November Wrap-Up // 2021

November started off slow and disappointing, but picked up speed and motivation as the month went on! I’m hoping the ambivalence I’ve had towards reading the past couple of months is gone now! 🤞🏼

Because of my lack of ambition towards reading, I wasn’t going to actively participate in Nonfiction November. However, just by chance, I had a string of nonfiction reads and they (thankfully) helped turn my reading around. Seriously, I was wondering if I’d even finish three books at one point!

I will say that I gave up on 2021 books and read three books that will be published in 2022. They also helped pull me out of the slump. As people start putting out their “Best of 2021” and “Top 10” lists, I’m going to make notes and try to get to them in December or the early part of next year!

November By the Numbers:

  • Total Books Read: 9
  • Audiobooks: 0
  • Five Star Reads: 1
  • Goodreads Shelf: 121/125 (97%)
  • Unread Shelf: 9/12 (75%)
  • Nonfiction Challenge: 9/12
  • Books by BIPOC Authors: 5 (56%)
  • By Women Authors: 5 (56%)
  • Diverse Books: 5 (56%)
  • Nonfiction Reads:  4 (44%)
  • Debuts: 3 (33%)
  • Published in 2021: 6 (67%)

Favorite Book of the Month:

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

This was an incredible work of nonfiction. I felt much the same way I did after reading Caste, How To Be an Antiracist, and Just Mercy: blown away by my own ignorance, incredibly grateful for deeper insight, and a feeling of standing before a vast opening of further education. It’s a book that should be required of all Americans to read (especially at the high school level), and a book that would make for some insighful discussions at book clubs. Not only does Smith write in beautiful, lyrical sentences, he also relays important information in easily digestible bites. leaving absolutely no room for one to claim ignorance any longer. This is definitely one of my top books of 2021 and will more than likely be my favorite nonfiction book of the year!

Honorable Mentions:

  • No Cure For Being Human: And Other Truths I Need To Hear by Kate Bowler – I listened to a podcast that interviewed Bowler and I immediately went to the interent and bought myself a copy of her book. I knew it would be a favorite and that she would write in a such a way she cut straight to my heart. I wasn’t wrong, and this is a book I will treasure and return to over and over again. I feel like it was synchronicity to read this one during the same month of my mother’s death anniversary; Bowler was able to make me feel peace and comfort during a time that is full of anxiety and heavy grief.Yes, it talks about her cancer diagnosis and journey, but it also gives the reader applicable life lessons we all need to be reminded of.
  • * Every Minute Is a Day: A Doctor, An Emergency Room, and a City Under Siege by Robert Meyer & Dan Koeppel – As a person living in rural America that still has yet to personally see the devastation of Covid, I really appreciated this firsthand account of the invisible killer that ravaged a New York hospital. Dr. Meyers relayed his experience in a heartfelt way and I felt like the air was sucked out of my lungs the entire time I was reading. I felt like I was in the rooms next to him as patients overwhelmed the staff and city…this is a book I couldn’t read fast enough and one I highly recommend!
  • No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib My goodness, this puts the refugee crisis and President Trump’s 2017 ban on immigration in a whole new light. My heart was broken and I literally had to make myself stop reading at times to control my tears. While it’s easy to make immigration about policy, we have to remember that these are real people and tragic circumstances behind these refugees. I cannot imagine what it must be like to feel unsafe in your home country and to feel like there is nowhere else in this entire world that will accept you. How horrifying it is of us to turn our backs on innocent people (women and children included). This book gave me some clarity on the situation in Syria…but mostly it just instilled a hope in me that we do better as humans. This book is set to be published on January 4, 2022.
  • The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain – I read this one immediately following How the Word Is Passed (see above), and I had no idea how well these two books paired together. Told in dual timelines, Chamberlain explores the implications of racism and prejudice during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the ways we’re, as a country, still experiencing the repercussions of a country built on a racist foundation. It totally solidified the evidence that Smith relayed in his book and the hardships that Black people had to navigate just to be seen and heard. I immediately fell into Chamberlain’s writing and felt like she handled the two timelines well (though I liked the 1960s better). This book is set to be published on January 11, 2022.

