Reading inbox-outbox: Week of 11 May

It’s the birthday week edition of my reading inbox/outbox, in which I offer what is likely to be a somewhat unpopular opinion about the one book I finished this week, and where I admit to not being in love with a book I had pre-ordered and really hoped to love…

Inbox (books acquired)

  • Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves by James Nestor (Kindle) — I have been fascinated by free-diving since I first saw the movie The Big Blue in my high school French class. Since then, Luc Besson has become one of my favorite writer/directors (I’ve watched almost all his movies, and Léon (The Professional) is one of my all-time favorites). So, when I saw this book mentioned somewhere (excerpt in an article online, maybe?), I immediately put it on my someday/maybe list. I was planning on getting it from the library, but the ebook price dropped to $1.99 this week, so I bought it.

Outbox (books finished)

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Kindle, library) — So… I liked this, but I didn’t like it as much as Half of a Yellow Sun. I loved the writing about modern-day race issues, and I think this would make a great jumping-off point for understanding / discussing race issues. But most (not all) of the main character’s reflections and observations were things I had heard before or knew already (only because I regularly go out of my way to make myself uncomfortable and try to understand this stuff). The primary new thing for me was specifically the main character’s experience being a non-American black person in America, and how that is a different experience from being an African American (sort of “duh” when you think about it, but how often do you think about it if you’re not black, huh?). The “blog posts” were great, but they sounded so much like the movie Dear White People (which I really enjoyed, btw), that it felt like they were lifted from the movie… I know this can’t be true because that movie just came out and this book is two years old, but because I’d seen that movie first, that’s how it read to me. I do think that this would have worked better for me as a series of non-fiction essays (like Bad Feminist), rather than what (to me) reads as a lightly fictionalized story about race and immigration sandwiched between a love story that almost exclusively takes place during the first few and last few chapters. I think if I’d read this when it came out two years ago, I would have loved it and given it five stars, no question. But current me (who has been fascinated and absorbed by inclusion essays and unconscious bias training for the past two years) was way more moved by Half of a Yellow Sun because that one showed me (without telling me) that as worldly as I think I am, there is still SO MUCH MORE that I don’t know. And the fact that I can be successful in the world without ever knowing anything about African history (or even being able to tell the countries apart on a map), somehow hits me harder (and moves me more) than all the hard truths in Americanah.

Queue (what I’m reading next)

  • I started A Court of Thorns and Roses … I knew when I pre-ordered that this was a sort-of re-telling of Beauty and the Beast featuring Fae mythology and a “high-Fae” in the “beast” role. Beauty and the Beast is not my favorite of the Disney Princess stories, and I’ve never been drawn to the whole “Fae” thing, but I liked what this author was doing in her Throne of Glass series, so I was still pretty excited about reading this book. Unfortunately, I’m less than thrilled with the beginning so far… but I’m withholding my opinion until I finish it.
  • After I finish ACoTaR, Station Eleven is next. Finally. I’ve been dragging my feet (due to the hype), and also holding off until a point where I can read and savor it (again, because of the hype). I have high expectations at this point, and that worries me…

I’m sticking to my May reading plan, even though there are several books on my TBR list that are calling to me — ones that I may actually enjoy more than what I’d planned to read in May. This may be ill-advised. We’ll see how next week goes, and if I end up having an unpopular opinion about Station Eleven as well… it may be time to throw out the rest of the May reading list and start over.


(Reminder: the format for my weekly inbox/outbox posts was adopted from Book Riot’s weekly column of the same name… for more like this, go check out those…)