July 2021 reading wrap-up

Have I been great at keeping up with this blog lately? No, of course not. In my defense, it’s a busy time of year at work (and in life), but I promise to get back to writing more regularly as summer winds down.

However, just because my writing has been irregular doesn’t mean my reading has, and this month I finished nine books, including some amazing nonfiction and a few young adult favorites.

Check out my best of July below!

Best of the month

“I think that history is the story of the past, using all the available facts, and that nostalgia is a fantasy about the past using no facts, and somewhere in between is memory, which is kind of this blend of history and a little bit of emotion…I mean, history is kind of about what you need to know…but nostalgia is what you want to hear.”

From How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

How the Word is Passed / Clint Smith

When How the Word is Passed came out in June, it made a huge splash and debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. I had picked it up in June, and waited until this month to dive in.

How the Word is Passed is an examination of the ways we teach, learn, and understand the history and legacy of slavery in the United States. It unpacks the myths and the half-truths the lie in our collective consciousness, with each chapter framed around a visit to a monument or landmark and the way it has shaped history.

I purposely took my time with this book, reading it throughout the month and finishing it on the last day of July. It’s not a long book by any means, but there’s a lot of excavation being done by Smith and I found the experience more rewarding when taking time to think about what I’d read.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Smith is a poet, and there are passages in this book that absolutely sing. Part history, part travelogue, and part cultural criticism, How the Word is Passed quickly became one of my favorite reads of the year.

Other highlights

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World / Benjamin Alire Sáenz

There are few books that I’ve been anticipating as much as this one, and few books that I’ve been more afraid to read. This is the upcoming sequel to the 2012 coming-of-age novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which happens to be one of my favorite books of all time. Now, I did not ask for a follow-up, especially after the wonderful ending of the first novel, but Sáenz makes it worth it by giving another perfectly observed year-in-the-lives of best friends Ari and Dante. If you’re afraid to pick this one up for similar, spoiler-related reasons as I was, let me say this: don’t be. Check out Ari and Dante’s next adventures when this book is released on October 12th, 2021.

The Inconvenient Indian / Thomas King

Last month, I read Unworthy Republic, which recounted how the United States government orchestrated the mass displacement and genocide of Native Americans over the course of the 1800s. In The Inconvenient Indian, writer Thomas King tells a history of indigenous people in North America, encompassing Canada’s own sordid history as well as the United States’. King brings humor and lightness in the way he tells this history, and numerous times I found myself laughing at his writing. However, that doesn’t mean he glosses over the darkest aspects. With his blistering closing, a summation of what needs to be done and why it will never be done, he pinpoints the rot of greed and capitalism as the driver of so much inhumanity towards indigenous people worldwide.

The Taking of Jake Livingston / Ryan Douglass

Part of what kickstarted this great reading month was this young adult horror novel, The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass. I love reading horror in the summer, and Douglass ingeniously uses the trope of a person who can see ghosts to create a dark tale examining racism, homophobia, bullying, child abuse, and trauma. While the imperfections of a debut novel are certainly there, this is a taught thrill ride, and is thought-provoking in equal measure. It’s also the first book in awhile that I’ve read in one sitting, which is its own kind of strong endorsement. Also, what a gorgeous cover!

Complete list of july reads

  • In the Quick by Kate Hope Day
  • The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
  • The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang
  • Heartstopper, Vol. 4 by Alice Oseman
  • Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  • The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells
  • The Balck God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
  • How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

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