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Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick is some nonfiction that came out last year that should be considered required reading for anyone who considers themselves a feminist. The term “feminism” can evoke so many different thoughts and feelings in each of us and this book aims to expand our thinking.

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

Content warnings for anti-Blackness, eating disorders, and domestic violence. There are definitely a number of heavy subjects in this book but that is part of the point: there are all kinds of difficult things we absolutely must talk about when we talk about feminism. Each chapter discusses the different ways in which “mainstream” feminism has failed and continues to fail so many women who are not white, cisgender, able bodied, affluent, and straight.

While some of the chapters focus on Black women and the author’s experience as a Black woman, they also expand to include a variety of the intersections of identity at which any one of us may exist. A few of the focuses include hunger & food insecurity, eating disorders in the Black community, education access, housing access, colorism, maternal mortality, gun violence, and more.

The chapter on gun violence is particularly powerful, as gun violence isn’t often immediately considered a feminist issue. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 4 women have been victims of severe physical violence and The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. Gun violence in certain areas is keeping girls from going to school. Not only are women victims of gun violence, but also the mothers, wives, and sisters of victims.

This book allows for such great opportunities for readers to step back and examine our own feminist views and learn where they can be expanded and where we each may have some work to do to better include all women. It is a must-read for anyone considering themself a feminist and/or an anti-racist.


That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

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(04/09) Read This Book – Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

On the day you read this newsletter I will be celebrating my birthday, and what better day to grapple with an existential crisis than the day you were born? I know, some of you may say the rest of the 364 days in the year. But, to all of you I say don’t worry, I go through this crisis throughout the year.

An advantage of the rather grim agenda above is that I am always on the hunt for books that help me find solace in my restlessness, letting me know I am not alone. I have one such pick to share today.

Days of Distraction Book Cover

Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang

This is a book I think about often. Nothing big happens here: there are no deaths, no global disasters, no terminal diseases, but Chang’s writing and dialogue makes you realize that not a lot has to happen in a book to make for a compelling read.

We get to experience the main character’s complex internal and interpersonal relationships, as well as the external forces operating on both. We are thrown into our narrator’s internal monologue as she grapples with her place in the present-day San Francisco tech environment, and with the history of a country that has shaped her identity. There are quotes, newspaper clippings and passages from books like Woman Warrior that give a harrowing glimpse of America’s attitude towards Asian Americans dating all the way back to the late 19th century.

The author unpacks a lot here and she does it with a very clear-cut purpose, but what stands out to me is how the narrative also shifts perspective from the protagonist onto the reader. Our protagonist is cynical of so many of the ways that we process ideas and identity today, making you, the reader, look inwards at your own biases.

Her interracial relationship is also a central focus in the story. She talks about micro aggressions experienced when traveling cross country and the sixth sense of knowing just how much you might stand out in certain environments that can fray away at person’s identity.

This book is an ordinary life explored with all its ups and down, and if you ask me often makes for the most rewarding of reads.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book: Green Rider by Kristen Britain

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend one book for your TBR that I think you’re going to love! Genre fiction is my wheelhouse, and about 90% of my personal TBR, so if if you’re looking for recommendations in horror, fantasy, or romance, I’ve got you covered!

This last year has really impressed on me the need for comfort reads. So for my very first Read This Book I decided to call back to a fantasy series that I’ve been following since I was a kid, and which (despite its habit of causing me emotional pain) is a hands down, pre-ordering every book, languishing in the years between publications dates, favorite of mine that I think every high fantasy fan should add to their TBR.

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

To say that Karigan G’ladheon is having a bad day at the start of Green Rider is an understatement. Having been expelled from school after besting a bully with powerful parents, she’s doing the long walk of shame home to the coast and hoping she can beat the dean’s letter to her father’s house. Then she nearly gets run down in the lane by a rider in green, with arrows sticking out of his back. You know. Typical Tuesday.

The rider is one of the royal Green Riders, magically gifted legendary messengers to the king. The message the rider carries is life and death, and he makes Karigan swear that she will take his sword, his rider’s pin, and his horse and deliver the message to the King. What seems like a straightforward promise to a dying man throws Karigan’s whole world into chaos. Soon she’s riding hellbent for the capitol, pursued by assassins and an even deadlier man in grey whose purpose is far more sinister than she can guess and threatens the future of all of Sacoridia.