Books That Were “Just Fine” – Not Bad, But Also Not Great/Memorable

  • * Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad Reading this book during the month of my mom’s death anniversary was risky, but the reward was worth it. There was so much in here that took me right back to my mom’s diagnosis, but what I really appreciated was getting an look into what the person dealing with the diagnosis is feeling. I only know this situation from my own perspective – as a daughter and a caretaker – and I imagine there is quite a leap between the two. This book made my heart hurt as it brough so many painful memories to the surface, but it also reminded me that we only get this one life to live…it’s important to use that gift to the fullest. I learned a lot through my mom’s sickness and death and this book also gave me new insight.
  • Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby What made this book especially compelling is the relationship between the two main characters, Ike and Buddy Lee. They’re flawed and broken, but also full of redemption. As they seek to find answers for what happened to their sons (who also happened to be lovers), Cosby tackles a lot of social and racial tropes. He is masterful in his handling while also delivering a fast-paced, high intensity thriller.
  • * Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley There’s a lot to appreciate in this debut novel! I absolutley loved the education I gained about Indigenous culture (specifically the Ojibwe tribe and Sugar Island near Michigan’s Upper Peninsula); I adored Daunis as a strong, female protagonist; I liked the hockey tie-in that gave me strong Beartown vibes; and I liked the way Boulley handled the meth craze taking over this tribal community. My only real criticism for the novel is that it felt too long – with a little bit of editing, I think I could have become fully immersed in the story and enjoyed it a little bit more.
  • When You Are Mine by Michael Robotham I haven’t read a book by Robotham before, but when I saw a blurb by Stephen King, it moved to the top of my list (that and the fact that 2021 books are leaving me in such a slump, I decided to start on my 2022 ARCs). This book tackles some heavy topics (domestic violence, mysogyny, and stalking/obsession), and I mostly enjoyed it. Philomena is a strong protagonist; however, for her overall intelligence, she was quite naive and annoying when it came to her “friendship” with Tempe. This was a quick read and I was interested throughout…add it to your list if you’re looking for a page-turning thriller to get lost in! This book is set to be published on January 4, 2022.

The Book I Couldn’t Finish:

  • Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism by Seyward Darby – I hated this book with a passion. It a very simplistic look at an extremely complex topic. After the election cycle of 2021, it felt like it was finally time to pick this one up. Our country is so divided right now and I’m always interested in how that division can be overcome, so part of that understanding must come from reading opposing viewpoints. But when Virigina flipped this year back to a red state, the narrative surrounding that flip was hatred towards middle-aged white women…so, basically me. This book proclaims to give insight and understanding to this demographic that is inherently racist and upholding white supremacist values. The three woman Darby chose to highlight were radicalized. They were members of extreme alt-right groups, and it made me angry that all middle-aged white Republican women were generalized into this category. For a book that is supposedly representing me, I didn’t see myself or fellow friends/family members/acquaintances in any of these examples. Instead of giving me insight, it made me realize that books/thoughts/narratives like this are exactly the reason we find our country in the divided state it’s in…total lack of understanding and a complete perpetuation of these inconsistent views.

If you’d like to read a book that gives a much healthier insight into the division of our country, specifically when it comes to political viewpoints, I’d recommend Ezra Klien’s phenomenal book, Why We’re Polarized, instead.

7 thoughts on “November Wrap-Up // 2021

  1. I have a copy of No Land, but am nervous seeing your review. I want to learn and can’t fathom what it would be like to live somewhere unsafe, but your tears remind me why I’ve taken a break from nonfiction recently- so much trauma it makes my heart hurt. Which is a completely embarrassing and entitled thing to admit. Thanks for your honesty and I will be reading this book.

    Liked by 1 person

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