5 Anti-racist Books for Book Bingo

Hello, readers! As I mentioned last week, this new series of posts will offer 5 books for each Book Bingo category. 

“Anti-racist” is up next, and there are so many great books to choose from. 

Finally, I selected 3 nonfiction books: a moving memoir, a powerful sociological/self-improvement book, and an historical perspective; and 2 works of fiction: a heart-rending novel and a soul-stirring YA book.

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

As I mentioned, there are many, many remarkable anti-racist books. For more suggestions, check out these articles:

 

With so many books to choose from, what book about anti-racism are you going to read next?

5 Books from “1000 Books Before You Die” for Book Bingo

Introducing a new series of blog posts, all about Book Bingo! 

We’re going to be taking a look at this year’s book bingo card and suggesting 5 books for each category. 

And because I love orderliness in my list-making, we’re starting in the upper left corner and taking them in order from left to right… just like we’re reading.

…which means: 1000 Books Before You Die is our first category. 

For this category, the idea is to choose a book from James Mustich’s magnificent opus, 1000 Books to Read Before You Die. He’s generously created a website that lists the books, so you can check it out there. Or… check out his book from the library, or even buy a copy.   

When I heard Mustich interviewed on the Just the Right Book podcast, host Roxane Coady asked him to name just one book. He named two. (Let’s admit it: we’d all name more than one.)

His top 2: Middlemarch by George Eliot and The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban

 

Here’s my selection of 5 sure bets from his full list… 

 

There are oodles (995!) more to choose from, so let the games begin!

Once you decide, I’ll be curious to hear… Which book are you going to choose from 1000 Books to Read Before You Die?

Favorite Books of 2020

While the blog’s been on unplanned hiatus due to Covid-era weariness and needing to place my attention on other things, there’s been some reading going on here.

Here are my top 10 favorites this year…

Fiction

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

3 words: literary, complex, introspective

Give this book a whirl if you like… literary fiction, novels by Black authors, stories of immigration, scientists doing experimental research, exploring faith vs science, novels about depression

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

3 words: heartwarming, quirky, character-driven

Give this book a whirl if you like… stories of found family, fantasy for readers who don’t love fantasy, orphanages, amazing teachers, LGBTQIA+ fiction, #ownvoices, books about kindness

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

3 words: absorbing, layered, character-driven

Give this book a whirl if you like… #ownvoices contemporary/historical fiction, stories about race, books about twins, novels with two timeframes, stories about loss, interwoven narratives

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

3 words: irreverent, surprising, engaging

Give this book a whirl if you like… a touch of magical realism, first person narratives, twins, unconventional nannies, quirky characters, politicians in fiction, female friendship

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

3 words: clever, layered, creative

Give this book a whirl if you like… blend of Gothic horror and contemporary realism, smart humor, dual narratives, LGBTQIA+ fiction, boarding school setting, Hollywood setting, meta-fiction, footnotes in fiction, horror novels for people who don’t like horror novels

Nonfiction

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

3 words: narrative, absorbing, poignant

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning about the Great Migration, narrative nonfiction, lyrical writing, #ownvoices nonfiction, individual stories interwoven in a larger historical context

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

3 words: joyful, quietly enthusiastic, encouraging

Give this book a whirl if you like… developing a philosophy for living, envisioning the worst so you can appreciate what you you have, finding peace, diminishing anxiety

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

3 words: powerful, thoughtful, thought-provoking

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning about anti-racism, actionable guidance, Black authors, a blend of sociology and memoir, #ownvoices nonfiction, introspective narratives, an invitation to become a better human 

The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro

3 words: in-depth, psychological, heroic

Give this book a whirl if you like… reading about the JFK/LBJ transition, LBJ’s first months in the presidency, a person being his best self, moving from despair to triumph, political power

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

3 words: practical, encouraging, totally do-able

Give this book a whirl if you like… customizable tactics for adding good habits and eliminating bad ones, research-backed strategies, a conversational tone, small steps that can make a big difference

What were your favorite books this year? I’d love to add them to my TBR…

 

Introducing Book Bingo 2021

Welcome to Book Bingo 2021!

