As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:
- (★★★★★): Loved it, won’t shut up about it for the foreseeable future
- (★★★★): Really liked it, enjoyable experience
- (★★★): Liked it enough, no strong opinions
- (★★): Didn’t care for it, would actively discourage people reading 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.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Genre: Non-fiction, animals, memoir
GoodReads rating: 3.73 / 5 (9,170 ratings)
Medium used: Paperback (purchased from Madison Books in Seattle, WA)
Summary: “When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald’s humanity and changed her life.”
Thoughts: This book really sounded up my alley so you can imagine my disappointment. It took a while to get through (I didn’t find myself drawn to it) and it felt quite repetitive. It was interesting to learn about the history of falconry, but if I never have to read about T. H. White again, it will be too soon. It got to a point where a paragraph started with “White” and I thought to myself, “Oh brother, here we go again,” but it was actually the adjective, not the proper noun. I wish the book went more into the history about falconry, why it’s done today and the ethics of it all (using a bird to hunt?) rather than a 56th chapter about Helen in her living room.
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal
Genre: Non-fiction, animals, science
GoodReads rating: 3.94 / 5 (13,800 ratings)
Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)
Summary: “Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition―in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos―to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long.”
Warning: This book contains themes of animal testing.
Thoughts: I made a raincheck on this year ago after getting about 20% of the way through. If I remember correctly, it was when I was in grad school and my dissertation was due soon and didn’t have the time or mental energy for this one. I’m glad I came back to it and as an audiobook. This book is basically just packed wall-to-wall with different displays of intelligence and consciousness and the discussions around what those words mean in the first place. I found it most interesting that animals display more intelligent behavior when they’re free to explore rather than tested on. We have been testing the intelligence of animals by human standards (such as how well they can count, remember human faces) rather than what skills they use to survive in the wild. If you test a human based on how well they can use Earth’s magnetic fields to find their birthplace, they’re not as “smart” as salmon.
White Feminism by Koa Beck
Genre: Non-fiction, feminism, social justice
GoodReads rating: 4.24 / 5 (1,500 ratings)
Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library)
Summary: This book “boldly examines the history of feminism, from the true mission of the suffragists to the rise of corporate feminism with clear-eyed scrutiny and meticulous detail. She also examines overlooked communities—including Native American, Muslim, transgender, and more—and their ongoing struggles for social change.”
Warning: This book contains themes of racism and misogyny.
Thoughts: Some feminist books often exclude non-straight, non-cis and non-white women to appeal most to the oppressors. Additionally, a lot of modern feminism is just all about making money (see #girlboss) rather than critiquing the systems that to this day pay women and minorities unfairly. This book also gave me more of hat I wanted from The Pain Gap that talked about medical research bias (most research is done on men and applied to the whole population) and discrimination against elderly women. This was a great, comprehensive read and I highly recommend it to intersectional feminists.
Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto
Genre: Non-fiction, disability, memoir
GoodReads rating: 4.27 / 5 (700 ratings)
Medium used: Hardback (purchased from Bookman’s in Tucson, AZ)
PopSugar prompt: A book where the protagonist uses a mobility aide.
Summary: “At the age of thirty-eight, Stephen Kuusisto—who has managed his whole life without one—gets his first guide dog, a beautiful yellow labrador named Corky… In a lyrical love letter to guide dogs everywhere, a blind poet shares his delightful story of how a guide dog changed his life and helped him discover a newfound appreciation for travel and independence.”
Warning: This book contains mentions of ableism and domestic abuse.
Thoughts: I’ve had this book on my shelf for years now and I’m glad I finally read it. I learned a lot about how blindness is on a spectrum (not all blind people don’t see anything) and how growing up in the 50’s the author was made to conceal his disability in a world that would not accept him. While we are still working on it, ADA has done a lot for progress since then. It was great to hear about the service dog training process and the hand-over and laws/experiences around bringing your dog into the real world. It was both touching and educational. I just wish if it was going to be in the title, the author talked a bit more about his poetry, I don’t think he even mentioned he was a poet until about halfway through the book and it didn’t seem to tie much into his experience as a guide dog user.
Have you read any of these?
Photo by Radu Marcusu.