I have a couple books for you today. So, I try to be a champion for poetry, because it’s something that I love and I don’t think anyone should be intimidated by it. Just like with novels, there are going to be ones you like and ones you don’t, it’s just about exploring and finding what you like. Saying you don’t like poetry is like saying you don’t like books, I think you just haven’t found the one you like yet. I think this boils down to how you are taught to read poetry. When you are taught to read stories, you are taught first to love stories. To tell them yourself, to appreciate what’s beautiful about them. But poetry is billed as complex, something to be studied and taken apart line by line. I hate this about the way we think about poetry. Most of the time, that is not why the author wrote the poem. It is just another way of telling a story.
So that’s why I want to recommend Yusef Komunyakaa’s book Neon Vernacular, a collection of his poetry that spans his entire career. Look, this might not be the book for your. And honestly, the last half of the book was not for me. But I can still recommend this book because the first few sections and the first couple dozen poems are stunning. I mean, beyond amazing. I reviewed this book originally for a class and I just… I don’t know. How do you describe the way a good poem makes you feel? It makes your heart catch in your chest. That’s how I feel about many of the poems in Neon Vernacular. That’s the other benefit of poetry, if something doesn’t light your fire, there’s another poem on the next page.
So, I’m feeling ambitious this morning. I’ve given you a poetry book you need to read, now how about a comic? What I want to tell you about is not a graphic novel, because it is a series of comics based on Joe Sacco’s real travels to parts of the world that you and I only hear about on the news. Joe Sacco is a journalist whose chosen medium is the comic. I have read two of his books and both impressed me immensely. They are Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde. It’s easy to watch a conflict on the news and take a side, without remembering that there are humans on both sides of the fight. Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde humanize complex conflicts in modern history. What I like best about these graphic memoirs is that Sacco is often very aware of his own biases and works diligently against them. Especially in Palestine, where Sacco readily admits his own prejudices at the beginning of the book, we get to witness his change in perspective and that simultaneously alters our perspective. I can’t recommend these two books enough.
Okay, I was trying to decide if I was going to keep this post going and recommend even more, and these are all the books that I wish I could write another post on and there are more of them. So you know, I’m just going to keep recommending. I don’t read a lot of middle grade
fiction, but when I do I almost always love it. (So why don’t I do that more often?) This year I read the middle grade fiction novel Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banerjee. This book is just… amazing. The narrator is smart, young Anu, who goes for a walk with his grandfather one morning and his grandfather has a heart attack and dies. Yes, it’s a very heavy topic for a MG novel, but at the same time, Looking for Bapu is told with such heart and humor. Just thinking about this book makes me happy, even though it reminds me of one of the saddest times in my own life. This book is perfect.
Next a YA book that I think everyone should read, but that has had minimal exposure on the blogs. I read and reviewed Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande, along with Fat Cat also by Robin Brande, and my goodness these books are amazing. Their young female narrators are just like you and me, unsure of themselves, but they make the decision to be brave and stand up for what they believe in, with novel-worthy results. I don’t think I can articulate any better than I did in my original review why I loved these books, so please head over there and read it.
Finally, I guess this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t make the complete rounds, so an adult novel that everyone needs to be reading: Under the Skin by Michel Faber. This book is not for everyone. In fact, it’s downright disturbing most of the time. But this book is one of the strangest, most unique books I have ever read. And… that’s about all I can tell you. You will spend every single page and every moment you are reading this book trying to understand and comprehend what is happening. But that’s not to say the book is especially challenging or inaccessible, it’s just that engrossing and strange. Really this novel is fabulous, but not for the squeamish. I honestly hope that doesn’t put you off, because Under the Skin might just become one of your favorites.
So… have I added to your TBR yet? I really hope so! Now I’m off to see what you have added to mine.