Or, 'Tis The Season
When this comes out, there’ll just be one more day to go in November and a lot of people are already in the spirit of December (or, as I have seen it called, Drinksember). December feels like it moves both fast and slow and ‘Best Of’ lists are sometimes my biggest signal that the year is coming to an end.
Book discovery can be quite the venture sometimes. I have followed some BookTubers solely because they talk about books that aren’t particularly hot (on American BookTube) but those books are often from storied publishers and well-respected, if small, presses. For obvious reasons, the odd African title represented will be one that was published in the West; rendering the continent I am on strangely invisible on these platforms.
If one follows enough non-American bookish content creators (you can find some here), however, a book will come their way that barely has any presence on Goodreads. I love such moments, and I love when those creators then make us lists (thank you for the labour, folks!) because one knows ‘Best Of’ lists from large publications in the Anglo markets that are the UK and the US will look a certain way.
I found myself having a conversation with Greg from Supposedly Fun about this, actually - the use of prizes as a way to find interesting books. Longlists and shortlists have proven to be a great source; especially looking into prizes that cater to one’s desires (women in translation, non-fiction, for instance). I’d be curious to know how *you* find books - do you have a go-to site? Do you browse the shelves at your favourite bookshop? Do you look to be surprised by second-hand gems? Or do you, like me, walk down the stacks (virtually and IRL) of your library in search of something that sounds interesting?
Some Mike in the Bookish World News: I was featured in the most recent Bite-Sized Book Chat hosted by Shawn the Book Maniac. A bookish friend had spotted me in a teaser and got me excited about the episode and I’m really happy to see it in the world. As with the Deesha Philyaw episode, this started on Twitter (now can someone cuff me off Twitter haha) and I look forward to being featured again + it represents great pressure to get back in front of a camera.
Every so often, I tweet about gender and bookish things - the way non-men are written, often, but also the way they are treated in literary spaces. Last week, this topic that animates me was at the heart of a letter written to an advice columnist (I love reading those, better yet when they move into a larger group of folks as in this case) - a husband who complained about his wife writing a book during her lunch break. Some of this is about literary production, of course, but also about power dynamics, non-men whose creativity has been stifled, intellectual property and divorce laws.
The responses on Twitter were pretty intense and the fact that more than one woman writer could speak to a peer who left the craft because of a husband who begrudged her success was something to behold (Shawn the Book Maniac shared something along these lines over the weekend). I’ve never been married nor am I an author but I think a lot of folks who were brought up as girls have experienced a person (usually a man) with a deep desire to curtail their (path to) success and this story resonated with a lot of us on that level.
And of course success, in this case, was coded a certain way because of the nature of the US’s brand of capitalism but it makes me wonder what the world would look like if men had an additive relationship to good things happening to the non-men in their lives, and not this sense of scarcity that means that one person’s shine has to be dulled.
I spent this last weekend working on a project with some friends and Sunday vegetating in bed and on the couch. Not as much reading happened as last weekend (maybe the pool is the trick?) but I finished the fantastic Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall which brought some things to light that I somehow, history enthusiast that I am, had not known before. It ‘inaugurated’ my new tablet; which I bought to read comic books and magazines and the experience made the purchase worthwhile (old hands will know I struggle with treating myself so this represents a lot of things). The scholarship and care that went into Wake is evident and I highly recommend it.
Thanksgiving led me to Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, a short story that does a lot of work. I also finished Sugar Land by Tammy Lynne Stoner on Scribd (use Linda Barasa’s link for 60 free days) and was reminded how much I love love, Sapphic content, and folks living their truth. Lastly, I stayed in the US with God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning, whose author I first heard on On The Media. I looked her up, found an essay of hers in WIRED that I found interesting and finally started reading the book in which it’s featured over the weekend. So far so good!
I hope you have a great week and a lovely time reading. Talk to you soon!