Notes on a Harry Potter Reread

These are small posts that come from my old blog, but which I hadn’t previously reposted here, from the last time I reread the Harry Potter series (in 2014). Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I wish I could remember exactly how many times I’ve read the earlier books in the series; obviously it’s more…

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…

Slade House, by David Mitchell

Four stars, read in August 2017. I love the format of this book, the way each section is told from the perspective of one of the house’s victims. It felt especially intimate that way, making the story personal and a little emotional as well as creepy. This is the sixth of Mitchell’s books that I’ve…

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…

How to Fake a Moon Landing, by Darryl Cunningham

Four stars, read in March 2017. Three and a half stars, maybe, but I don’t mind rounding up to balance out all the reviews that hate it way more than I think is warranted. (Though I do wonder, since this is yet another instance of books titled “how to __” which do not in any…

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…

Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy

Three stars, read in May 2017. Oh, Thomas Hardy. Of his books that I’ve read, this is the one with the most blatant commentary on the oppression and arbitrary cruelty of societal conventions. It’s also probably my least favorite, though I’m not sure why; for some reason Jude and Sue never clicked with me as…

So Far This Year (Plus Mini Reviews)

This was meant to be a Top Ten Tuesday post, but I’m about a week and a half late and deciding to share it anyway. As usual, putting together a mid-year list of the best books I’ve read makes me think that my end-of-year list will be impossibly long—although admittedly, there are a few books…

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…

A Murder in Time, by Julie McElwain

Two and a half stars, read in June 2017. I was a little disappointed by the execution of what was a really intriguing, exciting premise. A twenty-first-century FBI agent hunting a nineteenth-century serial killer—it’s time travel plus historical fiction plus mystery with a smart, strong female protagonist, and since I always feel like I should try…

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…

Dietland, by Sarai Walker

Three and a half stars, read in March 2017. This book was a strange mix of things. I loved the premise and the protagonist’s character development, but was a little confused and unsatisfied by the progression and conclusion of the Jennifer storyline. In the first place, it seemed weird to me that the protagonist was…

Just Kids, by Patti Smith

Four stars, read in February 2017. I didn’t know much about Patti Smith before this and hadn’t heard of Robert Mapplethorpe at all, so this book was a springboard into a huge number of artistic works for me to explore. I’ve been listening to her first album, Horses, since finishing the book a few days…

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…

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

Five stars, read in October 2016. Gorgeous. Such a fascinating relationship between the protagonist—smart, insightful, but noticeably young—and Lila—who’s more like a force of nature than anything else. I love how not pretty the book is, how it’s about the violence and smallness of life. The dynamics of Elena Greco’s neighborhood act out the tension, the…

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…

We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Four stars, read in January 2017 (though I watched the TEDTalk it’s based on at least a couple years ago). I hadn’t technically read this yet because it’s essentially a transcript of that TEDTalk. But we just got a few brand new copies of it at the library, so I took it home and it…

Empress, by Shan Sa

Two and a half stars, read in December 2016. Translated from French. This was a little dry; at times it felt like reading a catalog. A thousand horses in the parade, a thousand ministers, a thousand concubines, a thousand drums, and so on, sometimes for two or three pages. It made for easy skimming, though, which…

Manazuru, by Hiromi Kawakami

Four stars, read in January 2017. There is sort of a dreamlike quality to this whole book, even the scenes you know are taking place in real life. It’s a little vague at times, but coalesces in the end into something like relief. Maybe contentment. Kawakami has a beautiful way with words, describing feelings I’ve…