A BOOK : Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

B L O G M A S  D A Y  6

Starting tomorrow, Librarians will be using #Libfaves15 on Twitter to share their top 10 favorite books they read that were published in 2015, posting one a day. I want to join in too, so I have started reviewing my year in reading. I stumbled upon a book I loved, but can’t include because it was published earlier. So instead I’m going to share it here. It was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

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It’s this absorbing modern day coming -of-age novel following Ifemelu, a young woman born in Nigeria. It starts when she’s a teenager. She falls in love she starts coming into her own– and then she ends up moving to America to attend school. She’s broke and is suddenly immersed in this country so different than what she is used to. She’s away from most of her family, the love of her life, and her friends. Through the process of acclimating to a new country, Ifemelu undergoes a massive amount of hardships, but she still somehow maintains her persistence, humor, and awareness.

The things I liked the most were-

  • the details in Ifemelu’s life in Nigeria and her life in America. It is an immersive book that brings her experiences to life.
  • How much of a tangible character Ifemelu is. She’s this 3-dimensional person that lives and breathes outside of the pages. I don’t even know how Adichie did it– what makes a character real and what makes a character seem less real? I don’t know. But this to me is an example of a character built with her own nature, yet placed in a setting so strongly built that she is also molded by her nurture.
  • Her perspective. Reading about her experience living in America and being aware of the color of her skin for the first time was powerful. She is a character aware of her surroundings and isn’t afraid to add her own commentary and musings on them.
  • It also jumps to Obinze as the narrator– the boy she fell in love with as a teenager. As a character he too was insightful and interesting, and I looked forward to reading from his perspective. Their love story is also

My only hesitation, is I feel like it just ended a little too perfectly, quickly, and easily. It’s nice because there is resolution to this– I am so happy that we got that. However, one of my favorite parts of the novel was it was a meandering exploration of the growth of these two characters… and then suddenly everything went full speed ahead. Personally, it drew me out a little bit– but not enough to not consider this as one of my general favorites of the year.

Also, I don’t know what it is about this book, but I even remember the exact weekend I was reading it. It was hot and during the summer and we weren’t turning our air on and I just remember reading this non. stop. To the point that I would bring it with me anywhere I went and if I had to wait for like more than one minute, I would pick it up and start reading it (except when I was driving ;]).

It’s funny how a reading experience can be so consuming, that it can just stick in your head like that and you remember the how and when and emotion of the reading experience even more than what you actually read.

So for the next ten days keep an eye out on twitter for all of the favorites published this year! I’ll make sure to either do a master post of all of my favorites later on, or scatter them throughout Blogmas.

See you tomorrow–

 

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A BOOK : Citizen by Claudia Rankine

B L O G M A S    D A Y    3

REQUIRED READING.

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One of my coworkers was sharing an experience at a young adult literature panel about how books work as either mirrors or windows. They mirror your own experience, or they show you the experience of others. She was talking about the importance of having both types of books readily available for people.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine is such a powerful example of such a book. For me it’s a window. A window of what it’s like being black in America– the sheer amount of comments and situations in which she and the stories of other people she shared have been casted “less than” by those they encounter. Her neighbor calls the cops on her babysitter because he is walking back and forth pacing aggressively talking to himself in front of Rankine’s house. He was black and talking on the phone. She gets the surprised “I didn’t know you were black!” meeting someone in person for the first time and overhears the “I don’t understand it when black people talk, it’s like they’re talking in another language” right before she enters a round table discussion.

It’s constant.

And then she shares the inevitable “just let it go” responses and the “are you sure?” and that feeling of disbelief  of “are you really saying this?” And it just sounds like exhaustion. Bone breaking exhaustion.

And while for me this book is a window, I’m sure it also acts as a mirror to so many. This work of poetry bleeds from the heart as she shares a wide spectrum of her own experiences, starting from 12, and brings in the experiences of others– even famous tennis player Serena Williams. It’s intimate and specific, yet the intimacies and specifics speak to experiences that many, many, many experience daily in all different forms.

I listened to this on audio, which I enjoyed– however I wish it was read by Claudia Rankine. I listened to her reading some of her work on Youtube and man. Her spoken voice is just as powerful as her voice in writing.

Check out her reading an excerpt here:

And then make sure to add it to your TBR list.

 

A BOOK: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

2195464What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
by Haruki Murakami
Published 2008

In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and even more importantly, on his writing.

Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes us to places ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a panorama of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back.

Photo and summary from Goodreads.com

2015 is the year of me possibly dipping into Haruki Murakami’s writing. Okay. That’s not true. It is the year of me dipping into Murakami’s writing, but I don’t know how much further I will go. This year I have listened to  The Strange Library and now I have listened to What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. The first title is a more recent title and is only an hour long in the audio format. This title, as you can read from the cover, is a memoir. Because these works are not things Murakami are really known for, I feel like I am skirting around his edges.

But.

What I really liked about this memoir was how much I ended up liking Murakami as a person. I think it’s because he is so built up in my head (you know, Murakami this, Murakami that, literature literature literature) but in this memoir he seemed so humble and just a simple man dedicated to his crafts. Of course this is a memoir, so he has control over the message, but whether or not that is an accurate picture of him it made my reading experience a lot more enjoyable.

While this is a very conversational story about Murakami’s relationship with running, he also delves into his relationship with writing. He talked a little bit about some of his philosophy, which was a surprise treat for me. He also touches on aging and the surprises of being on the other side of “old.”

I particularly enjoyed the format I read this. The audiobook is narrated by Ray Porter, and to me he ended up being a great fit for the story. His own voice is measured and calm, which really fit with the tone of the book. It also matched the style of the book- it really felt like Murakami just talking to you.

If you’re interested in…

…short snippets into a very private writer’s life
…a book discussing passion in running and writing
…a story that takes its time
…an audiobook where you feel like you’re sitting on the floor listening to someone reflect on life

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running might be for you!

Add it to your to be read shelf on Goodreads!