Like many fantasy series, Britain’s Green Rider series has been a long time in production. The titular novel originally came out in 1998, and the most recent novel, Winterlight, will be out this September. Each of the books clocks in at over 400 pages (the most recent installment was a whopping 800+ pages), so tackling the whole series can be a bit of a time commitment. But if you’ve been looking for a new fantasy series to tackle there are currently six books published, and if you are a fan of high fantasy series with detailed world building, an endearing cast of characters, plenty of action, and a splash of romance (so much pining – this series is defined by its romantic pining), there is no series I’d be happier to recommend!

Go forth and read! 

Jessica

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick is the one book I recommend to every adult any time I get a chance to recommend a book. It came out in 2019 and I quickly made it one of my annual rereads. I’ve bought multiple copies as gifts and own two physical copies myself so even if I loan one out, I always have access to a copy.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. and Amelia Nagoski, DMA

Though the focus of this book is women of all types, I stand by my recommendation for all adults regardless of gender. Burnout, that is, prolonged physical, mental, and/or emotional stress is something with which many of us are all too familiar. Maybe even more so since the current pandemic began.

This book is not going to tell you that the cure for burnout is to have a gratitude journal or color in an adult coloring book or even to do something that is likely not possible, like work less, change jobs, leave your family, etc. Instead, the book is filled with an exploration of why we suffer from burnout and research-based suggestions for what to do about the stress when we can’t necessarily get rid of the stressors. Even if we do get rid of the stressor, we still have to find ways to get rid of the stress itself otherwise it builds up and voila! Burnout.

While exercise is definitely at the top of the list of ways to alleviate stress (thanks, I hate it), they offer other ways to complete the stress cycle as well. That being said, their argument for exercise includes details on how moving our bodies can help reduce the stress cycle and it is so darn compelling that I ended up buying an exercise bike after reading this book. Much to my chagrin, the authors are right.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hyper-critical of books in the self-improvement genre so I’m still surprised at how much I love this book. The wealth of citations and robust bibliography are enough to make me swoon. It’s conversational and has relatable anecdotes that help readers feel optimistic about managing stress. Bonus, it’s also excellent on audiobook!

That’s it for now, book lovers!

Patricia


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RTB (04/02) A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I recently moved to a city where the Pacific Ocean is about 50 minutes from my house. I visit the ocean often, and I think of all the stories that the waters would tell if they spoke. But sometimes they do, don’t they? In rather unexpected ways.

I have such a story for you today. An expansive read that will challenge your ideas of time and what it means to be part of someone’s story and that will make you long for the ocean, just a bit.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

It is the story of two women, separated by distance and time, yet intimately bound by a relationship that cuts across all dimensions – one reads the story that the other has written. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a writer living on an obscure island in British Columbia who comes across a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the beach. Inside, among other things, is a schoolgirl’s diary, from halfway across the world, possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. Bound by the hardcover of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, it opens with a startling declaration by a young girl, Naoko.

It then becomes a story containing many stories. Ruth starts reading Naoko’s diary, which is the first of the many stories. Naoko’s diary, in turn, is a collection of multiple stories in which Naoko talks about the people in her life – her great grandmother Jiko, who is a Zen Buddhist nun; her great uncle Haruki 1, who was a kamikaze pilot in WW2; and her father Haruki 2, who is battling depression after losing his job.

Ruth Ozeki employs multiple formats: diary entries, letters, Buddhist teachings, dreams, and Naoko’s stream of consciousness thoughts to create an exceptional novel. She expertly weaves the two storylines together questioning the continuity of time and stories themselves.

There are many postmodern, metafictional elements to the telling of this story such as footnotes in various parts of the story and interweaving of complex philosophy with the daily, but each is handled with exceptional care. If you enjoy dual timeline stories, like your fiction with a side of meta like If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, or just want to revive your faith in the power of a good story that will equal parts break your heart and mend it, then this one is for you.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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[3/31] Read This Book: THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF BEES by Rachel Linden

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

Sometimes we need an easy book to read whether it’s to recover from an emotionally demanding tome or to get out of a reading rut. Today’s reading recommendation is just that. 

The Enlightenment of Bees Book Cover

The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden

At 26, Mia West has her entire future planned until Mia’s boyfriend Ethan breaks up with her after six years of dating. Although devastated, Mia is determined to find new meaning in her life. Guided by a recurring dream of honeybees, Mia decides to join her roommate and best friend Rosie on an around-the-world humanitarian trip. 

