January’s Reading List

I thought I might try something new this year and write a bit about what I read each month of 2023. I’m not going to formally review them because that’s not really something I enjoy doing; I’ll just share some cool stuff about them. Sort of like a book talk!

Keeping in mind the fact that I’m also working extra full time with 200 students this semester and that I’m generally busy keeping three small people alive when I’m not working, I’m setting my goals low and hoping to read at least two books per month. This month I really hit it out of the park with three books. Hah! I do wish I had more time to read– maybe this summer!

I have a pretty eclectic palate, but I have been trying to read more nonfiction (which I didn’t accomplish this month) and more books by authors from other countries (which I did accomplish). I have a soft spot for cozy mysteries, historical fiction, and immigrant stories. Here goes!

“Smile Beach Murder” by Alicia Bessette: I was drawn to this one because it’s a cozy mystery and it takes place in the Outer Banks, where I just happened to spend an amazing time last May with other young adult cancer survivors. The setting is a peaceful small town, and the narrator has an interesting backstory, so those pieces intrigued me from the start. There are some quirky, likeable characters, and some grumpy, suspicious ones to keep the readers playing Whodunnit. The mystery kept me guessing throughout and right when I narrowed it down to my preferred suspect, the true murderer was revealed and I was totally off– as it should be.

“Daughters of the New Year” by E.M. Tran: I came across this one in a list of Must Read Books from 2022. The story is told in a reverse timeline, which I found super interesting, and follows several generations of women in a Vietnamese family. There is a focus on Vietnamese zodiac astrology as a way of guiding or impacting the lives of the characters, and much of the content is heavily emotional as it deals with intergenerational trauma and the affects of war, colonization, rape, and abuse. I found myself cheering on these tough and beautiful characters as the story flowed from one woman’s experience to the next. Tran also has a stunning way with words that pulled me into every scene.

“Brick Lane” by Monica Ali: I read “Love Marriage” and “In the Kitchen” by Monica Ali in the last two years, so I’ve been a fan of hers for a little while now! This story spans about twenty years of the life of Nazneen, the book’s main character. Nazneen is a young bride who moves from Bangladesh to live with her older husband, Chanu, in London. I found the character arcs in the story really fascinating; Nazneen changes from being quite reticent and lonely to being a spirited woman with clear opinions about her future and her children, while her husband changes from optimistic and talkative to quiet and dejected. Ali’s writing style is simply magnificent; the events unfold vividly, taking readers through a realistic gamut of emotions that leave us both appreciating the beauty of our diverse and shared humanity and wishing we could change the world.

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