What I Read: June & July 2018

A few years ago, I would have looked at today’s date – August 10 – and decided I was so far behind on my 2018 goal of reading & documenting books that I would just give up and try again next January. But the years have granted me wisdom (ha), and I decided today was a perfectly acceptable day to write about what I read in June and July. Life’s too short to worry about being perfectly consistent. So, here’s what I’ve read this summer:

Am I there Yet? by Mari Andrew

Mari Andrew came through San Francisco on her book tour (and gave this precious and inspiring Q&A session), and after being her Instagram fan for a few years, I had the utter delight of meeting her and buying her book from her. Best known for her daily doodles on Instagram, Mari published many of her drawings along with short chapters with reflections on her 20s–dating, independence, transitions, traveling, heartache, and grief. It’s wild how many times I find myself reading her writing and strongly, specifically identifying with her, even though I know she and I have led entirely different lives. She has a gift for relating and deepening her experiences through art, and this book will make you want to reflect on every leaf you see and find meaning in the life you live right now.

How to Be a Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee

Yes. Yes, they did. The brains behind the popular Christian satire site The Babylon Bee wrote a book. The publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah, sent me a copy to review, and I read it primarily out of morbid curiosity. It turns out that I, a product of the 90s-early 2000s Christian culture of youth group and Christian media, am the exact audience for this book. Anyone who falls into this category will get every joke. And while I did have a few literal LOLs, I had to read this book over the course of about a month because the jokes are all in the same vein and got a little tedious after a few chapters. My recommendation: take in small doses. Not every joke will hit you just right, but laugh at the parts you relate to. Let the cynicism roll off your back. It’s good to laugh at yourself and at the ways that we’ve co-opted biblical faith.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

This book was a loaner from my dear roommate as a lighter read on my family cruise (she physically forced me to not pack Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass as cruise reading) and it was both lighthearted and deeply poignant and smart. It follows a gentleman in the twilight of his life and his dealings of love, social life, and family. I don’t read much fiction with British characters, but this was so charming and delightful. I’m not sure the last time I rooted so hard for a protagonist as I did for Major Pettigrew.

Educated by Tara Westover

Finishing this book literally took my breath away. A sob caught in my chest and I literally stopped breathing when I read the last line. It took me a few breaths to recover. The last book to which I had such a visceral reaction was The Glass Castle, set in the poor Appalachian region, which I could somewhat picture from having lived in central Virginia. But that’s a setting I happened upon and observed as an outsider. In Educated, Tara describes a place in the Mountain West that I have a strange yet inseparable relationship with, the religion of Mormonism and its offshoots that I have engaged both academically and evangelistically. The way Tara engages with her story, and her historiography, is brilliant. This is easily the best memoir I have read, and I’m grateful that Tara wrote her spellbinding story with such elegance and detail.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This young adult novel, which is being made into a movie in October, gripped me and brought me into a world I’ve only known through secondhand stories and the news. Bahni Turpin narrated the audiobook masterfully, and after visiting the world of Garden Heights, I cannot think about systemic race issues and police violence in the same way.

As school starts back in session and I teach three different courses, I’ll be spending much more time reading the works of a standard high school classroom, but I hope to find the joy of reading in personal reads too!

As always, thanks for reading about my reading. Happy trails!

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