With the help of GoodReads.com, I recently set my 2011 reading goal at 24 books. That may not seem like a lot to some of you, but as someone who just two years ago only read five books in an entire year, and is internationally known as a lazy procrastanista, twenty four books is commendable. Let’s pray I reach my goal (I’m 4% done already lol)
I read 21 books in 2010 though, and I’d like to share a few of my favorites.
10. Bitch is the New Black by Helena Andrews (pub. June 2010): This memoir was the June selection for my bookclub. I enjoyed it because I identified with Andrews’ shenanigans as a late-20 something Black woman, witty, smart, attractive, and still wondering why she’s single. She is hilarious and insightful when sharing her life experiences. Some of the chapters lagged when she ventured away from her dating mishaps, but Andrews’ is a wonderful writer and with Bitch is the New Black having already having been optioned for the big screen by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy), I’m looking forward to the movie.
9 Orange Mint & Honey by Carleen Brice (pub. Feb 2008): I wouldn’t have known about this book had it not been for Jill Scott. I love me some her, and when friends got word that she would be starring in the television adaptation of Orange Mint and Honey, titled “Sins of the Mother”, I received links and emails out of the ying yang telling me to tune in. I of course picked up the book a few weeks before the movie premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network. I’m so glad I did. This story of Shay, stumbling grad student and daughter of an alcoholic who suddenly becomes sober and has another baby, was riveting. It was hard not to cry during certain parts of the book, especially when Shay agonized over the pain from her past and used that as an excuse not to forgive her mother, who did everything in her power to make it up to her . Brice handled the mother-daughter relationship superbly, and I give her two thumbs up on accurately introducing the audience to how children are affected by living in a home filled with alcoholism.
8 Jesus Boy by Allen L. Preston (pub. April 2010): Hilarious, satirical story that delves into the skeletons that clutter the closets of the leaders and most revered saints in the Black church. After his life long crush becomes pregnant and quickly marries a burgeoning minister away at Bible school, sixteen year old musical prodigy and devout Christian, Elwyn Parker, starts a risque affair with 42 year old Sister Morrisohn, the wife of his recently deceased godfather. Highly exaggerated, but still truthful to an extent, I was pleasantly entertained by how easily Allen was able to illustrate how hypocritical church members can be, without being a judgmental or condescending story teller. I can see many people in the church being offended by this story, but those who are more open minded may get a kick out of its primary theme: Nobody is perfect, no matter how much closer to God you think you are.
7 Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (pub. 2006): This was my book club’s pick for November. Even though I had to read a few hundred pages before it captured my full attention, I’m so happy I kept pushing through. Ngozi Adichie did an AMAZING job telling the story of the Biafran War of the 1960s through the eyes of Olanna, Odenigbo, Egwu, Richard, Kainene and countless other memorable, endearing characters. This story was about war, but it was also about love during a tumultuous time. I enjoyed this story immensely, and learned a huge amount of Nigerian history and the differences between ethnic groups in the process.
6 Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan (pub. 1992): Before reading “Getting to Happy”I decided to re-read Waiting to Exhale to familiarize myself with its characters and scenarios. McMillan is a hilarious writer and she is fantastic at showing the camaraderie that Black women share within their friendships. I saw a lot of the old me in Bernadine, Savannah, Gloria, and even Robin, which at some points made me sad, and at other points made me extremely happy that I’d learned my lesson at an earlier age. That is what I enjoyed most about this book. The meet ups and girls night outs definitely reminded me of how I interact with my friends. Check for my review, “Waiting to Exhale Revisited” here.
5 A Taste of Power by Elaine Brown (pub. 1993): This is the memoir of Elaine Brown, chronicling her poverty laden childhood in Philadelphia; her migration to Los Angeles where her job in a strip club led to romantic liaisons with powerful celebrity connections; to becoming a pivotal part of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party, eventually becoming one of Huey Newton’s lovers, working tirelessly as the editor of their newspaper, abruptly becoming national president, and spawning the new, unheard of, and short lived era of female leadership within the highest ranks of the organization. My book club read this in February and I absolutely loved it, mainly because it gave me a peek into the history of my city, a first hand account of the historical significance of the Black Panther Party, and the treatment of women in such an organization.
4 Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (pub. Jan 2007): I never had any desire to read this memoir, but when it hit the movies, my book club decided to see it together after reading it in September. Words cannot express how much I loved this book! Emotional, funny, open, honest, descriptive. I feel like felt EVERYTHING that she went through while dealing with her divorce and the depression associated with her new lover. I fell in love with Italy right along with her, and I can’t wait to visit Bali after reading of the spiritual renewal, inner peace, and new love she found there. Elizabeth is definitely my kind of writer. Can’t wait to read the sequel, “Committed”.
3 Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts (pub. 2009) Found this book on a list of favorite books of 2009 on author Carleen Brice’s blog, which led me to suggest it to my book club, making it our first pick of 2010. Pitts brilliantly tells the story of Mo, former successful soul singer and recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers, who decides, before all of his memories are gone, to take a cross country road trip from Maryland to Los Angeles with his 18 year old son Trey, to visit his own dying father. Trey is headed down the wrong path fast, while Mo hasn’t talked to his own father in decades. The theme of manhood, fatherhood, and responsibility, is littered throughout this story of redemption and forgiveness. Pitts is a master at weaving layers to produce a full, powerful, and touching story. There were times when this book made my heart race (from chapter 18 until the end), when it made me angry, when I wanted to cry. Everyone in my book club LOVED it. We also felt that this is a book that all Black men should pick up, no matter their status, background, or history. The novel was multi generational, making it easy for a number of different ages to identify with the story.
2 After the Garden by DorisJean Austin (pub. 1987): What happens when Elzina Tompkins, raised and sheltered by her bible thumping and VERY judgmental grandmother, becomes pregnant and marries immediately after high school, Jesse James, from the James clan filled with boisterous, belligerent, and illegitimate alcoholics? One of the best love stories I’ve ever read. This novel chronicles the ups and downs of two completely different people who survive solely off of love, in Jersey City in the early to mid-1900s. This book was brilliant and I have no idea why it isnt a classic! Full review coming to The Page Turners soon.
1 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (pub. 2002 , Pulitzer prize for Fiction 2003): I added this book to my reading list because it was an Oprah book club pick. It was brilliant, amazing, heart wrenching, mind boggling…this story made me feel every emotion. I wrinkled my nose in disgust, laughed, cheered, and felt compassion for every character in this epic saga. Eugenides weaves the tale of how and why Calliope Stephanides lived the life of a girl well into her teenaged years, before realizing that something was biologically wrong. Starting from the mistakes made and secrets kept by her grandparents, on down to her parents, unfolds the story of an hermaphrodite who is too scared to love. Eugenides knows how to make you root for these characters, no matter the laws of love and procreation that they break. He also shares the story of immigration and the development of Detroit from a booming auto center, to a desolate ghetto. Loved every minute of it. Almost cried when I lost the book halfway through the story. Thank God I found it. If one can get past the uncomfortable thoughts that may arise, you’ll be able to ingest a wonderful story. Adding this to my list of favorite book of all time!
Honorable mentions go to Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow.
Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or share some of your favorite reads of 2010.