I read this book a while ago, but I’ve been feeling slumpy on and off lately, which is why I’m just now posting this reflection on it. It was a good read, but I think I read it at the wrong time. You know how it is to read a book, even a very short one, when you’re feeling slumpy: The mood makes it seem as if you’re taking FOREVER to finish it.
Nonfiction — memoir
A profound and gorgeously wrought short memoir by acclaimed Nigerian-born author and poet Chris Abani that explores his personal history and complex sense of identity through a meditation on the face.
It’s the end of March and I’ve FINALLY started reviewing the books I read this year, smh. The first two books I read in 2020 were both audiobooks, which shows that this year began on a busy note.
It’s a little surprising to me how comfortable I’ve become with audiobooks. Now I don’t mind listening to new-to-me books on audio; however, I can only do so for certain genres. I refrain from listening to new-to-me epic fantasy books on audio since they tend to be very detailed and there’s no way I’d be able to keep up or remember what’s said. If I do listen to such a book on audio, it’s because it’s a reread.
As for these two books, one is a psychological thriller/mystery, which work well for me on audio because I get so hooked on the mystery that my attention hardly strays from the story, and the other is a memoir, which, surprisingly, works well for me on audio too. There are no similarities between these two books other than that they were the first books I read this year and they are both audiobooks. Those are the only reasons why I paired them in this post.
Blue Monday by Nicci French, narr. by Beth Chalmers
Psychological Thriller; Mystery
Frieda Klein, book 1
The abduction of five-year-old Matthew Farraday provokes a national outcry and a desperate police hunt. And when a picture of his face is splashed over the newspapers, psychotherapist Frieda Klein is left troubled: one of her patients has been relating dreams in which he has a hunger for a child. A child he can describe in perfect detail, a child the spitting image of Matthew.
By the time Michelle Obama’s book was published in November 2018, I’d gotten a part-time position at my dream job: I was FINALLY working as a bookseller in a bookstore. A few weeks had passed since I’d started, so I was still getting familiar with the process for books we weren’t allowed to sell before a specified date although customers would visit and call the store often asking “Is it there yet? Can I come by for a copy? Do you have it?”
It was the same with Obama’s book. There was a buildup of great excitement and expectation for her autobiography. People couldn’t wait to get it in their hands, and on the day it was released, we were sold out in minutes. Whenever we received another stack of books, they’d be gone in moments, sometimes before they even got on the shelves. It was even worse around Christmas time as people bought copies for themselves, friends, and family and would place five or 10 copies on hold at a time — all Christmas gifts, everyone in the family getting a copy. I also bought more than one copy. I bought one for myself and gave another to my aunt.
As usual, I didn’t immediately begin reading Obama’s autobiography when I got it. I don’t read many biographies, autobiographies, or even memoirs, and when I do, they’re never about political figures. I’m not a fan of politics, and I always mistrust political figures. But I liked the Obamas and really admired Michelle Obama. I loved her personality. What convinced me to finally purchase her autobiography was an interview she did with Oprah where she spoke about her book, growing up in Chicago, and her time as First Lady. I got curious. I wanted to know more. Furthermore, I loved how relatable Obama was in the interview. She seemed to just “tell it like it is” even when she was trying to be tactful or hold back a bit on some things, she came across as honest. I thought to myself, “I need to read her book.” And I’m glad I did.
Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise.
In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge into the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It’s a harrowing portrait—but not one without hope. (Goodreads)
Every time I saw this book on the shelf at the bookstore, I felt compelled to pick it up and read. The title made me curious. It made me wonder “Oh my god! A kid grew up on meth? WTF!” The title worked for getting people to pick up the book, but once I started reading, Sheff pulled me in. I was just amazed and sometimes shocked at all he had been through due to his drug addiction. I felt sorry for him when he spoke about his struggle with addiction and to get enough money to feed it, and his struggle to get clean and heal his relationship with his family.
It was morning. As always, I was rushing to catch my bus to work but stole some time to look up an audio book to listen to on my way there and while working. Work is boring. Traveling to work on public bus can be aggravating. I needed a distraction.
