129 If I Was Your Girl

ifiwasyourgirlby Meredith Russo, 2016

I kind of hate fairy tales. Not the Brothers Grimm sort, which are actually quite gruesome and only vaguely resemble the stories we were told as kids, and not even really the Disney sort, because I can’t lie that, as much as it rankles my inner feminist, I still enjoyed Beauty and the Beast. No, I mean those stories where someone with a “problem” – they have a string of failed relationships, they are clumsy, they (gasp!) have curly hair and glasses – overcomes said “problem” to live happily ever after. I realize there is some comfort in knowing that we are all lovable despite our differences, but this sort of trite plot and predictable ending are far from new and far from interesting.

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123 Beasts of No Nation

beastsby Uzodinma Iweala, 2005

Some books exist to give insight into another part of the world. Some books exist to give insight into another culture. Some books exist to give insight into another way of life. Beasts of No Nation exists for all three, but mostly it exists to tell the horrifying story of a young boy caught up in the middle of a war.

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120 Everything I Never Told You

everythingby Celeste Ng, 2014

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when a book or a movie screams out, “This is important! Important subjects discussed here!” I thought this in particular about the movie Crash which, for all its good intent, wanted to ensure the audience knew that this was a movie about Race and subsequently beat us over the head with it. It’s much rarer when a story can tackle these big ticket items with grace and subtlety, simultaneously acknowledging their presence while not tiring the audience with its cries. Yet, this is exactly what Everything I Never Told You does, in beautiful prose, in a story just sad enough to feel true.

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119 Dark Matter

darkmatterby Blake Crouch, 2016

Sliding Doors, meet quantum mechanics! 

If there’s one trope I find tiresome, it’s science-fiction that serves as a masquerade for the heteronormative love story. I’m looking at you Interstellar and Arrival and, now, Dark Matter. Now, I’m not entirely dead inside. I like a good love story on occasion – Jane Eyre is one of my most favorite books – but when I come to sci-fi, I expect it to be more than just a ruse for a man and a woman to find their happily ever after. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like reading this book or that I didn’t find the story creative or engrossing, because I did, but if I had wanted to watch Sliding Doors, I would have watched Sliding Doors. I don’t drink my whiskey with water and I don’t need my sci-fi made palatable with romance, thank you very much.

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117 Nasty Women

nastywomenby Laura Jones & Heather McDaid, eds., 2017

Leave it to Book Riot to not only force me to read outside of my typical bounds, but also to lead me right to the perfect books at the perfect times. When I read their article extolling British indie publisher 404 Ink‘s Nasty Women: A Collection of Essays & Accounts on What It Is Like to Be a Woman in the 21st Century, I jumped at the chance to use it to fulfill the “read a book published by a micropress” challenge task. While the book went immediately out of print on the day of its release – International Women’s Day – I was pleased to receive notice the very next day that the ebook was available for immediate download. Download I did and not only am I glad to have crossed off this difficult task, I’m happy to have done it while also providing support to the authors speaking on these very necessary subjects.

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112 The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and its Exiles

The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and Its Exilesby Sholeh Wolpé, ed., 2012

“Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love,” has got to be one of the hardest Read Harder tasks I’ve come across. Not only is the task itself out of my normal reading parameters, but I also decided that poetry collections in Spanish, of which I found many suggestions, wouldn’t count (because I can read Spanish), nor would my initial idea to read The Aeneid (because it is an epic poem, which is not the same as a collection). I tossed around the idea of reading some Rilke or some Baudelaire, but neither of them appealed to me – I wanted something a bit more modern and bit less, um, dead white male. Lo and behold, while exploring some of Melissa’s suggestions, I stumbled upon The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and its Exiles. Featuring a mix of poets writing about the Iran, Islam, politics, and revolution, it fulfilled everything I could have asked for while also addressing a topic of which I am still woefully ignorant. Bonus: it was available at my library.

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108 What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

oyeyemiby Helen Oyeyemi, 2016

I’ll say from the start that I’m probably the wrong audience for this collection of short stories. I’m not a huge fan of fantastical and weird stories where you can barely discern who is narrating and how the transcribed events are connected. You could say that What Is Not Your Is Yours falls under the guise of magical realism, which I do like, and you would not be entirely wrong, as the stories have something to do with unexplainable or supernatural-type events, but overall Oyeyemi’s narration left me cold and wondering what she was writing about and if there was a point to it at all. That makes this book sound worse than I mean to, as I’m sure there are many who find the twists and turns of her writing enjoyable. I’m just not one of them.

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