I kinda, sorta, dropped out of college. I waffle about the term because I’m taking a college course right now and do still intend to get my degree. It’s just that I left the school I was certain I would graduate from in four years, about a year from now, this last spring.
I’ve rounded up the books I read in lieu of a spring semester and rated them. Spoiler: you could find these on my Instagram also. I’ll write more in-depth reviews later on. They are memoirs, fantasies, nonfictions, diaries, fictions, sci-fis, essays, academic writings, and more.
I have three ratings to base my judgment of each book on: general enjoyment, learning/inspiration (did I learn about people or topics I’d never heard of/did I want to learn more? did it fill me with wonder/did it inspire me to make myself or the world better?), and difficulty* (the density of material, words I didn’t know, writing style, length of book – this is personal and is by no means official or necessarily how difficult another reader would find the book), all out of 1-5 with 5 being the best for the first two categories and the most difficult for the last.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click those links I added for you to easily find and buy these books, I get paid! Affiliate links are a very exciting way to support bloggers. Support me. Get wild and click those links. I tried to choose the same print editions I read.
Buck by MK Asante. Buy Buck
“Buck: A Memoir” by MK Asante was an incredibly well-told and moving, but also very entertaining, story. He’s a young African American man fighting his way through ghettos, drug deals, school systems that have failed him, and eventually, finding his education and love of literature and writing. Asante has also written “It’s Bigger than Hip Hop” which I hope to find and read!
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 4.5 Difficulty – 2.5
The Journal of Charlotte L. Forten: A Free Negro in the Slave Era. The Journal of Charlotte L. Forten
Charlotte Forten was a free black woman living in the Northeast, eventually teaching in South Carolina. There she meets with people who had recently been freed from slavery. She was ever seeking to be better, to learn more, in order to help with the Abolitionist cause and to add good to the world. Her fine appreciation of beauty as well as her dedication to God and helping people show her personal journey to finding her purpose as well as a telling chronicle of the fight for freedom for all black people in America.
Enjoyment – 3 Learning/Inspiration – 5 Difficulty 4.5
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. Buy Cutting for Stone
Cutting For Stone was so good that I had to wait and let it sit in my brain for a few days before I could start another book. Seriously, if you like gripping, intense novels smattered with love and medical suspense, find it and read it. I’ll share a longer review in another post.
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 4 Difficulty – 4
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making. Buy The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland
A perfect adventure for all ages. Reading this book was probably the most fun I’d had reading a book since before I started college.
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 3 Difficulty – 2
Alien Influences by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Buy Alien Influences
“Alien Influences” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch was a richly themed sci-fi novel that was impossible to put down. How does one distinguish between human and alien behavior? What drives children to native alien intelligence and away from people? How does government handle the effects of its mistakes and navigate inter-species relationships? “Alien Influences” compellingly follows a group of children supposedly under alien influence and answers these questions.
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 3 Difficulty – 3.5
48 Shades of Brown by Nick Earles. Buy 48 Shades of Brown
A cute, fun, young-adult novel. I sped through it and had fun, but don’t particularly recommend it.
Enjoyment – 3.5 Learning/Inspiration – 2 Difficulty – 2
Diary of a Bad Year by J. M. Coatzee. Buy Diary of a Bad Year
This book is beautifully structured to switch between essay style opinions written by our narrator, the narrator’s experience with his beautiful young typist, and the typist’s thoughts and point of view of the actions and opinions of the narrator. It felt both like a collection of short stories as well as a tender, if hilarious, exposure of an old man clinging to his beliefs in the face of corruption, politics, and youthful sexuality.
Enjoyment – 4 Learning/Inspiration – 4 Difficulty – 4
Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream by William Powers. Buy Twelve by Twelve
I thought “Twelve by Twelve” by William Powers was just going to be some white guy exercising his economic priviledge to be a hippy. I am glad that I was very wrong. It was an engaging and hopeful (but certainly not disengenuiously optimistic) call to rethink how we live with and on the earth and with each other. “Twelve by Twelve” was both racially aware as well as a psychologically fulfilling rebellion against a Flat (dead, overworked, polluted) economy and earth. For those feeling trapped or hopeless or unable to help the world, this book is a breath of fresh air.
Enjoyment – 4.5 Learning/Inspiration – 5 Difficulty – 3
Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal by Sigrid Undset. Buy Marta Oulie
“I have been unfaithful to my husband.” This shocking (particularly in Norway in the year 1907 when it was first published) line opens up “Marta Oulie” by Sigrid Undset and thrusts us into the diary of Marta. In some ways she is despicable. In some ways, I found myself in her. She tries to navigate a being a woman, being wanted, and wanting. She does so imperfectly, like the rest of us. Hard to put down.
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 2 Difficulty – 3
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. Buy Cat’s Cradle
I laughed and despaired and laughed some more. The world ended. Mona, the love interest of everybody in the book, is the true hero to me in her simplicity and happiness in the face of lies and nihilism. I’d love to write more about Mona’s character.
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 3.5 Difficulty – 4
Loitering: New and Collected Essays by Charles D’Ambrosio. Loitering
I hadn’t heard of D’Ambrosio or his essays before, but the book caught my eye in a bookstore and I’m thankful that it did. He lingers, he loiters, and most of all he urges us to do so too, especially in doubt. D’Ambrosio also deftly deconstructs tools of language and daily tragedies and plays around them, opening up questions and making room for the doubt which he happily, or not, plays in.
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 5 Difficulty – 4.5
We Stopped Forgetting: Stories From Sami Americans by Ellen Marie Jensen. Buy We Stopped Forgetting
Ellen Marie Jensen is a USA raised Sámi descendent and is active in Sámi and Sámi American groups. Her book discusses Sámi immigration to USA as well as the revitalization of Sámi heritage in North America, and shares personal stories from other Sámi Americans who’ve reconnected with their culture. In her words: “It is a birthright to know and relate to one’s cultural heritage; Americans of Sámi descent have a particular message about this right because to a great extent our history is hidden in immigration narratives in Europe and North America.” Starts a little dry when she goes through the background of immigration and her research, but the stories she shares are wonderful.
Enjoyment – 3.5 Learning/Inspiration – 5 Difficulty – 3.5
Stygo by Laura Hendrie. Buy Stygo
Laura Hendrie delves into the interlocking psyche of small town, USA, and unearths the dreams, darkness, and longings of its people. If you are from a small town, the scene will be unmistakably familiar, but Hendrie highlights the uniqueness of every character which sets one small town into dismal relief from another.
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 2 Difficulty – 3
Dragonmede by Rona Randall. Buy Dragonmede
A romance novel with murder thriller suspense. “Dragonmede” by Rona Randall built intrigue and drama even within some of the more predictable adventures of Eustacia, our heroine. Written in the 70s (but set in the 1800s I believe), “Dragonmede” carries ideas about sexual repression and expression as well as what love should be.
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 3 Difficulty – 3
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Buy Zami
“Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” by Audre Lorde is one of the best books I have ever read, ever. A little Black girl in the Harlem grows up and finds what it means to be herself. If you’ve ever known a woman who has shaped you, ever loved a woman, or ever been a woman, this book will resonate. She lays out love and life and work as a person, a woman, a Black woman, a queer woman, a Black queer woman. Her writing is inviting, clever, and unique, and her story is spun like a fairy-tale-turned-autobiography.
Enjoyment – 5 Learning/Inspiration – 5 Difficulty – 3