I’ve done it! I have completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2017 and finished reading 25 books this year. In fact, I have actually read 28, which makes up for some of the smaller/shorter books I read this year, like ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ and ‘Fantastic Beasts‘. I still have quite a stack of books I would like to make it through this year, so I should have moved my goal to 30 books. (Maybe for 2018.)
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A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
I’m not sure there’s a person left on earth who hasn’t heard of Game of Thrones in some capacity, whether or not they’ve read the books or watched the show. Dan and I started watching sometime towards the end of season one or when season two and the return’s corresponding hype began. It takes a couple of episodes of not really knowing what’s going on before you really start to get into it, and if I wasn’t a huge fan of the show I probably would have felt the same way about the first few chapters of this book.
Of course I knew what to expect going into this and know how things will work out several books (and seasons) later, for the most part. I could have gone on about life never reading the books, but I have been fascinated by fan theories and when readers make comments online about what actually happened “in the books” compared to the show. As someone who usually wants to read the books first, I found it appropriate to go back and relive the stories of this series. I’m going to try to write this for those of you who haven’t read the books or watched the show.
While ‘A Game of Thrones’ ended up being the title of HBO show, the actual series title is ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ which is rather prophetic if you ask me. (No spoilers!) The world of AGoT revolves around multiple families who all believe they are the rightful heirs to the crown and those who either support or deny them. Within the first couple of chapters, you are introduced to multiple characters, told from varying points of view, and it is though you have been plopped down in the midst of a complicated world with a rich, long history. (The show feels the same.) Action begins immediately and you are introduced to the complexities of the relationships between the characters, their houses, and their allegiances while also learning why through the stories of the past.
As one of my favorite shows of all time, I absolutely recommend you at least grab up a free trial of HBO and start binging, but if you want to understand the history between some people/their houses and their actions, I definitely recommend diving into the books. I understand things much more clearly now that I’ve read it and now I want to re-watch season one. Each book (loosely) has a season, until things start to go off the rails more recently: George R. R. Martin is still working on book six while HBO has moved ahead of him toward the end of the series.
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We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is tiny and I’m glad I’ve surpassed my reading goal because I don’t think it’s fair to add this one to the list. I think I read it in half an hour, which wasn’t speed reading.
WSABF is a fleshed-out essay based on Adichie’s TEDxEuston Talk of the same title. Even if you don’t pick up a copy of this small text, you should at least give the TED Talk a watch:
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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
This book was exactly the exciting adventure I needed to dive into this month. It has been on my radar since its publish date (2015), so I don’t know why it took me so long to get my hands on a copy.
‘Rebel of the Sands’ follows sixteen year old Amani as she attempts to escape the home she has unfortunately ended up in after the death of her mother. Her town, Dustwalk, is deep in the desert and a major manufacturer of guns for the government, but the people there have very little and a very narrow view of women’s’ worth. Fortunately, Amani is a skilled sharpshooter and determined to get away. Through a wild string of events, she is introduced to Jin, a fugitive foreigner who she may be able to use to accomplish her goal.
As Amani and Jin try to escape, they share stories of the mythical creatures that created the world and lurk in the sand, but Amani has much to learn about just how true those stories might be. This story was exciting and nonstop and I loved the mythical aspect, which only grows in importance as you go. The world around these characters is completely different by the end of the book, and I am already anxious to read the sequel, ‘Traitor to the Throne.’
Willow Smith (yes, Will Smith’s daughter,) snatched up the film rights to this book with hopes to star in it. I’d love to see it as a movie, but I would rather like to see someone of middle eastern descent star in the role, as the culture of the story seems to be centered someplace like Saudi Arabia. (Djinni, (or Djinn/Jinn/Genies), supernatural creatures of early Arabian mythology, but are also mentioned in Islamic mythology, are one of the major supernatural creatures featured in ‘Sands’.)
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This is probably one of the most serious and important books I have read this year. Some slight spoilers ahead (but nothing much more than the blurb would tell you.)
This story centers around the main character Starr and her experience of growing up in a drug- and gang-filled neighborhood while attending an elite private school. Starr struggles to feel like she fits into either place, with few friends in her home neighborhood (people think she is stuck up since she goes to “that white school”) while also feeling like she can’t be her true self at school, where she is one of the very few minority students in attendance. Starr’s world begins to unravel even further when one of her best friends, Khalil, is killed by a policeman during an unnecessary traffic stop, while she is in the car.
As with many real life incidents like Starr’s, chaos erupts in the neighborhood, online, and across the nation over Kahlil’s death. Starr is torn between protecting her identity and safety and letting the world know the true details of those moments, all while suffering through her grief, juggling the increasingly complicated relationships with her mostly-black neighbors and mostly-white classmates, and dealing with a growing fear of both the cops and the gang members in her community.
Tupac’s creation of the acronym for T-H-U-G-L-I-F-E played a repetitive role in this story, and even inspired the title: “The Hate U Give Little Infants F–ks Everybody.” (I highly recommend clicking through and reading that article for a deeper understanding.)
Continual police shootings of unarmed black people is a hot and sensitive topic, and this book provided a (fictional) first hand account that allows everyone to see what many of these situations are like on a personal level. I think it’s an important read for all people, especially white people, and especially if you are quick to jump to the defense of the police when you hear these stories. It’s important to know that this is not a cop-bashing story; Starr’s uncle Carlos is a cop and she grapples with this fact, stating multiple times that obviously not all cops are bad, but she does take issue with the ones who would shoot an unarmed man three times in the back simply because he leaned towards the car window to ask if she was okay.
In this book, nothing is black and white, in a metaphorical sense: not all cops are bad, not all cops are good; not all black people in bad neighborhoods are bad, even though there are some who are not so good; not all white people are racist, but there are some ‘friends’ who would never apologize to you and claim their racist statements are simply a joke. It’s a complicated and heartbreaking story, but it’s truthful, and it’s necessary.
As big as a hit as this book has been, of course filming is already in progress for a movie of the same title. I will definitely go see it and I think it will serve as an important perspective and conversation starter. The movie stars Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) as Starr and co-stars Regina Hall (Girls Trip) as her mother Lisa, Russell Hornsby (Fences, Grimm) as her father Maverick/Big Mav, Anthony Mackie (Captain America) as King, and Common (Selma) as uncle Carlos.
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What did you read in November? Are you close to finishing your reading goal for the year?