When I sit down to write a book review, I feel an obligation to my readers and to myself. I hope to inspire readers to pick up the book that I am reviewing and I try to do a good enough job that I am pleased with my product. This time, however, I experienced a new feeling. When I sat down to write this review, I felt an obligation to the book itself. All That She Carried won the prestigious 2021 nonfiction National Book Award and it’s one that I hope we all read.
Author Tiya Miles is an American historian and a history professor at Harvard and Radcliffe. She’s written 5 books about the Black American experience. Among these were her first book entitled Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom. She also wrote The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits. I admit it: I am not generally a nonfiction fan; I much prefer a story. But Miles makes history come alive with her exhaustive research and a writing style that is extremely readable for those of us who aren’t intellectual heavyweights.
All That She Carried follows in the footsteps of her previous histories. I found it intriguing and insightful. At a Tennessee flea market in 2007, an unsuspecting white woman purchased a run-of-the-mill cotton sack, about the size of a standard pillow case. When she got it home she found it had been hand embroidered with these words: “My great grandmother Rose mother of Ashley gave her this sack when she was sold at age 9 in South Carolina it held a tattered dress 3 handfulls of pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her It be filled with my love always she never saw her again Ashley is my grandmother- Ruth Middleton, 1921”
Always Human is a coming-of-age, romantic graphic novel featuring science fiction elements and addressing how we may miss how others experience life separate from our own bubble. There are plenty of different queer representations throughout the story. There are so many beautiful illustrations and lovely use of colors, as well.
Our story opens with our main character, Sunati, explaining how she has seen this girl at the train stop who never changes her appearance. The reason this is of note is that in the future, people can change their appearance automatically through use of mods. She thinks that not changing appearances as well as looking more natural is brave and wishes that she had that sort of confidence. Many people change their appearance quite frequently, however, there are some people who have a disease called Egan’s Syndrome, which causes their body to reject modifications.
Sunati hasn’t worked up the courage to speak to this mysterious girl. Finally, an opportunity presents itself. Austen, the mystery girl, sneezes. Sunati offers her a tissue, noting that it is for a hayfever mod. Austen bursts into tears as she explains that she can’t use mods and that she always looks the same all the time, always human. She quickly gets embarrassed for her outburst and rushes away.
After this, Sunati searches on if it is possible to not be able to use mods. Her search yields the information of the previously stated disease, Egan’s Syndrome. This also causes a dawning realization that while she could use memory mods to get through school, Austen has to learn and memorize everything the “old-fashioned” way. For several days after, Sunati doesn’t see her at the station. Then, she is approached by Austen, who asks her to coffee to apologize and explain her outburst.
During this, Sunati proposes going on a date, to which Austen declines initially, saying that people always are interested in her for the wrong reasons. However, after some explaining and convincing, she agrees to the date.
I retired in 2011 and finally had the time to do some serious reading. One of the things I decided to do was to go back and actually read some of the books that I had been asked to read for various classes and never had truly read. I passed all those classes, by the way, with flying colors. Undoubtedly my superpower has something to do with a higher than average level of something I like to call BS-ability. I started with a belated mental apology to my ninth grade English teacher as I read A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. I followed up with all those I lied about in college: The Brothers Karamazov, Don Quixote, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, Robinson Crusoe, and even the infamous Moby Dick. Are all of these books wonderful? Of course, they’re all examples of great literature! Does each of these books resonate equally with all readers? Of course not, each of us brings our own life experiences to our reading armchairs when we sit down with a good book.
That being said, here are a few other entries on my Later Life Redemptive Reading List. These are books that resonated with me on every level and I am very thankful that I was:
1. asked to read them early in life so that I could
2. neglect to read them when assigned so that I could
3. read them later in life and bring a full set of life experiences to the armchair.
And so, in no particular order (except that I put my favorite first):
The Grapes of Wrath is the story of an Oklahoma family forced off their farm in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. They travel to California in search of work and a new home.
I’m glad I lied about reading it as a student, because I really enjoyed reading it as an adult. This is a “no-duh” for most of you, but I finally figured out what the “grapes of wrath” were, and where they were stored, and why we should hope they will be trampled. What a great title! His wife came up with it. Steinbeck was going to call it The Harvest Gypsies. He wrote it to tell the plight of migrant farm workers and it does so admirably. But it should also be on the I Have Read bookshelf of every feminist. That Ma Joad! “Man, he lives in jerks…Woman, it’s all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it like that…Ever’thing we do —seems to me is aimed right at going on…Jus’ try to live the day, jus’ the day.” What a memorable character! What great lines! What a great book!
