Notes of a Crocodile, by Qiu Miaojin

Two stars, read in December 2017 Bewildering, to be honest. Interpersonal relationships are difficult to package in words, especially when nothing much happens, it’s all just conversations and body language and internal struggles. But this seemed deliberately opaque and kept me on the outside, unable to get a connection with any of the characters. Words…

Harmless Like You, by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Four stars, read in May 2018. Good book, well-written, poignant, frustrating, a little heartbreaking, with a pretty satisfying conclusion. Emily Woo Zeller is an excellent narrator, but I didn’t care for P.J. Ochlan, who does irritating pseudo-falsetto for female characters’ voices. (Given that I already didn’t like Jay, the character he was narrating, I think…

Home, by Nnedi Okorafor

Three stars, read in June 2018. Good, but not as compelling as the first book was. I’d been thinking I might not read the third, but it turns out that this trilogy is more like one book split into three; since there was no conclusion here, I may end up finishing after all. Maybe. The world…

We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Five stars, read in November 2017. This book covers the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. For each year, there is an article Coates wrote for The Atlantic, preceded by an essay (“a sort of extended blog post,” I think is how he describes it) in which he looks back on his own work and assesses…

ME, by Tomoyuki Hoshino

Five stars, read in January 2018. I’ve had this post in my drafts for a few months now, because there was so much for me to work through. I did not expect the direction this book ended up taking, on more than one level. It was brilliant, disturbing, astonishingly incisive commentary on human nature and identity—and…

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Two and a half stars, read in March 2018. I found this book very stressful. Given how long and sprawling it is, following so many characters throughout four generations, it often seemed strange how long we lingered on specific, not particularly meaningful conversations before jumping through time and space to continue the story. It just…

Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

Five stars, read in February 2018. Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy. Despite one of the best first lines I’ve ever read, I’m certain I wouldn’t have finished this if I hadn’t read, and been so impressed by, What is Not…

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah, read April 30 – May 1, 2014 I go back and forth between 4 and 5 stars, I think because the ending didn’t have as much of an impact as I was expecting. But then I remember how I basically devoured this book, loving every minute that I was reading, feeling completely absorbed and…

The Origin of Others, by Toni Morrison

Four stars, read in December 2017. When I think back on this book, the anecdote I remember is the one Morrison shares about coming across a woman near the fence on her property. The scene of their meeting is peaceful and friendly (because fences are “where the most interesting things always happen”), and Morrison’s thoughts…

Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata

Three stars, read in January 2018. Widely considered to be his masterpiece, the Goodreads description says, but . . . Hmm. I was decidedly underwhelmed by this book. There is absolutely beautiful imagery in his descriptions of snow country (I gave it an extra star for that reason). It was a stern night landscape. The…

November Mini Reviews

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds. Five stars. Oh, wow, I loved everything about this. The premise is such a cool one, with the elevator and the chronological ghosts; the verse is skillful and adds visually to the story; and the protagonist’s voice is just so painfully young and real. God, if only we could…

Amazing Peace, by Maya Angelou

One star, read in December 2013. Of course this was gorgeous, and in general, I love Maya Angelou’s . . . everything. But I didn’t love this book’s illustrations, and frankly, if the poem weren’t written by Maya Angelou I would give it negative stars. Because as nice an idea as this “amazing peace” is,…

The Bonesetter’s Daughter, by Amy Tan

Five stars, read in October/November 2017. It’s been several years since I last read Amy Tan and I was starting to wonder whether her books were a phase I’d grown out of. They are not. I deeply loved everything about this book, including (especially) the fact that in the audiobook, LuLing’s sections are beautifully narrated…

The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in October 2017. The Remains of the Day is absolutely masterful. I was constantly impressed by the subtlety, the way the protagonist’s voice is so careful and forthcoming that it didn’t occur to me to question his accuracy, until suddenly the perspective would widen and I’d realize what he’d been leaving out. Mr….

An Autobiography, by Angela Davis

Five stars, read in April 2017. Yes, once again a post has taken me this long to write. For years I have been meaning to find out more about Angela Davis, and as so often happens, now that I’ve finally met her books I cannot believe it took me so long—or that in all my reading, she’s…

Autofiction, by Hitomi Kanehara

Four stars, read in July 2017. I’ve spent a good twenty minutes now trying to track down the article that made me first want to read Hitomi Kanehara, and I’m frustrated that I can’t find it. All I remember is that the writer was (I think) a Japanese American woman, possibly an author herself? And…

The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

Five stars, read in June 2017. First lesson learned from listening to James Baldwin on audio: I cannot listen to James Baldwin on audio. Jesse Martin’s narration is excellent (I knew I recognized his voice but had to look him up to learn that what I know him from is Rent), but James Baldwin is…

Japanese Haiku from Peter Pauper Press

Four stars, read in July 2017. I couldn’t believe my luck to find these three small, beautiful old volumes at my local used bookstore last night—particularly because under their faded, torn jackets the same lovely pattern has been preserved on the hardcover. Rather than reviews, my posts about haiku are always just a collection of…

Human Acts, by Han Kang

Five stars, read in April 2017. I kept not returning this book to the library because I wanted to go back through and get quotes for this post, but when I tried to do it, I felt like it was too late. This book is much too intense an experience to just dip back in…

Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde

Four stars, read in March and April 2017. I have meant to read Audre Lorde for so long, and now that I have, I see the irony of it having been her prose that I read first, and not her poetry. Poetry was everything to Lorde, not just a form of art but a framework…

Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur

Five stars, read in May 2017. Man, I have not been keeping up with things lately. I’ve started a new job and no longer have all the blogging time I used to, but the only computer we have at home is a shitty laptop that is so shitty I never want to use it. So…

Women, Race and Class, by Angela Davis

Five stars, read in March 2017. I can’t believe how readable this book is, considering how dense it also is in historical detail. The research that went into it must be astounding, but it flows like a conversation with a (really well-informed) friend. Along with many subjects I am familiar with, I was absolutely fascinated by…

The Boat Rocker, by Ha Jin

One star, read in February 2017. I hated every page of this book. I started hopefully, because I was intrigued by Waiting and have been wanting to read Ha Jin’s other books for a long time. But my hackles went up on the first page—in the second paragraph—and I only got more and more suspicious until…

In the Miso Soup, by Ryu Murakami

Five stars, read on the last day of September 2016. I should have written about this back then, because now I won’t be able to remember details. But this book was so notable that I still feel I need to post something about it. For several years Ryu has just been the other Murakami, the one who gets in…

Coretta: The Story of Coretta Scott King, by Octavia Vivian

Four stars, read in March 2012. I wrote this review back then, on my old blog, and have meant to repost it here. Now the timing is even more perfect, not just because of Black History Month, but because her name is in the news since Elizabeth Warren was punished for reading her words against Jeff…

Waiting, by Ha Jin

Three and a half stars, read in February 2017. The best word I can choose for this book is bittersweet. I’ve had a difficult time figuring out how I feel about it. For some reason it took me a very long time to pick it up, but when I did, it was a sick day…

Mini Reviews: Comics and Manga

Everything I’ve read so far in January and February 2017, because apparently I haven’t reviewed any of them yet! Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 1, by Fumi Yoshinaga. Four stars. What an absolutely fascinating combination of ideas at play in this book. A sort of dystopian premise with a historical setting, a matriarchal society that still…

Why We Can’t Wait, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Five stars, read in January 2017. If you want a perfect example of why this book is (STILL) necessary, consider this: It’s a book about the same time period, the same issues, as To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee—the book nearly every person in the United States had to read in school. While I…