I would say my reading list this year will be about going deeper instead of farther.
After I unpacked my boxes of books that were languishing in storage for the past 6 years, I found all these gems I had almost forgotten about. It was like seeing old pics of me in college and remembering the new friends I made there. Those feelings of nostalgia made me decide to return to some of the pages that impacted me as a reader and writer.
So here's my re-read list for 2023:
Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard (nonfiction)
Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion (nonfiction)
Breath Eyes Memory by Edwidge Danticat (fiction)
Beloved by Toni Morrison (fiction)
Wicked by Gregory Maguire (fiction)
Negroland by Margo Jefferson (nonfiction)
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (fiction)
Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss (nonfiction)
The Between by Tananarive Due (horror)
Don't let's go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller (nonfiction)
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (play)
Kinky by Denise Duhamel (poetry)
Why these books?
Teaching a Stone to talk explores nature in a way that is so intimate and dramatic. It was the first time I read about a total eclipse from a first-person perspective or learned about expeditions to the North Pole. It was also the first time I considered myself as a sojourner on this place called earth. It's also a slim read (175pgs). None of the essays feel too long but each one is engaging.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem was the book that taught me the power of direct and clear language. This collection of essays by Didion shares her experiences in California during the 1960's after leaving New York. It's a strong collection of reflective, clean prose with keen observations about how place can represent age, transition, or change.
Breath Eyes Memory tells the story of Haiti through a young girl's eyes. Danticat transports you to the island in this book. I love the way she writes. The language and descriptions are so beautiful. I especially love the line, "we carry the past like the hair on our head." This resonates so hard with me.
Beloved is a book I feel like everyone should read a few times in their lifetime. It's not an easy read, but you will be changed by the experience. This is true for all Morrison's books, but I have read Beloved at different points in my life. It serves as such an inspiration for what storytelling can do for deeply thinking about history, pain, and sacrifice, and love.
Wicked was a very fun read for me because I'm a huge fan of the the Broadway play. Both the book and the play do a good job to reminding the reader of the power of perception and perspective, but the book goes deeper into how the "Wicked Witch" came to be.
Negroland by Margo Jefferson is a book that will remind you of all the vocabulary words you missed on your SAT, but it's definitely a worthwhile and enlightening read. It a memoir that shares the Jefferson's experience growing up wealthy during segregation. She evaluates the life she lives as well as herself.
Their Eyes Were Watching God was one of the first love stories I ever read. and the first book I read by Hurston. I remember how magical it felt to be following the actions of the characters and feeling like I was there with them every step of the way. It the characters and her skill with writing the dialogue, it's the details in the setting, and all the themes that work together to give it so much depth. Every action is lovingly described and with much more musicality and imagery than I had experienced before.
Eats Shoots and Leaves is on the list because it allows me to nerd out on punctuation in a fun way. I mean even the title teaches the power of punctuation. The book gives the history of punctuation, the rules, examples and when to be "staunch" or "flexible". What I love most is Truss's sense of humor. and the way she structures the book for both an enthusiast and those who want to learn more.
The Between Is a face-paced thriller/horror that explores what it means to truly be haunted. It is a very suspenseful page turner about a man who becomes convinced he he is living a life he shouldn't have and fears dark energies are trying to take it back. I read it in a day the first time I started it. I couldn't put it down. It's also set in Miami, so it was an added bonus to read a book set in a place I lived. It made the events feel even more believable.
Don't let's go to the Dogs Tonight is a book about growing up white in South Africa and having a mom who is absolutely crazy. The way fuller uses language is very similar to how Southerners in America use language--lots of metaphor and lots of humor. This is a great read and I have been saying for a while that I wanted to re-read it.
A Raisin in the Sun is a movie I have seen a many times, but I want to revisit Hansberry's American classic in its original form. Her story about a family and the struggles they face in pursuit of their individual dreams as well as the American dream, makes me reflect on the roles families play in mirroring our identity. I'm looking forward to revisiting Chicago this n the 1950's and hearing the voices of these characters again.
Kinky is poetry collection that takes a part Barbie but in the most unconventional, surprising, and hilarious ways. Duhamel gives you history, critique and fun in this collection. I never owned a Barbie doll, but this collection showed me the multiple ways to play with the idea of her.
The order listed is random. I'm not sure which one I will read when, but I did start Dillard's book already. We'll see. If you want to join me in reading any of these titles, let me know. I would love to talk about what resonates with you.