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Fall 2020 Reading Round Up

Oh Fall. My favorite time of year!

This time of year really is magical to me. Nature bursts with this last, vibrant explosion of life, before everything becomes a little dim and grey, and all the trees quiet and rest. The air smells crisp and feels chilly. And one of my absolute favorite holidays makes my soul feel a little extra mischievous.

As the year of the pandemic continues on, I managed to come alive a little and get a lot more reading done. And that's probably in part to my Halloween decorations going up at the end of August. I was seriously so proud of how everything turned out! The bats flying out of a spell book might be my favorite, but the Potions 101 set up was great too. How to decide?!?

Luckily I had an easier time rating and reviewing the books I read this fall!

1. Calling a Wolf A Wolf by Kaveh Akbar

My quest to better comprehend poetry continues! I haven't read anything by Kaveh Akbar before, and Calling a Wolf a Wolf has been on my list for a while. I read the ebook on my phone so I don't know that I had the proper breaks and pauses, or that I saw these poems in the format they were intended for, but the prose is amazing nonetheless! I highly recommend this one.

2. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This has been the year of realizing maybe the things I thought I wasn't a fan of, I am in fact a fan of. This is a murder mystery, time loop, body swap master piece. I know it sounds like that's a lot going on and if someone else had said that to me, I would probably have passed. But this was a book club pick and I wanted to give it a shot! I am so glad I did. I have never read a book like this but oh my god. Amazing. The story is great, the concept is cool, and it's told in a way that despite the different points of view and recurring timeline, the story comes together beautifully. Book club was hype to discuss this one. You will be too!

3. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

This was another book club pick, and I have had Elizabeth Acevedo on my list for a while. My list is pretty long, so I am forever grateful for any overlap between my TBR and book club! This is her latest book and a really quick read. It was actually hard not to rush through it, especially since I usually have books I'm trying to get through and want to be done and cross them off the list. But just like my quest to better comprehend poetry, I had to work to really slow down and both enjoy, and appreciate, the prose. It was totally worth it! This was a beautiful story about loss, lies, and finding family.

4. The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop Edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall

This is the first in the Breakbeat Poets series. It's an incredible collection and an amazing foundation for what is a thoughtful and diverse series. Some of my favorites in this collection are "duck, duck, redux," "global warming blues," "I have a drone," and "100 bells." There were definitely references to breakbeat and hip hop culture that I am not familiar with and that I bookmarked to go back to and look into. While that may seem like a nuisance to some readers, I would argue that if we're going to learn about one another, and we're going to read stories that don't just reflect our own experiences, we're going to have to do a little work to understand those stories too. I promise, the effort will be worth it. I really look forward to reading the latest collection in the series, Latinext.

5. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Book club is killing it with the picks these last few months, and not only getting me out of my comfort zone into genres I usually avoid, but working overtime to make me fall in love with those genres! When I first learned that The Shadow of the Wind was going to be our spooky season pick, I was a little suspicious of how much I would like it for a few reasons. Usually not a fan for horror/thriller, but this was more mystery I think? I'm not entirely sure how separate those genres are. I was also worried because this is considered a must read, and I usually end up disappointed by those, and because this was a translation. With translations, I've learned that some of the beauty of the story just doesn't translate, and in that sense, I will never be able to truly appreciate some stories in the way they were intended. The book is also 400 pages, at least, so I wasn't sure I would even be able to finish it in time. But then I started to read The Shadow of the Wind and I was sucked in! The way the story unfolds is beautiful. I love the characters and the story was also unexpected! I want to get the rest of the books in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series immediately!

6. See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valerie Kaur

This is one of the best memoirs I have ever read, and I don’t know what could be done to top this. Whereas so many memoirs become self indulgent, Valerie Kaur weaves the personal with community and systems. The memoir/manifesto touches on a lot of things but is woven together in a way that is effective and efficient and can bring lasting change for a reader. It’s thought provoking. I highly recommend reading this with someone because there will be so many things that you want to discuss. Personally, I didn't expect to have so much in common with Valerie Kaur. She's an activist and organizer, she has a law degree, she's incredibly grounded and confident in her Sikhi, and in some ways I was sure what she had to share would go over my head. It was a bit intimidating. But there was nothing to fear. I enjoyed this so much I'll be hosting a giveaway at the end of November, through the beginning of December!

