What We’re Reading: The 12 Books I Read in April

I listen to audiobooks at 2x speed while doing other things, so I tend to go through a lot of books each month.  They tend to include a mix of genres and types, mostly because I read whatever just came off of my hold list.  Then it takes me a month to write up my impressions while I listen to 15 more books.  

Four must-reads

Book covers of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, The Personal Librarian, and Reconstruction.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (started in April, finished in May)

Explore a Black family’s history from the start of European settlement to the near present. The book interweaves family narrative with Black history and activism through the centuries. I loved the structure and pace of the book as the story flowed in and out through generations. Its lyrical writing is why this book is on so many “must-read” lists.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers 

This book reminded me of the Expanse series, but I’m not sure why. Both feature an outsider, a captain with romantic and financial issues trying to run a sometimes less-than-cooperative ship while dealing with what it means to be alien and… ok, they are kind of alike. So maybe The Long Way is The Expanse writ small and intense. Like a neutron star.  While there is some action and adventure (this does involve a spaceship, after all), that aspect is the least important part of the tale. Chambers deftly explores what it means to be human, to be alien, to relate to others both like you and most assuredly not. Also, food is important (as it would be in space) – and the being in charge of the table is Dr. Chef, one of the most lovely aliens you’ll meet this side of Vulcan.  It’s also one of the few books I’ve read that has left me delighted in the end, eager to take up the next volume.

The Personal Librarian, Victoria Christopher Murray and Marie Benedict

JD Rockefeller had his own personal librarian. Belle da Costa Greene finds herself organizing materials from the dawn of printing, searching for lost treasures, and learning her way through high society. But what no one but her family knows is that she is Black. This story is a fictionalized account of Belle and her struggles with a fascinating job, a more-than-fascinating employer, an openly racist society, a family that needs her support, and her desire to maintain her own identity. By the way, Belle is the daughter of Richard Theodore Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard University.

Reconstruction, Eric Foner (started in March but didn’t finish before I had to return it)

Oh, what could have been if the promise of the early 1870s could have been kept. This in-depth, far-ranging account explores the impact of Emancipation in the north and in the south. One of the highlights of the book is a detailed account of many historical Black figures in government and what they were able to do. The last chapters of the book are devastating, as all attempts to bring equality and equity to the U.S. quickly crumble into Jim Crow. 

Six fun books

A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas – While hunting food for her family, a young woman kills a faerie disguised as a wolf. Now Feyre must face the consequence – live in the fae lands for the rest of her life, forever separated from her loved ones and the life she has known. Lots of intrigues, plot twists, and romance.

The Midnight Bargain, C.L. Polk – Beatrice is a young sorcerous who needs to marry to save her family’s fortunes, but she will lose her connection to magic once she is wed. She’s a fun character who thinks through her problems. And, of course, romance! 

The Alchemyst, Michael Scott – Nikolas Flamell is immortal, but now his worst enemy has stolen the book that gives him and his wife the everlasting life they need to keep the world safe. The book is quite an adventure, with a lot of twists and turns.  It’s geared to younger audiences, but still fun.

Infomacracy, Malka Ann Older – In the future, our voting constituency will not be based on geography, but instead on which micro-democracy we align ourselves with. This debut author tells the story of an election where everything is at stake, and everyone has a reason to ensure their side wins at all costs.

For the Wolf, Hannah Whitten – Red is the second daughter of a queen. According to the terms of an ancient bargain, she is to be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wilderwood when she comes of age, going into the forest’s dark depths and never to come out again. But Red doesn’t intend to let that bargain stand in the way of being reunited with her beloved sister.  Loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood, the book is fun if somewhat predictable.  

Belgravia, Julian Fellows – From the writer of Downton Abbey. Can a wife of a newly-rich businessman and a countess from an ancient line have anything in common? The answer is yes, of course. This Victorian romance novel, focusing on the courtship of the women’s grandchild and protege, was enjoyable. But readers will see the plot twists coming from miles away. It’s a great read if you are looking for something on the lighter side.

One good but not fun book

Numero Zero, Umberto Eco – a somewhat satirical and fictionalized account of the rise of Silvio Berlusconi (never mentioned by name), which also expounds on the role of the modern news cycle (which was bad enough in the days before the internet). While short for an Eco book (5 hours, less than 200 pages), it’s not a light read.

One that is definitely not for the weak-of-stomach

Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, Bill Schutt – Just about every animal species practices cannibalism, but why? And what does cannibalism really mean for humans?  

These audiobooks are available through Hoopla or Libby. Tune in next month for Blockchain Chicken Farm!  

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