Nonfiction November was just the online bookish meme I needed! In fact, it revived my nonfiction reading slump that occurred this year.
I set out to read four books but ended up reading two from the list and waiting on another that didn’t feel right, right now. In addition to the books I set out to read, I reserved a bunch more through the library and perused others that weren’t even on my radar. Overall, it was a success and I’m so glad to have the nonfiction fever once again. Since the reviews will be short, I’ve included quotes that resonated. And with these first two books, the quotes were plentiful.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates was one of the hardest books I’ve read this year. In just over 150 pages, the book hit me hard. I read somewhere that it wasn’t written for white people, necessarily. And maybe that’s why it was challenging for me to read about one man’s concerns for his son as a black adolescent male. Something I have never and will never experience. Coates brings up history and injustices toward African American people he’s personally witnessed and felt throughout the years. He grapples with the questions on many minds today but instead of justifying or trying to understand “why”, he expresses his concerns for his son’s future.
“I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.”
Coates talks a lot about “the body” and it took me several rereads to understand his meaning. And when I finally got it, it was tragic and eye-opening.
“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”
I feel Between the World and Me should be required reading, even for high school students.
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown has been on my radar for some time. I have gone on and on in several posts how her TED talk got it’s claws in me and didn’t let go. I finally borrowed the audiobook from the library and then ended up buying a paper copy and highlighted and flagged feverishly. After twelve years of research, Brown put together this collection of thoughts and ideas surrounding vulnerability, courage, connection and engagement. It not only helped me understand myself a little bit more but also to understand and connect with the people around me. Even be a better, more engaged parent. In a time where more conversations are conducted via social media and texting, I can’t stress how important this book is.
You don’t have to be a parent for this quote to mean something. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spent with friends and adults while they checked their phone the entire time. The importance of paying attention (to children, to family, to friends, to strangers):
“The real questions for parents should be: “Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?” If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time. The mandate is not to be perfect and raise happy children. Perfection doesn’t exist, and I’ve found what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.”
That little voice in my head that tells me not to show up? Well, this quote proved that little voice wrong:
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
And my favorite:
“Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.”
Lastly, I’m lightening up things a bit with Do Unto Animals by Tracey Stewart. This was not a planned read but I came across it accidentally at the library. The title caught my attention and the illustrations, my eyes. Stewart’s passion for animal advocacy is catchy in this practical guide covering animals at home, in the backyard and on the farm. It’s the perfect gift for the animal lover in your life and I was reading aloud passages to my family as we identified our dog and cat’s “mannerisms”. The entire book is lovely but my favorite was the section on black cats and how they are the most overlooked pet as well as the first to be euthanized. (The same is true for black dogs). The reason I am mentioning this is that I too have fostered many animals and after rescuing a scrawny kitten thrown away in a dumpster, he ended up becoming one of the sweetest pets I’ve ever had. He is a black cat and can charm the pants (coat) off of my 70 pound dog as well. So, yes, I have a soft spot for black cats and for rescued animals. There are tons of great tips, crafts, recipes as well as touching and humorous animal stories throughout this book. But this passage basically sums up how I’ve always viewed animals since I was young:
“When I was young, I believed in magic. I believed that if I wished hard enough, one day my dog, Muffin, would speak to me. I’d go to bed staring at him…waiting…waiting…waiting. I was obsessed with my dog and read every dog-related book I could get my hands on. Eventually I realized that my dog had been speaking to me all along. I just didn’t yet know “dog-ese”.”