Honestly speaking, I shouldn’t have enjoyed The Enlightenment of Bees because I was totally bookfished by it! As you can see, the cover is absolutely gorgeous, so there is no way I could not be intrigued by a book with such an Instagram-worthy cover, right?! Unfortunately, I am promised a story where bees play a central role, but that is not this story, and that doesn’t meet my expectations. However, this did not keep me from enjoying this book. I actually really enjoyed The Enlightenment of Bees

Despite being disappointed by the lack of bees, I liked that The Enlightenment of Bees reminded me of other books I’ve read in the past. The traumatic end to Mia’s relationship followed by a humanitarian trip across the globe gave me serious Eat Pray Love vibes. Surprisingly, Mia’s constant reference to Saint Mia reminded me of Anastasia Steele and her Inner Goddess. Most importantly, the overall story is on par with all the feel-good literary rom-coms I’ve experienced recently. 

The Enlightenment of Bees was not a book I would have sought out on my own, but I’m glad it entered my orbit. This may not be the must-read book for bee enthusiasts, but it’s a great book to read if you are looking for a light read with a little romance and a dash of “finding your path in life” introspection. 

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha


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[3/29] Read This Book: THE JOY LUCK CLUB by Amy Tan

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

There is a definitely a reason why when you hear the name Amy Tan, you immediately think about The Joy Luck Club. If you don’t, then that is a problem. The novel has become a literary classic! While I can usually take or leave many of the classics written by dead white guys, The Joy Luck Club is a must-read book. 

The Joy Luck Club Book Cover

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Four women who recently immigrated to San Francisco meet weekly to play mahjong and share stories of their previous life in China. United by their past loss and new hope for their daughters’ futures, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Although they freely share stories with each other, their daughters have never heard these stories. In fact, the daughters find their mothers’ advice to be irrelevant until their own crises reveal just how much of their mothers’ past they have inherited. 

What I really love about The Joy Luck Club is how grand it feels, like reading a classic novel, while still reading like contemporary fiction. The other part that makes it a favorite is the story’s focus on mother-daughter relationships. The novel doesn’t just focus on their current relationship. We get to read pivotal moments in the mothers’ pasts that heavily influenced how they interact with their daughters. These moments help us see the similarities between mother and daughter that take them nearly a lifetime to see in one another.

I enjoyed An-Mei and Lindo’s stories the most because I always love reading about women who have enough wit and smarts to get themselves out of a bad situation. After knowing the sacrifices made by the mothers, I have to admit the daughters’ problems seem so insignificant. However, I still did relate to An-Mei’s daughter Rose and her desire for perfection in everything as well as Lindo’s daughter Waverly who is intelligent, independent, and in constant fear of disappointing her mother. 

Unlike the first pancake, Amy Tan’s first novel was a runaway success. Instead of six weeks on the bookshelf and a lifetime in the shredder, The Joy Luck Club has been enchanting readers for over 30 years. I am one of those people. After reading this epic tale about the joys and pains of the mother and daughter bond, you will hopefully not only become another enchanted reader, but you will also add more Amy Tan books to that never ending TBR pile.

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha


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Mughal court, politic intrigue, and a love story for the ages in this week’s pick

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

Spring has sprung! There is pollen everywhere, floating around in small whirlpools of its own, allergy headaches have become a norm, and I find myself wanting to escape. Escape into another time, another place, with as little to do with the outside as possible.

In such instances, historical fiction is what my heart seeks. And since we are approaching the last few days of Women’s History Month, I think it’s a great time to learn the story of a forgotten empress who shaped the fate of a whole empire, Empress Nur Jahan.

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

The first in a trilogy that transports you to 15th century Mughal India, telling the story of a remarkable woman, born as Mehrunisa, meaning The Sun of Women. Mehrunissa is the favorite daughter of Ghias Beg, a refugee from Persia turned respected royal treasurer under Emperor Akbar. She grows up at court and becomes a requested lady in waiting to Emperor Akbar’s main wife Ruqayya. Mehrunissa develops a crush on Emperor Akbar’s prodigal son Prince Salim and always dreams of someday becoming an Empress.

