Wack Book Club: Five More 2020 Reads

By Annie Rinaldi | @annexelizabeth

We’re two months into 2020 now, and, though I would always like to read more than I do, I have read fifteen books so far this year, which I don’t think is bad at all considering how busy things can get during the school year. I’ve found a few great new reads, although I unfortunately still haven’t found another all-time favorite yet this year. I’m in the process of reading Lovely War by Julie Berry right now, a historical romance that involves World War I and the Greek gods, and I’m really enjoying that. Here are five of my other recent reads and my thoughts on them.

THE FACT OF A BODY BY ALEX MARZANO-LESNEVICH — 4/5 stars. Elegant and unsettling. This book is one of the most disturbing pieces of literature I’ve ever come across, and, while reading it, I often felt sick to my stomach. However, I still think it's worth the read. I’d invite you to consider the content warnings—which include childhood sexual abuse, abuse in general, murder, and molestation— before deciding whether or not to pick this one up. I loved Marzano-Lesnevich's writing style and, in particular, the way they draw parallels between their own life and the case they are investigating. I’m always looking for a book that shows how powerful stories are in our lives, and I think this one is a perfect example. It’s definitely upsetting, but I’m glad I read it.

If you like powerful prose, true crime, memoirs, and explorations of trauma, check this one out!

LONG LIVE THE TRIBE OF FATHERLESS GIRLS BY T KIRA MADDEN — 4.5/5 stars. Poignant and brilliant. This book was so full of gorgeous language and incredible sentences and just so, so much love. T Kira Madden writes about the people in her life sharply yet tenderly, and it's a wonder to watch all the different stories from her life unfold in these pages. While the sort of disjointed, vignette-y style this memoir adopts might not have worked for all readers, I found myself really drawn into these various fragments of her life. I felt that this story being told in a nonlinear format with a bunch of different vignettes was perfect for the examination of family and trauma and memory and secrets that this book was. It was just so wonderful, and I can't wait to read more of Madden’s work.

If you like examinations of grief, family narratives, fragmented prose, and emotional writing, check this one out!

TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME BY CAROL RIFKA BRUNT — 4/5 stars. Tender and moving. This novel is a vivid and beautifully written exploration of grief. I think Carol Rifka Brunt does such a good job at capturing a teen girl's voice without making it either overly adult or too immature. June was so captivating, and I thought the way she was written really captures teen girlhood in all its weirdness and loneliness. The discussions around grief and family and love in this book were all really powerful, but, at the same time, the book didn't whack you over the head with its themes. Overall, I was a big fan of this book and would definitely recommend it.

If you like New York City, stories about sisters, 80s-related media, and beautiful writing, check this one out!

BLACK DOG OF FATE BY PETER BALAKIAN — 4.5/5 stars. Powerful and vivid. This book was one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Balakian does an incredible job of balancing the imagery of a suburban, relatively ordinary childhood alongside stark, upsetting imagery of a genocide. His writing is absolutely incredible—it's rife with gorgeous imagery and arresting metaphors and just all sorts of sentences that took my breath away. I read this for one of my classes, but I’m so glad I was assigned it, because I probably wouldn't have heard about it otherwise and it's absolutely amazing.

If you like historical narratives, Armenian culture, striking prose, and stream-of-consciousness writing, check this one out!

DARK AND DEEPEST RED BY ANNA-MARIE MCLEMORE — 3.5/5 stars. Evocative and lovely. Anna-Marie McLemore has some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve ever read, and I’m always struck by how masterfully they balance beautiful imagery with clarity. However, pretty writing isn't enough for me, and so I found myself sadly kind of disappointed by this book. Their writing is wonderful as ever, but, since they often write about folklore and fairy tales and employ similar archetypes for each character, their books tend to blend together for me, as do their characters. While I love their writing, I just wish there was more character development in their novels. In addition, I felt that the pacing was off in this novel due to each chapter covering characters from vastly different timelines yet also being incredibly short, at around two or three pages each. I felt like I wasn't able to really get to know any of the characters because of this aspect of the novel, since they all seemed really intriguing and I’d love to actually know who they are beyond just a few of their most basic traits. Overall, this book was a decent read, but not a favorite, tragically.