Dec 31, 2014

Book Looks: What I Read In 2014

I read. I read a lot. I'm not one of those who reads 500 books a year, because...that's insane. I'm a slow reader. I like sinking into words and then really traveling into a story or a situation, and since my time is limited I usually save all my reading for the weekend or over breakfast (pico de gallo cheese eggs and green tea, for the curious ones...). For articles that is a different situation all together, but nonetheless, I still take my time with them, saving a bulk of them to my Pocket app to read for later. (Oh, and real talk, Pocket is one of the most amazing inventions ever).

Since this blog is on it's wobbly legs, looking for a direction to go in, I decided to compile an end-of-the-year list of all my favorite reads of the year, in hopes that maybe I'll have more features akin to this in the new year....and to be nosy and see if anybody out there who skims this blog wants to talk about the reads they read this year. Okay? Alright! Let's get to listing...

Favorite Books/Plays Of The Year
What I flipped through that took my breath away...

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng: Beautiful prose wraps around this tale of loss, race, depression, and helicopter parentage. A quiet storm of a character study.

Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story Of Black Hollywood, by Donald Bogle: A stunning reflection on the progressive and creative utopia people of color created in California  attempted to break the glass ceiling in Hollywood's early decades.

If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin: Not considered to be Baldwin's best, but I disagree with most. I found it quietly captivating as it tells a story of a young teenaged couple named Tish and Fonny and the obstacles they face when Tish becomes pregnant and Fonny is thrown in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Still applicable for the times (young Black men vs. White policemen; how screwy the prison system is especially for men of color; on-going cycles of poverty), Baldwin honestly pings the fragility of young love in hard times.

Midnight Cowboy, by James Leo Herlihy: A heartbreaking survival tale about a weird friendship built on isolation. It's a story that effected me more than I thought it would, and it lead me to dig deeper with a full review.

Under The Ivy: The Life & Music Of Kate Bush, by Graeme Thompson: Comprehensive and clearly written by someone who cares about the artistry of Kate Bush --- which is not an easy thing to decipher. I learned a lot, and came away admiring Kate Bush's work ethic and her music more so than ever.

Caucasia, by Danzy Senna: Being bi-racial is tough. Being bi-racial with crazy confused parents is tougher. Being bi-racial and changing your personal and racial identity, while being separated from your sister is the worst childhood ever. An runaway adventure story as it is a telling tale on how ignorant America continues to be about race and all of its complex parts, and who suffers from the stupidity the most --- the children. Senna hits it on the nail about what it's like to blend in, yet stand out.

The Complete Stories Of Dorothy Parker, by Dorothy Parker: Dorothy Parker is a flat-out riot. Since I'm a nerd for the Roaring '20s, reading fictionalized tales and sketches from the era's biggest insider was a hoot, and she's got some good ones as she plants her tongue to cheek to poke at silly socialites and bickering couples. Some of the stories are slightly outdated, but there are some gorgeous little masterpieces like, "Big Blonde", "The Waltz", and "Clothe The Naked", the latter where Parker writes unflinchingly about poverty in the Black community. Parker just gets it, and then some.

A Raisin In The Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry: I thought I knew A Raisin In The Sun --- I'd seen the 1963 movie a bunch of times --- but I didn't know it till I let the prose drape over me, and sit me down at the kitchen table of the conflicted Younger family. I laughed, I shed a few tears, and I saw reflections of myself, my family, and I can't recommend it enough. Hansberry, in so few pages, tells big sad and hilarious truths about what it's like to be Black in America, and how often times the dreams of our elders become our means to survival.

Favorite Articles Of The Year 
Pieces that made me go, "Damn I wish I wrote that!"

Black Girls Don't Read Sylvia Plath, by Vanessa Willoughby: A reflection on depression and the importance of heroes outside of our racial barriers.

Your Princess Is In Another Castle, by Arthur Chu: At least one male gets it about male entitlement.

Carrying Jada, by Stacia L. Brown: Brown is one of my favorite essayists, especially for her care and keeping of Black youth --- this was her best piece for the year

The Original Gone Girl: On Daphne Du Maurier and Rebecca, by Carrie Frye: A wonderful overview of the elusive author that goes beyond the line: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..." 

Forever Young: Why Did Charity Johnson Pretend To Be A Teenager For Nearly 20 Years?, by Katie J.M. Baker: Remember that really bizarre story about a 30-something woman who pretended to be a high school teenager that felt like it was ripped from a Law & Order: SVU episode? There was more to it than you thought...

Daniel Day-Lewis' 4 Tips For Writers Who Aspire For Greatness, by Paul Jun: I read a lot of writing tips, almost daily (that's because I'm too poor for grad school). Some are vague, some are rambles that don't tell me much of anything --- this one is neither.

Teaching The Camera To See My Skin, by Syreeta McFadden: You'll never look at photography the same way again after reading this.

I Don't Know What To Do With Good White People, by Brit Bennett: If you're confused and unsure about privilege, then this is one of the quiet little truth bombs released in a wealth of essays about why #BlackLivesMatter

Buttloads Of Pain, by Wilbert L. Cooper: Never realized how riveting the (illegal) butt implant industry is...

The Choices Of Kathleen Hale, by SB Sarah: Hale did something batshit crazy. She got irate over a bad review of her book --- and then stalked the reviewer. No, ma'am. Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books breaks down a lesson on how to take criticism as a creative.

We Have Always Fought, by Kameron Hurley: An excellent piece from 2013 about how women are erased whenever we write about the history of wars and revolutions.

The Pain Of The Watermelon Joke, by Jaqueline Woodson: Woodson won a National Book Award for her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, but she didn't get to celebrate the achievement for long as she was bluntly reminded of where she stands among her literati colleagues.

When You're Unemployed, by Jessica Goldstein: I don't have to write a manifesto on unemployment as Goldstein already has and waxes every single heart-wrenching truth. I raise my rejection letters to it.

*For my complete 2014 reading list click here (and you can follow me on Goodreads if you so wish to!)

Now it's your turn...what did everybody enjoy reading in 2014?

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