Please note that this post contains numerous Amazon affiliate links. Many of the books mentioned here are complementary copies sent to me by publishers.
Spring is finally here, though instead of March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb, it was April coming in like a lion and going out like a furnace. Crazy weather patterns, let me tell you. Last week I wrote a post about how the weather affects my reading habits and I am happy to report that with the increased number of warm days came increased volumes of reading. I read fifteen books in April, up from four in March.
April was also National Poetry Month. I didn’t plan to actually read any poetry this month but it just sort of happened. I listened to five poetry collections read by the poets, along with a bunch of clips sent to me by Penguin Random House of Billy Collins reading poems from Aimless Love. I love good poetry but I’ve always struggled with it more than any other genre. I think I’ve found my zen listening to it instead of reading it on paper.
This past month I also started my new “Activist Reads” blog series, in which I recommend books on different political topics and highlight ways you can make a difference. April’s theme was fossil fuels, fracking, and climate change.
Now then, here’s what showed up in my mailbox this past month…
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (Blogging for Books)
- The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd (Unsolicited Review Copy)
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Review Copy)
- Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (Unsolicited Review Copy)
- Alabaster Gospel Set (Purchased)
- Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen by Sam Kalda (Unsolicited Review Copy)
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (Review Copy)
- Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife by Leslie Kean (Blogging for Books)
- The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (Blogging for Books)
- Walking the Nile by Levison Wood (The Wordy Traveler)
- Man of the Year by Lou Cove (Unsolicited Review Copy)
- The Turk Who Loved Apples: and Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World by Matt Gross (The Wordy Traveler)
- The Annotated Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Unsolicited Review Copy)
- Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger (The Wordy Traveler)
April in Review
As I mentioned before, April was a solid reading month. Granted, some of the books I read are pretty short and more than half are audiobooks, but BOOKS ARE BOOKS.
Books + Audiobooks
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (audiobook): The story of a couple who fall in love in an undisclosed Middle-Eastern city on the brink of war. When the violence heats up, they migrate West using one of the many magical doors that have started appearing throughout the city. Hamid is an excellent writer but I’m not big on magical realism and the characters feel more like mirages than real people. 2.5/5 stars.
- The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (audiobook): A YA book about a teenage girl who is a Jamaican undocumented immigrant and a Korean boy who meet and fall in love the day she is supposed to be deported. I don’t usually go for YA romance or instalove scenarios, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It’s not even remotely plausible but it’s plausible in its implausibility–if that makes any sense. 3/5 stars.
- The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel: The fascinating story of Christopher Knight, a man who left society to live as a hermit and thief in the woods of Maine for nearly thirty years. Read my review here.
- Cannibalism by Bill Schutt: A natural history of cannibalism in animals and humans. Fascinating, funny, and taboo-busting. 3.5/5 stars.
- Of Cats and Men by Sam Kalda: A beautifully illustrated celebration of men who love cats. Who knew Ernest Hemingway was a feline fanatic?! 3.5/5 stars.
- Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz, Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl: A brightly illustrated collection of short biographies of female artists, athletes, leaders, and scientists who shaped history. 4/5 stars.
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (audiobook): A middle-grade memoir in verse about the author’s childhood in New York and South Carolina during the Civil Rights Movement. Lyrical, evocative, and heartfelt. 4.5/5 stars.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (audiobook): A letter to the author’s son about being black in America. Ta-Nehisi Coates is an incredibly gifted writer and I wanted to love this book, but I can’t get on board with his core message. It strikes me as incredibly fatalistic. I think this analysis summarizes my thoughts pretty well. 2.5/5 stars.
- Wild Nights by Benjamin Reiss: A literary, cultural, and scientific history of sleep. The way that people (Westerners in particular) sleep has changed so much since the industrial revolution. This book sheds light on how modern technology and our neuroses about getting a good night’s sleep interferes with getting a good night’s sleep. 3.5/5 stars.
- Is the Bible Good for Women? by Wendy Alsup: The thesis of this book is that the Bible is good for women and yet the author reveals herself to be complementarian–a blatantly misogynistic theological position. She then goes on to try to claim that this is really feminist. Um, no. Furthermore, she fails in her task of explaining some of the disturbing biblical passages on women in the Old Testament, even when there are good explanations to be had. I may write a full review of this book just to vent. It’s spectacularly awful. 1/5 stars.
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (audiobook): A poetry collection about abuse, sexual violence, love, loss, and femininity. It does not live up to the hype. While I’m sympathetic to the author’s traumatic experiences, this collection reads like a 17-year-old’s tumblr. There are precious few poems of any literary merit. I also found the author’s breathy verbal delivery annoying. 1.5/5 stars.
- Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire (audiobook): A poetry collection that explores “the veiled world where sensuality lives in the dominant narrative of Islam.” Gorgeous, provocative, and evocative. 4.5/5 stars.
- Dog Songs by Mary Oliver (audiobook): I read this collection in print last summer/fall and really enjoyed it. The publisher sent me a copy of the audiobook, so I thought I would try listening to it as well. I love any poetry about dogs but this collection didn’t blow me away. 3/5 stars.
- A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver (audiobook): A poetry collection about nature and life. I expected poems inspired by the natural landscape of my home state to connect with me more than they did. I would like to read this in print to form a second opinion at a later date. 2.5/5 stars.
- Celebrations by Maya Angelou (audiobook): A collection of Maya’s most famous poetry. At the beginning, I wasn’t really into it, but by the end, I was really in tune with it. 3/5 stars.
Movies + Television
- Sunshine Cleaning (2008) – A dark comedy about two dysfunctional sisters who start a crime-scene cleaning service. Absolutely charming and surprisingly hopeful. Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are magic together. 4/5 stars.