It’s a new year, my friends, and it’s time for some new goals and new changes to move all of our lives in a good direction. We hope Book Bingo can help you structure your reading in a positive way.

The Theme

This year’s theme is nautical because some of our categories (Knotty, Survival, The Explorer, Breezy) made us think of the sea. Also because we like the ocean (just like the year we had a pizza theme just because we love the pizza).

The Team

Book Bingo happens each year because of the collaborative efforts of two of the world’s finest humans

  • My dear friend, who brings inspiration and humor and intelligence and fun to the whole process
  • The Dear Man, who brings the graphical brilliance and creativity and delight to our design every year. We give him a few phrases and he turns it into something beautiful.

How to Play

  • Read a book that fits the category. Each book can qualify for only one category.
  • Complete just one row or column, or go for blackout by reading a book in every category.
  • All books must be finished in 2021. Books started in 2020 but finished in 2021 count.
  • We’ve provided some definitions, but you can free-style it if you like—as long as you can make a case that the book fits the category. (This is one of my favorite sports)
  • All categories can be fiction or nonfiction (your choice), unless otherwise specified.

The Categories

To Sign Up

Couldn’t be easier… just leave a Comment on this post with your name. If you’re a blogger, also include your blog name & URL so we can follow along with you.

The Printables

Here’s the bingo card in pdf format:

Questions? Answers!

If you have any questions about any of the categories, ask your question in the Comments of this post, and I promise I’ll respond.

 

Now let’s start doing some reading, my friends!

The Warmth of Other Suns: perfect narrative nonfiction

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

 

3 words: narrative, absorbing, poignant

You know when you read a book that you realize is going to unseat one of the books on your top 10 favorites list? Happened to me with this book.

Isabel Wilkerson is one of those remarkable writers who blends intimate, individual narratives with a broad look at a major event in American history. In other words, she’s a genius writer of narrative nonfiction. 

Her writing invites the reader to walk alongside the three people she follows, and I marveled at the detail she included. Once I read the Acknowledgments, I saw that she spent countless hours interviewing the three people whose stories she tells in depth, and she traveled with them back to their starting points in the South. They clearly developed a closeness and trust, and that comes through in the writing. 

The Great Migration took place during the first part of the 20th century, when millions of Black Americans moved from the South to the North, seeking a better life. In some cases, their stories are terrifying, as they fled the threat of lynching. This book blends uplift with heartbreak, hope with fear, and self-deliverance with a tempering of displacement. 

One of the things that makes this book so powerful is that the reader gets to learn on multiple levels — intellectually because the book is filled with fascinating facts about the Great Migration, emotionally because we as readers grow to care deeply about the people we’re reading about, and spiritually because this narrative is an important part of our American story and who we are as a nation — the good and the ugly. These unique stories tell the bigger story, and at the same time remain the experience of the single individuals who lived them. 

And throughout the book, the writing is lyrical and expressive and a pure pleasure to read. More than once, I read a sentence out loud for the sheer pleasure of the language.

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning about the Great Migration, nonfiction by Black authors, narrative nonfiction, lyrical writing, #ownvoices nonfiction, individual stories interwoven in a larger historical context

The Yellow House — a gorgeous memoir

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

3 words: lyrical, evocative, strong sense of place

 

You know when you’re reading a book and the writing’s so lush and beautiful and honest and creative, you just wish so hard you could write like that? The Yellow House is one of those books. Sarah M. Broom is one of those writers.*

It’s no surprise that this book won the National Book Award. Not only is the content is important, but the book is hard to put down. 

Broom writes of her childhood home–a shotgun house in New Orleans. A home that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, which Broom terms “the Water.” 

And while her family’s home is at the heart of this book, really this is a coming of age story about family and race and inequality.

Broom is the “babiest” of twelve children, and her writing about her siblings makes a person appreciate the joy of being part of a large family. After her father’s much-too-early death, her mother raised them all herself, and that in itself is a marvel. 

The New Orleans where Broom grew up was not the Big Easy known by tourists, and she’s frank about the struggles her family experienced due to racism and financial hardship. 

