Tag Archives: books

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste is a fascinating comparison between the Indian religious caste system and the American social caste system with some references to the caste created by the Third Reich during World War II. Isabel Wilkerson makes a thorough argument that we live in a caste system based on race which she supports with the history of our country. She then uses more recent examples of different political and social situations to show the influence this system still has today. And she ends the book with steps we can take to end this system no matter where we may fall on the spectrum.

Even if you have read How to Be An Anti-racist by Ibram X Kendi or the Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby, this book comes from a slightly different perspective. It looks at the situations in America from a more global standpoint. Yes, it includes the atrocities of slavery and the Jim Crow era, along with redlining and other policies that left people of color out of the benefits. But it focused on motive, and it even showed how caste has even negatively affected white people in lower economic statuses. As long as there was a group below them, it was easier to keep them satiated in their role in the machine. And the machine’s ultimate purpose was to keep those at the top in power and wealth.

While it uses the function of the Indian caste system as a guide to show the same system in America, it doesn’t go into incredible detail about the Indian caste system. It does mention a few differences and includes anecdotes from people she knows during her travels to India, and some history of the lowest caste trying to break away from their function in society. Most of the book focuses on America.

Also, I felt like the Third Reich references of caste were a little distracting but also interesting. She references one historian who said that as they were trying to build their caste, they used America’s model as a prototype to their own oppressive system. It serves more as a warning of what the darkest parts of a caste system can accomplish and implies that those parts of the system are present in our country as well, both in history and more recent times.

In the more recent examples Wilkerson uses, most of them were easy to follow the line of thinking from historical practices and policies now manifesting to the struggles and racism of today. Some were not so easy. My immediate reaction was to want to clarify the situation with more nuance, but ultimately, I realized that I had to sit with the discomfort and learn how to listen. While I still feel some of the events that she mentioned are more than just another example of caste oppression and racism, I can see how caste and oppressive systems can also play a part in those same situations.

My favorite part was about the need for radical empathy. Having a kindred connection that allows us all to open up to the pain of others from their perspective. Just like so many have moved away from the Indian caste systems, we too can move away from the racist systems that have been placed in our society as well. It ends on a hopeful and challenging note. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to continue their education on the Black history and experience.


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I wrote this for You: PLEASEFINDTHIS by Iain S. Thomas

I Wrote This For You is a poetry collection by Iain S. Thomas. This was gifted to me by a friend, so I didn’t know much about the author before picking up the book. The author started this compilation of free verse and photography as an online project which resulted in this book. Perhaps if I had followed the online project first, I would have better understood the rhythms and meanings behind a lot of this book.

The book is divided into four parts – Sun, Moon, Stars, and Rain. The premise of the book seems to be that it was written for one particular person, someone in his life who passed away, maybe. For the first three sections, the poems seem to move quickly back and forth between romantic love and obsessive behavior. It gave me a bit of whiplash.

With each poem, there is a picture accompany the verse.  Sometimes the connection seemed clear, other times it did not. It included both black and white pictures and ones in color. I kept thinking that maybe this was a clue to what he was trying to communicate, but for the most part it just seemed jumbled with no clear order.

But the last section was my favorite. It made observations on social justice and community, how we are not meant to be alone, and how people are made up of everything that has happened to them. I marked several of the poems in the last section that meant more to me than the ones in the first three sections.

Whether it was a puzzle I wasn’t able to crack, or just a collection of poems meant for someone else completely, this book was fascinating. It may not be a book I would pick up again, but some of the poems were enjoyable and thought-provoking.  I would recommend this book to people who enjoy connecting poetry to visual art, and there really is a poem in there that someone could connect with, whether it was heartbreak or finding new love or longing for community or remembering the past.


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Home Body by Rupi Kaur

Home Body is the third collection of poetry written by Rupi Kaur. I haven’t read any of her other collections, though they are now on my list. This collection is personal, raw, intimate, and beautiful.

It’s divided into four parts – mind, body, rest, and awake. Each section surrounds a different theme. Mind is about trauma and mental health. Body is more about relationships, particularly romantic relationships with the opposite sex. Rest is about productivity and how we spend our energy. Awake is about community and social justice.

There is some triggering content, especially in the first section around her trauma.  Sexual assault is mentioned, particularly from a young age. But throughout the book, we see how she reconnects to her body and mind despite the abuse she endured. It isn’t just left in the darkness of that part of her life, but there are glimmers of hope and resilience there as well.

All of the poems are in free verse, some as small as only a line or two, similar to a thought or a tweet. But there are some longer poems that are also included. Productivity Anxiety really resonated with me, and it was probably the longest written poem at over three pages. However, all of the poems are connected by theme, by thought. Nothing stands completely alone on its own.

There are so many good ones. Ones that I related to, ones that encouraged me, and ones that challenged me to be inclusive particularly in communal aspects. I would recommend this to any woman, particularly those who struggle with trauma, anxiety, or depression. It would be a great gift for someone graduating from college or anyone who is facing the world on their own for the first time.


