185 When Breath Becomes Air

whenbreathby Paul Kalanithi, 2016

There has been an enormous amount of press surrounding neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi’s memoir of his terminal cancer diagnosis at the age of thirty-six. Making the press even more poignant is the knowledge that the book was published after Kalanithi’s death. This wasn’t a memoir from someone writing years later, who looked death in the face and vowed to beat it. This was from a person who looked death in the face and did the only thing they could: accepted it. It’s not by any means an easy topic to grapple with, but Kalanithi’s clear, direct writing renders this difficult journey one that should not be missed.

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184 The Sympathizer

sympathizer

by Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2015

Man, I really wanted to enjoy this book. There is a certain disappointment in picking up a much lauded book only to find yourself struggling through it every step of the way. In this case, I wasn’t necessarily disappointed in the book – I was disappointed in myself. I’m certain The Sympathizer contains a fair amount of genius within its pages, but, either because I did not have sufficient background knowledge of the Vietnam War, thus exposing my own ignorance, or because I could not follow the stream-of-consciousness narrative, calling into question my English Master’s degree, I clawed my way through every page. You guys…this book made me feel dumb.

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183 Patternmaster

patternmasterby Octavia E. Butler, 1976

Patternmaster is first on my Year of Octavia challenge! It is important to note that while these books are now published in chronological order according to the story’s timeline, I will be reading them according to publication date, which I believe is the way a series should always be read. It is also worth noting that there were originally five books in this series, but one – Survivor – appears to be indefinitely out of print. So, I will forge ahead with what I have available to me, and this brings me to start with the concluding book in this series’ chronology.

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182 The Power

thepower

by Naomi Alderman, 2016

If women were the dominant force in society, the world would be a much more peaceful, compassionate place, right? Well, according to Naomi Alderman…not so much. The Power imagines exactly what would happen in this scenario by granting women the gift of physical superiority. While men, in general, are still bigger and more physically imposing than women, girls and young women have discovered an electric spark that emanates from their hands and allows them to control, subdue, and even kill others. It is no longer women who have to travel in packs, fearing what might reach out for them in the night, but men who tremble at the thought of being randomly assaulted. Some might say dudes had it coming, but I’m not entirely convinced of the righteousness of this world.

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181 Salvage the Bones

salvagethebonesby Jesmyn Ward, 2011

I’ve heard much praise bandied about for this National Book Award-winning novel, so I was excited to finally get my hands on it. Alas, sometimes award winners leave you nodding in complete agreement with the book’s judged greatness, and sometimes award winners leave you wondering if, perhaps, you just don’t understand what makes a book great. Sadly, it was the latter for me with Salvage the Bones, and while I can see glimpses of greatness in it, overall this book just wasn’t my style.

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