Books Read in November 2017

It was a big YA month this month. As YA is my favorite, it was a good month.

Picture Books: Questions Asked
Young Adult: Moxie (though this was quite a strong month)
Young Nonfiction: Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
Adult Fiction: Station Eleven
Questions Asked
Read for Librarian Book Group
On the one hand, a book made up of questions asked. On the other hand, alert readers will notice the other half of the story played out through the illustrations.

I enjoy seeing the differences in publication for children across different cultures.  This is a prime example of a quality story that  would NOT be first published in the US.

Piecing Me Together
Renee Watson
Read for Family Book Group
Some great discussion came from reading this book.  The kids especially enjoyed the Portland connections.

Turtles All the Way Down
John Green
This is a book about a girl with OCD.  In my opinion, that is the point of this story existing.  I have a feeling “book about a girl with OCD” was deemed not big enough to sell, so there’s talk of a plot of missing billionaire and a tuatara. And there’s a romance. And all of those things are in this book, but mostly, it’s a story about a girl with OCD.

As a book about a girl with OCD, this book delivers. It’s very clear how this mental illness affects every aspect of Aza’s life, and that along makes for a gripping story.  The missing billionare is a side dish, as is the tuatara.  Come for Aza’s story and you will be satisfied.

Turtles All the Way Down
John Green
Having no other books to read (there was a lull in my holds, and I forgot to pick out some other books to read) I re-read this right after finishing it.  This time my reading was more leisurely, and I really enjoyed the descriptive writing.

There’s a thing about John Green books that I can’t mention here, because it’s a spoiler.  But I really appreciate that aspect of his storytelling.

Long Way Down
Jason Reynolds
Read for Mock Printz
A fatal shooting, an elevator ride, a story told in poems.

Landscape with Invisible Hand
M.T. Anderson
Read for Mock Printz
What happens when the aliens arrive and colonize the earth?   For most humans, it’s not so great. There aren’t jobs anymore, because the technology the aliens bring can run everything. Despite this, the view persists that if you just have the right can-do attitude you can be successful.  Adam’s mother is forever optimistic that the next job application is going to work out, despite evidence to the contrary.

Adam is an artist, and when a family moves into their basement, he and the girl start to liking each other, eventually licensing their romance for alien viewers.

A slim volume, this is slightly heavy handed in its worry about technology-taking jobs and what will become of the people.  However, I did appreciate the overall message, one that I don’t often see in YA literature.

Jennifer Mathieu
Read for Librarian Book Group
This would make a great movie, if movies about teenage girls were of interest to the people who make the movies.

Vivian spends a lot of time at her small Texas high school ignoring the antics of the jocks, who are given to doing things like saying “make me a sandwich” during class discussion whenever a girl is trying to make a point.  Though Vivian is the kind of girl to ignore rather than to confront, one day something snaps. Inspired by her mother’s Riot Grrrl past, she makes a ‘zine name Moxie and anonymously leaves it in the girls bathrooms.

The publication of Moxie doesn’t light the school on fire, not at first, but it lays the groundwork for several transformations.

This book manages to juggle so many changing relationships: family, romance, old friends, new friends, sexist school administrations.  Mathieu steers the narrative with a deft hand that practically begs to be translated to the big screen.

(Random note: Book 1 of 2 this month where the romantic lead is named Seth.)

You Bring the Distant Near
Mitali Perkins
I’m a fan of generational sagas, so I was into this multi-generational story of Indian immigrants to the US.

What Girls Are Made Of
Elana K. Arnold
Read for Mock Printz/Librarian Book Group
I hurried through this because the book did a great job of creating a teenage girl who desires only to be the girlfriend of Seth.  I suspect there are still a lot of girls out there who fit this description, alas.  The book is graphic in all it’s descriptions, painting a bleak portrait of the particular adolescent’s life.  It reminded me of the movie Palo Alto in that regard.

(Random note: book 2 of 2 this month where the romantic lead was named Seth)

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Erika Sanchez
Read for Mock Printz/Librarian Book Group
This book has a great cover and a very good title.  People were curious when I was reading it at work.  I thought it captured the disconnect when a parent and a teenager have different values, and the ensuing frustration.

It was, however, a book that meandered.  When it’s been a week, and I’m still reading the same book, then there’s a problem with the narrative.  Two-thirds of the way through, the writing style changed to reporting on Julia’s feelings, which increased my distance.  This book was rich in detail, but ultimately frustrating from a story-telling perspective.

Random note: the book design had no author bio, not on the cover or in the last pages of the book itself.  I like to have an author bio.  It’s the second thing I read, after the first paragraph of the story. Further note: no author bio on Goodreads, either.  Even further note:  I see that Sanchez’s earlier book is a poetry collection.  That makes the narrative ramble of this book even more disappointing.

Schomburg: The Man who Built a Library
Read for Librarian Book Group
Mind blown.  Whitewashing of famous dead people?  It happens.  I recommend this book just for that aspect. You can also stick around for the story of a guy who made sure to preserve writing that might otherwise have been lost.

Sadly, the font used in this book is almost unreadable.

A Boy, A Mouse, A Spider
Read for Librarian Book Group
A good distillation of E.B. White’s life.

Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands
S. Goldman Rubin
Read for Librarian Book Group
Though I knew Maya Lin was an undergraduate at Yale when she designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I’d never seen a picture of her, and, my goodness, she looks young in those photos.

I appreciated this book for the overview of Lin’s life.  I live near one of the Confluence sites, so was familiar with that project, and the Wall, but this book filled me in on her other works and early life.  I would love to see the Wave Field, either in Michigan or New York someday.

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mendel
When most of the world’s population is decimated by a virulent flu, the survivors carry on. The book begins at the flu’s outset, at a production of King Lear in Toronto where the famous actor playing Lear dies on stage during the performance.  It then traces the experience of characters introduced during that scene.

The book jumps back and forth in time, filling in gaps about the dead actor and the people he knew.  Most of the book focuses on Year 20, when things have calmed down a little and life is slightly less nasty, brutish and short. We see how life has changed by following the Traveling Symphony–a theater troupe who performs Shakespeare and gives concerts.

People’s connections, known and unknown, tie the story together. While this new life is far from the modern comforts of today, relationships endure.

One thought on “Books Read in November 2017”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.