- The Dressmaker (2015) – The story of a beautiful and talented dressmaker who returns to her small Australian hometown after many years abroad to reconcile with her eccentric mother and seek revenge on the people who hurt her. I wanted to love this one but it didn’t seem to know which direction it wanted to go. Judy Davis is the best thing about it. 2/5 stars.
- Patriot’s Day (2016) – A dramatization of the Boston Marathon Bombing. I was a bit skeptical going in but I think it turned out well. Though I can’t be the only person who is sick of seeing Marky Mark in every movie set in Boston. 4/5 stars.
- Miss Sloane (2016) – The story of a formidable Washington lobbyist who risks everything to fight the gun lobby and pass a bill that would expand background checks on gun purchases. Jessica Chastain is absolutely captivating in this film. 4/5 stars.
- The Accountant (2016) – The story of an autistic man who serves as an accountant for the criminal underworld. I’ll be honest, I don’t usually like Ben Affleck movies, but I really enjoyed this one. Also, Anna Kendrick! 3.5/5 stars.
- Frank and Lola (2016) – A psychosexual drama about a chef who discovers his young girlfriend is cheating on him. Michael Shannon is weirdly compelling as a romantic lead and shares great chemistry with Imogen Poots. 4/5 stars.
- Nocturnal Animals (2016) – The story of a woman whose ex-husband writes a dark and violent book dedicated to her years after she leaves him in a brutal way. I’m confused as to why this received such high ratings. It’s very anticlimactic and can’t seem to decide which genre it wants to be. The music is also a bit overwrought. More style than substance. 1.5/5 stars.
- The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Season 1 (2013) – This Australian drama centers around a GP cum police surgeon in late 1950s Victoria whose wife and child went missing in the war nearly twenty years earlier. Doctor Blake is a great character and this is what drives the show. 3.5/5 stars.
- Jessica Jones, Season 1 (2015) – I can’t believe I didn’t watch this until now! Jessica Jones is a super-strong P.I. being hunted down by a sociopathic mind controller who once kidnapped her and forced her to do terrible things. Starring: female friendship that doesn’t involve catfighting, David Tennant (!!!), and the smooth silky baritone of Mike Colter. 4.5/5 stars.
- The Handmaid’s Tale, Season 1 (2017) – The first three episodes of the new Hulu adaptation dropped last week and blew me away. Brilliant, horrifying, and, well, really, really horrifying. An absolute must-watch. I will be writing more on this in a blog post on Friday. 5/5 stars.
I’ve given up on a few TV shows this month. Blindspot and The Mindy Project are in the bag and I’ve gone back to watching clips of SNL instead of whole episodes. I haven’t watched any episodes of Elementary this month, though I do plan to catch up. And, as usual, I am religiously keeping up with The Americans.The Handmaid's Tale, Jessica Jones, Miss Sloane, + More in The Inkwell: Vol. 3, Iss. 4Click To Tweet
News from the World of Books
- In 2010 Google announced that they were going to scan all 129 million+ books in the world into a massive digital library. Instead, they scanned about 25 million books before running into a whole mess of copyright infringement lawsuits. Now there is a database of 25 million books that no one is allowed to read. It’s a very long and complicated story, which you can read all about here.
- The Netflix adaptation of Jay Asher’s 2007 novel dropped on March 31st and is now garnering criticism from people who say its depiction of suicide is dangerous.
- Margaret Atwood penned an extended ending for The Handmaid’s Tale exclusively for the new Audible audio edition performed by Claire Danes, which was released last month.
- The BBC reports that certain made-up words from Harry Potter may soon be included in the Oxford English Dictionary. “Muggle” is already included in the dictionary.
- Researchers recently unearthed a time capsule in the French Pyrenees which may have been buried by none other than Jules Verne. The connection is not conclusive but the whole thing is rather exciting.
- It was announced recently that Jude Law will play a young Dumbledore in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel. I have no idea what to think of this.
- The winners of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize were announced last month. They include Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Matthew Desmond’s Evicted.
Best of the Bookosphere
- 10 Literary Walks and Tours – The Female Sciblerian
- Why You Should Read Books You Hate – New York Times
- 15 Ways to Be a Literary Advocate – Book Riot
- The Handmaid’s Tale Is a Warning to Conservative Women – New Republic
- No Excuse for Ignorance: Books to Understand the Holocaust – Signature Reads
- 10 Books on Astrophysics That Will Make You Neil deGrasse Tyson Smart – Off the Shelf
- 12 Garden Libraries That Are Perfect for Springtime – BookBub
- 24 Celebrity Books That Are Actually Real – BuzzFeed
- The Top 10 Books Americans Tried to Ban in 2016 – Electric Lit
- Liberal and Conservative Tastes in Books Reveals Deep Partisan Divide – Huffington Post
The Most Popular Posts This Month
I like big books and I cannot lie…but there are certain big books I continue to subconsciously avoid because putting in the time and mental energy it takes to read them always seems too daunting. Once in a while (i.e. every couple of years or so), I work up enough determination to tackle one really long book and it feels amazing.
WINTER IS COMING…And you know what that means. Books. So many books. EPIC books. Gird your Goodreads profile. Here are the 50 most exciting books hitting store shelves this winter.
INFJs are an interesting bunch, not least because they are the rarest type on the Myers-Briggs spectrum. INFJs are often dreamers and romantics, social activists and unlikely movement leaders. Despite being feelers, they can appear cold and aloof. A variation of the infamous INTJ death glare often settles over the features of INFJs as well. INFJs are a bit of a mystery–one that is definitely worth investigating.
6 Books to Watch for in May6 New Books to Get Excited About This May + More in The Inkwell: Vol. 3, Iss. 4Click To Tweet
- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
- How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana with Abigail Pesta
- Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey Into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand by Julie Rehmeyer
What did you read in April?