My “fun” reading has slowed WAY down lately. I’m deep into writing and researching (SO MUCH RESEARCHING) my current novel (still called Teenage Mutant Nightmare Friendships, because why not?), am churning out tons of posts for books I read for Teen Librarian Toolbox, and reading my eyes out every free second I get at work at the library. By nighttime, all I want to do is watch Buffy and pet dogs. Here are the few titles I’ve managed to read in the past few weeks.
This had been in my TBR pile for a while. I had intended to start reading it in early December, but once I found myself playing the waiting game to see if the lump my mammogram had found was benign (it was), Matthew gently suggested I maybe move it to the bottom of my pile and wait to read this memoir about a woman dying young from breast cancer.
This book, written by the great-great-great-granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was stunning. It’s sad, of course—she’s chronicling being in the 30s and watching her breast cancer go from “one small spot” to tumors everywhere—but it’s also just a beautiful exploration of how we live especially as we face death. The book is honest and sweet and funny and devastating. Riggs, trained as a poet, makes even the quotidian seem breathtakingly significant. Full of life, love, strength, and dark humor, this story, and Riggs, is luminous.
A memoir that’s also a graphic novel? Yes, please! I love all of Knisley’s graphic memoirs and had somehow missed reading this one when it came out in 2016. It’s hefty, at over 300 pages, and each page is packed with many panels full of tiny text. This story chronicles her path toward walking down the aisle, and, thanks to lots of relationship details and facts about the history of wedding traditions, manages to hold up the whole (long) way through. She casts a judgmental eye on the Wedding Industrial Complex, and, as a feminist, on the very idea of weddings and marriage at all, while still getting really excited to create their own (very DIY, whimsical, lovely) wedding. I adore everything Knisley produces. Check her out if you haven’t.
This love letter to Manhattan started as a guidebook (well, she says she wouldn’t use that word, but it’s the easiest one to convey what this book is like) that Chast made for her college-bound daughter. I will happily read anything Chast produces. This is a quick read, full of large, busy illustrations covering many aspects of New York that may take some getting used to for someone raised in the suburbs (as her daughter was). Full of photos and maps and small stories, this would be an excellent gift for anyone who is headed to college in New York.
Like all people who like smart and funny things, I’ve long been a fan of Mallory Ortberg and The Toast. I’ve read snippets of these texts in various places, so when I saw this book at a recent library book sale for 50 cents, I grabbed it. It’s exactly what it says in the title—this book is hilarious made-up conversations with literary characters. The Rene Descartes conversation is my very favorite mainly because it sounds an awful lot like a conversation between my anxiety brain and my rational brain at 3 a.m (a bit of the conversation: RD: “Are you up? I can’t sleep. What if there’s an evil demon as clever and deceitful as he is powerful who has directed his entire effort to misleading me?” Other person: “I don’t know. I guess that would be awful. Go back to sleep.”). Big literature nerd? Like funny things? This quick read is for you.
Just read it. Especially if you are white. Especially if you have not given much thought to or done any real reading about institutionalized racism, about mass incarceration, about the criminalization of black people, about systemic racism, the drug war, police brutality, or about communities under siege. Khan-Cullors, an activist from a young age, recounts experiences from her life growing up black, queer, and poor. She talks about her brother’s struggle with mental illness and his arrests/imprisonments as well as those of her father and other men in her life. All of this feeds into her joining with some friends/other activists to create the Black Lives Matter movement. Necessary reading.