Hello, everyone! As I’ve said in the last few posts, my job had been crazy dealing with the election (I worked from 5 am to 1 am Tuesday, then back to work again at 6), so I missed WWW Wednesday. But I’ve still been reading a ton so I didn’t think it was a good idea to just combine weeks, so here’s what I’ve read so far in November.
What I’ve finished recently
Work might have been crazy, but I actually had a pretty good reading week/9 days. I finished up the first two books here last Wednesday night, so really they should count for the previous week.
Leviathan Wakes (★★★★★)
Im not sure quite what I was expecting going into this first book in the Expanse series. I had already watched the first two seasons of the TV show, but I didn’t know just how closely the adaptation was going to be. Would it be harder sci-fi and not as character driven, would it be more dull or political? I didn’t know, but it was just as fun and entertaining as the show, and the audiobook captured the characterizations just right even without a full cast. I eagerly put holds of the rest of the series.
The Ballad of Black Tom (★★★★☆)
This is a twist on one of HP Lovecraft’s most bigoted short stories. I didn’t read the original The Horror at Red Hook but did read an analysis beforehand to make sure I understood more of the subtle things in this story. In the end I still feel like I need a reread to full grasp all the nuances with the story, but it was a wonderfully crafted short story that twists Lovecraftian mythology into an examination on the demonization of black men. It was biting and griping and intense.
I DNFed my buddy read of the third book in the Abhorsen series. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll return to it or not. I got about 20 percent in and felt like even when things were happening, it wasn’t griping and I felt really bored by the storyline. I have a feeling that I’m just reading this series at the wrong time in my life, but it’s on pause for now.
This is likely the last book by Stephen Hawking there will be (unless he has more unpublished material), and I quite enjoyed it. I really liked the structure of this audiobook, with a really quick answer to a question, with Hawking’s actual voice answering, followed by a deeper dive into a topic voiced by the narrator. While a couple of the questions in here I was familiar with already/knew Hawking’s stance on them, the rest were new to me and really thought provoking (as well as reassuring me once and for all that I don’t have what it takes to be a theoretical physicist – the example being they couldn’t figure out how to make a certain variable work in their equations so they just invent imaginary time?? My very logical brain does not compute.)
Caliban’s War (★★★★★)
While I really enjoyed Leviathan Wakes for being so much like the show, I LOVED this one for the ways in which it wasn’t. The show diverges with the plot of this book, and (shocker) I vastly prefer this quieter more political version of the story. I love the new characters we get to meet (Avasarla is grandma goals for sure), and the widened world with the ever-expanding war the system has on its hands was fantastically done.
My Own Devices (★★★★★)
This is a series of connected essays by rapper Dessa that chronicles her career, her family and, as a connecting thread, her bad case of senseless love that won’t go away even after nearly 15 years. I already knew I liked Dessa’s way with words from listening to her music, but this collection solidified my fascination with how her brain works. I’m not talking the MRI stuff, which does feature substantially in the later parts of the book, but also the trains of thought that she captures on the page. What else does a normal person do with a train delay than try to calculate how many people have to be delayed to equal one lost life. What else do you get over the love of your life than try to reprogram your brain. It’s wonderfully odd, and the audiobook narrated by the author was a fantastic weekend read.
You Can’t Touch My Hair (★★★★☆)
This essay collection combined what I love about Phoebe Robinson’s humor from her 2 Dope Queens podcast with some biting criticisms of the BS she and other black women have to deal with. I think thematically the collection stayed true to its themes without being repetitive and also while keep her humor throughout. This is a great first book. I did have a quibble with the audiobook though. While it’s great that she narrated it herself, it seems like some of the jokes didn’t translate as well in audio form (weird I know, for a standup comedian), but places where you could tell the print book was in all caps she mock yelled them to try to get the tone across and other similar instances where the editing of the audio could’ve been better.
Abaddon’s Gate (★★★★☆)
This book marked the beginning of new material for me as I haven’t seen the third season of the TV show. While I still really enjoyed the story being told with this, and the scenes with the crew of the Rocinante together were perfection, the introduction of the new characters that carried the beginning of the book made this less enjoyable. In the end I really like all the character POV, but when the characters we know that drove the first two books get only 1/4 of the perspectives, it was a bit of an adjustment. Every time we were seeing Melba plotting, I’d be waiting for a Holden chapter so we were back with the crew again. I still really enjoyed it and am eager to get to the next books.
I picked this essay collection up right after I finished You Can’t Touch My Hair, so I had the benefit and problem of comparing the books to each other. I have to say I think the first was a better book. I think individual sections of this are better than the first, but it seemed to lack a strong central theme that her first book had, and her style was more chaotic/full of tangents. That being said, this seems like a more personable book, especially in the last third of the book. It was still an enjoyable listen, but overall more hit or miss for me: hit was the addendum with the guest narration of her bae Great British Bakeoff and miss was the Bono chapter (a story I’d already heard most of from her podcast).
I’ll Be There For You (★★★★★)
This book was the right book for the right time, much like the TV show that it examines. I love Friends, even when acknowledging its problematic nature. It has been there during difficult times in my life, which is a theme that this book touches on. Because I have been such a fangirl of the show, I was afraid that a book about it would be a lot of rehash of the facts every fan already knows, and thankfully that was not the case. It has a good mix of details about Friends and its cast with the larger impact of the show and what was going on in the world at the time. It addressed the problematic aspects, both the ones I knew (the whiteness, gay jokes and transphobia) and the ones I’d forgotten (treatment of Fat Monica). So binge listening to this book while my brain was still in a funk following the election was just what I needed. Is it really a 5 star quality book? Probably not. But it was 5 star level of enjoyment.
Nonfiction November Check-in:
From this list, I’ve completed 5 nonfiction books and in the middle of a sixth. If I tried to apply the challenge words to these, I would have completed the following: Past-time (I’ll Be There For You), Self (You Can’t Touch My Hair), Macro (Brief Answers to the Big Questions), and Wander (My Own Devices).
What I’m currently reading
I’m finally listening to Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister. So far, this book has the kind of background and focus that I wish Rage Becomes Her had. Specific examples of how mad women got things done, not just a standard feminist text about the reasons women are mad. So I’m eager to see how the rest of the book plays out.
As my buddy read I’m listening to Winter’s Heart, the 9th book in the Wheel of Time series. Not much to say, just counting down the books I have left until Brandon Sanderson takes over for Robert Jordan.
What I’m reading next
My Nonfiction November TBR got thrown out of whack because of how ridiculous Scribd is. Anyway, that means instead of getting to the books that I physically own, I’ll turn to Rebecca Solnit’s books. I’ve read Men Explain Things to Me, but haven’t read anything else. I should be able to binge the three that Hoopla has on audio pretty quickly (Hope in the Dark, Call Them By Their True Names, and Mother of all Questions.)
After I power through Winter’s Heart (hopefully this weekend), I’ll return to the Expanse series with Cibola Burn. I literally cringed when I picked up Winter’s Heart instead of this 4th book, so I’m excited to get back with the crew of the Rocinante.