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The Booksellers: A Review

The Booksellers directed by DW Young
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This was an absolutely lovely documentary about the book world, specifically the rare book dealer world. It focused less on the stories within books and more on the stories of the books themselves. The only negative was that the film was too short, needing a more in-depth look into the collections of these booksellers.

The film focused on specific booksellers in New York City, but also about the history of book collecting and book binding. Did you know that there are books bound in human skin? Most of these books have made it into museums and libraries, but there are still a few collectors still in the game.

There has been a decline in collecting, though. Part of it is limited supply, and part of it is limited demand. Booksellers are having to pivot to keep up with the changes brought on by the internet and technology as a whole. Older booksellers would say the whole industry is dying, but there a still young people with a lot of ideas to keep it alive.

Book collecting is different than just buying a lot of books to add to a growing TBR. The libraries are curated to a specific theme. One collection may have just women writers, while another follows the history of hip-hop. And it is usually more than just the books, but other items that support the history they are collecting.

So book collectors are essentially historians with a love of their items. First editions aren’t always the best, sometimes it’s annotated copies or signed copies (especially signed to specific people). There was this infectious love of the search. The search that has been dampened by the internet, but it still out there.

It might have taken 20 years to find a particular book at one point, and now it may only take minutes on eBay or a bookseller site. But the love of books, the growing collections of books, is still a loved past time. It has definitely changed the way I will look at my own bookshelves and how I want those shelves to reflect me the next time I am ready to cull back or add to my own library.

There is no significant profanity in the film. Maybe some brief nude images on the cover of books for some of the stranger book collections. No violent content, either, though there is a section discussing how they wish their collections will be handled when they die.

February Books

My February TBR

So this was the stack of books I set out to read in the month of February. I actually read more than just these books, and I didn’t completely finish the stack. However, I knew I would be reading at least a few of these into March. Here’s how the reading month went.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.  This was a Life’s Library book club pick, and I knew nothing about it going into it.  I had never read anything by this author before, but I knew that she was very respected and lots of people enjoyed her writing.  I liked this book, but it gave me nightmares.  It’s a dystopian novel set in 2024 (the book was written in 1993).  It felt like our society would only have to take a couple of steps in the wrong direction to end up on the pages of this book.  It’s a heavy book, full of violence, sexual assault, promiscuity, and language.  But it will stretch you in much needed ways.

Followers by Megan Angelo.  I think I found out about this book either by Instagram or my local library’s website.  I believe this is a debut novel.  It is also a kind of dystopian future, but I didn’t feel as deep into this story as I did with the Parable of the Sower.  It follows two characters, Orla and Floss, in present day who are roommates chasing after fame and all the promises of being famous and then jumps every other chapter about forty years into the future after a big event called The Spill suddenly made people distrust the government and putting any of their information online (this reveal didn’t feel realistic, which it doesn’t have to, but it took me out of the story a bit).  In the future, we follow Marlow who lives in a town that is watched by millions of people (like a Truman Show type of town) and she begins to question the life that has been written for her by the powers that be.  All of the book centers around this idea of fame and the cost it takes to get it.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski.  I loved this book.  I heard about it on a podcast, and I’m so glad I picked it up.  It addresses stress, the science behind it, and how we can survive it.  It is directed to women and the stressors that most women face (including the patriarchy and the bikini industrial complex).  Everything was fascinating and challenging, and I felt like the authors really tried to take on this subject as clearly and with as much data as they could.  It’s definitely one that I will re-read at some point.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow.  The book for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. This was such a sweet story of fantasy and imagination.  January Scaller lives with a rich bachelor while her father hunts for priceless treasures all over the world.  One day, she manages to open a door into another world, but when she tells her guardian about this experience, she is locked away and convinced that she needs to put away such childish fantasies.  But these doors keep coming back into her life, and with a door comes change, she just has to have the courage to step through them.  Reminded me a bit of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel.  This is the third book I have read by this author, and I was able to be a part of the launch team for this book (which let me read the book before it came out).  Anne is the kind of writer that makes you feel like you are chatting with a friend over coffee when you read her books.  The kind of friend who does excellent research on a topic that she can’t wait to share with you.  I made so many notes with this book, great points to remember and incorporate into my life.  Highly recommend!

Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose by Rebekah Lyons.  This was a book recommended on Instagram by some other authors I follow.  I had been wanting a book about stress coming from a Christian perspective.  But I think I was expecting something a little different than what I read in this book.  I thought I was going to get more of “when this happens, it’s good to remember this” kind of language, but the book seemed to be a list of self-care options that worked for the author throughout her life.  Things that may help others.  I think I preferred Burnout because there was more science of why things work which is what my brain really likes.  It was still a good book, and the last couple of chapters raised my overall rating, but it wouldn’t be the first book I would recommend about stress or even Christian self-help.

