The Book Beat - June 14, 2021
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Happy new week, book friends! I thought the rain would give me more time to read this past week, but unfortunately no luck. I did finish listening to Empire of Pain (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review below) and am almost done Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, but will only have a review of that next week. Still, there were some fun book stories/news this week, as well as two book-to-movie/show trailers, which I also share below. But, first, I want to talk about a really cool concept/idea related to books that I learned about on Instagram. It's a Danish nonprofit organization called The Human Library (or, Menneskebiblioteket, in Danish). This amazing endeavor is based on a concept I love: stories being used to change people's minds and hearts for the better.
The administrative offices of The Human Library are located in Copenhagen, Denmark, but this nonprofit makes an impact around the world; it's active in 50 countries. The Human Library has "Human Books." As experts on certain subjects, these "Human Books" are available at events to be "borrowed" by "Readers." Each book doesn't have a personal name. Instead they have titles: Alcoholic, Autistic, Bipolar, Molested, Muslim, etc. When a person borrows a book, the book speaks for thirty minutes about their life and the reader is encouraged to ask anything in this safe space. Nothing is off limits. What a wonderful way to combine a clever idea with a worthy endeavor.
I was so intrigued I read up on it and learned that many spaces have been used for these human libraries. Libraries around the world feature this as an annual event, companies use THL as a diversity and inclusion training tool, and so much more. The organization also employs Human Books around the world to offer location-specific content. I plan on emailing my local library to suggest this as a program. There's always room to learn and "reading" a person and the story of their life in a safe, non-judgmental interactive setting sounds like a really fun and inventive way to do it.
And the Pulitzer Prizes in Books Go To...
This week, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced. The winners are to the right [📸: @BookPeople, Twitter). The winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction was Louise Erdrich for her novel, The Night Watchman. I have it, but haven't read it yet. Based on Erdrich's Native American ancestry and the life of her grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, this fiction book follows Thomas Wazhashk, a night watchman at a jewelry-bearing plant near a reservation in North Dakota in 1953. As he grapples with the work of the United States government to terminate their treaties with Native Americans and essentially threaten their land, lives, and identities, he interacts with other residents on the reservation. This novel illuminates the lives and loves of these characters, while also celebrating their resilience in the face of almost constant degradation. It sounds amazing, and I can't wait to dig in.
Dear Santa: I Want THIS for Christmas!
You had me at typewriter. But, it gets even better. It's made from Legos!
Legos latest set is a classic typewriter made from Legos. The design is based on a typewriter owned by the company's founder, Ole Kirk Kristiansen. The keys can be used and it can hold paper, but there's no ink. It's 2,079 pieces and $200. 😍
I ended up down a rabbit hole of book/reading memes this week, so now you can, too! Here are a collection of my faves (click the arrow to the right to see them all).
🏳️🌈 Pride Month Spotlight 🏳️🌈
The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
This book has received a litany of accolades on Bookstagram and GoodReads. Roxane Gay gushed about it, saying, "This is a magnificent novel."
Below is the publisher's synopsis. I have it, but haven't read it yet (it's sooo close to the top of my TBR!). I did listen to author Robert Jones, Jr. speak about it on NPR (partial transcript here) and my interest was piqued. As he states, there are many stories (fiction and nonfiction) about slavery and the horrors Black people were subjected to. But the testimonies of Black Americans who were LGBTQ truly didn't get literary exposure until the Harlem Renaissance. So Jones decided to "speak" through the writing of this book for the LGBTQ slaves he felt didn't get a record of their history. I can't wait to read it.
A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.
Isaiah was Samuel's and Samuel was Isaiah's. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master's gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel's love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation's harmony.
With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr., fiercely summons the voices of slaver and enslaved alike, from Isaiah and Samuel to the calculating slave master to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminates in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.
What I Listened to This Week:
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
My emoji reaction to this book: 😮😟🤬🤬🤬🤬
I’ll be honest—nonfiction audiobooks that aren’t memoirs have been hit-or-miss for me. When you’re faced with an 18-hour book about a real-life events (let’s say 9, since I usually listen at 2x), it needs to be riveting from start to finish or you have flashbacks of a non-charismatic social studies teacher droning on in high school. This book exceeded my expectations there. Mr. Keefe does an amazing job reading his own words. He’s a phenomenal storyteller—in words and writing. And what a story this is.
