January 2022 reading wrap-up

Look who is publishing this on time this month! New year, new me.

I kicked off 2022 with a mixed bags of reads. There was a book that became an all-time favorite, and a book that I loathed more than anything in the past few years (thanks again, book club!)

Check out the highlights and some notes from all of my January reads!

Best of the month

“It occurs to me now that this was the real joy of dancing: to enter a world unlike the one you find yourself burdened with, and move your body toward nothing but a prayer that time might slow down.”

From A Little Devil In America by Hanif Abdurraqib

A Little Devil In America / Hanif Abdurraqib

There’s a strange feeling you get when you read a book and know that it will become an all time favorite before it is finished. Less than a month into 2022, I had that feeling while reading A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib.

The book’s subtitle, “Notes in Praise of Black Performance,” sets expectations for this nonfiction essay collection, with pieces on Soul Train, Josephine Baker, and Merry Clayton’s essential vocals on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” At a certain point in the collection, the full depth of that subtitle comes into view and the book becomes something not easily defined: cultural criticism, memoir, history, and prose all in one.

Abdurraqib’s insights are intimidatingly smart, but he writes in a way that is accessible to all, like a friend telling their favorite story just to you. This is one of the great reading experiences I’ve had in recent memory, a true knockout.

Other highlights

If We Were Villains / M. L. Rio

I have long been searching for the same high that I received from reading Donna Tartt’s A Secret History, an academic and literate thriller about the bonds that are forged amongst friends in college. I am happy to report that If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio gets as close to that as any novel has. Following a group of students at an acting conservatory and the events that lead up to one of them committing murder, this story is cut from a similar cloth as A Secret History, and at points inches up to being imitation. Luckily, the story Rio wants to tell has a different aim than Tartt’s, and the thespians in this are inherently more “dramatic,” much to the reader’s benefit. A fun literary thriller with a couple of great surprises along the way.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue / V. E. Schwab

I haven’t had much luck with my book club, with many of the picks (if I’m being charitable) not of my taste. Those muted expectations helped our December 2021 pick, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Shwab, break out in an exciting way. In 1714, Addie LaRue makes a Faustian bargain to live forever, but as always, there’s a catch: everyone she meets will forget her moments afterwards. That is, until 2014 in New York City when, inexplicably, someone remembers her. It’s a sweeping and beautiful love story about the human desire for connection. The ending didn’t work as well for me as it does for most people, but it is still a journey worth taking and a character worth remembering.

Road of Bones / Christopher Golden

I love a good chilly read, especially when it’s horror. Christopher Golden’s Road of Bones isn’t a groundbreaking work of the genre by any means, using a pretty common plot convention of a group of people trying to outrun an unstoppable evil, but Golden’s stroke of genius is in the setting: Siberia in the middle of winter. The pervasive cold plays such a critical role in this novel’s terror. Even in moments where things are relatively calm, the novel’s atmosphere still managed to send a chill down my spine. While the novel lost a bit of its steam as it got to the end, it is still a taught little story (only 230 pages) and the early scenes are some of the tensest chapters I’ve read in a bit. Check it out for some wintry horror fun.

Notes on other january reads

Where the Drowned Girls Go / Seanan McGuire

A necessary world expansion, but ultimately a disappointing new chapter in a favorite series of mine.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation / Ottessa Moshfegh

Frustrating/compulsively readable/hilarious/infuriating/boring/thrilling, contradictory in every sense of the word.

The First Sister / Linden A. Lewis

A fascinating introduction to this world, but at times too convoluted for its own good.

The Wedding Date / Jasmine Guillory

“If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.”

Too Bright to See / Kyle Lukoff

A warm-hearted middle grade ghost story about self-discovery, quite cute!

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