I saw a friend of mine share a post of all the books he read in 2018. He did it to encourage himself to read more, and I thought it was a great idea! I’ve decided to do it now. Of course, all of my casual reading will be via audiobooks. I’m sure there are some of you who may not consider that actually reading. I really don’t care. I’ll save the reading for my research.
I will try to post monthly updates, ordered newest to oldest. Below these, I will post ongoing reviews and commentary about the books I am reading . Once I finish a book, I make a post of its own (see the complete list below). I’ve got a couple short story collections I am in the process of reading, but you can find those ongoing reviews on their own posts (more stories, more to say, longer posts). Some of them I am reading but holding off posting until I make it through more stories.
- Firestarter, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆
- The Time Travelers Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger ★★★★☆
- The Dry, by Jane Harper ★★☆☆☆
- The Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North ★★★★★
- The Cabin at the End of the World, by Paule Tremblay ★★★★☆
- Redshirts, by John Scalzi ★★★★★
- Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer ★★★★☆
- The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells ★★★★★
- Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi ★★★★☆
- The Last Final Girl, by Stephen Graham Jones ★★★☆☆
- The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal ★★★★★
- The Devil and the Deep, edited by Ellen Datlow ★★★★☆
- The House of Dies Drear, by Virginia Hamilton ★★★☆☆
- The Good House, by Tananarive Due ★★★★☆
- Fledgling, by Octavia Butler ★★★★★
- Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#kingathon)
- Finders Keepers, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#kingathon)
- End of Watch, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆ (#kingathon)
- Dolores Claiborne, by Stephen King ★★★★★ (#kingathon)
- The Outsider, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#kingathon)
- Gerald’s Game, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆ (#kingathon)
- Insomnia, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#kingathon)
- Fearful Symmetries, Edited by Ellen Datlow ★★★★☆
- The Dark: New Ghost Stories, Edited by Ellen Datlow ★★★☆☆ (#ToTathon2019)
- Vicious by V.E. Schwab ★★★★☆ (#ToTathon2019)
- Mongrels by Stephen Graham ★★★★☆ (#ToTathon2019)
- Life Among Savages by Shirley Jackson ★★★★☆ (#ToTathon2019)
Ongoing Reviews of Collections
- Essays, by Christopher Hitchens
- The Time Travelers Almanac, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
- Religion and Science, by Bertrand Russell
Books in Progress
You can see ongoing updates of books in progress below.
- To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis (3/31/2019, DNF)
- Gather Together in My Name, by Maya Angelou (9/13/19)
- The Lottery and other storeis, by Shirley Jackson #ToTathon2019
End of September Update
I remember in August, when I realized I was pushing through books like crazy. I thought there was no way I could keep that up. Well, boy have I set some pretty unattainable goals. 15 was my goal. I got it. I changed that to 20. I got that. Now I am thinking 29 the year I turn 29. Next year maybe I can do 30 x 2 (if I can keep it up). This month I have read 10 books. I thought 5 would be a lot, 7 books ago. Clearly, I can’t keep this up (probably), but I don’t have to. I am learning how to find more reasons to read (I like to talk about the books obviously), but there are more ways as well.
I came across this amazing thing called BookTube, which is just a cheesy name for YouTuber’s who talk about books. I never much cared for YouTube, but needless to say it is growing on me. Not only has it given me ideas (readathons: spookathon and kingathon), it has also shown me that I am not the only random person talking on the internet to now one about books. My favorite blogger is probably BooksandLala for two reasons. 1) great content (i.e. see this absurd bit of book fun below) and 2) we have similar book tastes. I have a lot of books I want to read now.
A big problem for me in Booktube is that a lot of the most popular people aren’t into the darker, more mature adult fiction and/or fixate on YA (young adult) books. Luckily there are a few exceptions (like here). I love the readathons and I love Bookstagram (i.e. posting pics on Instagram of books and reading). I don’t get the impression many people care, but I like doing it anyway. I decided to try my own readathon with #kingathon which I hope to make a yearly thing for King’s birthday. I read several books that I was not particularly interested in because it was bit of an experiment for binge reading. It was a very positive experience, and I came away enjoying much faster speeds (1.8x vs <1.3x, another thing I got from BooksandLala). Also, who knew bookoutlet.ca was a thing?
October TBR (To be read)
So I have had a TBR for the year, and it continues to change, so I am going to start looking at a list of TBR on month to month basis. I will start with #spookathon because that is the most obvious. I want to get through a couple anthologies I have (starting with Fearful Symmetries), and I need a break from books for a bit. I am also going to make a point to read books I already own on hard copy. I think 2 to 1 ratio of owned to not is good because I have so many books I haven’t read.
