By no means was this year easy. Change is hard. I am not good with change. This summer I was unemployed, broke and depressed. I spent a lot of my time at my local library. Gone were the days I could afford to buy any book I wanted. I realized how important libraries are. I loved being able to pick up books I would never buy and discovering new writers. Reading got me through the hard times. Here were some books I read this summer and this year that kept me going:
Americanah – I tracked this book down in a library half an hour away from my house, I wanted to read it so bad. I spent a week blissfully immersed in this book. I would sit outside for hours until the sun went down, not wanting to stop reading. Americanah tells the story of a Nigerian couple who fall in love in high school and both immigrate to the U.S. It’s part love story, part immigrant story, part critical look at race in America. The writing was amazing. Amazing. It’s the kind of writing that made me feel like I should give up and try even harder at the same time. I cried at the end because it was over. I love a good love story.
Eleanor and Park – Speaking of love stories. I love a good teen love story as well. I bought this book hoping I’d love it. I wept through the last twenty pages. These characters leapt off the page and seemed so real. I have never been in love but this book showed me what it would be like to be sixteen and feel these emotions you never experienced before. I loved that Park was Asian. I loved that Eleanor was fat. I loved the ending (though some people hated it). I loved the writing. This is a book I will pick up again and again.
The Awesome Girls Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men – Ernessa T. Carter is my favourite writer. She writes the kind of novels I wish I could write. 32 Candles, her first novel, is one of my favourite books of all time. Awesome Girls is her second novel that includes some characters from 32 Candles. This book consumed my whole life. I laughed, I cried, I was forced to look at my own life critically. I have passed it around my house. It’s a perfect book club book. You can sit with girlfriends and discuss the themes in this book for hours.
Calling Me Home – This is a book I would never buy. I saw it in the library, read the synopsis and borrowed it. It’s about an old white lady and her young black hairdresser taking a road trip to a funeral. On the way the old lady tells the story about her first love, a black man in the segregated south. It took a while for me to get in to it, at first it reminded me of The Help too much but by the end, of course, I was bawling. It was a devastatingly beautiful love story. I will never forget this story.
Maya’s Notebook – Again, I saw this book at the library, picked it up on a whim. It’s about a young American girl who runs away from home and is sent to her grandmother’s village in Chile. It’s a mystery, suspense and also a novel about the importance of family. Maya’s relationship with her grandparents reminded me so much of my own. I loved it so much.
Judging from this list, every book made me cry, but I think that’s the sign of a good book. I love a book that draws me in, makes me feel connected to the characters and care what happens to them. But most importantly, I didn’t have to think about my own life and I could get lost in another world. That’s why books are important.