I only read five books this month, but I am also editing D's novella, and I managed to binge watch A Handmaid's Tale on Hulu. Since all six of us were hit with the flu, I did the best I could with what time I had.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Gay's essays on feminism were insightful and honest, with the author confessing to embracing feminism but not feeling like she is always doing it right. Her message is relatable since even the most staunch feminists can't seem to agree on every issue and where we should stand. I agree with Gay when she says that it's important for her to be a feminist, even a bad one, because there is still work to do for women.
Gay covers music, movies, and her own life in these essays, and though all were enjoyable, I was particularly fond of the stories that centered around her narrative and personal history. That's why I grabbed the next book on the list and dove in.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Gay's memoir takes an even more personal turn, talking in more detail about the gang rape she experienced at the age of 12 and what it meant for the rest of her life, particularly her body. Attempting to protect herself from the abuse she suffered at the hands of cruel boys, Gay ate to deal with her trauma, and this book talks about the toll that hunger has taken on her life.
Gay holds a mirror up to our body-obsessed culture while still admitting that she sometimes longs for a different body. Her honesty is breathtaking, and it doesn't say great things about our world that a woman with her PhD and best-selling books to her name still has to deal with rude remarks about her appearance.
I read Hunger in one night, absorbing Gay's story, weeping for all she went through. It's impossible to define this book except to say it should be required reading for all.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Scientist Hope Jahren writes her memoir using personal stories and information about plants. It may sound like a strange combination, but it's perfection. I read this one slowly, not really wanting it to end.
The chapters alternate, telling something about plant life in one then switching to tales of Jahren's life, starting with her childhood living with a father who let her come to his lab regularly. Jahren is honest about the struggles female scientists face, and she's also transparent about her struggles with bipolar disease. Her writing is beautiful, almost lyrical, and I felt every emotion possible while reading her story. Put this book in the hands of any budding scientists, avid readers, or anyone who just enjoys good writing.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Towles' protagonist was described to me by a friend as "like Ove from A Man Called Ove, but way less grumpy". That description is perfect, and this book was a delight.
When the Bolsheviks take over, Count Alexander Rostov is confined to a hotel for the rest of his life as a punishment for being a man of leisure. He takes this confinement in stride, and for decades he watches Russia change from inside the elegant hotel. While confined, he makes friends, finds purpose, and reveals details of his past. When a young girl needs him to have a good life of her own, he rises to the challenge and uses his skills to provide her with the best life possible.
This book is on BookPage's top 50 for the year, and it belongs there.
No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
Watts' book is described as being Great Gatsby-like, but it's been years since I've read F. Scott Fitzgerald's tale of 1920s decadence. I enjoyed this book for what it was: a tale of families coming to terms with where their lives have led, and the tale of a man trying to change his future by using money to lure in the girl of his dreams.
Ava dreams of having a child, but her marriage to Henry is falling apart and she can't carry a pregnancy to term. JJ comes back to lure Ava to him with the house he is building in the Carolina mountains. Sylvia, Ava's mother, watches this unfold, dealing with her own life decisions and the infidelity of her husband, Don.
This story explores what it means for this family to be black in the Carolinas, a previously segregated area that still carries the scars of racism. Watts' writing is wonderful, and the relationship between Ava and Sylvia, mother and daughter, is accurately depicted as equal parts difficult and tender.