I need to finish Gather Together in My Name; #kingathon kept me from reading it at all. The readathon was a my focus. I intend to finish it, so I guess that will back it an October read. For the rest of the month, I may read Kindred Graphic Novel or short stories in Weird by the Vandermeers. I won’t list weird because I don’t intend to finish it this month.
Update: I have decided to do a month long reading challenge alongside #spookathon. Check out my post to see how that changes my October TBR.
- Gather Together in My Name, Maya Angelou
- The Institute, by Stephen King (#spookathon)
- The Ancestors, by Brandon Massey (Anthology) (#spookathon)
- Summer of Night, by Dan Simmons (#spookathon)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury (#spookathon)
- White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi (#spookathon)
- Fearful Symmetries, by Ellen Datlow (Anthology)
- Mongrels, by Stephen Graham Jones
- The Dark, by Ellen Datlow (Anthology)
- A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay
- Kindred, Octavia Butler (Graphic Novel)
End of August Update
I am making great progress! 12/15 books read, not including incomplete anthologies. In fact, the Murderbot Diaries are 4 in one, so you might say I have beat that goal (but I won’t). I have made it through 6/14 of my new list which I think is a major accomplishment. Of course I am not ruling them out, but I have reached the point where I am diverging from my list. This is especially true with Halloween approaching.
After reading Datlow’s Devil and the Deep, I have invested in a list of horror anthologies I want to read (more than I can really manage in two months probably). I have started Fearful Symmetries. I am ~half way though. I won’t publish this just yet. I’d like to save it for when I am closer to being done with my review/reading. In addition to this anthology, I am going to read Dark Dreams (see #4 in my list of ongoing collections).
I attended a very interesting panel at Dragon Con that discussed women of color in science fiction and in part women of color writers. In particular, they pointed out how it tends to be select few who get what may be best described as the “token” marketing treatment. Look at Children of Blood and Bone and the hype its gotten. The panelist I saw spoke about many women of color not getting much of any attention. Therefore, I am trying to dig for more stories from women of color. I am finding that most obscure authors aren’t on audio, my preferred mode of reading, but I can work with what is available.
In addition to this panel, I have started listening to some episodes of Writing Excuses, a podcast cohosted by the amazing Mary Robinette Kowal (of the Lady Astronauts) that discuss what writers need to think about when writing. It is a really interesting and is making for a great guide on how to appreciate good writing. One story was on reading outside your box. This essentially goes back to me looking for more diverse writers. A few years ago I limited myself to women authors for reasons to do with bias. I could redo that, but I am not ready to commit to that just yet. Although, I am making an effort to explore more diverse writers.
Right now, Brandon Massey has a couple anthologies I am going to try out, Dark Dreams being the first. Then his wife, Tananarive Due has a few horror novels I want to try. First, I am starting the House of Dies Drear about a haunting dating back to slavery by author Virginia Hamilton, who is one of the many names mentioned by a few *lists* of black women horror writers.
However, I still intend to finish Fearful Symmetries, and I want to start at least one other anthology of Datlow’s. Which one is TBD, but if I had to choose (if you had to choose, its a tie!) I would probably say Inferno because I love me some demonic stories. Others include, Haunted Legends or Dark (Ghost stories). Then there is still A Head Full of Ghosts, but that is Paul Trembley (white male). An alternative would be the collection of stories by native American Stephen Graham Jones, After the People Lights Have Gone Off.
In case this needs to be said, it isn’t enough for me to go on what seems interesting. Not only do I desire to broaden my understanding of the different walks of life and the different ways of perceiving the world, I also have a desire to experience the best literature that is out there. Literature that will not necessarily make its way to me as a result of my own biases and the biases of other (e.g. look at my attention to the list of Hugo books). There is a world where I am spending my fall reading Stephen King (new and old), and I can’t help but be thankful that I am not so limited in my selections and styles.
So to finish up, I have 2 collections and 2 novels that I want to read for Halloween (preferably more of course). That gets my tally up to 16 books, over my 15 goal. With November and December to go, I think 20 is a reasonable goal to strive for now. If I can keep this up, maybe I can manage 30 next year. Scratch that. I am turning 30 next year. 30 books my 30th year. That is going to happen.
I recently finished Mapping the Interior (★★★★★). I won’t be including it in my lists of completed books just yet because it is so short. I will probably tack it on to another book by Stephen Graham Jones if I get around to one of his. You can read my thoughts at the link here.
There are a couple horror anthologies I want to read. They’re a lot shorter than the Time Traveler’s Almanac (TTA), so I think I may try to work them in with the other stories. The goal being to finish them before the year is out! I love Stephen King, and a lot his best works are short stories. That plus the TTA gave me the idea to check out some horror anthologies. It looks like Ellen Datlow is an award winning editor, so I’ve chosen a couple of her works that appeal to me.
End of July Update
Clearly, its been a rough few months for reading. I have spent more time not blogging about reading than I did about reading. Thanks Game of Thrones! It diverged me and I lost some interest, but that isn’t entirely true. I have continued to read short stories from the Time Travel Almanac. I think another problem is with “To Say Nothing of the Dog,” which is an example of a book I feel I need to finish but am struggling to do so. It leads to me doing other things, so maybe I ought to change books. I am not sure what yet. I am rereading 11/22/63 by Stephen King (yet again). I have succumbed to the temptation of returning to an old favorite. I am listening to a podcast that is recapping it too. Maybe I should consider a podcast for other books. It might work as a good follow along.
I am looking over my list and it just feels too ambitious. My interests have changed. I want to go back to casual reading.
Time for a new to do list (updated as I see fit this time)
This is composed of a bunch of fairly new books that all have compelling premises and are recognized as being well done. Hopefully I enjoy this more than I have Connie Willis. Not including incomplete books or short stories or essays, I have read 4 books. That leaves me with 11 to in less than 6 months . Assume I finish the Willis book, thats ten. Sadly, likely not going to happen, but I will try to set myself up with a good list to work from.
Blue are books that have been read.
- The Cabin at the End of the world – ★★★★☆ (Bram Stoker Award, Locus Award)
- The Calculating Stars (Start 8/22/2019) (Hugo Award Nominee, Nebula Award, Locus Award, John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee)
- Redshirts – ★★★★★ (Hugo Award, Locus Award for)
- Annihilation – ★★★★☆ (Nebula Award, Locus Award Nominee, Warwick Prize for Writing Nominee, Shirley Jackson Award, and a decent movie) (maybe book 2 and 3)
- The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize, Locus Award Nominee, Arthur C. Clarke Award, among others)
- The City & the City (Hugo Award, Nebula Award Nominee, Locus Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award, World Fantasy Award for)
- Dreams Before the Start of Time (Arthur C. Clarke Award)
- Children of Blood and Bone – ★★★★☆ (Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award Nominee (2019), Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year)
- Children of Time (Arthur C. Clarke Award)
- The Murderbot Diaries – ★★★★★
- All Systems Red – ★★★★★
- Artificial Condition – ★★★★★
- Rogue Protocol – ★★★★★
- Exit Strategy – ★★★★★
(Series of Novellas , Hugo, Nebula, Lucas, and Philip K. Dick Awards)
- A Head Full of Ghosts (Bram Stoker Award, World Fantasy Award Nominee, This is Horror Award)
- The Three-Body-Problem (Hugo Award, Nebula Award Nominee, Locus Award Nominee, John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee, Prometheus Award Nominee)
- Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award, British Science Fiction Association Award, Philip K. Dick Award Nominee, John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee, British Fantasy Award
- The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) Nebula Award Nominee, Locus Award Nominee, World Fantasy Award Nominee, Compton Crook Award, British Fantasy Award Nominee (added 8/21/19)
P.S. This is how my reading list gets so long. I get the urge to read certain kind of books. Then I pivot, and end up with a bunch of others. I think at least half this list is viable.
End of March Update
I am finding my 5hrs per week goal an easy target to meet. I am not keeping up with all my podcasts :-/, but I am enjoying what I am reading. I’ve begun reading short stories and essays. Although, I am doing it in my podcast app, jumping between stories, and that makes it more difficult to track my time. I am pretty sure I did at least, probably more, 24 hours of listening/reading. The goals are going well, but I like to set myself up to fail. I am going to bump my weekly reading to 6 hours. The summer is coming, so its doable.
I am enjoying the essays and short stories. They are an easy way to pick something interesting without needing to dedicate a huge amount of time to it. It also means I am reading a large diversity of things which I love. It may mess up my yearly goals just because they are large collections. Obviously, I can’t count them each as a book, but I am reading them individually and may not read the entire volumes.
With that in mind, I am trying to make sure I give myself some time dedicate to single book/story. To Say nothing of the Dog is my current read. See that section for more.
