2017 Reading Update 1

I thought that in 2017 I would do some regular updates about reading. Words were the first art form that I fell in love with and I read thousands of books when I was a kid. My outside of school reading really slowed down in high school and college when I was consumed with reading and writing for my classes. Reading for pleasure was relegated to breaks, when I would devour a stack of books and then go months without reading anything new. After I graduated my reading has increased with each passing year. Reading feels more and more important to the person that I am becoming and the person that I want to be and 2017 is a year of books for sure.

book stack book blog

Every week(ish) I share what I've been reading on my Instagram Stories, but I thought that I would share notable books I've read, some stats, and general thoughts here on the blog every few months. Partly because maybe you missed the stories, or want to know more in-depth, but mostly because I just wanted a reason to write about books. 

First, because I am a huge nerd, some stats (as of April 1, 2017):

Total number of books read: 40 

  • Adult Novels: 9
  • Young Adult Novels: 4
  • Children's Novels: 2
  • Short Story Collections: 6
  • Nonfiction Books: 1
  • Graphic Novels: 4
  • Graphic Trades: 13
  • Poetry Collections: 1

Where I get books from:

  • From the library: 70%
  • Gifts: 20%
  • Bought myself: 7.5%
  • Borrowed from friends: 2.5%

Total number of books I have acquired in 2017: 24

  • Percentage of those books that I have read so far: 33.33%

It is important to me to read widely - in terms of the books's format, genre, author demographics, and even age groups. Mostly because I feel like it keeps things interesting and stops me from getting into a rut, but also because something can be taken from all different types of books.

Something I've gotten much more into this year is reading comics and graphic novels. I had read a couple of comics and graphic novels here and there in the past, and even more in 2016, but I have really stepped up my consumption of graphic works in 2017 and made it part of my reading routine. As an artist who also loves words and books, it just makes sense that graphic novels would be highly relevant to my interests. I feel like they can be kind of intimidating to get into, but I have really enjoyed delving into the world of graphic stuff this year and can't wait to learn more. If that sounds like something you're into then read on because I have several comic/graphic novel recs in the list of notable books below!

graphic novels book blog

Notable books I read this quarter (in the order that I read them):

Shelter by Jung Yun

When this book opens, Kyung Cho and his wife are deeply in debt and are preparing to sell the house that they live in with their young son, when they find out that something traumatic and violent has happened to Kyung's parents. The book follows Kyung and his family in the aftermath of this event and explores how they deal with the trauma, as well as issues of family dynamics, Korean-American identity, and abuse. I worried that this book was going to contain nothing but tragedy after tragedy and completely overwhelm me with sadness, but I didn't feel that way by the end. It is definitely a sad and difficult book (be aware if you're worried about trigger warnings before you read), but it gave me so much to think about. I read in in mid-January (and have read a lot since then) and I still think about it often.

Long Division by Kiese Laymon

This weird and wonderful book focuses on City Coldson, a 14-year-old black boy from Mississippi who becomes a YouTube celebrity after an incident at televised quiz contest. He is given a book called Long Division, which features a main character also named City Coldson, who finds a passage to 2013. From there it gets weirder and more difficult to explain, but Laymon totally pulls it off.  What struck me while reading this book, is the narrative voice, City the narrator feels so real and gives such close insight into a life experience that is so different from mine. This is both a feat by Laymon and something that I need to seek out far more in my reading life. I'm not sure if my description is doing it justice, but even if the time travel and universe bending shenanigans don't draw you in then you should read it for the narration.  

Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré

This is one of my favorite graphic novels of all time. It is actually a collection of graphic short stories and it is phenomenal. Carré changes up the art style, material, or color palette slightly with each story (some are monotone, some are done in pencil, some are more detailed, some are looser), but they are still unified and clearly Carré's. The stories themselves are whimsical and fascinating and compliment the art so well. Usually with graphic novels I tend to clearly prefer the art or the writing, but I love both in Heads or Tails

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

This is exactly what it sounds like: a comic about a girl who has squirrel powers (including a tail) and is the only undefeated superhero in the Marvel Universe. This series is so delightful, I can't even put it into words. Just believe me. It is truly hilarious and heartwarming. I love it so much that I have the graphic novel, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe (with the best title and cover ever), and I've been saving it to read because I know it will be just the thing to cheer me up if I need it. Get all 4 published trades from your library (or just buy them, it will be worth it) and read them all back to back like I did.

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrl to Cover Girl, the Buying and Selling of A Political Movement by Andi Zeisler

This book, written by one of the founders of Bitch Media, is all about the commodification and commercialization of feminism. In the first half, Zeisler looks at several different industries (advertising, film, fashion, etc.) and how they have reacted to and co-opted feminism throughout history. The second half focuses on the feminist movement itself and how it has been shaped by these forces. I am incredibly interested in the topic, so I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in just a few days. It is a pretty broad overview, tackling analysis of several decades across many different industries, and I would have read so much more on each chapter (especially in the first part). I took note of tons of passages while reading, both on things I hadn't thought of before and on things that I hadn't been able to put into words, but were perfectly phrased in the book. Read this so we can talk about it, because I'm dying to talk about it with someone.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

This is the best short story collection I've ever read. No one needs me to explain this, but Gay is such a talented writer. As I was reading it for the first time I was already looking forward to rereading it, because I'm sure that there are so many layers of meaning that I didn't catch on my first read. As the title suggests, all of the stories focus on women and Gay has so much to say on the topic. There are several reoccurring themes, motifs, and details throughout the stories, but they didn't feel repetitive to me, more like something Gay was returning to over and over in order to further examine her interest in them. Many stories definitely deal with dark or difficult subject matter, but it didn't feel overdone to me. Read Difficult Women, I definitely will again.

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, and Jared K. Fletcher

I've heard about this from so many different people and I'm so glad that I finally picked it up. I feel like a lot comics have gorgeous covers that draw me in, but then the art inside is a bit of a disappointment, but the art and coloring of Paper Girls is just as good as the cover promises. It is so stunning and I will return to it time and time again for color palette inspiration. The story is also bananas in the best way. Girls on bikes are delivering papers in the 1980s when everything gets super weird and there are monsters and spaceships, etc.. I can't wait to pick up volume 2.

Exit West by Moshin Hamid

There has been lots of hype surrounding this book and it is definitely deserved. Saeed and Nadia fall in love in a country on the brink of civil war and attempt to leave their increasingly dangerous homeland and "exit west". It reads like a fairytale in that Saeed and Nadia are the only named characters, the writing is straightforward but lyrical in a fable-eque way, and there is a touch of magic. It is both incredibly relevant to the present day but also feels timeless. Definitely read this.

exit west book blog

Finally, I thought I would share a little bit about my reading plans and goals for the future. In April, which is National Poetry Month, I plan to read at least one poem every day. There are a few poems and poets that are important to me and I love watching slam poetry videos on YouTube, but poetry isn't something that I read regularly (as you can see from the stats above). I'm hoping that by starting with one poem I'll be motivated to keep reading and will actually read lots of poetry throughout the month. I'm also taking a break from my beloved library (shocking, I know) in an attempt to read the books that I own. Hopefully that will include a lot of nonfiction, because I haven't been doing very well about reading that this year either.

If you read this whole post then you are fantastic and probably just my kind of book-nerdy person. So tell me, what are some of the best books you've read this year? What are you trying to read more of? I love to talk about books and trade recommendations so don't be shy!