Another five book wrap up

I’ve read five books, I will now talk about them and my thoughts and all of that malarkey. I am incredibly good at this.

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates might be more known as an author for writing Between the World and Me, but I couldn’t find that book when I was walking around bookstores, but I did find this. So I read the Beautiful Struggle. It’s a memoir about Coates’ childhood in Baltimore. He grew up with his mom, dad, and a slew of other siblings. His father had seven kids by four different women. Ta-Nehisi was the son of the last woman. Coates’ father was a Vietnam Vet and a former Black Panther and he formed a Black Classics Press, a publisher specializing in African-American titles. So Coates grew up with his younger brother Menelik, and then his half-siblings would stay with their moms, or with Coates and his parents. The memoir focuses on Coates and his older brother Bill, who is pretty close to him in age, but the son of a different woman. The book follows them growing up, and Coates looks at how they are quite similar, and also how they differ. It was an interesting look at growing up in the 80s in Maryland. It is not something I have any understanding of, being white and Norwegian. He writes about how he loved reading, learning and having discussions with his father, but how he had no interest in school and would fail again and again, and he couldn’t seem to help himself and didn’t know why. It was very interesting to see how music and literature was so important to Coates’ childhood. It was also interesting so see how he seemed to be aware that his life was very different from his peers. His friends would have absent fathers, and single mothers, and Coates might have a difficult father, but he was very much there and he was a massive presence. He was a presence in all his children’s lives, no matter if he lived with them or not. It was really fascinating and beautiful, and I definitely want to read Between the World and Me now.

How to be both by Ali Smith
This is my first Ali Smith novel, and I liked it, it was good. It’s split into two narratives, and half of the printings are published with the George story first, and the other half are published with the artist’s story first. My copy starts with George’s story. The story of George follows a young girl named Georgia who lives in England in the 2010s. She lives with her brother and dad and her mother just passed away, and they’re sort of coping, or not coping. The story is half the story of George trying to live her life and be normal, and half flash-backs to a time George, her brother Henry, and mother went to Italy to see a painting her mother likes. George seems to be the one who now takes care of the family, and her dad seems to be crashing. She also gets a new friend, H, who is a sort of scary girl at school, but exactly who George needs. The other story follows the painter who George’s mother likes, and it tells their story in Italy in the 1460s, and their story in the 2010s when they seem to be trapped in a sort of purgatory, following George around and trying to decipher what George is doing. I liked it. I liked George, because I like pedantic 16-year-olds. She tends to pick up on grammar and syntax and I found it adorable, because I’m weird. I also loved the painter’s story. It was great. I don’t know if it’s how Ali Smith does it, but she doesn’t mark dialogue with punctuation, and it flips between flashback and current time with no indication. I liked that, and I didn’t find it hard to follow. It was great.

Things fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Things fall apart is a sort of modern African classic and it’s about a man named Okonkwo. He is a “strong man” in his Ibo village in Nigeria. The book is set in the 1890s when Queen Victoria was expanding her empire and sending out her missionaries all over Africa. So Okonkwo was born to a man who had no work-ethic and who seemed to be very entitled and whiny, as in, he did the least possible work and kept asking why he failed. So Okonkwo works very hard to be different from his dad. He works hard, he has married three women, has lots of kids and a barn full of yams, so he’s sort of made big. Then something happens and Okonkwo has to leave his village and go to his mother’s village for seven years, and in the meanwhile missionaries arrive and try to scare Christianity into the African people. It was so incredible. Okonkwo is such a flawed and beautiful character, he is so terrified of being like his father and people assuming he is like his father he goes to the bad extreme. He works hard and seems to think people are always lazy if they don’t act exactly like him. Clearly he is a product of his time and environment, but a lot of the book happens inside his head and we get to hear his fears and discomfort, and he is so angry and flawed and I love him. The writing is so spare and it’s so perfect, and I love it. I will read the other two in the trilogy as soon as I can.

Fen by Daisy Johnson
Fen is a short story collection where all the stories are set in the Fen in England. Fen is like a type of wetland. It’s like marshland, but not a normal marsh. The stories are all connected to the fen.  It was good, I really loved some of the stories, they were all sort of bleak and creepy, they all felt sort of… dirty, I don’t know why I feel that. And I mean dirty in the original sense of the word, it feels muddy and grimy, I don’t know why. Anyway. I liked it, I liked the weird, dirty quality. And now trying to write something substantive. I think my favorite was the story about the girl who stops eating and becomes an eel, because that’s weird, and also the story of the three sisters who go and get men at a bar and then eat them. I don’t remember the titles, because I’m awful, but yes, I really liked those. I loved the story about Matilda, Marco and Arch, it’s the longest story and I loved that story, and the apathy and despair of that story. It was so beautiful. Anyway. I don’t know how to talk about short story collections, clearly, but I enjoyed it.

Insurrection: To Believe Is Human To Doubt, Divine by Peter Rollins
Peter Rollins is an Irish philosopher and religious scholar. He does a lot of talks about religion and the mistrust thereof. He talks about life after death, and also life before death. He looks at how we try to use religion to understand life. And how even though people don’t believe in God, or follow religion they still live in a world constrained with religion or at least the structures of religion. And maybe they sort of believe in God anyway. He talks about how important it is to look at your beliefs and your dogmas and everything you always thought was true. You need to examine them and break them down and rebuild, and all that good stuff. I liked it, it was a bit confusing at times, but he uses a lot of stories and parables as examples to make his ideas and thoughts easier to digest. I liked it. I think some of it went over my head, but I liked it. I want to read more of his works.

So those were the last five books I read. On and on to more reading.