With the election in the beginning of November, and my brain being pulled in a handful of stressful directions, my reading switched gears in the beginning of the month to light, fun, and breezy reads. A lot of YA and even a middle grade novel!

7. American As Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

This book had been on my radar for a while, and towards the end of summer one of my teacher friends reached out about it. He wanted to share the story with his students. He has a diverse classroom but many of the students are Indian and he really thought the story of balancing two different cultures was something they could connect with. We spent a few weekends on zoom going through a list he put together of words he wanted to be sure he pronounced correctly. How lucky are we to have teachers who care so much to make their students feel like they belong? To ensure they never feel othered? To put in the time and effort to make sure they know they matter too.

I was so moved by how much he believed in the story that I immediately grabbed a copy and one for my niece as well. She's an avid reader and I thought it would be nice to have a little book club with her. This is such a great book. It’s the book I needed as a kid. It’s the book I imagine so many kids need now. Beautifully written. Lekha is a protagonist you root for with your whole heart.

8. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

This book was recommended and loaned to me by a friend who enjoys YA and thought I would like it. It was a quick read so I powered through, but I wasn’t a fan. The time line was frustrating. The story mostly works backwards but there are a few times where it bounces between the past and present. I also didn’t like Jule or Immie. Both seemed so terrible, and everyone else just seemed like collateral damage. So there wasn’t really a character for me to root for. Overall I’m not crazy about thrillers, so I think this book just wasn’t my kind of thing to begin with.

9. Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and her Monsters was also recommended and loaned to me by the same friend who loaned number 8. But while I felt meh about that one, I absolutely adored this one! This is such a cute book! I devoured it. I love all the characters. I love that there wasn't some magical happy ending or vague everything will be alright. The characters got professional help to deal with very real feelings of anxiety and depression. This is something that I feel like a lot of YA stories are missing. I kind of really wish I could read Monstrous Sea. I would 100% join the fandom!

10. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

I adore Fredrik Backman's books! This is the third I’ve read and it’s wonderful. They might be formulaic but I fall in love with them every time. I was excited when I saw that he had a new book, and happy that book club decided to include it in our reads this year! The story is so beautifully woven together. His stories are always a soothing hug and I highly recommend you grab a copy to curl up with this coming holiday. Pairs well with a warm blanket and a steamy cup of hot chocolate!

11. Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft

This book had been on my list for a while and I decided to just go for it for spooky season! I think most of us go through a phase of being obsessed with witches. What I loved about this collection is the variety in the types of magic in each story. The concept of powerful, magical women, is found in every culture, perhaps just under a different name. This collection is a great way to open you up to many of those iterations. I would have finished it sooner if I hadn’t had to wait for the hold from the library again. But it also forced me to slow down and really savor each story.

12. Sincerely, Life: A Conversation to Find Yourself by Poonum Desai

This book is part letters and part journal. I think the usefulness of this book really depends on where you are in life. Personally, I had already reflected on most of the topics in here at some point, and some very recently. But I think this would be a great book for someone headed to college or finishing up. Each day forces you to focus on your own beliefs and values and it can be a great grounding exercise, especially for someone about to make a huge change. The great thing about all the sections is you can use the sections you need when you need them. You don't actually have to go in order. Heading to college? Go through Education. Thinking about having kids? Focus on the Relationships section and figure out what you want that future to look like. Overall the exercises were a great way to guide someone who wants to put more time into self reflection and awareness or being mindful in their life plan. I'm not big on flowery language so sometimes the poems and "letters" from life kind of got away from me.

13. The Rise of the Altereds (Unadjusteds #2) by Marisa Noelle

I really enjoyed the Unadjusteds and was excited to get a copy of The Rise of the Altereds. I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. These books are so easy to get wrapped up in and I’m not someone who usually reaches for sci-fi stories but they’re great! I‘m a little sad that there’s a cliffhanger again but luckily the third and final installment will be available soon. Can’t wait to see how this ends! Luckily I only have to wait until May 2021 to read The Reckoning.

In addition to these awesome reads, I participated in blog tours for Impersonation by Heidi Pitlor, Someday in Paris by Olivia Lara, and The Lady of the Cliffs by Rebecca Kightlinger. You can check out my full reviews and recommended book pairings!

Note, links to purchase books are affiliate links with, which supports Indie bookstores across the US. If you are able to, please consider shopping for books through a site that supports Indie shops in a time where sales are suffering due to Amazon, and now the pandemic.

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