Reading wrap-up #63

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Liked it enough
  • (★★): Didn’t care for it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change: Kolbert, Elizabeth: 9781620409886: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, nature, climate change

GoodReads rating: 4.02 / 5 (3,800 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Summary: Adapted from her series in The New Yorker, Kolbert has updated and expanded on our understanding of climate change as the greatest challenge we face today.

Thoughts: In college, I read her then-new book The Sixth Extinction, attending a lecture she gave at Tempe Center for the Arts and buying a signed copy. This is one of my new favorite book covers, I love all the shades of green! As for the content of the book, I felt it was a lot of good information but a lot of the dots failed to connect or it wasn’t as well organized as I hoped. I think (especially science) need to be hyper-compartmentalized or flow better and this was kind of in the middle. Plus, what was current information and updated information wasn’t always totally clear to me. I picked up this book because I want to read her new one and thought this would be a good warm-up (pun intended). This book was outdated with most of the reporting done in 2004 and some of the points lacking nuance. For example, it’s mentioned how China is on track to be the world’s largest emitter but doesn’t emphasize that the U.S. is still the largest emitter per capita and a lot of its goods and services are outsourced to China as the emit on our behalf. It was awesome to see a shoutout to my hometown of Tucson (Biosphere 2 research on ocean acidification) and my current town of Seattle (mayor Greg Nickels took it upon himself to enact Kyoto Protocol goals in his own city when the country refused to do so and inspired hundreds of other cities to do the same).

White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad

White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color: 9781948226745: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, feminism, history, race

GoodReads rating: 4.58 / 5 (2,700 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Summary: “Taking us from the slave era, when white women fought in court to keep their slaves, through the centuries of colonialism, when they offered a soft face for brutal tactics, to the modern workplace, White Tears/Brown Scars tells a charged story of white women’s active participation in campaigns of oppression. It offers a long overdue validation of the experiences of women of color.”

Warning: This book contains discussions of sexism, racism, sexual abuse and slavery.

Thoughts: Hamad expands on her article “How white women use strategic tears to silence women of color” for this novel, which is a very good preamble if this topic interests you. This touched on misogynoir from the point of view of an Australian woman where most of the books I’ve read are from American writers, which was interesting. The book touches on misogynoir in media mentioning Rue from The Hunger Games, and I recently watched a very good video essay on the topic I can’t recommend enough: “The day Rue “became” black.” I learned quite a bit from this book, like the word “squaw” is a sexist, racist slur and there are still thousands of streets, lakes, rivers and mountains bearing that name in the U.S., including my own back in Arizona. Another big takeaway that when white women often pick and choose when they can side with their whiteness (50%+ of white women voted for Trump in the 2016 election) or when to side with their gender, often joining in on discourse disparaging white, cishet men. White women need to be more aware that they’re not totally “woke” because they see their feminism as inclusive, they need to live it and listen to women of color.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

Trick Mirror eBook by Jia Tolentino | Rakuten KoboRating: ★★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, essays, feminism, memoir

GoodReads rating: 4.14 / 5 (46,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Summary: “This is a book about the incentives that shape us, and about how hard it is to see ourselves clearly in a culture that revolves around the self. In each essay, Jia writes about the cultural prisms that have shaped her: the rise of the nightmare social internet; the American scammer as millennial hero; the literary heroine’s journey from brave to blank to bitter; the mandate that everything, including our bodies, should always be getting more efficient and beautiful until we die.”

Warning: This book contains mention of suicide, self harm, misogyny and sexual assault

Thoughts: First, don’t bee put off by the subtitle, I found it not as serious as the content of the book. The essays were very thoughtful, but not heavy. I found she sometimes strayed a bit off-topic by providing too much background information, she felt a bit holier-than-thou feminism (you don’t see other feminists books where the author defends themselves by saying things like “but I don’t think this way”) and sometimes got lost in a discourse ouroboros, but there was still a lot of good information. In fact, I found a lot of the essays had little tid bits from some of my favorite pieces of non-fiction.

Let’s break it down by essay (if I didn’t mention an essay I didn’t have anything to say):

The I in the Internet: A very strong start and one of my favorite essays with information from So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed and some killer quotes:

“In from of the timeline, as many critics have noticed, we exhibit classic reward-seeking lab-rat behavior, the sort that’s observed when lab rats are put in front of an unpredictable food dispenser. Rats will eventually stop pressing the lever if their device dispenses food regularly or not at all. But if the lever’s rewards are rare in irregular, the rats will never stop pressing it. In other words, it is essential that social media is mostly unsatisfying.”

“The internet was dramatically increasing our ability to know about things, while our ability to change things stayed the same, or possibly shrank right in front of us.”

Always Be Optimizing: There was a great point on how beauty standards have been re-branded as “self-care” in some instances. If someone has acne, is fat or experiencing depression, they’re just not “taking care of themselves” hard enough. I was a bit confused when the author would shit on Barre and LuLuLemon (seemingly only because of the price, the quality and longevity of the products are well worth it)… and then participate in them herself? I know it’s very possible to criticize something you participate in unwillingly (white supremacy, capitalism), but if she really had that much of a problem with it, she surely could avoid it.

Ecstasy: I really related to this one the most. I grew up religious in a huge church and reading this I realized that LSD/psilocybin have also helped me figure out my place in the world without a god. How To Change Your Mind is one of my all-time favorite books and is jam-packed with good information about the practical uses of hallucinogens. I’ve often heard that ecstasy simply feels really good and isn’t known to leading towards self-actualization like LSD/psilocybin and the comedown can me really horrible.

The Story of a Generation in Seven Scams: I wish some of these stories expanding more on the why instead of just reiterating what happened, namely for Fyre Fest. A lot of us already know the story, but how did it define us? There was a lot to be said about influencer culture that was left out.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns: Hosseini, Khaled: 9780739489505: BooksRating: ★★★★

Genre: Historical fiction

GoodReads rating: 4.39 / 5 (1,243,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book and audiobook (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

PopSugar prompt: A book written by a Muslim American author

Summary: A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years – from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding – that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives – the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness – are inextricable from the history playing out around them.”

Warning: This book contains mention of terrorism, death, rape, suicide and miscarriage

Thoughts: I know this is a pretty obvious choice of author for this prompt, but I don’t know much about Islam or the Middle East history, so I wanted something for a wide audience. I do wish there was more build-up between Laila and Mariam; they told the first half of Mariam’s story, then left it completely alone until 100+ pages later when she met Laila. If they maybe put pockets of interactions or one’s thoughts on the other here and there it would make a better foundation for their future relationship. Regardless, this was a fantastic, wonderful, heartbreaking story and a good glimpse into the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. The author puts some information in the afterword: today still, millions of Afghan refugees are living abroad. “UNHCR’s mandate is to protect the basic human rights of refugees, provide emergency relief, and to help refugees restart their lives in a safe environment” all around the world. Check out their website to learn more.

Other adaptations: A screenplay has been written but seeing as nothing has happened in over a decade, it doesn’t look likely. 

Have you read any of these? 

Photo by Radu Marcusu.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: