Book Blog: May 2022 Favorites
Hey everyone — I hope your books treated you well this month. I felt like a bit of a grump in May, which is mainly (partly) related to my general health challenges and this fatigue that has settled on me for now. I’ve been trying to stay gentle and kind with myself (you can guess how that goes).
I also felt like I kept striking out where books were concerned. Was this at least partially related to my crankiness? Heck to the yes. Even some of my re-reads were disappointing! But c’est la vie — it’s just on to the next book.
On the positive side, instead of waiting and waiting for a few books to come out in paperback, I went back to the local library and checked out a huge stack for myself! I don’t care how old I am — I still get a rush when I go into a library.
This is also coming out suuuuper late because I was busy getting a liver biopsy (you can hear about that here, if you dare).
So here are my favorites from the 11 books I read in May!
The Mystery of the Blue Train (Agatha Christie): Can I say that obviously this book had me at “train” (though it didn’t include a map of compartments, to my deep disappointment) and kept me going from that point forward? Poirot happens to be near enough to a horrible crime — a woman murdered and disfigured in her berth, and he is incredibly charming and witty in this book. It’s also a bit different in that the narration jumps around so I didn’t feel entirely settled in set and scene or in character, which, given the plot, suited quite well. It’s impossible to be bored with Christie’s mysteries!
Rinn’s Crossing (Russell Heath): Funnily enough I had mistakenly put this book in my true-crime pile, so it was more than 100 pages into the book before I realized it was fiction. I share this because I think it is a credit to Heath for writing a book that felt so real, ushering us into the world of Alaskan politics, Native rights, and, as any good thriller, relationships and corruption. The book centers around two environmental activists: Rinn, who as the book opens is sabotaging machinery at a logging company, and Kit, a lobbyist who is subsequently blamed for the sabotage and a related murder. This book kept moving at a good clip and I really enjoyed its twists and turns.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Agatha Christie): Even though it’s springtime now, I’m transported to an English Country Christmas in this installment in the Poirot series. Hercule Poirot happens to be nearby (isn’t he always?) and helps to solve a tough mystery — the patriarch of a family found murdered behind a locked door and only family members and servants on the list of suspects. I sometimes worry that I adjust my rating on these books based on whether or not I get some of the solution right… but the cast of family characters in this one and the complex sibling relationships made the book so enjoyable to read. And yes, it didn’t hurt that I *partially* figured it out. Some day, perhaps, I’ll figure it *all* out. Not today.
In Order to Live (Yeonmi Park): This was a motivating and heartbreaking tale of one family’s experiences in North Korea and their subsequent escape from the country. Youngest daughter Yeonmi loves her family, and even though they are very poor, she has many fond memories of childhood. However, after her father is considered a dissident their family starts to suffer, and Yeomni and her older sister Eunmi have to fend for themselves during periods of her parents’ imprisonment, “re-education,” or working away from the family. It is shortly thereafter that they decide they must escape to China — but due to human trafficking it was not much better. This was an incredible story.
After the Eclipse (Sarah Perry): Crystal Perry’s story, as told by her daughter Sarah, was heartbreaking. A fun, creative, and hard-working single mom, Crystal was stabbed to death in the living room of her Maine home while 12-year-old Sarah slept on the other side of the way. The book opens with Sarah’s memories of waking up mid-attack and then discovering her mom’s body. What I most enjoyed about this book was how Sarah shared her childhood memories and adult reflections about her mom, inviting us to know and love someone taken in a brutal way far before her time. The blend of true crime and memoir really made this book come alive for me.
Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America (Ijeoma Oluo): This book was incredibly difficult to read as a white woman, which means not only is it important to read but I should have read it awhile ago. Oluo unpacks how white male mediocrity has held back women and people of color in everything from education to sports to politics. As a white person it is easy to personalize the story of white men you know (eg; he is different, he worked really hard, he grew up poor) without realizing that even despite hardships, white men tend to be better paid and have more power than the rest of us. While some of the research is really well-cited, I was woefully ignorant about other pieces (such as the effort to get women out of the workforce after WWII or the problems with segregation in the NFL). Oluo uses her expertise to shift perspectives in the privileged, like me, and for that I am both grateful and eager to continue my own work.
Let’s all hope together for a brighter June :)