Today I wanted to revise my reading goals for 2021 and check how I did so far. There is a bit of time left with more than 20 days to go but at this point I feel like I know more or less what I’ll read and it won’t change this post a lot.
I talked about my goals for 2021 on the posts below:
I guess I technically failed because…. I ended up reading way over 100 books. I’m above 150 books read at this point. Oops.
2) Read at least 10 Brazilian books
I thought this would be much harder, but especially after creating a book club with my Brazilian family, this got done pretty quickly! By August or so I had completed the challenge. At this point I’ve read 14 books!
As per every year, I like writing a post with my top 3 books for each category I read this year, which gives me a chance to look back at all the different genres and books I picked up, highlight the books that really stood out for me and recommend the Very Good Stuff in one post.
This year however I am splitting it in three! I am always unsure how to do categories, and I feel like it would be interesting to create new ones that reflect better my ever-changing reading habits (for example, Brazilian Non-Fiction since I read a lot of that this year) than just the general ones (Non-Fiction). So this is how we’re doing it this time: this part 1 has my favorite Brazilian reads, part 2 has the more “usual” categories (Science Fiction, Contemporary etc) and part 3 will have whatever other categories I feel like would be cool to highlight (2021 Releases, Translated Classics etc).
This year I’ve read a lot more Brazilian books than usual, which is why I thought it would be nice to have a post just for them. It will be a bilingual post, and on the English section I’ll let you know which books are available in translation.
Brazilian Classics / Clássicos
[EN] This was such an interesting year for classics – I rediscovered a beloved classic (The Rogue’s Trial / Auto da Compadecida) in audio format, which I had not heard before (brilliant!), and two books for a book club that, although both are classics, they could not be more different: Barren Lives was a slim book, a sober account of a family in the Northeast trying to survive told in a bare-bones writing style, whereas Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands was such a brick of a book, hilarious, vulgar and with wonderful descriptions of food, about a woman who married once following her heart, and later on married again, but following her head this time. All three books are available in English translation, although I think The Rogue’s Trial is actually quite hard to get.
[PT] Este foi um ano excelente para clássicos brasileiros! Redescobri um favorito (Auto da Compadecida) em áudio com elenco completo, o que foi uma experiência incrível e me fez me apaixonar de novo por este livro. Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos e Vidas Secas peguei com um clube de leitura e foram dois livros excelentes que não poderiam ser mais diferentes! O primeiro é um tijolo de 600 páginas, hilário, vulgar e super interessante, e o segundo tem menos de 200 páginas e é mais sóbrio e com escrita direta sem floreios. Ambos excelentes!
I am actually very excited for December. I have vacation, there’s my birthday, there’s Christmas, and every year I look forward to December very much because it’s always such a fun time. I got to read some really interesting books in November and advance a bit on my personal reading goals, but have slowed down my reading considerably on the latter half of the month, when I got back to exercising a bit more, and generally spending my time doing other things.
I will start with what I read for Non-Fiction November:
Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John Drury Clark was the first book I finished for Non-Fiction November because I’d been reading it for a couple months already, and although I really enjoyed it, it is also very heavy in terms of chemistry, so it took me a while to read it since I had to be in a headspace for really focused reading, which is normally not how I read in my commute, during lunch breaks and right before bed. I really liked this book and it was totally worth the read – John D. Clark is clearly very knowledgeable but also this book is absolutely hilarious!
I decided spontaneously to pick up Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe in audio format, which was as amazing as I hoped it would be. At this point I think I will read anything Patrick Radden Keefe writes. His investigative work is written in such a compelling narrative that it’s impossible to put it down.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Stephen Brusatte will be my second and maybe last pick for Non-Fiction November (together with Ignition) and I want to get it done rather soon because half my family has already demanded to borrow this. Also it sounds super cool.
Lastly, for Non-Fic November I read Meaty by Samantha Irby and had mixed feelings about it because it was just so vulgar and a bit disgusting, which is not really something I enjoy reading, but also I could absolutely see myself enjoying her other books better because she was so witty and funny that I’m still interested in reading more from the author.
Every year I tell myself I won’t let the dark and cold months get to me, and every year I am proven again and again that I can’t really fend off the slight depression I feel during Winter (if you feel this way, you might have SAD, too, please speak to your doctor about it!). It’s just a fact of life at this point and I’ve come up with a few strategies to help me stay as mentally healthy as possible until Spring comes around, when I magically feel better again. Happy books are one way that I try to fool my brain into thinking it doesn’t have chemical imbalances.
I’d like to point out this is ONE strategy among many. There is only so much that “going for walks” and “reading feelgood books” can do and they definitely can’t cancel out depression. Last year it was not enough and I took medication for a while – which works so well from my personal experience. What I mean is that reading happy books when I am only lightly depressed may help me feel a bit better and gather enough mental strength to do other little things that help. You should definitely talk to a doctor about it if you feel depressed every Winter, though! Taking meds and doing therapy saved my life and got me to a place healthy enough that I have learned how to manage my SAD.
I have a few posts with recommendations for fun and light reads in case you’re interested:
First I have a few recommendation of books about books, which is one of my favorite things to read about when I want to feel cozy.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This is a heartwarming historical fiction about a book club set up during the second world war in order to offer the members a pretext to meet without raising suspicion when the Germans invade the island. I don’t normally gravitate towards histfic unless I’m looking for something to make me cry and pull my heartstrings, but this one was just so lovely!
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
If you prefer moving stories tending more towards literary fiction, I found this novel to be surprisingly uplifting and with such a heartwarming message. It’s about a Lebanese woman who translates books in her free time and tries to hold her life together amidst war, singlehood in a culture where as a woman she’s expected to marry, and feeling isolated from everyone.
