Back in December, I posted my Winter 2021 Reading List. My goal was to finish by Spring, and here I am writing this mid-June, so because it’s not officially summer yet I’m cutting myself some slack and saying I accomplished my goal. Now that I’ve finally finished all of the books here’s the official update– my thoughts and recommendations on all the books I read this Winter/Spring.
One of my goals for 2021 was to read more books by BIPOC authors. I’m proud of myself for setting this goal for myself and I think I benefited greatly from this decision– I read books that I wouldn’t have typically reached for and loved them and learned lots. I read perspectives that my social location would never have allowed me to see in reality; isn’t that what reading is supposed to be all about? I predict that reading books from authors who are vastly different than me and have had vastly different life experiences is going to become more of a habit of mine than a goal from this point forward.
The first book I tackled was March Forward, Girl by Melba Pattillo Beals which was given to me by my aunt when I graduated with my BSW last year. I approached this book with the mindset that social workers, and all other health/law professionals, have to be well-versed in anti-oppressive practice and that we have to be empathetic and aware of the experiences of others. This book helped me add to my toolkit– my growing understanding of how our society, our rules, our colonization, and our history affects others. While the context is American, the theme is applicable in the Canadian context. I highly recommend this book to anyone, not just future helping professionals.
Next, I dove into Me by Elton John. Autobiographies can be hit or miss. I loved Mick Fleetwood’s autobiography, but there have been others that just didn’t do it for me. Elton John, like Mick Fleetwood, nailed it. I appreciated his openness, honesty, and transparency; I liked how he approached many difficult stories and themes with humor but did not sacrifice class, dignity, and respect. I was blown away by some of his life experiences but also not at all surprised. My inner gossip queen also loved the celebrity name drops and scandalous flashbacks. If you’re an Elton John fan, you need to read this book.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was given to me last Christmas by my grandmother. She told me that she cried while reading it, so I anticipated this would be an emotional read– it was. It was actually quite difficult to read at times and I had to take frequent breaks. I have a thick skin to stories of violence, abuse, and tragedy– my job revolves around it, I can watch television shows and movies about it, and I am a true crime podcast superfan. But there’s something different about reading truly devastating stories. It’s so vivid, descriptive, and visceral. That said, this book was incredible as between the heartbreak there were glimmers of hope and a story of true love and sacrifice.
Because of the intensity of The Kite Runner, I had to go super lighthearted for the next read. So, I added a bonus book that was a much-anticipated new release: All Together Now by Alan Doyle. Alan wrote this book, “A Newfoundlander’s Light Tales for Heavy Times”, to help folks get through the Covid-19 pandemic. As an NLer who hasn’t been able to get home from Alberta during the Covid crisis, this book did me a world of good. Like always, Alan’s stories from his time as a young feller in Petty Harbour, touring with Great Big Sea, and later in life as a father and husband were hilarious, fun, and heartwarming. 10/10 recommend! I’ve also read and loved his book “A Newfoundlander in Canada” and “Where I Belong” is at the top of my list.
Next, I read A Cry in the Night by Mary Higgins Clark. I’ve read so many of her books in the past but it was so long ago I don’t remember which ones… and this was not one of them. Although it could have been, because it has all the classic Mary Higgins Clark thrill, suspense, and infuriating 80s characters. Trigger warning for serious gaslighting and what would be called relationship violence in 2021. This is not a negative review though, it’s a great read for anyone going in with the awareness that a lot of Mary’s work is outdated!
Planting Gardens in Graves by R.H. Sin was a well-timed read after A Cry in the Night. I’m not really in a place in my life where I felt touched or inspired by Sin’s poetry, however, the main character in Higgins Clark’s book would have been. This read is aimed at people at a very specific time in life but it was definitely a good come-down from the wild ride that was the last book I read.
The Killer Trail by D. B. Carew is a thriller, set in Vancouver, about a psychiatric social worker. I had high hopes for this book as the subject matter is right up my alley and the author is a Newfoundlander, but I honestly found it a little forced and predictable. Nonetheless, I’m glad I read it and hope Carew continues to write.
Lastly, but certainly not least, I read The Illegal by Lawrence Hill. This book was a slow starter but picks up and becomes quite intriguing and interesting about a quarter-way through. I really liked how Hill created a made-up country where events take place that aren’t too far off the reality of our world today. The characters were fascinating and well-developed. I recommend this book and look forward to reading more by Lawrence Hill.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about these books if you’ve read them. I’ll come back soon with a Summer/Fall reading list. I’d love recommendations even though my shelf is full of yet-to-be-read books.