I pulled up my Overdrive app and scrolled through audio books. I couldn’t find any available for books I’ve already read, which is the best way for me to consume audio books because it’s hard for me to remember or focus on new-to-me reads on audio. Then I said fuck it. Let me just download a random one. I pulled up a list of popular audio books and downloaded the one that snagged my attention first — the black and white cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. I didn’t even know who the dude is, but I knew that a lot of people raved over the book. It could be good, I thought as I popped in my headphones and hopped out the door.
I needed something to read after completing Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, but despite owning over 900 books and a library card, I couldn’t think of single book to read. Then I remembered that I had an ARC of Shaun Bythell’s The Diary of a Bookseller and that its publication date for the U.S. was fast approaching — September 4th. Feeling like I had no other choice, I decided to finally give Bythell’s diary a read.
Nonfiction – autobio, humor
September 2018 (2017 in U.K.)
Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost…
A couple weeks ago, I was on a roll reading memoirs about mental health. I started with Susan Cahalan’s Brain on Fire, which pricked my interested, then picked up Madness by Marya Hornbacher, which was absorbing though sometimes unsettling, and moved on to Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, which was totally hilarious.
“In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest.” (Goodreads)
I cut that Goodreads summary short because that’s what the book’s about and all you need to know going in. You don’t even need to read the rest of my review, unless you’re really interested in knowing what I thought of the book, because it’s best to just hop right in. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it.
When Marya Hornbacher published her first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, she did not yet have the piece of shattering knowledge that would finally make sense of the chaos of her life. At age twenty-four, Hornbacher was diagnosed with Type I rapid-cycle bipolar, the most severe form of bipolar disorder.
In Madness, in her trademark wry and utterly self-revealing voice, Hornbacher tells her new story. Through scenes of astonishing visceral and emotional power, she takes us inside her own desperate attempts to counteract violently careening mood swings by self-starvation, substance abuse, numbing sex, and self-mutilation. How Hornbacher fights her way up from a madness that all but destroys her, and what it is like to live in a difficult and sometimes beautiful life and marriage — where bipolar always beckons — is at the center of this brave and heart-stopping memoir.
Madness delivers the revelation that Hornbacher is not alone: millions of people in America today are struggling with a variety of disorders that may disguise their bipolar disease. And Hornbacher’s fiercely self-aware portrait of her own bipolar as early as age four will powerfully change, too, the current debate on whether bipolar in children actually exists.(Goodreads)
“It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed.” – Thomas Moore
I bought Cahalan’s book about two years ago. I’d seen it promoted on various places online but didn’t pay attention to what it’s about. However, curiosity pricked me in December 2015 so when I saw the book in Barnes & Noble, I read a couple pages and was immediately hooked on Cahalan’s story. I knew then I had to buy it.
Fast forward to May 2017 when I again picked up the book because after abandoning it on my shelves for two years, I was finally in the mood to read it. Once again, I was hooked as soon as I started reading. It was as if I was reading one of those medical novels except everything mentioned in Brain on Fire actually happened because it’s Cahalan’s recount of a month she spent hospitalized while doctors scrambled to figure out what was wrong with her.
Lately, it’s been hard to keep up with my reviews or remember what I want to say in them. I was more organized last year because I would jot down my thoughts soon after completing a book in my spiral-bound notebook. But at the beginning of this year, I was so lethargic and sluggish when it came to reading and blogging that I stopped recording my impression of what I read immediately after completing the book.
Most times I’m able to write a decent review despite not having recorded my initial thoughts. I highlight so many passages as I read that once I reread them, I’m able to recall why I highlighted it, how that portion of the book made me feel, and what that particular passage made me think. So a notebook isn’t necessarily needed, but it is helpful in easing the load of thoughts I store in mind as I read more and more books without posting reviews of them.
Such a notebook comes in handy when I read library e-books that disappear after its due date without me having posted a review. That’s what happened with Alyssa Mastromonaco’s memoir Who Thought This Was a Good Idea, which is about how she became the youngest woman to serve as deputy chief of staff at the White House.