February 2022 reading wrap-up

Short month, small batch of books to wrap up!

This month, I read six books, a far cry from the person who read 15 this past October, but Pokémon Legends: Arceus came out and that occupied way too much of my free time.

Overall, this was a strong month of reads, and I have mostly positive things to say about all of the books I finished this month. You’ll recognize the author of my favorite of the month, and I’m excited to see if he can keep this streak going when I dive into some of his poetry in March.

Take a look at all of my February reads below.

Best of the month

“To stay angry at someone you know will forgive your anger is a type of love, or at least it is a type of familiarity that can feel like love.”

From Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib

Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest / Hanif Abdurraqib

A little behind the scenes insight for you: to make these posts every month, I copy the previous one and use it as the template, so it was a funny experience to erase this section from last month where I gushed about how much I loved Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America just to gush about another Abdurraqib book, Go Ahead in the Rain.

Everything from last month remains true: Abdurraqib is a staggering talent, a literal genius, and this work is a new favorite of mine. However, what he pulls off here, in this genre-breaking book about the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, is made all the more impressive considering my familiarity with the group was pretty minimal going in. With this book, Abdurraqib provided an introduction and a blueprint for being a fan of A Tribe Called Quest, and recontextualized an entire era of popular music for me.

If I can convince you to do one thing, pick up a Hanif Abdurraqib book. You won’t regret it.

Other highlights

Devil House / John Darnielle

A cover like Devil House‘s immediately sets expectations for the reader, the first of many tricks John Darnielle pulls in his third novel. Spun as a fictional true-crime tale about a series of unrelated murders that take place in one house over many years, Darnielle manages to make Devil House never quite the book the reader is expecting, and almost always something more interesting. A metatextual commentary on our modern obsession with true crime stories disguised as true crime. Darnielle’s brilliance truly shines in the last third of the book, as he explores victims of crime and victims of True Crime as a genre. It’s a fascinating, mind-expanding read that blew me away.

When You Reach Me / Rebecca Stead

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself rereading books less and less, which is a departure from my youth when I would reread a handful of my favorite books annually. I got the itch to read Rebecca Stead’s brilliant and widely-acclaimed middle-grade novel When You Reach Me this past month, and I am elated to report that the magic is still strong in this one. The best middle-grade works tell stories as complex as those in literary fiction, but with an efficiency that many writers could learn from. When You Reach Me is a modern classic for a reason, one of the best coming of age stories ever written, and a surprising science-fiction tale that borders on miraculous.

Vladimir / Julia May Jonas

There were times while reading Vladimir by Julia May Jonas that I had to pause and marvel at the sheer audacity of what Jonas was pulling off. Jonas tells the story of a college professor dealing with the aftermath of her husband, a fellow professor, being accused of engaging in inappropriate sexual relationships with former students, all while becoming obsessed with a young professor and his wife. It’s a campus novel about sexual politics in a post-#MeToo world, and a collision between ideas of Baby Boomer-sexual liberation and Gen Z’s puritanical bent. And goddamn, Jonas’ fearlessness is a gift to us all. Whether you agree or disagree with the narrator and her actions, it’s hard to put this book down.

Notes on other february reads

Real Life / Brandon Taylor

I tend to struggle with autofiction, but this one worked pretty well for me, bolstered by its Madison, Wisconsin setting.

Everyone in this Room Will Someday Be Dead / Emily Austin

I’ve never experienced anxiety written so acutely and specifically, a masterclass in that aspect.

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