I am currently reading Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi and The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson, both continuations of their series. So far, I’m enjoying them as expected, one being a book based on African mythology and the other a murder mystery (this is the book it will all be revealed!). Both are YA, and I will be sharing my March TBR (with these books included) on my Instagram, so check out that sneak peek there!

Did you enjoy any books in February? What’s next in your reading life?

Books and Bookish Goals

Last year, I made a goal to read 44 books.  I knew I would have an unpredictable year, so I gave myself a goal of reading 4 books a month with a month of margin.  Apparently, I needed that margin because as the year ended, my life became very busy!  I managed to just barely eek out the last two books in December (though both were wonderful!).

But this year, while predictability is never going to be a thing in my life again, I want to challenge myself by adding a few books to my goal.  I also know that my schedule is going to shift a bit this year in favor of a little more space.  One example is removing the phone from my bedside will free up the time I spend mindlessly scrolling first thing in the morning or last thing at night.  I can replace that with more reading time.

So, this year, I’m going to try to read 48 books.  That is about 4 books a month, which I think will be doable. 

I also want to curb the book collecting binge that was 2019.  I was receiving books from family, free books from the library, and all the new releases and occasional trips to Half Price Books.  So, I have a lot of books waiting to be read on my shelves.  That being said, there are still a few books that I will probably preorder this year.  My favorite authors have books coming out this year, so I can’t say I won’t get another new book this year.  But I will definitely be cultivating my personal library, purging some of the authors I no longer read to make room for the favorites I will read over and over again.

In addition to what is already on my shelves, I plan to continue with the two book clubs I joined last year.  Life’s Library and the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club.  Life’s Library sends a book and some bookish goodies every six weeks. There is a Discord conversation that you can participate in as you read the book, and the money goes to support combating maternal mortality in Sierra Leone.  The MMD Book Club is a monthly subscription. They don’t send you the book each month, but I generally can find them in the library. It also includes a lot of discussions with the authors as well as little bookish “classes”.  Both book clubs have expanded my reading tastes, helping me to hone what I love in literature (and sometimes what I don’t).

I’m really looking forward to where reading will take me this year.  Even though I will definitely try my hardest, I may not reach that goal.  Life tends to be erratic that way.  Still, at least in this case, it really is about the journey, not the destination.  And I’m going to enjoy this journey, one book at a time.

TBR lists and why I’m taking a break.

For those of you who may not recognize the acronym, TBR stands for To Be Read. It means the list of books you plan to read in a given time period, usually a month but it could be a year or even a season. I haven’t really done a TBR in a while on this blog. I’ve been having a bit of a hot-cold experience with my monthly TBR books for the last few months. (I’ve been sharing that TBR list on my Instagram feed instead of here on the blog). So I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and forgo the monthly TBR stack in exchange for a book by book reading. Here is why.

My reading life has evolved since the beginning of the year.

At the beginning of the year, I wanted to broaden my reading life. I was trying to read an adult fiction, YA, nonfiction, and a classic. At the time, I didn’t count the book I was already reading for the Life’s Library book club, and since then I have joined the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. Just these two book clubs alone have given ample opportunities to broaden the books I usually read.

Plus, I buy books throughout the year. Books from the backlists of my favorite authors, books that are recommended to me, books with pretty covers (what? sometimes I have no shame). And when I finish a book, sometimes I want to read another just like it, sometimes I want to read something completely different. Having no TBR will allow me that freedom.

I’ve gotten really caught up in trying to finish all of the books in the stack that I’m actually getting into reading slumps.

This happened last month. I was desperately trying to finish a book on my TBR that felt like I was walking through quicksand. There was nothing inherently wrong with the book. In fact, I really enjoyed the content, the writing, even some of the points in the book were things I’ve studied in the past that I found interesting and convicting. But right now, I need to put the book down. I need to read something different – a different format, genre, author, something.

So, not making that TBR will give me the freedom to say, “I will finish this some other time.” I don’t have to feel the pressure to get it done within a certain time frame. And maybe after finishing another book, or time passing in general, there will be a right time for me to pick that book back up and finish it.

As the end of the year approaches, I will have less time to devote to reading.

There have been some rumblings of chaos in my life lately. Typically, the last four months of the year are my busy season. This year has been a little crazier than usual, so I can only imagine that the next few months are going to get interesting. I’m really excited to experience everything, but I also need to realistic with my time. So, giving myself some space to do so will only benefit my reading life, instead of the TBR that will just belabor it.

So, instead of a TBR, I’m taking a page out of my new, more relaxed, blogging schedule and just share the reviews of a book when I complete it. I will also probably share what I’m reading in the moment on my Instagram, so again, if you don’t follow me on there, you will be missing half of the story.

All of that being said, there is a book to the left of my computer right now demanding that I open it. I’m so excited to read this one as it was recommended to me recently (and I couldn’t help myself, I already read a few pages a couple days ago). So, I’m off! Happy reading everyone!