- Bluebird, Bluebird, Attica Locke
- The Coldest Winter Ever, Sister Souljah
- Future Home of the Living God, Louise Erdrich (local)
- The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd
- In a Midnight Wood, Ellen Hart (local)
- Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past, Diane Wilson (local)
- Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse
- Miracle Creek, Angie Kim
- Keeping Time, Stacey McGlynn
- Something Shining, Daniel Halpern
- Becoming Animal, David Abram
- Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse
- Belongings, Sandra M. Gilbert
- The Talking Revolution, Peter Osborn and Eddy Canfor-Dumas
- Flying Inland, Kathleen Spivack
- A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver
- Writing Wild, Kathryn Aalto
- Southern Folk Medicine, Phyllis Light
- A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines
The books I bought in April stand out in a few ways: They are all by women. That is not so very uncommon for me, as I do read a lot more women than men, but a clean sweep is a bit notable. Also, there’s a lot of genre fiction in there—overrepresentative of my usual reading, but not at all far afield as I struggle through the (hopefully) waning days of the pandemic. Mysteries and thrillers have been especially appealing, as well as the occasional dystopia.
Most notably, it’s really short on nonfiction. I think that’s where bookstores come into play. Prepandemic, I bought nearly all my books at independent bookstores (we are blessed here in the Twin Cities), where I could peruse a variety of excellently curated selections. Sure, I check out the fiction tables, but I spend the most time checking out nonfiction. (The one exception here might be Moon Palace Books, which has an amazingly diverse selection of displayed fiction, both in terms of race and genre. And gender. Sexual orientation too. And probably anything I forgot.)
As for the books I read, the standout of the bunch was Southern Folk Medicine. I was expecting a typical herbal book (I read a lot of them) which describes ways to make herbal medicines, and then profiles herbs specific to the region. I thought maybe I would learn some quirky practices (I am not averse to trying quirky, because sometimes—perhaps often—quirky works). But this book blew my expectations out of the water. It’s more like Traditional Chinese Medicine than most of the herbal books I’ve read, with a strong Indigenous influence as well. I keep thinking about it and haven’t started another herb book yet.
A Lesson Before Dying was also excellent. If you missed this when Oprah picked it all those years ago, I can tell you, it has not lost its punch. What an emotionally mixed book.
If you can’t handle serious these days (I know that feeling), consider Keeping Time. This is a great story about an older woman resisting being put in senior living, and flying to New York to return a watch that she received from her lover in World War II. I feel there are not enough enjoyable books about old people.
The Talking Revolution is also a book worth reading. It’s all about improving conversation, and it goes through a number of good steps that I found helpful. Perhaps the most valuable part of all is the piece up front about underlying values. I kind of pooh poohed this at the beginning, but I surprised myself in realizing it was my biggest takeaway from the book. Values affect perception.
This was my third reading of A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver. In poetry, I star the poems I like best in the table of contents. The second time I read the book, I star at the other end. The third time, I am just amazed at how I love this book in such different ways over the years.
Happy reading to you!
*This format is based on Nicky Hornby’s books, most especially The Polysyllabic Spree.