This is Janie’s story. She is a Southern Black woman whose life shines with independence, strength and wit even though burdened with poverty, social injustice and the trials of early century womanhood. I love love love this book for three reasons. Hurston’s poetic imagery and her stylistic wordsmithing are outstanding. She is able to immerse the reader in the culture of Black 1920s rural Florida. It’s captivating. Janie’s story is every woman’s story and Hurston tells it artfully in this novel. It’s empowering.Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
George and Lenny are itinerant ranch hands in Depression Era California.Their friendship is endearing, priceless, and ill-fated. It’s a short little book (just around 100 pages), but in those pages Steinbeck packs all the feels. One of the characteristics of great literature is that each rereading provides new discovery. Of Mice and Men certainly qualifies as great literature in that regard. Because I know how it ends, each time I read it I am sad through the whole dang thing. It’s so tragic and desolate. Each time Lenny talks about the little farm and “livin’ off the fat of the land” it gut punches me. Steinbeck writes in a very direct, realistic, honest way about the disenfranchised of America’s Great Depression. I hate to read it, but I’ll read it again and again. Maybe one day I’ll read it and Lenny and George will get their little piece of land in the end.
Because I avoid reading romance books with cowboys (just not my thing) I kind of put Western in that same category and never read it. Thankfully Entangled Publishing saw to rectify my mistake by sending me a book with a fabulous cover, awesome title, great blurb, and trapped me into reading it. And now that I've read it... I need the next one in the series!
Now that you know my history with Western Romances you will understand when I say I went into this book with zero expectations. In my mind I just had: "it sounds fun. It better have some humor". Boy did it have some humor! Gray "Quick Shot" may be good and quick with a gun, but the guy is the laziest man I've ever read about. I think there is talk of napping every three or so pages. And I don't mention that in a negative way, it's hilarious. Gray wants to believe he is retired from shooting people and all he wants is peace and quiet, preferably with a hot meal- the meal doesn't even have to be good. And considering our main female character is absolutely terrible in the kitchen, that is his only choice if he is to stay in the small town of Desolation.
Mercy was his opposite in almost every way. She doesn't have one lazy bone in her body and is a very intense character. She has opinions, questions, wishes, things to do, place to be... But she is a woman and one of her neighbors wants her land bad. Bad enough that although she is a tough cookie she might not be tough enough alone. Bad enough that having Mr "Quick Shot" around as her fake fiancé and then real husband is the only choice she has.
Their relationship was amusing. There was plenty of banter, sarcasm, and chemistry. All the secondary characters were entertaining as well. I need more, and so will you!
Trees are fascinating subjects. I am obsessed with tree books and try to read all that I can find. But most of these focus on a tree's root systems or how they influence the forest floor to support life. Not many of these books delve into the canopy of these trees, until now. This is the subject of Meg Lowman’s book The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the Eighth Continent in the Trees Above Us. Meg Lowman or “CanopyMeg” and the “real-life Lorax” as she is more affectionately known is an american biologist, educator and champion of tree conservation. This book details the author's dual journey as she makes her literal ascent into the treetops and her rise to fame in a male dominated science community.
The winners for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2022 Northwest Book Awards have been announced. These books were selected from more than 400 nominated titles published in 2021 by a dedicated volunteer committee of independent booksellers. Have fun reading!
It’s 2022 now and with the new year many of us look to the future by trying to better ourselves. It’s an innately optimistic thing to do and we all need an extra dose of optimism these days! With that in mind, we here at Inklings would like to share with you a few ideas for books that might help you fulfill your New Year's resolutions.
Taking up hobbies is a popular resolution, and knitting is one of the most accessible ones there is. Vogue® has been prolific in it’s knitting guides the past few years. The color photographs are chic and professional and the directions concise. The book gives great instructions for all the basic stitches, cast ons and bind offs with photographs of each step using perfectly color coordinated backdrops so you can easily see the stitching.
After instructing on the stitches the book offers patterns for some basic clothes ranking them from one to three by difficulty and displays them elegantly and stylishly. This is a great book by writers that are obviously passionate about empowering their readers to create clothes they love with a personal touch.
This book has been on our bestseller shelf almost all of 2020 and for good reason! It is a lifetime of research into psychological trauma written into a poignant and emotionally stirring book. This is a great read for anyone who feels like they’re not handling something from their past now and wants to change that. It provides understanding of how trauma affects people differently, and explains how treatments for overcoming trauma have evolved over the past 50 years. The written accounts of various therapy subjects will bring you to tears and will teach you how resilient the human mind is.
Written by the Chief Scientific Officer of WW (Formerly Weight Watchers) this book explains the mindset behind the success stories. These mindset tools are honestly great for just about any task that is daunting or requires commitment. Each chapter focuses on a separate tool, the first is Self Compassion. The second is accepting setbacks. The third is setting small specific goals. The Fourth is identifying inner strengths and using them. The fifth is appreciating your body (where you are right now). The sixth is getting help from people around you. The seventh (final) is experiencing happiness where you are right now.
This isn’t a book with exercises and recipes, but it offers something potentially more important because it’s the lasting mindset that turns a new year's resolution into real change for the better. This book is good enough that it could be used for weight loss but then take the same approach to write a novel or start a business.
Happy New Year from the booksellers here at Inklings. 2022 promises to be a year of transition and we look forward to helping our readers navigate the changes of the coming year. Remember, taking time to read more books is also a perfectly valid resolution!