was important in that way. It is a real and legitimate concern every single day for Indigenous populations. But, as for the book itself, unfortunately it didn’t do much for me. It felt muddled and messy because of the literary decisions made by the author.


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