The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and the Olympians book 5 of 5
**Book Hangover Alert
The thrilling conclusion! These books were so good. I am so excited for the new TV show.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare*
Yes, I read it again even though I read it last month. I listened to the BBC radio play version this time. Still stellar.
4/5 love flowers
New Books Read
Ways of Seeing by John Berger
It’s Nonfiction November apparently. I read this book in preparation for a class I’m going to teach in the spring about the connection between image and text, or art and writing. It was fabulous. It’s quite old, but still relevant.
4/5 visual essays
Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens
This was the big library book club book, so they had unlimited e-copies for people to borrow. So obviously I got it and read it too. Artie is a teen struggling with all the regular teen things with her single mom when she discovers she’s a werewolf just like her mom. Suddenly, she has to deal with school and friendships and also learning to use her powers and staying safe from vampires. It’s a graphic novel so it’s a pretty light easy read. It was enjoyable. I don’t have a ton to say about it. I’m not in the target audience of young queer black girls, who I think will really love this book. For me I thought the author could have gone farther in developing the theme of community and its importance in African American society.
That Summer Feeling by Bridget Morrissey
This was fun. At a weeklong summer camp for adults, Garland must heal from the hurt of her divorce in order to discover the truth about herself and open herself to new queer love. It’s pretty simple and predictable, but I guess that’s what people want with romance books. I don’t read a ton of romance books unless they’re queer.
3/5 camp t-shirts
Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron
I read this for a fiction class I’m taking for my MFA program. I usually hate books like this. I don’t really believe that anyone can teach you how to write. They can teach you how they write, but you have to figure out what strategies work for you. I thought Cron had some useful things to say about story and your main character’s driving misbelief and how the inner story (the change the main character goes through) drives the plot. When she gets to the parts about outlining all the scenes, I experience my regular frustration at these books, though. I hate writing really in depth outlines because it makes me not excited to actually write the book because I already know everything about the story. I like writing to discover the story, not figuring everything out before I start. Maybe this isn’t as efficient as Cron’s system and I don’t have a book deal to prove my way works, so I could be wrong. But I don’t think I’ll be adopting all of Cron’s strategies.
2.5/5 scene cards
Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day by Peter Ackroyd***
I read this hoping to learn more about queer London in the nineteenth century. Ackroyd’s history spans London’s queer history from the Romans until the 2010s. It was actually almost overwhelming how much information was in this book. I had planned to just read the section on the nineteenth century, but it was so fun, I read the whole thing. The main takeaway I think from Ackroyd’s book is that there have always been queer people, in London and elsewhere, and even if they would not define themselves with the words and categories we use today, these feelings and preferences aren’t new. It does make me quite sad though how much queer history is suppressed.
3.5/5 dancing boys
Palestine by Joe Sacco***
If you’re one of the many people right now trying to educate yourself on the Israel/Palestine conflict, this is a great primer. Sacco, a Maltese American, is a graphic journalist who visited Palestine in late 1991 and early 1992, trying to himself understand the conflict. What I like about Sacco is his honesty. He has no illusions about what he’s there to do. He’s looking for a story, for anything good for the comic. He’s suspicious and questions everything. He tries to unravel the complicated history and current situation by sharing the stories of many Palestinians, and even a few Israelis.
3.5/5 olive trees
How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: eating disorders
This book was stunning and gorgeous. The ten lyrical personal essays each explore a different sea creature and through that creature, one facet of Imbler’s life. The metaphors aren’t gimmicky or trite, but are truly insightful and thought provoking. I read this because someone had recommended one of the essays as something I could use in my class that I’m designing, but it was so good that I had to read the whole book. I aspire to write essays like these.
The Curse of the Specter Queen byJenny Elder Moke*
Book 1 of 2 Samantha Knox Series
This book was so fun. Definitely one of my lighter reads this month. Samantha Knox works in an antique bookstore repairing old books in the 1920s. When a mysterious package arrives followed by some sinister men that burn down her shop looking for the package, Sam is catapulted into an adventure trying to solve an archeological mystery and stop those who want to bring about the Curse of the Specter Queen. Full of Gaelic and Celtic folklore and a sparkling cast of characters, this book gave me the escape I needed. My only quibble is that Bennet was kind of a stuffed shirt.
4/5 antique books
A History of my Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt***
Another book of essays, Belcourt examines the unique experience of being First Nations and queer in Canada. His essays are not only personal essays, but bring in theory and his deep reflections. Belcourt is also a poet and his style is interesting, both lyrical and academic as he tries to puzzle out how to live in this world.
3.5/5 queer bodies
Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape by Raja Shehadeh***
Another good one for those trying to learn more about Palestine. Shehadeh, a lawyer and human rights activist, takes readers on six walks through the hills of Palestine from 1978 to 2006. He reflects on the changing landscape, noticing new Israeli settlements and roads and new laws that prevent him from walking where he once did. Though his walks have become increasingly dangerous, it is so clear that Shehadeh is deeply connected to the land, and I feel his love for it as a reader. Reading about the destroyed ecosystems and now inaccessible walking routes, I feel great sadness for Shehadeh’s land. The policies the Israeli government used to take Palestinian land are eerily similar to the way American settlers took Native American land, claiming that no one was using or cultivating the land, when that was not true, and then mismanaging the land and causing its degradation. Shehadeh is from Ramullah in the West Bank, whereas Sacco focused on Gaza, so it was nice to read both to understand the two different areas and the way people live in each. The West Bank is a patchwork of ever increasing Israeli settlements, interspersed with Palestinian villages. Gaza is a concentration camp.
*This book only includes straight, white, cis people.
**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.
***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! First a caveat: I have decided that simply having queer people and/or people of color in a book is not enough to qualify it for the Books for a Social Conscience distinction. That sets the bar too low. So while in the past I would have included Artie and the Wolf Moon and That Summer Feeling, I will not be including them in the new system. We love representation! Don’t get me wrong, but honestly at this point if you don’t have queer people and/or people of color in your book, like what are you doing? I will now be including a new designation: *This book only includes straight, white, cis people.
Anyway, read Queer City to learn about how queerness has always existed and been part of history. Read Palestine to learn more about the Israel/Palestine conflict. Read How Far the Light Reaches to discover more queer, non-white perspectives. Read A History of My Brief Body to understand how Canada’s colonialism still affects Native populations, especially queer Natives. Read Palestinian Walks to learn more about the Israel/Palestine conflict, specifically in how it relates to the land.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQIA+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.