As I ended the first week, I found myself with ~.5 hr to go for my 5hr per week goal. I did that last night as I cooked and cleaned. Although, this is on the week of the book club where I rushed to finish to the Dry, so we will see how well I am able to stick to it. I still like the 5hr goal. It is a good motivator because I know how well I work with a clear quota and/or outline to follow. I am over an hour in this week which is a good start, but I think part of that has to do with how great the 15 lives of Harry August is.
End of February Update
February was not a great month for reading. I did a good bit towards the First 15 Lives of Harry August in the early parts, but I’ve since not gone back. I started the Dry only recently because I know the book club is coming up. The Dry, I’m pushing through it at 1.6 times the regular speed. That’s how little I like it. For a bit of context, I am listening to The 15 lives of Harry August (a book I am loving) at 1.3 times the regular speed, which I try to do to get through them more quickly.
As we get closer to April, my audiobook time is waning. In addition to my game of thrones rewatch, I am pushing through the several recap shows I listen to along with it. When it finally arrives, I will be listening to 4-5 different recap shows of GOT, so I am going to have to try extra hard not to forget about my reading time. That’s really my listen so far here; I need to be aware of how much I am reading and make a point to do it when I am going a long time without it.
Moving forward, I am going to set a 5 hour per week quota, with a ~24 hour monthly quota. I’ll adjust that as I start to get a better feel of how much I am currently listening (as I begin to track it quantitatively).
End of January Update
I’m nearly done with The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I finished Firestarter. That puts me well on track to finish 10, but not quite the 15 I’m hoping for. I may need to find more times to listen. The problem is I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I don’t really want to stop. I listened to a bit of Harry Potter too (guilty pleasure); that’s something I’m trying not to do. I could listen to something new. Plus, Harry Potter is a slippery slope. A chapter turns into a book, turns into a rewatch of the entire series. It’s a tough one for sure :-p.
Beginning Reading (January)
I really want to read at least 10 books. I’ve got a list of ~15 ready to tackle, but I often find my tastes change fairly quickly. Part of what keeps me from reading is that I listen to days worth of podcasting every month. I tend to alternate between podcast binging and audiobook binging, and sometimes a lot of music. My goal is to fit in a decent amount of books this year. Furthermore, my goals are to read more new books. There are a lot of books I love to reread. Harry Potter is the most common; I’m currently on book three again. While I read, I hope to make note of how I enjoyed (am enjoying it). I also really want to make sure I expose myself to a broad field of fun reads to books that make me think.
To do list (books I am currently hoping to read this year)
I have a list of ~15 books [edited] I am hoping to read this year, organized and ready to go. My goal is to read fun books, though provoking books, and educational books. I’ve tentatively ordered them to keep myself from growing tired of one.
- Firestarter ★★★☆☆
- Time Travelers Wife ★★★★☆
- Religion and Science (started, see above)
- To Say nothing of the dog (started, on hold) (book two of Oxford time series; very long; highly regarded)
- The first 15 lives of Harry August ★★★★★
- [redacted a bunch of non fiction stories and other literary fictions because I am not going to read these this year]
See complete list above
I think I have 200+ books marked as wanting to read on goodreads for a variety of reasons, and that can be intimidating. This list i composed of 1) am intrigued by and 2) be uniquely thought provoking (I’ve dropped the idea of reading nonfiction science books. I have enough science in my life). My assessment is sufficiently hand wavy that it is very subject to change (update: it did).
My attempt to work in some science books is already being undermined by my choice of The 15 lives of Harry August. Even Religion and science was a lazy choice being super short. I also don’t know if I’ll be able to manage several of this non SK fiction stories for the simple fact that I only have so much attention with an audiobook. I suppose that list is more than 15, but I throw in extra SK as something to fall back on in if I feel tired of books that make me thing :-p . Another common theme is my desire to finish the Oxford Time Series (OTS). It was one of the highest regarded scifi stories, every book winning a nebula I think with Connie Willis being one of the top sci fi writers (and of the few major female scifi writers, see Octavia Butler as an even rarer black women scifi writer).
To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis – DNF (return to later)
Introductory thoughts 3/31/2019
I started this book around the 20th. I thought I had already written some initial thoughts here. This book is on my list. I am venturing into other territory with the book club, short stories, and essays, but I am trying to stick to the list the best I can.
Connie Willis is a well known Science fiction writer. She is known for her Oxford Time Travel Series which has continually won the Hugo award for each book in the series and won the Nebula 3/4 times, the other one being nominated as well as the Lucas award. There is clearly very high praise. It is one of those cases of how can I not read these series.