Aaliya Saleh lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family’s ‘unnecessary appendage’. Every year, she translates a new favourite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read – by anyone. This breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman follows Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colourful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her ageing body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left. A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, the prodigiously gifted Rabih Alameddine has given us a magnificent rendering of one woman’s life in the Middle East.
It’s that time of year! I’m a bit early this year in posting my most anticipated 2022 releases, but I think my list looks already pretty good and, honestly, I can write on this list for another year and it won’t be completely finished, so I’ll stop now. I bet on the day this goes live I immediately want to add another 5 books – but it is what it is. I always look forward to seeing what’s on everyone’s lists so please le me know in the comments which books you’re looking forward to reading next year!
To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara / January 11th 2022
I don’t know much about this book, except that it spans three centuries and it’s probably heartbreaking and dark, but I really liked A Little Life so I am very excited to see this unexpected new release by Hanya Yanagihara. I think I’ll wait for a few more reviews to come out before I pick it up, though.
From the author of the classic A Little Life, a bold, brilliant novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia.
In an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). The fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means. In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist’s damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him—and solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearances.
These three sections are joined in an enthralling and ingenious symphony, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another: A townhouse in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village; illness, and treatments that come at a terrible cost; wealth and squalor; the weak and the strong; race; the definition of family, and of nationhood; the dangerous righteousness of the powerful, and of revolutionaries; the longing to find a place in an earthly paradise, and the gradual realization that it can’t exist. What unites not just the characters, but these Americas, are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: Fear. Love. Shame. Need. Loneliness.
To Paradise is a fin de siècle novel of marvellous literary effect, but above all it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara’s understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love – partners, lovers, children, friends, family and even our fellow citizens – and the pain that ensues when we cannot.
So I’ve been trying to come up with posts I’d like to write for this week and came up completely dry for ideas. Which is when I (finally) read Rennie’s post on Nonfiction November for this year and saw that she had some really good ideas for posts! So I am posting this prompt like two weeks late, but I thought it was such a good one it was worth posting anyway! I’ve included below only the books I read (or started at least) before November.
Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John Drury Clark
As is tradition on this blog already, it’s time for my annual collaboration post with Clio from Clio’s Board Games! I love writing these because I actually play board games very often, most of the time with Clio, who is also often victim of my unsolicited book recommendations – so these posts are a nice way to talk about both of our hobbies once a year and a great excuse to replay a few games for “blogging purposes”.
It’s November (WHAT!) and some of us realize at this point that we haven’t read yet nearly as much non-fiction as we wanted to in the beginning of the year (me included). So I decided to write a list of recommendations based on if you loved a certain book – mostly fiction, but I could not resist adding a few non-fiction ones there, too.
I have a few more recommendations on non-fiction if you’d like to read more:
If you liked My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, read Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Will I ever stop yelling about how good Know My Name is? No. This book is absolutely fantastic, Chanel Miller puts the herself in the forefront of the story of the sexual assault she suffered, making the reader see her as a person who has been victimized, and not as a faceless victim who might “destroy Brock Turner’s life with her accusations” or some nonsense. My Dark Vanessa did an incredible job of portraying the nuanced, difficult way in which a woman sees the horrible experiences she went through as a teenager, when she was groomed and raped by her teacher, and it broke my heart. I think Know My Name gives another point of view of what it is like to be a woman and suffer sexual assault, which complements My Dark Vanessa in which makes the reader see a few different ways that such an experience can affect girls and women. Both also deal with media attention and pressure to conform to an ideal of the sexual assault victim.
It’s been a while since I wrote a wrap up – I’ll normally keep track of all the books I read in a particular month in a draft post and then just finalize the post a day or two before it’s published, but this month I decided pretty spontaneously to write a wrap up and I’m lazy so I wanted just to talk about a few of my highlight reads of October instead of every single book. October was overall an incredible reading month, mostly because I got to pick up a bunch of books I’d been looking forward to all year and had been saving for either my Halloween reads or for my vacation, which was also during this month. So. Great reading month!
October just started off really well when I decided to pick up The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell, which unsurprisingly blew me away. I love Mariana Enríquez’ creepy stories, something about them just really work for me. I am a big fan of horror and the way she writes makes me physically uncomfortable, which apparently is something I enjoy.
It’s been a while, I know! I’ve been on vacation and now I’m finally back and on the mood to blog again. Not gonna lie, the past few months I’ve been a bit on a blogging slump, but after a couple weeks off, I feel excited to be writing again. I read so much in the meantime and worked on getting my TBR to a manageable amount (I’m below 100 books now! I have NO idea when my TBR last was so short).
For today I thought I’d recommend 3 books for some of my favorite tropes in horror/thriller books which fit the spooky October season. I love reading scary books and gorier thrillers around Halloween, and some tropes just really work for me.
Without further ado, here are my top 3 recommendations for each trope:
A House As a Main Character
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende is an incredible family drama epic filled with magic if you are into generational stories. I loved its lyrical writing and the incredible, jumping-off-the-page characters. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.
The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is an absolute classic read for this time of year and for good reason. It’s witty, spooky, and so wonderfully written. This is more of a psychologically intense novel than a proper horror, and an incredible read. I would also recommend We Have Always Lived in a Castle, but I think this one is a better fit for this trope.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is a perfect read if you love this particular trope but you don’t like anything spooky at. All. This delightful and very popular book made me laugh out loud so often I actually had to stop listening to it in public transport.
Okay I am sneaking another recommendation because this is my FAVORITE trope ever and I can’t just limit myself to three: The Yellow Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is such a wonderful and very quick read about a wife staying in her new house and slowly going mad. SO GOOD.