When Mehrunissa and Prince Salim finally set eyes upon one other, we are thrown amidst a love story for the ages, odes to which are written till today. But Mehrunissa was promised to another and their journey to love and her role as The Twentieth Wife would be tested in the fires of time.

Although the romance of Mehrunissa and Emperor Jahangir is always an integral part of this story there is so much more to keep one pinned to the pages of this book. There are many historical details woven into the story, starting from what people wore, to the politics of the harem and to the power struggles of the Mughal Court. I, who grew up learning about Mughal history as part of the school curriculum, found myself captivated by the rich details. Sundaresan’s writing is crisp, clear, and even at almost 400 pages, not a single detail is superfluous.

This is a first in a trilogy, and it only gets better. In my mind, the author, Indu Sundaresan has done for the Mughal Empire, what Philippa Gregory has done for the Tudor Court: brought a facet of history and its characters to the mainstream. If you have enjoyed sweeping works by Anya Seton, Philippa Gregory, or Michelle Moran, then this one is for you.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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[3/24] Read This Book: THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

There is only a week left in Women’s History Month 2021. If you are looking for another book written by a woman to read, then you have come to the right place, friend. If you are looking for some classic American literature, then today’s newsletter is dedicated to you.

The House of Mirth Book Cover

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Lily Bart is a beautiful, witty, and sophisticated socialite. However, as she nears thirty and remains unmarried, Lily’s foothold within high New York society becomes precarious. She needs a husband to preserve her social standing and maintain her expensive tastes, but something seems to prevent Lily from making a “suitable” match. 

Sometimes when I read classics, the story just feels old and dated. Reading The House of Mirth was the total opposite experience. It was interesting and enlightening to read a story that was published in the early 20th century that felt like it could have taken place nearly a century later. At the age of 29, Lily Bart is beautiful, but is also well beyond prime marrying age. Unfortunately for her and the times in which she lives, marrying for love, money, and status was nearly impossible. With all that, there is definitely no way for Lily to free herself from the rules and regulations of New York society.

What really makes The House of Mirth such an excellent read is Lily Bart herself. Despite being sympathetic to Lily’s desire for independence from society’s expectations, I couldn’t believe all the precarious predicaments she allowed herself to fall into. There were so many times where I had to stop reading because of the second-hand embarrassment I felt for Lily. I just wanted to shake her and tell her to get it together, but no matter what anyone said, Lily Bart was going to make her way through New York society on her own terms. However, that’s also what made me go right back to the book as soon as possible. The House of Mirth is full of juicy drama that gives serious Gossip Girl vibes. XOXO 

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha

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[3/22] Read This Book: RED ON A ROSE by Patricia Jones

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

Spring is officially here! Well, according to the calendar, spring has arrived. When spring is in the air, I always want to read a book that is somehow related to flowers. Red on a Rose will always hold a special place in my heart because it helped me pass the time while waiting for juror duty. On top of that, I was reading a story that takes place in Baltimore while living in Baltimore. It was quite meta for ya girl!

Red on a Rose Book Cover

Red on a Rose by Patricia Jones

Lila has come a long way. She is no longer under her stepmother’s controlling thumb, and she is happily married to cardiac surgeon Jack Calloway. When Lila is not visiting her elderly in-laws or running her online reading program for children, Lila is constantly thinking about motherhood. However, one split decision on a typical Saturday afternoon challenges Lila’s moral code and threatens the idyllic life Jack and Lila have built.

Despite my springtime connotations, Red on a Rose isn’t really an easy breezy read. In addition to the conflict that is bound to arise in marriage, this story has the added element of racism and colorism. Although those elements are essential aspects of the story, they play second fiddle to Lila and her self-righteous antics. For most of her life, Lila has been sheltered, and it’s not until the day when her rose-colored glasses are knocked off her face that she really begins to see life as it really is and not what she thinks it should be. 

In some ways, Red on a Rose reminds me of An American Marriage. Both stories center on young Black newlyweds who experience a traumatic event that alters their relationship. Unlike Tayari Jones, Patricia Jones only really shares Lila’s perspective on the matter, which may be unsatisfying for some readers. However, if you’re a reader looking for growth and redemption from an unsympathetic character, then you look no further than Red on a Rose. Overall, I enjoyed Lila’s journey of discovering the grey lingering within her black and white moral code. 

Until next time bookish friends,

Katisha

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