To Say Nothing of the Dog follows Doomsday. The books are pretty much stand alone even though they exist in the same universe. It is about a part of Oxford university in the future that uses time travel to study history. Her stories are good. They are very intricately told. I enjoyed Doomsday. I would probably give it 3/4. They are big books, and I think its one of those cases where I found it difficult to become engulfed right away by audiobook. I don’t think its as bad in the sequel.
I am 27% through the book. I think I am following along. The premise is the same (historians and all), but the scenario they are in is original. I say they, the characters are new, I think. I honestly don’t remember the main characters names in the first iteration or in the sequel so far. I am not entirely sure what the title is supposed to mean. In the first one, the black plague was at risk of returning. Here, its more to do with the laws of time and whether a naive student may have overstepped their bounds. Except, the dog really isn’t a crucial part of that (I think?). I googled it, both this and the first book are references to other stories. It also appears that only one of the characters in this book is in the first book. I am glad I am writing about it because I’m realizing there are bits I wasn’t getting, and this will help me follow individual characters a bit better.
Update 7/30/19 Time to Put it on hold?
Connie Willis is one of the best science fiction authors of out time. It is reflected by the long list of literary acknowledgements she has earned herself. That is why I feel somehow at fault when I struggle through her books. She puts so much effort into ensuring every detail is historically accurate, and at times, I get lost. A part of this is undoubtedly the medium that I am consuming the book through (audiobook). Nevertheless, I am not finding myself desperate to keep listening. I am 46% through the book, and I think I am going to put it on hiatus.
The book was at a disadvantage from the start. Game of Thrones returned soon after I started this, and with it came my obsession with GOT podcasting, monopolizing my time. By the time it was over, my interest wasn’t exactly focused on this book. In fact, I find myself more often turning to the Time Travel’s Almanac for its much shorter offerings.
I have been in Atlanta for the summer, and my schedule is all over the place. Perhaps I should come back to this in the fall, when things lighten up. Hopefully, that will do the trick. I have this problem where sometimes books become a chore. I live in this world where I see books on an objective scale, so if I am not getting into something, thats often my own fault. At least for something as well renowned as this. If this was the Dry, and I were reading it on my own I would give up. However, it is renowned for reason, so I feel this obligation to put forth the effort to focus in on the story and find out why it is so well respected. I don’t know if that is me wasting my time. I’d honestly like to know what others think.
Gather Together in My Name, by Maya Angelou
A few years ago I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of Dr, Maya Angelou’s Autobiography series. I did it during a year where I read only woman authors. I was familiar with Dr. Angelou; how could I not be. She is a legend after all. Unfortunately for me, I had avoided the Caged Bird because I am not usually too into autobiographies. Except, Dr. Maya Dr. Angelou presents her life in a fictional retelling that is both beautiful and gripping. It ended up being one of my favorite books of the year, if not of all time. Dr. Angelou writes in a way that is poetic and characters that are real. As an autobiography, realness may be expected, but the real surprise comes from the honest and openness with which she presents her life. It is hard not to fall in love with it. I wish I was more fluent in writing styles to say exactly what it is about her writing that makes it so unique, but it is unlike anyone else I’ve read.
I have always wanted to continue this series, but for so long all I’ve ever read (for pleasure) is via audiobooks. I tried so hard to find these on audio–audible, CD, and even tape. Unfortunately, the 6th entry in the series is the only other book on audio, and that’s abridged. Therefore, I am doing the unprecedented and actually reading the physical book. I do not want to be deprived of this series just because it isn’t on audio. I am nearly 30; I have plenty of time to read these if I set my mind to it. It may take me 40 minutes to read 10 pages of a mass market paperback. These are short books. What’s more, I hope this will improve my reading speeds (though I read a good bit in middle and high school and yet I am still slow).
I will finish this book. I am forcing myself to read at least one chapter a day/night. These are at times a page or two long, so it really is the bare minimum. However, it is rare that I don’t read multiple chapter, and even when I don’t, it is only my own poor time management skills that prevent me. Every time I start this book, I am amazed at how quickly she can pull me in, even in only a page or two. That is the power of Dr. Maya Dr. Angelou’s writing. Lastly, I hope to use this to prove to myself I can read physical books. There are plenty of other great stories I don’t read because of their not being on audio.