Very brief synopsis: The Sackler family—owners and creators of Valium and OxyContin—love money more than anything else, including honesty, their fellow men and women, and humanity. 🤣 OK, I’ll go a bit longer. The Sackler dynasty started with three brothers whose parents immigrated from Poland. The three brothers become doctors and started several companies, including an advertising company & Purdue Pharma. They are also big philanthropic donors, with their name on everything from The Met to The Smithsonian. In the mid-to-late 1990s, they started producing a “wonder” drug for pain, called OxyContin. The Sacklers made billions, but while producing it, they also did their best to downplay its addictive traits. Using their advertising company and political and persuasive powers, they contended and still contend (there are currently over 2,700 lawsuits against the company/family today and Keefe regularly gets legal threats from their lawyers) that the pain Oxy helps relieve is way more impactful than the people who become addicted to it. Their company line is: The Oxy addicts are naturally susceptible to addiction and their drug's addictive properties have nothing to do with the crisis.
See? Fascinating…and infuriating. Keefe recounts the start of the Sackler family’s fortunes and continues to present day. Every piece of the story is intriguing—he even reveals things never reported before, since the Sacklers are “silent” owners in several businesses. You also see their good intentions and the horrific results. They loved being the first to address mental and chronic physical pain with drugs instead of electroshock, surgery, etc. Yet money and power are powerful forces of corruption. The bones for a compelling story were here, but Keefe does a phenomenal job organizing them and writing/speaking about them with intrigue, drama, and emotion. Highly (highly) recommend!
I 💗 The Library: It's Open!
Why, yes, I do have a two-stack-wide towering TBR pile at home, but I still went to my local library (Downingtown Library) to check out some books (here's hoping I have time to read them!) and just relish being among the stacks again. It was as wonderful as I had hoped! Here are some pics from my trip. Yay, libraries!
What I'm Reading/Listening To Now:
I'm still working my way through The Dutch House read by Tom Hanks. Most likely a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for me. I'm really enjoying the intimate slice-of-the-life scope of the book and the evocative nature of Patchett's words, especially as they're narrated by Hanks.
I'm reading and loving Malibu Rising. Taylor Jenkins Reid has such a way with characters, especially ones living lives in a very particular setting/experience.
I received an early eGalley of Site Fidelity by Claire Boyles (pub date: 6/15). I just started, so I definitely have some reading to do! It's a collection of stories about women's relationship with land, particularly the American West.
📸 Book Snaps of the Week 📸
Book-To-Movie Trailer Roundup!
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty - Hulu, August 18
Virgin River by Robyn Carr - Season 3, Netflix, July 9
Cover of the Week!
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett
by Annie Lyons
Yes, this cover is teal, which of course I love. But then you see the adorable illustration by illustrator Sandra Chiu (IG: @whatsannymade). If you have IG and click here you can see an amazing IG video she did of her creative process for this cover. I put some screenshots of it below. I love seeing how these gorgeous covers come to life.
I just started listening to this book on audio (it was an Audible Daily Deal) but it's been on my TBR for a while. It takes place in England, so the narrators (there are three) have English accents, which is just lovely. This book got raves on Bookstagram as a tender, heartfelt tale. And based on the below synopsis, the cover is perfect. Eudora, a swimmer, sits by the pool while her exuberant neighbor 10-year-old Rose jumps right in. The fallish-looking leaves evoke a sense of death, but also remind of the cyclical nature of the seasons and how life and death go hand-in-hand. I'm so excited to continue listening to this book. Sometimes it's nice to just read a strong, character-based tale that discusses the nature of life with grace, humor, and heart.
Synopsis from the Publisher:
Infused with the emotional power of Me Before You and the irresistible charm of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Be Frank with Me, a moving and joyous novel about an elderly woman ready to embrace death and the little girl who reminds her what it means to live.
It's never too late to start living.
Eudora Honeysett is done with this noisy, moronic world—all of it. She has witnessed the indignities and suffering of old age and has lived a full life. At eighty-five, she isn’t going to leave things to chance. Her end will be on her terms. With one call to a clinic in Switzerland, a plan is set in motion.
Then she meets ten-year-old Rose Trewidney, a whirling, pint-sized rainbow of sparkling cheer. All Eudora wants is to be left alone to set her affairs in order. Instead, she finds herself embarking on a series of adventures with the irrepressible Rose and their affable neighbor, the recently widowed Stanley—afternoon tea, shopping sprees, trips to the beach, birthday celebrations, pizza parties.
While the trio of unlikely BFFs grow closer and anxiously await the arrival of Rose’s new baby sister, Eudora is reminded of her own childhood—of losing her father during World War II and the devastating impact it had on her entire family. In reflecting on her past, Eudora realizes she must come to terms with what lies ahead.
But now that her joy for life has been rekindled, how can she possibly say goodbye?
And, finally, I saw this pic on IG and it made me smile. If you don't already, you need to follow @dudewithsign for poignant, funny, political, and topical signs. I love him/them. This one made my bookish heart soar. Happy Reading, friends! Enjoy the week!