The Yellow House is a memoir that’s powerful, expressive, and poignant. If you appreciate a unique and creative narrative voice, reading the work of Black authors, and experiencing a compelling reading experience, I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Yellow House

 

*You can experience Sarah M. Broom’s writing by visiting her website, especially the Q&A section

Well-Read Black Girl and the power of books

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves edited by Glory Edim

3 words: literary, #ownvoices, personal

Hello, readers. We’re here because we love the written word and because we know books have the power to change lives. And we understand the power of books as mirrors and windows — reflecting our own lives and giving us insight into the lives of others. 

Well-Read Black Girl is all about the importance of books as mirrors. And since it’s filled with essays written by Black women authors, it’s also about the role books can play in building a literary life. 

Here you’ll find essays by Jesmyn Ward, Tayari Jones, N. K. Jemisin, Stephanie Powell Watts, and many other Black authors who write about their love of reading and their experiences of finding in a book (often after a long wait) someone who reflected their own experience. 

Or for Tayari Jones, who writes, “As a baby, I teethed on board books featuring children explaining how much they loved eating vegetables and being black” (p. 23), it wasn’t so much about experiencing a lack of representation in the books she read as a young person. Instead, books provide a way to deeply explore questions about life as a Black woman. The way she writes about her experience of feeling challenged and exposed by ideas in a novel she re-read… it’s like an ode to the power of literature.

Since the authors of these essays are people devoted to the written word, the writing is by turns lovely, powerful, frank and lyrical–often all within the same essay. I was tempted to read one right after the other, but I tried to pause between essays to hold the thoughts for a while. 

If you, too, are on a journey to read more #ownvoices books, this book is a wonderful source of recommendations. Throughout the book, you’ll find lists of books on topics like “Well-Read Black Girl Recommends: Science Fiction and Fantasy Books by Black Women.” And at the end, there’s a list of all the books mentioned in the entire book. 

Your TBR will thank you for reading this book. (I lost count of how many books I added.) 

Glory Edim, the creator of this book, is the founder of the Well-Read Black Girl book club, https://www.wellreadblackgirl.com/  a book club dedicated to Black women writers. Her website and Instagram are great sources for reading ideas. 

Give this book a whirl if you like… #ownvoices narratives, essays about the power of finding oneself in books, the love of reading, books as mirrors, Black women and literature, books that contain lists of other recommended books

What #ownvoices books are you reading these days? 

It’s time for anti-racism

Being a non-racist is no longer enough, and it was never enough, and I see that clearly now. It’s time for anti-racism. It’s actually been time for a long time.

I am deeply saddened by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I believe that Black Lives Matter. I stand with Black Americans in condemning violence and systemic racism toward Black people and all people of color. 

I recognize that merely stating these beliefs is not enough.

Here’s my commitment as a book blogger:

I will amplify the voices of Black authors and other authors of color.

I will look for more book bloggers of color to follow.

I acknowledge that I have much to learn about racism and anti-racism, and it’s my responsibility to do that learning. 

On my TBR:

Books specifically about anti-racism

  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Books by Black authors

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates  (it’s time to re-read this book)
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
  • Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves by Glory Edim

What books would you recommend?

Currently: quarantining

It’s Month Two of Covid-19 quarantining, and I hope you and your families are healthy and doing OK in all the ways. (Does anyone else wake up each morning and wonder if this is all one very extended bad dream?)

Our family is doing all right, for which I’m deeply grateful. But the scariness of the world and the uncertainty of it all, and the inability to be with family and friends as they’re experiencing sadness and loss — these things are real. 

But I know that we can count ourselves blessed, because there’s a lot of suffering happening in this world right now, and our loved ones have been spared the worst of it. It’s hard for each of us in our own way, and I’m just grateful for the strength to handle it. 

Ugh. Just ugh. 

So when all that icky stuff isn’t going on, we’re working away here (thank goodness for our work), and when we’re not working, we take time to find some bright spots in this strange season. And these are some of them…

Reading  |  I read two of the four volumes of Robert A. Caro’s magnificent biography of LBJ during this time, and I only wish there were more of them. But I have designs on re-reading at some point, so there’s always that.