I am writing this the same day as my introduction because I didn’t want to write about this if I wasn’t going to get invested first. I am about 35 pages in, maybe 20%, and it is amazing. I am happy that I finally re-immersed myself into Dr. Angelou’s works in part because it is so great, but also because it reassures me that my initial praise of the Caged Bird was justified. I mentioned before the realism, and that is all to present. Dr. Angelou walks us through her transition to adulthood, warts and all. This as much a story about survival as it is about learning. I suppose the question then becomes how can I learn from Dr. Angelou’s life. I may be a decade older, but I still have so much to learn.
I am more than half way now through the novel (57%). I am loving this book. I actually read well over my personal requirement over the weekend as I relaxed at a nice cottage in northern Ontario. Dr. Maya Angelou is just a gem. Her writing still stands out as unlike anyone else I’ve read. There are moments I am infuriated and others I just laugh out load at the absurdity. What’s more, I am learning so much more about Dr. Angelou. There is something about her persona that made her almost godlike or angelic (angel is in her name), but she takes us to even the darkest parts of her younger years. She was a good women who did what she could to survive and take care of her son, but she also had prejudices and did some questionable things. Of course, Dr. Angelou never explicitly says she regrets these things. For all intents and purposes this isn’t her writing it, this is like any other novel with the protagonist giving their thoughts, as they see it. It provides a level of realness that is gripping but also inspiring. It is nice to see people we look up to are human; they too have made mistakes. The road to their success isn’t what we may think.
My favorite Quotes
The more I read, the more I find lines I find myself wanting to make note of for whatever reason, and I thought this would be the perfect place to talk about or at least list them.
I hated their stupidity, but more than that I hated being underestimated. If they only knew, they could strip buck naked and do the Sassy Sue wiggle and I would continue to sit, with my legs crossed, sipping the Dubonnet.Page 41, 3rd paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition
Dr. Angelou has recently met a lesbian couple who invited her over to their place. While there, she quickly came to regret the visit, and made it clear she was not any way gay. Nevertheless, the couple began to kiss intimately to get a rise out of her, igniting this hilarious response.
He melted into the darker darkness. The following year I heard that he had blown his brains out with a shotgun on the day of his father’s funeral.Page 71, final paragraph chapter 16., Mass Paperback Edition
Dr. Angelou meets with an old acquaintance who goes on an on about wanting to leave home but having to take care of his father, never letting Dr. Angelou talk. When she finally bids him farewell, things turned quickly turned morbid in a way that just caught me off Dr. guard because of how matter of fact it was.
But I too had some training–that is, “Never let white folks know what you really think. If you’re sad, laugh. If you’re bleeding inside, dance.”Page 86, 3rd paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition
This may be the most profound quote I read. It speaks to what is like to be black, let alone a black woman, during this time. Everything will be used against you, and you have no choice but to be cautious. This has an uncanny similarity to Dr. Angelous poem, When I Think About My Self. This is probably my favorite poem, not just of hers (of which I’ve read only a few). Please, watch the clip below as she performs it.
She talks about an older women who has to let her employer talk down to her because it’s what she has to do to to get buy. Beyond on that, its about the sacrifices one has to make and the indignities you may have to endure in life and how strong a person that makes you. Now, I say that, but let me be clear, I am probably missing or misrepresenting parts of it. You can probably see similarities to the quote I’ve mentioned here. The quote even adds a level of weight to this poem too. I always saw it as Dr. Angelou writing about women who have to endure this, never realizing she was one of those women. Of course, it makes the tears all the more understandable.
Things had arranged themselves in my favor at last.Page 87, 6th paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition
I hesitated to include this quote because it is seemingly small and unimportant. Sure, it speaks to a life of hardship which is all too accurate. What surprised me when I read it was that I couldn’t help but do a double take. Dr. Angelou has a way of getting things done and working with what she is given that almost gives the illusion of success. I mean, don’t get me wrong, everything she does seems to become a success, but not because it’s what she wanted. Rather, she makes the most of what she is given in a way that is inspiring and admirable.
He’s a man. He’s got a job and his health and strength. Some people have to make it through life with less.Page 89, 1st paragraph, Mass Paperback Edition
I may be giving this more weight than was intended, but I felt like there was a lot to unpack here. Dr. Angelou’s grandmother (who raised her) is talking to her about Dr. Angelou’s brother, who Dr. Angelou feels needs to strive for more than just being a waiter. Overall, it seems to speak to the contentment some people have in life, contentment that Dr. Angelou just doesn’t have. It is hard to figure out if Mother (the name given to her grandmother) is speaking regretfully or a matter of fact, but it definitely feels like she’s targeting men in particular in a way that amused me.