I’m also slow-reading Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor, a biography of Mister Rogers. It’s my bedtime reading (cuz it’s guaranteed to be calm), which means that my progress is slow. Other than the amazing novella Passing by Nella Larsen, I’ve been reading only nonfiction. That seemed out of balance to my head (though my gut said it was fine, thank you), so I picked up Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos–one of my confirmed comfort authors.

Listening  |  A colleague mentioned The Daily Stoic podcast, and it’s completely perfect for right now. And the episodes are short, so you can listen to them when you have just a few minutes. 

Watching  |  We don’t watch much TV, but we’ve watched some of the documentaries and Great Courses available via Kanopy (courtesy of our public library!) Currently streaming The Skeptic’s Guide to American History. And after hearing about 20 people raving about The Great British Baking Show (on Hoopla—again from the library), we watched an episode… and will be watching more.

Cooking  |  Most of our cooking is the usual stuff (thank goodness we can get all the ingredients we need), but I’ve been dabbling in new dessert recipes. I’ve whipped up poor man’s pudding (a favorite from last year’s trip to Quebec City), a new molasses cookie recipe, and Oreo fudge. And pineapple upside down cake — oh so retro, but new to both of us. (It turned out kind of weird, but maybe it’s supposed to be that way?)

Learning  |  Turns out, using my laptop for 8+ hours per day was causing wrist ache. So I adjusted. Then got a neck ache. Then a friend told me about adding an external keyboard & elevating the laptop screen. A revelation! Two Amazon orders later, I’m on my way to comfort. I hope.  [small update: when the keyboard arrived, I realized I also needed a mouse & had that ugh feeling. Then the Dear Man rescued me with his spare mouse. And that made everything 70 times better]

Working on  |  On a related note, I’ve also been working on setting up a better home office. 

Phase 1: seated at the kitchen island; when I have a Zoom meeting or webinar, I headed upstairs to our home library 

Phase 2: elevated the laptop so I had a standing desk at the island (to alleviate the wrist ache)

Phase 3: swapped the furniture in the den and library—because the comfy chairs in the library were so ergonomically wrong; currently testing a rotation between seated desk / Zoom site in the home library and standing desk in the kitchen

Obsessing  |  Most days, our cat is super cute. Most days, I can’t stop myself from taking a photo of the cuteness. When I scroll through my photo roll from the quarantine months, it’s 90% adorable sleeping cat photos. Because basically that’s what’s new around here…

(Seriously, how does she sleep like that?!)

Snooping  |  Let’s just be honest: we all check out other people’s bookshelves. And these days, we can even snoop the bookshelves of the famous

 

Loving  |  This Hamilton thing that the original cast pulled together on Zoom gave me joy. 

 

Anticipating  |  No surprise here: I’m so looking forward to the day when things are mostly normal. 

 

What’s currently happening in your world? Give us the good, the bad, and the ugly…

What I’ve been reading: April 2020

Reading in the time of global pandemic… Things are not normal for any of us, my friends. And my reading life is way off-kilter (everything is off-kilter!) even though I’m finding that reaching for a book is a necessary tonic at the end of each very long day. 

So for me, reading is more essential than ever. And it’s also in fairly short supply. But it’s enough to replenish my energy and restore some equilibrium. It’s my daily re-set. 

In April, I finished only three books. I’m calling it good. And I’m so thankful for these three books, which truly carried a heavy load for me.

Means of Ascent by Robert A. Caro

3 words: in-depth, cinematic, dramatic

Give this book a whirl if you like… portraits of powerful people, the complex personality of LBJ, in-depth research and scene-building, gorgeous storytelling, thinking about the ends vs the means in politics

 

Passing by Nella Larsen

3 words: lyrical, powerful, interpersonal

Give this book a whirl if you like… Harlem Renaissance writers, #ownvoices, thinking about race, women’s friendships, stories about life choices

 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

3 words: intimate, engaging, compelling

Give this book a whirl if you like… great storytelling, worklife narratives, inside baseball, behind the scenes in therapy, unflinching self-scrutiny

 

So what’s going on in your reading life? Is your reading disrupted? Or are you reading differently these days? 

Stay safe and well, my bookish friends…